Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2019

Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor.

On July 10, 1864, Conferderate forces retreated south across the Chattahoochee and burned the bridge behind them. General Sherman wrote later of the day,

General Garrard Moved rapidly on Roswell, and destroyed the factories which had supplied the rebel armies with cloth for years.

Over General Garrard was then ordered to secure the shallow ford at Roswell and hold it until he could be relieved by infantry, and as I contemplated transferring the Army of the Tennessee from the extreme right to the left, I ordered General Thomas to send a division of his infantry that was nearest up to Roswell to hold the ford until General McPherson could send up a corps from the neighborhood of Nickajack.

General Newton’s division was sent and held the ford until the arrival of General Dodge’s corps, which was soon followed by General McPherson’s whole army.

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” began on July 10, 1925, in which a Tennessee public school teacher was tried for teaching evolution, against state law. Three-time Democratic candidate for President William Jennings Bryan volunteered to help the prosecution, and famed lawyer Clarence Darrow defended John Thomas Scopes.

On July 10, 1985, “Classic“ Coke returned, joining the new formula on store shelves.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games broke ground for Atlanta Olympic Stadium on July 10, 1993; after the Olympics, the stadium was modified for baseball and became Turner Field.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A funeral for Hall County Deputy Sheriff Nicolas Dixon is planned for 11 AM Thursday at Free Chapel Worship Center in Gainesville, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities said 28-year-old Hall County Deputy Nicolas Dixon was killed exchanging gunfire with people who crashed a stolen car Sunday night in Gainesville.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office charged 17-year-old Hector Garcia Solis, who authorities identified as the shooter, with felony murder.

The sheriff says three other suspects have all been charged with being a party to a crime of felony murder.

A candlelight vigil in memory of Deputy Dixon was held last night, according to AccessWDUN.

Nearly 600 people stood quietly Tuesday evening before the main entrance to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office as tribute was made to slain Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon.

The candlelight vigil wasn’t something planned by the Sheriff’s Office, Public Information Officer Derreck Booth told the subdued gathering; it just happened. “We’d like to thank ‘Gwinnett Backs the Blue’ Facebook group. This was a complete surprise to our agency and our community, and we determined late this afternoon that they were indeed the ones that spearheaded this.”

Booth and Sheriff Gerald Couch spoke of the overwhelming show of support arising from the local community, and said it was only appropriate to allow those affected by the death of Dixon an opportunity to gather and celebrate Dixon’s life.

Couch spoke of how Dixon made a big impact on those with whom he worked, and never hesitated to confront danger when the need arose. “Blane was the type of individual that always was the first in line, and he ran towards danger, and he wanted to stamp out evil. That’s what he did that night.”

Dixon’s father, Freddie, told the crowd that law enforcement had been his son’s lifelong dream. “When he was little…he was always trying to look out for somebody, always trying to find somebody to protect. When he decided to join Hall County…I started saying, ‘Chase your dream.’, and this was his dream job.”

Governor Brian Kemp toured the new Georgia Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Pooler, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“It’s pretty impressive. I think it’s going to help us market the whole area,” Kemp said of the 50,000-sqaure-foot facility, which provides local manufacturers with customized workforce training.

Operated by Quick Start, a division of the Technical College System of Georgia, the center is equipped for a wide range of training, including control systems, networked wireless systems, and automation and robotics.

“… I think this facility just continues to give us something else to talk about and promote that we can offer to really any kind of company that would want to come do advanced manufacturing in Georgia, that this would be a site where we could do the training right here, great logistics and it’s a great site, as well,” Kemp said.

The Pooler center is the fourth Quick Start training facility in the state. Other locations include West Point at the site of the Kia Motors assembly plant. The second is located in Athens, site of a Caterpillar manufacturing facility, and is focused on welding, industrial technology and automation. The third center, in Social Circle, is dedicated to biosciences.

Kemp said the facility is a good thing for smaller companies not only in Chatham County, but the state, who might not have the ability or financial means to send employees long distances to receive the workforce training they need.

“I think it’s a great asset for our state, not just for the (Savannah) area, but the state as a whole,” he said.

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry announced he will run for the Democratic nomination to lose to Senator David Perdue for United States Senate in 2020, according to GPB News.

The millennial mayor of one of Georgia’s most diverse cities is promising to “bring courage back to Washington” if elected to the U.S. Senate.

Ted Terry has been the mayor of Clarkston, just east of Atlanta in DeKalb County, since 2013 and serves as the state director for the Sierra Club. He has pushed a number of progressive policies, including a $15 minimum wage for city employees, decriminalization of simple marijuana possession and a push to have the city run on 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

“Division is the tool of cowards, and we should reject the politicians who play on our worst fears and turn us against one another,” he said on his campaign website.

While those in Georgia politics may know Terry for his leadership of what’s called “the most diverse square mile in America,” he also made headlines for his appearance on Netflix’s “Queer Eye” show.

I just wonder if the makeover on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” constitutes an in-kind donation.

From the AJC:

The 36-year-old Democrat, known to supporters as the “millennial mayor,” said he would use his leadership of Clarkston as a template for his Senate platform: He supports higher minimum wages, stricter clean energy standards, decriminalizing marijuana and more welcoming immigration policies.

“Campaigns are ways we can move the needle on policies,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And I’m going to set the marker on what being a progressive in Georgia stands for. I won’t be surprised if the others follow suit.”

Terry is likely to push the field to the left on issues ranging from environmental policy to criminal justice – using polices he’s staked as leader of Clarkston, a DeKalb County town of about 13,000 people that’s so diverse it’s been described as the “Ellis Island of the South.”

Outside of Georgia political circles, he may be better known for recent role on Netflix’s “Queer Eye” show, including a memorable segment when stylists made him shave his unruly “Resistance Beard” – which he started growing after Trump’s victory.

On his appearance in ‘Queer Eye’:

“With being on a reality show, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. If people want to know who I am, watch that 55-minute episode of Queer Eye.”

A political issue for Terry involves two of his potential constituencies in the Democratic Primary. Terry is a former Campaign Director for the Georgia AFL-CIO and current Georgia State Director of the Sierra Club. As far as I know, Georgia’s major unions support the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, but the Sierra Club opposes them.

DeKalb County homeowners should see lower property tax bills, according to the AJC.

Various factors in DeKalb County are offsetting the impact that rising property values have on homeowners’ tax bills. They include credits resulting from the new EHOST sales tax and lower property tax rates, which work together to lower the amount residents will have to pay later this year.

Last year was the first year of EHOST, but it was implemented in April so 2019 is the first time this credit reflects a full year of the impact of residents paying more in sales tax to receive a break on property taxes.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said EHOST will especially benefit elderly residents in older neighborhoods that are rising in popular[it]y and experiencing skyrocketing property values.

The EHOST 1% sales tax [on] everything except food and drugs will result in $119 million in revenue passed on the homeowners. On average, DeKalb residents with homes valued at $250,000 will receive an $889 credit.

Commissioner Nancy Jester, who usually votes “no” on the budget, praised the process that resulted in the EHOST credits and declining tax rates.

Federal authorities seized $80,000 dollars from the campaign account of indicted Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, according to the AJC.

Federal officials seized $80,000 from the campaign account of suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, who is accused of stealing from his employer in part to fund his race for office in 2018.

That seizure was contained in a campaign finance report Beck filed Monday with the state ethics commission, paperwork that also showed he was raising big money from insurance interests days before he was indicted.

The seizure is being contested by Beck’s lawyers, and the feds did not close out his campaign account. According to his disclosure, Beck still had $171,000 left in his account as of June 30.

Two lawsuits over absentee ballots in Georgia’s 2018 election have been settled, according to the AJC.

A new Georgia law that prevents absentee ballot rejections has resolved two federal lawsuits over last fall’s election.

The law prohibits election officials from disqualifying absentee ballots because of a signature mismatch or a missing birth year and address. These protections for absentee voting led to the lawsuits’ dismissal.

“The parties agree that the above-cited provisions make further litigation of this matter unnecessary,” according to a joint stipulation for dismissal last month.

[T]he Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 316 in March, a broad elections bill that replaces the state’s voting machines and makes many other changes to elections.

A Special Election for Fulton County Commission District 6 drew 9 candidates, according to the AJC.

Six of the nine candidates for the District 6 seat on the Fulton County Commission participated in a forum Monday night, where the legacy of Emma Darnell, who held the seat since 1992 and died in May, was a prominent theme.

Joe Carn, Yoshiba Colbert-Bradford, Dr. Sonia Francis-Rolle, Warren C. Head, Rafer Johnson, and Gordon Joyner attended the event sponsored by the South Metro Democratic Women’s Council.

District 6 comprises East Point, College Park, Fairburn, South Fulton, Palmetto, Union City, Hapeville, Chatahoochee Hills and parts of Atlanta.

The election will be Sept. 17. The next District 6 commissioner will serve the remainder of the term and there will be a new race in 2020. The next forum is Aug. 14 at the Cascade United Methodist Church.

I award +3 points to AJC reporter Ayana R. Archie for correct usage of “comprise.”

Four candidates have announced for the September 3 Special Election for State House District 71, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

The dates for candidates qualifying will be set by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, according to Coweta Elections Supervisor Jane Scoggins.

The race will be held as special election, which means it will be non-partisan, with no party primary.

There are now four declared candidates for the District 71 seat, all Republicans. Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison and Nina Blackwelder have joined Philip Singleton and Sam Anders in the race.

Sakrison is the daughter of former State and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and the wife of Coweta County Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison.

“The conservative values of this community make this one of the greatest places in Georgia to live, work and raise a family,” Sakrison said. “I’m ready to fight in the Georgia House to keep our community great. For most of my life, my family has worked in the trenches to build and keep a Republican majority, and our state is thriving under conservative leadership. With liberals from around the country trying to fund a Democratic takeover of Georgia, I can’t stand on the sidelines as they seek to impose failed socialist policies on our state. I’m running because I care about the future of our state, our community and my family. If conservatives don’t step up to keep moving us forward, Democrats will take us backward.”

Sakrison said that she will defend Georgia’s pro-life policies and strong Second Amendment rights and will work for less spending, lower taxes, world-class schools and more transportation mobility. Sakrison said she will demand serious efforts to stop the illegal immigration that burdens the state’s taxpayers.

“Between now and Sept. 3, I’ll work tirelessly to earn the votes of my neighbors in this community,” Sakrison said. “I will tell them where I stand, and I’ll listen to their thoughts so that I’m able represent them to the best of my ability in the General Assembly. I’ve watched in horror and disbelief as the national media has given Stacey Abrams a platform to smear our state’s good name with empty claims that are reported as fact. I will stand with Gov. Kemp to defend our state’s well-earned reputation and continue the pro-jobs policies that keep us No. 1 for business and put more money in the pockets of families.”

Floyd County courts will use their old administration system as the statewide computer system remains down, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Ten days after a hacker attack hobbled Georgia’s eCourt case management network, there’s no relief in sight for Floyd County and other jurisdictions that depend on the system.

“Since our IT team still is unable to give us a timeline for eCourt’s restoration, we have advised them to go to a paper system for the time being,” said Bruce Shaw, spokesman for the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

Floyd County officials know they’re at the epicenter. Clerk of Courts Barbara Penson said her office had just finished transferring all records to the eCourt system on Feb. 2. The new software, equipment and training was provided free from the state in exchange for being one of the pilot agencies.

“All of a sudden, wham,” Penson said Tuesday. “We came in that Monday morning, the first of July, and nobody could log in … When I finally got in touch with them, the project manager said ‘It’s not good.’”

Penson said her office has started transferring five months worth of case files back to the old, late 1990s-era, Sustain system.

Columbia County Public Schools is recommending the Board of Education continue the same property tax millage rate as last year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Columbia County School District on Tuesday recommended holding its millage rate at 18.3 mills, where it has remained for the past four years.

That doesn’t mean some residents will not see an increase in their property taxes. According to Superintendent Sandra Carraway, some residents might see an increase in property values depending on the tax assessor’s office. With the average home in Columbia County currently valued at $200,000, the estimated increase would be approximately $24 per year.

While the state granted funding for $3,000 raises to certified employees and 2% raises to non-certified employees, some district employees including paraprofessionals and some secretaries and custodians did not qualify. The district opted to pay raises for them out of its general budget. Approximately 90% of the district’s budget is allocated for personnel expenses.

The school board heard the second presentation of the millage rate Tuesday evening. The final presentation and vote will be July 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the board of education office during its regularly scheduled meeting.

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted to move forward with a downtown location for a new arena, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Ending almost two years of stalemate, the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted 5-1 on Tuesday to proceed with conceptual design and community outreach on a plan to build a new James Brown Arena on authority property downtown.

“I am very excited that we are going to be able to move forward,” authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said. “We’ve been in a holding pattern for about two years, and that’s a lot of time we’ve wasted by not going forward.”

The project has no funding source and would likely require the authority to borrow in excess of $100 million or draw heavily from sales taxes.

The largest number of voters [in a non-binding August 2017 referendum], 57 percent, voted “yes” for the current downtown site, although Davis later said the results were subject to interpretation.

The Albany Herald looks at local government attitudes toward a citizenship question on the next census.

Vegetable production in Colquitt and Tift counties has drawn an influx of Hispanic residents — both permanent and migrant — over several decades, and a potential undercount of that population concerns elected officials. They fear that if a question about citizenship reduces that community’s participation in the process, they could miss out on federal dollars.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, as of July 2018, almost 20% of Colquitt County’s population of 45,592 was of Hispanic or Latino origin, and 12% of in Tift County’s population of 40,571. Dougherty County’s Hispanic or Latino population was estimated at 2.9%.

Population drives the distribution of federal funds to state and local governments, so cities and counties with large numbers of Hispanic residents would be most affected if Hispanic participation in the Census declines.

“You could end up being shorted money,” Colquitt County Commissioner Paul Nagy said in a Tuesday telephone interview. “At the same time, you’ve got to provide services. There’s good and bad (with the question). It’s bad because you have people who end up being undercounted.”

Blueberries are the largest cash crop in Georgia now, according to the Gainesville Times.

“July is national blueberry month but that’s not the only reason to celebrate,” says Carin Booth, family and consumer science extension agent for Hall County. “Aside from being naturally low in calories and fat, blueberries are high in Vitamin C and fiber. They’re a great source of potassium and iron, plus they are high in antioxidants.

“Even the berries you see in grocery stores are most likely grown in Georgia,” Carin says. “Just look on the label and you’ll see that most of them have the Georgia Grown logo and are from places in South Georgia like Alma, which is considered the blueberry capital of Georgia.”

South Georgia has the ideal climate and soil conditions for blueberries, but its easy to grow your own back yard berries here in Northeast Georgia. “Blueberries like acidic soil that’s well-drained,” says Nathan Eason, agricultural extension coordinator with White County. “The best approach is to find a sunny spot and then do a soil test to find out whether you need to add fertilizer or other elements specifically to grow blueberries successfully.” The University of Georgia Extension local offices have soil test bags and instructions about how take soil samples. Then the office will send the bag to UGA to be analyzed. You’ll receive a detailed report about the condition of your soil. A general soil test costs between $6 and $8 and the results will be returned in a couple of weeks.

Columbus city government continues considering how to deal with the Government Center, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus mayor Skip Henderson said Tuesday in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer that he hopes the four options currently being considered for the city’s decaying government center can be cut down to two by the end of July.

“I think you’ll see the city manager’s officer — along with my office — he and I will sit down and review the information that people have given us during these public meetings and probably come in with a couple of recommendations trying to whittle it down to two,” he said. “I’d like for it to.”

Henderson has previously expressed his support for funding the new center through a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). He said in previous interviews that the council has expressed interest in asking the public for a new SPLOST when the current education SPLOST ends.

Larry Miller is leading in fundraising for the 2020 election for Mayor of Macon-Bibb County, according to 13 WMAZ.

With the election still nearly 11 months away, Miller, a Macon attorney and school board president, has raised more than $196,000 in cash and has $151,000 on hand.

Larry Schlesinger, a rabbi and county commissioner, has raised more than $76,000 and has around $57,000 on hand.

That’s according to records filed with the Macon-Bibb Board of Elections that cover the first half of 2019.

The report from WMAZ does a nice job of analyzing the campaign finance reports.

In Glynn County, the Brunswick News looks at local candidate disclosures.

Following a pattern from previous elections, District Attorney Jackie Johnson took out a new $125,000 loan Jan. 31, which — outside of congressional or statewide contests — is a staggering amount of money. According to the January 2019 report, she paid $98,984.12 off a previous loan, and per the June 2019 report, earned $127.96 in interest on her campaign account to end the cycle with $125,127.95 on hand.

Glynn County’s superior court judges Robert Guy, Anthony Harrison, Stephen Kelly and Stephen Scarlett are up for re-election next year. Harrison, Kelley and Scarlett all have similar financial activity over the last six months, with is to say barely any. Harrison has more than $7,000 on hand, while Kelley has more than $1,100 and Scarlett has close to $2,900.

That brings us to Guy, who went fundraising at the end of last year and brought in the incredible haul of $82,004. Guy raised more money than any other Glynn County elected official — including state legislators — and has by far has the most on hand, excluding the DA.

Early on, it appears a rematch is in the works in District 179, with 2018 Democratic nominee Julie Jordan mounting a second attempt at unseating state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island. Jordan matched and then beat Hogan in fundraising ability, with the vast majority of those dollars coming from St. Simons Island women.

State Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, ended 2018 with $21,748.45 in the bank, and that ebbed and flowed a little over the last six months before closing out at $18,244.39 on hand. During this period, and despite being one of the House Republican public opponents of Speaker David Ralston, state industry associations have kept up with contributions that tend to go to allied incumbents.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed early voting for upcoming elections, according to The Brunswick News.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed opening the early voting polls after regular business hours or on a single Sunday in future elections.

Board Chairwoman Patricia Gibson said voter advocacy group Women’s Voices of Glynn requested the board open the polls on at least one Sunday during early voting to increase access for those who work multiple jobs.

Currently, early voting runs for the 16 days preceding each election day, 15 weekdays and one Saturday.

“We don’t have to make a decision today, though we certainly can if the board chooses, but I wanted to put this on the agenda for us to give some consideration for future elections so we can give staff some direction as they’re planning for early voting,” Gibson said.

Loggerhead turtles set a new record for nesting site on the Georgia coast, according to the Savannah Morning News.

By the time the dawn patrols that scour Georgia’s beaches daily had logged in Tuesday’s numbers, the count was up to 3,405 nests, blowing past the previous season high of 3,289 nests set in 2016.

And they’re not done yet, with nesting that began in late April expected to continue into August. Georgia Sea Turtle Coordinator Mark Dodd, a biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, previously predicted the final season count could be as high as 4,500.

Loggerheads, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, are the most common species of sea turtles in Georgia. Weighing over 300 pounds, the adult females nest every second or third season near the area where they hatched, emerging at night to dig a nest above the high water line or up into the dune face. They lay an average of 120 eggs per nest, making about four attempts each in a nesting year. Hatching occurs after approximately 60 days of incubation, beginning in mid-July and continuing through early October.

On Wassaw, volunteers with the Caretta Research Project have recorded 431 loggerhead nests, almost a third more than the previous high number of 333. Project Director Kris Williams is rethinking her impression that Wassaw’s nesting was tapering off.

Across the coast hatchlings have begun emerging from their nests. They typically incubate 50-70 days. The web site, which tracks nesting numbers and related statistics indicated that 1,479 hatchlings had emerged by Tuesday.

The Fonz actor Henry Winkler will speak in Statesboro at the 13th annual Kids and Community Gala on September 19th, according to the Statesboro Herald.

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