Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 21, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 21, 2019

Georgia Colonists signed the Treaty of Savannah with the Lower Creeks on May 21, 1733.

George Washington left Georgia on May 21, 1791, crossing a bridge over the Savannah River at Augusta.

American Charles Lindbergh landed at Paris on May 21, 1927 in The Spirit of St. Louis, completing both the first nonstop transatlantic flight and the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris.

On May 21, 1942, German authorities removed 4300 Polish Jews from Chelm to an extermination camp at Sobibor and killed them by poison gas. The Sobibor camp’s five gas chambers would kill 250,000 Jews during 1942 and 1943.

On May 21, 2011, Herman Cain announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, and I photographed it.

During the next ten months, when someone talks about whomever is leading the latest polls, remember that six months after announcing his Presidential campaign, Herman Cain was leading the polls. Less than one month later, Cain was out of the race.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Hollywood Resistance to Georgia’s “Heartbeat Bill” has snagged a couple of A-list producers, according to

Filmmaker Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer have joined the list of Hollywood stars who say they will boycott Georgia after the state’s governor signed the controversial “heartbeat bill” into law.

Howard and Grazer, who run Imagine Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive statement that although they are continuing with their plans to film the movie “Hillbilly Elegy” in Georgia next month, they will boycott the state as a production center if the law goes into effect in January.

“We see Governor Kemp’s bill as a direct attack on women’s rights, and we will be making a donation to the (American Civil Liberties Union) to support their battle against this oppressive legislation,” the statement read.

Filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele released a joint statement stating they’d stand “shoulder to shoulder with the women of Georgia” as their new show “Lovecraft Country” begins shooting in the state. They promised to donate 100% of their episodic fees to the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia, an election reform organization.

State Rep. Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur) called the visible Georgia State Police presence in the Capitol during the last Session “fascism,” according to the Saporta Report.

Shannon said she’s seen a change in the Capitol in the last year or so.

Earlier, there might have been one or two officers in, say, a committee room where there were a lot of people, she said. But now, she said there are more officers, and it’s when there are discussions on things like raising the minimum wage, voting rights, and reproductive rights.

That is, more officers any time the public is upset about bills the GOP is trying to pass, Shannon said.

“The public needs to understand that this is fascism in their House,” Shannon said. “What is happening is that the people that you have elected to represent you are basically now saying, ‘Thank you for your vote. But after you’ve elected me, I don’t want to hear what you have to say.’”

She said Republicans are using the police as a shield to make sure they don’t have to talk to constituents.

The Washington Examiner covered the Georgia Republican Party State Convention.

Support for Trump was unquestionable, and colorful, as more than 1,500 delegates to the Georgia Republican Party gathered last week for an annual convention in this port city and tourist mecca. Around every corner of the Savannah Convention Center, confident activists decked out in MAGA hats and other Trump merchandise raved about the booming economy and other administration accomplishments in between photographs with life-size, cardboard cutouts of the president in his signature, thumbs-up pose.

But in conversations with the Washington Examiner, veteran GOP activists were sober about the challenges confronting Trump in Georgia absent a significant investment in resources. Reliably red since the mid-1990s, the state is in transition, spurred by Democratic gains in the Atlanta suburbs that are partly a byproduct of a rejection of the president. Republicans, chastened by last year’s razor-thin gubernatorial contest, say this evolution might have reached a tipping point.

“In 2012, I was an activist that went to Ohio the last week of the election because that was critical. Georgia was safe in that presidential election,” said Scott Johnson, who lost his bid for chairman of the state Republican Party. “In 2020, people will be coming to Georgia to help us out. We can’t take for granted anymore that Georgia is safely in the Republican column.”

“There is a real sense of urgency that I got from it,” Elaine James, an alternate delegate to the state GOP convention, said after exiting the seminar. “In our past, because we have so many victories, we got lax.”

In 2016, Trump garnered just 50.8% of the vote in Georgia, lower than any Republican nominee this century. That close margin was attributed to Trump’s struggles in the suburbs — an issue that snowballed in the midterm elections and helped the Democrats flip 40 GOP-held seats and win control of the House of Representatives.

“In 2018, in the suburbs of Atlanta, the Democrats had a presidential-level turnout,” said David Shafer, the newly minted chairman of the Georgia GOP. “Some of the issues that you saw in 2018 will be resolved when we’re running a presidential-level turnout operation.”

Governor Democrat Stacey Abrams racked up some more frequent flyer miles for a speech in Santa Rosa, California, according to The Press Democrat.

Stacey Abrams came to the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts to talk about voter suppression, abortion rights and her new book, “Lead From the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change.” But she couldn’t avoid talking about the biggest event of the weekend.

I didn’t realize I was running against a cartoon villain,” she said to a packed theater.

And she still hasn’t conceded the race.

“A concession, you’re saying everything is fine,” she told the audience. “How can you fix something if you don’t acknowledge it’s broken?”

The long-term solution to pushing back against what she calls “forced pregnancy” laws, she said, is to defeat Republicans at the ballot box, both by pushing back against voter-suppression strategies and by organizing people that didn’t vote in 2016.

Asked by an audience member about her plans for the future, Abrams remained coy.

“I’m going to run for something,” she said. “I’m not sure what something is.”

Actual Governor Brian Kemp is meeting with State School Superintendent Richard Woods to discuss dismantling Common Core, according to the AJC.

The governor said Monday he’s meeting with schools Superintendent Richard Woods to discuss ways to do away with Common Core – the voluntary set of reading, writing and math standards – and “letting our teachers teach.”

It’s not clear what action Kemp will take, and he was vague on specifics. But his aides said he likely does not have the authority to act unilaterally, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did when he signed an executive order to end his state’s use of the standards.

Kemp will have the support of the state’s top education official. Woods said he is “incredibly encouraged” by the push to eliminate what remains of Common Core in Georgia, adding that earlier attempts to scale back the program didn’t go far enough.

“My administration has been able to halt the spread of Common Core to other subject areas, such as science and social studies,” Woods said, “but this decisive action at the governor’s level is what’s needed to fully eliminate Common Core in our state, an action that will be of great benefit to our students.”

John Long writes in The New Republic that election victory no longer requires swing voters.

Just exactly who are these swing voters? That question usually goes unexamined in great detail, but the underlying assumptions are threefold: 1) swing voters are people who vote for candidates of both parties; 2) they mostly live in the suburbs; 3) they are white. Also, it’s generally understood that it’s Democrats, and not so much Republicans, that must work diligently to win over this fickle slice of the electorate—which, if these voters aren’t partisan, shouldn’t really be the case.

But the fact is, the swing-voter character should have been written out of our election dramas years ago. Like “Rockefeller Republicans” or “Yellow Dog Democrats,” “swing voter” is a persona from a political landscape that simply no longer exists.

Moving to the suburbs, the supposed home of the swing voter, not to mention all kinds of micro-trendy constituents Democrats have been told to court, such as “Soccer Moms” and “Security Moms.” It turns out that suburbs are no longer particularly politically “independent.” They are now, in fact, mostly Democratic. Designing a strategy to appeal to voters who are maybe moderate, but honestly, mainly marginalized Republicans in areas that now have a plurality of Democrats, seems like a good way to depress Democratic turnout.

In 2016, over 4 million Democrats who voted in 2012 for Barack Obama didn’t show up at the polls to pull the lever for Clinton. It’s not that they voted for someone else; they simply didn’t vote at all. And as a reminder, Trump won three states by a total of 76,000 votes. The reasons for this are many, but the lesson is clear. Rather than obsess about winning back the voters that switched from Obama to Trump, Democrats should instead focus on inspiring those Obama voters who stayed home, who are “mostly young and nonwhite” and “share the progressive policy priorities of Democrats,” argued Sean McElwee, Jesse H. Rhodes, Brian F. Schaffner, and Bernard L. Fraga in the New York Times. Based on their careful analysis of the data, they advise Democrats to forget about those swing voters and figure out “why a campaign [Hillary’s] that sought to energize young voters of color failed to do so.” Here’s hoping the 2020 Democratic nominee gets the message.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say that black women are much more likely to die of breast cancer, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Treatment advances have improved breast cancer survival rates among all U.S. women, but the disparity between white and black women has grown: Black women such as Mahone are 40% more likely to die from the disease than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No region has as many high-disparity states clustered together as the South. Louisiana and Mississippi have the highest racial disparities in breast cancer mortality. In both of those states, the excess death rate among black women is more than 60%, according to the American Cancer Society. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee all have excess death rates over 40%.

Even though black and white women have similar mammogram screening rates and black women have a lower overall incidence of breast cancer, black women are more likely to die from the disease. In explaining the disparity, one oncologist described a “perfect storm” of scientific and social forces.

One of them is that researchers haven’t developed advanced treatments for a series of aggressive tumors – known as triple-negative breast cancer – that black women are more likely to get. Another is that recent advancements in cancer therapies for other kinds of tumors have yet to be fully proven in minorities, in part because of the lack of diversity in those clinical trials.

And black women have described feeling cast aside by a health system of doctors, nurses and support groups that rarely look like them; and face further obstacles outside labs and hospitals – including lack of access to jobs, transit and health insurance. This marginalization of black women is especially prevalent in the South.


State Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) continues pushing mandatory recess after Gov. Kemp vetoed legislation this year, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

This year marked Rep. Demetrius Douglas’ third attempt to convince his colleagues that requiring recess for the state’s youngest students is a key strategy for curbing childhood obesity.

The Stockbridge Democrat’s full-court press paid off, with both chambers and members of both parties overwhelmingly backing the measure earlier this year.

“This is part of a child’s education. Recess is nearly as important as academics,” said Jeff Mullis, the bill’s other sponsor; Mullis is a Republican from Chickamauga who chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee.

“While I support expanded recess opportunities for Georgia’s students, I am a firm believer in local control, especially in education,” Kemp wrote in his veto message.

Douglas said the issue is important enough for lawmakers not to leave it up to locals to decide whether to provide recess. He said he plans to meet with Kemp to figure out a path forward.

“If everybody keeps sounding the alarm, sooner or later pressure breaks pipes,” Douglas said. “I’m a firm believer if you’re doing what’s right, right will always stand no matter what.”

Smyrna City Council voted to table a vote on legislation banning the Devil’s Death Scooters e-scooters, according to the AJC.

The Council unanimously voted to table the proposal until its June 17 meeting. City leaders were considering adding language to its ordinance that would ban the storage and use of the electronic scooters and electronic bikes in Smyrna.

Mayor Max Bacon said “we got some additional information” that the city would like to review before moving forward on the proposal. No discussion or public comment was held on the agenda item.

The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to provide the use of dockless devices in the city, leave them standing or lying in the right-of-way or on public property and to ride them in the city.

Any e-scooters or e-bicycles found on public property or right-of-way would be impounded in the Police Department’s Property and Evidence Unit. The city would notify the owners of the devices and fine those companies for the costs associated with the recovery of the device.

Last week, the city of Atlanta recorded its first e-scooter-related death last week when a rider coming out of a parking lot of the West Lake station just after midnight May 17 was hit by a red Cadillac SUV traveling south on West Lake Avenue.

Whitfield County Commissioners are considering placing a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the May 19, 2020 ballot, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

In a work session Monday, members of the county Board of Commissioners made plans for a future SPLOST, and while they took no votes, there seemed to be a strong consensus to hold the vote during the May 19, 2020, general primary.

“That gives us about a year, so we have a lot of work to do,” said board Chairman Lynn Laughter.

A SPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax on most goods bought in the county. It can only fund projects and items; a SPLOST can’t pay for general operations.

The current four-year SPLOST expires on June 30 and is projected to collect $64 million. That SPLOST funded a new emergency radio system for first responders, new firetrucks for both the Dalton and Whitfield fire departments, and Dalton’s Haig Mill Lake Park, among other projects.

In a March special election, voters rejected a six-year, $100 million SPLOST that would have begun July 1.

Dalton Utilities may want some of the SPLOST money to fund sewer expansion, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

At their work session Monday, Whitfield County commissioners had not yet seen the utility’s proposal but they discussed the general possibility of funding sewer expansion from a future SPLOST.

Board Chairman Lynn Laughter said she could support “strategic” sewer expansion that could boost economic development or affordable housing. But Commissioner Roger Crossen said he is concerned that where sewer has already been extended into the county — such as the line running across the northern part of the county from Tunnel Hill to Coahulla Creek High School — few private homeowners or businesses have hooked up to the line.

Statesboro City Council will meet twice today, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Among other things, Statesboro City Council is slated to adopt the city’s fiscal year 2020 budget and schedule of fees, to consider annexing a 33-acre tract  and to appoint a one-month interim city manager at Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. regular meeting.

But first, the council will hold a 3:30 p.m. called work session – also open to the public – to hear a presentation by Dr. Jermaine Durham, director of the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing. The initiative works through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and also involves the University of Georgia.

Gainesville Public Schools will use state funding for raises while lowering property taxes, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Gainesville City Schools Board of Education on Monday, May 20, tentatively adopted a $75.3 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1, while setting its property tax rate at its lowest mark in more than 20 years.

The board will host two public meetings next month before casting a final vote June 17 on the proposed budget and a millage rate of 6.612.

That figure is a full rollback of the tax rate, down from 6.85, to account for increases in revenue from property tax reassessments.

The proposed budget is up more than $3 million from the current year, with most of the additional expenditures coming out of state funds to support salary increases for about 650 certified teachers.

Muscogee County Board of Elections will enact a number of changes to its website to comply with state law, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After being in violation of Georgia open meetings laws for an undetermined amount of time, the Columbus Consolidated Government board in charge of conducting elections and tallying citizens’ votes made changes to comply with the law, after an investigation by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The director blamed the violation on an oversight and recent changes to the board’s city-run website.

Earlier this month the L-E learned the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration had not published the location, date and time of the regularly scheduled meetings on its web page as required by state law for at least the past year.

She said the department also was made aware that some older campaign disclosures had been taken off the page due to space limitations.

“As soon as we receive candidate and campaign information we send it to ethics at the state, but then we also post it here locally,” she said. “We called (the webmaster) and said ‘hey look, people are calling us for those all the time. Why did we take them off?’ We need them out there for at least the five year retention period that were required to keep them. So we’re making little tweaks as we’re going along.”

Hall County Commissioners will consider a moratorium on permitting hookah lounges so the staff has time to write regulations, according to the Gainesville Times.

Rome City Commissioners voted to change downtown parking rules, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Commissioners voted 5 to 2 on an amendment that extends the on-street parking limit to three hours a day from two hours a day. Also, enforcement will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of to 8 p.m.

The rest of the plan, including the License Plate Recognition Technology, will remain in effect and vehicles must be parked with their tags facing toward the street. The LPR reader also collects information such as who’s parking downtown, when and for how long, which will be used to tweak the plan in the future.

The move followed testimony during the board’s caucus and regular meeting from downtown business owners – most of them concerned about losing customers.

The Rome City Commission also voted to issue $23.3 million dollars worth of bonds for construction of a Rome City Schools College and Career Academy, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The bonds are backed by proceeds from the education local option sales tax that went into effect April 1. Superintendent Lou Byars said they’re projected to net more than $30 million over the five-year collection period.

Rome and Floyd County will partner with local utlities to upgrade a natural gas pipeline, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“Energy is the life-blood of any community as far as jobs go,” Batson said. The pipeline will extend for approximately nine miles from Coosawattee Avenue out to the paper mill.

The pipeline is being funded thanks to a major contribution from the Georgia Public Service Commission’s Universal Service Fund, along with money from Atlanta Gas Light and International Paper

Atlanta Gas Light will contribute $11.7 million to the project, which is recoverable through the normal rate-making process. International Paper will contribute $1.5 million, financed over ten years. The Universal Service Fund will contribute approximately $9.1 million, which when taxes and financing fees are added will come to approximately $10.6 million.

Public Service Commission Vice Chairman Tim Echols said the PSC is constantly thinking about economic development and looking for ways to make communities more resilient and more sustainable.

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