Category: Georgia Politics


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 2, 2017

On June 2, 1774, Britain’s Parliament passed the Quartering Act, the last of the Coercive Acts, meant to punish the American colonies and reassert British control. Eventually, the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution would prohibit the forcible quartering of soldiers in private homes.

On June 4, 1785, James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, met with John Adams, the first ambassador from the new United States to Great Britain.

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commanding forces west of the Mississippi, surrendered on June 2, 1865, and this date is generally considered the end of the Civil War.

On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to always be right vote. In August 1920, enough states had ratified the 19th Amendment that it took effect.

On June 3, 1941, Georgia voters ratified a Constitutional Amendment extending the term of office for Governor and the other Constitutional Officers from two years to four. Governor Eugene Talmadge campaigned for the Amendment, hoping to serve a four-year term after the two-year term he currently held, but was defeated in the 1942 Democratic Primary by Ellis Arnall. Remember this phrase: legislation almost always has unintended consequences.

On June 3, 1942, Curtis Mayfield was born in Chicago, Illinois and would later live in Atlanta, dying in Roswell in 1999.

The Battle of Midway began on June 4, 1942. During the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor and one cruiser were sunk at the cost of one American carrier and one destroyer.

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953.

On June 2, 1962, Georgia-born Ray Charles hit #1 on the charts with “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

On the morning of June 3, 1962, a plane carrying 106 Georgians crashed on take-off from Orly near Paris, the deadliest crash in aviation to that date.

On June 3, 1980, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had amassed enough delegates to assure his nomination in the Democratic Primary for President.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Tiananman Square Massacre in Beijing, China. Pro-democracy protests had begun on April 15, 1989 and on May 20, martial law was declared. The People’s Liberation Army began taking the square back on the evening of June 3d.

Jim Galloway was in Beijing during the protests and crackdown and wrote about it at the AJC Political Insider Blog.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

As of the latest absentee voter file from the Secretary of State’s office, 33,957 early and advance votes have been cast to date in the Sixth Congressional District Special Runoff Election.


State Senator Michael Williams announced yesterday that he is running for Governor in 2018. From his press release email:


Businessman and Georgia State Senator Michael Williams formally launches his campaign for Governor of Georgia. His will be a campaign focused on radical conservative reform and opposition to politics as usual.

June 1, 2017 – Businessman Michael Williams is officially running to be the next Republican Governor of Georgia. Mr. Williams is running on a message of fearless conservative reform, exposing the political games played by the establishment in Atlanta. It’s time for more results, less talk, and no excuses.

Taking on the establishment is nothing new for Mr. Williams, he challenged a career politician for State Senate in 2014. He self-financed his campaign by spending over $300,000 of his own money, beating the incumbent 66% – 34%. Williams is committed to spending a significant sum of his personal wealth on his campaign for Governor.

Mr. Williams stated, “Voters are tired of the political games and the false promises of career politicians. People want someone willing to take a stand for what they believe, someone who will relentlessly pursue fearless conservative reform.”  He continued, “If you want more politics as usual, vote for my opponents. If you want fearless conservative reform, vote for Michael Williams.”

Georgia has had a Republican Governor for almost 16 years and a Republican controlled House and Senate for over a decade. Yet we have not passed basic conservative legislation. We have yet to pass tax reform, school choice legislation, constitutional carry, spending cuts, and many other bedrocks of the Republican Party. The gamesmanship of “election year conservatives” will end under Governor Williams. More results, less talk. No excuses!

As the first Georgia elected official to endorse Donald Trump for President, Mr. Williams has witnessed the passion of voters who are fed up with politics as usual. He looks forward to sharing more of his conservative, outsider message to voters across the state of Georgia. To learn more about his campaign and to get involved, visit

A fundraising email sent later in the day adds more:

As the first Georgia elected official to endorse Donald Trump for President, I’ve witnessed the passion of voters who are fed up with politics as usual. Voters are tired of the political games and the false promises of career politicians. People want someone willing to take a stand for what they believe, someone who will relentlessly pursue fearless conservative reform.

If you want more politics as usual, vote for my opponents. If you want fearless conservative reform, vote for Michael Williams.

You and I both know that the establishment and career politicians oppose our fearless conservative message. They know that if I am elected Governor we will implement the conservative policies they have long opposed.


  • Support a Georgia FairTax, eliminating the state income tax and replacing it with state sales tax similar to what they have in Florida.
  • Support important legislation defending the 2nd Amendment, known as “Constitutional Carry”.
  • Support term limits for all statewide elected offices. Currently, the Governor is the only term limited office in the state. Our current Lt. Governor has held his office for 12-years!
  • Support Religious Freedom legislation. Georgia has tried for several years to enact this legislation. I am already working to bring all the stakeholders together in order to pass and sign this legislation into law as Governor
  • Support Law Enforcement Pay Raises. Georgia law enforcement officers are some of the lowest paid in the nation. I have teamed up with Duane “Dog The Bounty Hunter” Chapman to bring attention to  legislation to increase the minimum salary for all officers. As Governor, I will ensure this becomes law.
  • Improve Homeschooling Laws. Allow home-schooled students access to school athletic programs and facilities. This has been successfully implemented in Florida and can be done here. Home-school parents pay the same school taxes as everyone else and should receive equal services.
  • Always Stand for Pro-Life Causes.
  • Keep Casinos Out of Georgia. Casino gambling is not right for Georgia. It is now being proposed to “save” the HOPE scholarship. Yet we are currently not collecting over $400 million a year that is owed from the state lottery. The lottery was supposed to contribute 35% of proceeds to HOPE. Currently, HOPE is only receiving approximately 23%. This money will be immediately recovered when I am elected Governor.
  • Many more important issues that I will share as we spread our message across this state!

The Georgia Republican Party State Convention is being held in Augusta this weekend.

Last year’s convention was also held in Augusta. Delegates from nearly all 159 Georgia counties will be at the two-day event beginning at 10 a.m. today at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center. State party spokesman Ryan Mahoney said about 3,000 are expected to attend.

Herman Cain, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, is the featured speaker at a “Victory Breakfast” on Saturday.

Four men, including Evans plant manager and 12th District GOP Chairman Mike Welsh, are running for state chairman.

Gov. Nathan Deal and other state Republican officials are scheduled to attend. One of the goals for delegates and party officials will be to garner support for next year’s statewide and legislative elections.

From the AJC on the State Convention.

A tumultuous fight is underway to lead the cash-strapped state party, and its outcome could determine whether the party veers to the right or aims for a more mainstream message. And candidates in the pitched battle for governor and other 2018 races face an early test from grass-roots activists.

It’s a fraught time for Republicans, and many of the hundreds of activists gathering for the two-day event have poured their energy into the vote over the party’s leadership. W. John Wood, the chairman of the Savannah-based 1st Republican District, said the mood is undeniably “anxious.”

“Across the state, you have this feeling where you are in the locker room, lights out trying to stay focused — but you know once you walk out the tunnel there is no going back,” he said. “The party has the resolve, but the real question is who we will follow out of that tunnel.”

Republican leaders complain about an ineffective party operation that provides them little help. Contributions have largely dried up, and the Georgia GOP’s balance sheet is mired in red ink. The latest federal filings show the party has $223,000 in the bank — and $317,000 in debts.

Each of the announced candidates in the governor’s race — Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams — is expected to speak. So will Attorney General Chris Carr and a gaggle of candidates seeking to replace Kemp and Cagle.

“There is a lot of momentum going into the state convention as we look forward to a fresh start and new beginnings,” said Jade Morey, a Republican activist from Middle Georgia and Handel volunteer who called it an opportune time to “come together and coalesce around our message” behind the candidate.

Flowery Branch officials complain that Hall County tax assessors valuations are causing issues for the municipality.

Some members of the city council had hopes of lowering the rate in order to remain revenue neutral, but an unexpected re-evaluation of one property in particular by the Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office is forcing council members to rethink that move and assume a defensive posture.

“My problem is the bigger issue of the problems within the tax accessor’s office,” Miller said.  “I don’t see how a property that’s been there for over ten years…can overnight double in value.”

“We’re living on a hope and prayer of an office that can’t even get an estimate right,” Miller added.

Moon was asked if she knew if the owners of Tree Park had appealed their tax appraisal with the county, hoping to get it reduced.  Moon said she did not know.

Miller said that because the city council did not know if Tree Park would be granted a lower appraisal, compounded by the unknown of how much other revaluations granted by the Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office might affect their revenues, keeping the millage rate the same as last year was pragmatic.

Columbus police targeted distracted drivers, issuing nearly 100 citations.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 1, 2017

Benjamin Franklin became Georgia’s agent in England on June 1, 1768, making him also Georgia’s first lobbyist.

On June 1, 1775, Georgia patriots sent a care package to their brethren in Massachusetts comprising 63 barrels of rice and £122 after the battles at Lexington and Concord.

The court martial of Benedict Arnold convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 1, 1779.

Arnold negotiated his defection to the British and the subversion of West Point over several months. The British already held control of New York City and believed that by taking West Point they could effectively cut off the American’s New England forces from the rest of the fledgling nation.

In August 1780, Sir Henry Clinton offered Arnold £20,000 for delivering West Point and 3,000 troops. Arnold told General Washington that West Point was adequately prepared for an attack even though he was busy making sure that that it really wasn’t. He even tried to set up General Washington’s capture as a bonus. His plan might have been successful but his message was delivered too late and Washington escaped. The West Point surrender was also foiled when an American colonel ignored Arnold’s order not to fire on an approaching British ship.

Arnold’s defection was revealed to the Americans when British officer John André, acting as a messenger, was robbed by AWOL Americans working as pirates in the woods north of New York City. The notes revealing Arnold’s traitorous agreement were stashed in his boots.

On June 1, 1942, a Polish newspaper first published information about the gassing of Jews at Nazi concentration camps in Poland.

The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1, 1967. The album is listed as #1 on the Rolling Stone top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song’s regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of “A Day in the Life,” the 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

Issued in Britain on June 1st, 1967, and a day later in America, Sgt. Pepper is also rock’s ultimate declaration of change. For the Beatles, it was a decisive goodbye to matching suits, world tours and assembly-line record-making. “We were fed up with being Beatles,” McCartney said decades later, in Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ McCartney biography. “We were not boys, we were men… artists rather than performers.

“It was a peak,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with McCartney. “Paul and I were definitely working together,” Lennon said….

Rolling Stone should stick to writing about music.

A summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev ended on May 31, 1988. Four years later, in 1992, Gorbachev was dancing for dollars in the United States, including the keynote address at Emory University’s graduation.

The 153d Anniversary of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill will be commemorated this weekend with Civil War reenactors and history hikes.

Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site is marking the 153rd anniversary of the battle this weekend with history hikes and Civil War re-enactors this weekend.

The 765-acre site is about 34 miles from Rome, at 4432 Mount Tabor Church Road in Dallas. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

On Saturday, Civil War re-enactors will be demonstrating their skills in a living history encampment from 10 a.m. to noon. At 2 p.m., Brad Butkavich — author of “The Battle of Pickett’s Mill: Along The Deadline” — will lead a history hike that goes to a cornfield to see an important area of the battle. The site is normally closed on Sundays but will present a special program on Civil War trench warfare that includes a battlefield tour.

Brothers and Sisters in Macon may find some road closings on Saturday for the funeral procession of Gregg Allman.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff will meet in four debates in the Sixth Congressional District Special Runoff Election.

The Karen Handel campaign released its confirmed debate schedule today, agreeing to 4 debates through the runoff election. To reach the largest audience possible, Karen Handel has confirmed 4 debates, 3 of which will be televised.

Karen is looking forward to the opportunity to debate Jon Ossoff and his ever-changing policy positions and inflated expertise. The Handel campaign calls on Jon Ossoff to confirm the debates, as he has promised, and give the voters of the 6th District the opportunity to hear from the candidates. This schedule maximizes that opportunity.

“I look forward to several robust debates on the issues so that the people of the 6th District can be informed about the stark contrast between my record of results, and my opponent’s false claims and flimsy resume,” said Karen Handel.

Confirmed Debates below:
WSB TV: June 6, 2017
WABE/PBA30: June 8, 2017
CNN/Atlanta Press Club: June 13, 2017
WSB Radio: June 15, 2017

More than 8000 newly-registered voters in the 6th district may change the electoral math in the runoff election.

The total includes two types of voter: the newly registered, plus so-called “transfer” applications — voters already registered in Georgia who moved into the district after March 20, when the registration period originally closed.

It comes after a federal judge in early May extended voter registration in the district through May 21, part of an ongoing lawsuit over how Georgia handles voter registration ahead of federal runoff elections.

As a result, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, 7,942 people as of Tuesday afternoon had newly registered or transferred into the 6th District following the reopening of voter registration.

Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order creating the Local Government 9-1-1 Authority under the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

Former Governor Sonny Perdue has endorsed John Watson for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.

I will state unequivocally that without the strategic thinking and planning of John Watson there would have been no Sonny Perdue Governorship. Then, more than likely, the Senate and House would not be Republican, nor all the statewide office holders, and possibly no Senator David Perdue.

After 15 years, we are no longer the rag-tag revolutionary army. John and I both believe that elections are won by passionate supporters supporting the right candidate, but it also takes resources, strategy, and leadership who can bring people together to achieve incredible victories.

I assure you that John is not an “insider”. He’s just an experienced, grimy, war-hardened field general who knows how to beat the Democrats, and I’m excited to watch John lead that charge.

Former Atlanta lawyer Chris Wray may be a candidate for Director of the FBI.

Northwest Georgia could face economic losses if increased tariffs are placed on imports.

President Donald Trump promises to bring back factory jobs by cracking down on imported products from Mexico and China. But many worry he will trigger a trade war—and end up wiping out jobs, not creating them.

Beneath the “Buy American” roadside signs here, a globalist heart beats in this mostly rural corner of Northwest Georgia.

While most of the flooring made here is sold domestically, for housing and commercial space, carpet can also end up installed in vehicles, ships and aircraft bound for export. The Dalton area also directly exports more carpeting than anywhere else in the United States, primarily to Canada and Mexico. There’s no doubt that global trade helps grease the wheels of the economy here.

But if Trump were to squeeze Mexico and China as hard as he’s threatened, the resulting disruption in cross-border trade would have an impact all over the country, even for businesses that don’t export themselves. In fact, Northwest Georgia would get hit with some of the worst job losses in the nation, from manufacturing to retail, according to a complex data analysis based on Trump’s threats by the Peterson Institute of International Economics, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C., think tank.

Savannah City Council voted to censure Alderman Tony Thomas.

The council’s vote to censure Thomas has no impact on his ability to vote or participate in meeting discussions. But the move was a way to show their disapproval of the alderman’s actions, which Alderman Julian Miller described as despicable and Mayor Pro Tem Carol Bell said deserved the “highest level of condemnation.”

The resolution calling for the censure was initially opposed by Alderman Van Johnson, who said the comments by Thomas were “dead wrong,” but he insisted that two paragraphs be eliminated before the council would get his support. One paragraph referred to the St. Patrick’s Day incident, which Johnson said the council had agreed to move past. Johnson also opposed a paragraph that stated that Thomas had refused to apologize to the reporter, after Thomas said during the meeting that he regretted the language he had used.

“He apologized publicly,” Johnson said. “That needs to be addressed.”

Democrat Jason Carter ruled out running for Governor in 2018.

Carter, a former state senator who was the party’s nominee in 2014, said he was focused on “prime dad time” for his two sons, who are 8 and 10. And he said he was charting a future for the Atlanta-based Carter Center, the human rights group his grandfather founded and whose board he now heads as chairman.

“It’s not bittersweet. I’m excited as a Democrat and for Georgia. I’m excited as a Georgian over the fact that we’re going to have an incredibly robust discourse,” he said, emphasizing that the race for the 6th Congressional District and President Donald Trump’s struggles in Atlanta’s suburbs have energized Democrats.

“Georgia is firmly planted in the national discourse in a really compelling way,” he said. “And I think that bodes well in the state and for the other Democrats running for governor.”

Carter, 41, did not rule out a run in the future, likely for statewide rather than federal office. He also declined to endorse either of the Democratic candidates — state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and state Rep. Stacey Evans — saying only he would be “very engaged” in the 2018 campaign.

“I am very impressed with both Staceys. Both of the candidates are top-flight candidates for our state. Both will make excellent governors,” Carter said. “The key for Democrats is to present a candidate who can bring the state together in effective ways — that can be a governor for the entire state. And both have that potential. Democrats should be excited about having a primary.”

Sue Hammler Lee will run for reelection to Rome City Commission in the November election.

The Port of Savannah will break its own record today for the largest container ship to call in-port.

The OOCL France, now the largest ship ever to call on the East Coast, snatched that title from the COSCO Development less than a month after she claimed it.

Only slightly larger than the Development, the France is 1,203 feet long and 159 feet wide. She is capable of carrying 13,208 TEUs, some 200 more than the Development.

According to Ship Operations at Georgia Ports Authority, the France should begin transit from the channel entrance at 1 p.m. Thursday, passing River Street between 3 and 3:30 p.m. and docking at Garden City Terminal between 4:30 and 5 p.m.

Middle Georgia Regional Airport and Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex signed an agreement to explore economic development opportunities.

Ann Levett was sworn in as the new Superintendent of the Savannah-Chatham County public schools.

Harlem and Columbia County cut the ribbon to open a new library branch.

The Metro Atlanta American Heart Association released a poll purporting to show that a majority of Columbus residents favor a public smoking ban.

Erratum: yesterday I mixed up the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission and the Judicial Nominations Commission. It is the Judicial Nominating Commission that is accepting nominations for a seat on the Richmond County State Court.

Online and Out-of-Line

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter could learn his fate as the Gwinnett County ethics board considers sanctioning him over online comments.

The board held a hearing that lasted a little more than an hour regarding the comments, which included calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” and referring to Democrats as “Libtards” and “Demonrats,” and then retreated to discuss the matter for nearly another hour.

When they came back, ethics board chairman David Will said the board would hold another meeting later on to announce the recommendation it is making to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.

“We’re gong to make a recommendation based the record before us and have asked our attorney to prepare a written decision,” Will said. “Once that is presented, we will then resume for a meeting in the near future at which time we will then render our decision.”

[Investigator Robin] Martinelli said she recorded the conversation, and testified that Hunter told her “this matter is childish” and that he was “done with Gwinnett.”

At one point Martinelli testified that Hunter planned to quit soon, but she later added that he said he would not resign. She said he told her he was looking at seeking an elected office outside Gwinnett County.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood drew criticism for a Facebook posting he said he didn’t post.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said he’s not responsible for a questionable meme published on his Facebook page, and that he has taken it down.

The meme compares Hillary Clinton unfavorably to Melania Trump. It shows a photograph of a frowning Bill Clinton, and reads: “That moment when you realize you and Trump are the same age and he has Melania and you’re married to Hillary.”

Wood, who is apparently traveling, did not respond to a request for comment, except for a brief text: “I did not post this share and I deleted it from my page,” he wrote.


Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black said more than 80 percent of Georgia’s peach crop was wiped out.

Black says the lack of peaches could mean a shorter season for Georgia consumers. He says farmers probably won’t ship out of state.

The newspaper reports that the loss, combined with a blow to this year’s blueberry crop, could mean a $300 million hit to farmers.

The peach crop issue has been worse in neighboring South Carolina, where Black says he’s told more than 85 percent of the crop was lost.

Higher peach prices may help some farmers, according to the Gainesville Times.

In North Georgia, Jaemor Farms got the cold weather it needed to push its peach bloom about two weeks later than the rest of the state, sparing them from the March 8 freeze.

“They did bloom earlier than they should have because of the mild (winter),” said farm manager Drew Echols. “We squeaked through the late freeze because we still had a lot of closed blooms on the tree. We were not at full bloom — we (still) lost a lot of flowers.”

But “a lot” doesn’t mean “most.” Jaemor Farms is looking at a 70 percent crop — maybe an 80 percent crop if it’s lucky — while most of the state and South Carolina is looking at 20 to 30 percent yields.

At Ellijay’s B.J. Reece Orchards, co-owner John Reece said he’s looking at what might be “the best crop we’ve ever had.” Reece, unlike farms to the south, plants late peaches that ripen in July — further protecting him from the cold snap that rolled through earlier this year.

Georgia farmers are getting $1 a pound or more for early peaches, according to Jeff Cook, an agent in Middle Georgia for the UGA Extension, when an average price is closer to 65 cents a pound.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 31, 2017

The Treaty of Augusta was signed on May 31, 1783, between the Creek Indians and Georgia Commissioners. A second, identical document would be signed on November 1 of that year.

The first graduation ceremony for the University of Georgia was held on May 31, 1804.

Savannah-born John C. Fremont was nominated for President of the United States by the Radical Republicans on May 31, 1864. Fremont had previously been nominated for President by the Republican Party as their first presidential candidate in 1856.

The Capital City Club in Atlanta was chartered on May 31, 1889.

Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter appeared on the cover of Time magazine on May 31, 1971.

Time Magazine May 31 1971

Gregg Allman will be buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon on Saturday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is warning of counterfeit pills.

The GBI said it has seen 454 samples across the state in the past two years of counterfeit pills, which often contain a more serious or dangerous drug.

One example given by the GBI involved a pill marked as oxycodone, a painkiller, that actually contained fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl and a drug called U-47700.

The GBI released a warning in April about furanyl fentanyl and U-47700, which led to 17 deaths in the first four months of 2017.

“By a significant margin, the top counterfeited logos represent alprazolam and oxycodone,” GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles wrote in a news release. “The two most common substances found within the counterfeit tablets were depressants and opiates.”

In the Northeast Georgia area, Hall and Forsyth counties had the highest number of counterfeit drugs. Forsyth had seven cases in the past two years, Miles said.

Cobb County Elections is seeing higher than usual turnout in the Special Runoff Election for the Sixth Congressional District.

In the first day of early voting for Georgia’s 6th District congressional runoff, 712 Cobb voters showed up to cast their ballot early, according to Cobb elections.

Turnout Tuesday was more than four times greater than the first day of early voting for the original race on April 18, which only saw 160 Cobb voters vote in person.

“We had a decent in-person turnout (Tuesday), but with a short ballot, there was never a line,” said Janine Eveler, director of Cobb elections.

The early voting numbers do not include Cobb’s mail-in ballots or any votes cast in DeKalb or Fulton.

Early voting runs through June 16 with Election Day set for June 20.

A [Karen] Handel aide says the Republican candidate will vote when regular polls open on Election Day.

FiveThirtyEight says African-American voter turnout was down in the 6th District Special Election.

Thanks to an impressive Democratic turnout, Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who advanced to this month’s runoff, almost cracked 50 percent of the vote in a district that’s nearly 10 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole.1

The result, moreover, was a reversal of some turnout trends we saw in 2016, when President Trump outperformed the polls on the back of higher turnout in Republican-leaning areas. And if the runoff election on June 20 features a similar electorate, the race will be too close to call.

But the Georgia 6 April primary was a continuation of some 2016 turnout trends too — trends that should worry Democrats. In 2016, turnout among whites was up across the country, and in highly educated areas like the 6th District in the suburbs of Atlanta. This redounded to Democrats’ advantage. At the same time, black turnout was down precipitously, from 66 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016. This black-white turnout gap continued in the first round of Georgia’s special election, where the Democrats got impressive turnout levels from all races and ethnicities — except African-Americans.

Lower black turnout in 2016 might be explained as a reversion to the mean after that group’s historic turnout for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. It’s possible that Clinton could never inspire black turnout the way the first African-American president could. But even if this shift is more of a return to the old status quo, Democrats will still have to grapple with these turnout levels going forward, and there are powerful lessons we can learn from the party’s failure to raise or maintain previous black turnout levels in 2016. Painting Trump as a bigot did not motivate more African-Americans to vote, in 2016 or in the Georgia 6th. Hope and shared identity seem to be much more effective turnout motivators than fear.

Elections are decided by two chief factors: Who turns out and which candidate they vote for.

We saw last year how lower engagement among African-American voters is a serious problem for the Democrats, as black turnout declined nearly uniformly across all the swing states in 2016[.]

Former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland spoke to Sarah Fay Campbell of The Newnan Times-Herald about his long career in Georgia politics.

After 24 years in politics, retirement has been very pleasant indeed.

“Why would I want to run for governor other than some type of ego trip?” Westmoreland said Friday, as he and his wife enjoyed an impromptu vacation.

“I’ve never really considered myself to have a big ego, though I think everybody that is in politics has got to have some type of ego,” he said. “I thought, maybe this is your ego wanting you to do it rather than you really wanting to do it.”

He ran for state senate against incumbent Democrat Bev Ingram, and lost. “She was a really, really nice lady. I didn’t know anything about politics. I didn’t have a chance in the world of winning because of the makeup in the district.”

Two years later, he ran again, and lost by a slim margin.

After redistricting following the 1990 Census, Fayette County, where Westmoreland lived at the time, was divided into two districts. Westmoreland ran for the northern seat and won.

“If you’re new to politics, you may not necessarily know Lynn’s legacy,” said State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, who previously served as Westmoreland’s chief of staff.

“He is one of the reasons that Republicans have control of both the House and the Senate, and have the governor’s office,” Brass said. “All that work he did as minority leader shouldn’t be forgotten, because the state has come a long way.”

Gwinnett County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Tracie Cason is running for a seat on the Gwinnett County Superior Court in 2018.

Cason is running for Superior Court Judge Debra Turner’s seat, which is up for election next year.

“Having spent 17 years in the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, I have begun the next step in my public service career by launching my campaign for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge,” Cason said in a statement.

“I believe my experience as a trial prosecutor concentrating on crimes against children and sex crimes, as well as working with the Gwinnett County Accountability Courts make me uniquely qualified to serve my home county on the bench.”

She was recently involved in “Operation Spring Cleaning,” working with officials at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Gwinnett Police Department, the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office and about a dozen other agencies on the sting operation.

It resulted in 23 men being arrested and indicted for allegedly attempting to have sex with what they thought was a child, with Cason overseeing the indictment of the men.

State House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams will hold a barbecue on Saturday.

Abrams, the state House Minority Leader, will host a family-friendly barbecue and “brief speaking program” that starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The location, though, is what really caught our eye: It’s not in vote-rich metro Atlanta, a slice of which she has long represented. It’s in Chehaw Park in Albany, a deep-blue pocket of rural southwest Georgia.

She’ll need to run up the tally in Democratic bastions like Albany to have any chance at flipping the state in 2018. About two-thirds of Dougherty County is African-American, and Abrams is aiming to be the nation’s first black female governor.

She’ll also need to perform well in those areas in next year’s primary to defeat state Rep. Stacey Evans, her lone Democratic opponent. Evans, who represents a portion of Smyrna, hopes her message has a particular appeal to voters in metro Atlanta’s fast-changing suburbs.

The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission has opened nominations for a seat on the Richmond County State Court.

The commission will accept names for [Judge Richard A.] Slaby’s replacement until June 12. Each nominee will be sent an application that must be completed by June 27. Interviews will be scheduled after July 5. Afterward, the commission will prepare a short list of “qualified” or “well-qualified” candidates for the governor’s consideration.

Gov. Nathan Deal will appoint the replacement for Slaby, who announced earlier this month that he was retiring effective July 31. Slaby is has been on the Richmond County State Court bench for 20 years.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has charged seven with illegally hunting alligators.

“Back the Badge” car tags will be available soon.

The specialty plate, early in design, says “back the badge” and features a black ribbon with a Georgia-shaped American flag that has a single stripe of blue in the center.

Aaron Cosby, a Sumter County farmer, suggested the idea for the tag to his legislators after the deaths of Americus Police officer Nick Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State University officer Jody Smith, according to a report from WALB News. The men were shot and killed in December while responding together to a domestic call off campus.

Legislation creating the tag was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this month. The public will be able to order them by September, WALB reported.

Savannah Mayor Buddy DeLoach says Alderman Tony Thomas should be censured.

Mayor Eddie DeLoach said he has scheduled a special council meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday to consider a resolution to censure Thomas for sexist and vulgar comments made to the reporter Saturday — and to make it clear that such language is unacceptable.

The censure meeting was scheduled after Thomas admitted to calling the WTOC reporter, Georgiaree Godfrey, a “c***” and claimed he would make the comment again if given the chance, DeLoach said.

Thomas’ behavior follows a downward spiral for the District 6 alderman, who had put several members of staff and council in compromising positions when he became intoxicated during the St. Patrick’s Day parade in March, DeLoach said. The alderman ended up apologizing and the council agreed to move forward, DeLoach said.

The censure vote would have to be unanimous to pass, under Georgia law.

If approved, the censure would be a condemnation of Thomas’ actions, but would not impact his ability to vote or participate in discussions as a council member. That is the most the council can do and it is up to his constituents to hold him responsible for his actions, DeLoach said.

In a worst case-scenario, Georgia law provides for a recall election of elected officials due to an “act of malfeasance or misconduct while in office,” a “violation of the oath of office,” failure to perform duties or willfully misappropriating public funds. A recall election must have a chairperson, sponsors and petitions, and valid signatures required for a recall election must be 15 percent of the number of constituents who voted in the preceding election, Georgia law states.

AT&T has started building out a new service called Fixed Wireless in rural Decatur County, Georgia.

Select rural areas in the county now have access to high-speed Internet through AT&T’s Fixed Wireless service. Decatur County is one of the first locations nationwide where AT&T is providing this service.

“The more than 19,000 men and women who work for AT&T and call Georgia home, are working every day to turn our investments into the high-speed connectivity that Georgia’s residents and businesses demand,” said Bill Leahy, president of AT&T Georgia. “Through this innovative service, we are further closing the remaining connectivity gap in rural Georgia.”

Plans are in place for AT&T to reach more than 67,000 locations with this technology across Georgia by 2020.

“More and more, whether you are in urban or rural areas, high-speed connectivity is vital, and I am excited to see this newly available service bringing needed connectivity to our rural communities in Georgia,” said State Senator Dean Burke. “And to be among the first in the nation to have access through this service is a testament to the consistent community efforts to raise this issue.”

State Representative Jay Powell said it was a good day for rural residents as they are some of the first customers in the country to have access to this technology.

“We have work that remains to be done, and I will continue to work with my colleagues and private industry to bring increased access to high-speed Internet in rural Georgia,” said State Representative Jay Powell.

This rural internet initiative is part of AT&T’s FCC Connect America Fund committee to serve more than 400,000 locations by the end of 2017 and more than 1.1 million locations by 2020.

SouthWind Plantation in Attapulgus, Georgia, was named Orvis Wing-Shooting Lodge of the Year for 2017.

SouthWind Plantation received the award in Mizzoula, Montana, at the Orvis Guide Rendezvous on April 28, where endorsed lodges, outfitters and guides from around the world gathered.

Last year, SouthWind plantation was endorsed as a dog facility as well. One hundred and seventy dogs are living and being bred there now. Smith said SouthWind is working toward build-ing the same reputation in the dog business as in the hunting business.

Several years ago, I got to visit SouthWind Plantation and it is indeed spectacular.

Congressman Sanfod Bishop (D-Columbus) will hold a Town Hall meeting on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at Central Georgia Technical College.

More than 100 Democrats protested at the office of Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville).

Three members of the Rome Board of Education will run for reelection in November.

Three other incumbents have yet to make a decision on a re-election bid, and one is sticking to a promise of only serving two terms by not running again.

Board members Richard Dixon and Elaina Beeman said they are going after a second term, following both of them being elected to the board for the first time in November 2013.

Dale Swann, a board member of 28 years, also plans on running for re-election, he said.

Bruce Jones is the lone board member at this point to turn down a shot at another term, sticking to his belief of setting a two-term limit for all elected officials.

The posts are nonpartisan. Those seeking a seat must be 21 or older and be a city resident for at least a year by the election date, Nov. 7, and be registered to vote at least 90 days before qualifying. The qualifying fee is $126, which is 3 percent of the annual salary for a school board post.

Parents in South Hall County are asking the Board of Education to put a hold on school redistricting.

Columbus has an OLOST – Other Local Option Sales Tax – that has been in place since its approval in 2008.

If Columbus public safety officials could have their way, they would receive a combined $9.1 million for capital expenditures in fiscal year 2018.

But in a tight budget season, city officials say dollars in the Other Local Option Sales Tax fund are limited, creating a highly competitive budgeting arena.

The OLOST is a one cent tax approved by voters in 2008. Seventy percent of the money is earmarked for public safety and 30 percent for infrastructure projects.

In an email to the Ledger-Enquirer on Tuesday, Hodge said FY2018 OLOST public safety appropriations will amount to a total of about $24 million. While most of the money is budgeted for personnel, $1,353,167 is earmarked for capital appropriations. The capital amount includes $1,075,404 in Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s recommended budget, plus changes made by City Council amounting to $277,763.

The City of Flowery Branch will hold hearings today on a proposed property tax hike.

Residents can speak out at meetings taking place 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Flowery Branch City Hall, 5517 Main St.

A third hearing is set for 6 p.m. June 8 at City Hall.

The city is proposing to set the rate at 3.264 mills, which is the same as the current rate.

However, because of rising property values, the city stands to gain more tax revenues. To keep revenues the same, the rate would have to be 3.012 mills.

Effingham County Board of Education members considering a 13 percent property tax hike, largely to address increased healthcare costs for employees.

The BOE is proposing a millage rate of 18 mills, an increase of 2.09 mills. Without the increase, the millage rate would be no more than 15.911 mills.

The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $150,000 is $125 and the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market of $100,000 is about $84.

Georgia Shrimp Season starts Thursday at 8 AM.

Effective that date, commercial food shrimp trawlers can operate in Georgia’s territorial waters open to power-drawn trawls. Commercial and recreational cast netters, as well as people using a beach seine, can harvest food shrimp from waters open to the use of these gears.

“The white shrimp abundance in our May coastwide trawl survey is higher compared to historic averages for the month of May,” said Lindsey Aubart, the Coastal Resources Division biologist supervising monthly shrimp sampling. “The shrimp sizes are highly desirable to recreational harvesters and valuable to commercial fishermen. The recommendation to open on June 1 was made after taking into consideration our May survey results and input received from our Shrimp Advisory Panel.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 30, 2017

On May 29, 1836, the United States Senate ratified the Treaty of New Echota, which required the movement of all Cherokee out of Georgia and led to the “Trail of Tears.”

On May 30, 1922, Chief Justice of the United States William H. Taft dedicated the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Inside the memorial is a seated statue of Lincoln by Daniel Chester French carved from 175 tons of Georgia white marble.

French also created the statue of Jame Oglethorpe that stands in Chippewa Square in Savannah and a seated statue of Samuel Spencer considered to be a prototype of the Lincoln carving. Samuel Spencer was the first President of Southern Railway and was originally located at the rail station in downtown Atlanta before moving to the Southern Railway passenger station in Buckhead in the 1970s and is currently at 1200 Peachtree Street in front of Norfolk Southern.

On May 29, 1942, Adolf Hitler ordered all Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris to wear a yellow Star of David on their coats.

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, became the first to summit Mount Everest.

On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 9 a.m. and a steep rocky step, some 40 feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 11:30 a.m., the climbers arrived at the top of the world.

News of the success was rushed by runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar, and then sent by coded message to London, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on June 1, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Advance Voting in-person for the Sixth Congressional District begins today. From Secretary of State Brian Kemp:

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp reminds Georgia voters that advance in-person voting starts Tuesday, May 30, 2017, in the 6th Congressional District run-off in parts of Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton counties. Democrat Jon Ossoff faces Republican and former Secretary of State Karen Handel in the contest to replace Tom Price, now serving as Health and Human Services Secretary in the Trump administration.

“All eyes are on Georgia as we approach June 20,” stated Secretary Kemp. “Now more than ever, voters need to get engaged, do their research on the candidates, and head to the polls to take part in this important contest. The right to vote for our public officials should never be taken for granted. Get out and vote, and wear your peach voting sticker with pride.”

Georgia voters can use the office’s “My Voter Page” or download the “GA SOS” app to check registration status, view a sample ballot, find their voting location, or request an absentee ballot. Voters in CD 6 are advised to request absentee ballots well in advance of the June 16, 2017 deadline to vote by mail in the runoff.

The 6th Congressional District includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton counties. All three counties will offer Saturday voting in the 6th Congressional District run-off.

In Cobb, individuals can vote on Saturday, June 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In DeKalb, individuals can also vote on Saturday, June 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In Fulton, individuals can vote on Saturday, June 3 or Saturday, June 10 from 8:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Election Day is June 20, 2017. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Democrats and their allies appear to be outspending Republicans and conservatives in the Sixth District.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis shows that Democrats have narrowly outspent Republicans in the runoff phase of Georgia’s 6th District contest, the nationally-watched race that could prove an early test of the GOP agenda.

The contest, by far the most expensive U.S. House race in the nation’s history, has now cost more than $36 million overall. That includes about $21 million spent or reserved for advertising since April 18, when Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff notched spots in the June 20 runoff.

National Democratic groups and Ossoff’s campaign have combined for about $11.3 million of that spending – the vast majority on a flood of broadcast TV ads inundating the suburban Atlanta district.

Ossoff’s campaign has now spent or reserved $7.3 million in broadcast, cable and radio ads through the vote. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pumped in another $3.6 million, and the left-leaning House Majority PAC has spent about $250,000.

Republicans have poured in nearly $10 million into the runoff so far, though only a fraction has come from Handel’s campaign.

GOP groups have rushed to try to fill the void. The National Republican Congressional Committee has laid out more than $4.1 million and the Congressional Leadership Fund – which has close ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan – doled out $2.8 million. The U.S. Chamber put in about $1 million.

The New York Times looks at the tricky business of how to support a Republican in a district that only narrowly went for President Trump.

Some of the biggest players on the right are involved. The Koch network, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and various socially conservative and faith-based organizations are using the campaign as a dry run for untangling the conservative crosscurrents they will have to manage with Mr. Trump as the party’s leader.

Ms. Handel is struggling with the same knot. She welcomed the president for a fund-raiser last month, but kept it closed to the public. She batted away reports that Mr. Trump had shared highly classified information with the Russians by saying they could just be a “gross assumption” by the media, a view many in the district share. But she added that she supported an investigation to resolve the matter.

And when the White House sends in reinforcements to campaign with Ms. Handel ahead of Election Day on June 20, Vice President Mike Pence will be the headliner, not Mr. Trump.

Ms. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, embodies the contradictions and competing interests that will make races like hers so hard for Republicans. As a more conventional chamber of commerce-type Republican, she appeals to the party’s traditional constituency. But she is also struggling to excite the voters who rejected that type of Republicanism when they voted for Mr. Trump last year.

The national implications seem clear to many voters, who understand the vulnerability that a Republican loss would telegraph to the country. Bob Harris, a retired sixth-grade science teacher who lives in once reliably Republican east Cobb County, said he was not exactly “on fire when it comes to Karen Handel.” He wishes Mr. Trump would get off Twitter and take a lesson in composure from more coolheaded advisers like Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff.

But he wants a Republican to win the seat so badly that he is volunteering for Americans for Prosperity, the group funded by the billionaire conservatives Charles G. and David H. Koch, and was making phone calls to voters from its office in Marietta on a recent rainy evening.

Alan Judd writes in The Atlanta Journal Constitution about the birth of the modern Sixth Congressional District.

For decades, the 6th District had covered several counties west and southwest of Atlanta, all the way to the Alabama border. But in 1991, lawmakers created an entirely new footprint. The district’s new heart was Cobb County, the fast-growing suburb northwest of Atlanta. Democrats hoped Gingrich might drop out rather than offer himself to a new constituency.

Their plan backfired. Gingrich quickly moved to Cobb and spent weekends and congressional recesses there introducing himself to voters. The next year, Gingrich easily won his new district. Then, two years later, he masterminded the Republican surge that elevated him to U.S. House speaker, shut down government services for 27 days, impeached President Bill Clinton over his affair with a White House intern, and subsided only when Gingrich, admitting his own extramarital activity, resigned from Congress.

“Murphy has just hated me ever since we ran a candidate against him in ’88,” Gingrich said in a 1991 interview.

“Scared him so bad that he repudiated Dukakis,” Gingrich said, referring to the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. “And then we took his repudiation of Dukakis … and faxed it all over the South and within a week they closed every Dukakis campaign headquarters in the South.

“Murphy never recovered from that humiliation. He told people privately he had only one goal in reapportionment, and that was to get rid of me.”

Attorney General Chris Carr spoke to the Gwinnett County Bar Association about his priorities in office.

Human trafficking. Substance abuse. Drug rehabilitation. Elder abuse.

These are all issues that Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr told the Gwinnett Bar Association must be addressed by the state in the months and years to come. Georgia’s top prosecutor outlined the threats they pose as he addressed Gwinnett County attorneys and judges from around the county at the 1818 Club in Duluth on Friday.

“One of the things I have found out is this: Most Georgians know there is an attorney general and we have an office,” Carr said. “Beyond that, they’re a little bit unclear about what we do, and that’s because each state does it a little differently, so what I’d like to do is reintroduce you, the Gwinnett Bar, to the Department of Law and then talk about a couple of initiatives that we are working on.”

In recent years, there has been a push, for example, that State Rep. Chuck Efstration and Sen. Renee Unterman have been involved in, to address the issue of human trafficking. Carr pointed to one result of that work, a bill passed this year to strengthen penalties for customers of prostitutes.

“Some statistics will tell you there are 2.5 million children (globally) who are victims,” Carr said. “There’s 100,000 nationwide. This is not an issue that’s out there somewhere else. This is in our community.”

On the topic of substance abuse, Carr’s comments came as local officials, led by Unterman and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, work on coming together to find solutions to substance abuse and mental health issues.

“In Gwinnett County over the past several years, there have been 2,500 overdoses,” Carr said. “The way we’ve got to tackle it, as it’s been mentioned many, many times, there are those that we’ve got to prosecute. If you over prescribe and you know it, you’ve got to be prosecuted. If you’re putting cheap heroin on the streets, you need to be prosecuted.”

Georgia Department of Natural Resouces is counting on hunters to help control coyote population in the state.

House Bill 241 by State Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) will allow state screening for Krabbe disease.

Cove’s Law was named for a North Georgia child with the disease. Cove’s grandmother is a client of Hawkins, a Gainesville dentist, which is how he came to know about the genetic disorder.

The law allows the Department of Public Health to offer screenings to new parents as part of the existing suite of illnesses already being screened. The test costs between $3 and $5, Hawkins told The Times, and isn’t mandatory.

“I looked at it as a way to save the lives of some of these babies. There is treatment available, but like any other type of situation similar to this it’s not 100 percent treatable,” he said. “… I approached it from a health care perspective … going back to giving the patient a choice — giving them the information.”

Krabbe disease in an insidious condition that surfaces in the first six months of a child’s life, but can only be prevented if stem cell treatment starts in the first 30 days after birth — before symptoms surface.

2018 Elections

Candidates for statewide office in 2018 are watching the Handel-Ossoff race for a preview of how their elections might unfold next year.

The battle lines have already being drawn: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle didn’t mention Trump at his campaign kickoff, while Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s official announcement practically oozed Trump-ian themes. More Trump loyalists could join the race, including a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence.

Democrats are practically salivating over the chance to energize left-leaning voters by painting whichever Republican emerges as Trump lite. A pair of Democratic rising stars – state Reps. Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans – both figure to put their opposition to Trump at the center of their bids.

The maneuvering underscores the volatility of the race to replace a term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal as the growing field starts to solidify a year before the primary. Each candidate well knows that what could help them win the GOP nomination could be devastating in a general election.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who has filed paperwork to run for governor, said Trump isn’t changing her strategy but that there’s no doubt he has energized left-leaning voters – and unnerved independents and moderates who might be receptive to the Democratic Party’s message.

“What he creates is an even sharper example of why this is possible. Not just Trump, but the entirety of this administration and the national reaction to his antics. It’s galvanized voters,” she said.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has endorsed Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer for Lieutenant Governor.

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens endorsed Shafer, R-Duluth, for the post last week, following on the heels of philanthropist Bernie Marcus’ endorsement of the longtime legislator. Hudgens highlighted the fact that he and his wife are longtime friends of Shafer, who is the Senate president pro tempore, in a statement announcing his endorsement.

“Suzanne and I have known David Shafer for nearly 30 years,” Hudgens said. “He is a man of great integrity who helped build our Republican party and advance conservative ideals in the state senate. I am proud to endorse him for lieutenant governor. We are happy that he is in the race and will be be actively campaigning for his election in 2018.”

The lieutenant governor’s race is wide open next year with current Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s decision to run for governor. In light of Cagle’s decision to seek higher office, several legislators, including some from Gwinnett, encouraged Shafer to run for the open seat.

“Ralph Hudgens has a significant following within the Republican party and his endorsement is a significant boost to David Shafer’s campaign for lieutenant governor,” state Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, said in a statement. “Shafer continues to build momentum.”

State Senator Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), who chairs the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, will also run for Lt. Gov. in 2018.

It’s been whispered about for a while now, but state Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, has filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor.

He joins a crowded field in the race for lieutenant governor. Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, is considered the early front-runner. He has already picked up endorsements from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, a top GOP donor, and colleague Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson.

State Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, is also in the race.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Ronnie Mabra, D-Fayetteville, and former state Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna, are considering bids.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 26, 2017

Lt. Colonel George Washington fought French and Indian scouts on May 28, 1754, beginning the Seven Years War.

On May 27, 1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams to let Adams know of the death of a mutual friend.

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, requiring all Native Americans to relocate west of the Mississippi River.

Georgia Militia under General John Floyd began rounding up Cherokee Indians on May 26, 1838.

General Robert E. Lee wrote a letter dated May 26, 1861 to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown asking the state to send any weapons available for Georgia volunteers who arrived in Virginia unarmed.

On May 27, 1863, Chief Justice Roger Taney, sitting as a federal district court judge, issued a decision in Ex parte Merryman, which challenged President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the right of habeas corpus. Lincoln ignored the ruling.

Today is the 153d Anniversary of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill in Paulding County, Georgia, where Sherman’s forces attacked Johnston’s Confederates on May 27, 1864. Among the combatants on the Union side was Ambrose Bierce, who would later write The Crime at Pickett’s Mill.

On May 27, 1864, the Federal Army, having been stopped in its advance on Atlanta two days earlier by the Battle of New Hope Church, attempted to outflank the Confederate position. Some 14,000 Federal troops were selected for the task, and General Howard was given command. After a five-hour march, Howard’s force reached the vicinity of Pickett’s Mill and prepared to attack. Waiting were 10,000 Confederate troops under the command of General Cleburne.

The Federal assault began at 5 p.m. and continued into the night. Daybreak found the Confederates still in possession of the field. The Federals had lost 1,600 men compared to the Confederate loss of 500. The Confederate victory resulted in a one-week delay of the Federal advance on Atlanta.

Here are some photos of the battlefield and links to additional material.

The Battle of Dallas, Georgia began on May 28, 1864. Click here to watch Week 7 of the Georgia Public Broadcasting/Atlanta History Center series on the Civil War in Georgia.

President Calvin Coolidge signed the “Comprehensive Immigration Act” on May 26, 1924.

Many Americans saw the enormous influx of largely unskilled, uneducated immigrants during the early 1900s as causing unfair competition for jobs and land. Under the new law, immigration remained open to those with a college education and/or special skills, but entry was denied to Mexicans, and disproportionately to Eastern and Southern Europeans and Japanese. At the same time, the legislation allowed for more immigration from Northern European nations such as Britain, Ireland and Scandinavian countries. A quota was set that limited immigration to two percent of any given nation’s residents already in the U.S. as of 1890, a provision designed to maintain America’s largely Northern European racial composition. In 1927, the “two percent rule” was eliminated and a cap of 150,000 total immigrants annually was established.

The law particularly angered Japan, which in 1907 had forged with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt a “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” which included more liberal immigration quotas for Japan. By 1924, strong U.S. agricultural and labor interests–particularly from California, which had already passed its own exclusionary laws against Japanese immigrants–favored the more restrictive legislation signed by Coolidge. The Japanese government viewed the American law as an insult, and protested by declaring May 26 a national day of humiliation in Japan.

Fort Frederica National Monument was established on St Simons Island, Georgia on May 26, 1936.

On May 27, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the United States was in an unlimited national emergency and laid out conditions under which Germany’s expansionism would constitute an attack on the United States. There are those who believe that Roosevelt suspended the right of habeas corpus with Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

Happy Birthday to Gladys Knight, born in Atlanta on May 28, 1944.

May 26, 1949 was named Clay Day in Marietta, Georgia in honor of General Lucius Clay, who spoke at the courthouse square.

On May 27, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter blasted the “Stop Carter” movement in a speech in Cincinnati.

Actor Christopher Reeves was thrown from his horse in an equestrian competition in Culpepper, Virginia on May 27, 1995, becoming quadraplegic.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal will attend the Georgia Republican Party State Convention next weekend.

Fulton County is moving twelve polling locations ahead of the June 20 Special Runoff Election in the Sixth Congressional District.

Fulton County is moving 12 of its polling places to different locations a little more than three weeks out from the highly watched Sixth Congressional District runoff election because officials said they had no choice.

Most of the polls are located in Fulton County School District schools, and shortly after the April 18 primary election, school officials informed elections director Richard Barron that they needed to renovate those buildings, so they could not be polling locations for the June 20runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Most changes are within a mile or two of the original locations, but some are more than three miles away.

Georgia has taken the number one spot globally for film production.

More top 100 feature films released at the domestic box office in 2016 were made in Georgia than any other place, according to a new industry study by FilmL.A. – Los Angeles’ film office.

The rapid growth of the film and television industry in Georgia and the state’s steadfast commitment to its support is remarkable,” the group said in its report. “With 17 projects in 2016, the first-ranked Peach State hosted nearly three times as many feature films as fifth-place New York and Louisiana.”

The steadfast commitment came in large part to Georgia’s generous use of tax credits, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars as the state has tried to lure both movie and TV productions here.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who just helped host a “Georgia Night in L.A.” reception in Los Angeles, has been a consistent advocate of the approach while pushing executives and studios to put down roots that would keep them here. He also backed creation of ancillary efforts such as the Georgia Film Academy, which aims to provide training for Georgians to get industry-supported jobs.

Walton County hosted the greatest political event in the state this week.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, state Sen. Hunter Hill and Secretary of State Brian Kemp were among the Republicans in attendance for the annual Walton County Republican Party Barbecue on Tuesday at Nunnally Farms.

Cagle, Hill and Kemp are vying to succeed term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018.

“We need to be doing more for the conservative values of this state,” Hill, of Atlanta, said. He promised to oppose any effort to create “sanctuary cities” for immigrants in the state.

Cagle, the third-term lieutenant governor from Gainesville, said all of the candidates agreed on many of the basic values.

“I don’t have to be governor,” he said. “I want to be governor.” He pledged a $100 million tax cut in his first 100 days in office.

Kemp, a regular visitor to Walton GOP events, said he’s traveled Georgia in his current office, fighting efforts to strike down voter ID laws.

“I feel like no one has a better idea about what’s going on around the state than I do,” he said.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader and state Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) hosted an event last night discussing the epidemic of mental health issues and opioid addiction.

Schrader called the event a “reality check” for Gwinnett County to make people aware of the seriousness of mental health and substance abuse issues in the county.

“For a couple of years, I have been speaking in front of community groups about the fact that I don’t have many community resources to support my participants in drug court,” she said. “Then I realized that really the community needs resources to support everyone in the community because there is not a family today that has not been impacted by mental health or substance abuse issues.”

Unterman said she was inspired to get involved in the issue of addressing mental health and substance abuse issues in Gwinnett County partially because she is a former nurse, but also because of parents who have come to see her at the state Capitol.

“I look in their eyes and I know the feeling so intimately because I lost my child, and any parent, or any loved one, who has lost a loved one, you will do anything within your power because you know the grief and you know the feeling you had,” Unterman said. “You never get over it.”

Gainesville’s unemployment reached the lowest level since November 2007.

Metro Gainesville’s unemployment rate in April fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest it’s been since November 2007 for Hall County, when the rate was 3.5 percent.

“A diverse economy is growing and needing some workers,” [Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce CEO Kit] Dunlap said. The rate remains the lowest in Georgia, according to state Department of Labor figures released Thursday, and was down from 4 percent in March.

Metro Dalton, which includes Whitfield and Murray Counties, hit 5.2% unemployment, which is also down for the area.

The unemployment rate in April for Metro Dalton — Whitfield and Murray counties — was 5.2 percent, down from 5.8 percent in March, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. The rate in April a year ago was 5.5 percent.

The rate dropped as “employers created more jobs and reduced the number of new layoffs,” the department said in a press release.

Metro Gainesville had the lowest area jobless rate at 3.9 percent, while the Heart of Georgia and River Valley regions had the highest at 5.9 percent.

The state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for April was 5 percent, a decrease from 5.1 percent in March. The rate was 5.4 percent in April of 2016.

Lockheed Martin is testing its first commercial C-130 aircraft.

The first Lockheed Martin LM-100J commercial freighter aircraft completed its initial flight Thursday.

“This first flight is a source of pride for Lockheed Martin and serves as a proof-point to the ongoing versatility of the Super Hercules aircraft,” said George Shultz, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions, and Marietta site general manager. “ … the LM 100J is exceeding all expectations in terms of performance and capabilities.”

This first flight route took the plane over north Georgia and Alabama.

The number of able-bodied welfare recipients in Georgia has been reduced, according to new state figures.

State figures released this week revealed that 11,779 people considered able-bodied without children were required to find work by April 1 to continue receiving food stamps, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Sixty-two percent were dropped after the deadline, whittling the number of recipients to 4,528.

State officials began enforcing the work mandate in 2016, and plan to expand work requirements to all 159 counties by 2019.

About 1.6 million Georgia residents use food stamps, which are funded with federal dollars managed by the state Department of Family and Children Services. The number of food stamp recipients deemed able-bodied and without children in Georgia has dropped from 111,000 to 89,500 in a year, a drop that state officials believe is attributed to a statewide review of the population.

The Hall County Board of Education plans to adopt a property tax millage rate higher than the rollback rate, but lower than the current rate.

The Muscogee County Board of Education voted against hiring Camelot Education to run special programs, and also voted against upgrading the AV systems in the Board Room.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 25, 2017

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787.

With George Washington presiding, the Constitutional Convention formally convenes on this day in 1787. The convention faced a daunting task: the peaceful overthrow of the new American government as it had been defined by the Article of Confederation.

The process began with the proposal of James Madison’s Virginia Plan. Madison had dedicated the winter of 1787 to the study of confederacies throughout history and arrived in Philadelphia with a wealth of knowledge and an idea for a new American government. It featured a bicameral legislature, with representation in both houses apportioned to states based upon population; this was seen immediately as giving more power to large states, like Virginia. The two houses would in turn elect the executive and the judiciary and would possess veto power over the state legislatures.

William Patterson soon countered with a plan more attractive to the new nation’s smaller states. It too bore the imprint of America’s British experience. Under the New Jersey Plan, as it became known, each state would have a single vote in Congress as it had been under the Articles of Confederation, to even out power between large and small states.

Alexander Hamilton then put forward to the delegates a third plan, a perfect copy of the British Constitution including an upper house and legislature that would serve on good behavior.

Confronted by three counter-revolutionary options, the representatives of Connecticut finally came up with a workable compromise: a government with an upper house made up of equal numbers of delegates from each state and a lower house with proportional representation based upon population. This idea formed the basis of the new U.S. Constitution, which became the law of the land in 1789.

The Battle of New Hope Church was fought near Dallas, Georgia May 25-26, 1864 between Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston and Federal troops under General William T. Sherman.

On May 25, 1907, an equine statue of John B. Gordon was unveiled on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia held on May 25, 1962 that the Georgia General Assembly was malapportioned and ordered the reapportionment of the State House and Senate.

Star Wars opened on May 25, 1977.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

My Ride to Vote, a SuperPAC, will sponsor free Uber rides to the polls in the Sixth Congressional District for the Special Runoff Election.

“Our mission is to make sure every citizen has an equal ability and right to participate in the political process,” said Ben Leiner, My Ride to Vote’s executive director.

Here’s how it works: 6th District voters can text “VOTEGA” to 38470 to get a promo code for a free ride to and from the polls. They then access the ride from the Uber app, which they must download if they don’t already have it.

The money to pay for the rides is coming from My Ride to Vote, which is raising money toward the project using the crowdsourcing site Crowdpac. Uber itself is not providing free rides or making any sort of political endorsement.

My Ride to Vote is also working with several voter advocacy groups to get the word out to voters about the service, including Voto Latino, the New Georgia Project and the left-leaning Georgia Engaged, which is a coalition of progressive organizations in the state.

“We offer rides to any voter who needs one, regardless of their political views,” Leiner said. “We’ve partnered with progressive organizations in the district simply because they are in contact with the voters who most need rides.”

Of course this will benefit Democrat Jon Ossoff, because most free riders are Democrats or progressives.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley has issued implementation guidelines for campus carry.

“I understand that many of you have strong feelings about this bill,” Wrigley wrote in the statement. “Yet, whether you opposed or supported the legislation, it will soon be state law, and I respectfully ask everyone to exercise patience, understanding and respect as we implement it. We all share the same goal of ensuring a safe campus environment. We should work together to implement the law as written and thoughtfully address any complications that may arise.”

Wrigley noted six points for how House Bill 280 should be implemented.

Wrigley said that while current law already allows license-holders to keep weapons secured in motor vehicles, beginning on July 1, House Bill 280 will allow anyone who is properly licensed in Georgia to carry a concealed handgun on property owned or leased by public colleges and universities, with some exceptions.

“It will not allow any other type of gun to be carried around campus; nor will it allow handguns to be carried openly,” said Wrigley, who noted that the pending law does not apply to institution-sponsored events or excursions away from campus on property not owned or leased by a University System institution.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) wants poultry processing speeds boosted to increase competitiveness with foreign producers.

Poultry producers in South America, Asia, Canada and Europe “are safely operating at line speeds that outpace the maximum speeds allowed in American facilities,” states a press release from the congressman’s office.

And those practices represent “a significant disadvantage to Northeast Georgia’s poultry industry and America’s domestic production.

Mike Giles, president of Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation, said he supports the line change, pointing to the success of the pilot program.

“We have the data,” he said. “We know it can be done … in a way that produces safe food and protects worker safety.”

He also agreed with Collins that “restricting our plants to lower line speeds reduces our competitiveness with other countries.”

The Augusta Chronicle spoke to locals about proposed federal healthcare legislation.

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., said the [Congressional Budget Office] score was proof his vote in support of it showed he was doing what his constituents wanted him to do.

“Some Georgians in the 12th District have only one choice when it comes to insurance providers – and often not the choice they want,” Allen said. “Enough is enough. I promised my constituents that I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare and nearly a month ago, my colleagues and I passed the American Health Care Act. Today, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that this legislation will lower premiums and lower the deficit. I am proud to have supported the American Health Care Act and urge my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly to end this Obamacare train wreck.”

Cindy Zeldin of Georgians for a Healthy Future, who estimated the previous version of the bill would cut coverage for more than a half-million people in the state, said the score showed this version was not an improvement.

“This legislation would crush consumers by destabilizing insurance markets, eliminating critical protections, and forcing too many Georgians into the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured,” she said. “Congress should go back to the drawing board and take time to craft responsible health care legislation that helps, not harms, consumers.”

President Trump‘s proposed federal budget could add $50 million to funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

Boosters had hoped for about $100 million in the fiscal 2018 budget to dredge the Savannah River, but the White House’s spending plan of $50 million, while a high-water mark for the federal government, falls well short.

And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dashed hopes by Georgia leaders late Wednesday when it announced no discretionary construction funds from fiscal 2017 would be added to this year’s appropriation. That decision could put the project at risk of further delays

“In a budget crafted with many spending reductions, it is extremely reassuring to see that this administration realizes how important this project is not only to our area, but to the entire nation,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, whose 1st Congressional District includes the Savannah port.

“Now, I will work diligently with my colleagues to continue this momentum and fight for (the project) as budget discussions continue,” he added.

On Wednesday, Deal’s office said in a statement that it was “grateful” for the $50 million from Trump’s budget, calling it a “sign of good faith from the federal government.”

“Unfortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers chose not to prioritize this project in its discretionary funds,” the statement said. “It is our hope that the Corps will decide to devote future funding to (the Savannah port project) so that it will continue on its current timeline.

“While the governor is certainly thankful for President Trump’s and the Congress’ contributions to this effort, we look forward to the federal government following Georgia’s lead by fully funding its portion of this vital project,” Deal’s office said.

Chatham County Commission is considering a contribution to beach renourishment on Tybee Island.

Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning held a Q&A with shareholders and talk turned to Plant Vogtle.

“This spring Westinghouse…declared bankruptcy,” Fanning told shareholders. “We were well-prepared when that unfortunate event happened. We have been working on an agreement with Toshiba for the $3.7 billion.”

Fanning expects the project development to transition to Southern and a couple of partner contractors.

“We are 65 percent complete on site,” Fanning said, adding that the company is studying the efficiency, the schedule and the costs. “We believe we will make that evaluation probably in August. We’ll know the cost to complete somewhere in that time frame. The board will make a conclusion (about whether to continue or stop the work on Plant Vogtle).”

During the annual meeting, Fanning outlined what the company has done to move away from coal, increase its renewable energy offerings and invest in natural gas.

“Before I got here, 70 percent of our energy came from coal,” Fanning said. “Now it is below 30 percent.”

At the time, Southern was “zero on renewables,” Fanning added, “and now it’s just less than 10 percent of renewables. Renewables are growing.”

But the problem remains with “what do you do when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?” Fanning asked. The company is trying to bridge the intermittency of renewables with natural gas, fuel cells and ways to store renewable energy.

Elections 2018

State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Cobb) has announced she is running as a Democrat for Governor in 2018.

The Smyrna attorney’s campaign sets up what will likely be a divisive Democratic primary for the state’s top job in 2018. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has also filed paperwork to run for governor and is expected to soon make a formal announcement.

Evans said in an interview she is putting “hope” – the scholarship and the concept – at the heart of her bid to replace a term-limited Nathan Deal. She has been one of the most forceful critics of the 2011 law he signed that slashed funding to the popular program.

“It gutted the program that was responsible for everything that’s good in my life,” Evans said. “The Stacey Evans born today doesn’t have the same opportunity that the Stacey born in 1978 had.”

“The party will be fine. Choices are a good thing,” she said. “My intention is to be positive and spread my message – a message that all Georgians want to hear. I’m not running against Stacey Abrams. I’m running for Georgia.”

“My story starts with the HOPE scholarship. It was the center of my success,” she said. “But it’s also about a much broader theme. It’s about having hope in your government. And it’s about having hope in yourself.”

Former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-Senoia) said yesterday he will not run for Governor in 2018.

“After much prayer and consideration, Joan and I have decided that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2018. While I am humbled by the kind words and encouragement that we have received from so many over the last few months, I think the best contribution that I can make to our state is outside of elected office. I’ve always thought of public service as a noble cause and it was truly an honor of a lifetime to represent so many hard working Georgians for so many years in both in the legislature and then later in congress. I look forward to doing all I can to support the Republican nominee for Governor and the entire Republican ticket in 2018.”

Ken Hodges, a former Dougherty County District Attorney and 2010 Democratic candidate for Attorney General, launched his campaign for the 2018 election to the Georgia Court of Appeals.


Lynn Westmoreland will not run for Governor in 2018

A statement from former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland:

“After much prayer and consideration, Joan and I have decided that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2018. While I am humbled by the kind words and encouragement that we have received from so many over the last few months, I think the best contribution that I can make to our state is outside of elected office. I’ve always thought of public service as a noble cause and it was truly an honor of a lifetime to represent so many hard working Georgians for so many years in both in the legislature and then later in congress. I look forward to doing all I can to support the Republican nominee for Governor and the entire Republican ticket in 2018.”



Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 24, 2017

John Hancock was elected President of the Second Continental Congress on May 24, 1775.

Then-Lt. Governor Marvin Griffin announced his candidacy for Governor on May 24, 1954.

John Smoltz tied the record for most strikeouts by a Braves pitcher, throwing 15 Ks against Montreal Expos on May 24, 1992.

Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan, who was born on this day in 1941.

One year ago today, the 2016 General Primary and Nonpartisan General Election was held in Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Nick Ayers is profiled in Politico as a Presidential advisor who might become a candidate for Governor of Georgia.

Ayers has been a mainstay in Republican politics for a decade, working as a former top hand at the Republican Governors Association and as a campaign consultant.

Ayers joined up with the Trump campaign after Trump won the primary. There, he served as then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s senior adviser and on the White House transition team.

Now, Ayers advises America First Policies, the Trump-affiliated nonprofit that promotes his agenda outside of the White House.

But there are major warning signs coming from suburban Atlanta, where anti-Trump backlash has prompted a serious tightening in the upcoming House special election runoff there. That could mean that moderate Georgia Republicans will be willing to turn against the president, especially if a more moderate Republican makes a strong showing in the run-up to the primary.

More money and more staffers are heading to the Sixth Congressional District Special Runoff Election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC favored by House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Wednesday it will hire another 45 door-knockers to reach an additional 100,000 households. The group also stuck to its latest theme – linking Ossoff to San Francisco – with a new radio spot.

The group has doled out $6.6 million and already had a team of 90 field operatives on the ground in the district, which spans from east Cobb to north DeKalb. It also plans to keep its field office in the district open after the June 20 runoff – regardless of who wins – to prepare for the 2018 vote.

House Democrats upped their ante as well. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it will pour in another $2 million to back Ossoff, bringing the total investment to nearly $5 million.

Much of the money will be spent on TV, though about $150,000 will fund radio on stations geared to African-American listeners.

Handel and Ossoff will debate live on WSB-TV on June 6th at 8 PM.

It is the first debate announced between the two candidates in the hotly-contested June 20 runoff to represent Georgia’s 6th District, which spans from east Cobb to north DeKalb.

It’s unclear how many additional debates will be held, but Handel’s campaign has said it would agree to “several” others – though it has not confirmed which ones.

The Georgia State House Rural Development Committee discussed broadband service in their first meeting this week in Tifton.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t look at asking for y’all to come up with something that guarantees us 100 percent of that tax exemption you’re getting will be used in rural Georgia,” Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Albany, said to internet service providers on Tuesday.

Rynders was referring to a plan to give up state revenues from a sales tax on equipment used to build out broadband networks in underserved communities. Several rural lawmakers have questioned whether waiving the tax would actually lead to a boost in coverage in the areas that need it most.

The tax break is among the changes that service providers say would help spur expanded broadband services in areas where companies have been reluctant to invest limited resources because of a smaller customer base.

“I think it’s ironic that here on the rural development council we’re having a conversation about rural broadband access that’s livestreamed and most of rural Georgia won’t get to watch it because of limited access,” said Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas.

“This is a two-year task, so don’t think that we’re going to solve this in a day, in a month or in a year,” said Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who is co-chairing the council.

Rob Hosack has been appointed as the new County Manager for Cobb County.

Rob Hosack officially became Cobb’s county manager Tuesday night after commissioners’ voted 5-0 to approve his contract.

Hosack had been serving as interim county manager since May 1 as his salary and employment terms had not been negotiated last month when commissioners tapped him to succeed longtime County Manager David Hankerson, who retired April 30.

“It’s not often you get a chance to come back and work with such a fantastic group of folks. I feel really blessed just to get this opportunity,” Hosack told the MDJ before Tuesday’s meeting, alluding to his nearly three decades of experience with the county.

Under the terms of the approved contract, Hosack will be paid $210,000 per year, retroactive to his May 1 start date, with the contract running until Dec. 31, 2019.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr argues to the Georgia Supreme Court that Northside Hospital should be required to comply with the Open Records Act.

Chris Carr, in office since late last year, said in a Monday court filing that the Georgia Open Records Act is broader in its applications than what Northside Hospital has argued.

Attorneys for the plaintiff have argued that Northside is subject to the Open Records Act because it was created by a public hospital authority, which is a government entity, and that it operates solely on the authority’s behalf.

“The Office of the Attorney General has long served as a champion of open government,’’ Carr wrote in his brief. “The Attorney General — as a champion of open government, and as the state’s chief legal officer — urges the Court to honor the plain text of the Georgia Open Records Act, which embodies the state’s “strong public policy . . .  in favor of open government.”

Northside has said it is not bound by the open records law. The hospital says that because it’s a private nonprofit corporation, not a public entity, the records law does not apply to it. An attorney for Northside, Randy Evans, told the state’s highest court last month that the system is a regional player, owning other hospitals in areas that are not governed by the hospital authority in Fulton County.

The Georgia Supreme Court asked for Carr’s opinion on the case after oral arguments were heard. A request by the court for an attorney general or an agency to weigh in on a case doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s not unheard of, said Jane Hansen, a spokeswoman for the court.

“And when it does happen, it usually involves a legal question posed to the agency responsible for enforcing the area of law in question,’’ Hansen said Tuesday.

“Project Meatball” is the moniker given to a project in which a private company is seeking for the Development Authority of Cobb County to assist in refinancing an airplane through issuance of a $50 million bond.

“We can’t release (the company’s name) right now,” Geter said. “They requested that we not release the information. … That’s why we’re calling it ‘Project Meatloaf.’”

The company’s name will be made public at the Development Authority’s next meeting, Geter said, when the board will vote on the final bond resolution. Also at that meeting, the results of a fiscal impact study of the proposal to be conducted by Georgia Tech will be presented.

The entertainment company wants to use most of the funds to refinance the jet, but also plans to spend some of the money to upgrade a hangar at Cobb County International Airport-McCollum Field, where the jet and two others could be housed, according to Andrew Egan, an attorney at the firm Kutak Rock who represented the company at Tuesday’s meeting.

The company is also seeking a tax abatement on the plane, meaning it would be added to the tax rolls gradually over 10 years, Geter said. In the first year, the company would only pay 10 percent of the local taxes owed on the plane; in year two, it would pay 20 percent and so on.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods told Gainesville Rotary Club members that students and teachers should prioritize being “life ready.”

“You hear a lot about being college and career ready, but, for myself, it is about being life ready,” Woods told Gainesville Rotary Club members this week. “I think that’s more inclusive for what we want for our children. For our young people who step into a new phase of life (after high school), we want them to be prepared to take on that next challenge.”

Woods pointed to the state’s Move On When Ready program that allows high school students in grades 9-12 to start taking college classes through technical colleges and schools in the University System of Georgia tuition free.

“That is a growing gem for our state,” he said. “Not only are students graduating with a high school diploma, but now I am meeting students who are graduating with an associate degree with two years of college that’s paid for. I can’t think of a better bargain when we talk about our kids getting ready for life.”

“I think all of our students should be exposed to band, music, dance, drama and visual arts,” he said. “Those are aspects of life which I think reflect a very healthy society. They add critical thinking pieces and open up higher-order thinking in the brains of students.”

Flowery Branch property owners could see higher property tax bills even with the millage rate unchanged.

“The increase is strictly due to the value of … property rising,” City Manager Bill Andrew said.

Because of higher property values, to pull in the same amount of revenue, the city would need to reduce the tax rate of 3.264 mills to 3.012 mills.

The city is proposing to keep the rate at 3.264 mills, with 1 mill equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value.

The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $175,000 is $17.64, city officials said.

SACS, the regional school accrediting agency, will begin an investigation of the Savannah-Chatham County public school system.

Mariama Jenkins, spokeswoman for AdvancEd — which oversees the SACS accreditation process — said they have received complaints of school board interference and will investigate after Levett takes over as superintendent of the Savannah-Chatham Public School System.

“We received complaints in response to allegations that Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is in violation of AdvancED Accreditation Standards for Quality School Systems. Based on the merits of those complaints we will be conducting an on-site review this fall,” Jenkins said.

SACS investigators can put districts on probation and revoke accreditation if they find that school boards are disrupting the educational effectiveness of a district. Loss of accreditation disqualifies graduates for HOPE scholarships and admission to most colleges and universities. SACS findings may also prompt the governor to suspend and replace board members. In 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended and replaced six of nine DeKalb County School Board members. In 2016, Deal suspended and replaced the entire five-member Dooly County School Board.

Savannah is considering new rules to govern short term rentals.

Staff is considering limiting the number of vacation rentals that can operate in the city, as well as placing caps on how many can be located on a block or street because of concerns among the Savannah City Council members and residents that neighborhoods are being overrun with visitors. Property owners would also have to live onsite for new vacation rentals in more residential areas, and there could be a maximum number of days a property can be rented, under other proposed changes.

The changes are being developed by a group of stakeholders composed of residents, neighborhood leaders, rental owners and management companies that offered feedback to city staff Monday.

The hope is that discussions will lead to an ordinance that will help preserve communities as the number of vacation rentals grows, said Trudy Herod, who was representing the Victorian Neighborhood Association.

The owners of some rental companies have concerns about how their businesses will be affected by some of the proposed changes, such as the potential rental cap and owner-occupied requirement.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk became the first unmanned aircraft to land at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia.

The Georgia Ports Authority and Virginia Port Authority have been approved to move forward on an information sharing agreement designed to improve service.

The agreement, approved April 10, allows the Georgia Ports Authority and the Virginia Port Authority to begin discussing ways the two ports can share information in certain operational areas to position themselves as the U.S. East Coast’s leading gateways for containerized cargo.

A joint application to proceed with development of the East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement was filed by the ports on Feb. 24. The application set into motion a 45-day review period – including a 12-day public comment period – by the Federal Maritime Commission. The approved agreement encourages the exchange of information and best practices in five areas of operational and supply chain efficiencies, safety, communications and customer service.

“Our industry is changing rapidly and, as a result, increased collaboration between ports is necessary to provide the service excellence our customers expect and deserve,” said Griff Lynch, GPA’s executive director. “It is clear that both Georgia and Virginia are East Coast gateway ports and this step further allows us to create jobs, economic development and improve safety. I would like to thank our respective employees and partners in the ILA as we move forward together.”

Columbus city employees may have to wait up to three additional weeks for paychecks as part of a move to a new payroll system.

The gap in the normal cycle — weekly for some and bi-weekly for others — is included in Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s recommended fiscal year 2018 budget as part of the electronic conversion to a new payroll system. City officials say the conversion is an effort to move all CCG employees to a common bi-weekly pay period, and the lag-time won’t affect the annual amounts employees are paid.

“In addition to getting employees all on a common pay period, the city is upgrading its budgeting financial system and it’s payroll and human resources system and moving to a cloud-based solution,” said City Human Resources Director Reather Hollowell, who notified city employees of the changes in an April 28 memo. “That’s really the initial impetus for this. We need to do it for a system conversion reason.”

Hollowell said all full-time employees will receive a pay bonus on Aug. 11 to help supplement their income during that period. The bonus will be equal to 1/4 of their weekly salary or 20 hours. The first bi-weekly paycheck after the conversion will be issued on Aug. 18. Current federal and state taxes would apply.

In her memo to employees, she wrote: “For employees who are paid every week, your pay period will be converted to a bi-weekly pay period with one week in arrears. For employees who are paid biweekly, you will continue to be paid bi-weekly with one week in arrears. For increased accuracy in your paychecks and to improve reporting of finances, all employees will be paid bi-weekly with a seven (7) day lag time or one week in arrears.

“The one-time bonus paycheck is being given to you in order to avoid any cash flow hardship during the transition,” she explained. “The bonus paycheck is in addition to your annual salary and will be subject to required federal and state taxes, but not other payroll deductions.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 23, 2017

Serial bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death near Sailes, Louisiana by a group of LA and Texas state police on May 23, 1934.

On May 23, 1954, the NAACP petitioned the Fulton County Board of Education to desegregate after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Virginia Caucus on May 23, 1976, gaining 24 delegates. On May 25, 1976, Carter won the Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky Primary Elections for President.

On May 23, 1990, the NFL announced that Atlanta would host the 1994 Super Bowl.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

 The State House Rural Development Committee met in Tifton yesterday to begin a series of meetings discussing rural issues.

“Your zip code or county of residence should not dictate your lot in life,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told members of the House Rural Development Council Monday at its kickoff meeting in Tifton, Ga. “Moving to the big city should not, cannot be the only way to get ahead.”

From the AJC’s coverage:

House leaders promised answers but said they won’t come quickly or easily.

“We are going to make a very concerted effort to deal with a lot of issues,” said state House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla, the council’s co-chairman. “This is a two-year task.”

State House Speaker David Ralston said rural Georgia can’t afford to wait for the next election to find progress and solutions.

“Rural Georgia cannot wait on political seasons to come and go because they will always come and go,” the Blue Ridge Republican said at the council’s first meeting. “I refuse to allow any personal ambitions to get in the way of what we are doing.”

From the Albany Herald,

State representative Ed Rynders is one of 15 on the council.

He said the policy will help stimulate rural Georgia.

“We’ve got problems, where we got to find fixes that isn’t just about writing checks but about developing good policy to strengthen South Georgia,” said Rynders.

“If we’re going to make significant head way and revitalizing rural communities in South Georgia. We got to deal with the people issue, we got to provide leaders,” said Bridges.

More than 5500 new voters have registered in the Sixth Congressional District after a federal judge ordered the reopening of voter registration.

The total includes two types of voter: the newly registered, plus so-called “transfer” applications — already registered Georgia voters who moved into the district after March 20, when the registration period originally closed.

Several thousand additional applications are still pending, although all three counties that have areas that fall within the 6th District — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — have been working overtime to process them ahead of the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The 6th District already boasts more than 521,000 registered voters. The impact of several thousand more is unclear, but it has the potential to swing a race that polling suggests is separated by only a few percentage points and within the margin of error for either candidate.

“It’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” GOP strategist Chip Lake said. But, he added, “we won’t know until the votes are counted and the dust is settled and we can have a definite record-by-record look at who voted.”

Vice President Mike Pence will campaign for Karen Handel on June 9th.

Vice President Mike Pence has plans to stump for Karen Handel’s campaign for Georgia’s 6th District on June 9, which would make him the latest high-profile Republican to trek to suburban Atlanta in the nationally watched race.

The details for Pence’s visit have yet to be finalized, according to people with knowledge of the plans, though it would come as little surprise. Handel has said she is an “all hands on deck” mode ahead of her June 20 runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

John Watson’s campaign for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party received an endorsement from the Trump campaign’s Georgia Chair.

Rayna Casey called Watson, a former aide to Sonny Perdue, the only contender in the four-candidate contest with a “proven record of success in winning elections.”

“Why take a chance with a likeable amateur when we have a professional willing to volunteer his strategic political expertise, including raising millions, to win our elections?” she wrote in a dispatch sent to GOP activists across the state.

Democracy for America, a progressive PAC, will email its supporters, urging them to support Stacey Abrams in 2018.

Democracy for America, a progressive PAC, is set to send an email to its members encouraging them to “pledge their support” to the Georgia Democrat when she announces she’s formally in the governor’s race.

The organization has more than 32,000 members in Georgia and about a million across the nation, and it’s the first significant group to pledge an endorsement in the still-evolving race for governor.

In a statement, DFA executive director Charles Chamberlain said Abrams is “undoubtedly the best candidate” to lead the state. He cited her opposition in the Legislature to new restrictions on abortions and a tax overhaul that critics saw as unfair to poor Georgians.

“Winning the governorship will require a progressive leader like Stacey who can turn out voters who are ready for a strong contrast to the Republican agenda,” said Chamberlain. “If Stacey Abrams enters the ring, she can count on us to be in her corner.”

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office hosted a class in cyber security and crimes for local law enforcement agencies.

Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods visited Gainesville to promote summer reading.

“We’re working with our public library systems to make sure that during the summer that not just students, but families, are enrolled together,” Woods told the Gainesville Rotary Club.

He acknowledged following the meeting that he was surprised to learn when he took office that the State Department of Education did not partner with library systems during the summer months to promote summer reading programs.

Woods said DOE is giving away 100,000 books to students across the state this summer, many of those through the public libraries. He said maintaining strong reading skills is a natural tie-in to other subject areas.

Paulding County Commissioners heard from department heads about the FY 2018 budget.

The Fulton County Board of Education tentatively approved a $1.5 billion dollar FY2018 budget unanimously.

Chattahoochee Circuit Juvenile Judges are asking Columbus City Council for a raise.

Georgia Ports Authority notched another monthly record, with more container moves than any prior April, as well as larger ships calling.

The GPA handled 333,006 20-foot containers, or TEUs, last month, which was up nearly 12 percent compared to April 2016. Total tonnage increased across all ports by 13 percent to 2.94 million tons, to mark the GPA’s busiest April ever.

“We feel pretty good about a record TEU count for the FY2017,” Griff Lynch, GPA’s executive director said on Monday.

Much of the recent growth, Lynch said, can be attributed to the Panama Canal expansion and a strong economy.

“… This is really organic growth. We’ve seen larger capacity vessels like the COSCO Development, more moves per vessel and it’s everything that we’ve talked about for years, so we’re happy to see it coming together,” he said.

The COSCO Development, which was the largest container ship to ever call on the U.S. East Coast, arrived May 11 at the GPA’s Garden City Terminal where crews completed 5,500 container moves in 30 hours.

“I think what we’ve shown is not only did we handle it, but we handled it better than anybody else ever did in the U.S.,” Lynch said.

Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education members voted to hire Ann Levett as the next Superintendent, but then started Festivus early with an Airing of Grievances.

Although Levett’s hire was approved pending finalization of the terms of her contract, the board split 5-4 along racial lines, and the four dissenting white board members made their dissatisfaction clear.

The four black board members — Dionne Hoskins, Irene Hines, Ruby Jones and Connie Hall — praised Levett for her extensive experience, educational background and dedication to the district. Levett is a Beach High graduate and worked as a principal in the 1980s. She left to work at districts and universities across the country, including the Comer School Development Program at Yale University School of Medicine. She was hired back four years ago to serve as chief academic officer.

Then one by one the remaining board members listed the reasons they opposed her. Board Member Julie Wade said Levett has surrounded herself with “yes people” and described her leadership style as “dangerous.” Michael Johnson said nearly 100 people in his West Chatham-area district said they don’t want to see her in the position. Shawn Kachmar said the district hasn’t made substantive academic progress.

Board President Jolene Byrne said she doesn’t trust Levett.

“Did you see the red come out those necks? They were bright red during all that talking. I haven’t seen anything like that in a long time,” said Rep. Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah, a former school board member who worked for Levett when she was principal at Savannah High. “That was total disrespect.”

Byrne, Johnson, Kachmar and Wade insisted that their criticisms weren’t personal and pledged to follow board policy and support Levett.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 22, 2017

On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with his cane. Brooks used the cane as the result of injury sustained in a previous duel, and found Sumner at his desk in the Senate Chamber. In the course of a two-day Senate speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have nullified the Missouri Compromise on the expansion of slavery, Sumner had criticized three legislators, including a cousin of Rep. Brooks, Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.

On May 22, 1819, the steamship Savannah left the port of Savannah for Liverpool, England. After 29 days, it became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. On May 22, 1944, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the voyage of the Savannah.

On May 22, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the commencement address for Oglethorpe University at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

Florida archaeologists found remains thought to be from the first decade of European settlement in the United States.

According to FirstCoast, last October hurricane Matthew damaged a wine shop on St. Augustine’s plaza. After the hurricane, building owner David White decided to renovate the space. According to a press release from the city, the floor of the building was built on a joist system constructed in 1888, which left the soil below relatively intact. White offered the city archeologist Carl Hibert a chance to take a peek under the floor before the repairs began.

During the first week of digging in February, archeologists first discovered an intact adult skeleton and an adult skull nearby. According to Susan Parker at The St. Augustine Register, the bodies have been preliminarily identified as a relatively young white European woman and a man of African ancestry. Outside of the wine shop, they found a leg bone and another skull from two other graves. Last week, they discovered the remains of the children.

Pottery fragments found with the skeletons date the burials between 1572 and 1586, a few years after St. Augustine, known as America’s oldest city, was founded.

The History Blog reports that Hibert believes the burials may come from the floor of the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Remedios, the parish church built in St. Augustine soon after the colony was established by conquistador Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, 42 years before the Jamestown Colony was established by the English and 55 years before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Karen Handel hosted an event this weekend with Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) and Rep. Will Hurd, (R-TX).

“It was a great honor to have both Congressman Brian Mast and Congressman Will Hurd in Georgia today as we honored those who have served and are still serving in our nation’s military,” said Handel in a statement released by her campaign.

“These men understand the difference between talk and commitment, between intention and results. They were tested and they continued to persevere and it would be an honor to serve side by side with them in Congress.”

On Thursday, Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader will host “Gwinnett Connects,” a summit on community resources for fighting mental illness and opioid addiction.

Unterman and Schrader will host a Mental Health and Substance Abuse Summit at 6 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, in Lawrenceville. The summit is being called Gwinnett Connects.

The goal of the summit is to foster a discussion between mental health stakeholders on community-based therapy services provided to those people who need it. A Facebook page created to promote the event says participants will “seek positive solutions, understanding, and … unite our community on mental health and substance abuse.”

Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald is expected to participate in the summit, along with other state and local leaders, and collaborative stakeholders.

In addition to mental health and the broader topic of substance abuse, the issues of opioid addiction and the way in which governmental and non-governmental agencies respond to these issues is expected to be discussed.

Newly-registered voters in the Sixth District are being relied on to keep Democratic hopes alive.

To [win, Ossoff will] likely need to find new voters and turn them out to the polls.

So when federal district court judge Timothy Batten extended the voter registration deadline from March 20 to May 21, he breathed new life into Ossoff’s campaign. Outside groups have rushed into the district to find eligible but unregistered voters—most of them young people and minorities—who are more likely to vote for Ossoff than his Republican opponent, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.

“It was a game-changer,” says Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist based in Atlanta. “The extension of the deadline presents a tremendous opportunity for the Ossoff campaign to expand the electorate and bring a lot of new registered voters to the polls.”

One of the groups that quickly ramped up their efforts in the district was the New Georgia Project, which was launched by state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams in 2013 to enroll minorities under the Affordable Care Act. It soon became apparent that many people of color in Georgia were not registered to vote. “We dug into the numbers,” says Nse Ufot, the executive director of the New Georgia Project, and it turned out there were more than 800,000 eligible but unregistered people of color in Georgia. Since 2014, she says, the group has registered nearly 210,000 minority voters in the state.

By overlaying voter registration information from the secretary of state’s office with the latest census data, the group concluded that there are nearly 27,000 unregistered African Americans in the 6th Congressional District. Voter registration rates in the 6th District—a historically white, wealthy, and educated suburb—are the highest in the state. But like the rest of Georgia, it’s becoming more ethnically and economically diverse. To reach these new residents, Ufot says, staff and volunteers are knocking on 1,200 to 1,400 doors a day and setting up voter registration booths at malls and grocery stores on the weekends. Several other groups are actively registering voters, as is the Ossoff campaign itself, which says it is registering about 100 people per day.

As organizers and the campaign are aware, registering new voters is the easy part. Making sure they get to the polls is harder. “It’s a combination of knocking on doors and helping people get voter IDs, and identifying people who need help getting rides to the polls,” says Ufot.

The Gainesville Times profiles a Latino member of the Hall County Republican Party.

From standing shoulder to shoulder with the faithful at the recent National Day of Prayer event in downtown Gainesville, and offering a bilingual prayer this week at the start of a Gainesville City Council meeting, Art Gallegos Jr. is quickly making his name known.

Gallegos’ unabashed pro-life convictions, strong family values, firm stand for law and order and unflinching support of President Donald Trump, have endeared him to local Republicans.

“They are just trying to reach out to everybody,” Gallegos said of the GOP. “When they were pursuing me, they said, ‘Hey, you know you can become a member…’ They were just pulling me in, pulling me in. I felt intrigued by it. This is the change (Republicans) need.”

Gallegos is making the most of the GOP’s welcome mat. In March, during the County Convention at party headquarters in Gainesville, he became the first Latino elected to the party’s executive board as assistant treasurer.

To help fan the cause of conservatism among Hispanics in the area, Gallegos and his young Puerto Rican friend, Angel Rosario, joined forces to form LCO — Latinos Conservative Organization.

Gallegos said that when a position opens up on the Gainesville City Council, he intends to run for public office.

“One thing that really sets me aside from a lot of leaders is my willingness to take on challenges, but also the passion that I have for people,” said Gallegos, who is active with Impact Ministries, a faith-based organization focused on the needs of the homeless and impoverished. “I don’t think I would be in ministry if I wouldn’t love people and serve people.”

Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) speaks to the Buckhead Business Lunch hosted by the Fulton County Republican Party at Maggiano’s in Buckhead.

Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett) may see increasing competition for his seat.

The next potential battleground could be Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, which slices through much of Gwinnett County.

Washington analysts still consider the seat safely Republican, in part because it’s been held by the GOP for more than 20 years. Seismic demographic forces, though, are transforming the region.

Once one of the richest sources of Republican votes in the state, Gwinnett for the first time in 2016 no longer had a majority-white voting population. Hillary Clinton swept the county in November, flipping it blue for the first time in decades.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report now estimates the 7th District is one of the top Democratic-trending areas in the nation.

[Woodall]’s quick to acknowledge that the district’s design has helped insulate him from more electoral pressure.

“It’s gerrymandering that makes these things noncompetitive, right?” Woodall said in an interview. “Gwinnett County, if it was one district, it would be an incredibly competitive district.”

C.W. Matthews, the contractor who completed the I-85 bridge replacement, has donated $10,000 to a camp for children with special needs.

The funds are part of the company’s financial incentives received from the Georgia Department of Transportation for recently completing repairs to the Interstate 85 bridge in northeast Atlanta that collapsed on March 30.

The camp was founded by Athens-based Extra Special People, which has plans ranging from allowing kids in wheelchairs to sleep on the top bunk and individuals with autism to safely and intentionally wander.

For more information, visit

The Marietta Daily Journal profiles the company.

C.W. Matthews has placed more tons of asphalt on Georgia roads than any other company and has developed a network of asphalt plants throughout the state.

Garcia said the company’s experience and engineering expertise helped them complete the construction of the I-85 bridge, which was destroyed in a fire in March, ahead of schedule.

“On the concrete that was utilized, there were some additives utilized to speed the process and gain strength, so instead of having to wait somewhere around 14 days, we were able to get strength within three days,” Garcia said.

He said they were called by the Georgia Department of Transportation within 30 minutes of the collapse. He believes C.W. Matthews was chosen because they were working on another project nearby and because they had done similar bridge work in the past.

“First and foremost, it’s working together with the DOT,” he said. “They were critical in getting the plans to us to begin within three days of the fire. Of course the weather was a big factor, we had great weather during the whole event but I would say mainly it was due to the employees and their hard work and sacrifice.”

Garcia said C.W. Matthews is currently working on 30 to 40 projects as far south as Dooly County west to Columbus, up I-75 to the Tennessee state line and up I-85 to the South Carolina line.

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport  is showing strong growth, in part due to more flights from more carriers.

April numbers are up 11 percent over the same month last year, with nearly a quarter-million passengers using the airport in that month alone. Total passengers for 2017 through April number more than 730,000, an increase of 13 percent over the same period last year.

The number of available seats in April also grew by double digits.

Greg Kelly, airport executive director, attributed the continued passenger growth to the addition of flight options from seven airlines — Air Canada, Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United — offering nonstop service to a variety of major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and, most recently, Toronto .

“In 2013, our enplanements were approximately 840,000. Last year, our enplanements were just under 1.1 million. This year we are on track to hit 1.2 million,” he said, adding that he attributes the growth to the collective efforts of an air service development partnership established in 2013 and consisting of the Savannah Airport Commission, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Savannah, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and the Savannah Economic Development Authority.

Locust Grove transportation blogger Clayton Carte is being credited for convincing the Henry County Commission with moving forward on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST).

“The state of Georgia is doing its part to help Henry County citizens, and we the citizens can do our part by enacting the transportation sales tax or the T-SPLOST,” said Carte.

The additional 1-percent sales tax could be used to complete major projects not funded by the state, Carte said. Based on current SPLOST revenues, Carte estimated that an additional $165 million can be generated from 2018 to 2023, if enacted in November by voters.

The T-SPLOST could also be used for sidewalks and intersection improvements.

“I believe with a T-SPLOST we could fund the projects in full and not be dependent on the prospect of federal funding to move these forward,” said Carte.

The BOC voted to move forward with staff gathering information to present to each of Henry County’s cities to support a T-SPLOST.