Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 28, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 28, 2020

On July 28, 1868, United States Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution had been ratified and was now part of the Constitution. The first section of the 14th Amendment often forms the basis for litigation and reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Georgia initially rejected the 14th Amendment in 1866, later ratifying it on July 21, 1868 as a condition for readmission.

On July 28, 1978, Animal House was released, instantly becoming one of the greatest films of all time. In case you’ve never seen the film, there is a tiny little bit of adult language in the following clip.

On July 28, 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating “The General” locomotive, which was stolen in 1862 during the Great Locomotive Chase. Today, The General may be viewed at The Southern Museum in Kennesaw.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued a Writ of Election for a Special Election on September 29, 2020 to fill the Fifth Congressional District seat vacated by the death of Rep. John Lewis.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle:

Required by state law, the special election will only apply through the end of this year. The general election on Nov. 3 will decide who serves the next full term representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, a seat Lewis held for decades.

A runoff for the special election would be held on Dec. 1, if needed.

Georgia Democratic Party leaders last week picked state Sen. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, to replace Lewis on the Nov. 3 ballot after the longtime congressman won the primary in June. She faces Republican Angela Stanton King.

The 39th District state Senate seat Williams held will also require a special election to pick a Democratic nominee to replace her on the Nov. 3 ballot. That contest will decide the seat since no Republican nominee is on the ballot.

From the AJC:

“John Lewis was a man of integrity, visionary, and force for good. It is impossible to adequately describe how he positively changed the world during his lifetime,” Kemp said Monday. “Although his loss remains heavy on the heart of our nation, his legacy will endure, and we must all strive to live our lives with the resolve of a higher purpose and meaning like John Lewis.”

Governor Kemp announced yesterday he was withdrawing an emergency motion in the lawsuit against the Mayor of Atlanta, according to Fox5Atlanta.

“Shortly after we filed suit against Mayor Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council, the Mayor retreated from misleading claims that the city was reverting to Phase One by shuttering specific businesses and penalizing law-abiding business owners. From the beginning, this overstep by the Mayor was our foremost concern and the primary impetus behind the litigation given the threat of economic harm and immediate backlash from Atlanta’s business community. Now, Mayor Bottoms has taken several opportunities to publicly explain that Phase One is purely voluntary, and we appreciate this concession.

“To continue productive, good faith negotiations with city officials and prepare for a future hearing on the merits of our legal position, we will withdraw our motion for the emergency hearing tomorrow. Our ultimate priority remains the same: protecting the lives and livelihoods of our citizens and Georgia businesses.

“We will continue to fight for hardworking Georgians and prioritize public health data and science in our decision-making.”

Gov. Kemp signed legislation to stagger terms on the Atlanta Board of Education, according to the AJC.

Atlanta school officials pushed for legislation to stagger board terms in an effort to maintain continuity and sidestep the potential for massive disruption.

All nine seats on the Atlanta Board of Education come up for election in 2021 as previously scheduled. But, five of the elected members will serve only a two-year term that expires Dec. 31, 2023, instead of the usual four years. The other four officials elected next year will serve a normal four-year term ending Dec. 31, 2025.

Going forward, a school board election will occur every two years in which residents vote to elect officials to serve four-year terms.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert vetoed a mask mandate adopted by the commission, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert vetoed a resolution Monday that would have required county residents and visitors to wear masks outside of their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Although he emphasized the importance of wearing a mask in his letter to the Macon-Bibb County Commission, the mayor vetoed the emergency ordinance passed by the commission on July 21 that required face coverings in public spaces with some exceptions , according to a news release from the county.

“I truly believe we should do everything within our power to convince individuals to follow all preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, BUT I believe we have gone as far as we can, legally, to get people to wear their masks, practice socially distancing, avoiding large groups, and more,” read the letter.

The mayor cited Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order as the reason he vetoed the resolution because the order prohibits counties and municipalities from enacting more stringent rules.

Former Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain is hospitalized and taking oxygen, according to the Albany Herald.

Cain “is still in the hospital being treated with oxygen for his lungs. In the meantime, the doctors say his other organs and systems are strong,” his account tweeted in a thread on Monday. “Re-strengthening the lungs is a long and slow process, and the doctors want to be thorough about it.”

According to a subsequent tweet, “He really is getting better.”

Georgia State Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) has been released from the hospital after receiving care for COVID, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Wiedower, a Republican who represents District 119 covering a large portion of Oconee County and parts of southern Athens-Clarke County, said he was scheduled for surgery, but “things did not go as planned and I have had some complications that are related to the surgery.”

The representative expressed appreciation for his care at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and for his wife, Kelly, who arranged for friends to visit him outside his hospital window.

“I also want to encourage my friends and constituents to wear a mask and social distance. This virus is not to be taken lightly,” he wrote.

The Biden campaign named senior staff in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The state director is Tracey Lewis, who was most recently a national senior adviser to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. She has deep Georgia roots, serving as Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser in the state in 2016 and was a key deputy for Michelle Nunn’s 2014 U.S. Senate bid.

Former state Rep. Simone Bell will serve as one of Biden’s two senior advisers in Georgia. Bell, who served in the House from 2009-2015, runs a political consultancy firm and was a key deputy to Stacey Abrams during her 2018 bid for governor.

Tharon Johnson is Biden’s other senior adviser in the state. One of the state’s best-connected political operatives, he worked for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the late Rep. John Lewis, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and DeKalb County chief executive Michael Thurmond. He was also President Barack Obama’s regional director in the South during his 2012 re-election bid.

The Cobb County Board of Elections wants to send Absentee Ballot Applications to all voters, according to the Cobb County Courier.

The Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration will hold a special-called meeting today, Monday, July 27 at noon, and one of the topics will be the possibility of asking the Cobb County Board of Commissioners for funds to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the county for the November election.

Chatham County Commissioners questioned the elections board chair and director about plans for upcoming elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

 Responding to varied voting-related complaints from constituents countywide, several commissioners probed the election officials on issues ranging from poorly communicated polling-place changes to overwhelmed vote-counting staff to the handling of absentee ballots. Some commissioners indicated frustration with perceived voter disenfranchisement in the June 9 primary.

“We had twice as many people vote” in the June 9 primary than in 2018′s general election, Mahoney said, while noting that the 30,839 absentee ballots submitted for the June election set a new record. “We also had, for the first time, more absentee voted than in person.”

Bridges said that Chatham’s 2020 election was already set to be onerous before the pandemic hit, with the number of balloting stations expanded to 876 countywide, while the old voting machines had to be exchanged with 200 pallets of modern machinery.

Looking ahead, Bridges said that many lessons were learned from the June 9 primary, and that his department is proactively planning for both the Aug. 11 runoff and the November election.

Dougherty County elections board officials are working on improvements to the process for upcoming elections, according to the Albany Herald.

Twelve precincts were combined for the primary contest so that a total of 22 was open instead of the full 28 because of the impact of the novel coronavirus and some workers deciding to stay home rather than put themselves at risk.

“We actually had people quit a week before the election,” Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said while updating Dougherty County Commission members during a meeting of that board Monday.

There are a sufficient number of supervisors available for the Nov. 3 general election that will include the presidential race, but to date there are not a sufficient number of poll workers signed up,” Nickerson told the board.

“We do not have enough staff to open all 28 for the general election,” she said. “We need around 280 or more to staff all 28 precincts. Our goal is to have all 28 precincts open.”

The Savannah Morning News looks at partisan differences in school reopening plans.

Distinct political lines can mark communities’ different approaches to restarting public schools as Georgia struggles with COVID-19.

Many of the state’s larger communities that lean Democrat are waiting to open schools, while their conservative next-door neighbors are heeding calls to not only open earlier but also teach classes in-person.

Trump country is delineated clearly by the boundary separating consolidated Augusta-Richmond County and Columbia County. By at least 2-to-1 margins, Columbia voters favored Republicans Trump and Kemp in their most recent elections, while Richmond voters cast ballots for Democratic opponents Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams.

In Augusta, the Richmond County School System decided initially that students would start face-to-face instruction Aug. 3 and virtual learning Aug. 17. But under its new plan adopted July 14, all students will start more than a month later, Sept. 8.

In Columbia County, its school district voted July 14 to move forward under revised, more stringent reopening plans, but kept its starting date of Aug. 3, when in-person class instruction starts. Online classes will begin later in the month.

Since that story, Columbia County has changed its reopening procedures, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Columbia County’s middle and high schools are switching to temporary staggered class scheduling next week in a further attempt to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

The intent is to improve social distancing in school buildings by reducing the number of students inside at one time.

This attendance model, according to School Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway, “reduces population, allowing for better social distancing in classrooms, hallways and common areas such as cafeterias.”

Elementary school students still will attend classes five days a week.

When middle and high school classes resume Monday, Aug. 3, in the county’s public schools, students whose last names begin with the letters A through K will attend school on Mondays and Wednesdays. The remaining students will attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For the second week of school beginning Aug. 10, the groups’ attendance will be reversed: L through Z will attend in person Mondays and Wednesdays, and A through K on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Flipping which students attend on which days sounds like a recipe for parental frustration. Like I’d expect to have parents screaming when they read about that.

Whitfield County public schools pushed back reopening to August 31, according to the Dalton Daily News Citizen.

Judy Gilreath, superintendent of Whitfield County Schools, said earlier this month her decisions about the opening of the 2020-21 academic year would be made in conjunction with local health department experts, and after speaking with North Georgia Health District Director Zachary Taylor on Thursday, “I didn’t think we had any other options,” she said.

“We have the highest level of spread (in our community),” Gilreath said on Monday. “Keeping kids safe is the most important thing.”

Instead of Whitfield County Schools students beginning on Aug. 7, the first day will be at the end of August, and the conclusion of the first semester will be in late January, rather than late December. On Aug. 31, elementary and middle school students will return for in-class instruction five days per week, while high school students will be split into a Monday-Wednesday cohort and a Tuesday-Thursday group and will attend school in person two days a week.

The three days a high school student is not in school in person, he or she will do virtual learning, Gilreath said. Whitfield County Schools families also had the option to select completely virtual learning, and those students won’t attend in-person school at all.

This setup at high schools is “not ideal, not what we want to do, but because of the large numbers of students” in high schools, social distancing is practically impossible if all students attend every day, Gilreath said. Additionally, “we want as few transitions as possible.”

Augusta Commissioners balked at a Judge’s order to open new space for judicial proceedings, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

[Chief Superior Court Judge Carl C.] Brown’s order demands a 330-day renovation project at the facility, a plan reminiscent to most on the commission of his prior one to convert it to a juvenile justice center.

“We are completely blindsided to the plan to try to use COVID to get what the request was,” Commissioner Brandon Garrett said. “The request seems very underhanded.”

Brown’s order cites a “serious judicial emergency” where those involved in the court system – inmates, staff, judges, juries – are at a “high risk of infection” with COVID-19.

Hall County will not arrest people cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, according to the Gainesville Times.

“One of the things that all of the chiefs and the public (safety) executives that were in the discussion with me agreed was not knowing when testing by the state would be available — (from) the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)—and what the testing procedures would be,” [Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard] said.

Woodard said there was concern from law enforcement about taking someone into custody with cases that could not be immediately addressed. The solicitor general said the Georgia Hemp Farming Act created a “collateral consequence” of a testing issue for the GBI misdemeanor marijuana testing.

The result has been to move to a citation in lieu of an arrest for misdemeanor possession of marijuana when that is the only charge. Misdemeanor possession of marijuana is less than an ounce.

“The reason misdemeanor is an issue is the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) does not test misdemeanor cases for local law enforcement … There are hundreds of thousands, so they made an administrative decision,” Woodard previously told The Times in August 2019. “And as our forensic body, they establish the testing procedures for everything. They would only test and verify felony levels for sheer numbers.”

Rome City Commission approved a plan with pay raises for public safety employees, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Gwinnett County Chief Financial Officer Maria Woods will serve as teh next Deputy County Administrator, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

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