Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 31, 2018


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 31, 2018

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.

United States Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan certified the 17th Amendment as part of the Constitution on May 31, 1913, authorizing the direct election of United States Senators. Georgia never ratified the Amendment.

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

Carter Time Cover 1971

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Two major milestones were reached in Gwinnett County’s political development last week.

First, more Democrats voted in the Gubernatorial Primary than Republicans for the first time in decades.

Republicans – 36,243

Democrats – 40,754

Second, an African-American woman, Ronda Colvin-Leary, was elected to the State Court bench in an open seat, and without a runoff.

I don’t know whether the two are related, and I don’t know how Ms. Colvin-Leary or her competitors campaigned. But it’s noteworthy.

Tyler Estep of the AJC, formerly with the Gwinnett Daily Post, wrote about the election results.

Colvin-Leary, a local attorney, won her nonpartisan race for a spot on Gwinnett’s State Court bench, making her the first black judge elected in the history of one of Georgia’s most diverse counties — and she may also be its first person of color elected in a countywide local election.

“I’m just humbled that so many people believed in me,” Colvin-Leary said. “And I think it’s significant also because I had the support of a lot of people, I had bipartisan support. … I think why that means so much to me is that people looked past the race [of the candidates].”

Because Gwinnett’s local judicial races are nonpartisan, her victory last week over opponent Lance Tyler is final and there will be no second election in November.

Gwinnett spokesman Joe Sorenson said the county has had black judges appointed to its magistrate, juvenile and recorders courts. The county’s Administrative Office of the Courts, however, confirmed that no black judge had ever been elected.

Gwinnett has about 920,000 residents, and less than 40 percent of them are white. Black residents make up about 28 percent of the county’s population, with Latino (21 percent) and Asian (12 percent) not far behind.

In the slightly larger context of Gwinnett County judicial races, Colvin-Leary’s victory extends a streak of women winning open seat judicial elections. This year, Tracie Cason won a Superior Court seat in a field of three without a runoff, and two women, Tracey Mason and Veronica Cope, advanced to the runoff in another open Superior Court seat.

Going forward, if the 2018 voter turnout in Gwinnett County becomes the new norm, we can expect to see County Commission seats begin to change hands, and campaign tactics in countywide nonpartisan election will change to adjust to a primary electorate that is no longer Republican-dominated.

Republicans Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp are blamestorming over the 9-week primary runoff timeframe, according to the AJC.

For decades, Georgia law required runoffs just three weeks after an initial election if no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote. But a federal judge’s 2013 ruling that found Georgia didn’t give Americans living abroad enough time to mail their ballots led to the current nine-week marathon.

The prospect of a drawn-out July 24 GOP runoff between Cagle and Kemp – while Democrat Stacey Abrams works to unify her party and focus on the November vote – has unnerved many Republicans. Which is likely why Cagle invoked the issue in one of his sharpest post-primary attacks against Kemp.

“For all the voters horrified at the thought of nine more weeks of politics, you can thank Brian Kemp’s office for bungling the federal court case that forced these long runoffs on the state,” said Cagle, who finished with about 39 percent of the vote in last week’s primary.

In response to Cagle’s charge, Kemp highlighted that sense of consensus around the timing.

“It’s no surprise that career politician Casey Cagle is attacking the run-off calendar championed by Gov. Deal,” he said. “He spent $8 million and dropped dramatically in the polls. The more people see of Cagle, the less they like. His quarter century in politics ends in nine weeks.”

Renee Unterman John Watson

Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Watson was joined by House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) and Senate HHS Chair Renee Unterman (R-Buford) in a press conference highlighting Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams’ financial missteps.

As Republicans brace for a bruising runoff between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state GOP is trying to ratchet up the pressure on Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams.

At a press conference Wednesday hosted by the Georgia GOP, two of the party’s top female leaders — House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and state Sen. Renee Unterman — urged Abrams to release 10 years of her tax returns. Neither Republican candidate for governor has yet to do so.

The Republicans are seizing on an ethics complaint filed by a watchdog group questioning about $84,000 in reimbursements from Abrams’ campaign committees over several years that lack details about how the money was spent.

Abrams also has disclosed that she owed more than $50,000 in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, which she said she accrued in part by helping her parents pay their medical bills. She has said she’s on a payment plan and tried to turn her debt into a selling point during the primary.

You can watch the full press conference on the GAGOP Facebook page.

Former State Senator Rick Jeffares has endorsed Senator David Shafer in the race for Lieutenant Governor, according to Shafer’s Facebook page.

A big day today. Rick Jeffares, who finished third in the Republican Primary with 24% of the vote, is now supporting me. We are announcing Rick’s endorsement [Thursday] morning.

Jeffares Shafer

Sandra Bullock, Democratic nominee for House District 40, dropped out of the election to succeed State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna).

Bullock, who had never previously run for office, won the primary for an open seat representing the Smyrna area even though she didn’t meet with many voters, raise money or campaign.

Bullock’s name made her instantly recognizable to voters, who were more familiar with the Hollywood actress who starred in “The Blind Side,” “Speed” and the upcoming “Ocean’s 8.”

Her withdrawal from the race allows her more established primary opponent, Erick Allen, to replace her on the ballot in a district targeted by Democrats to flip from Republican control. Hillary Clinton won the district with about 54 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Georgia Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office.

Catoosa County elected two new County Commissioners, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

District 2 challenger Chuck Harris, a medical equipment salesman, defeated incumbent Bobby Winters by a slim eight votes on Election Day, Tuesday, May 22.

Winters was in the lead after early voting, which ended May 18 — 175 votes to Harris’ 164 votes. However, Harris had the most Election Day votes, 290 to 265, which gave him the overall lead, 458 votes (50.44%) to 450 votes (49.46%).

In the District 4 race, Charlie Stephens, who runs a garbage collection service, defeated incumbent Ray Johnson, who has been on the board since 2015.

Numbers show that Stephens led early voting in the race 163 to 131, as well as Tuesday’s votes (457 to 406), for an overall count of 623 (53.43%) to 543 (46.57%).

The US Army Corps of Engineers is warning about dangerous water conditions on the Chattahoochee River, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Heavy rains, most recently from Tropical Storm Alberto, have raised the water level of Lake Lanier passed its full pool of elevation of 1,071 feet, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said. That will necessitate water being released from Buford Dam 24 hours per day, making for dangerous conditions on the Chattahoochee River, where the water is released.

“Wading and other uses of the river will be impossible at these flows. Only experienced boaters should attempt navigation during this time,” said E. Patrick Robbins, who is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Rainfall of 6-8 inches from Tropical Storm Alberto that fell in the watershed above Lake Lanier during the last 48 hours has pushed lake levels above 1073 and an additional rise is expected,” Robbins said. “We need to begin evacuating water from the lake to get back to the normal 1071 summer pool.”

With Lake Lanier at flood stage, officials said boaters should use caution when on the water and swimmers may want to avoid hitting the beaches due to the water quality, Operations Project Manager Tim Rainey with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Fox5.

Helen, Georgia also got hammered by rain, according to the Gainesville Times.

The National Weather Service said up to 7 inches of rain caused flooding to creeks and rivers in the city about 30 miles north of Gainesville. The weather service had issued a flash flood warning for White and Towns counties into Wednesday evening.

Several roads near the downtown area were shut down because of the rising water, which was about knee height.

White County is experiencing rain-related problems, according to AccessWDUN.

White County is 14.3 inches above normal rainfall so far this year, with much of that precipitation falling in the past week.

White County Public Safety Director David Murphy reported Wednesday that 9-1-1 dispatch received several calls Tuesday night and Wednesday morning concerning trees down, road blocked with debris and roads with heavy water runoff — especially in  higher elevations.

According to Murphy, moderate to heavy mudslides have been reported, mainly on the mountain north of Helen toward Towns County.

Lake Lanier Olympic Park has partially flooded, according to AccessWDUN.

With Lake Lanier’s water level already well above full pool, rainfall this week began creating problems at Lake Lanier Olympic Park, prompting officials to stack sandbags in strategic locations to ward off water damage.

Venue Manager Robin Lynch said Wednesday there are no plans to close the park, but conditions are hazardous around the site.

“We have water cresting over the apron on the boathouse side and then all the way up to the grandstands,” Lynch said.

Lynch said staff and volunteers placed sandbags around an air conditioning unit, hoping to prevent damage to it, and she said there’s concern rising water levels could damage boats stored in the boathouse at the site.

Bald Eagles are making such a strong comeback that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will conduct fewer population surveys, according to the Gainesville Times.

Beginning this year, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will only survey eagle populations in half of the state each year after several years of encouraging counts of successful eagle nests spotted during helicopter surveys of the state.

More than 200 nests have been documented throughout Georgia for the past three years, according to DNR. A recent survey found almost 110 nesting territories in six counties on the Georgia coast, according to an announcement from the state on Tuesday, May 29.

Only three decades ago, Georgia set a goal to have 20 eagle nests in the state. The state recorded a record 218 nests in 2017.

Savannah-based Gulfstream continues expanding in a strengthening international economy, according to the Savannah Morning News.

This year alone the company has announced expansions in Savannah and Appleton, Wisconsin, delivered their 300th G650 jet and extended their operating hours and service capabilities at their Beijing service center.

“I feel good about the market in general for us,” Gulfstream President Mark Burns said in an interview with the Savannah Morning News this week.

“Business aviation has always been a very cyclical business, but right now I think the world economy is moving forward and all in all I feel good about the market. I feel good about our position here in Savannah as well.”

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