Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 19, 2019

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 19, 2019

The Georgia Whig Party held its first convention on June 19, 1843 in Milledgeville and elected ten delegates to the 1844 National Convention.

The first Republican National Convention, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended on June 19, 1856.

The Republicans, who called for the abolition of slavery in all U.S. territories, rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their first presidential candidate, John Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states. By 1860, the majority of Southern states were publicly threatening secession if a Republican won the presidency.

The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the official party of the victorious North. After the war, the Republican-dominated Congress forced a radical Reconstruction policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and granting voting rights to African American men in the South. By 1876, the Republican Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency, with a few intermissions, until the ascendance of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

On June 19, 1864, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston retreated from Pine Mountain and Lost Mountain toward Marietta. Click here to watch a two-minute video by Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center about this week in Georgia in 1864.

On the same day, USS Kearsarge sank CSS Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France in one of the most-celebrated naval battles of the Civil War.

Under its captain, Raphael Semmes, the Alabama prowled the world for three years, capturing U.S. commercial ships. It sailed around the globe, usually working out of the West Indies, but taking prizes and bungling Union shipping in the Caribbean, off Newfoundland, and around the coast of South America. In January 1863, Semmes sunk a Union warship, the Hatteras, after luring it out of Galveston, Texas.

During its career, the Alabama captured 66 ships and was hunted by more than 20 Federal warships.

Shortly after the battle between Alabama and Kearsarge, Edouard Manet painted the scene from newspaper accounts. The painting hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I viewed it late last month.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) announced that the 2020 Presidential Preference Primary will be held on March 24.

From the AJC:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office confirmed the timing Wednesday but had no further comment. County elections supervisors said they received a bulletin that also said early voting would start March 2 and end March 20.

Raffensperger’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week the state was holding off on deciding a date for the 2020 primary until the government completes its $150 million purchase of new statewide voting equipment, likely in July. It’s not immediately clear why the timeline changed.

The March 24 date means that the presidential primary won’t take place until after many other states have already weighed in, potentially diminishing Georgia’s relevance in deciding each party’s candidate.

The later date is a departure from recent policy. The Georgia primary was held on Super Tuesday — the first Tuesday in March — in each of the past two presidential election years. Then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp orchestrated an “SEC primary” on that date with other Southern states in 2016.

The timing was a relief for elections officials. Nancy Boren, the chief elections official in Muscogee County, said she was already expecting a primary sometime in the first quarter of next year but said she needed an exact date to finish her planning.

“Having the date is great – we can start setting the dates for early voting and absentee ballot mailings,” said Boren. “We can now complete all those things we normally do in preparation for an election.”

Kemp Tweet Hunter Airfield

Governor Brian Kemp greeted troops returning from Afghanistan in Savannah on Monday, according to WSAV.

Dozens of troops from the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade returned from Afghanistan Monday morning. The group flew into Savannah, but they are based out of Macon.

Gov. Kemp tweeted a video of him welcoming soldiers and said he was honored to be there.

Governor Kemp has also made a number of judicial appointments in recent days.

Appointing DeKalb County State Court Judge Stacey Hydrick to Superior Court

Appointing DeKalb County State Court Judge Shondeana Morris to Superior Court

Appointing Troup County Solicitor General Nina Markette Baker to Coweta Superior Court

Appointing Tadia Whitner to Gwinnett County Superior Court

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Tadia Whitner, who has worked for the juvenile court since Oct. 2016, her LinkedIn profile says, was named to the new position on Tuesday.

“After serving our country as a captain in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, Tadia Whitner brought invaluable leadership and legal expertise to her work as a prosecutor, private attorney and judge for municipal and juvenile court,” Kemp said. “Now, I am honored to appoint her to the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit Superior Court where I am confident that she will govern her courtroom with the utmost integrity and impartiality.”

Whitner graduated from Howard University, where she received both her bachelor’s and law degree, then served as an attorney and earned the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.

Following her military service, Whitner prosecuted cases for the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Justice and then the Florida Office of the Attorney General, then represented clients through the Savannah Office of the Public Defender. She also served as a staff attorney for the Chatham County Juvenile Court.

The AJC looks at Gov. Kemp’s appointments:

The first Hispanic to serve as a state constitutional officer in Georgia history. The first African American woman to work as Cobb County’s top prosecutor. The first woman to sit on the superior court bench in a stretch of west Georgia counties.

In the five months since he took office, Gov. Brian Kemp has tapped a diverse group to fill some of the state’s highest-profile openings.

“Governor Kemp seems to be focused on qualifications and not so much on ideology,” said former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, who was the nation’s first African American woman to preside over a state Supreme Court.

It’s “refreshing in this day and age because, as you know, judges aren’t supposed to be politicians and district attorneys aren’t supposed to prosecute based on political considerations,” she added.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that Kemp selected women for about half of the roughly 80 appointments he has made to state boards and criminal justice posts since January. About a quarter of those appointees are minorities, mostly African American officials. At least three are LGBTQ.

Two of the new female jurists — Shondeana Morris, who is black, and Stacey Hydrick, who is Jewish — were tapped for open seats on the bench in heavily Democratic DeKalb. And Markette Baker is the first woman to ever sit on the Superior Court in the Coweta Judicial Circuit, a five-county span in west Georgia.

The Chatham County Board of Elections is considering some changes to polling locations, according to WSAV.

New precincts may soon bring relief to people in Pooler who stood in crazy long lines during the Georgia governor’s race. Also, some Savannah college students could be able to vote on campus.

“We don’t want a repeat of the lines that occurred in the polling places last year, and we certainly don’t want the voters to have to stand in line for two or three hours,” Bridges said.

Bridges says Pooler has had three voting locations for about the last 10 years, but with more people moving into the city, the number of people voting in each precinct is increasing too. Bridges proposed, and City Council is considering adding two more ahead of November’s municipal election.

“These actions are essentially to add new voting locations to spread those voters out and to do it in a logical plan that can balance the distribution of the voters and to absorb the growth that’s still ahead of Pooler,” he said.

Someone please alert Governor Stacey Abrams so she can file a federal lawsuit over this attempt to suppress votes.

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections is having difficulty hiring a new director, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections recently reposted the job for a second time with a higher pay range to attract more candidates. That netted a few more applications, but the board is still struggling to find someone.

“Basically (since) we’re getting new applications, we’re kind of at ground zero again so we’ll have to start all over again,” board chairman John Mangano said.

The latest posting included a possible salary range in the neighborhood of roughly about $75,000 to $85,000, Ledford said.

“It’s not (going) as well as I would have liked, and I’m not sure why,” Mangano said. “I don’t know if it’s the size of the county. I don’t know if it’s just the job itself. I don’t know if it’s because we’re heading into a big presidential election.”

Coastal Georgia Republicans gathered in Savannah for a watch party celebrating President Trump’s reelection announcement, according to WSAV.

Around 200 members of the Republican Party in Chatham County and around Savannah gathered at the Coach’s Corner to watch the announcement on television. Organizers told us a little about why small events like these mean so much in national elections.

“I actually worked for the Trump campaign back in 2015 and ’16 for Donald Trump, and I know most people in town that support Trump. I have never recognized these names before, so it’s really exciting to bring new folks together,” said Republican watch party organizer, Jeanne Seaver.

Several groups helped host the watch party, including the Chatham County Republican Party, Savannah Area Republican Women, Savannah Young Republicans, and the Skidaway Island Republican Club.

“We love our president. He is loyal to us. We are loyal to him, and we are going to go out there and fight and do whatever we can because we believe he’s what is best for America’s future,” Seaver said.

Gwinnett County Commissioners are considering whether and to what extent to roll back the property tax millage rate, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Due to a projected 7.3% increase in the county’s tax digest, property owners in Gwinnett County could see the part of their tax bill devoted to funding county government either stay roughly the same this year — or they could see an increase.

It all depends on what county commissioners decide to do.

The county’s finance staff presented information on the preliminary county tax digest as well as options for the millage rate Tuesday. Commissioners could opt to go for the rollback rate of 6.876 mills in an attempt to keep tax income at as close to a revenue neutral level as possible.

On the other hand, they could instead opt to stick with last year’s millage rate of 7.209 mills, which would net an additional $11 million in revenues but be legally considered a tax hike.

“The reason why that 6.876 is important is that if it’s anything higher than that, we have to advertise that as a tax increase,” Gwinnett County Deputy Financial Services Director Buffy Alexulian said.

The Augusta Commission voted to sign a contract with Gold Cross EMS to provide ambulance services, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Bulloch County seniors asked for property tax relief in the form of a school tax exemption, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After spending an hour Tuesday morning hearing senior citizens talk about school tax exemptions, Bulloch County commissioners approved a FY 2020 budget that includes a small millage rollback.

“We will have at least a half-mil rollback, to compensate for property taxes going up,” said Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson. “We saw a way to be able to do this and that and roll it back, hoping this will please people.”

More than 100 people, including state Rep. Jan Tankersley and Sen. Jack Hill, filled the commission meeting room Tuesday and stood in the hallway as well, listening to several residents talk about the need for allowing senior citizens an exemption from paying the portion of property taxes that go to the Bulloch County Board of Education.

Although it is the Bulloch County school board that would be responsible for sending a resolution to the state government seeking approval of a local referendum for the exemption, commissioners listened to several senior citizens express their feelings.

Residents who spoke about the suggested school tax exemption listed several reasons for the exemption, including people struggling to survive on fixed incomes and people with no children or whose children graduated decades ago who still have to pay the school tax.

The Savannah Morning News looks at why school board property taxes rise faster than county operations taxes.

Many homeowners believe the Stephens-Day homestead exemption specific to Chatham County freezes their property’s value, but the schools version of the Stephens-Day allows for an annual increase to the schools portion of the tax bill, said Roderick Conley, chief appraiser for Chatham County.

The Consumer Price Index determines the amount of the annual adjustment in the Stephens-Day exemption for the schools portion. This index is not applied to the county portion of the tax bill.

“It creates an adjustment to that base year and it compounds every year,” said Carol Osborne, supervisor of homesteads and transfers.

Chatham County homeowners age 62 or older who qualify for a regular homestead exemption can apply for the Senior School Tax Exemption, Osborne said. They will be asked to provide their most recent income tax forms or Social Security and pension statements. The state provides the amount of the exclusion, Osborne said. In 2018, it was $68,664. “We haven’t been given that number from the state yet,” she said.

If after the $68,664 is excluded, the homeowner’s annual net household income is $25,000 or less, the homeowner should qualify for the Senior School Tax Exemption, which provides a $30,000 reduction to the property’s assessed value. “Whatever is left over is taxable,” Osborne said. “Unless their assessed value is $30,000 or less, they’ll have a liability.”

Lenn Wood has been elected as the new Coweta County Sheriff, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Lenn Wood defeated three opponents – with 74.6 percent of the vote – to hold onto the sheriff’s post on Tuesday night.

Wood went into the race as the incumbent, but also as someone who had not been elected to the post. The vote was required because of the retirement of Mike Yeager, the longtime sheriff who was appointed as a federal marshal by Pres. Donald Trump.

Wood, who had been Yeager’s chief deputy, became sheriff – taking the oath on March 1.

Final results were posted on the Coweta County website about 8:40 p.m. Wood had 7,559 votes to 1,466 for James “Jimmy” Callaway, 931 for Randolph Collins and 171 for Doug Jordan.

Ed Asbridge was elected to Flowery Branch City Council and Patrick Ledford was elected to the Mount Airy City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

Macon-Bibb County and Columbus were awarded Georgia Smart Communities Challenge Grants by Georgia Tech, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Columbus program will focus on improving safety in the Uptown district, while the Macon program’s goal is to provide better access to government resources in underserved communities, officials said.

In both cities, the public will get free access to beefed-up Wi-Fi networks in certain areas.

Macon and Columbus will provide a local match of $25,000 to go along with the $50,000 grant. A Georgia Tech researcher and other experts will work with the local communities on the projects that will run for one year beginning in September.

A South Georgia farmer was chosen to provide cotton for a special Georgia version of Wrangler jeans, according to the Albany Herald.

Leary farm McLendon Acres is among those in five states chosen by Wrangler for a signature line of locally grown and manufactured jeans.

The Wrangler Rooted collection is a “limited, premium line made from 100 percent sustainable, locally sourced cotton,” the company said.

The South Georgia farm selected to represent Georgia, among states that also include Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, has made protecting the farm environment a priority, said Adam McLendon.

“We started planting a sustainable-type cotton several years ago, and through Stoneville got in touch with Wrangler,” McLendon said, referring to Stoneville cottonseed. “They (Wrangler) were interested in promoting and purchasing a sustainable crop. We kind of got into communication then, and one thing led to another.”

The McLendons and the four other family farms that are supplying cotton to the Rooted Collection are the original growers in the Wrangler science and conservation program, which advocates for land stewardship and best practices for soil health, the company said. These science-backed methods build crop resilience to weather disruptions while improving yield, reducing water and energy inputs, fighting erosion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Georgia Jean has a unique wash, as well as trim and patch details featuring the state’s silhouette and other embellishments. Additionally, the denim fabric was made in Trion, by Mount Vernon Mills. The collection also includes two Georgia T-shirt designs.

The Wrangler Rooted Collection initially will be available through Wrangler.com and participating retailers. Jeans will retail for approximately $100, with T-shirts priced from $30 each.

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