Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 8, 2020

Lyman Hall, one of three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence, was elected Governor on January 8, 1783.

On January 8, 2007, R.E.M. was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s REM at their induction into the Rock Hall.

On January 8, 2014, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were announced as incoming members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Columbus, Georgia native Frank Thomas, a long-time Chicago White Sox outfielder.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

 The Hill looks at one of Kelly Loeffler’s committee assignments in the Senate.

Georgia’s newest senator, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), will join the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and fill a spot left open with the retirement of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

“I welcome Senator Kelly Loeffler to the Senate and look forward to working with her to lower what Americans pay out of their own pockets for health care and to make a college education worth students’ time and money,” said Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.

One of Alexander’s goals during his final year in Congress is passing legislation to end the “surprise bills” some patients get from providers after receiving medical care.

Senator Loeffler also takes a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, according to Agri-Pulse.

Georgia’s newest member of the Senate, Kelly Loeffler, will have a spot on the Senate Agriculture Committee, taking the place of Georgia Sen. David Perdue, who shifted to another panel.

In a statement, she cited her Illinois farm upbringing and said she looked forward to being on the Ag committee.

“Growing up on the family farm, I understand the vital importance of agriculture to our state, and the issues facing rural communities and local businesses firsthand,” she said. “On the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will stand with our farmers, advance pro-growth policies, and proudly promote our Georgia Grown products. I will work around the clock to keep America growing.”

She will also be a member of the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration.

“Georgia is leading the way on agriculture nationally with Secretary Perdue at the helm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Historically, Georgia has also had strong representation on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and that will not change,” said Sen. Perdue, the agriculture secretary’s cousin. “Kelly Loeffler and I will work closely with Georgia’s farmers and producers to ensure their voices are heard in the United States Senate. Together, we will continue to fight for farm families and rural communities.”

FiveThirtyEight looks at Loeffler’s reelection bid.

On Monday, Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia took office, which means she’ll now have to run in a special election in November to keep her seat — and with a possible GOP challenger, it could be an action-packed race. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp picked Loeffler, a businesswoman and co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, to take over for GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned at the end of 2019, but Loeffler was not a consensus pick.

President Trump had wanted Kemp to appoint Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, who was front and center during the impeachment hearings defending the president. Collins has fueled speculation that he might mount a bid against Loeffler in November, but hasn’t yet decided on whether he will.

Loeffler has also promised to spend $20 million of her own money on the race, which could scare off opponents like Collins or other Republicans from running.

Whether Collins runs, the special election next November will be a jungle primary, which means all candidates, regardless of party, run at the same time. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two will take place on Jan. 5, 2021. At this point, the only notable Democrat running is Matt Lieberman, son of former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, although a number of better-known Georgia Democrats are running for the party’s nomination in the contest for the state’s other Senate seat, which is also up in 2020. Election handicappers favor the GOP to hold onto both seats in 2020.

Loeffler‘s office announced some staff picks as well, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s office is starting to take shape. Today, she announced some key staff decisions, including hiring one Johnny Isakson’s former chief of staff.

Joan Carr now holds the same position in Loeffler’s office, which is operating out of temporary space in the basement of one of the Senate’s office buildings. Carr also served as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, who unlike Loeffler and Isakson was a Democrat.

Other hires announced today include Chad Yelinski, who will serve as legislative director, and Kerry Rom, Loeffler’s communications director.

Yelinski held the same role in the office of U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina. Rom arrives from the office of U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas.

Stacey Abrams‘s vanity voting rights project will hold a summit in Atlanta on Friday, according to the AJC.

The invite-only Fair Fight 2020 event will be headlined by Abrams and include representatives from the Democratic National Committee, labor union leaders and state Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Abrams launched Fair Fight shortly after her 2018 election loss to Gov. Brian Kemp, and last year she expanded the group’s work to 20 competitive states to promote ballot access and expand voting rights.

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will be at the Abrams event, according to the AJC.

The billionaire mayor was invited because he’s a major financial contributor to Abrams’ Fair Fight organization. He announced in December a $5 million donation to the group, which expanded last year to promote voting rights in 20 states.

Abrams, seen as a potential running-mate, has not endorsed Bloomberg or any other 2020 candidate. But each of the top contenders have courted her, and she’s urged them to make ballot access a key part of their campaign platform.

It will be Bloomberg’s second visit to Georgia since announcing his run for president in November, following a stop in Augusta a month ago where he appeared with Mayor Hardie Davis, who endorsed his campaign.

Early voting continues in State House District 171, giving a  preview of new voting systems, according to the Albany Herald.

As three southwest Georgia counties unroll a new voting system in House District 171, voters taking advantage of the early voting period in two of them also are using new voting equipment for the first time.

During the three weeks of early voting in Colquitt County, officials have an opportunity to address any issues that arise, Moultrie Probate Court Judge Wes Lewis, whose office oversees elections in the county, said. Eight precincts in the county will be open during the Jan. 28 special election.

The death of state Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, made a special election necessary in the district that includes all of Mitchell County and a portion of both Colquitt and Decatur counties.

“We really are encouraging people to come to the event station,” Lewis said. “It really will be a chance while we have the tech staff on site. It will give us the opportunity, if there are any issues, to deal with it.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger visited Moultrie on Monday, the first day of early voting in the election, to check on the new voting machines.

“I commend the secretary,” Lewis said. “With all the chatter and naysayers, I really give his staff credit. I do believe that once the voter, the citizen, uses this, they’re going to like it. The state really did a good job about training for the new system.”

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter will seek reelection as a Republican, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

In a statement issued from the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday, Porter officially announced he would run as a Republican, though he emphasized the bipartisan nature of his job.

“Over the past 27 years, I have enjoyed bipartisan support from the voters as a Republican candidate and intend to run again as a Republican,” Porter said in a statement. “I look forward to presenting my record of innovation, accomplishment and experience in the areas of victims’ rights, criminal justice reform, and innovative prosecution strategies in comparison to the ideas and record of the announced Democratic candidate.”

Porter has run as a Republican since he was elected in 1992. Porter said he decided it would be disingenuous to change parties after running as a Republican for 27 years. He felt he would be hard pressed to convince Democratic voters that changing parties was anything other that an expedient way to get reelected.

“I’ve never been one to put expediency over principles,” he said.

“I don’t want to argue about whose the best Democratic candidate is, I want to argue about who’s the best District Attorney,” Porter said.

“I have always trusted all voters in Gwinnett County to make the wise choice when it comes to the safety of their families and their communities,” Porter’s statement said. “I will gladly present my qualifications to voters of both parties and I am confident that they will see that I am the best choice to lead the District Attorney’s Office for four more years.”

Porter reiterated, if reelected in 2020, he has no plan to seek reelection in 2024.

From the AJC:

While he reiterated his belief that the district attorney’s job should be nonpartisan, he said running as a Democrat would have been “disingenuous.”

Being a 27-year incumbent certainly comes with advantages. But Gwinnett’s recent political history suggests Porter will nonetheless have an uphill battle to reelection.

In the 2018 Georgia governor’s race, Democrat Stacey Abrams won Gwinnett by a significant margin. The same election cycle saw Democrats seize control of Gwinnett’s delegation to the state legislature and win their first seats on the county commission since the 1980s.

Gwinnett’s current solicitor general is an upstart Democrat who ousted a longtime Republican incumbent in 2018.

“Republicans have lost in Gwinnett and will continue to do so,” Gwinnett Democratic Party chair Bianca Keaton said.

Porter, meanwhile, will rely on his track record to try and appeal to voters from both parties. Pointing to his office’s participation in diversion programs and accountability courts, he said he’s never fit the mold of a stereotypical, “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” Republican prosecutor and is capable of having broad appeal.

The Georgia State House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care proposed legislation aimed at promoting transparency in healthcare, according to The Brunswick News.

“For all the good work that’s been done, many of the (pharmacy benefit managers) themselves have proceeded to ignore and make every effort to find loopholes in our laws, while at the same time other practices harmful to patients continue to grow and spread across the prescription drug landscape,” said House Majority Caucus Chairman Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin.

State Rep. David Knight, who will be leading the push on this legislation, said the system as it stands now prevents freedom of patient choice of pharmacy, obscures prescription drug prices with complex methodologies, leads to refusing coverage for cheaper generics and reimbursing PBMs and managed care organization-affiliated pharmacies with far more money than retail independents.

Using the leukemia drug imatinib as an example, the reimbursement fee per pill for an independent pharmacy was $34.50, while an MCO affiliate pharmacy received $279 and a PBM affiliate received $302. For the cancer drug capecitabane, a clinic pharmacy received $4.39 per pill, as opposed to $27.63 for an MCO affiliate.

“The unifying theme that you will hear throughout today’s testimony is that patients and providers are being harmed by huge corporate interests that put their profitability over the lives of Georgians,” Knight, R-Griffin, said at Tuesday’s hearing.

“We’re going to seek a carve-out of prescription drug benefits for Medicaid managed care,” Knight said. “West Virginia did this and in ’18, an actuarial study showed that the carveout saved over $50 million, while at the same time paying community pharmacies fairly.”

The State House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality will recommend changes to address Georgia’s high rate of maternal deaths, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Low-income pregnant women in Georgia should receive Medicaid coverage for one year after giving birth, a legislative study committee is recommending.

The proposal to expand Medicaid coverage for eligible women from the current limit of two months postpartum highlights a 14-page report issued by the state House of Representatives Study Committee on Maternal Mortality.

Besides extending Medicaid coverage for pregnant women to one year, the study committee recommended the General Assembly pass legislation requiring an autopsy following any woman’s death during pregnancy or up to one year after giving birth.

The study committee suggested the state encourage hospitals and medical societies to provide training in racial sensitivity for physicians, nurses and other health-care workers.

To address geographic disparities in pregnancy outcomes, the panel suggested the state continue to fund and support efforts to increase Georgia’s rural health-care workforce and expand the availability of telemedicine services by providing incentives that prevent telemedicine from being a money-loser for providers.

From the AJC:

“We are in a tight budget,” said state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, a co-chairwoman of the committee. However, she said, “If they find a program that’s working, maybe the money needs to be sought. … If the estimate was $17 million, then they might be able to fund it.”

Estimates vary widely, up to $70 million in state money, and she said state officials told her they would figure out the discrepancy to understand the real cost.

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England is interested. “I think we certainly have to take a look at it,” he said.

Many pregnant women and caregivers don’t know, for example, that the majority of maternal deaths happen in the year following birth, not during birth. Or that things such as changes in vision can be a warning sign for heart and blood problems that so often kill pregnant women or new moms.

The Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts alleged that some film tax credits may have been misallocated, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Due to control weaknesses, companies have received credits for which they are not eligible and credits that are higher than earned,” the report stated in its opening paragraph. “The issues can be attributed to limited requirements and clarity in state law, inadequately designed procedures, insufficient resources and/or agency interpretations of law that differ from our own.”

According to the audit, the state delivered more than $3 billion in credits from 2013 through 2017. The numbers grew steadily during that period, from more than $667 million in 2016 to more than $915 million in 2017.

Despite granting more credits than any other state, the audit found that Georgia requires film companies to provide less documentation than any of the 31 other states offering film tax credits. Georgia is among only three state that do not require an audit by the state or a third party.

While the state Department of Revenue does require limited documentation to receive the credit, the audit found many production companies failed to provide the documentation yet still received the credit.

The Cordele Dispatch profiles Carden Summers, who is running for State Senate District 13 in the Special Election.

Local business owner and former county commissioner Carden Summers will be on the ballot in the February 4 special election to fill the state senate seat vacated by the untimely passing of incumbent Greg Kirk, who died Dec. 22, 2019. Early voting in the race begins on Monday, Jan. 13.

Summers, a conservative Republican, is hardly a new face to Georgia’s political scene. He ran for the same state senate seat in 2002, narrowly losing to the late Rooney Bowen, who held the seat for some 25 years. Prior to that run, Summers had served a six-year term on the Crisp County Board of Commissioners, where he gained a reputation as a proactive worker sensitive to taxpayer concerns.

The 13th District is comprised of  [sic] Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Sumter, Tift, Turner, Wilcox, and Worth counties.

“This special election is going to be one of the shortest elections in history,” Summers said, “and I would appreciate all the support I can get.”

Summers and Janis, his wife of 38 years, plus their two grown children Weston and Jade, invite voters to contact them at his 13th Avenue business office. Early voting in Crisp County begins on Monday, Jan. 13 at 8 a.m. at the elections office in the county government building at 210 South 7th St. Voters can cast an early ballot there Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. up until January 31st and on Saturday, January 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bianca Motley Broom took the oath of office as the first new Mayor of College Park in over two decades, according to the AJC.

Bianca Motley Broom defeated six-term mayor Jack Longino in a December runoff, making her the first new leader of College Park and its 15,000 residents in 24 years.

A new and an incumbent College Park councilman were also sworn in, but Motley Broom garnered the most applause.

In College Park’s nearly 130-year history, Motley Broom is the first woman and the first African-American person to become mayor. The 42-year-old is a mediator, arbitrator and former Fulton County magistrate judge — but this was her first run for office.

Longino attended the event Monday and told the AJC that he wishes her the best. When asked about the loss, the 66-year-old businessman: “The citizens wanted a change.”

Joseph Geierman was sworn in as Mayor of Doraville, according to ProjectQ.

John Borrow was sworn in as Mayor of Cornelia, according to AccessWDUN.

Braselton will swear in two new council members on Thursday, according to the Gainesville Times.

Jim Joedecke is set to be sworn in Thursday, Jan. 9, as the newest member of the Braselton Town Council.

Also being sworn in Thursday is Becky Richardson, who was elected to her second four-year term after a Dec. 3 runoff.

Joedecke defeated three-term incumbent Tony Funari on Nov. 5, getting nearly 82 percent of the vote to Funari’s 18 percent.

Port Wentworth City Council member Shari Dyal resigned her seat representing District 1, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Council member Linda Smith said Dyal has moved to Effingham County. Dyal lived in the Rice Creek subdivision.

Dyal represented District 1, which includes the Rice Hope and Rice Creek areas. She was serving her first term on the Port Wentworth council.

Kim Simonds was appointed Demorest City Manager, according to AccessWDUN.

Lowndes County Commissioners will meet this week to discuss service delivery strategies, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners will hold a special called meeting 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, in the commission chambers. The meeting was called to consider a new SDS agreement, according to a statement from Lowndes County Clerk Paige Dukes.

When asked whether Mayor John Gayle or Mayor-elect Scott James Matheson negotiated the new agreement, Dukes said only commissioners and city council members participated in the new version.

Whitfield County and the City of Dalton remain at loggerheads over service delivery agreements, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

About two dozen people filled a meeting room Tuesday at the Dalton Convention Center hoping to listen in to at least part of a mandatory mediation between the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, the Dalton City Council and the city councils of Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell regarding their service delivery agreement, which spells out which services each government will provide and how they will be funded.

But their hopes were quickly dashed when Adele Grubbs, a senior judge with the Cobb County Superior Court overseeing the mediation, said that Supreme Court of Georgia rules for mandatory mediation require that the discussions be confidential and they can not be opened to the public and can not be discussed by participants outside of the mediation. The mediation, which lasted more than eight hours, ended without an agreement.

The City of Dalton filed a lawsuit on Nov. 5 against Whitfield County and the other cities, in Whitfield County Superior Court, seeking mandatory mediation of the agreement, noting that if the governments fail to reach an agreement during the mediation, “Dalton will petition the court to resolve all remaining items in dispute.”

The Golden Isles Development Authority adopted a new logo as part of a rebranding, according to The Brunswick News.

The Unified Command has chosen a salvage company to removed the capsized M/V Golden Ray from waters off St. Simons Island, according to The Brunswick News.

Texas-based T&T Salvage LLC has been hired to remove the wreck that has sat overturned in the sound between St. Simons and Jekyll island for four months. T&T Salvage was chosen from among six bidders, which included DonJon-SMIT, the maritime emergency contractor that originally responded to the Golden Ray crisis. With the contract awarded to T&T Salvage, DonJon-SMIT has completed its involvement with the Golden Ray operation, said Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems. Gallagher Marine Systems represents the Golden Ray and its insurers in Unified Command, which also consists of the Coast Guard and the state Department of Natural Resources.

Unified Command is still trying to determine the best type of barrier to build around the ship before demolition begins, a measure intended to prevent mitigate pollution and environmental damage. Once that is decided, Unified Command said it will release a timeline for the ship’s removal and other details about the process.

Brunswick City Commission voted to approve a $15.8 million dollar project list for an upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum, according to The Brunswick News.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the SPLOST budget, which will be submitted to the Glynn County Commission on Jan. 13.

City officials also approved a resolution that will enable them to apply for federal funding for planning, infrastructure and potential operations of a public transit system.

The Floyd County Republican Women heard from candidates for Sheriff, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Albany area elected officials toured the Radium Springs area, according to the Albany Herald.

State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, and state Rep. CaMia Hopson, D-Albany, toured a historic bridge located a short distance from the more familiar blue hole and site of the demolished Radium Springs Casino building.

Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas and Commissioners Victor Edwards, Russell Gray and Anthony Jones were among the local delegation that gave the lawmakers a tour of the bridge. The site is adjacent to a trailhead under development at a former golf course on land owned by the county. The bridge is on property owned by the state, as is the blue hole and the majority of land around it.

The county has started the development of a trail that eventually will link to downtown Albany. A separate project would extend the trail system from Albany to Sasser.

On Monday, county commissioners approved the first of three phases of development in the area. That project includes restrooms at the trailhead, which was where officials gathered before heading to the bridge on Tuesday.

“Dougherty County is putting its money on the other side,” County Attorney Spencer Lee said “We’re asking the state to put its money here on (Department of Natural Resources) property.”

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