Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2018

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

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 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.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1864. 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.

As a student of Dr. Merle Black in the political science department at Emory, we began our study of Southern politics from the premise that race relations and the legacy of racial discrimination shaped Southern politics. One book we read every year was The Longest Debate: A Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of American politics, political history, and legislative process.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In-person Advance Voting begins today across the state. From CBS46:

The Fulton County Board of Elections will open 12 locations for citizens to vote early in the July 24 runoff election.

Early voting locations will be open July 2-July 20 and all locations will be closed on July 4. Polls will also be open Saturday, July 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Colquitt County voters will elect a new Commissioner, according to the Moultrie Oberver.

Early voting begins on July 2 in a primary election with one local race — Colquitt County Commission District 1 — and three statewide primary runoff contests. Election Day will be July 24.

A special, nonpartisan election to select a candidate to complete the unfinished term of the late Commissioner Luke Strong Jr. was held on March 20, followed by a runoff election in early April won by Barbara Jelks. She will finish the remainder of Strong’s four-year term that ends on Jan. 31.

Jelks also finished first in the May 22 Democratic primary for the District 1 seat, but did not receive a majority of votes, so she will be in the July runoff with Darius Dawson.

The winner of that contest will face Republican candidate Stacey Williams in the November general election.

The statewide runoffs include the Republican governor’s primary between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

From The Brunswick News:

Polling locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, in the same place they were during primary early voting, in the Office Park Building, 1815 Gloucester St. in Brunswick and at Glynn County Fire Department Fire Station No. 2, 1929 Demere Road on St. Simons Island. Runoff election day is set for July 24.

Locally, the Glynn County Commission At-large Post 1 Republican race is down to Incumbent Mark Stambaugh and David O’Quinn, and the runoff for Glynn County Board of Education District 2 Republican contest is between Eddy Sams and David Sharpe.

The race for the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission’s seat will be on both ballots. Audrey Gibbons and Bob Duncan are running for the position.

Elections and Registration Supervisor Monica Couch said voters who picked a partisan ballot in the primary can’t switch to the other party’s ballot. Those who voted on non-partisan ballots or didn’t vote at all can pick whichever party they want, she added.

Columbia County Republicans will nominate a candidate for County Commission Chair, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Early voting starts Monday in the closely watched July 24 runoff between Doug Duncan and Pam Tucker for chairperson of the Columbia County Commission and several statewide primary runoffs.

The contest has lasted more than a year for Duncan, a sitting county commissioner, and Tucker, a former longtime Emergency Management Division director, but neither shows any sign of letting up.

“The challenge is obviously July is a huge vacation month,” said Duncan, who finished first in the May 22 Republican primary. He said he recently began advertising again and is contacting voters who turned out May 22 – or didn’t – to remind them of the runoff.

Tucker said her career in emergency management has made maintaining a campaign for nearly 16 months a pleasure.

“I’m really happy. I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot, and the runoff has given me more time to talk one-on-one with people.”

From the Dalton Daily Citizen Editorial Board:

In the past, runoff elections haven’t elicited the advertising and campaigning as in general primaries or elections. Nor do they fire up voters’ interest much and this runoff may unfortunately see a very low voter turnout here as there are no local races to attract more attention.

Voters should keep in mind that you have to vote in the same party as you did in the General Primary. Voters cannot have voted on the Democratic ballot and then ask for a Republican ballot, and vice versa, in this runoff.

Early voting continues until Friday, July 20. To vote early, go to your board of elections and registrar office in your county courthouse, with proper ID, on Monday through Friday during regular business hours.

As we said earlier, voter turnout in this runoff will most likely be dismal. That places more value on each vote, as one block of voters could swing the election toward their candidate because everyone else stayed away.

Note that if you were a registered voter in time to cast a ballot in the May 22d Primary Election but did not vote, you are still eligible to vote in the Runoff Election.

The AJC looks at the demographics of voters in the May 22d Primary Election.

The data show the broad majority of African-American voters pulled Democratic ballots, which could bolster the hope of Stacey Abrams, who is racing to be the nation’s first black female governor. Her Republican opponent will be decided in a July 24 runoff between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

At the same time, the proportion of white voters continues to decline. White voter participation in last month’s primary was down 9 percent from 2010. And white voters are more likely to be conservative, making up 93 percent of the GOP primary vote — and just 30 percent of the Democratic support.

“It confirms what we’ve been seeing among the Democratic base around the country: There is energy that’s going to be felt in the fall from voters who are clearly excited,” said Beth Schapiro, a Democratic strategist. “And they’ve got to keep generating as much enthusiasm as they can.”

“[Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey] Abrams did succeed in mobilizing black turnout,” University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said. “If she were to replicate the kind of feat she had in the primary, that would provide her with the kind of votes she’ll need” in the general election.

And no county experienced a greater jump in Democratic voter participation between 2010 and 2018 than Gwinnett, a fast-diversifying suburb that’s central to the party’s hopes of winning the Governor’s Mansion.

The Rome News-Tribune looks at the changing demographics of local voters.

There were 17,155 voters between the ages of 18 and 39 on the rolls as of June 1. That’s equal to 33.8 percent of the total 50,770 voters of all ages.

In comparison, voters in the youngest demographic made up just 29 percent of the electorate for the March primaries going into the 2016 presidential election.

The percentage of local voters in the other age groups fell correspondingly, although the middle demographic still retains the highest overall number.

This year, the 21,372 registered voters between the ages of 40 and 54 make up 42.1 percent of the total, compared to 45 percent in 2016. And the 12,243 voters age 65 and older account for 24.1 percent of the electorate, down from 26 percent in 2016.

The Cobb Courier notes that Democrats are contesting Georgia State Senate District 37 for the first time in 20 years.

Andy Clark is running for Georgia state senate district 37, which includes Kennesaw, Acworth, and West Cobb. He is the first Democratic candidate for that district since 1998. Born and raised in the Atlanta suburbs, Clark plans on utilizing his years of firsthand experience working with the Georgia legislature to help tackle issues within the state. His opponent, Lindsey Tippins, has held the seat since 2010.

“I am not running against my opponent,” Clark said. “I am running against the direction that the Republican Party is going.”

It has been 20 years since a Democrat ran for state senate in the district, but while it is a challenging race, Clark is confident that “it is not out of reach.”

The general primary in May resulted in 6,136 Democratic votes for Clark and 10,567 Republican votes for Tippins. The general election will be November 6.

The Macon Telegraph discusses changes in Georgia’s medical cannabis law.

House Bill 65 added conditions to the low THC oil medical marijuana registry, which allows qualified people to have 20 fluid ounces of the oil that in Georgia can have no more than 5 percent THC content. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that causes the high from marijuana use.

For pain physician Dr. Tennent Slack at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, it’s a “reasonable trade” to replace an opioid medication.

“It’s not that cannabinoids are perfect. They certainly can be habit-forming, but they are way, way safer than opioids,” he said.

Even on the Department of Public Health website, there is no clear path to purchasing low THC oil. In the “frequently asked questions” about where to buy it, DPH’s response is that the law does not “address how low THC oil is made, purchased or shipped” and that it only creates a legal protection for those who possess it.

“I’ve had numerous patients express interest, and I have to tell all of them: I can help you with this, but you’ve got to go out and identify where you can get an approved product,” Slack said. “If you identify a source, and it’s practical for you to go across the state line to get it … I can work to getting you registered with the state and getting you a card. But there’s no point of going through that whole process if you’ve got nowhere to get it.”

Curt Fowler writes for the Valdosta Daily Times on the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act.

The Georgia General Assembly approved the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act during the 2017 legislative session. Our legislators passed GARJA to create jobs in rural Georgia by improving access to capital for small businesses.

Atlanta and its surrounding counties are experiencing an economic boom but many rural communities in Georgia are being left behind. GARJA was designed to give rural communities a boost by creating tax credits to drive investment in Georgia counties with populations of 50,000 or less.

What does this mean for you? If you are an entrepreneur with a business in a rural Georgia county this could be a big boost for you. Businesses need capital to grow and create jobs. In some cases, banks are unable to provide this capital. In these situations, “private capital” is needed to invest in and grow the business.

Georgia has allocated $60 million of tax credits to create $100 million of investment in our rural counties. Capital partners must invest these funds over the next two years. This is a great opportunity for rural businesses to get the capital they need to grow and create jobs.

Hall County Sheriff’s Deputies began enforcing the statewide ban on driving while using a cell phone, according to the Gainesville Times.

With the July 1 start of Georgia’s new hands-free driving law, Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Meeks watched for usual traffic violators but also studied drivers and what they may have been holding as he went out on patrol.

Drivers in Georgia already were banned from texting on their phones, but a bill passed by the General Assembly this year made it illegal for drivers to hold a phone at all in their hands.

“We’re doing a 90-day grace period … to get people educated,” Meeks said. “We’ll write warnings.”

However, “I don’t know how you could say you don’t know (about the law) at this point, with all the (news) coverage it has gotten,” he added.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Georgia House Bill 673, which is better known as the Hands-Free Georgia Act, was passed by the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year and signed into law in May by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Legally, there is no grace period from when the law takes place, which Georgia State Patrol and other agencies have been touting for several months now.

Some jurisdictions, like Gwinnett, are taking a bit of a different approach, however, and will first focus on education — then start ticketing.

“We have a 30-day grace period from July 1,” said Sgt. Jake Smith, a spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department. “We’ll be focusing on education for the first month (and we have a) flyer we’re handing out.”

From the Associated Press, via the Statesboro Herald.

States that have adopted hands-free driving policies have seen a decline in motor vehicle accidents by an average of 16 percent over a two-year period, the U.S. Department of Transportation says on its website. Approximately 660,000 drivers use their phones while driving during daylight hours, the Department says.

In Georgia, a first conviction for using a mobile phone while driving carries a fine of $50 and one point on the driver’s license. The second conviction would cost $100 and add two points to the license. The third and subsequent convictions would have a fine of $150 and add three points to the license.

Exceptions include reporting a crash or emergency. Utility workers and first responders are also exempt from the law.

“I think the enforcement of this law will be different amongst different agencies as well as different law enforcement officers,” said Paulding County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ashley Henson. “I think the key is education and to make sure that our citizens know what the law states and what is expected of them.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

“This law has been put into effect for the safety of all citizens,” said Lt. Torrance Garvin, of Savannah Police’s Traffic Unit. “Distracted driving is a major source of crashes. If we can eliminate those distractions then we can lower our number of crashes and fatalities.”

There is no mandated 90-day grace period for the law and but local law enforcement says they are willing to work with Savannah drivers.

Savannah Police officers are planning to give verbal and written warnings during the first 30 days for the first offense, according to Garvin. Citations may still be issued for an initial offense if officers believe it is warranted.

“We understand that in the first 30 days there will be a lot of education that will need to be done,” Garvin said. “Even though the state has been announcing the change for some time, there are still people who are unaware of the specifics of the law and how it will affect them. Everyone who receives a warning will also receive information on the Hands Free Law.”

Officers are exploring enforcement plans that may include plain-clothed officers looking for unlawful phone usage, according to police spokeswoman Bianca Johnson.

Signs marking the border between Coweta and Heard Counties were shifted, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Recently, the signage that indicated the Coweta and Heard County line were moved 1,500 feet on Davis Road this month.

The actual county line has not moved, only the signs.

Violent crime in Savannah is down 16 percent in the first six months of the year, according to the Savannah Morning News.

According to Savannah police’s most recent crime numbers, overall violent crime – which includes homicide, rape, commercial, street and residential robberies, aggravated assault with a gun and aggravated assault without a gun – was down by 16 percent compared to this time last year.

Homicides are often the number most associated with crime in Savannah. So far this year, there have been 10 killings in Savannah police’s jurisdiction. At this point last year there were 16, and in 2016, there were 26.

Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, who ran for office on a crime-centric platform, said he credits the drop in violent crime to the hard work of a fully staffed Savannah police force.

“I see it as the product of increasing the number of police officers that we were short when we first started, DeLoach said. “We got those folks on board, and they continue to keep the ranks full. If you get enough folks out there doing their job, there’s a better chance of you catching the bad guys when we have an issue.”

The Newnan Times-Herald profiles a family that was kept together through Family Treatment Court, a new accountability court that seeks to keep families together.

The Augusta Chronicle takes Mayor Hardie Davis to task over the proposed arena.

“If the citizens of Augusta come back to us and tell us that ‘we want to build the new multipurpose arena at the current location downtown,’” he told The Chronicle May 17, “Mayor Davis is going to hold his hand up and carry that flag across our city and look for the best opportunity for us to build something that’s meaningful for future generations of Augustans.”

He’s breaking that promise.

The results of the referendum were remarkably clear: Some 60 percent favored the downtown site while, in a separate vote, as many opposed the mall site.

But Davis, a Democrat who was re-elected on the same ballot, now says that because a majority of Democrats favored the mall site that he’s been the chief promoter of, it’s Democrat voices he’s going to listen to. “I know who elected me,” he said on a local radio show this week. “The people who elected me said ‘build it at Regency Mall.’ We find ourselves at a … juxtaposition of inconclusiveness.”

Alpharetta may collect $1.4 million dollars in additional property taxes, according to NorthFulton.com.

At the June 18 meeting, Finance Director Tom Harris said a recent report from Fulton County shows the city’s property values have climbed 15 percent over last year. The increase comes primarily as a result of updated appraisals on residential property and an increase in construction, Harris said.

The official numbers blow away the city’s earlier estimates that property values would increase overall by 6 percent.

That 9 percent difference means that if the City Council votes to keep its property tax rate the same as in the past 10 years, it will collect an additional $1.4 million in tax revenue this year over what it had anticipated.

Macon’s Budget Woes

Macon-Bibb County recreation facilities could close as budget issues loom, according to the Macon Telegraph.

On Thursday, commissioners passed a $149 million budget that did not include a tax increase but that cut funding for numerous services, including for the recreation centers across the county. Only enough funding was approved to keep them open through July.

On Friday, a committee of commissioners proposed budget amendments, including more than $4 million to fully fund the recreation centers. All of the amendments combined would raise the millage rate to 3.6 mills. A vote by the full commission is expected Tuesday.

The Telegraph notes that bus services could also be on the cutting board.

In spite of Macon-Bibb County budget uncertainties, Macon transit buses are expected to continue running, except for the Fourth of July.

Buses had been expected to stop running after 5:30 p.m. Saturday for more than 3,000 daily riders after Macon-Bibb County Commission’s decision Thursday to not fund the transit system. But late Friday, a commission committee proposed budget amendments, including $2.3 million for the bus system.

If county commissioners approve at least $255,000 Tuesday for the Macon Transit Authority, that would give the authority enough funds to run two more weeks, Ross said.

Tax increases could be on the table as the Macon-Bibb Commission

A Macon-Bibb County Commission committee proposed budget amendments late Friday that, if approved, would restore funding for various services, including libraries, parks and public transit.

The changes, which are scheduled to be voted on Tuesday, would raise the millage rate to 3.6 mills, close to what was proposed by the mayor eight weeks ago.

The $149 million budget approved on a 6-3 vote Thursday includes no property tax increase. But it would force closure of the Parks and Recreation and Parks and Beautification departments and Bowden Golf Course, and cut $10 million for outside agencies such as the Middle Georgia Regional Library system.

That budget was approved after multiple versions with various millage rate increases failed to pass. Mayor Robert Reichert had said that the county would be subject to lawsuits and other potential financial issues if the commission didn’t pass a budget before the fiscal year ends Sunday.

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