Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 5, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 5, 2019

Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who spent part of his youth in Augusta, Georgia and married Ellen Louise Axson, whom he met in Rome, Georgia, was elected President in a landslide victory on November 5, 1912.

Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to his unprecedented third term as President of the United States on November 5, 1940.

Richard M. Nixon was elected President of the United States by a plurality vote on November 5, 1968.

On November 5, 2002, Sonny Perdue was elected the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction, beginning the modern era of Republican dominance of Georgia state politics.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Donald Trump will debut the Black Voices for Trump Coalition initiative in Atlanta on Friday, according to WSB-TV.

The president will kick off the Black Voices for Trump Coalition initiative at 3 p.m. Friday at the downtown Atlanta convention center after a high-dollar fundraiser in Buckhead to support U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

He’s expected to highlight recent statistics that show low unemployment rates for black workers as well as an opportunity zone program tucked into the Republicans’ 2017 tax-cut legislation that is designed to encourage investors to pump money into struggling areas.

Trump’s campaign picked Atlanta for his rollout because of its role as an epicenter of black life and the region’s fast-growing African American population, according to a senior White House official. Vice President Mike Pence is set to address the crowd, too.

It will be Trump’s seventh trip to Georgia since his election, a spate of visits that included a November 2018 rally in Macon to promote Kemp’s campaign and an April address at an opioid summit in downtown Atlanta.

Trump’s visit to Atlanta, first reported last month, will start with a roundtable discussion that will cost supporters $100,000 to attend. It follows with a luncheon that will run attendees $2,800 — and a donation of at least $35,000 for a photo with the president.

From Newsweek:

“Black Americans have never had a better champion than President Trump,” Katrina Pierson, Senior Advisor at Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. wrote in a statement emailed to Newsweek. “The Black Voices for Trump coalition will be a national effort to mobilize and empower Black Americans who support President Trump to help get the message of ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept’ into communities across America.”

“Under President Trump, unemployment for African Americans has reached historic lows and nearly 1.4 million new jobs have been added for African Americans,” Pierson said. “Black Americans’ strong support for President Trump will ensure a second term for the President.”

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday rolled out an application for a federal waiver of some Medicaid rules. From the AJC:

The governor’s long-awaited waiver plan would impose requirements that recipients of a limited Medicaid expansion be employed or involved in other activities, an idea that pleases conservatives but is meeting stiff resistance in federal courts.

The potential impact of his “Georgia Pathways” proposal falls far short of what a full-scale expansion of the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act would achieve. That prospect is a nonstarter under Kemp, who campaigned against it.

Kemp’s alternative, known as an 1115 waiver, takes aim at some of the state’s poorest residents: the 408,000 or so adult Georgians who make less than the federal poverty level — about $12,000 a year for an individual — but do not qualify for Medicaid.

Kemp’s aides estimate a fraction of those — about 50,000 people — will be enrolled under this plan.

From the Gainesville Times:

Under Kemp’s proposal, which is more limited than other states, uninsured adults in Georgia who make no more than the federal poverty level would qualify for Medicaid assistance if they spent at least 80 hours a month working, volunteering, training or studying. They would also have to pay monthly premiums.

The federal poverty level is just under $12,500 for an individual.

The governor’s office called the approach a “conservative reform” that reflects the state’s values as a place that “honors work” and “champions individual responsibility.” It would require approval from the Trump administration.

Kemp’s office plans to seek a 90 percent match from the federal government for its more limited expansion. That would make the cost to the state $10 million in the program’s first year; otherwise, it would be $36 million.

Supporters of a full Medicaid expansion under the ACA estimated it would cover roughly 500,000 Georgia residents. The governor’s office envisions this expansion will cover more than 52,000 people in its fifth year.

The proposal came days after Kemp unveiled a separate proposal to reduce premiums for Georgia residents who buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, while giving the state control of billions of dollars in ACA subsidies. That, too, requires Trump administration approval.

The Democratic National Committee is suing to challenge Georgia’s ballot order statute, according to the Daily Report.

The suit by the Democratic National Committee challenges the constitutionality of a Georgia law that determines the order candidates appear on ballots, based on the governor’s political party.

The suit, filed Friday against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of the State Election Board, contends that the ballot order statute “puts an arbitrary thumb on the scale” in all of the state’s partisan general elections—in favor of candidates of the governor’s political party. As a result, through at least 2022, every Republican candidate in a state partisan race will be listed first because Gov. Brian Kemp is a Republican.

The suit asks a federal judge to declare the statute as unconstitutional and bar the state from enforcing the ballot order statute to benefit the state Republican party. It also asks the court to require a ballot order system that gives other major party candidates “an equal opportunity to be listed first on the ballot.”

The Georgia suit is one of three federal ballot order cases brought by the Democratic National Committee, its congressional affiliates and state parties on Friday. The committee also filed similar suits in Arizona and Texas.

“Our democracy only works if we have free and fair elections without any arbitrary partisan advantages for one party or another,” said Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Every Georgian should have confidence that their vote will count and that their elections are administered under a fair and unbiased system. Especially given the history of Republican efforts at voter suppression in Georgia, the result from the last election should not determine who wins the next one.”

“Democrats are taking every action possible to protect the integrity of our democratic process and ensure every voter can participate in a fair election,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “An unbiased ballot is one of the cornerstones of our democratic system, and this joint effort will help make sure no one political party is given an unfair advantage at voters’ expense.”

Georgia’s new voting system gets an advance tryout today, according to the Associated Press.

State election officials are piloting the $106 million system in six mostly rural counties holding elections Tuesday for mayors, city councils and school boards. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger plans to use the new machines in all 159 counties for Georgia’s presidential primaries in March.

A federal judge in August upped the pressure for a new system. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg gave Georgia until Jan. 1 to retire the election system in use since 2002, calling it “seriously flawed.”

Election officials in the six counties chosen to test the new machines said more than 9,300 voters had few problems during three weeks of advance voting ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

“It’s been a whole lot better than I thought it would be,” said Rickey Kittle, election board chairman for Catoosa County near the Tennessee line. “When you change anything, you always fear for the worst. It just didn’t happen.”

AccessWDUN looks at local elections across North Georgia.

Dawson County voters will be asked to cast their votes for an extension of an Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The ESPLOST amounts to $48 million. Approval of the penny sales tax extension would also constitute approval of $10 million worth of general obligation bonds for the school district.

A [City of Cumming] special election will be held asking voters to decide on a Sunday “brunch bill” to extend sales hours for alcohol by the drink on Sundays.

In Habersham County, voters will decide on a $31.7-million jail bond referendum and a successor to fill the balance of the District 5 term (13 months) on the Habersham County Commission.

In Clarkesville, voters will decide a Brunch Bill that reads, “Shall the governing authority of the City of Clarkesville be authorized to permit and regulate Sunday sales of distilled spirits or alcoholic beverages for beverage purposes by the drink from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.?”

Hall County voters will be asked to cast ballots on an extension of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. SPLOST VII projects total nearly $217 million.

Dahlonega voters will be asked to vote on a brunch bill, which, if approved, would allow for earlier Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink.

In Cleveland, voters will decide a Sunday sales of distilled spirits referendum that would allow those sales from 11 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.

The Macon Telegraph looks at what’s on local ballots.

Bibb County voters will decide Tuesday whether to extend a 1% sales tax to fund $185 million in school initiatives.

Meanwhile, in Houston County, council elections include three contested races in Warner Robins.

The election in Perry includes one contested council race.

Centerville has one contested council race on the ballot. Additionally, voters will decide a referendum on extending the start time for Sunday alcohol sales by the drink at restaurants by 90 minutes from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Such sales are now permitted from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Harris County voters will decide on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST) in today’s election, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

For the sixth time in three decades, Harris County voters will be asked to approve a sales tax to help fund school projects. But for the first time, the request will come in the form of two questions on the ballot.

An Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, commonly called an ESPLOST, provides school districts a way to raise money for school improvements in addition to property taxes, loans (from a bond issue or a bank) and grants. ESPLOST money can be used for capital projects, such as construction, renovation, buses and technology, or to pay off debt, but it can’t be used for operating expenses, such as salaries.

Although the current ESPLOST is scheduled to continue through December 2021, HCSD wants voters to approve the referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot so planning and construction can be done earlier, decreasing the amount of inflation in the project’s cost. This also would allow the sales tax to continue without interruption, so the new ESPLOST would go into effect in January 2022.

The proposed ESPLOST asks voters to approve continuing the 1% sales tax for five more years, from January 2022 through December 2026, or until $18 million is collected, whichever comes first.

The legalese of the ballot’s second question says, “Shall a total of up to $26,000,000 in aggregate principal amount of” the school district’s “general obligation debt be issued” for these projects?

Although it doesn’t mention anything about a possible property tax increase, HCSD assistant superintendent for business services Justin Finney told the approximately three dozen folks at Monday night’s public forum at the high school that’s what it could mean.

It could be a property tax increase of 1 mill. For example, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $40 per year in property taxes. Approving the second question would give the school board the authority to increase property taxes to pay off the long-term construction bonds.

If the actual cost of the projects end up being less than estimated, the board might not have to increase property taxes, HCSD spokeswoman Rachel Crumbley told the Ledger-Enquirer.

The Savannah Morning News reviews local elections, including a SPLOST renewal.

Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VII and level 1 Freeport Exemption is on all ballots in Chatham County.

The sales tax would extend a current 1% tax for a variety of projects throughout the county and municipalities.

Freeport allows exemptions from personal property taxes on qualified inventories held by e-commerce sellers, known mainly as fulfillment centers. Fulfillment centers handle orders and inventory sold online by retailers and others. The freeport exemptions are used as a tool to attract and keep manufacturing, warehousing and since 2016, e-commerce businesses. The exemption does not impact real property tax collection.

Savannah voters will choose winners for mayor, and alderman in all districts.

Athens-Clarke County will vote on a SPLOST extension today, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

More than $300 million in infrastructure and other capital improvement projects in Athens are at stake Tuesday, when voters head to the polls to approve or deny an extension to a 1-cent sales tax.

Without a voter-approved continuation, the current SPLOST tax is due to expire early next year.

On Tuesday, voters are being asked to approve a $313.4 million package to fund three dozen projects. Athens-Clarke planners estimate it will take about 11 years to reach the funding limit on the penny tax. Some of those projects include:

Grady County will vote on a SPLOST today, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

If approved, proceeds from the SPLOST will be used over the course of the next six years to finance projects around the county. This year’s SPLOST is estimated to generate about $18 million that will be split between the county and the cities of Cairo and Whigham.

“(The SPLOST) is in our opinion the fairest tax, because it is a sales tax,” said County Administrator Buddy Johnson. “Everybody pays into that whether they’re from Grady County or from outside of Grady County. If anyone is visiting, any purchases that they make go toward that tax. It does take a burden off of the land owners and property owners in Grady County.”

The existing SPLOST, approved by voters in 2014, is set to expire next year.

Cairo residents who have different polling locations for city and county elections may have to travel to both today in order to cast their votes. County officials had encouraged residents to vote early at the county registrar’s office where they had access to both ballots in order to avoid traveling to multiple locations on election day.

By the time early voting closed Friday, more than 1,300 county residents had cast their votes in the referendum.

Cairo voters will also pass on a Sunday sales referendum, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

City voters will head to the polls today to cast their ballots in the Cairo municipal election.

On the ballot are three competitive elections in districts 1,3 and 5. City-wide, voters also will be able to decide whether or not to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

Voters also will be able to decide whether or not alcohol should be sold on Sundays. The issue will take the form of two questions on the ballot — one addressing package sales and the other addressing sales by the drink.

Early voting closed Friday, and 855 voters participated by casting their ballot at the county registrar’s office, according to Grady County elections supervisor Denise Maddox.

City residents can cast their votes today at the Grady County Agri-Center at 65 11th Avenue NE.

The Dalton Daily Citizen reports light early voting in local races.

The Whitfield County elections office reported 810 people voted in Dalton, 12 in Cohutta and 31 in Varnell. Early voting ended Friday. By comparison, there are 15,942 registered voters in Dalton, 473 in Cohutta and 1,343 in Varnell.

Murray County voters will decide on a five-year Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) that is expected if approved to raise about $23.5 million. Murray County and the cities of Chatsworth and Eton plan to use the money to resurface streets and roads.

The TSPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county.

Rome will vote for six members of the city commission and on a “brunch bill” referendum, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The “brunch bill” would give authority to local establishments with at least 50% of their sales as alcohol to start serving drinks as early as 11 a.m., instead of the current 12:30 p.m., on Sundays. This does not apply to liquor stores or other package sales.

This was born out of the passage of a provision by the Georgia state legislature last year to allow Georgia cities to put the question to their voters.

As of close of early voting Friday, 1,150 Rome residents already had cast ballots during the 17-day early voting period. There are 19,179 registered voters within Rome city limits.

Two Brunswick City Commission seats will be elected today, according to The Brunswick News.

City elections typically don’t generate a large turnout among Brunswick’s 9,739 registered voters, especially with nothing else on the ballot besides the two city elections. A 25 percent turnout would be considered good, election officials said.

Watkinsville and Wintersville will see contested elections today, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

A mayor’s race highlights a city council election Tuesday in Watkinsville, where incumbent Dave Shearon is challenged by former state Rep. Bob Smith.

In early voting results, there were 383 votes cast and 23 absentee ballots were sent out and 12 were returned, according to the Oconee County Board of Elections.

The city has 2,029 active registered voters.

Smith, who works in real estate and spent 12 years in the state House, is a lifelong Oconee resident who now lives in the house where he grew up.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission dismissed a complaint against Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Houston County NAACP filed the complaint March 13, 2018, alleging three counts, including questionable campaign contributions, improper hiring practices of election personnel and improperly using City Hall for early voting.

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission determined that it did not have jurisdiction on the allegations of improper hiring and the early voting location. But it found no evidence to support the allegation concerning campaign contributions.


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