Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 4, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 4, 2019

On February 4, 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College as the first President of the United States; Washington’s runner-up John Adams served as Vice President. Washington would repeat the feat four years later on February 4, 1793.

On February 4, 1801, John Marshall took office as Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall continued to hold the post of Secretary of State until March 4th. In one of American history’s rich ironies, Marshall, who served at the same time in the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government, would write the Court’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison, establishing the supremacy of the Supreme Court in matters of applying the Constitution through judicial review and establishing the doctrine of separation of powers. Marshall would serve during the terms of six Presidents.

On February 4, 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress convened in Montgomery, Alabama, where it would draft a Constitution for the Confederate States of America, beginning with a near-verbatim copy of the United States Constitution.

On February 4, 1976, the Georgia Senate approved a resolution previously passed by the State House proposing a Constitutional Amendment to allow Governors of Georgia to serve two consecutive terms and voters approved in November 1976. Then-Governor George Busbee won reelection in November 1978, and since then Democrat Roy Barnes is the only Georgia Governor to not win reelection.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State House District 28 voters will head to the polls yet again, according to the AJC.

A judge on Friday ordered a rare second do-over election for a northeast Georgia House seat, finding that four voters didn’t live in the district, throwing its outcome into doubt.

The new election means that voters will return to the polls for a third time to decide between Republicans Dan Gasaway and Chris Erwin.

Erwin appeared to win the first redo of the election in December by just two votes, but Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat decided Friday that four voters had moved out of House District 28 more than 30 days before the election. Because the contest was so close, the judge found that the four improper votes justified a new election.

“If you’re in an election, you should want to win it legally. We all should,” Gasaway said. “I don’t know that I’ll win, but if I win I want it to be a legal election, and if I lose I want it to be a legal election.”

Erwin, who took office in January, must step down while the outcome of the race remains in doubt, said Gasaway’s attorney, Jake Evans.

It’s unclear when the next election will be held. House District 28 covers about half of Habersham County, as well as Banks and Stephens counties. There’s no Democratic Party candidate in the race.

The Washington Post profiles Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams ahead of her delivery of the Democratic response to the State of the Union.

The former state legislator has stayed on the public stage and stoked interest by declaring that she will run for elected office again, perhaps as soon as next year for the U.S. Senate or maybe for president, joining a crowded field.

Abrams “is a present and future leader in this country” and “a dynamic, moral leader,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in announcing her selection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Abrams’s “electrifying message of courage, perseverance and hope reinvigorated our nation and our politics.”

Aides said that Abrams, who proved herself to be an inspiring orator on the campaign trail, is writing her own speech. She weaves together stories of her life and anecdotes of people she has met on the campaign trail to help explain her policy positions and to connect with audiences.

Abrams describes herself as an introvert. “I prefer to be alone and tend not to be as gregarious and outspoken,” she said in an interview. That doesn’t mean she did not enjoy campaigning: “There is something wonderful about being able to talk to voters and hear people’s stories,” she said, “and luckily, because I’m an introvert, I spend most of the time listening.

Kiana Jackson, who heads the Young Democrats chapter at Albany State University, said she hopes that Abrams will challenge Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), the state’s junior senator, who is up for reelection next year.

“I feel that having a black female senator out of the state of Georgia would just send a message,” she said. “The South has this image of being really racist, really backwards. . . . I think having someone who is a progressive representing Georgia on the national level, I think that would be so amazing.”

Governor Brian Kemp spoke to the Savannah Morning News about local and state issues.

Kemp said offshore drilling is not right for Georgia.

“I support offshore drilling, I just don’t think we need to be doing it off the coast of Georgia,” Kemp said.

Kemp pointed to Georgia’s military and tourism concerns as part of the reason for his opposition.

As to replacing, or removing, the Talmadge Bridge to allow expected super-sized ships to call on Savannah in the next decade or so, Kemp said many studies have to be done to find the best way to proceed.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Republican and Democratic governors from Maine to Florida have widely condemned President Donald Trump’s five-year plan to open 90 percent of the nation’s offshore oil reserves to private development. Opponents say oil spills could foul communities that depend on commercial fishing and beach tourism. Supporters say drilling would boost coastal economies.

Kemp’s opposition puts him at odds with Trump, whose endorsement helped Kemp win the GOP nomination for governor last year. Still, Kemp said he’s fine with drilling off “any other state than Georgia that wants to do it.” Asked if he plans to take action to protect Georgia, he said: “I don’t know that it’s fixing to happen here.”

“Certainly if something changes in that regard, I would definitely weigh in on that,” Kemp told the newspaper. “I wouldn’t think that they’re going to do something like that if we don’t want it.”

He added: “That’s my position and I’ll fight for that position.”

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Georgia lawmakers are pushing a similar anti-drilling resolution in the Republican-led legislature. The measure failed to get a vote last year.

After Gov. Brian Kemp appointed a committee to investigate allegations against McIntosh County Superior Court Clerk Rebecca McFerrin, more details emerged, according to The Brunswick News.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Wednesday forming a committee composed of Attorney General Chris Carr and two county clerks of court to investigate McFerrin’s office and to report back within 30 days.

The request came in the form of a letter from Chief Superior Court Robert L. Russell and State Court Judge C. Jean Bolin in the latter months of the administration of Gov. Nathan Deal. In the Oct. 18 letter, the judges cite McFerrin’s successful 2016 campaign based on her experience and knowledge. McFerrin had worked in the clerk’s office 10 years and was the acting clerk of Superior Court when she was elected in November 2016.

With that said, the judges asserted that some irregularities began shortly after McFerrin took the oath of office. Russell and Bolin wrote that McFerrin appeared to have a lack of knowledge and that she ignored repeated advice from judges “regarding her role as clerk and the importance of established procedure.”

The chief judge received allegations in September that McFerrin had mishandled a number of criminal cases, the letter said.

McFerrin said Friday she was aware the complaint was made but has not seen it.

Gov. Kemp attended Georgia’s First Lego League State Championship, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The state championship will be awarded to one of the 64 teams competing at the two venues. It was streamed live on the Internet and the winner will advance to the national robotics competition.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp showed up to encourage the students, speaking in an auditorium filled to capacity with students, their coaches and parents.

“This competition is going to help you with life,” Kemp said. “Never stop dreaming. What you are doing today will help you be a dreamer and help you accomplish goals even if you don’t’ finish in first place.”

“It was interesting driving in this morning and seeing people from Houston County and folks from Columbus. People are coming in from a long ways to compete and that’s impressive,” the governor said.

But he stressed how it was hard work that helped the students reach this point.

“I had a lot of good mentors and teachers through my life that taught me not only how to do things, but also the value of working hard every day even when times get difficult,” said Kemp, the father of three daughters, one a senior at Athens Academy.

Kemp also named Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds, a Republican, as the new Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to GPB News.

Kemp and Reynolds are allies in targeting gang violence in the state of Georgia. Kemp has been searching for a new director since Vernon Keenan, GBI head for 15 years, announced his plans to retire in mid-December.

Reynolds is a former police officer, chief magistrate judge, prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. He was elected as Cobb’s District Attorney in 2012.

“Vic Reynolds is a courageous leader with unmatched experience,” said Governor Kemp. “As District Attorney, Vic led efforts to dismantle gangs and protect local families from crime and violence. As GBI Director, he will work around the clock to ensure a safer, stronger Georgia.”

State Senator Zahra Karinshak (D-Duluth) is the new Chair of the Gwinnett delegation to the Georgia General Assembly, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Karinshak was named the chairwoman of Gwinnett’s Senate delegation on Thursday, heading up a bipartisan leadership team for the county in the Georgia Senate. Her fellow leaders in the county’s Senate delegation include Sen. Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, who will be vice-chairman and Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, who will be the delegation’s secretary.

“Local legislation is a key piece of the puzzle that makes up state government and how it functions as a whole,” Karinshak said. “I look forward to working with the entire Senate team in a bipartisan manner to support legislation that will continue growth and prosperity in Gwinnett County.”

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) about border security, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Graves is a member of the bipartisan Conference Committee on Border Security — charged with crafting a spending deal to avert a government shutdown by Feb. 15. to secure the southern border. The Ranger Republican discussed his concerns late last week during appearances on several cable TV shows.

“It is about providing the necessary resources to secure our homeland and we know it’s a very comprehensive…it’s a very complex discussion. It’s not binary. It’s not black or white. It is actually very dynamic,” he continued. “But you can only begin these negotiations if it’s good faith. (Democrats) are not operating in good faith at this point, if they’re hiding their proposal not only from us but their own membership.”

Graves said he’s still hopeful the conferees can put together a proposal that addresses the “humanitarian and a security crisis at our border.” But he said Democrats must be more transparent.

“I think they are in a definitions game,” he said in a Thursday interview with Steve Doocy on Fox & Friends. “They’re trying to find consensus on the definition of what we all know to be true and needed — and that is a wall, or a fence, or an obstruction at our border that prevents any criminal activity from entering into our country and securing our country as well.”

Congressman Doug Collins and Congresswoman Lucy McBath (D-TN-GA) disagree over whether lines to vote are good, according to AccessWDUN.

“We discussed long lines — that actually should be applauded. We have long lines because a lot of people wanted to vote,” said Collins, a Republican who represents Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, while defending Georgia elections.

Later in the hearing, newly elected Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath shot back at Collins.

“My colleague, Congressman Collins, said earlier today that he thought that long lines to vote in Georgia were a good sign,” McBath said. “And I know many of his Republican colleagues absolutely believe the same thing, and I can tell you, I do not.”

She called the long lines “at best a sign of underinvestment in voting and at worst a form of extreme voter suppression.”

Collins said increased voter turnout and record participation caused the long lines. He also said that if there were problems in individual counties, people could vote out county election officials in those areas.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Watson will not run for reelection, according to the AJC.

The Georgia GOP will soon have a wide-open election for a new leader after chair John Watson told supporters Saturday he would not seek another term at the top of the organization.

Watson was elected in 2017 to lead a party that was mired in a costly race discrimination lawsuit, hobbled by fundraising struggles and struggled with poor ties with elected officials.

Watson defeated an outsider candidate in the third round of balloting after hours of tense vote-wrangling, becoming the first establishment-backed candidate to lead the party since Republicans won complete control of the Statehouse.

After a rural-based strategy in 2018, Republicans aim to reverse their suburban wipeout in the next election. Democrats expect to draw more attention and resources than ever, particularly if Abrams decides to challenge first-term Sen. David Perdue.

And on Saturday, shortly before Watson made his decision formal, veteran GOP activist Scott Johnson announced his candidacy.

Johnson, an ally of Watson, sits on the board of the Georgia Department of Education and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and is former chairman of the Cobb GOP.

Augusta Juvenile Court employees will receive raises funded by county contingency funds, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Augusta Commission’s Administrative Services Committee voted last week to give $138,000 of the city’s $250,000 contingency fund to boost the salaries of employees of Richmond County Juvenile Court. The full commission must approve the transfer Tuesday.

Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. and Juvenile Court Chief Judge Doug Flanagan have long complained about the salaries for those Juvenile Court employees, and last year City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson put those salaries through the same compensation study that other city employees got in 2017. Jackson told the committee last week that almost all of the eight employees would receive a raise starting next month in addition to the 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment all of the other employees got at the beginning of the year.

Jill Nolin, writing for the Valdosta Daily Times, writes about broadband availability in rural Georgia.

There are more than 3,300 people in Brooks County who lack access to broadband, according to a new state Department of Community Affairs map. That’s more than 1,600 homes and 22 businesses sitting in digital darkness.

Radford has something else in common, though, with many rural Georgians who are living with little to no internet service: They are also customers of not-for-profit electric cooperatives, which have been piping electricity to rural communities nationally since the 1930s.

A proposal to empower these electric co-ops, along with a handful of telephone co-ops, to provide broadband service has once again emerged in the General Assembly as a way to help boost rural broadband. It’s the third such attempt.

A lead proponent of the measure, Rep. Penny Houston, a Republican from Nashville, is pushing the idea this year with a sense of urgency, citing a looming application deadline for $600 million in federal loans and grants for rural broadband.

Statewide, at least 626,070 people live without access to broadband service, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

But it’s probably closer to 1.6 million Georgians who lack access to adequate broadband, according to the state Department of Community Affairs, which is in the midst of a statewide mapping project.

Chatham County Police are claiming a reduction in crime after splitting from the Savannah Police, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The council voted in June 2017 to give the county the required six months’ notice to terminate the merger after failing to get a commitment from the county to fund additional officers. One month later, they voted to end the Savannah-Chatham partnership.

Savannah police and Chatham police became separate entities.

For Savannah police, it meant a slight restructuring of the department. But for Chatham police, it meant building an entirely new department.

Crime in unincorporated Chatham overall was down 6.3 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.

The largest jump in violent crime from 2017 to 2018 was in residential robberies. In 2017, Savannah-Chatham police investigated four in the unincorporated areas; in 2018, they investigated 11.

The Downtown Dalton Development Authority and the Carl Vinson Institute at UGA will unveil a new master plan for Dalton, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

On Tuesday, at 6 p.m. at Stage 123 at 123 W. Gordon St., that plan will be unveiled.

George Woodward, who was interim director of the Downtown Dalton Development Authority (DDDA) for most of that time and helped shape the plan, said the study is very comprehensive.

“It addresses what things can be done immediately to improve the looks of downtown, what things can be done longer term to improve the walkability and finally what we can do as a community to put in more development tools and financial assistance to be able to develop downtown into a destination,” Woodward said.

“Sonic Sea” is a film documentary about sea noise, according to The Brunswick News.

“But more specifically to Georgia’s coast, I know we’re all really worked up about the seismic, and those are huge concerns all the way from zooplankton…. The zooplankton, we know they’re affected all the way up to North Atlantic right whales. A recent study showed, on the moms and calves — which are our concern — are communicating on a very quiet level. So imagine what they were showing, with that masking of the sound, the static in the background. And then you have a mom and calf that are already super-quiet off our coast.”

“I want to go back to what Michael Jasny (of the Natural Resources Defense Council) said (in the film), is that the Navy has been pretty responsive, and they have funded a lot of research, especially in the Jacksonville Op(erating) Area, because they are doing sonar work out there, so they do fund a lot of research as well,” Cox said.

The Jacksonville Operating Area extends, more or less, from Daytona Beach north to just below Savannah, and extends out into the ocean.

Communities all along the Georgia coast passed resolutions against offshore oil exploration, along with Atlanta, which is the site of a significant amount of seafood processing. Also, state legislators on the Georgia coast unanimously announced their opposition to fossil fuel exploration, a stance backed by Gov. Brian Kemp. A bipartisan consensus of governors up and down the Atlantic Coast made public their opposition, as well.

“The Altamaha Delta is recognized by the Nature Conservancy as a biosphere of significance internationally, and just last year we celebrated the acknowledgement that Georgia is a landscape of hemispheric importance for shorebirds,” Keyes said. “Also, with almost half a million acres of salt marsh, we support a third of the remaining salt marsh on the East Coast. And like my colleague said, this is the place where the last remaining — there are only 400 individuals left — the last remaining right whales come have their babies, and that’s happening right now.”

The Statesboro Downtown Tax Allocation District is prepared to do business, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Statesboro’s Downtown Tax Allocation District now has bylaws, procedures for applying for TAD funding for projects aimed at redevelopment in the district, and about $300,000 in the bank.

Before adopting the policies and procedures Thursday afternoon in the city’s Joe Brannen Hall, the TAD Advisory Committee in November had named its officers, including longtime hotel developer Doug Lambert as chair. The Nov. 29 meeting was also where the committee adopted its bylaws, subject to a few changes that had since been applied by City Attorney Cain Smith.

“We’ve got the organizational work done, the groundwork, you know, getting the bylaws and electing officers and getting the procedures for applying for projects, and I think now we’re just ready for some projects,” Lambert said after the meeting.

City Council must ultimately approve any payouts of TAD funds. But under the agreement, the council cannot approve any project unless it is first recommended by the committee.

Senoia was named a “Work, Live, Play” city by the Georgia Municipal Association, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Senoia was one of two winners in the “Population under 5,000” category and one of nine winners overall. Carrollton was honored in the “Medium city” category.

“These nine cities truly embody well-rounded communities that benefit residents and businesses alike,” said GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson. “They also serve as examples for local governments across Georgia. Officials in these cities have demonstrated advanced problem-solving, exceptional management and teamwork to increase the overall quality of life for all residents.”

“It’s awesome,” Senoia Mayor Jeff Fisher said of the award. “It’s a higher quality of life,” he said.

“It tells us we’re on the right track.”

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