Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 16, 2020

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Apr

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 16, 2020

George Washington, recently elected President, left his Mount Vernon home on April 16, 1789 for his inauguration in New York.

“I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express.”

On April 16, 1865, Columbus, Georgia fell to Union forces. The Battle of Columbus is widely considered to be the last battle of the Civil War. Though it is not unanimously held to be, a 1935 Act of the Georgia General Assembly declared it the war’s last battle.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians threw his first no-hitter on April 16, 1940 against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” on April 16, 1965. On April 16, 2006, a new, larger portrait of Dr. King was unveiled in the Georgia State Capitol.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson visited Augusta, Georgia on a campaign stop this week in 1964.

He came with Gov. Carl Sanders, an Augusta native, as well as U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge, an influential state leader.

Johnson’s national election over Republican Barry Goldwater appeared certain, and a week later he would easily trounce the Arizona Republican.

Lyndon Johnson, however, would not carry Richmond County on Election Day 1964, and he probably got a hint of things to come during his speech before a crowd gathered in front of the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building.

He was heckled.

At least four times during a routine stump speech, calls from the crowd interrupted the former vice president who had taken office less than a year before with John Kennedy’s assassination.

“We want Barry!” people would shout.

Johnson didn’t carry The Peach State because he had become unpopular among whites in the Deep South for his civil rights initiatives, according to Merle Black, an Emory University professor who has spoken and written on Southern politics over the years.

Black recalled the Augusta incident in his 1992 book The Vital South: How Presidents Are Elected, which he wrote with Earl Black. He also described Johnson gaining the crowd’s support with the anecdote about his earlier abuse by hostile crowds.

“Earl Black and I wrote in The Vital South that, ‘There was no more booing from the young Goldwaterites after he finished his story,’” Merle Black wrote in an e-mail from Atlanta. “President Johnson’s leadership in passage of the civil rights bill was the main reason he lost Georgia that year.”

Thirty-one years ago this month “Say Anything” was released, marking the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe, who wrote “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and later directed “Singles.”

John Cusack, four years past playing a college freshman in The Sure Thing, plays graduating high school senior Lloyd Dobler. Ione Skye, three years after her debut in the very dark drama River’s Edge, plays the brilliant and shy Diane Court. And John Mahoney, four years before he found sitcom immortality as Frasier Crane’s father Martin, plays Diane’s adoring and deeply flawed father, Jim. Writer and first-time director Cameron Crowe was best-known at the time for the screenplay for Fast Times at Ridgemont High — which is fondly remembered now as the launching pad for many respectable careers, but which Roger Ebert had called “a failure of taste, tone and nerve.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A New York Times op-ed argues that Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams would be the strongest running mate for Joe Biden.

A close examination of the electoral track records of the possible partners shows that Ms. Abrams best offers what Mr. Biden most needs (to be clear, Ms. Abrams is on the board of the Center for American Progress, where I am a senior fellow, but board members, including Ms. Abrams, have no input on what fellows write). In terms of success with young people, Barack Obama’s political popularity is unquestioned, and therefore his support levels among that demographic offer a valuable measuring stick. Of the potential nominees, only Ms. Abrams outperformed Mr. Obama in her state, winning the 18-to-29-year-old vote in Georgia by nearly 30 points; Mr. Obama lost that group by three points. Only Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, another common name on potential V.P. lists, equaled Mr. Obama’s performance with young voters in her state. The other contenders for whom there is data underperformed Mr. Obama in their most recent competitive race by significant margins.

The available data on popularity among Latinos is more limited, but in the states that do offer such information — Georgia, California, Michigan and Nevada — Ms. Abrams secured the most Latino support, garnering 62 percent of her state’s Latino vote in 2018. Ms. Cortez Masto, who is herself Latina, was also very strong with that demographic.

It is in the realm of African-American voter enthusiasm that Ms. Abrams is without peer. Not only did she win 93 percent of the black vote in her race for governor — a higher percentage than any of the other potential vice-presidential picks won in their statewide races — but few candidates (if any) in the history of this country have increased black turnout in a statewide election to the extent that Ms. Abrams did in 2018. Black voter turnout jumped 40 percent in Georgia in 2018, an astounding level of strength that not only can bring the Midwestern states back into the Democratic fold but also has the potential to expand the map of competitive states to Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas.

If [Biden] wants to base his decision on the available evidence and proven success in areas where he has failed, then choosing Stacey Abrams is the smartest move.

Nearly 400,000 absentee ballot requests have been received recently, according to the AJC.

More Georgia voters are planning to vote by mail than ever before, with 395,000 people having requested absentee ballots so far for the June 9 primary.

The first release of statewide primary voting data Wednesday night showed high demand for voting remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent absentee ballot request forms to Georgia’s 6.9 million active voters last month, encouraging them to avoid human contact at precincts.

About half as many people, 220,000, voted absentee in the 2018 election for governor. There were almost 203,000 absentee ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.

More voters have requested Republican than Democratic absentee ballots for this year’s primary.

About 223,000 people pulled Republican ballots compared to 161,000 Democratic ballots. Another 10,000 sought nonpartisan ballots.

Five candidates qualified for the Special Election for State Senate District 4, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The first three candidates to do so Monday were Dr. Scott Bohlke, the physician who owns and leads Bohler Family Practice in Brooklet; Billy Hickman, a certified public accountant and partner in the Statesboro firm Dabbs, Hickman, Hill, and Cannon; and Swainsboro attorney Kathy Palmer. Until Monday, when she stepped up her planned retirement by several months and resigned to seek the Senate seat, Palmer was chief Superior Court judge in the Middle Judicial Circuit.

Two more candidates joined the field Tuesday. Neil Singleton, a Gulf War era Army veteran who lives near Collins in Tattnall County, had earlier announced his intention to run for the state Senate seat. Stephen Jared Sammons, who hails from Adrian in Emanuel County, is on track to graduate from law school this year and previously worked in industry.

The Statesboro Herald will publish profiles of each candidate after qualifying ends.

Singleton, like Bohlke, Hickman and Palmer, is running as a Republican. But Sammons is running as an independent, meaning without party affiliation. In the special election, which will be for the remainder of Hill’s unexpired term, to January 2021, candidates can designate a party but will all appear on the same ballot.

Georgia’s unemployment trust fund could be depleted quickly, according to the Center Square.

Economic analysts at the Tax Foundation, however, estimated Georgia’s fund could be exhausted in 10 weeks based on the record number of unemployment claims in Georgia over the past three weeks – well above the levels used by USDOL to calculate solvency.

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) received more unemployment claims between March 29 and April 4 than it had received in all of 2019, according to state officials. GDOL processed 390,132 claims during the week of March 29 through April 4, more than three times what was processed the week before.

Initial unemployment claims in Georgia the two previous weeks had increased 990 percent (week ending March 28) and 115 percent (week ending March 21).

Alex Camardelle, senior policy analyst at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, said there is no sure way to measure when the state’s unemployment insurance funds will run out.

“The Tax Foundation estimation is in line with what we saw during the Great Recession,” Camardelle told The Center Square. “Georgia’s trust fund became depleted in less than a year.”

As of Jan. 1, the state’s unemployment fund had a total of $2.6 billion, according to a USDOL report. GDOL issued about $41.8 million in unemployment benefits in the week ending April 4 and $14.5 million the previous week.

Georgia is expanding Covid 19 testing, according to the Macon Telegraph.

All Georgians with coronavirus symptoms can get tested for COVID-19 at state-run collection sites, the Georgia Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

The announcement comes after Gov. Brian Kemp and state health commissioner Kathleen Toomey told reporters Monday that the state would increase the number of specimen collection sites across the state and relax some of its test requirements.

“We recognize that we probably made it a little bit too hard for people to get in because we were requiring people to get a referral from a physician,” Toomey said as she acknowledged the state’s low testing per capita numbers Monday. “We want to make it easier for us to see patients.”

You’ll still need a referral to be tested. Health care providers and local health departments can refer patients to DPH test sites. Once you’ve been evaluated, a public health official or a health care provider will provide you with a number.

Only those with a number will be referred to drive-thru testing sites, state health officials said.

“People should not arrive unannounced or without a scheduled appointment at a specimen collection site, hospital, emergency room or other health care facility,” the Georgia Department of Public Health said in a news release.

Northwest Georgia residents have more access to Covid 19 testing now, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Officials announced Tuesday that free tests for the coronavirus are now available at remote specimen collection sites statewide, by way of a referral from local health departments.

Anyone who exhibits the symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, is eligible for the testing. Priority, however, will be given to healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement, and long-term care facility residents and staff — regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms.

Also, while the tests are more available, Boss stressed that people still need a referral from either their local health department or a health care provider, such as a primary care physician.

Northwest Georgia residents can call the Northwest Georgia Health District COVID-19 Testing Line at 706-802-5329 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday to be screened.

Boss said only those who are evaluated and given a referral — or PUI — number will be directed to the nearest collection site and tested.

The Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon will host an 18-shipping container temporary medical unit to upgrade capacity approaching the Covid 19 peak, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Current plans do not call for patients suffering from the disease caused by the new coronavirus to be treated or housed in the temporary spaces, which should be in place by May 5.

Instead, the 24-bed, makeshift medical bays would, if necessary, be for patients who show up at the emergency room with less serious ailments.

The units — with four patient “rooms” per container — will sit in a parking lot at the corner of New and Pine streets in front of the entrance to the hospital’s emergency room.

The medical pods are being built as part of a partnership between private entities and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said Spencer Hawkins, director of Bibb County’s Emergency Management Agency. Other temporary medical units will be set up in Rome, Albany and Gainesville.

Hawkins described the individual pods as a trio of side-by-side shipping containers sitting parallel next to one another. The center container, he said, serves as a hallway and the oblong containers flanking it on either side are divided with two patient rooms each, for a total of four rooms in each pod.

Georgia State Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White) donated blood after his recent bout with Covid 19, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, came to the Blood Assurance on Shorter Avenue on Wednesday afternoon and donated plasma for the FDA-approved trial where the plasma is transfused from a recovered COVID-19 donor into a critically ill patient.

Thompson tested positive for the virus last month. He was released from the hospital on March 21 and has made a full recovery, testing negative for COVID-19.

Blood Assurance is collecting this plasma in an effort to save critically ill patients and will be collecting, processing and shipping the plasma to patients in need. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 and would like to donate plasma can visit www.bloodassurance.org/covidplasma to sign up and find out more about this new treatment.

Athens Clarke County will spend $150,000 dollars to assist homeless people during the Covid 19 outbreak, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Four Athens homeless aid organizations will get $150,000 from Athens-Clarke County as the Athens-Clarke County Commission begins to roll out its “resiliency” package for community COVID-19 relief.

The grants are meant to fund the organizations’ rising needs for six weeks.

The grants are the first chunk of money the commission has allocated for COVID-19 relief, though commissioners plan to devote at least $3 million to people negatively impacted by the pandemic.

“This is a first effort but by no means the last,” said Athens-Clarke Mayor Kelly Girtz as the commission convened in a special meeting Tuesday evening.

The Athens-Clarke government is also in negotiations with hotel companies in town that might house homeless persons, said Athens-Clarke Manager Blaine Williams.

Savannah is also working to house homeless people, according to the Savannah Morning News.

According to the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless, in 2018 there were more than 4,600 homeless in Chatham County, the most recent data available.

“In addition to that, the city has been trying to advance as quickly as possible on temporary housing,” Monahan said. “Basically they are tents, but we are going to provide 200 cots. Both to help quarantine the homeless but also to provide overflow to any homeless.”

During Tuesday’s conference, Monahan said this was the first phase to tackling homelessness in Savannah. He also said the new homeless camp will include portable toilets and showers. Monahan said the timeline of the camp opening is difficult.

“In this day and time it is difficult to find subcontractors,” Monahan said. “We’ve had two take a look at the site and give us proposals.”

Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Georgia Health District Director Dr. Gary Voccio spoke to Floyd County Commissioners, according to the Rome News Tribune.

During their bimonthly virtual meeting, Floyd County commissioners received an update on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on this area. Voccio said the county’s curve is starting to slightly flatten, thanks to shelter-in-place orders and people following social distancing guidelines.

This estimate is based on the current model and numbers the DPH has been looking at over the last few weeks. The time frame is subject to change.

The director went on to say that doing more testing is the key to finding out if the virus has truly slowed and when the county can return to normalcy. However, it’ll all depend on Gov. Brian Kemp’s orders in the next month.

Voccio also said the reopening of businesses would be slow and incremental, based on which ones are more necessary.

“There’s a light at the end of this tunnel and things are going to get back to normal,” Chair Scotty Hancock said. “We just have to hang in there.”

Eight Georgian business leaders will advise President Trump on reopening the economy, according to the Capitol Beat News Service, via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia appointees include Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning to represent the energy sector and David Abney, CEO of UPS Inc., to represent the transportation sector.

From the food and beverage industries, Trump tapped James Quincey, Dan Cathy and Walt Ehmer, CEOs of Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A and Waffle House, respectively.

Three current or former executives at The Home Depot Inc. – CEO Craig Menear, co-founder Ken Langone and co-founder and former CEO Bernie Marcus – will represent the retail sector.

“It is time to start how we will safely get Americans back to work,” said U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga. “Georgia is home to many businesses that are known worldwide as industry leaders. President Trump is absolutely right to take advantage of that expertise as his administration plans how to reopen our economy.”

While some states, notably New York, appear to have hit a peak in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Georgia is not expected to reach its peak until late this month or early in May. As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, 15,260 Georgians had tested positive for coronavirus, and 576 had died from the virus.

Lee Arrendale State Prison has three confirmed cases of Covid 19, according to the Gainesville Times.

Two staff members and one inmate at Lee Arrendale State Prison in Alto have confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Georgia Department of Corrections authorities.

Georgia Department of Corrections public affairs director Joan Heath said the cases were confirmed April 9-10.

Visitation has been suspended through April 30, and there are no facility tours or non-essential offender movement across facilities.

The corrections department has reported 56 staff members and 54 inmates with confirmed COVID-19 cases across 26 facilities, including county/private facilities. Six staff members and 17 offenders have since recovered.

Two inmates at Lee State Prison in Leesburg and one inmate at Johnson State Prison in Wrightsville have died.

Floyd County jail is requiring masks for visitors, according to the Rome News Tribune.

To prevent COVID-19 from making its way into the Floyd County Jail, officials are now requiring everyone who enters the facility to wear a mask. They’re also having those who move around in the jail — staff as well as working inmates — wear protective equipment.

“It’s been voluntary up until now and we’re requiring our staff and inmates to wear one as well,” Jail Administrator Maj. Bob Sapp said.

They haven’t reached Code Red operation — a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the jail — but they are increasing precautions under Code Yellow.

The color coded model is being used to measure the severity of the coronavirus at the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office. Yellow means essential operations and personnel only and red means facility lock-down.

The new mask rule is only for those who go past the bonding lobby. If a person doesn’t have a mask, staff will provide them with one.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers extended the public comment period for an application to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Fans of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Area will get more than six additional weeks to express their opinion about a proposed strip mine near Trail Ridge, an extension to give federal officials time to hold a virtual public meeting next month and then gather more public input.

The Army Corps of Engineers extended the official comment period Monday, the day when it planned to close out comments on the mining plan by Alabama’s Twin Pines Minerals.

Twin Pines Minerals revised plans this year call for mining 900 acres for rare heavy minerals along 2,400 acres near the unique blackwater wildlife refuge along the Florida-Georgia border. The new mining plan is downsized considerably from the one Twin Pines unveiled last summer to a storm of public opposition.

Twin Pines released a study earlier this year indicating the ecological impact of mining in the area would be minimal. Once the mining operation is wrapped up, the soil will be reapplied and the strip-mined area will heal, the company claims.

The mining project is supported by the Charlton County Commission, citing the impoverished county’s need for jobs.

Before extending the official comment period into May, the Army Corps received roughly 15,000 public comments on the Twin Pines project through the end of last week, just prior to the initial April 13 deadline. The new comment period includes a virtual public meeting scheduled for May 13 from 2- 5 p.m.

Finster Fest, the celebration of very bad dog Georgia artist Howard Finster, is rescheduled for September, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The popular annual festival takes place in Summerville and honors the life and legacy of Summerville’s famous folk artist, Howard Finster.

Paradise Garden, Finster’s home and studio, will be the setting for the event which will run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5 and 6.

The festival will feature more than 65 folk and fine artists displaying and selling their work. Three music stages will feature live blues, folk, bluegrass, roots, country and gospel performers from across the region and the country.

More details about the festival will be available as the date approaches and can be found at the event’s web site, www.paradisegardenfoundation.org/finster-fest/

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