Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 3, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 3, 2020

16th Amendment

On August 3, 1910, Georgia became the ninth state to ratify the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows Congress to levy a tax without apportioning it among the states.

Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after Warren Harding died in office.

On August 3, 1982, Michael Hardwick was arrested, setting in motion the prosecution that would eventually lead to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

The World of Coca-Cola opened on August 3, 1990 between Underground Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Legendary actor Wilford Brimley has died, according to the Albany Herald. His finest performance was in Absence of Malice.

I can’t see a photo or mention of Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills without being reminded of Brimley’s tour de force perfomance.

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #07.31.20.01, continuing the Public Health State of Emergency through September 10, 2020 at 11:59 PM.

From GPB News:

Kemp’s order still requires restaurants and other businesses to abide by multi-point health and safety standards, but much of the new language sprinkled throughout the 45-page order has shifted to more aggressively assert the singular authority of the governor to set policy in the state.

“To ensure the public’s safety and prevent confusion, it is necessary for the state’s departments, agencies, and political subdivisions to provide a coordinated response to support the Governor’s emergency management rules, regulations and orders,” one section reads.

From the Macon Telegraph:

The order continues to ban gatherings of 50 or more people unless they are six or more feet apart. Previous distancing, occupancy, safety, sanitation and related protocols that Georgia businesses and other entities were required to implement to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus are extended as well.

The framework of Kemp’s order remains similar to the document he signed June 11. There have been some revisions and additions over the past month and a half— the most notable of which was the language banning local mask mandates. Portions of the latest order include additions and new claims regarding Kemp’s executive power under Georgia’s public health emergency.

Much of the newest order, unless otherwise stated, will expire Aug. 15 at 11:59 p.m. In a separate executive order, Kemp also extended the public health emergency through 11:59 PM on Sept. 10.

From the Gainesville Times:

“The General Assembly has entrusted the authority to declare a state of emergency to the governor and vested him with the sole power to direct and manage the statewide response to any such emergency,” Kemp’s new language reads in part.

In the meantime, local governments continue to impose new restrictions. Chatham County County Commission Chairman Al Scott on Friday imposed a mask order, in direct contravention of Kemp’s position. The Athens-Clarke Commission imposed new closing times on bars and ordered masks inside them on Thursday and was sued on Friday by bar owners who claim the commission illegally exceeds Kemp’s orders.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan toured Robins Air Force Base, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan toured the base with Georgia State Senator Larry Walker before meeting at the Museum of Aviation to give [a coronavirus outbreak and economic recovery] update.

“I know this is Georgia. We are resilient here, and we have faced our fair share of challenges over the years. I’m certain that this is a great place to raise your family. It’s a great place to run your business, and that will continue to be the case here in Georgia as we work our way through this crisis with COVID,” Duncan said.

“Certainly, we’re not done with it. I wish I could just snap my fingers and sprinkle some magic pixie dust and make it disappear, but until the scientists and epidemiologists and all the pharmaceutical companies can create the right vaccine, we’re going to be faced with it,” Duncan said.

“We’re not interested in jamming square pegs through round holes. We’re interested in trying to reshape those pegs and making sure that we arm teachers and classrooms with the opportunities to educate and keep those kids safe and offer the opportunities for virtual or online learning in those special circumstances, so certainly we’re paying attention to the data, but grateful for those folks here in Middle Georgia that are wearing their masks,” Duncan said.

“It’s been really encouraging to talk to teachers and faculty members and superintendents and principals all over the state to see how creative they’ve become to continue to work as hard as they can to keep the teachers gainfully employed, and it be as minimal disruption in the classroom as possible. Certainly, it’s going to be felt, but we’re in the midst of unprecedented times,” Duncan said.

Georgia received more than $18 million dollars in federal education grant funding, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Georgia has been named one of the 11 states to receive the Rethink K-12 Education Models grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The state will receive a total of $18,594,304, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

The state education department says the money will be used “to improve the professional learning available to leaders and educators on personalized learning, expand student connectivity and improve the infrastructure of – and expand access to – the Georgia Virtual School.”

Gwinnett County Public Schools had nearly 260 staff test positive for COVID or who have been recently exposed, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The situation in Gwinnett is fluid, GCPS spokeswoman Sloan Roach told CNN in an email Sunday evening.

“As of last Thursday, we had approximately 260 employees who had been excluded from work due to a positive case or contact with a case,” Roach said. “This number is fluid as we continue to have new reports and others who are returning to work,” she added.

There is already a reporting and tracing process in place as well as a protocol for excluding employees who test positive or come into contact with a confirmed case, Roach said.

“Given the number of COVID cases in Gwinnett we would expect to see positives among our employees based on the community spread in our county,” Roach said.

Early voting in Primary Runoff Elections is open through Friday, according to the AJC.

Over 253,000 voters have already cast their ballots in advance of the Aug. 11 runoff, which includes races for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Georgia General Assembly, district attorneys and other county offices.

The last week of in-person early voting is usually the busiest. Georgia requires three weeks of advance voting before election day.

Turnout for the runoff has been lower than the original June 9 primary. At the same point before the primary, 883,000 people had already voted, on the way to record turnout for a Georgia primary with nearly 2.4 million voters.

More than two-thirds of voters in the runoff election have returned absentee-by-mail ballots, according to state election data through Sunday.

Slightly more voters have pulled Democratic Party ballots than Republican Party ballots, 45% to 44%. The rest have used nonpartisan ballots, which include races for superior court judges but leave out most other candidates.

Gwinnett County Commission District Three has both Republican and Democratic Primary Runoff elections, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

On Aug. 11, Republican Party voters will decide between Ben Archer and Matt DeReimer while Democratic Party voters will choose between Jasper Watkins III and Derrick Wilson. The winners of each party’s runoff will then face-off in the general election in November.

Joyce Marie Griggs and Lisa Ring face each other in the Democratic Primary Runoff to lose in November to Republican Congressman Buddy Carter. From the Savannah Morning News:

Georgia’s First Congressional District is ranked as “solid Republican” by numerous political analysts, but two area Democrats aren’t letting that stop them from vying to be the one who unseats incumbent Republican Earl “Buddy” Carter.

“It’s a safe Republican district,” Alan Abramowitz, a Ph.D professor of political science at Emory University said. “It should be closer this year but still not in play.”

The First District covers all of 15 counties and portions of two others. Counties include Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Echols, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Ware and Wayne, along with parts of Effingham and Lowndes Counties.

Chatham County Commission District Two has a Democratic Primary Runoff election, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Clinton Edminster and Tony B. Riley are the two Democratic candidates in the Aug. 11 primary runoff to represent District 2 on the County Commission. While Edminster has consistently held a modest vote lead since initial results were released, Riley initially trailed another Democratic candidate — Michael J. Hamilton Jr. — before securing a second-place finish by a mere eight-vote margin.

Hamilton contested the results, requesting the only recount in Chatham’s 2020 primary elections. Completed July 2, the recount confirmed the original outcome, with Riley’s slim lead growing to 33 votes.

The runoff winner will take on Gator Rivers — a former Harlem Globetrotter running as a Republican — in the Nov. 3 general election.

The Whitfield County Republican Party opened a headquarters in Dalton, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“We are open daily until Nov. 3 (Election Day),” said Whitfield County Republican Party Chairman Dianne Putnam. “We invite people to come by and pick up material for President Donald Trump or just to talk about President Trump.”

Putnam said the Republican Party will host a “Celebrate America: Honoring the Red, White and Blue” rally on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the headquarters. There will be refreshments, and the Trump campaign bus will be there.

“It will be outside near the flagpole,” she said. “So there will be plenty of room for people to spread out and maintain social distance.”

Putnam said the emphasis will be on “blue” in “red, white and blue.”

“We want to show our law enforcement officers that the Republican Party and the people of Whitfield County support them and appreciate them,” she said. “We want as many people as possible to come and show their support.”

The Glynn County Republican Party hosted Senator David Perdue and local runoff candidates, according to The Brunswick News.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., stopped by during the meet-and-greet to share a few words about the campaign season with the party faithful, describing a tough electoral fight ahead in the Atlanta area and asking those in attendance to talk to friends and family about the general election in November.

In the Glynn County Commission At-large Post 2 race, runoff opponents Bo Clark and Walter Rafolski mingled with guests.

Columbia County schools reopened for in-person classes today, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

About 22% have chosen to learn from home full-time. The remaining estimated 78% of the county’s projected 28,500 students will spend at least part of their time in school classrooms.

Elementary students will be able to attend traditional schools five days a week. Middle- and high-school students will split their instructional time between traditional in-school attendance and a learn-from-home program to receive assignments and tests through the internet.

For attendance purposes, the school district divided middle-schoolers and high-schoolers into two groups. Students whose last names begin with letters A through K began classes in school Monday. Students L through Z who chose to return to actual schools have one more day of summer before arriving Tuesday.

This week, the A-K group will attend traditional school Mondays and Wednesdays while the L-Z group will attend Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the days they’re not in classrooms, they stay home to learn online.

Next week, the groups switch — L-Z goes to class Mondays and Wednesdays, and A-K goes Tuesdays and Thursdays.

On Fridays, both groups take classes from home.

If I were a parent in Columbia County, my kids would miss about half of their Monday classes and occasionally find themselves sent home for going in on the wrong day. That switching every other week is goofy.

Savannah City Council is considering the millage rate for property taxes, according to the Savannah Morning News.

At the hearing, ten residents spoke strongly against raising taxes.

Council members had held a “straw poll” during the July 23 workshop to get a consensus on whether to keep the current millage rate — technically a tax increase — or use the rollback rate.

The current millage rate is 12.856 and the rollback rate is 12.739, a difference of about $600,000 in city revenue.

The Valdosta Daily Times spoke to the Rev. Raphael Warnock, Democratic candidate for the Senate seat held by Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler.

In a candidate interview with CNHI, he said he has always believed his service “doesn’t end at the church door.”

“It is a bit unusual for a pastor to seek high political office,” he said. “But it’s not unheard of.”

Warnock said his childhood growing up in subsidized housing in Savannah shaped his political agenda — expanded health care coverage and voting rights are among his top issues.

“Washington has a lot of professional politicians who do what politicians do,” he said. “They’re so focused on the next election that they’re not thinking enough about the next generation.”

Warnock pointed to his long-time advocacy for health care. In 2014, he was arrested during a demonstration calling for Medicaid expansion at the Georgia State Capitol, as a moment of “good trouble” — a coin termed by the late Lewis.

“It won’t change unless we elect leaders who are focused on fighting for Georgians, not fighting for their corporate interests or their political party,” Warnock said. “And I believe change is possible. Anytime you have NASCAR saying ‘we don’t want the Confederate flag’ and you have Mitt Romney saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ things are changing.”

Waynesboro Mayor Gregory Antonio Carswell is under scrutiny for his history of money use after an arrest and indictment, according to the Statesboro Herald.

He was under fire a few months after his election in 2017 for misuse of city funds and property, according to WJBF News Channel 6.

Carswell, 39, was arrested in Statesboro on Monday after he turned himself in on identity theft and felony theft charges in connection to a case involving Check Into Cash, a loan and title-pawn business on South Zetterower Avenue, said Statesboro police Sgt. Patrick Harrelson.

Police incident reports state a female victim notified police on July 13 that Carswell stole her identity and $11,920 cash. Reports indicate at least three additional victims, and Harrelson said further charges are pending the ongoing investigation.

In a statement Monday, Carswell claimed it is all a mistake. Neither he nor his attorney, Grady Blanchard, returned calls seeking comment last week, but WJBF gave details of the November 2017 incident in Waynesboro, when the Waynesboro City Council questioned Carswell about misusing city money, “with plans to send the actions to the FBI,” the station reported.

Lula voters will see two questions on alcohol sales on their November ballots, according to the Gainesville Times.

Thanks to a Hall County Board of Elections’ approval placing two referendums on the Nov. 3 ballot, the city’s residents will have the option of voting for sales of malt beverages and wine by the drink, as well as package sales of malt beverages and wine by retailers on Sundays between 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The resolutions for the referendums were previously approved by the Lula City Council.

Lula Mayor Jim Grier said the main businesses that would be affected by this change are Lula Grocery and At The Tracks, both of which sell wine and beer and are open on Sundays.

“The intention was to give them extra help in being able to compete with other establishments outside the city,” he said. “We’re trying to help our businesses as much as we can. It has been something requested, and the council felt it was wise to let the city have this.”

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