Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 23, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 23, 2020

Bon Homme Richard

John Paul Jones, at the helm of US ship Bonhomme Richard, won a naval battle off the coast of England on September 23, 1779.

After inflicting considerable damage to the Bonhomme Richard, Richard Pearson, the captain of the Serapis, asked Jones if he had struck his colors, the naval sign indicating surrender. From his disabled ship, Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight,” and after three more hours of furious fighting the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough surrendered to him.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned to St. Louis Missouri from their exploratory trip to the Pacific coast on September 23, 1806.

On September 23, 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was speaking at a dinner with the Teamsters union and addressed attacks that had been made by Republicans, including the allegation that after leaving his dog, Fala, behind in the Aleutian Islands, he sent a Navy destroyer to fetch the dog. This would become known as the “Fala speech.”

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him—at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars—his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself … But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog.

The idea for the joke was given to FDR by Orson Welles. The political lesson here is that any time you get an audience laughing at your opponent, you are winning.

A statue of former Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol was unveiled on September 23, 1949, the 65th anniversary of Talmadge’s birth near Forsyth, Georgia in 1884.

On September 23, 1952, Senator Richard M. Nixon was under fire for allegedly accepting $18,000 and using it for personal expenses. To salvage his place as the Vice Presidential candidate on Eisenhower’s Republican ticket, Nixon took to the airwaves in the first nationally-televised address and delivered what came to be known as the “Checkers Speech. From The Atlantic:

[A] 1999 poll of leading communication scholars ranked the address as the sixth most important American speech of the 20th century — close behind the soaring addresses of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The “Checkers” speech wins this high rank for one stand-out reason: It marked the beginning of the television age in American politics. It also salvaged Nixon’s career, plucking a last-second success from the jaws of abject humiliation, and profoundly shaped Nixon’s personal and professional outlook, convincing him that television was a way to do an end-run around the press and the political “establishment.”

Click here for the full text of the “Checkers Speech.”

The last game played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium took place on September 23, 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The death rate from COVID-19 is considerably higher among black patients, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Black adults in Georgia are dying at much higher rates from COVID-19 than whites across all age groups, sometimes by as much as three or four times the rate of whites even at relatively younger ages, according to an analysis by The Augusta Chronicle.

The disparity could stem from systemic inequities in employment and health care or higher levels of chronic stress experienced by minorities, a public health expert said.

The Georgia Department of Public Health late last week began reporting deaths from COVID-19 by race and age. The Chronicle took those numbers and analyzed them by race and population for each age category and calculated that rate per 100,000 population.

In terms of raw numbers, the number of Black deaths in adults exceeds that of whites in every age category up to age 70, when white deaths predominate. In terms of overall numbers, white deaths exceed that of Blacks, where whites account for 52% of deaths compared with 42% for Blacks. Whites account for 60.2% of Georgia’s population compared with 32.6% for Blacks, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Using more detailed population estimates for 2019 from the Census Bureau and the Department of Public Health, the Chronicle calculated the number of deaths per 100,000 population by race and found the rate is far higher for Black adults than for whites.

President Donald Trump will visit Atlanta on Friday, according to WSB-TV.

President Donald Trump will make another visit to Georgia on Friday, a White House source told Channel 2 Action News Tuesday.

The exact details of the president’s visit have not been released. This would be Trump’s 10th visit to Georgia during his presidency. Trump recently visited Atlanta in July to discuss major transportation projects in the area.

Senator David Perdue‘s campaign ads link Democrat Jon Ossoff to defunding police, according to the AJC.

Against the backdrop of burning streetscapes and anti-police protests, U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s latest ad claims Democrat Jon Ossoff “speaks hate” and wants to defund the police.

“You’re not just going to get beaten,” Ossoff says in the clip, “you’re going to get beaten so bad you can never run or show your face in public.”

Ossoff has flatly rejected the notion that he wants to defund the police, saying that he shares Joe Biden’s stance of linking federal funds for law enforcement agencies to certain standards, including whether they can “demonstrate they can protect the community.”

Perdue’s campaign pointed to comments Ossoff made during an interview on WAOK radio where he said funding for police departments need to be “on the line.”

The AJC writes about Republican state lawmakers moving toward the ideological middle in this election year.

With some state Republican lawmakers facing stiff Democratic competition and demographic shifts in their districts, GOP incumbents are taking strides toward the middle this election year.

Some — particularly in metro Atlanta — have done so at a time when their districts have slowly changed from hard-line GOP to more middle-of-the-road, or even leans Democratic.

“My record and bipartisan work is something I’m very proud to campaign on, and I’m very proud to talk to any resident of the district I represent about,” said state Rep. Chuck Efstration, a Dacula Republican.

Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political science professor, said a combination of Democratic challengers and changing district demographics typically pushes Republican lawmakers to the center of the political spectrum. But it’s unclear whether it sways voters.

“If challengers succeed in their field operations, Democrats, even those who like these Republican incumbents, would still be more inclined to support Democratic candidates,” she said.

State Rep. Brett Harrell, a Republican from Snellville who’s represented his district since 2011, said he’s often taken more moderate stances on social issues. Harrell is facing his first Democratic nominee since winning election.

“I’m fiscally conservative,” said Harrell, chairman of the House tax panel. “But when it comes to things like the death penalty, it would make people call me a social moderate.”

Chatham County has begun mailing absentee ballots for November, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The first wave of Georgia voters who requested absentee ballots will receive them in the mail soon, but there’s still time to request one before election day on Nov. 3.

In terms of the casting and counting of absentee ballots, the state has extended the deadline for receiving absentee ballots by three days. Usually, mailed ballots have to be received by 7 p.m. on election day, but now, as long as it is postmarked before Nov. 3 and received before 7 p.m. on Nov. 6, the ballot will be counted.

In the June 9 primary, it took the Chatham County Board of Elections 10 days to certify the election, largely because of the time it took to count the record turnout of absentee ballots — by the time polls closed on June 9, nearly 31,000 Chatham County voters had voted absentee.

As of Sunday, Chatham County Board of Registrars had processed 33,501 ballot requests. All of these have been mailed out already.

BOR Chairman Colin McRae said the sooner these ballots are returned, the better.

“We’re encouraging people to do it as early as they can. And I’m encouraged to see that 33,500 people have done that,” McRae said.

Thanks to a purchase by the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia, the BOR will be installing eight additional ballot drop boxes around the county in the coming month.

That decision to extend the time period for receiving absentee ballots wasn’t exactly voluntary. Georgia Republicans are appealing the federal court decision that led to the extension, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Republican Party joined the Republican National Committee Tuesday in appealing a federal court decision requiring the counting of absentee ballots received up to three days after the Nov. 3 election.

U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross ruled last month that mail-in ballots that are postmarked by Election Day must be counted if they arrive by 7 p.m. on Nov. 6. Under current law, absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

“Democrats have filed a barrage of frivolous lawsuits to eliminate safeguards, sow confusion and upend the timely and accurate counting of votes,” state GOP Chairman David Shafer said Tuesday. “They cry ‘voter suppression’ but ignore the fact that an unlawful vote cancels out and ‘suppresses’ a lawful vote as completely as if the lawful voter was physically turned away from the polling place.”

The voter registration group New Georgia Project brought the lawsuit in May against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

November elections will feature real-time tracking of wait times at polling locations, according to the Albany Herald.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told members of the Atlanta Press Club Tuesday the new real-time tracker will let voters see wait times on Election Day and help officials pinpoint any polling places that may be experiencing issues so they can be resolved.

Raffensperger’s office is also working with groups like the Coca-Cola Company and AT&T to train employees as technical-support workers able to diagnose and fix issues that crop up with voting machines on Election Day.

“We have a very robust plan of action for the November election cycle,” Raffensperger said Tuesday. “I think we’re much better prepared.”

Georgia is poised for record voter turnout in the Nov. 3 general election with a presidential contest, two U.S. Senate seats, congressional, state and local offices all on the ballot.

Gwinnett County will soon empanel grand juries again, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter said the county is expected to resume convening grand juries within the next few weeks although the logistics are being worked out. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton, who had been keeping courts across the state operating under a state of judicial emergency since March because of the pandemic, recently gave the OK for grand juries to resume.

“Sometime at the end of this month or first of next month,” Porter said last week about when he expects grand juries to resume. “We’re working on space requirements and stuff like that. The summons may have already gone out.”

“There’s going to be a protocol that we’re working on in terms of cleaning between witnesses and that kind of stuff,” Porter said.

Some UGA faculty are calling for more action to stem COVID-19 spread in Athens, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

A group of tenured University of Georgia faculty members has called on UGA administrators to do more to prevent the people of Athens from the spillover of COVID-19 infection from the university community to the people of Athens.

“The administration must only bring students to campus when it can assure Athens it has done everything possible to actively contain the virus,” they wrote. So far, the administration has not done that, according to the letter, penned by faculty in UGA’s School of Public Health and School of Public and International Affairs.

The letter, one of a number of appeals UGA faculty have made to UGA administrators to do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19, notes the remarkable rise in COVID-19 infections in Athens once UGA classes began last month.

A week ago, Clarke County had the fourth-highest COVID-19 case rate over the previous two weeks in the United States. This week, Clarke remains among the top U.S. counties at No. 20.

Some Decatur teachers protested returning to in-person learning, according to the AJC.

Dozens of teachers and parents gathered in a field across the street from the City Schools of Decatur administration center Tuesday afternoon to oppose the change in direction for a district where school has meant Zoom sessions and online homework since the fall semester started in August.

On Friday, the school district emailed a written announcement to parents — and Superintendent David Dude spoke in a video recording shared with teachers — revealing a new plan to gradually return willing students to the classroom. It will start with pre-kindergarten and special education students on Oct. 12, with others returning over a three-week period beginning Nov. 2. Families can also choose to stay home and continue online classes.

Teachers who attended the protest said this was a jarring development given prior statements by Dude about whether it was safe enough to return to in-person schooling.

“We were on the same page because we thought we were looking at the data in the same way,” said Heather Byars, who teaches English at Renfroe Middle School. “But I guess we weren’t.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit against the proposed Camden Spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has amended an ongoing lawsuit on behalf of One Hundred Miles against county officials and a spaceport consultant for failing to meet requirements of the Georgia Open Records Act.

According to the amended lawsuit filed in Camden County Superior Court, the environmental group has been seeking information from conducted studies it says has been withheld that show the impacts of a rocket launch failure including:

“After more than seven years, the county continues to keep even the most basic details about this project from the public by violating the law,” said Megan Desrosiers, executive director of One Hundred Miles. “How can Camden communities feel assured that millions of their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely when they are denied any semblance of transparency?”

Dalton State College is being lauded for its financial value and for student voting, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Dalton State ranked No. 51 nationally among 248 “Bachelor’s Colleges” and was listed among 157 institutions across the nation as one of “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting.” The college was also ranked No. 72 for “Best Bang for the Buck” among 278 colleges and universities in the Southeast. Washington Monthly’s “Bachelor’s Colleges” rankings are based on the college’s contribution to the “public good” in three categories: social mobility, research and providing opportunities for public service.

“We have known for a long time that Dalton State embodies these areas but it is nice to see us recognized nationally for the work we’re doing,” said Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State. “This ranking is validating because it is based on data and facts as opposed to surveys. We enroll a large number of first-generation students, and we have a low net price, which makes us very affordable. Both factors weighed into these rankings.”

Dalton State’s value and service of first-generation students contributed to the overall ranking. Washington Monthly showed Dalton State is No. 6 nationally for net price and No. 8 nationally for performance of first-generation students.

Most students at Dalton State graduate with little or no student debt. Sixty-two percent graduate without student loans, while more than three-fourths of all students receive financial aid, said Jodi Johnson, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

Dalton State is routinely recognized by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement at Tufts University and the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for its voter engagement and voting action planning. Data from those organizations was used to create an “honor roll” of institutions who have an ongoing “commitment to increasing student voting and have been transparent about the results,” according to Washington Monthly.

“We believe that colleges have a special obligation to help young Americans become active political citizens,” states a Washington Monthly article. “It will help if they make sure students can be confident about where they will be on Election Day.”

Augusta Commissioners discussed priorities for the March 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Referendum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

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