Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 20, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 20, 2020

On July 20, 1864, the Battle of Peachtree Creek took place in Atlanta.

Sir Edmund Hillary was born on July 20, 1919 in Auckland, New Zealand. He and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to summit Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the moon.

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton gave the speech nominating Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis for President on July 20, 1988 at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Dukakis accepted the nomination the next day.

Clinton’s performance was widely panned.

[Clinton] bombed so badly that there was speculation it might spoil his political future.

The prime-time speech would be a perfect opportunity for Clinton to regain some of the ground he’d lost to Gore and to reestablish himself as the one to watch from the party’s moderate/Southern wing.

But he blew it. The speech he delivered was long – 33 minutes, or twice the expected length – and mechanical. It only took a few minutes for convention delegates to tune him out, as the din of their conversations began drowning him out on television. Eventually, the broadcast networks began cutting away from his speech, with commentators noting the crowd’s complete lack of interest. The lowlight came when Clinton uttered the words “In closing,” prompting a spontaneous round of sarcastic cheers from the audience. His home state paper summed it up this way:

ATLANTA Gov. Bill Clinton’s big national moment his prime time speech Wednesday night in nomination of Michael Dukakis was an unmitigated disaster.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) died Friday at the age of 80. From the New York Times:

Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, announced on Dec. 29 that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and vowed to fight it with the same passion with which he had battled racial injustice. “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said.

On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

He died on the same day as did another civil rights stalwart, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a close associate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Lewis’s personal history paralleled that of the civil rights movement. He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

On March 7, 1965, he led one of the most famous marches in American history. In the vanguard of 600 people demanding the voting rights they had been denied, Mr. Lewis marched partway across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a waiting phalanx of state troopers in riot gear.

Ordered to disperse, the protesters silently stood their ground. The troopers responded with tear gas and bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. In the melee, which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, a trooper cracked Mr. Lewis’s skull with a billy club, knocking him to the ground, then hit him again when he tried to get up.

The New York Times obituary is worth reading in its entirety, as it tells the story of the last sixty years of our nation’s struggle with her racial legacy.

Governor Brian Kemp ordered flags on the Georgia State Capitol and other state facilities, flown at half-staff through sundown on the day of his interment.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, according to the AJC.

Under orders from President Donald Trump, flags at the White House were flown at half-staff for part of Saturday.

On Sunday, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass said flags should remain lowered until Lewis is laid to rest.

“My concern — and I’m glad that the president’s tweet was appropriate after mine (on Saturday) — but I think that we need to have the flags at half-mast until he is laid to rest,” Bass, D-Calif., said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “And I believe that his legacy will live on.”

The city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia have both ordered flags to fly at half-staff until Lewis is buried.

The Democratic Party of Georgia will today announce whose name will be substituted for that of Congressman Lewis in the November General Election, according to the AJC.

The Democratic Party of Georgia’s state executive committee plans to meet to decide who to nominate to represent the Atlanta-based district Lewis held since 1987, and the candidate that lands the appointment will be considered a virtual lock to win a full two-year term in November.

The front-runner was believed to be state Sen. Nikema Williams, an Atlanta state senator who is also the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Williams, 41, is a veteran activist with deep ties to the district and to Lewis; her husband was one of his aides.

But several Democratic officials and activists have urged the committee to tap a placeholder – someone who agrees to serve only a two-year term – or another candidate who will resign the seat in January to clear the way for a new vote.

Since Lewis died after the party’s June primary — and so close to the November election — Georgia law gives party officials until the first business day after Lewis’ death to determine whether to leave his name on the November ballot or replace it.

It’s an option the party is eager to take, given that Lewis’ seat is so safely Democratic that he didn’t draw a Republican opponent two years ago. This year, the Democratic nominee will face Angela-Stanton King, a Republican long-shot candidate.

(There will also be a separate special election to fill out the remaining months of Lewis’ term, which expires in January. Gov. Brian Kemp has 10 days to set the timing of that vote, which has no bearing on the November election for the full two-year term.)

From FoxNews:

At least 131 people applied to be tapped by party officials to be nominated to defend Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District after the Friday death of Rep. John Lewis, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia told Fox News on Sunday.

A committee will convene on Monday and a replacement may be named later in the day. The committee includes Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic leader of the Georgia House, to name a few.

Governor Brian Kemp is advocating for in-person education as public school systems reopen, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia’s governor and state superintendent say they want public schools to open for in-person instruction despite the continued spread of coronavirus infections, but they don’t plan to force districts to hold face-to-face classes as many move toward remote instruction.

“Kids need to be in the classroom, and I think there’s a safe way to do that,” said Gov. Brian Kemp …  at a news conference on Friday.

But when asked if he would take any action to require in-person instruction of Georgia’s 1.8 million students, Kemp said “I haven’t really thought about that. I think schools are trying to do the right thing and it’s just my hope that we’ll get kids back in the classroom.”

“The first day of school will be the first day school, you can expect hiccups, you can expect challenges,” [State School Superintendent Richard] Woods said. “But I guarantee you, your kids will be safe, your teachers will be safe, and we will learn.”

[L]ocal control of schools is ingrained in Georgia, and Kemp would contradict that if he tried to impose a statewide policy, as he has with his order countermanding local efforts to require masks in Atlanta, Savannah, and some other major cities.

State officials have nevertheless moved to encourage face-to-face classes. New state guidance focuses more on how to keep schools operating despite virus cases, and less on whether schools should open in person.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

Remote learning during the early months of the pandemic, especially in rural areas, exacerbated inequalities in the education system, some experts said. Students and teachers across the state struggled to adapt to online learning in areas with little broadband access.

“We want our … students to be physically back in school — that is the best place for them to learn,” he said. ” … But that being said, the safety of our students and our staff will continue to take precedence in all our decision-making.”

“We know and fully expect that there will be some cases of COVID-19 among students and teachers,” [Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey] said. “We are doing everything we can to provide the resources needed to protect everyone in the school setting.”

“There’s bad outcomes of not having kids and classes from a nutrition standpoint, child abuse, human trafficking … so I’m a believer that kids need to be in the classroom,” [Gov. Kemp] said. “We’re working with the schools to do that, and we’re working with them to make sure that their communities, their parents and their teachers are comfortable with that.”

Gwinnett County Board of Education Chair Louise Radloff said she could “strangle” a Board member, leading to protests calling for her resignation, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County school board member Mary Kay Murphy joined in calls for an online-only start to the school year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Columbia County public schools intend to keep their Augusta 3d opening date, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Other boards of education are deciding otherwise. Officials with the Fulton County School System and the Cobb County School District – two of the state’s largest – each decided Thursday that their schools’ classes for the upcoming academic year would be conducted online-only.

On Tuesday, the Richmond County Board of Education unanimously approved starting the school year Sept. 8. The move is intended to allow more time for COVID-19 cases to abate, and for parents to choose between two new five-day-a-week options: traditional school or online school. The previous traditional choice offered four days a week with the fifth day online.

Conditions heightening the spread of COVID-19 prompted Columbia County’s 31 public schools to close in March. School officials released an initial reopening plan in June. On Tuesday night, school board members voted unanimously to approve implementing the updated return-to-school plan for a projected 28,500 students.

Most of them will return to classrooms, but 4,535 students – about one in six – will receive instruction and assignments from county teachers online. The first day of classes for learn-from-home students will be Aug. 10 for middle school and high school students, and Aug. 17 for elementary school students.

Early voting begins today, and among the races across Georgia, Republicans Dave Roberson and Tom Caldwell vie for the nomination for Floyd County Sheriff, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Sheriff candidates Dave Roberson and Tom Caldwell were the top two vote-getters in the June 9 Republican primary, but neither managed to net more than 50% in the three-man race. The winner of the Aug. 11 runoff has no Democratic opposition in November.

In the 14th Congressional District race to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, two Republicans emerged from the nine-person race: Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dr. John Cowan. Voters in Floyd and 11 other counties will decide the nominee.

Three Augusta Commission seats, including one Super-District, are on the runoff ballot, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In District 1, which spans downtown and east Augusta, rental property owner Michael Thurman faces Boys and Girls Club Director Jordan Johnson. Each had around 26% of the vote in the five-way election June 9.

District 3 runs from Summerville west to newer subdivisions on the Columbia County line. Candidate Catherine Smith McKnight, the daughter of former commissioner Grady Smith, has spoken about making needed improvements in District 3 and working together.

Her runoff rival, Sean Mooney, has emphasized his small business and marketing background.

Former two-term commissioner Corey Johnson is running for the Super District 9 seat held by the term-limited Marion Williams. District 9 spans regular districts 1, 2, 4 and 5. Johnson, who almost won the general election outright, formerly held the District 2 seat and served as mayor pro tem.

His runoff opponent, Francine Scott, a retired state employee, raised more money than any other runoff candidate, nearly $36,000. Her campaign motto has been “a fresh start with new ideas.”

State House District 33 hosts a Republican Primary runoff, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The runoff is to pick a Republican nominee to replace Tom McCall, an Elberton farmer who served 25 years before stepping down.

Runoff voters will chose between Elberton attorney Rob Leverett and Madison County Commissioner Tripp Strickland. Strickland garnered 47% of the vote in the three-way primary.

Now Habersham looks at local runoff elections, which include five Republican races and one Democratic. They also have Q&A for Republican Primary Runoff candida

Republican Stacy Hall meets Republican Bo Hatchett in a runoff election for Senate District 50.

The Gainesville Times looks at the Republican candidates in the runoff for the 9th Congressional District.

Andrew Clyde and Matt Gurtler face each other in the Aug. 11 runoff for the U.S. House 9th District Republican nomination.

… and the Democratic candidates.

The most interesting thing I’ve seen in the 9th District is two different campaign yard sign designs from Andrew Clyde.

Andrew Clyde Congress Plain Yard Sign Andrew Clyde Protect the Second Yard Sign

The GOP Runoff in the 14th Congressional District is heating up, according to the Georgia Recorder.

“Marjorie Greene would embarrass the state, would cause problems for Republicans running in other districts, and she’s incapable of effectively representing the interests of northwest Georgia in Congress,” said John Cowan, a neurosurgeon facing Greene in a Republican primary runoff election on Aug. 11. “People are beginning to take note and sound the alarm.”

Cowan and Greene were the top two vote-getters in a nine-way primary contest to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Graves on June 9. Even though Greene, a businesswoman, beat Cowan by a nearly 2-1 margin, Georgia law requires a runoff election if no candidate garners a majority. The winner of the Republican runoff is expected to win easily in the November general election.

The revelations prompted Republican officials from around the country to denounce Greene or withdraw support from her. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s spokesman called Greene’s comments “appalling,” while House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said he would back Cowan in the race.

But President Donald Trump called her a “big winner” in a tweet on the night of the primary election. The president hasn’t weighed in on the contest since Greene’s past remarks came to light.

“Nearly 90 elected officials in the district have endorsed me and zero have endorsed her. Zero,” Cowan said in a statement. (The tally is now more than 100 officials.) “She’s not from the district, 96 percent of her funding is from outside the district and her endorsements come from outside the district. We need to send her back home to Atlanta.”

In DeKalb County, a goofy runoff election is being held to elect a Sheriff for the remainder of this year, according to the AJC.

Incumbent Sheriff Melody Maddox took office last December when Sheriff Jeffrey Mann stepped down. The runoff that will be decided Aug. 11 is to fill the remainder of Mann’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of the year.

Maddox, a former chief deputy, already earned an outright win in a separate Democratic primary against seven competitors — including Stringer — and will face Republican Harold Dennis in November for the right to be DeKalb’s next full-term, four-year sheriff. In deep blue DeKalb, she’s all but a guaranteed winner.

Advance in-person voting for the sheriff’s runoff and a handful of other DeKalb County races begins Monday.

One thing the AJC didn’t mention is that Ms. Stringer is listed on the ballot as Ruth “The Truth” Stringer.

Dominion Voting Systems Ballot

Chatham County has runoff elections for Districts 2 and 5, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Early voting begins Monday in the Aug. 11 primary runoff for Democratic voters in Chatham County Commission districts 2 and 5. The District 2 winner advances to face a Republican candidate in the Nov. 3 general election, while District 5′s top vote-getter will run unopposed in the fall.

Clinton Edminster and Tony B. Riley are the two Democratic candidates in the primary runoff to represent District 2 on the County Commission. District 2 Commissioner James J. Holmes chose not to seek reelection.

Tanya Milton and incumbent Tabitha Odell are competing for the District 5 seat. Milton was the top vote-getter in a highly competitive five-candidate race in the June primary.

Speaking of Absentee Ballots, election officials allegedly sent hundreds of incorrect absentee ballots to Georgia voters, according to the AJC.

More than 700 Georgia voters incorrectly received nonpartisan absentee ballots instead of Democratic or Republican ballots for the state’s upcoming primary runoff election, the secretary of state’s office said Friday.

Those voters are being mailed replacement ballots, along with a letter asking them to destroy their old ballots. Absentee ballots will be counted as long as they’re received by county election officials before 7 p.m. on election day Aug. 11.

The issue primarily occurred in Fulton County, where 688 Democratic Party [voters] received nonpartisan ballots for the runoff. There are no Republican Party runoffs in Fulton.

Statewide, election officials mailed replacement ballots to 732 Democratic Party voters and 10 Republican Party voters affected by the issue.

Most Statesboro-area public school systems are giving parents an online option for returning to class, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Georgia Sierra Club is urging Gov. Kemp to veto House Bill 820, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

House Bill 820 should be vetoed because it could be used to steer state funding to privately owned “short-line” freight railroads, not just those owned by the state, Mark Woodall, chairman of the Georgia Sierra Club’s legislative committee, wrote in a letter to the governor. Allowing public money to go to private rail carriers would violate the Georgia Constitution’s “gratuities clause,” Woodall wrote.

“The short-line railroads that are owned by the state and leased to operators should not be competing with profitable private carriers for limited state funds,” he wrote. “Legislation on this topic must be explicit in prohibiting such misuse of these monies.”

Both House Bill 820 and an identical measure introduced in the Georgia Senate passed the Senate unanimously during this year’s legislative session and cleared the state House of Representatives with just one “no” vote.

“We’ve got to look for ways to get this freight off of our interstates and state highways,” said Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, the Senate bill’s chief sponsor. “There’s a role for the state in infrastructure investment.”

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