Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 18, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 18, 2018

The Mason-Dixon line separating Pennsylvania from Maryland was established on October 18, 1767.

In 1760, tired of border violence between the colonies’ settlers, the British crown demanded that the parties involved hold to an agreement reached in 1732. As part of Maryland and Pennsylvania’s adherence to this royal command, Mason and Dixon were asked to determine the exact whereabouts of the boundary between the two colonies. Though both colonies claimed the area between the 39th and 40th parallel, what is now referred to as the Mason-Dixon line finally settled the boundary at a northern latitude of 39 degrees and 43 minutes. The line was marked using stones, with Pennsylvania’s crest on one side and Maryland’s on the other.

Twenty years later, in late 1700s, the states south of the Mason-Dixon line would begin arguing for the perpetuation of slavery in the new United States while those north of line hoped to phase out the ownership of human chattel. This period, which historians consider the era of “The New Republic,” drew to a close with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which accepted the states south of the line as slave-holding and those north of the line as free. The compromise, along with those that followed it, eventually failed.

On October 18, 1867, the United States took over Alaska from Russia and ran up Old Glory there for the first time.

Separated from the far eastern edge of the Russian empire by only the narrow Bering Strait, the Russians had been the first Europeans to significantly explore and develop Alaska.

Seeing the giant Alaska territory as a chance to cheaply expand the size of the nation, William H. Seward, President Andrew Johnson‘s secretary of state, moved to arrange the purchase of Alaska. Agreeing to pay a mere $7 million for some 591,000 square miles of land-a territory twice the size of Texas and equal to nearly a fifth of the continental United States-Seward secured the purchase of Alaska at the ridiculously low rate of less than 2¢ an acre.

On October 18, 1870, Rockdale and McDuffie Counties were created when Georgia Governor Rufus Bullock signed legislation creating them.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting by the numbers:

Total votes cast: 300,179

Early voters who cast ballots in the 2016 Presidential Preference Primary

Republican: 102,033

Democratic: 62,280

Early voters who cast ballots in the 2018 General Primary

Republican: 70,049

Democratic: 54,878

Early voters who cast ballots in 2018 Primary, 2018 Primary Runoff, or 2016 Presidential Preference Primary

Republican: 118,116

Democratic: 78,784

Early voters in 2018 who did not vote in 2014 General Election but voted in 2018 PRI, PRO, or 2016PPP

Republican: 6011

Democratic: 5368

Early voting is up, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Bibb County and others across Georgia are seeing an unusually high number of voters hitting the polls for a midterm election. The highlight of this year’s ballot is a closely contested battle between Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams to be Georgia’s next governor.

Through Tuesday, 211,861 Georgians had voted, which is a 214 percent increase over the last governor’s election in 2014 when 67,372 ballots were filled out over the same time frame, according to georgiavotes.com, which takes publicly available data and organizes it. It was in 2014 that Gov. Nathan Deal fended of Democratic challenger Jason Carter on the ballot.

Since Monday 3,767 people voted in person in Bibb County. That compares to just 1,631 advanced voters for the first three days of early voting in 2014, according to the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections.

This year’s numbers are more on par with the 4,565 in-person voters for the first three days of early voting for the 2016 presidential election.

Through Tuesday, there were 2,453 votes cast in Houston County, up 278 percent from 2014, according to georgiavotes.com, which also shows large increases of voters in counties such as Monroe, Peach and Jones.

The large turnout is likely due to the “Trump factor” that’s rallying both sides of the political aisle. Also, in Georgia polls are showing a closely contested battle to become the next governor while other key state and local positions are up for grabs as well.

Governor Nathan Deal yesterday announced that the Trump Administration has approved federal assistance for seven additional Georgia counties.

Gov. Nathan Deal received notice from the White House that an additional seven counties have been approved for federal individual assistance following Hurricane Michael. A total of 13 counties have now been approved for individual assistance by President Donald Trump.

Individual assistance makes federal funding available to individuals and households, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the hurricane. The following counties were approved for individual assistance Tuesday evening: Crisp, Grady, Lee, Mitchell, Terrell, Thomas and Worth.

“I appreciate President Trump’s quick approval of our requests for federal assistance in the Georgia communities most heavily affected by Hurricane Michael,” said Deal. “Our partners at the federal level, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are working diligently alongside state and local officials to help our communities recover as quickly as possible. I appreciate both President Trump and Vice President Pence visiting Georgia this week to show their support and reiterate the federal government’s commitment to Georgia’s citizens during the response and recovery process. I’m also proud of the brave efforts of Georgia’s first responders, emergency management officials, law enforcement officers, medical professionals, recovery teams and others who are providing much-needed aid to residents of the impacted areas.”

Baker, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Miller and Seminole counties were previously approved for individual assistance. Additionally, 31 counties were already approved for public assistance, which assists with emergency work and debris removal. A list of the counties approved for public assistance is available here.

FEMA and the Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency are continuing to conduct individual assistance assessments, and the president may add additional counties for designation based upon the assessments.

Democratic candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams interviewed with the Augusta Chronicle editorial board.

Voters in State House District 14 will not vote on a replacement for State Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) until a special election at a later date, according to the Daily Tribune.

Coomer was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to a seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals and in order for Deal to declare a special election to fill Coomer’s vacant house seat, Coomer had to either resign or just let time pass until he could be sworn in. Coomer said he opted to resign.

Now it’s up to Deal as to when the special election will be.

Georgia Code Section 21-2-541 stipulates that there be at least a 29 day period between the Governor’s call for a special election and the actual election, unless the special election is scheduled in conjunction with a state-wide general election, such as a runoff. However, a same-day special election must be conducted separately from the state-wide general election or runoff using completely different ballots, voting equipment, facilities, poll workers and paperwork.

With Coomer’s resignation already in the Governor’s hands, Nov. 5 would be the last day Deal could call for a special election in conjunction with the Dec. 4 runoff election, provided there is a runoff, according to Kirk.

Attempts were made to reach Deal for comment, but he was touring south Georgia for a first-hand look at the destruction wrought by Hurricane Michael. A spokesperson said the Governor’s Office said Deal could possibly make a decision by the end of the week.

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) continues to enjoy a fundraising advantage over his Democratic opponent, according to The Brunswick News.

Going into the last weeks of his re-election campaign, U.S. Rep Buddy Carter, R-1, added to his cash in the bank, reporting $1.15 million on hand, adding more than $224,000 to the kitty over what he reported at the end of the second quarter of this year.

Through the third quarter, Carter reported contributions of $349,643.88 and expenditures of $120,855.75. That again dwarfs the reported numbers from Democratic challenger Lisa Ring, who reported $61,036.56 in contributions, $67,917.94 in expenditures and cash-on-hand of $5,264.78.

Georgia pecan farmers may lose half their crops this year from Hurricane Michael, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The country’s top pecan producing state will likely end up with about half of its prized crop after Hurricane Michael ripped through southwest Georgia orchards last week.

Georgia pecan growers were expecting a bumper crop this year, with the state’s vast number of trees poised to produce a whopping 110 million pounds of the nut.

Now, farmers are looking at harvesting about 55 million pounds. It’s bad enough to make Hurricane Irma, which wiped out about 30 percent of the state’s pecans last year, look mild by comparison.

“A lot of these orchards have been in families and a lot of these trees that are down were planted by granddad and great-granddad and daddy, and they’re gone,” said Brent Brinkley, who said he lost about 3,000 trees at his farm, Weybrenee Farms, in Mitchell County.

“That’s where we’re different from the lost cotton crop. Next year, you just plant cotton again. This is a disaster – it is a disaster for the pecan industry,” Brinkley said.

Hurricane Michael was particularly brutal to older trees – some that have been around for eight decades or longer – that could produce more than 200 pounds of pecans each season.

Cotton farmers also suffered Hurricane Michael’s wrath, according to GPB News.

“We had a great crop of cotton out there that was opened up and ready to be harvested and that’s where the problem lies,” said Taylor Sills with the Georgia Cotton Commission.  “The wind came through and essentially blew the cotton off the plant.”  Sills called Michael one of the worst disasters that could happen to farmers.  “The ripples of this storm will continue to be felt in rural Georgia for years to come,” he said. Sills said some farmers are just now getting assistance after Hurricane Irma hit last year and losses topped $100 millon. This year’s damage is expected to far exceed that.

Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited the state this week and pledged their support to help farmers.  On his visit, Pence said the federal government would do everything it could to make farmers whole.

Georgia’s ports at Savannah and Brunswick continue to post impressive numbers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Port of Savannah handled 364,900 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) in September, for 23 consecutive months of growth.

The September numbers for Savannah represent an increase of almost 39,000 TEUs handled over September of 2017. Brunswick’s port had a 37.6 percent increase in roll-on/roll-off trade over the same time period.

“The impressive volumes moving through our deepwater terminals are related to our customers building inventory for the peak buying season,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “We anticipate year-on-year growth to continue as we’re trending toward a strong fourth quarter of the calendar year.”

For the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, the Savannah Port handled 1.1 million TEUs. That performance is a 10.8 percent growth (109,164 TEUs) compared to the first quarter of FY2018.

Gwinnett County Public Schools students performed better on the ACT than the statewide and national averages, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The scores are in and Gwinnett County Public Schools exceeded the state and national average on the ACT assessment during the 2017-18 academic year, according to a report released on Wednesday.

GCPS students, on average, received a composite score of 22.6, outscoring the state average of 21.6 and national average of 20.8.

“The ACT is based on what students learn in high school and provides personalized information about their strengths for education and career planning,” Jonathan Patterson, associate superintendent of curriculum and instructional support, said. “The learning that takes place every day in the classroom and our pursuit of excellence in academic knowledge, skills, and behavior for each student helps us to better prepare our students for college and careers.”

According to GCPS officials 10 schools — Brookwood, Dacula, Discovery, Grayson, Gwinnett Online Campus, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, Meadowcreek, Norcross, Parkview and Peachtree Ridge — increased their composite score while Duluth and Lanier’s score remained unchanged.

The Georgia Department of Revenue has reopened the Rural Hospital Tax Credit program for donations to some rural hospitals, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

The state Department of Revenue announced Wednesday that the program will be reopened for donations. The agency did not say how much of the $60 million in tax credits remain untapped.

“We have not yet certified the exact amount,” said department spokesman William Gaston, who said the figure will be available in the coming weeks.

Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said some would-be donors likely realized their tax liability was not as great as they believed it would be when they first made the pledge.

The two-year-old program offers taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations made to rural hospitals. Donors had until Oct. 1 to send in their check.

But England said he does not see this as a setback for the program, citing the interest taxpayers have shown. England said he was not told how much money is still available.

Savannah State University may have to lay off employees as enrollment declines, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Brunswick City Commissioners approved a revised alcohol ordinance, according to The Brunswick News.

Passed unanimously, the new city code replaces the former section and covers several other items. Most businesses that sell alcohol won’t see a change to their existing operations. Licensing fees won’t change, nor will the process for obtaining a license. Rather, the new ordinance would create whole new classes and licensing fees for manufacturers who sell and could serve their products.

Notably, the new ordinance passed did not include a previous provision that would have required servers of alcohol to obtain licenses — so called “bar cards.” Commissioners backed down from that proposal earlier this month after outcry on social media.

Valdosta State University political scientists will speak about the 2018 elections at the first Coffee Talk this afternoon, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Richard B. Russell Airport in Rome took delivery of an historic F-14, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

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