Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 3, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 3, 2019

On June 3, 1941, Georgia voters ratified a Constitutional Amendment extending the term of office for Governor and the other Constitutional Officers from two years to four. Governor Eugene Talmadge campaigned for the Amendment, hoping to serve a four-year term after the two-year term he currently held, but was defeated in the 1942 Democratic Primary by Ellis Arnall. Remember this phrase: legislation almost always has unintended consequences.

On June 3, 1942, Curtis Mayfield was born in Chicago, Illinois and would later live in Atlanta, dying in Roswell in 1999.

On the morning of June 3, 1962, a plane carrying 106 Georgians crashed on take-off from Orly near Paris, the deadliest crash in aviation to that date.

On June 3, 1980, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had amassed enough delegates to assure his nomination in the Democratic Primary for President.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Tiananman Square Massacre in Beijing, China. Pro-democracy protests had begun on April 15, 1989 and on May 20, martial law was declared. The People’s Liberation Army began taking the square back on the evening of June 3d.

The Brunswick Times dusts off an 1888 Harper’s Weekly article discussing the coastal city.

“Its industry is a feature the article makes a point of noting. “Brunswick has profited greatly by her harbor; in fact, the present prosperity of the city is due to its unsurpassed shipping facilities. Great quantities of cotton, pine lumber, resin, turpentine and other products are shipped from Brunswick to all parts of the world … The people of Brunswick have awakened to the fact that their city has within its reach the making of a great shipping-point, as well as a popular resort.”

Promoting Brunswick as a resort destination for winter weary northerners was the point of this well-placed, paid article in Harper’s Weekly. Coastal Georgia was just then establishing itself as a balmy retreat from the bitter cold of northern environs. The Jekyll Island Club already had become an exclusive playground of the Vanderbilts, Morgans and other movers and shakers of the Gilded Age.

As the lumber mills churned away at Gascoigne Bluff on the river side of St. Simons Island, the St. Simons Hotel catered to vacation-minded visitors on “9,588 feet of magnificent sea-beach front,” the article noted.

The article cautioned discerning readers not to overlook Brunswick. “The visitor has no need to confine his attention to Jekyll Island alone, for the mainland and the Brunswick peninsula have attractions enough to keep one busy the whole season.”

“Brunswick is not unlike New York in its water and harbor facilities. St. Simons Sound and the Brunswick and Back rivers will float vessels of the largest class, and that, too, up to the streets of the city, as in the case of New York. Navigable water flows on three sides of the city, while in the bay toward the sea is water enough, as well as room enough, to float the navies of the world.”

Savannah will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah area’s role in the historic invasion will be commemorated at ceremonies in Pooler and Savannah.

The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth in Pooler will be honoring the bravery of those who fought during the invasion with programs throughout the day.

Admission to the museum will be $8 on Thursday. That fee is waived for World War II veterans and children under the age of 6.

In Savannah, a maritime commemoration at the Savannah Convention Center will recognize the role of Savannah’s Liberty ships — constructed wartime freighters designed to bring supplies and equipment overseas as replacements for merchant ships sunk by German U-boats.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp appointed four new Superior Court Judges, according to the Daily Report.

The new judges will fill openings in the Cherokee, Coweta, Macon and Stone Mountain judicial circuits. Their appointments will take effect as soon as they can be sworn in.

Troup County Solicitor General Markette Baker is the new judge for the Coweta Judicial Circuit.

Bibb County State Court Judge Jeffery Monroe will move up to the Macon Judicial Circuit Superior Court.

DeKalb County State Court Judge Shondeana Morris will step up to the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court.

Jeffrey Watkins, founder of a general practice firm in Cartersville, is the new judge for the Cherokee Circuit.

Georgia Public Broadcasting‘s “Political Rewind” will tape tonight in Cartersville, according to the Rome News Tribune.

State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, is among the local officials expected to participate in the taping of a “Political Rewind” road show in Cartersville tonight.

The Atlanta-based GPB radio staple hosted by Bill Nigut features prominent politicos talking about the issues of the day.

Panelists today include Buddy Darden, a former congressman from the area, and conservative activist Julianne Thompson. Other state lawmakers and political writers also are scheduled and Nigut said he plans to take questions from the audience.

The taping, which is open to the public, is set for 7 p.m. in the Grand Theatre, in downtown Cartersville. It will air at 2 p.m. Tuesday and stream on Facebook across the GPB statewide network.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is fighting subpoenas by the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, according to GPB News.

The Abrams campaign sent more than 3,600 pages of financial records to state ethics officials. But it withheld nineteen emails, according to a letter attached to the campaign’s response to David Emadi, the executive secretary of the ethics commission hired in April.

The subpoena asked for banking records beginning in May of 2018, as well as communications between the Abrams campaign and organizations that advocate for people of color and often encourage them to vote.

It also requested communications between the campaign, and state Sen. Nikema Williams, the current head of the Democratic Party of Georgia. In 2018, during the campaign for governor, Williams was first vice-chair of the state party.

Specifically, the Abrams campaign withheld nine campaign emails “involving” the civil rights organization called the New Georgia Project, and 10 emails “involving” Williams.

“The Subpeona is conspicuously over broad without a factual context for the requests,” wrote Abrams campaign lawyer Joyce Gist Lewis.

“Demanding that the Abrams campaign identify and produce ‘all communications’ months following the certification of the election results is unreasonable and extraordinary,” Gist Lewis wrote. “Especially where, as here, the Commission has declined to explain how these requests are related to its investigation.”

From the AJC:

Emadi would not discuss specifics of the case, but he revealed in a letter that he intends to present evidence that the Abrams campaign accepted donations from four of the groups that exceeded maximum contribution limits for a statewide campaign.

The four groups Emadi singled out are Care in Action, a nonprofit Williams co-founded that advocates for domestic workers; Higher Heights for Georgia, a New York-funded organization geared toward electing black women; PowerPAC Georgia, an “independent group” that spent more than $5.6 million promoting Abrams and attacking Kemp, mostly funded by liberal San Francisco-based philanthropist Susan Sandler; and Gente4Abrams, a Latino advocacy group.

Lewis said the Democrat has “nothing to hide” and questioned in a response to Emadi why investigators only demanded records from groups “led by black or Latinx Georgians working to increase election participation among voters of color.”

Emadi has dismissed accusations that he was pursuing a political vendetta, insisting his probe is being conducted in a “fair and impartial manner.”

And he said in a statement this week that all candidates from the 2018 campaign for governor will be investigated for potential violations “without any concern or benefit regarding partisan affiliation.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a letter to Randolph County condemning alleged plans to close voting precincts, according to the AJC.

But the county’s attorney said there are no plans to close precincts, and the local government needs to assess the costs of repairing dilapidated polling places so that they’re accessible to people with disabilities. He said it’s premature for the Lawyers’ Committee to say the cost assessment will lead to precinct closures.

Randolph County, with a population of about 7,000, found itself in the national spotlight last year when election officials considered a proposal to close seven of the county’s nine voting locations. The county elections board voted 2-0 in August to keep all its polling places open before November’s election for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.

The renewed scrutiny comes after Elections Supervisor Todd Black gave a presentation to county commissioners April 17 about his plan to assess the costs of repairing dilapidated precincts.

Many of the precincts lack ramps or parking spaces for voters with disabilities, and they should be upgraded to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Tommy Coleman, the county’s attorney.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama made a suprise appearance at Spelman College, according to GPB News.

Obama met with a group of students from Spelman and Morehouse Colleges who studied the book this semester. Professor Marilyn Davis used it as the foundational text for the honors political science course, Black Women: Developing Public Leadership Skills.

During the round table discussion on Mother’s Day weekend, Obama and the students talked about topics including overcoming imposter syndrome and breaking barriers in education and professional life. She shared how she managed her educational and professional struggles with the students.

The Saturday visit on campus was not Obama’s first visit to Spelman. The first-generation college graduate spoke at Spelman’s commencement in 2011 and recently co-chaired a voting event ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The Rome News Tribune looks at how Georgia’s rape laws work (or don’t).

In the past, law enforcement decided whether a victim’s rape or assault would receive a forensic exam in the first place. Money was a big factor because the agencies paid for the kit assets, said Kim Davis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.

“There wasn’t anything we could do about it,” says Davis. “We couldn’t afford to do the exams because we didn’t have enough money to pay for the equipment.”

Rape kits are expensive. It costs crisis centers or law enforcement agencies upwards of $1,000 for rape kit materials, not including medication to help prevent STDs or pregnancies from rape. Now, crisis centers such as the SAC can bill Georgia’s Crime Victims Compensation Program for much of the cost.

In 2011, Georgia’s law changed so that anyone who claimed to have been assaulted had the right to a rape kit exam. But though an exam was done, if the victim didn’t officially report the crime to law enforcement, there was no guarantee the kit would be sent to the GBI. The SAC would keep the kit for a year and then destroy it.

Thanks to a 2016 law, now all kits are required to go to the crime lab. But for those who survived an assault prior to that year, this can be devastating news.

Richmond County saw an increase in violent crime last year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to data from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, there were 603 violent crimes in 2018 compared with 565 in 2017, a 6.7 percent increase. There were 3,993 property crimes in 2018 after 4,151 in 2017, a 3.8 percent decrease. As of May 17, there have been 1,180 property crimes in 2019.

Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said property crimes tend to have more patterns than violent crimes, so they can be a bit easier to track.

“There is usually more of them, so usually there is more patterns,” he said. “The violent crimes tend to be more random. Usually what you see on property crimes, for example, if you have car break-ins, it’s usually more than one car break-in.”

Clayton said offenders tend to go to different areas and do multiple break-ins or burglaries. According to sheriff’s office data, the most common property crime in Richmond County is larceny auto with 1,932 cases in 2017 and 1,938 in 2018.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is accepting public comments as part of its reaccreditation process, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Muscogee County School District is running an online survey on school starting times, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The survey was intended for only parents of elementary school children, who would see an extra 30 minutes added to the school day, Muscogee County School District Superintendent David Lewis told the Ledger-Enquirer.

When informed that the survey was posted Wednesday on the district’s website and is available for anyone to take multiple times on the same electronic device, he referred the L-E’s questions to district communications director Mercedes Parham.

“The parents’ survey was sent to elementary parents,” Parham told the L-E in an email Friday. “However, to prevent limitations, the parents’ survey link was also provided on the families section of our website. All surveys responses, regardless of the access point, are automatically generated in Microsoft Office’s survey system. With any survey, there are variables, but our focus is to have more points of inclusion than exclusion, where possible.”

The explanation didn’t satisfy Muscogee County Council of PTAs second vice president Gloria Brown, who is taking care of four grandchildren living with her, two in elementary school and two in middle school.

“That’s not going to give an accurate opinion of the parents it will affect if it’s open up to anybody in the world,” Brown said in a telephone interview Friday.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office has begun a “Citizens’ Watch Surveillance Camera Program,” according to AccessWDUN.

Many home and business owners have surveillance camera systems these days. Law enforcement often use these images to help solve crimes at those homes and businesses. But, they can also be used to help investigators get to the bottom of crimes in adjacent homes and businesses.

According to the sheriff’s department, Citizens’ Watch is a secure program that allows surveillance camera system owners to report their system to the Sheriff’s Office through a secure website. The information is mapped for law enforcement, allowing for quick and easy reference when deputies are seeking surveillance images in an area where a crime was committed.

Part of the posting emphasizes that officers would not have access to security cameras and any images they capture without the permission of the owners.

An inmate video conferencing system is saving the state money by reducing prisoner transport costs, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Superior Court rules allow video conferencing for a number of court proceedings – as long as they are recorded, [Judge J. Wade] Padgett said. He volunteered to try it in the Augusta Judicial Circuit. The Corrections Department paid for the necessary computer system and worked with Augusta’s IT department to set it up. The offices of the public defender and district attorney jumped on board, Padgett said.

The 35 hearings Padgett held from January through March saved the prison system nearly $6,000. Video-conferencing equipment was set up at two of the state’s 34 prisons.

Last year, Corrections Department employees did more than 35,000 prisoner transports for court hearings, said Stan Cooper, the special assistant to department Commissioner Timothy C. Ward. The department estimates 40 to 45 percent of the hearings involving prison inmates could be done by video conference.

The success of Padgett’s pilot project has Ward wanting to set up equipment at every prison, Cooper said. It has increased the safety of employees and prisoners and increased efficiency, not to mention the financial savings, he said. It could also help sheriff’s departments that are responsible for prisoner transports, Cooper said.

Padgett said there are talks with the sheriff about holding arraignments for those in local jails by video conference.

Recently in one of the smaller Richmond County Superior Court courtrooms, Padgett conducted 22 arraignments of inmates at Augusta State Medical Prison and Phillips State Prison.

Former Fort Valley City Administrator Karin Vinson is suing the city and several individuals alleging sex harassment over her pregnancy, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The harassment allegedly involved several officials — including Mayor Barbara Williams and Councilwoman Juanita Bryant — falsely accusing then-City Administrator Karin Vinson of having a sexual relationship with the police chief and claiming she was unable to perform her job duties, the lawsuit said.

Vinson is suing the city, Williams and Bryant for creating a hostile work environment during her two years as city manager. She is seeking a minimum of $350,000 in damages in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on May 23.

Vinson accuses the mayor of retaliating against her because she raised concerns about Williams helping a business get contracts with the city, and for refusing to budget $40,000 to buy a digital sign from a company that made signs for the mayor’s campaign, the lawsuit said.

Warner Robins began construction on a new North Houston Sports Complex as part of a $20 million dollar expansion, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Attorney Marvin Lim announced that he will announce on Tuesday his campaign for House District 99, which is being vacated by State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, who is running for Congress. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Lim has lived in state House District 99 since 2001. He graduated magna cum laude from Emory University and then graduated from Yale University as well. He is also one of the founding board members of the grassroots progressive group 159 Georgia Together.

“As an immigrant, I learned there’s no replacing hard work,” Lim said on his campaign website, “But no one should have to pay too high a price — like too many Georgians do — to yield fruit from their labor. Our government must make sure this will no longer be the case.”

The state House District 99 seat has not drawn Republican candidates in recent election cycles, which means that, unless that trend changes, the winner of the Democratic primary election essentially wins the seat.

Georgia’s Shoal Bass is popular with anglers and legislators, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

[T]here is a movement to crown the species — a fish that, with the exception of a Florida river, is now only found in Georgia streams — as the state’s official native riverine sport fish.

“It’s the quintessential Georgia fish. Georgia’s the only place that you would go in the whole world to catch a six-pound shoal bass,” said Steven Sammons, a researcher with Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. “Truly, to me, it is the Georgia fish.”

After years of trying, the shoal bass nearly clinched the coveted title this legislative session, but the proposal’s backers had to cut bait after some last-minute opposition surfaced.

The shoal bass, which became its own species just two decades ago, has been gaining in popularity for years.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, a Democrat from Junction City, said she sees the proposal as a way to help small, rural businesses in an area with few other economic opportunities cultivate a tourism economy centered on the quaint fish.

A handful of fishing guides devoted to escorting visitors to shoalie hotspots already exist. Buckner said she also sees an opportunity for restaurants and lodging to benefit from an influx of visitors.

Buckner’s proposal nearly passed this year, but opposition from one north Georgia state senator, Bill Heath, caused the provision to be very publicly cut from a larger bill as the clock expired on this year’s legislative session.

When asked why he objected to the designation, the Bremen Republican said he saw the proposal as “not germane to the issues” in the broader bill. Buckner’s proposal had been tacked on to a bill that included various changes to the state’s hunting and fishing law.

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