Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 29, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 29, 2020

Vincent Van Gogh died of a gunshot wound on July 29, 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his eighth visit to Warm Springs, Georgia on July 29, 1927.

Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautic and Space Admininistration (NASA) on July 29, 1958.

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” became their first #1 hit on July 29, 1967.

Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981.

Carl Lewis won his fourth consecutive gold medal in the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics on July 29, 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The very first sentence in a New York Times article about Jefferson, Georgia contains a misstatement of fact.

JEFFERSON, Ga. — When Jennifer Fogle and her family moved from Indiana to Georgia 13 years ago, they settled in Jefferson, a small, handsome city an hour’s drive from Atlanta, because they had heard about the excellent schools. And until recently, they had little to complain about. The teachers are passionate and committed, and the facilities rival those found at some private schools.

The [public school] reopening plans have starkly divided Jefferson, a middle-class city of about 12,000 people, offering a likely preview of the contentious debates ahead for many other communities whose school years start closer to the end of summer.

Jefferson sits northeast of Atlanta and is the seat of semirural Jackson County, which has had 13 coronavirus-related deaths, and an infection rate of 1,067 per 100,000 people. But in nearby Gwinnett County, which has about 12 times as many people, the infection rate is considerably higher and 216 people have died. More broadly, Georgia, in the week ending July 23, has seen an average of 3,287 new cases per day — an increase of 42 percent from the average two weeks earlier. Many Jefferson residents traditionally commute for work to Atlanta and beyond.

The president won almost 80 percent of the vote in Jackson County in 2016, and he has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the virus. Similar sentiments have been a staple on a Facebook forum for Jefferson residents that has been flaring with passionate disagreements about the pandemic and the school system’s response to it.

My father lives in Jefferson and I drive there every other week. There is no way that Jefferson is an hour from Atlanta. It’s 75 minutes on a good day, trending toward 90+ in normal pre-COVID traffic.

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order, authorizing the late Congressman John Lewis to lie in state in the Georgia State Capitol today.

From AccessWDUN:

Members of the public will be able to pay their respects to Lewis on Wednesday at the state capitol rotunda following a ceremony in his honor. A private burial service in Atlanta is scheduled for Thursday.

On Sunday, his flag-draped casket was carried across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where the one-time “Freedom Rider” was among civil rights demonstrators beaten by state troopers in 1965.

A memorial service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Monday drew Congressional leaders from both parties. Lewis was the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson says the city will start enforcing the mask mandate in defiance of Governor Kemp’s Executive Order, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Mayor Van Johnson said on Tuesday that residents will soon see a “much more pronounced” enforcement of the mask mandate.

Johnson said 25 city employees have been deputized as city marshals, with the authority to enforce the ordinance and issue tickets.

Ironic that nowadays, the outlaw is the one who isn’t wearing a mask. It always feels weird to me when I’m walking toward a liquor store church pulling a mask up over my face.

Senate Appropriations Chair Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) said unemployment taxes are lifting state revenues, according to the Center Square.

Georgia is collecting a record amount of revenue from unemployed workers, according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia.

As the state pays out billions of dollars in unemployment benefits to laid-off workers, it has collected about $120 million to $135 million a month in state income taxes from the payments, Tillery said. Before the pandemic, the state collected between $2 million and $4 million a month from unemployment compensation checks.

“We’re going to see what that’s going to do for the future,” he said during Georgia Policy Foundation’s virtual forum Tuesday. “I’m concerned that that may have artificially held up our revenues a little bit where things may not look quite as bad as they really were.”

Tillery said if the federal government extends the supplemental programs, the state could be in good shape.

The nationwide July tax-filing extension also leaves the door open for a potential $600 million for the state, Tillery added.

“As senators asked me, I’ve told him if it’s less than $300 million, then I’m going to be very nervous,” he said. “If it’s $400 or $600 [million], I’ll feel OK. If it’s over $600 [million], then we’ll feel really good.”

State Senate District 4 candidates for the Republican Primary Runoff will meet tonight in an online forum, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Dr. Scott Bohlke and Billy Hickman, CPA, will be on the Emma Kelly stage at 6:30 p.m. in the forum sponsored by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce and the Statesboro Herald. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no audience will be allowed inside the theater. However, the forum will be broadcast live on the Herald website — — and live on the Grice Connect Facebook page.

Following the District 4 forum, candidates in the Republican runoff to become solicitor-general of the Bulloch County State Court, Catherine Sumner Findley and Mark A. Lanier, will come on the Emma Kelly stage and be given four minutes each to tell voters about their backgrounds and their candidacies.

Then, candidates for the non-partisan District 7 seat on the Bulloch County Board of Education, incumbent Heather Mims and challenger Lisa Deloach, will be given four minutes each to tell voters about themselves.

Today is the last day of qualifying for a Special Election to Varnell City Council, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Former council member Bob Roche was the only person to qualify on Monday for a Nov. 3 special election for Seat 1 on the City Council. Qualifying concludes Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at City Hall. The qualifying fee is $35. The winner of the special election will fill the unexpired term of Ashlee Godfrey, who resigned from the council on April 30. The term expires on Dec. 31, 2021.

Roche held Seat 5 on the council from 2017 to 2019 after winning a special election in 2017 to fill the unexpired term of Andrea Gordy, who had resigned. Roche was defeated last year by retired businessman Richard Lowe in his bid for reelection.

The special election is the same day as the presidential election. City Council elections are nonpartisan, and council members are elected at large in the city.

Congressmen Rick Allen (R-Augusta) and Jody Hice (R-Greensboro) will address the Columbia County  Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast on August 7, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The breakfast will also feature remarks from State Senate and House Representatives from Columbia County including Sen. Jesse Stone, Sen. Lee Anderson, Rep. Tom McCall, Rep. Barry Fleming and Rep. Jodi Lott.

Breakfast will be served as a boxed meal and chairs will be placed social distance theater style. Masks are encouraged while networking.

Registration is required for this event and available online at or by calling (706) 651-0018. Members can purchase a ticket for $20, while non-members can reserve a seat for $40.

United States Senator David Perdue (R-Sea Island) is being criticized for a campaign add that manipulated a photo of Democrat Jon Ossoff, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Georgia Sen. David Perdue’s campaign says an “unintentional error” is to blame for a digital ad critics are calling anti-Semitic.

Perdue has since pulled the ad featuring a doctored photo of his political opponent, Jon Ossoff, with an enlarged nose, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jewish-American outlet The Forward was the first to report the image had been manipulated, making Ossoff’s nose appear “lengthened and widened, even as other parts of his face stayed the same size.” The now-defunct fundraising ad, which ran on Facebook, showed Ossoff alongside New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who’s also Jewish.

“Senator, literally no one believes your excuses,” the Georgia Democrat, who came out on top in the state primary in June, said in a statement provided to McClatchy News. “You can start with an unqualified apology to Georgia’s Jewish community.”

A spokeswoman from the senator’s camp claimed the distortion was an accident that occurred during the design process, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The ad was handled by a third-party vendor who resized Ossoff’s photo “and then used a filter.”

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) is criticizing U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler in a TV ad, according to The Hill.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) hit Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in a new campaign ad, targeting the incumbent over stock sales she made at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and more.

“Kelly Loeffler’s using her family fortune to falsely attack President Trump’s strongest defender, to hide what she’s done. After a private briefing, Loeffler said we’d be fine, but she dumped millions in stock, invested in three companies that would profit while many of us lost everything,” the ad’s narrator says.

The Justice Department in May closed investigations into stock sales at the beginning of the pandemic by Loeffler and Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Stephen Lawson, communications director for the Loeffler campaign, dismissed the ad.

“For years, Doug Collins was a trial lawyer who put his paycheck above public safety by securing reduced charges for violent criminal offenders,” Lawson said in a statement to The Hill.

Cherokee County has closed the Tax Commissioner’s offices after an employee tested positive for COVID, according to the Tribune Ledger News.

Both locations of the Cherokee County Tax Commissioner’s Office closed Tuesday after officials were notified an employee had been exposed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

As a result of this, the tax commissioner’s offices at 2870 Marietta Highway, Canton and 155 Towne Lake Parkway, Woodstock will remain closed for at least 14 days until the employee’s test returns negative. During the closure, the buildings will be cleaned and sanitized, county officials said.

“For the health and safety of my staff and the citizens of Cherokee County, the Tax Commissioner’s Office will be closed to the public due to an employee with a severe exposure with a high probability of a positive result for COVID-19 and who is also experiencing symptoms,” Tax Commissioner Sonya Little said. “Per the County Attorney and CDC guidelines, we are closing our offices as we await test results. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and I appreciate your patience and understanding during this time.”

Some folks might say the closure of a tax office is a side benefit from the pandemic. Those people are wrong, insensitive, and all that. But funny.

Bryan County public schools are restricting students who chose online return to class from extracurriculars, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Unfair and unreasonable was what some parents told the Bryan County School Board at its July 23 meeting at Richmond Hill High School about their policy of not letting e-learning students participate in extracurricular school activities.

Bryan County School Superintendent Paul Brooksher reiterated that students who opted for e-learning were not eligible for extracurricular activities.

Brooksher said more than 1,300 students had registered for e-learning as of July 23.

Brooksher read a statement that said that “students attending schools face-to-face will do so in enhanced security measures. We believe our mitigating efforts in students masks, cleaning and social distancing, when practicable, and feasible, creates a controlled environment to transition to a controlled extracurricular environment. Because e-learning students are not subject to this level of control, it is not in the best interest of all our students to allow e-learning students to participate in these activities. The e-learning option was provided to give parents a choice to students whose parents are fearful of a traditional face-to-face setting. To select e-learning and then ask to participate in extracurricular activities is counter intuitive.”

Gainesville City Schools pushed back in-person reopening and will begin the year online only, according to the Gainesville Times.

The first day of class for GCSS schools will still be Aug. 17, but students who had selected the face-to-face learning option will instead start off learning remotely. The first day of in-person classes is currently planned to be on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Students who have chosen to attend the Gainesville Virtual Academy will not be affected by the change.

During a school board meeting Tuesday evening, Superintendent Jeremy Williams said the decision to open the school year remotely came in response to concerning trends in COVID-19 cases in Hall County. He pointed specifically to the Northeast Georgia Health System reaching a new peak in patients hospitalized for COVID-19, among other data points.

One hundred educators signed an open letter to the Clarke County school system expressing concerns with reopening plans, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Last week, the Clarke County School District announced we would begin school after Labor Day, and that our district would remain digital for all grade levels.

Teachers were thrilled. We had 50 days to prepare to teach virtually. We were determined to do it right. Please note as evidence, social media posts of teachers buying supplies to build at home classrooms, with whiteboards and decorations. Alongside teachers’ efforts, Facebook groups sprang up overnight to demand “public pandemic pods,” where children of similar ages would learn in small groups in community spaces. Many teachers volunteered their time to go into those spaces and tutor.

Just yesterday, the wind was knocked out of our sails, when we were told (five days after the rest of this county’s parents) that we had to secure childcare so that we could come to our buildings to teach digitally five days a week beginning directly after Labor Day (Phase 3). Why? So that we could deliver synchronous instruction on Zoom in our classrooms on a fixed schedule with mandatory teacher attendance. This model is certainly not equitable.

Teachers now have a short two weeks to find childcare, as we report to work when Phase 2 begins, in advance of online classes. We were told, if we couldn’t come to the building and teach, we had to have a doctor’s note proving pre-existing conditions or apply for the Federal FFCRA extensions that provide two weeks of paid leave and 10 weeks of paid leave for parents when their child’s school is closed and telework is not available. Many teachers are rightly concerned about this policy. The community had 53 days to secure childcare, when teachers had only two weeks.

Some Gwinnett County teachers also raised concerns about being required to teach from the brick-and-mortar schools, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Public Schools planned a mid-week return to work for teachers and other district staff for training ahead of the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Teachers, however, said they were originally given a choice about whether they began the school year working from home or working from their respective schools.

Now, they said the district has made changes to the start of the school year plans that omit the work-from-home option, and educators who called the district’s leave office were told there was no work from home option.

More than a dozen teachers emailed the Daily Post on Sunday and Monday about their concerns about their ability to work from home disappearing. Newman, who has been organizing her fellow teachers to contact district officials about those concerns, said about 76 teachers have copied her on emails to district officials where the text of an online petition she started is included.

At the center of the debate is one line from the district’s July 20 announcement that the district would switch to 100% digital learning. That announcement also included details about the district’s plans for beginning the school year.

The original version sent out to teachers and the media included the line, “Those who are allowed to work from home will be expected to come to the school periodically to work with other school staff and leaders.”

That sentence was missing from the copy of the announcement available on the county’s website.

“The impression that we all originally had was about the fact that there would be some accommodations made, that there would be some flexibility in the options we would have, still held to the high, high standards of Gwinnett County Public Schools, but in a position where we would have some choice,” Newman said.

Augusta Commissioners voted to demolish an old building that a Superior Court Judge ordered renovated, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta officials voted Tuesday to proceed with demolition of a former law enforcement center despite a chief judge’s order to remodel it for use as COVID-19 emergency court space.

“It also sends a message to the judge about his actions on Friday,” [Commissioner Brandon Garrett] said.

Garrett and other commissioners said they were blindsided by Chief Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown’s emergency order Friday demanding they spend millions to renovate the former Joint Law Enforcement building at 401 Walton Way to address COVID-19 concerns.

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

A lawsuit has been filed seeking to prevent the moving of two Confederate memorials in Macon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Martin N. Bell, who filed the lawsuit in Bibb Superior Court, described himself in the 11-page civil filing as the leader of the “Military Order of the Stars and Bars,“ a non-profit corporation aimed at preserving Civil War monuments and “memories of the men and women of Georgia who served” in the war.

He is, among other things, seeking help from a judge to stop the county from moving the monuments — one of a soldier at Cotton Avenue and Second Street and another marker at First and Poplar streets — which it voted to do earlier this month.

Bell, 66, claims in the lawsuit that “the proposed moving of the Monuments is a racially-motivated action designed for political purposes to placate the mob mentalities current in American society.”

Bell contends that the monuments are not discriminatory and notes that “some black and mixed-race Bibb Countians fought for Georgia and Bibb County in the two battles that took place in Bibb County during the War.”

A Confederate memorial in McDonough was removed, according to AccessWDUN.

The Henry County commission voted to remove the statue, which has been a fixture at the site for over 100 years, earlier this month amid the national protests against racism and police brutality.

Multiple law enforcement agencies were present during the removal, where one person was arrested and protesters surrounding the statue were forced off the sidewalks, WAGA-TV reported.

Recall efforts against local elected officials in Demorest appear to be the new popular pastime. From AccessWDUN:

Former Demorest City Councilwoman Florence Wikle has made good on her promise to pursue recall of current Councilmen Nathan Davis and John Hendrix.

In addition, a newly formed group in Demorest is simultaneously pursuing recall of Mayor Rick Austin.

“I issued three recall applications yesterday – for Nathan Davis, John Hendrix and Rick Austin,” said Habersham County Elections Supervisor Laurel Ellison on Tuesday. “Florence Wikle requested the two applications for Nathan Davis and John Hendrix, and the Concerned Citizens of Demorest Inc. requested the one for Rick Austin.”

“They need to get 100 signatures for Nathan Davis and John Hendrix and 94 signatures for Rick Austin,” Ellison said.

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