General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates met General John Pope’s federal forces at the Second Battle of Manassas on August 29, 1862.
Union General William T. Sherman’s forces tore up 12 miles of railroad between Red Oak and Fairburn on August 29, 1864.
The United States Air Force Academy moved to its permanent home in Colorado Springs on August 29, 1958.
The Beatles played their final concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.
On August 29, 1971, Hank Aaron broke the National League record for most seasons with 100 or more RBI, as he drove in his 100th run to make 11 seasons hitting that mark.
On August 29, 1977, Lou Brock stole his 893d base, to surpass the record set by Georgia-born Ty Cobb.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections
Funeral arrangements for the late Georgia State House Clerk Robbie River have been announced, according to the AJC Insider:
Funeral services for Robert E. “Robbie” Rivers Jr., the longtime former clerk of the state House of Representatives, will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church of Bremen, at 331 Pacific Ave., Bremen, Ga. 30110.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. today at the church. Hightower Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Yesterday, United States Senator Johnny Isakson (R) announced he will retire from the Senate before his term ends, at the close of 2019.
“After much prayer and consultation with my family and my doctors, I have made the very tough decision to leave the U.S. Senate at the end of this year. I have informed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp today that I will resign my Senate seat effective December 31, 2019.
“I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff. My Parkinson’s has been progressing, and I am continuing physical therapy to recover from a fall in July. In addition, this week I had surgery to remove a growth on my kidney.
“In my 40 years in elected office, I have always put my constituents and my state of Georgia first. With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.
“I look forward to returning to Washington on September 9 when the Senate goes back into session. And after December 31, I look forward to continuing to help the people of Georgia in any way I can and also helping those who are working toward a cure for Parkinson’s.”
Isakson’s Senate term ends in 2022, and there will be three years left in the term when he vacates the seat in December.
Isakson, 74, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013. In July, Isakson fell in his D.C. apartment and suffered four fracture ribs and a torn rotator cuff. On Monday, Isakson underwent surgery at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta to remove a 2-centimeter renal cell carcinoma from one of his kidneys.
In 2016, Isakson won re-election with 54% of the vote and became the first Republican in Georgia to be elected to a third term in the U.S. Senate. After more than three decades in the real estate business, Isakson became the only elected official in Georgia to serve in the Georgia House, the Georgia Senate, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.
Governor Kemp‘s office released the following statement:
“No one embodies the heart and soul of Georgia more than Johnny Isakson,” said Governor Kemp. “Our state and country have been immeasurably blessed by his leadership in the Georgia General Assembly, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate. Senator Isakson’s list of accomplishments on behalf of the state that he loves is long and revered, but what Georgia should be most thankful for is the high standard that Johnny held as a true gentleman, a fighter for his constituents, a trusted advocate for our nation’s veterans, and one of the greatest statesmen to ever answer the call of service to our country. Marty and I are forever grateful for the friendship that Johnny and Dianne have shown us over the years and wish them the very best in the years to come. I will appoint Senator Isakson’s replacement at the appropriate time.”
“Senator Isakson is a lifelong family friend, and we are deeply grateful for his dedicated service to our state and nation, including alongside my father in the Georgia General Assembly,” said First Lady Marty Kemp. “Georgia is incredibly blessed to have had Johnny on our side for all these years. Our family is praying for Johnny and Dianne as they embark on this new journey.”
Ga. Const. Art. V, § II, Para. VIII
(a) When any public office shall become vacant by death, resignation, or otherwise, the Governor shall promptly fill such vacancy unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law; and persons so appointed shall serve for the unexpired term unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law.
(b) In case of the death or withdrawal of a person who received a majority of votes cast in an election for the office of Secretary of State, Attorney General, State School Superintendent, Commissioner of Insurance, Commissioner of Agriculture, or Commissioner of Labor, the Governor elected at the same election, upon becoming Governor, shall have the power to fill such office by appointing, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, an individual to serve until the next general election and until a successor for the balance of the unexpired term shall have been elected and qualified.
O.C.G.A. § 21-2-542
Whenever a vacancy shall occur in the representation of this state in the Senate of the United States, such vacancy shall be filled for the unexpired term by the vote of the electors of the state at a special election to be held at the time of the next November state-wide general election, occurring at least 40 days after the occurrence of such vacancy; and it shall be the duty of the Governor to issue his or her proclamation for such election. Until such time as the vacancy shall be filled by an election as provided in this Code section, the Governor may make a temporary appointment to fill such vacancy.
This morning, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson spoke with Governor Kemp to inform him of his decision to resign public office, effective December 31, 2019. Senator Isakson provided a formal letter (attached) to the Governor. There is no vacancy until Isakson’s formal resignation on December 31, 2019. Under Ga. Const. Art. V, § II, Para. VIII and Ga. Code. Ann. § 21-2-542, the Governor will make a temporary appointment where such person will serve until a special election is held on November 3, 2020.
Among his many accomplishments and service, Senator Isakson is also a veteran of the Georgia Air National Guard, former member of the State School Board, and a graduate of the University of Georgia.
Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston released a statement:
“The loss of Johnny Isakson from public life will leave a void in Georgia which is beyond comprehension. While I respect his reasons, I feel a tremendous sense of personal sadness – Johnny is a mentor, role model and friend. Over a distinguished career in the Georgia House, Georgia State Senate, State Board of Education, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, Johnny Isakson demonstrated that civility and reasonableness are virtues that will never go out of style. My family and I will continue to pray for Johnny, Dianne and the Isakson family.”
Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller released a statement:
“Senator Isakson is a true statesman whose leadership and effective representation have made our country and state a better place. Teresa and I ask that you join us in thanking Senator Isakson for his exemplary service, and join us in continued prayer for his good health.”
Current status of potential candidates:
A Democratic source with direct knowledge of Ossoff’s conversations spoke on the condition of anonymity and said Ossoff is already considering a run in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Sen. David Perdue. On Wednesday, Georgia’s other Republican senator, Johnny Isakson, announced Wednesday he would resign at the end of the year, citing health issues. Two sources said the development made Ossoff more likely to run, with some kind of a formal announcement about his intentions coming soon.
Ossoff did not respond to an email from BuzzFeed News seeking comment. In a brief interview, an Ossoff aide declined to speak about Ossoff’s future plans on the record.
“You know, to be considered for that, I’m humbled by folks who are considering that,” Collins, a Republican, told Fox News, adding that filling Isakson’s Senate seat “is something that I would look at.”
“Johnny Isakson is a man of stature. He is one of the politicians that have come forward and shown what leadership and statesmanship is like,” Collins said, adding: “We in Georgia stand on his shoulders because he has provided Republican leadership for so long.”
“My decision to leave the White House and Washington, D.C. earlier this year was for the sole purpose of stepping back from politics and enjoying this season of life with my wife and three young children. They are the priority now and for the many years to come,” the 37-year-old Ayers said in statement lavishing praise on Isakson. “Gov. Kemp has a number of great options to choose from who will represent our state with success and distinction — but I won’t be one of them,” Ayers added.
Three Georgia Democrats have already announced challenges to U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a first-term Republican who is up for election in 2020. Isakson’s seat will likely draw several other Democrats, who see Georgia as increasingly competitive.
It’s not yet clear who Kemp will appoint to fill Isakson’s seat, though potential candidates include Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, state Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Among the potential Democratic contenders for the seat are the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church; Jon Ossoff, a former candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District; Jason Carter, the runner-up for governor in 2014; and Michelle Nunn, who was defeated by David Perdue in the 2014 Senate race.
And Bluestein on the process by which Georgia’s next United States Senator will be chosen.
The first will involve quiet jockeying to sway Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who will soon tap someone to fill out the next year of Isakson’s term. Already, Republicans are making behind-the-scenes moves to position themselves for an appointment – or rule themselves out.
The second will be a much noisier Democratic race to fill the seat. Three Democrats have already launched challenges to U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is seeking a second term next year, and the list of potential candidates for Isakson’s seat is growing.
“Georgia is now ground zero in national politics and there’s no doubt about it,” said Chip Lake, a veteran Republican strategist and adviser to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. “How often can we say we’re the center of the political universe? Well, right now we are.”
Kemp’s advisers say they are starting from square one and that they won’t be beholden to anyone from his 2018 campaign. That’s important because he picked up several key endorsements, most notably Trump’s support at the behest of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
He’ll be among the candidates rumored for the job, as will other high-profile Republican officials: Attorney General Chris Carr, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and U.S. Reps. Doug Collins and Drew Ferguson.
Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s announcement Wednesday that he will resign from the chamber at the end of the year is just the sort of break Democrats hoping to retake the majority next November badly needed.
Democrats desperately need to expand the playing field to have any sort of margin for error in their quest to win back the Senate in 2020. The addition of one more seat — and one in a state where Democrats have been making gains at the ballot box in recent elections — is a major boon in that effort.
Let’s do the math.
To control the Senate in 2021, Democrats need to pick up three seats if they win the White House in 2020 or four if they don’t. (The vice president breaks all tie votes in the Senate, meaning that if the Senate was split 50-50 and President Donald Trump was still in the White House, Republicans would have effective control.)
Republicans will now have 23 seats to defend in November 2020 as compared to just 12 for Democrats. Prior to Isakson’s surprise announcement on Wednesday, the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign handicapping service, rated just three GOP seats as “toss up”: Arizona, Colorado and Maine. Widening the aperture, Cook rated 7 more seats — including Georgia Sen. David Perdue’s — as potentially competitive. Democrats, on the other hand, had just four total seats rated by Cook as even marginally competitive with Alabama as the only one, at the moment, in real danger.
The decision has national implications in the heated battle for control of the Senate. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate and will head into 2020 defending fewer competitive seats. Isakson’s retirement gives Democrats another potential pickup opportunity.
Still, Democrats will still face a steep uphill climb in a state that has not elected a Democratic U.S. senator since Zell Miller in 2000. Miller retired four years later and Isakson won the race for his seat by nearly 20 points. Isakson won reelection in 2010 and 2016 by double-digit margins.
Abrams’ decision not to run for Senate in 2020 opens the door for several Democrats reportedly eyeing a run for the seat. The list includes Michael Thurman, the chief executive of DeKalb County and a former state legislator and government official, and Jon Ossoff, a progressive Democrat who lost a special election for an open House seat in 2017.
Several other leading Democrats in the state have already launched campaigns for Perdue’s seat. Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry announced his Senate bid in July, and Sarah Riggs Amico, Abrams’ running mate in 2018, entered the race Tuesday.
Isakson’s decision “presents a unique opportunity for Democrats to come together to figure out who would be the best person to run for the Senate in 2020 for both races,” said Tharon Johnson, an Atlanta-based Democratic strategist.
“We are a battleground state that is, I believe, purple now,” Johnson added. “A lot of it is going to be about putting together the right coalition of voters and deciding which candidate can best get that coalition.”
“First and foremost, Georgia needs to say a long and thoughtful thank you to Johnny Isakson,” said John Watson, a former Georgia GOP chairman. “But as we witnessed last election cycle, when we had unprecedented money and attention, we ain’t seen nothing yet.”
He added, “This puts Georgia front and center on every political map, and the times will only get more interesting.”
Democrats are quick to agree. State Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, predicted that Isakson’s retirement will clinch Georgia’s status as a swing state.
“We are the battleground state, and Georgia Democrats are ready to fight and deliver both the Senate and the presidency for Democrats across the country in 2020,” she said.
“It’s a complicated chess game. It’s not just about one seat,” said Jay Morgan, a veteran operative and former executive director of the Georgia GOP. “You have to think about how it affects (David) Perdue’s race and, ultimately, about Kemp’s own re-election campaign in 2022.”
[Senator David] Perdue had already drawn three challengers, and all of them — car-hauling executive Sarah Riggs Amico, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson — said they will stay in the race.
Republicans are confident they will be able to hold Isakson’s seat, alongside that of Sen. David Perdue, who is running for a second term. They point out that Abrams lost the 2018 gubernatorial race in a high-turnout contest — and that Democrats have not attracted top recruits to the first race, let alone to a second.
“Dems were having a hard enough time figuring out who they were going to get behind” against Perdue, said John Watson, a former state GOP chairman. “Now they have the double problem of figuring out two races.”
Republicans acknowledge that the pending Georgia vacancy is an unwelcome development, but they argue that it was a state they were already confident they could hold. Some found a silver lining in the effect it would have on the rest of the map.
Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor, said he thinks the special election strengthens Perdue’s reelection bid and makes the state that much more expensive for Democrats in a contest that was already an uphill battle.
“This will ultimately reduce the resources Democrats have in Arizona, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado down the stretch as they strive for two slightly-out-of-reach Senate seats in Georgia,” Eberhart said.
Asked Wednesday if he would consider running for Senate, Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, said, “I think anybody would think about it.”
“This is yet another seat Republicans will need to defend next year in an increasingly competitive battleground where the president’s approval has plunged by double digits since taking office,” said Stewart Boss, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Governor Kemp‘s appointments have been notable for the number of African-Americans he’s named to posts in the justice system, according to the AJC.
At the state Capitol, Tadia Whitner took the oath to become the first black judge on Gwinnett County’s Superior Court bench. In a ceremonial courtroom in Marietta, Kemp also swore in Joyette Holmes as the first African-American district attorney of Cobb County.
“It’s kind of neat,” Kemp said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You can tell they’re historic from the level of excitement at the swearing-ins. There’ve been huge crowds. You see the whole community come out because people recognize the historic nature. It’s exciting.”
During his seven months in office, Kemp has appointed blacks to other key positions in the state’s justice system. He tapped former police chief Tyrone Oliver to head the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice. He also put former prosecutor Shondeana Morris on the DeKalb County Superior Court bench and elevated Judge Jeffery Monroe to the Superior Court of the Macon Judicial Circuit.
Kemp’s appointments so far have been a welcome sight, said Atlanta lawyer Liz Broadway Brown, president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys.
“We are paying close attention to the governor’s judicial appointments and are energized to see the diversity in the candidates selected to fill these very important positions,” Brown said.
“I think we’ve sent a message to everyone that if you’re qualified and you feel like you’re the best person to serve in that role we’ll take a hard look at you,” the governor said. “I don’t think people are saying, ‘Well, there’s no need for me to apply because Brian Kemp’s governor.’ And that’s good. They shouldn’t, because we’re looking for qualified people.”
Gov. Kemp announced his support for a new approach for extending health care insurance to rural Georgia, according to the AJC.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced a partnership Thursday between the Georgia Farm Bureau and insurance firms to offer new coverage options to rural residents.
The program, targeted at farmers and employees of agricultural-related firms, gives residents the option to join an association health plan underwritten by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Groups with between 2 and 50 employees can join the program, as well as sole proprietors. Each employee must become a member of the farm bureau to be eligible.
In Stonecrest, a possibly-former city council member is running for Mayor, leading to a bizarre situation, according to the AJC.
It was a bizarre scene at this week’s Stonecrest City Council meeting after Diane Adoma showed up at City Hall and attempted to participate, despite a state law that city officials say removed her from office immediately upon qualifying for the upcoming election. Although she took her usual seat at the council meeting, her nameplate had been removed and she was mostly ignored by city staff and the other officials. She also tried to vote on some measures, but her votes were not counted.
Friday, Adoma turned in the paperwork to run for mayor, challenging incumbent Mayor Jason Lary in the November election.
“The (city) clerk asked for my keys, my computer, and my phone. And I told her I wasn’t vacating my seat,” Adoma said in a recent interview. “Immediately, they deactivated my official city email and my official city phone.”
Since Friday, Adoma’s picture in City Hall was taken down, and her profile was removed from the city’s website.
She launched a legal challenge against the constitutional law on Monday, claiming she was unlawfully removed from office. The law, she said, is unclear over what it means to “qualify” for office.
Representing herself, Adoma filed for an emergency injunction in DeKalb County Superior Court requesting that she be able to keep her City Council seat while running for mayor. Judge Mark Anthony Scott denied the motion Monday.
The city is now waiting for a judge to sign off on a restraining order against Adoma, Stonecrest spokesman Adrion Bell said. The restraining order will “prohibit her from accessing areas such as the council chambers dais and the executive session chambers as she did on Monday,” Bell said. “We are taking these steps to ensure the safety of our staff and the orderly, legal fashion in which our meetings should be conducted.”
The Gwinnett County Board of Elections is considering adding a week of early voting next year, according to the AJC.
Gwinnett County could have three weeks of continuous early voting in multiple locations for 2020 elections if its budget request is approved.
The county elections office is part of the department of community services. In that department’s 2020 budget presentation Tuesday, Director Tina Fleming asked the county budget committee for nearly $1.8 million to increase the availability of satellite voting.
In the most recent countywide election, March’s MARTA referendum, satellite voting was available for two weeks, while advance voting at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Office was available for three. The proposed budget for 2020 allows for three weeks of advance voting at the elections office and three weeks of satellite voting at locations across the county.
Satellite polling places would be open for three weeks straight, including Saturdays and Sundays. The polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, Fleming said. Gwinnett’s first Sunday of early voting didn’t occur until 2018.
Early voting will also be expanded from one week to two weeks for runoff elections. Satellite sites have not been previously used for runoff elections, but would under this plan.
The Chatham County Board of Elections will not open new voting precincts in Pooler for this year’s local elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Pooler will not be receiving any new voting precincts for the Nov. 5 municipal elections, the Chatham County Board of Elections confirmed at a special meeting on Wednesday.
The decision boiled down to a change in the law, and time.
A change in Georgia law that went into effect in July 2019 lengthened the amount of time required for published public notification of a proposed change in a polling place or precinct.
Before 2019, such notification had to be published in the legal organ of the county — in this case the Savannah Morning News — 10 days prior to the approval of any precinct changes. Now, that notification must be published 30 days before the changes can be made.
The adoption of any precinct changes must be made at least 60 days before an election.
The additional 20 days push the window for the board to enact any precinct changes in Pooler beyond the Nov. 5 municipal election, making it unlawful.
Cordele has contested elections for city commission this year, according to the Cordele Dispatch.
Incumbent commissioners Vesta Beal-Shephard, who represents Cordele’s First Ward, and Wesley Rainey, who represents Cordele’s Fourth Ward, will face challengers in the contest.
Beal-Shephard will face political newcomer Milton Holly, Jr. Rainey faces Joshua Deriso, who was unsuccessful in his campaign last November for the Georgia House of Representatives seat now occupied by Noel Williams.
Beal-Shephard and Rainey were elected to the city commission in 2015. Rainey won his seat against Billy White by a tally of 155 to 99. Beal-Shephard bested Sammie Hill, Sr. 115-43.
In Deriso’s race for the State House 148 seat, he was bested district-wide by Williams by a vote of 12,657 to 5,567, but in Crisp County, the tally was slightly more narrow with Williams’ 4,451 votes to his 2,493.
Charles Love withdrew as a candidate for Rome City Commission, according to the Rome News Tribune.
Love, a co-founder of the North Rome Community Action Committee, qualified last week to run for one of the three Ward 1 seats. As part of qualifying for the post he submitted a statement from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles certifying that his civil and political rights are restored.
He served nearly a year in federal prison for his part as a lobbyist who delivered money to lawmakers in exchange for their votes in the 2005 “Tennessee Waltz” bribery sting. Since coming to Rome, he’s been active in the community.
Love was originally qualified to run, but there was a question of whether the time elapsed from the completion of his sentence equaled a mandated 10-year period.
Former Warner Robins city council member John Williams also withdrew from the election he qualified for, according to the Macon Telegraph.
John Williams, a former Warner Robins city councilman convicted of a felony, has withdrawn his candidacy for council.
Williams qualified last week to run for the Post 6 seat he formerly held.
A hearing was set Tuesday for Williams to make a case as to why he should be able to run, despite having served time in federal prison. But on Monday Williams sent a letter to the city elections office stating he was withdrawing his candidacy.
Lowndes County set its millage rate for FY 2020, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
The county set its millage at the rollback rate of 10.938, a reduction of 0.126 mills from last year.
The rollback essentially leaves Lowndes County property taxes unchanged.
According to county documents, the county will receive 8.688 mills, the industrial authority will receive 1.00 mill and the parks and recreation authority will receive 1.25 mills.
Paige Dukes, county clerk and public information officer, said a county resident’s property taxes will go down if their property was not evaluated higher than last year. If someone’s property value increased, their taxes will go up, but by a smaller amount due to the lower millage rate, she said.
In years where property values have increased due to reassessment, local governments must either adopt the state-recommended rollback rate or publicly advertise a proposed tax increase.
The Valdosta Board of Education also adopted the rollback property tax millage rate, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
After increasing property taxes for the last five years, Valdosta City Schools is rolling back its millage rate. A move that should have most homeowners paying about the same property taxes as last year.
The decision to approve the millage rate moving from 16.98 to 16.751 came out of the Valdosta Board of Education meeting Tuesday with unanimous votes from everyone except Tyra Howard, who was absent from the meeting.
Dr. Alvin Hudson, assistant city school superintendent, said the school system can accept the rollback millage rate and still fund its 2020 budget.
“If the rollback rate is approved by the board, our district will still meet its budgetary obligations for the Fiscal Year 2020 school year,” Hudson said. “This will also amount to a 0 percent tax increase for our homeowners on their upcoming property taxes.”
The Whitfield County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) committee voted to cap future sales tax referenda at four years, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.
“More than a cap, this is a framework for the committee to work from,” said committee member David Pennington IV, who made the motion. “I do think the public has spoken over the last several SPLOST votes that longer SPLOSTs are not an option. The cap is not a hard cap. However, within our framework, it is our job to create a project list under that cap. And based on that list, make a determination as to the proper length of any SPLOST.”
According to data presented by county officials, a SPLOST would be expected to bring in about $16 million a year, so a four-year SPLOST would raise about $64 million. A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county. The revenue can only be used for capital spending and special projects.
“I think one of the primary reasons that [March 2019] SPLOST failed was the length,” said committee Chairman Chris Shiflett. “A shorter SPLOST, three or four years, would be prudent, and the four-year cap would be something for this committee to work towards. I think it’s a good number.”
The committee will make recommendations for a SPLOST that is planned for the May 2020 primary election ballot. But the elected officials will have the final say on which projects are placed on a SPLOST referendum.