Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2016

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution by Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) calling for independence from Britain. The delegations of twelve colonies voted in favor, while New York’s abstained, not knowing how their constituents would wish them to vote.

On July 4, 1776, the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

On July 2, 1861, Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, which had been adopted by the state’s Secession Convention.

July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac. On July 3, 1863, General George Pickett led a charge against Union lines at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

A 15,000-man strong column under General George Pickett was organized, and Lee ordered a massive bombardment of the Union positions. The 10,000 Federals answered the Confederate artillery onslaught, and for more than an hour the guns raged in the heaviest cannonade of the Civil War. At 3 p.m., Pickett led his force into no-man’s-land and found that Lee’s bombardment had failed. As Pickett’s force attempted to cross the mile distance to Cemetery Ridge, Union artillery blew great holes in their lines. Meanwhile, Yankee infantry flanked the main body of “Pickett’s charge” and began cutting down the Confederates. Only a few hundred Virginians reached the Union line, and within minutes they all were dead, dying, or captured. In less than an hour, more than 7,000 Confederate troops had been killed or wounded.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, costing the Union 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Confederates suffered some 25,000 casualties.

Union cavalry under Gen. Kenner Garrard reached Roswell, Georgia on July 5, 1864, setting the town alight.

On July 4, 1868, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time after passage of the Constitution of 1868 with a legislature comprising 186 members, of whom 36 were African-American.

On July 6, 1885, Louis Pasteur successfully tested a rabies vaccine on a human subject.

On July 3, 1889, the Georgia General Assembly held its last session at the Kimball Opera House, located at the corner of Marietta and Forsyth Streets in downtown Atlanta before moving into a new Georgia State Capitol. On July 4, 1889, the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated, then housing all three branches of the state government.

Happy birthday to Idaho, which became a state on July 3, 1890.

On July 2, 1898, the first pot of delicious Brunswick Stew was made in Brunswick, Georgia. I think I’ll celebrate with a bowl for lunch today.

On July 3, 1913, the Georgia state Senate tabled a motion to allow the Georgia Women’s Suffrage Association to address the chamber.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964. Major provisions included outlawing discriminatory application of voting laws, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accomodations, allowing the Attorney General to join lawsuits against states operating segregated public schools, and prohibiting discrimination by state and local governments or agencies receiving federal funds.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a witness to Johnson’s signature, standing behind the President in the Oval Office. Johnson presented King with one of the 72 pens used in signing the legislation.

Occasionally, pens from the Civil Rights Act signing come onto the collectors’ market. A collection of 50 pens used to sign legislation by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson went across the block in November 2013. This pen went unsold.

On July 3, 1970, the Atlanta Pop Festival was held in Byron, Georgia.

Among the artists playing at Byron were the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix.

The Clash played their first live show on July 4, 1976 at The Black Swan in Sheffield, England.

Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985.

On July 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan reopened the Statue of Liberty after a two-year restoration.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The General Election for President of the United States is underway, with President Obama campaigning with Hillary Clinton today in Charlotte, North Carolina. The President will reportedly stress Clinton’s “trustworthiness.”

The FBI is probing her use of a private email server. Husband Bill Clinton met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a session both say was innocent but they regret. And the Democratic Party is poised to nominate Clinton for president.

On Sunday’s news shows, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez explicitly talked about Clinton and trust. And the candidate herself acknowledged that she has “work to do” to earn the trust of voters in her likely general election matchup against Republican Donald Trump….

This week, President Barack Obama will personalize the “I trust Hillary” theme during his first appearance with his former secretary of state in battleground North Carolina. And Vice President Joe Biden will reinforce the message Friday in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, with Clinton at his side.

It’s all evidence of a remarkable vulnerability that persists both despite and because of Clinton’s decades of public life. But the timing of the trust campaign is no accident.

Bill Clinton, the former president, met last Monday with the FBI’s boss, Lynch, on the tarmac in Phoenix in a session the drew widespread criticism. The FBI interviewed Clinton for more than three hours on Saturday about whether she exposed government secrets by blending personal and official business on a home email server. Clinton immediately gave a television interview in which she denied wrongdoing and repeated an acknowledgment she had slipped into a speech last week on the same day Sen. Elizabeth Warren vouched for her.

Clinton said she will do “everything I can to earn the trust of the voters of our country,” remarks aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”I know that’s something that I’m going to keep working on, and I think that’s, you know, a clear priority for me.”

Trust, indeed.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett and UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock both expect little drama at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

“I don’t really look for any major changes in the rules,” Padgett said Friday, as his thoughts were turning to managing the more than 300 Georgia Republicans who will be in Cleveland. In addition to the 76 delegates to the convention, the Georgia contingent will include 76 alternates and a host of elected officials and others
with ties to the state GOP, Padgett said.

Like Padgett, Bullock is skeptical that there will be any drama in Cleveland as delegates move toward crowning their presidential nominee.

“The skids have been greased” for Trump, Bullock said, although he noted the likelihood of some quiet discussions among delegates regarding the nominating process. But, Bullock said, that talk
“is going to be largely ‘inside baseball.’”

It is possible, Bullock said, that some elected officials at the convention who are facing challenges of their own in this election year might use their convention speeches to subtly distance themselves from Trump.

Padgett, who said he expects Trump to be nominated on the first ballot, countered Bullock’s suggestion, saying, “I don’t know of a single Republican who is going to vote for [Democratic candidate] Hillary Clinton.”

Advance Voting begins today for the Runoff Elections on July 26, running through Friday, July 22d.

For advance voting locations, please sign in to the Secretary of Sxtate’s My Voter Page.

Perhaps the hottest runoff election is for Cobb County Commission Chairman, where incumbent Tim Lee faces challenger Mike Boyce.

Five weeks ago, Boyce captured 49 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, just shy of the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a runoff. With no Democrat in the race, the winner of the July runoff likely will sail to victory unopposed at the Nov. 8 general election.

Lee is running on his legacy of bringing the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County, a deal he secured by committing $400 million in public money to build and maintain a new ballfield. In return, Lee says, the county will reap the benefits of $1.2 billion in investment from the park and surrounding development.

But Boyce’s candidacy is drawing on a deep well of resentment over the deal, which was struck in secret without a public vote.

“Grassroots is so important because it makes such an impact on voters in local elections,” said Kerwin Swint, chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University.

Swint said Boyce has built a campaign from the ground up.

Meanwhile, Lee has run a “mass media campaign,” relying more on direct mail and advertising, Swint said.

“I think maybe they got to the grassroots part of it late in the game,” he said of Lee’s campaign. “If Tim Lee was going to have a chance at winning the runoff, they really had to crank up the grassroots part of his campaign. Sounds like they have; whether it’s enough I don’t know.”

Boyce estimated he has about 300 volunteers working on his campaign. Each day, at least five teams of two go door to door distributing campaign materials and urging voters to come out for the July 26 runoff. He estimated that his campaign has knocked on more than 20,000 doors and reached more than 40,000 people by phone.

Lee’s campaign declined to provide details of their person-to-person outreach or to allow a reporter to shadow the candidate.

Fayette County has several runoff elections, from the Congressional level, to a local multi-county District Attorney race.

Only Democrats living in the 63rd Georgia House of Representatives district will have a ballot at all, as Debra Bazemore and Linda Pritchett compete for that seat, the winner taking the prize as there will be no Republican challenger in November’s General Election.

Depending on where the voter lives, some Republicans may have up to three races to decide on the runoff ballot.

Coweta County State Senator Mike Crane and former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson are competing to fill Third District Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s soon-to-be-vacated seat. The winner will face Democratic opposition from Angela Pendley.

73rd District Georgia House of Representatives incumbent John Yates is being challenged by Griffin chiropractor Karen Mathiak. The winner will face Democrat Rahim Talley in the fall.

Defense attorney Rudjard Hayes is challenging Assistant District Attorney Ben Coker on the Republican runoff ticket for the district attorney seat being vacated by Scott Ballard, who on May 24 won the Griffin Judicial Circuit Superior Court judgeship currently held by Tommy Hankinson. The district attorney runoff winner will become the next district attorney, because there is no Democratic challenger in that race.

Chatham County has a Runoff Election for Commission District 5, according to the Savannah Morning News.

After no single candidate garnered the more than 50 percent of the votes needed to win outright, it was on to the runoff for the top two vote-getters in the Democratic primary for the 5th District seat — challenger Tabitha Odell, who received 37.32 percent of the vote in the May 24 primary, and incumbent Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz, who got 34.8 percent of the vote.

Because no Republican or Independent challengers qualified to run for the seat, the race will be decided during this month’s primary runoff.

In a press release distributed Friday, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp cautioned early voters against taking and posting “ballot selfies.” Photography in a polling place is prohibited, the secretary’s office reported, unless it’s provided for limited media coverage by poll manager approval.

“If you are going to post about your voting experience on social media, I encourage you to post your peach voting sticker, not your ballot,” Kemp said in the release. “Georgia law intends to preserve secrecy of the ballot for all voters.”

Decaturish gives us a second look at a forum with Steve Bradshaw and incumbent Sharon Barnes Sutton, who are locked in a runoff for DeKalb County Commission.

Throughout the evening Bradshaw, who bested Sutton by more than 500 votes on May 24, emphasized a message of change, stressing Dekalb County’s less-than-stellar reputation as a contrast to his promise of “integrity” and “accountability.”

“Nobody wants to locate their business in a county filled with corruption,” Bradshaw said. “We have to clean that up…my sense is that there is something up with the way contracts get put together in this county.”

Sutton, who has faced multiple accusations of unethical behavior, called questions regarding her integrity “empty allegations,” arguing that FBI audits of Dekalb County exonerated her of wrongdoing while sending other officials to prison.

In response, Bradshaw drew his biggest applause of the night:

“If our litmus test (for quality government) is, ‘We’re not in jail yet so everything must all be okay,’ then we need a new litmus test,” he said.

Bob Kovacs and Jack Staver will meet in a runoff election for Cherokee County Commission District Three.

The race between the two was extremely close, however, as just 15 votes separated the candidates.

Staver received 1,348 votes while Kovacs received 1,333.

Just 4,529 votes were cast from the district’s 30,514 registered voters in the primary.

“I don’t think the turnout’s going to be very high because most people don’t even realize there’s a runoff,” Staver said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people and they thought the election was over.”

Kovacs said the people he’s spoken to have similar opinions.

“We’ve been walking door-to-door to let people know there’s an election happening,” Kovacs said. “There’s a lot of folks that don’t even realize there’s one coming up and it’s going to be critical that they get out there for early voting.”

The Ledger-Enquirer has two Q&As with runoff candidates District 1 incumbent Pat Hugley Green and her opponent JoAnn Thomas-Brown and the District 7 runoff election with former BOE chair Cathy Williams and her opponent Shelia Williams.

The Fayette County Commission passed a FY2017 budget of more than $93 million dollars, with a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Steve Brown voting against the budget.

Today at 6 PM at the Cherokee County Administration Building and Conference Center, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners will hold the first of three meetings on a proposed millage rate that will raise property taxes for many property owners.

Governor Nathan Deal will lead a trade trip to Germany beginning this weekend.

The delegation leaves Saturday and returns a week later. Georgia Department of Economic Development spokeswoman Katie McCreary says they plan to visit companies with connections to Georgia.

Georgia is home to the U.S. headquarters for Porsche Cars North America and Mercedes-Benz among other companies with operations here and in Germany.

Germany tops the list of foreign countries importing goods to Georgia and it’s among the top 15 exporting goods from the state.

Gwinnett County Commissioners voted to continue the Sheriff’s partnership with the U.S. ICE to check the immigration status of persons taken into custody.

The department has partnered with ICE since 2009. County commissioners decided last week to extend the program for another three years.

“It’s my responsibility to assist the federal government in identifying illegal aliens committing crimes in Gwinnett County,” said Sheriff Butch Conway in a written statement.

According to ICE statistics, 2,032 undocumented people were picked up by officers in Gwinnett in the past year, but only 10 percent were detained for further questioning from immigration officials. Because ICE prioritizes “felons, not families,” the other 90 percent were released with prosecutorial discretion. Nonetheless, Georgia has the second-highest deportation rate in the country.

“From our perspective, it’s a manpower and resource tool,” an ICE spokesperson said of the program, which has also been implemented in Cobb, Hall and Whitfield counties.

The Macon Telegraph has an interesting story about Bob Dickey, at 88 the state’s oldest peach farmer.

Bob turned 88 years old on June 23, three days after the first day of summer and smack in the middle of the traditional peach season. His advanced age makes him the senior peach grower in Georgia. He is the affable patriarch of the oldest continuously operating peach packing house in the Peach State.

The regulars at Dickey Farms, with its blend of modern technology and old-fashioned approach, know at least some of its stout history. Many have heard it recounted from Mr. Bob himself. The family business was started in 1897 by his grandfather and namesake, Robert Lee Dickey. In 1936, the packing house was built — 80 years ago this year.

The chain has remained unbroken through five generations, with a few departures and returns. Bob’s father, William Moore Dickey, was in the automotive and tire business in Macon in the 1920s, then returned to the farm during the Depression. Bob’s son, state Rep. Robert Lee Dickey III, and Robert’s wife, Cynde, now manage the day-to-day farm operations. Their son, Lee, recently returned to the business after working in the financial world in Atlanta.

Mr. Bob, though, remains the Big Peach Emeritus, the centerpiece of history and legacy. He has never retired and likely never will. Every morning, after finishing his peaches and corn flakes, he drives over from Macon while the dew is still stirring.

Meanwhile, Jaemor Farms in North Georgia has experienced a drought, which is reducing peach yields.

Echols estimates that Jaemor has seen less than a full inch of rain in the past few months.

“You want an inch a week, but it’s been a long time since we have had that,” Echols said.

He said the drought has taken almost a full inch off the size of the peaches in the current crop. This cut in size lowers the overall yield for the season.

He said another worrying factor to consider is how early the drought is beginning this year.

“Typically we don’t see this kind of dry weather until the end of July, August or September,” Echols said, “If it does stay dry, (the peach crop) won’t catch up till September.”

Open Records Request Lands Journalist in Jail

Mark Thomason, publisher of the Fannin Focus newspaper and his lawyer, Russell Stookey, were arrested and charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud after they sought bank records from a local judge. From the AJC.

Thomason’s relentless pursuit of public records relating to the local Superior Court has incensed the court’s chief judge, Brenda Weaver, who also chairs the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Weaver took the matter to the district attorney, who obtained the indictments.

Thomason was charged June 24 with making a false statement in an open-records request in which he asked for copies of checks “cashed illegally.” Thomason and Stookey were also charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud because they did not get Weaver’s approval before sending subpoenas to banks where Weaver and another judge maintained accounts for office expenses. Weaver suggested that Thomason may have been trying to steal banking information on the checks.

“I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had,” said Thomason, 37, who grew up in Fannin County. “I take this as a punch at journalists across the nation that if we continue to do our jobs correctly, then we have to live in fear of being imprisoned.”

Alison Sosebee, district attorney in the three counties in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, and Judge Weaver say the charges are justified. Weaver said she resented Thomason’s attacks on her character in his weekly newspaper and in conversations with her constituents.

“I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned,” Weaver said.

Brian K. Pritchard of FetchYourNews.com, a competing local outlet questions whether the internet’s rush to judgment includes all the facts.

Immediately on Monday morning Thomason started looking for any media outlet who would listen to his story. Journalist arrested, claiming his First Amendment Rights had been violated. Repeating to anyone who would listen how he was arrested for making an open records request, requesting checks from the Appalachian Judicial District Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver and (retired) Judge Roger Bradley claiming the checks appeared to have been cashed instead of deposited.

Thomason knew asserting his rights were violated- Freedom of the Press, Open Records Requests and possible judicial corruption would bring the media out of the woodwork in his defense. He was right. State and National Media outlets and publications have rushed to write “Journalist Jailed.”  Even Georgia First Amendment Foundation wrote “North Georgia publisher jailed in open records matter” and has offered its help to Thomason. In a comment to the Dalton Free Citizen Thomason indicated he plans to file a First Amendment lawsuit because he believes the arrest was a clear example of government “retaliating against a citizen for exercising First Amendment rights.”

Thomason is playing the “poor journalist went to jail” act really well. He made the following comment on his FaceBook page “It’s sad that we live in a world where a message is now being sent to all journalist–you do your job and you just may go to jail!”. Thomason’s quote in AJC “I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had,” said Thomason, 37, who grew up in Fannin County.

As a defender of Freedom of the Press,  before everyone rushes to the defense of the Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, let’s take a look at some of the inconsistencies in his story. We will identify the possibility of vendettas which Thomason and others may have against Judge Roger Bradley and Judge Brenda Weaver.

It’s an interesting story, but as most true stories, it has multiple sides.

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