Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 6, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 6, 2020

The first Mennonites arrived in America on October 6, 1683 aboard the Concord.

Cy Young threw his last professional baseball game as a member of the Boston Braves on October 6, 1911.

On October 6, 1953, WTVM-TV began broadcasting in  Columbus, Georgia.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience held its first rehearsal on October 6, 1966.

The second Presidential debate between Republican incumbent Gerald Ford and Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter took place on October 6, 1976. During the debate, Ford said, there was “no Soviet domination in Eastern Europe”. Polling released on October 8, 1976 indicated that Democrat Jimmy Carter won the second debate against President Gerald Ford by a 50-27 margin.

Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to visit the White House on October 6, 1979. Carter’s notes from the meeting are at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.

The last four B-52 bombers stationed at Robins Air Force Base in Warner-Robins left the base for the last time on October 6, 1983.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Action Fund will spend $5 million to help re-elect Senator David Perdue, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Action Fund’s new venture aims to pummel undecided voters who don’t receive political news from traditional media sources with digital ads and online videos boosting Perdue’s race against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The PAC’s director, former Perdue strategist Derrick Dickey, said the goal was to strategically target up-in-the-air voters so that the campaign and other outside groups can keep a focus on TV ads and get-out-the-vote efforts.

“The Georgia market has millions of dollars being dumped into it right now by outside forces,” said Dickey. “But more people are using streaming services than ever, and this is the best the way to get to them.”

United States District Court Judge William M. “Billy” Ray II rejected a lawsuit seeking to embiggen Spanish language ballot availability, according to the AJC.

In a Monday order, Judge William M. Ray II dismissed the case, brought by the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and other groups, saying that the secretary of state’s office and the Gwinnett elections board didn’t violate the federal Voting Rights Act, as the lawsuit claimed.

“Nonetheless, this Court recognizes that Plaintiffs’ end goal of ensuring that Spanish-speaking Gwinnett voters receive bilingual absentee ballot applications is a reasonable and desirable outcome,” Ray wrote.

He said, though, that GALEO and the other groups lacked the standing to make the case. Ray said in his order that the individuals who said they weren’t sent Spanish-language ballot applications were able to get them from the county, and did vote. He added that a Spanish-language ballot application was accessible on the county website.

The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in the water lawsuit between Georgia and Florida, according to WABE.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments – for a second time – in a long-running case between Georgia and Florida during the term that begins Monday.

Florida is asking the court to limit Georgia’s water use as part of a decadeslong dispute over the water in the rivers that flow through the states.

Florida claims Georgia farmers and Atlanta homes and businesses use too much of the water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. Florida says that has disastrous effects on its environment and fishing industry in the Apalachicola River and Bay in the Florida Panhandle.

There is no date set yet, but in an order Monday morning, the court said there would be oral arguments.

Prospective First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will campaign in Atlanta, according to the AJC.

Jill Biden will visit Atlanta and Columbus on Monday to celebrate the start of Georgia’s early-voting period, marking the first in-person trip to the state from either of the Bidens since Joe won the party’s nomination earlier this year.

Turnout is expected to reach 5 million in Georgia, putting pressure on some busy polling sites that buckled under the strain during the state’s June primary, resulting in hours-long lines in some cases.

Democrat Raphael Warnock campaigned for the U.S. Senate in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

His scheduled stops here included a meet-and-greet with former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, State Rep. Calvin Smyre and other state representatives and senators from the area in the early afternoon followed by a faith leaders’ roundtable at Greater Beallwood Baptist Church and a meet-and-greet with the Muscogee County Democrats at Overflo Salon and Barber Shop in the evening.

“We are praying much for the President and the first lady, and I hope they will have a full and speedy recovery,” Warnock said Friday in a phone interview. “If the President of the United States can get coronavirus, then anyone can. …When running for office, you certainly want to engage voters. We’ve tried to find ways to do it safely. Our events have been socially distanced. We’ve asked people to wear a mask, and where possible, we’ve hosted our events outside.”

Faith, Warnock said, provides his values, informing how he looks at public policy and governing.

“I think it’s as basic as the Gospel mandates — love your neighbor as you love yourself,” he said.

Republican Congressman Doug Collins (Gainesville) campaigned in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The 54-year-old Republican faces incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler and several other candidates for a special election Nov. 3 to fill the Senate seat once held by Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down Dec. 31 for health reasons.

Collins told an audience of dozens at the Holiday Inn conference center that he expects the election to go into a runoff vote in January.

On the agriculture scene, Collins said disaster relief is a major priority. A number of South Georgia crops have been damaged by storms in recent years.

Another major problem for South Georgia farmers is immigration, he said. Collins said Georgia leads the nation in H-2A workers. The government’s H-2A program regulates the lawful admission of temporary foreign workers.

“Farmers need an H-2A program that is actually workable so they can get crops in the field and out of the field as well,” he said.

The lawmaker was scheduled to visit Stone Creek Country Club later in the day before heading to Hinesville.

The Ledger-Enquirer discusses statewide Constitutional Amendments and a referendum on the November ballot.

Proposed constitutional amendment 1

“Once we elect representatives to make good decisions, and we want to entrust them to do so, and that sometimes requires reprioritizing. On the other hand, when we specifically say we’re collecting money for a purpose, we have an expectation the money will be used for that purpose, and we don’t want it to be used for other purposes,” [Mercer Political Science professor Chris] Grant said. “It’s an interesting requirement to place in the General Assembly, but I can understand it.”

Proposed constitutional amendment 2

“As we all know, you can’t sue the government unless the government gives you permission to sue it, and this would remove the restrictions that have required a legislative act to allow you to sue the state,” Grant said.

If the amendment is adopted, the judiciary will be able to decide whether a citizen has the grounds to sue the state or a local government.

Statewide referendum

As the law stands, charities and nonprofits, like Habitat for Humanity, have to pay property taxes on the single family homes that they build or buy to renovate for families in need. This law would exempt the charities from paying taxes on those properties, Grant said.

Embattled Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson (R) faced her November opponent in a debate, according to The Brunswick News.

Both sides claimed falsities have been leveled against them during the campaign from their opponents and others.

Friction between the two became evident early on when Johnson noted Higgins had been endorsed by the Glynn County Democratic Party, indirectly insinuating he would not adhere to Republican principles.

More than once during the debate, Johnson attempted to connect Higgins with Democratic organizations and Black Lives Matter through his participation in recent rallies.

“I’m a Republican…running as a non-partisan,” Higgins responded. “I’ll confess to you, I voted for one Democrat. I voted for (former U.S. President) Bill Clinton the first time he ran because I was so upset (former Republican President George H.W. Bush) said ‘Read my lips, no new taxes’ and then he raised taxes.”

When asked about the Feb. 23 slaying of Ahmaud Arbery, Higgins said he would have immediately recused himself and not referred the case to a neighboring DA, echoing claims by county and state officials that Johnson didn’t recuse herself early enough and that she inappropriately referred the case to Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill.

It’s the DA’s job to assist the police, Johnson said, and she did so by connecting officers with Barnhill, the neighboring DA, after recusing herself. She also again denied claims made by local and state officials that she told police not to arrest the two men alleged to have killed Arbery, Greg McMichael and his adult son, Travis McMichael.

Republican Chatham District Attorney Meg Heap faced her November opponent in a forum, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The debate was the first between Incumbent Meg Heap, a Republican, and challenger Shalena Cook Jones, Democrat, ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.

The candidates covered several issues during the session. One that is currently top of mind with the public, the role of the DA’s office when it comes to protection of police officers and minority citizens, drew particular attention from Heap and Jones.

“We instituted a policy where all officer involved cases are presented to a grand jury and the findings of that grand jury are made public. The entire proceedings are recorded and you can ask for a copy of it,” she said, adding that her offices has worked along with the Savannah’s mayor and city council to avoid issues seen in other states.

“We started the Family Justice Center; it works with our most vulnerable victims, our children and our women and men of domestic violence. We actually went across the United States and saw that where there is a Family Justice Center, you will see a reduction in domestic violence recantation and domestic violence homicides,” Heap said.

Georgia Forestry Commissioner Chuck Williams was arrested for shoplifting and resigned his office, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Gray Police Department arrested Charles “Chuck” Williams, 64, of Watkinsville on the misdemeanor charge Aug. 13, the day after the alleged shoplifting took place in the Ace Hardware store in Gray.

Williams, paid a salary of $165,000 as Forestry Commission director, was released from custody that same day.

Williams, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives from the 119th District in Oconee County, was appointed to the director’s job in September 2017 by then Gov. Nathan Deal.

Williams texted a resignation letter Aug. 14 to Gov. Brian Kemp and Larry Spillers, a Crawford County businessman who is the chairman for the Forestry Commission.

The Floyd County Board of Elections launched an “Adopt-A-Precinct” program to provide meals for poll workers on election day, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Melanie Conrad, one of the board members, said they came up with the idea after the Aug. 11 primary.

“We had a lot of poll workers staying later than expected so we sent over pizza,” Conrad said.

Conrad went on to say that it’s very hard for poll workers to go out and get lunch or dinner and they thought they could do better in providing hot meals to poll workers on election day.

Anyone can participate in the program, except for groups associated with political parties or the candidates on the ballots. Conrad gave examples of church groups, restaurants, small businesses or any community group as hopeful participants.

The groups are being asked to provide lunch and dinner to the precincts, each of which usually have about eight to 10 poll workers. Some precincts, such as the Rome Civic Center or Barkers, have more than 10 poll workers.

Augusta University sees higher enrollment despite COVID-19 issues affecting all education institutions, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to a university release, enrollment increased by 3.1%. The total enrollment for the fall semester is estimated to be 9,558 students, with an official count to be announced later in the fall once official enrollment numbers at submitted to the University System of Georgia.

“As we started going into the fall semester, there was a great deal of uncertainty about what impact COVID-19 might have on our enrollment. Enrollment is such a very important aspect of any university, and it’s no different here at Augusta University,” AU President Brooks Keel said in a release. “We were really holding our breath and keeping our fingers crossed.”

Keel said the university, on average, has seen an increase of 2.8% in enrollment over the past five years.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools have restarted in-person instruction for some students, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Atlanta Public Schools is considering a plan for reopening in-person education, according to the AJC.

Superintendent Lisa Herring on Monday presented the latest plan to the school board. It calls for four-day-a-week, face-to-face instruction to resume Oct. 26 for prekindergarten through fifth grade and some special education students. Families also can choose to continue with virtual learning.

The plan hinges on continued improvement in COVID-19 cases. Officials will look at health data on Oct. 16 to make a decision on if the district can indeed reopen 10 days later.

Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park in Reidsville has been renamed Jack Hill State Park in honor of the late state Senator, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The State Department of Natural Resources Commissioner also gave Hill’s family members a version of the new Jack Hill State Park welcome sign.

“Jack Hill was a great friend. But more important than that, he was a great friend to all Georgians,” Kemp said.

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