Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 19, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 19, 2016


George Washington’s Continental Army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777.

On December 20, 1864, Confederate forces in Savannah retreated ahead of Sherman’s army, crossing over into South Carolina, four years to the day after South Carolina’s secession.

On December 19, 1868, Congress opened hearings into barriers African-Americans faced to voting in Georgia, which included threats, violence, and death, on

Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for lying under oath and obstructing justice by a vote of 228-206.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia’s Presidential Electors will meet today at the Georgia State Capitol to cast their ballots for Donald Trump for President and Mike Pence for Vice President. The electors expect to cast all their ballots for the Republican nominees.

“We’ve talked to each other on the phone, e-mail, Facebook,” said Kirk Shook, an elector and secretary of the Georgia Republican Party. “All of us are in the same boat: We’re still voting for Donald Trump.”

In the meantime, electors told The Associated Press they’ve received thousands of emails a day, and a smaller number of letters at their home or work. Shook said he received nearly 50 emails during a recent 20 minute conversation with a reporter.

Electors said many of the messages were identical form letters asking electors to support Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Other messages asked electors to support a generic Republican other than Trump, said Rachel Little, an elector and chair of the Fourth Congressional District’s Republican party.

This year will mark the third time Randy Evans has served as an elector. He’s called efforts to build opposition among electors “unprecedented.”

“It’s clearly organized, designed to harass and clog peoples’ inboxes,” Evans said.

Protests are expected to start today at 9 AM at the Capitol.

One protest will be held on Sunday, starting at 4 p.m., a candlelight vigil at the Georgia State House. The organizers of the event have promised dozens will show up to protest the event.

Another, part of a more widely organized, nationwide event, is planned for Monday starting at 9 a.m. It is slated to take place at the state house as well.

Organizers of that event said they have organized the “unprecedented protests” to voice their dissatisfaction with the 2016 election. When all the votes were tallied, it was found that, while Trump did win the electoral vote — decided by representatives from voting districts, and the deciding factor in the race — his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote.

“Protesters will be urging Electoral College members to respect the will of the people and reject Trump to vote for the winner of the national popular vote,” a release about the protests says.

Georgia Elector Randy Evans spoke to the Marietta Daily Journal about his current role.

Evans said he was chosen as an elector this year by the executive committee of the state Republican Party, though he said his selection was “largely de facto” due to his position as committeeman from Georgia.

“Then there are others that are selected based on a variety of criteria, largely based on the contribution to the party and the party’s effort — contribution not meaning money, but contribution meaning work for the party, helping the party, etc.,” he said.

In the U.S., while voters cast a ballot for their preferred candidate, in actuality, they are voting for a slate of electors chosen by that nominee’s party, Evans explained.

“Each presidential candidate whose name appears on the ballot submits a name of dedicated or pledged electors. And whichever candidate wins the most votes in Georgia — a plurality of votes in Georgia — their list of electors become the electors from the state.”

Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University, said because the electors are chosen by their parties, he doesn’t expect an outcome any different than the one reached in the early morning hours of Nov. 9.

“I think it’s going to go exactly the way people think it’s going to go, and (the electors) are going to vote overwhelmingly the way their state did,” Swint said.

“We’re meeting in a secure location and being bused over to the brunch, where we’ll be briefed,” he said. “Then we will be bused to the Capitol, I’m told that there will be very heavy security at all places. That’s a little unusual. Usually, meeting in the Capitol is secure enough, but they’re taking extra precautions this year.”

Once the Electoral College cast their votes, they will be opened and counted by Congress on Jan. 6, to be followed by the winner taking the oath of office on Jan. 20.

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young writes about his experience as an Elector in 2000.

Today’s meeting of the Electoral College, in a climate of conspiracy theories and elector intimidation, is unrivaled since the college met in 2000 to give the presidency to George W. Bush by a two-vote margin.

I remember it well, because I was a Bush elector, one of 13 in Georgia.

Representing the winning candidate, on the morning of Dec. 18, 2000, we gathered in the state senate chamber to sign the Certificate of Vote to affirm the decision of the 1,419,720 Georgians who voted for Bush in the November election.

We electors had assembled the night before at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, where we spent the night under tight security. The following morning, we boarded a bus with a police escort for the trip to the capitol building.

The similarities to this year’s election are striking. As did Donald J. Trump, Bush carried the electoral vote, while losing the popular vote. In 2000 the losing side famously pushed for recounts in Florida, as it did this year in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Weeks after the popular election, opponents continued to pillory the winners with questions about their fitness to serve as reason enough to be disqualified.

And just like this year, we electors were inundated with e-mails, letters and phone calls to change our vote from Bush to Gore. My e-mail box at City Hall became choked with the incoming messages, coming at all times of the day and night.

Nate Silver writes that instead of protesting last month’s election, Democrats should concentrate on winning future elections.

This year, narrowly denying Trump a majority in the Electoral College would still probably result in Trump’s election via the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, producing the same president but with a Constitutional crisis along the way. And in the long run, encouraging electors to deviate from the outcomes in their states would result in the House more often deciding presidential elections, which is probably not in Democrats’ interests given how their voters are clustered — and gerrymandered — into urban congressional districts.

Democrats have been decimated in elections for governor and state legislature since 2010 and need to rebuild their ranks in order to give the party a deeper roster of presidential and Senate candidates in future years and to position the party for redistricting, which will take place after the 2020 election cycle.

For Democrats to find success in 2018 will probably require them to compete in a lot of places. That’s because it’s not clear whether the shift in demographic voting patterns that took place between 2012 and 2016 will accelerate or reverse itself. In states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, there are a fair number of people who voted for Obama in 2012 but Trump in 2016, and they might be inclined to give Democrats another chance if they feel that Trump isn’t upholding his promises. It’s also possible, however, that Democrats will be competitive in wealthy suburban districts in Sun Belt states such as Texas, Georgia and Arizona that were once reliably red. Democrats were woefully unprepared for some of these opportunities last month. For instance, they didn’t even field a House candidate in Texas’s 32nd Congressional District in suburban Dallas, even though it Clinton carried the district in a major reversal from 2012.

Winning a House seat in Montana or expanded access to early voting in North Carolina might not be as sexy for Democrats as dreaming about an uprising in the Electoral College. But Trump won the election, and Democrats probably ought to be thinking about how to win some elections of their own.

Gainesville lawyer Ashley Bell is working to staff State Department appointments during the Trump presidential transition.

“I know history has its eyes on us, and every day we are given this opportunity to lead, it is a blessing and challenge we must meet,” Bell said in a recent interview by email.

More specifically, Bell is a member of the “landing team” for the State Department.

“The goal … is to give the incoming president and secretary (of state) the information necessary to ensure that there is seamless transition of power despite a possible shift in policy.”

Bell has been active in Middle Eastern policy through his involvement with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He journeyed to Israel in 2011 while serving on the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

Bell, 36, also has stayed busy with the Republican National Committee, serving as a senior strategist and national director of African-American political engagement.

Bell has had a long rise in politics, one that extends back to his youth in Gainesville City Schools. He started as a Democrat, serving as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He switched to the GOP in 2010 while serving as a Hall commissioner.

Bell’s transition work ends when Trump is sworn into office Jan. 20. His RNC work continues through the election of the next chairman, or right after the inauguration.

Republican Chuck Payne continues campaigning for State Senate District 54 in northwest Georgia, where a runoff will be held January 10, 2017.

“We are very thankful to our supporters and proud to have finished first in the Special Election as we now look forward to continuing our outreach among the voters of Gordon, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties,” said Payne. “Now that this race has narrowed to only two, and as I have committed decades of effort to help conservative candidates in North Georgia in their elections, I am truly thankful to the voters to remain as the only Republican continuing in the race.”

“It is my hope to truly serve as representative of Northwest Georgia values in the State Senate; to remain a conservative voice of reason in serving the interests of the 54th District,” said Payne.’

Peppers, who according to her personal social media page describes her political views as aligned with the Democratic Party, used nonpartisan to describe her affiliation on her qualifying paperwork in Gordon County.

Early voting for the runoff election begins on Tuesday, Dec. 27 and will end on Friday, Jan. 6, taking place from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Gordon County Board of Elections and Voter Registration office, located in the County Courthouse Annex, located at 101 Piedmont Street in downtown Calhoun.

The Gordon County Board of Elections and Voter Registration office will be closed for the New Years holiday on Jan. 2.

We’ll try to find early voting information for Murray, Pickens, and Whitfield County voters.

Roswell will hold a Special Election for City Council on March 21, 2017.

The City Council at its Monday, Dec. 12 meeting approved qualifying fees for its March 21 special election to fill the vacant Post 4 seat as well as its Nov. 7, 2017, general municipal election.

The fee to qualify for the Post 4 seat is $540. Qualifying for the post will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Jan. 27 in the office of the city clerk at Roswell City Hall.

Two candidates have already announced their bids for the seat: Jay Small and Lori Henry.

The City of Ringgold is considering moving from a flat business license fee to one based on income.

For years Ringgold’s occupational tax ordinance has consisted of a $100 flat fee for businesses per year. Now, the council is looking to switch to a collection plan based on each company’s gross receipts, which is the norm for a lot of other cities like Fort Oglethorpe.

“We’re trying to be more of a progressive city,” said Councilman Larry Black. “This would be a sliding scale based on gross receipts. … It’ll still be small for small businesses, but more significant for bigger businesses.”

Based on the option the council was initially leaning toward, each business would be charged a percentage based on which tier of sales they fall into.

“We have $0 to $199,000, $200,000 to $399,000, $400-$699,000, and so on,” Black said.

For example, a business bringing in $1 million in gross receipts would pay $473 in occupational tax for the year. A $10 million business would be charged $3,604 annually, and a $20 million business would have to pay $6,464 annually for their occupational tax license versus a flat $100 fee.

State law sets the market for practitioners such as lawyers, doctors, dentists, and veterinarians at a $400 maximum. Those business can also opt for the gross receipts plan if they feel their earnings would bring them in at less than that max.

The City of Sugar Hill approved a budget for FY2017.

The general fund budget totals about $11.5-million, while the capital improvement budget totals $7.275-million, according to Paul Radford, city manager.

“The budget, overall, represents about a 6.7-percent increase. Key elements are, obviously, health care costs, and a compensation adjustment for employees,” said Radford in a phone interview.

John Breakfield was sworn in as a State Court Judge in Hall County.

Richard Mecum is retiring from the position of Chairman of the Hall County Commission.

Colquitt County Sheriff Al Whittington will be honored with a reception before the swearing-in of his successor, Rod Howell.

Whittington may be out of one job, but he will take part-time work beginning in January when he becomes the new District 4 Colquitt County Commission member.

Whittington won the Republican primary in the spring and had no Democratic opponent in the general election. Republican Chris Hunnicutt received about 85 percent of the vote on Nov. 8 and will represent District 2.

More than 300 people have been banished from Hall County since 2010.

More than 300 people with criminal cases in Hall County in the past six years have been banned from Hall County or the greater Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which also includes Dawson County, according to court records.

Such banishment from the circuit will last for the term of a person’s probation.

“The banishment condition of probation is not something that is a matter of policy, and it really depends on the facts case by case,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

“Banishment would usually be imposed where it seems like the only reason the person was here was to commit a crime, and it is in those cases where it seems most appropriate,” Darragh said.

In four cases found in Hall County’s records, defendants were barred from all counties except a single county or single circuit.

“The goal in such a case like that would be related to whether the person has, again, any significant ties to the state of Georgia,” Darragh said.

Air Force Lt. General Stayce Harris serves as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and Director, Air Staff at the Air Force Headquarters in Washington, DC. Harris has a Georgia connection, having served at Dobbins Air Reserve Base as head of the Air Force Reserve’s 22nd Air Force. She is the first African-American woman to hold the rank of Lt. General in the Air Force.

Frank Reynolds will take the reins of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department from outgoing Sheriff Roger Garrison.

Over the course of his 24 years in office, Garrison saw the county’s population increase by more than 250 percent, from 90,000 residents to 235,000. He also expanded the sheriff’s office staff from 150 employees to more than 400. He leaves behind a legacy of training and preparedness that has made his agency one of the best in the Southeast.

“It’s bittersweet, but I’m excited about working with Frank and helping him start his career,” Garrison said. “I’ve been in law enforcement 35 years. There are a lot of people there that I’ve grown up with and they’ve grown up with me.”

Garrison said he’s accomplished what he set out to do when he won the four-way race back in 1992 and feels it’s time to turn the agency over and move on to the next chapter in his life, which will include playing tennis, riding his mountain bike and some international consulting work.

Chatham County Commissioner Priscilla Thomas is retiring from office after 26 years.

Some Cobb County elected officials will ask legislators for a raise in the coming year.

Earlier this month, county commissioners passed a resolution notifying the Cobb Legislative Delegation that the fiscal 2017 budget includes enough funding to support salary increases of up to 3 percent. Commissioners’ salaries, and those of other elected officials and county employees, are among those set by the Legislature, which has to author and pass legislation to change the salaries. The process is one undertaken by the government entities each year.

While the county has funded 3 percent raises for the elected positions as part of the current budget, those officials as individuals must request the pay increases from the Legislature, and it is up to the Legislature to approve the raises, said Sheri Kell, spokesperson for the county.

State Rep. John Carson, R-northeast Cobb, who heads the Cobb Delegation, said legislators did not receive such requests during a listening session held in the county Monday, but noted that such requests typically occur during the legislative session, the next one of which begins in January. He said the requests typically come in written form, via email or a letter.

Lt. Col. Robert Quigley, spokesman for the Cobb Sheriff’s office, said Sheriff Neil Warren intends to pursue the pay increase of up to 3 percent for himself and the three positions in his office whose salaries are legislature controlled: chief deputy sheriff, assistant chief deputy sheriff and executive assistant to the sheriff.

“His perspective on seeking the increase is that if the county Board of Commissioners has identified monies as a part of their budget and the state Legislature is willing to make it available then he will accept it,” Quigley said.

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