Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 9, 2019

The first modern circus was held in London on January 9, 1768.

Thomas Paine published a pamphlet titled, “Common Sense” on January 9, 1776. The pamphlet is considered to have united colonists to the cause of American independence.

Herman Talmadge was sworn-in to his second term as Governor of Georgia on January 9, 1951.

Segregated seating on Atlanta buses was held unconstitutional by a federal court on January 9, 1959.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived in Athens to register at the University of Georgia on January 9, 1961.

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, debuted the iPhone on January 9, 2007.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor-Elect Brian Kemp begins a victory lap “thank you tour” of Georgia today, according to WGAU in Athens.

Today, Governor-elect Kemp will be in Augusta and then Savannah this evening. Tomorrow the tour will hit Fort Valley, Blakely, and Tift County. On Friday there will be stops in Whitesburg and Gainesville, and then on Saturday a stop in Dalton. Kemp, who defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams last November, is calling it his “thank you tour.”

Kemp’s inauguration will be held on Monday at Georgia Tech. A prayer service will follow at the Cathedral of St Phillip in Atlanta.

The final tally for spending in the 2018 election for Georgia Governor reaches nearly $50 million dollars, according to the AJC.

A year-end report released Tuesday, covering the period from Oct. 25 to Dec. 31, shows that Kemp collected about $22.1 million throughout the contest, including about $1.1 million in the final stretch of the race.

Abrams surpassed her rival’s tally by taking in about $27.6 million through the end of the year, netting more than $5.4 million since late October. She collected about $2 million of that sum during the 10 days after the vote before she quit the race.

Their hauls add to an already significant total: The state Republican and Democratic parties raised more than $34 million, and the other candidates collected roughly $23 million before they were vanquished in the primaries.

Kemp ends the year with about $700,000 in cash in the bank as his aides shifted fundraising efforts to raise money for his inaugural. Abrams reported about $240,000 left in her coffers.

The reports also shed light on Abrams’ new ventures. She shifted $1 million on Nov. 20 to Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group that Abrams launched shortly after she ended her bid. A separate Fair Fight PAC reported raising about $220,000 over the final two months of the year.

Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Executive Director Stefan Ritter was placed on leave, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Georgia Ethics Commission has suspended its director with pay while they investigate allegations that he misused state computers.

The commission voted Tuesday to suspend Stefan Ritter for what chairman Jake Evans said where “allegations of improper workplace conduct.”

Ritter told reporters Monday the allegations against him were untrue, saying he had not seen the specific complaints.

State legislators will likely consider modernizing Georgia’s election machines, according to the AJC.

The multimillion-dollar purchase of a more secure statewide voting system is a priority for this year’s legislative session, which starts Monday. Legislators generally agree that the state should start using paper ballots to replace the all-digital touchscreen system in place since 2002, but they strongly differ over what kind of paper-based system to buy.

Intense debates over voter disenfranchisement are also certain to arise. A bill has already been filed to curb mass voter registration cancellations, and other measures could address ballot cancellations, voting hours, early voting times, precinct closures and district boundaries.

But the state’s planned switch to paper ballots will command lawmakers’ attention after a federal judge wrote in a ruling in the fall that state election officials “had buried their heads in the sand” about the risk that the state’s voting system could be hacked.

Now, the Georgia General Assembly will have to pick between paper ballots bubbled in by hand and paper ballots filled in by a computer.

Athens-Clarke County had four new Commissioners and a new Mayor sworn-in, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Patrick Davenport is the new District 1 commissioner after defeating incumbent Sharyn Dickerson in last May’s nonpartisan commission elections. Tim Denson in District 5 likewise unseated incumbent Jared Bailey.

In District 7, Russell Edwards won a three-person race to replace Diane Bell, who didn’t seek re-election, and in District 9, longtime school board member Ovita Thornton won the race to succeed Kelly Girtz.

Girtz now succeeds Nancy Denson as Athens-Clarke County mayor.

Besides the four new commissioners, one more is beginning a new term; District 5 voters sent incumbent Commissioner Melissa Link back for a second term.

Ramon Alvarado has been sworn-in as the first Korean-Hispanic judge in Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“My dad’s Puerto Rican and my mom’s Korean, so I am the first Hispanic (person) to be on the bench and also the first Korean on the bench,” Alvarado said. “It’s interesting, because if you look at people who are in court, there’s a lot of diversity in the crowd. So I think it’s important in Gwinnett that there is more diversity on the bench.”

Given that Gwinnett is the state’s most diverse county — it’s the only county in Georgia that is required to have Spanish-language election ballots, which stems from a December 2016 U.S. Census Bureau designation in which the federal government said Gwinnett’s Spanish-speaking population was now large enough that elections have to be done in English and Spanish — it’s fitting that Gwinnett’s courts are beginning to look more like its residents, Alvarado said.

“Having folks be able to relate to the person sitting up there on the bench is (important),” he said. “Overall, I think Gwinnett has done a great job with trying to be diverse on the bench, and frankly, I just don’t know that there’s been many candidates who have been Korean or Hispanic who have been qualified. I don’t think it’s for a lack of trying; I just don’t think there’s been a lot of opportunity.”

“I really view (Gwinnett Recorder’s Court) as the face of the court system in Gwinnett,” Alvarado said. “I know the other judges don’t like to hear that — they’re in state court, superior court, and they have a lot of serious, important cases — but I think I see the most people in Gwinnett County, because a lot of people come through here every day. What I want to do is provide people with a very positive experience of what the court system is.”

State Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) will succeed the late State Rep. John Meadows as Chair of the House Rules Committee, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The move leaves open the chairman’s seat on the committee tasked with writing tax laws, triggering a domino effect that will play out over the next week as lawmakers return to Atlanta for the new legislative session.

“Chairman Powell is an experienced leader in the House, and he has earned the trust of our members,” Speaker David Ralston said in a statement announcing his decision to put Powell in the role. “I know he will continue to serve with distinction, and I congratulate him on this well-deserved appointment.”

Powell, who is an attorney, represents portions of Colquitt and Mitchell counties. He has chaired the House Ways and Means Committee for the last three years and has co-chaired the speaker’s Rural Development Council for the last two.

He was first elected to the House in 2008 after a stint as mayor of Camilla.

“My primary concern is to make sure that we have good legislation that makes it to the floor,” Powell said. “And I think that the rules committee has been very proficient at that. We don’t waste a whole lot of time debating bills that either are not good policy or that still have problems with them.”

State House District 5 voters sent Jesse Vaughn and Matt Barton to a Special Runoff Election on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Calhoun attorney Jesse Vaughn had the most votes in Tuesday’s special election for state House of Representatives District 5, but since he did not receive more than 50 percent of the vote, he and businessman Matt Barton, who came in second, face off in a runoff on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Vaughn, a Republican and an attorney with Vaughn & Clements P.C., had the most votes in the six-man race with 1,187 votes (33.72 percent). Barton, a Republican and former member of the Calhoun City Council and the Calhoun Board of Education, came in second with 815 votes (23.15 percent).

Overall, 3,520 people voted, or 12.26 percent of registered voters in the district.

In Murray County, 150 people voted or 5.47 percent of registered voters.

Barton and Vaughn said they will move immediately into campaigning for the runoff.

State House District 176 voters will go to the polls on February 12, 2019 in a Special Election to fill the State House seat vacated by State Rep. Jason Shaw, who was appointed to the Georgia Public Service Commission, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

James Burchett has announced his candidacy for the Feb. 12 special election for House District 176, which covers portions of Lowndes, Lanier, Ware and Atkinson counties.

Burchett describes himself as “a family-oriented Christian conservative that wants to take your voice to the Statehouse.”

In Atlanta, Burchett “aims to represent your interests, over special interests,” according to his campaign announcement. “He is a small business owner and family man who will fight for our shared conservative values.”

Burchett said he plans to advocate for agricultural, education, rural broadband, transportation and to simplify health care.

The Augusta Commission has fired their Human Resources Director, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Columbia County Board of Education members voted to place an E-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education) on the March ballot, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

District 3 representative Teasley and other board members, including re-elected District 1 representative Kristi Baker, unanimously voted in favor of a referendum resolution for a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax for education that residents will vote on in March.

“Doesn’t everyone want to start voting on an E-SPLOST?” Teasley said. “It’s a very necessary thing … and hopefully the voters will approve and the sooner we can get started because the schools definitely need it.”

Sandra Davis was appointed as the new Clerk of Columbus City Council, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Gainesville City Council voted to approve earlier alcohol sales on Sundays, according to AccessWDUN.

The vote to amend the city’s alcohol ordinance moving the Sunday serving time up 90-minutes from 12:30 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. had one dissenting vote.

Councilman George Wangemann voted against the earlier start time saying that his vote represents the segment of city residents that do not approve of the change. Wangemann has said in the past that the results of the November referendum weren’t unanimous so he feels his “No” vote represents that portion of voters who disapprove of the amendment.

Cinnamon Spurlock was sworn-in as Mayor of Helen, Georgia, according to AccessWDUN.

Ray Ingle was reappointed to the Murray County Board of Education, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Ingle was selected on Sept. 24 by school board members to fill the unexpired term for the District 5 seat previously held by Mitchell Wilson, who moved out of the district and could no longer serve on the board. The term ended on Dec. 31 and shortly before that, board members unanimously reappointed Ingle to serve in the seat until a special election is held on March 19. Qualifying begins in February.

Keep Golden Isles Beautiful is seeking volunteers to help clean Fort Frededica during the federal government shutdown, according to The Brunswick News.

Both Fort Frederica, at 6515 Frederica Road, and the Bloody Marsh Battle Site park, located in the bend on Old Demere Road, have managed to remain open to the public despite the government shutdown. With the federally-employed staff who work the two sites home on furlough until the budget dispute between President Trump and Congress is worked out, site manager Theus alone is performing the basic minimum work necessary to keep the gates open to the public he serves.

That is why Lea King-Badyna of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful decided to lend a hand. The nonprofit organization is seeking volunteers to help with basic cleanup at the two sites, she said. The volunteers’ efforts would include emptying trash cans and litter patrols on the grounds at both locations, she said. KGIB will provide gloves and trash bags.

Fort Frederica is the site of the British settlement established in 1736 in conjunction with the founding of the Colony of Georgia by Gen. James Oglethorpe. Some ramparts from the fort remain standing and archaeological expeditions at the site have revealed various numerous homes and trade shops that made up the colonial community.

Bloody Marsh Battle Site National Monument is believed to be the grounds where Oglethorpe’s forces defeated invading Spanish forces, ending Spain’s attempts at colonizing north of Florida. The site consists of shaded parking, a gazebo, historical plaques and an overlook of the marsh that is a favorite of working folks on their lunch hour and other visitors. No staff is on site, but its trash is maintained by the Fort Frederica park service.

The Glynn County Board of Elections is asking for money to open a third early voting location, according to The Brunswick News.

The City of Statesboro is working to revise its 10-year comprehensive plan, according to the Statesboro Herald.

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