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Week Ahead: Georgia on our minds

The Week Ahead in politics: A Georgia primary preview, Rahm could testify at Blago trial, Greene's first campaign speech, Biden campaigns in MD for O'Malley, Kagan, Clapper, unemployment benefits get votes, Netroots Nation kicks off in Vegas, and get your profanity-laced Blago ringtone now.


We've got Georgia on our minds this week, as Georgia voters go to the polls Tuesday to choose candidates for governor, Congress, and more.

Georgia voters go to the polls Tuesday to choose candidates for governor, Congress, and more.

In 2008, Barack Obama lost the traditionally Republican state by just five percentage points, thanks to the state's large African-American population. On Tuesday, some analysts believe black voters could comprise more than half of all Democratic primary voters for the first time.

For the Democrats, seven candidates are running for governor, including Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who would be the state's first black governor if elected, and former Gov. Roy Barnes. Barnes has rallied support from several prominent African-American pastors, civil rights icons, and influential former elected officials. But Baker is touting the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton.

On the Republican side, another seven candidates are running for the open seat, but three stand out -- Karen Handel, a former secretary of state who has earned the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin; former Rep. Nathan Deal, who is being supported by Newt Gingrich. (Deal was facing a House Ethics Committee investigation before resigning to run for governor); And the front runner John Oxendine, the state insurance commissioner. If no one achieves 50 percent in the primary, the race will head to an August 10th runoff.

One Congressional primary to watch is the Democratic race for the 12th congressional district. Incumbent John Barrow faces Regina Thomas, a former state senator. Barrow has the money advantage, but Georgia political watchers are not writing off Thomas, who is black and well known in this heavily African-American swing district.

And the attorney general's race is drawing national attention because of what may be the most emotional and controversial ad this cycle.

It's tough stuff. In it, a mother whose son was shot by police accuses candidate and prosecutor Ken Hodges of not getting an indictment on the officer, because he "forgot to swear him in, tried to hide the video and then refused to reopen the case. I could never get an answer why." The teary-eyed mom concludes, "Mr. Hodges should not be our next attorney general."

The ad, run by Democratic state Rep. Rob Teilhet, has caused a shake-up in the race. The Hodges campaign has called it unfair and untrue. And an independent fact-checker rated Teilhet's claim that Hodges botched the case as "false."

To the timeline...

The trial of disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich continues. This week the defense calls its first witnesses and they are getting right to the heavy hitters. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel could take the stand as early as this week.

On Sunday, the South Carolina Democrat Alvin Greene, whose legitimacy as a candidate has been questioned by his own party, delivers his first official campaign speech before a local chapter of the NAACP. Greene reported raising a $1,000 dollars in the first quarter of the year. That's right -- just $1,000. His fall opponent, conservative Jim DeMint, has $3.5 million -- on hand.

Also Monday, Vice President Biden travels to nearby Maryland to help Gov. Martin O'Malley raise money in Baltimore for his re-election bid.

On Tuesday, the Senate may vote on extending unemployment benefits. Republicans have repeatedly blocked the measure.

The Judiciary Committee will likely vote on Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Republicans had delayed her confirmation vote a week because they said the originally scheduled vote date was too soon after the July 4th recess.

There's another confirmation vote, this one for Lt. General James Clapper, who is Obama's choice to be Director of National Intelligence. Sen. Dianne Feinstein had blocked a vote on his nomination because she was upset over the House not taking acting on intelligence legislation.

Also Tuesday, Carte Goodwin -- a former aide to the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, lawyer for Gov. Joe Manchin, and Rockefeller friend -- will be sworn as Byrd's temporary replacement. There will be a special election to fill Byrd's seat this fall.

And British Prime Minister David Cameron makes his first trip to the White House since winning election in May.

On Thursday, liberal activists will gather through the weekend in Las Vegas for the Netroots Nation conference.