Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 30, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 30, 2019

George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America in New York City on April 30, 1789. From Washington’s inaugural address:

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.

On April 30, 1803, negotiators from France and the United States finished discussions of the Louisiana Purchase, which would double the size of the country.

By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power: from New Orleans northeast to the Great Lakes and northwest to modern-day Montana. In 1762, during the French and Indian War, France ceded its America territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain and in 1763 transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain. Spain, no longer a dominant European power, did little to develop Louisiana Territory during the next three decades. In 1796, Spain allied itself with France, leading Britain to use its powerful navy to cut off Spain from America.In 1801, Spain signed a secret treaty with France to return Louisiana Territory to France.

Reports of the retrocession caused considerable uneasiness in the United States. Since the late 1780s, Americans had been moving westward into the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys, and these settlers were highly dependent on free access to the Mississippi River and the strategic port of New Orleans. U.S. officials feared that France, resurgent under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, would soon seek to dominate the Mississippi River and access to the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. envoys agreed to pay $11,250,000 and assumed claims of its citizens against France in the amount of $3,750,000. In exchange, the United States acquired the vast domain of Louisiana Territory, some 828,000 square miles of land. In October, Congress ratified the purchase, and in December 1803 France formally transferred authority over the region to the United States. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre was Thomas Jefferson’s most notable achievement as president.

On April 30, 1886, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrived in LaGrange, Georgia for the unveiling of a monument to Benjamin Hill.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham‘s announced retirement has drawn two candidates into the 2020 election for an open seat on the state’s high court.

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle was first out of the gate, according to the Daily Report.

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often—for there to be an open seat,” Doyle told the Daily Report Friday.

Both developments are historic for the court. Benham is the longest-serving member—appointed by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in 1989—and the first African American justice. His departure will leave the court with only one jurist of color: Chief Justice Harold Melton. The court also has only one woman, Justice Sarah Warren—appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal last year. Only three other women have served in the court’s history:  Justice Leah Ward Sears, who retired in 2009; Justice Carol Hunstein, who retired last year; and Justice Britt Grant, who left last when when President Donald Trump nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

“I started thinking about this a couple of years ago,” Doyle said Friday. That’s when she finished her term as chief judge, and she missed the administrative and representative duties. In talking with justices she knows, she thought she would enjoy the greater role they play on state commissions and boards. Plus she loves writing opinions and delving into the kind of cases that usually go on to the high court from the intermediate appellate court, she said.

“The things that get you excited are those bigger cases that are usually taken up on cert. Those are the ones that keep you up at night,” she said.

Doyle ran for an open seat to win election to the Court of Appeals in 2008. The former Holland & Knight partner beat six opponents to win the job.

Former Democratic Congressman and 2018 candidate for Secretary of State John Barrow has also announced, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Barrow, who lost a December runoff for Georgia secretary of state to Brad Raffensperger, said in a statement that he hopes to replace retiring Justice Robert Benham.

“When Justice Benham retires, the Supreme Court will lose almost as much experience as the rest of the court combined,” Barrow said. “That’s why I’m running, to offer my experience to help maintain the kind of balance we want in our Supreme Court.”

Barrow said former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans will chair his campaign. Evans lost in the Democratic primary to nominee Stacey Abrams.

Barrow’s father was a Superior Court judge who oversaw the integration of Clarke County, Ga., schools in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He attained his law degree from Harvard Law School, has clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 5th and 11th circuits, and practiced law for 23 years, the statement said.

Democrat Stacey Abrams announced she will not run for the United States Senate against Republican Senator David Perdue, according to GPB News.

In an interview with GPB News Monday night, Abrams said that she is also not ruling out a White House run next year but will also not provide a timeline for any decision on that race. There are currently 20 candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

“What I want is to continue to address the challenges that I see in our state and in our country around voter suppression and making certain that people are counted in the census,” she responded, without missing a beat.

The former state House Minority Leader said she will instead continue to work on two Georgia-focused initiatives, Fair Fight (dealing with Georgia’s elections) and Fair Count (dealing with the census) and find ways to “continue to center Georgia, but think about how we as a state continue to be a part of a national conversation.”

Her next run is likely to be a rematch with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who narrowly defeated Abrams in a nationally-watched race that served as a proxy war over voting rights and the role the state should play in overseeing elections.

Abrams spoke to the New York Times for an article published earlier this week.

“If people I respect legitimately think this is something that could be so,” Abrams said about the possibility of a challenge for the country’s highest office, “and it’s not my mom and sister saying, ‘You should do this,’ then I owe those people the courtesy of thinking it through.”

Do you have self-doubt about anything? I don’t characterize it as self-doubt. I characterize it as evaluation. You should always give thought to what you want and why you want it, and that’s why for me having an unusually public rumination has been a bit discomfiting. These are important jobs. It’s not that I doubt my capacity, but I need to make certain I’m doing it for the right reasons. Yes, I believe I could win a Senate election. I’m determined. I’m a very good campaigner. But the question is: Do I want to do the work of being a senator in the way that I think it should be done? And am I the best person? The answers may be no. But knowing that is not a function of doubt or confidence. It’s a function of: Is this the most effective role for me to play? And: Does it help me do the work that I think needs to be done?

What about self-doubt outside politics? Dating has been this sort of glaring issue.

Welcome to the world. Exactly. I’ve jokingly said I wasn’t good at dating so I stopped doing it. I regret that I allowed self-doubt in that one area to color how I approached an entire facet of my life. I’m working to remedy that, but it’s taken some time for me to get there. So yes, I am capable of self-doubt. It’s usually not in the professional space, but in the romantic-relationship space.

Given how well you did in that election with increasing turnout, what factors explain your opponent, Brian Kemp, doing as well as he did and winning? Georgia’s a very divided state. In the South, and in Georgia in particular, race is the strongest predictor of political leanings.

The white population is still largely Republican, and the communities of color are largely Democratic-leaning. That means you have a divided politics. I’ve never denied that. The issue is, are all of the people speaking up? That has not been so in Georgia. In the 2014 election cycle, 1.1 million Democrats showed up. In my cycle, 1.9 million. That addition of 800,000 voters is emblematic of who wasn’t speaking up before. But what we call attention to are the 1.4 million-plus who were purged and the 53,000 who weren’t processed and the thousands who were given provisional ballots. I do not believe that Georgia has made this dramatic transition to a space where we no longer have conservatives in the state. My point is that I believe we have reached a place where those who share my values actually outnumber those who share the values of my opponent. And that wasn’t made manifest because of his structural racism and how he diminished people’s ability to vote.

I saw that recently you said something like you’d won your election but you just didn’t get to have the job. Yes.

From the AJC:

[Abrams’s decision] triggers a new phase of the Senate race, which has been slow to develop while Abrams has deliberated. She plans to stay neutral in that contest, which so far has attracted one candidate who said she would run only if Abrams does not.

In the interview, Abrams said she was tempted by the possibility of challenging Perdue, who she said has struck “an allegiance with Donald Trump that’s not in the best service of Georgians.”

But she’s long favored seeking an executive role, she said, and stuck with her instincts after much deliberation.

“It’s a job. In the hullabaloo of running for office there’s an amnesia about that. People are interviewing for a job and the responsibility is to think through that job. And you have to think about what it’s like in the worst day of that job,” she said.

Even as she closed the door on a Senate run, she pointedly did not rule out a White House bid. She’s stoked that possibility in a string of headline-generating appearances, though she’s issued no firm timeline on her decision.

“This conversation was about the Senate,” she told the AJC. “I have not decided what I’m going to do about other races, but Georgia will always be at the center of my plans.”

Former Bibb County Superintendent of School Romain Dallemand entered prison in Ocala, Florida, to serve his sentence for a tax evasion conviction, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Warner Robins Economic Development Director Gary Lee has been reinstated to the position from which he was suspended after an indictment, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“After careful and prayerful consideration I have come to the decision to reinstate Gary Lee to active service with pay,” [Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Keith] Lauritsen said in the release. “I believe it to be in the best interest of the city to allow the district attorney’s case against Mr. Lee to be resolved, and thus postpone any actions by the city until the outcome of this legal matter is determined.”

The charges against Lee stem from an investigation by the Houston County sheriff’s office into allegations of possible criminal misconduct allegedly made by Lee against another city employee in his department. Lee reported the allegations to Toms. Lee is accused of falsely telling a sheriff’s investigator that he did not sign a document regarding the city’s alcohol and controlled substance policy. The investigator concluded that Lee did sign the document.

Governor Brian Kemp traveled to Savannah to sign legislation renaming the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center as the Savannah Convention Center, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Kemp sat in the building in question before a crowd of about 75 on Sunday afternoon where he signed House Bill 525 into law. He had been in town for a few days for his first 100 days tour. Last Thursday, Kemp announced that a California-based plastics resin company is bringing close to 200 jobs to Pooler.

“Today I’ll be signing a bill that creates the Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority, a new state-based entity right here in Chatham County, to oversee and maintain this building for future conventions, trade shows and economic development opportunities,” Kemp said. “This legislature also changes the building’s name from the Georgia International Maritime Trade Center to the Savannah Convention Center.”

Sen. Ben Watson (R-District 1) said the former name was a mouthful.

“The name was a little bit of a struggle prior to this, and this makes it a little bit simpler. It more accurately reflects the structure of the convention center, so the funding mechanism and the authority that will be governing it now will reflect what will be happening in the future,” Watson said.

The bill was sponsored by Ron Stephens (R-District 164) and initially passed the House in early March. On March 28, the Senate voted to pass the bill with an amendment introduced by Watson to assign the convention center under the Department of Economic Development for administrative purposes along with adding it to the list of state authorities. The House passed the bill on April 2.

The bill gives the governor the power to appoint six of its 11 voting members. Previously, each of six state representatives and two state senators from Chatham County ha[d] the ability to appoint a member to the local authority.

Governor Kemp also signed House Bill 471, which addresses police stops for suspected DUI, according to the AJC.

A new Georgia law prevents police officers from telling drivers that their refusal to take breathalyzer tests could be used against them in court.

The legislation, House Bill 471, changes the language police officers read to suspected drunk drivers when they’re pulled over.

The bill passed the Georgia General Assembly after the state Supreme Court ruled in February that requiring suspects to blow into breathalyzers is a violation of constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

Officers can still mandate blood or urine tests, and they can also ask drivers to voluntarily take breathalyzer tests.

Senate Bill 6 by States Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Cobb), to prevent drones from flying over state prisons, receieved Kemp’s signature, according to the AJC.

Gov. Kemp named three new members of the State Board of Education, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced the appointment of Scott Sweeney to represent the 6th Congressional District on the state education board Monday. Sweeney, a businessman, is from East Cobb and represented the area during two four-year terms on the county school board. The Republican was defeated by a Democrat in his re-election bid last year, and replaces accountant Barbara Hampton on the state board.

Kemp also appointed retired Dougherty County Schools Superintendent David “Butch” Mosely to fill the open state board seat for the 2nd Congressional District. Mosely, who retired in 2017, led seven school districts and was named 1999 Superintendent of the Year by the Georgia Association of Education Leaders.

Jason Downey, a lawyer and former Macon-Bibb County school board member, was appointed to succeed Vann Parrott in the 8th Congressional District.

Kemp also named two new members of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the agency that credentials teachers: Coweta County Schools Superintendent Steven Barker and retired teacher Catherine Jones, now the executive director of the Butts County Chamber of Commerce.

Qualifying has opened in a June 18, 2019 Special Election for Coweta County Sheriff, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Qualifying for the Coweta County Sheriff’s race began Monday morning and runs through noon on Wednesday.

Candidates for sheriff must pay a $2,425 qualifying fee and submit certified copies of their birth certificates and high school diplomas, as well as a fingerprint and background check performed by the Coweta County Probate Court.

The special election for sheriff, to fill the unexpired term of Mike Yeager, will be June 18. It will be the only issue on the ballot.

Early voting for the election runs May 28 to June 14, at both Coweta early voting locations – the Voter Registration Office at 22 East Broad St., Newnan, and Central Community Center, 65 Literary Lane, Newnan, near Sharpsburg. There will be one Saturday of early voting, June 8.

A federal court heard a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Stacey Abrams’s fundraising vehicle nonprofit Fair Fight Action challenges 2018 election procedures, according to AccessWDUN.

The lawsuit accuses the secretary of state and election board members of mismanaging the 2018 election in ways that deprived some citizens, particularly low-income people and minorities, of their constitutional right to vote. It seeks substantial reforms and asks that Georgia be required to get a federal judge’s approval before changing voting rules.

The suit was filed by Fair Fight Action, an organization founded by Abrams, and Care in Action Georgia, a nonprofit that advocates for domestic workers. Several churches, including Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., joined the suit in February.

They allege that November’s vote was marred by problems including long waits at polling places, absentee ballots that weren’t received or weren’t counted, missing or erroneous voter registration records, malfunctioning voting machines and poorly trained poll workers.

Lawyers for the state argue that allegations of “unrelated actions by mostly local officials” don’t amount to constitutional violations requiring judicial intervention and that the legislature, not the courts, should set election law.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones on Monday heard arguments on a motion from state election officials to dismiss the lawsuit. He gave the parties a week to submit additional briefs before he rules.

From the AJC:

Kemp signed a bill this month that calls for new voting machines that print paper ballots, extends the time before registrations are canceled and places limitations on precinct closures.

“The system worked,” said Josh Belinfante, an attorney for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “There were concerns raised. … The state fixed them.”

The legal complaint points to long lines on Election Day, erroneous cancellations of absentee ballots and voter registration purges of those who didn’t participate in recent elections. It also cites flaws in election management, including delays because voting equipment ran out of batteries and provisional ballots being withheld from some voters.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods (R) honored two Augusta area schools, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Two Columbia County schools were honored for two separate distinctions by the state school superintendent Monday.

Richard Woods presented a banner to students, faculty, staff and parents at Riverside Elementary School for its designation as a military flagship school by the state of Georgia. The school is the only one in the county to earn the honor, which is awarded for services and programs that cater to students of military families.

Martinez Elementary School became the first in the county to have a state science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, certification. The banner ceremony included presentations of STEM-related projects by students.

Augusta will continue spending to oppose federal plans to change the level of the Savannah River, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta has already spent much more than the $45,000 it allotted to put together a critique of the plan for New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam but the city has built a strong case to negotiate a better alternative with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a city official said.

Augusta’s battle to save New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam needs more funding, but the city has already laid out a strong case against the recommendation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and hopes to begin negotiations soon on an alternative, a city official said. But that request might meet with some skepticism as the fight has become blurred with a potential whitewater park that the Augusta Commission has yet to see.

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