Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 9, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 9, 2020

Today is Leif Erikson Day, celebrating the Norse explorer being the first European to visit North America. From Mental Floss:

While the actual date of Leif Erikson Day doesn’t have anything personally to do with Leif, it was picked for the holiday because it’s the anniversary of the day that the ship Restauration arrived in New York from Stavanger, Norway, back in 1825. The arrival of the Restauration marked the beginning of organized immigration from Scandinavia to the USA. The holiday was first recognized by Wisconsin in 1930, eventually becoming a nationally observed holiday in 1964.

Casimir Pulaski, a Polish aristocrat who fought with the colonists in the American Revolution, died in Savannah on October 11, 1779.

The United States Naval Academy opened in Annapolis, Maryland on October 10, 1845.

On October 9, 1963, the Board of Regents approved a new junior college in Cobb County that is today Kennesaw State University. The next year, Cobb County voters approved a bond referendum to fund construction.

Democrat Jimmy Carter challenged President Gerald Ford to make his income tax returns public on October 9, 1976.

On October 10 1976, a poll by Time magazine showed Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter with a 2-1 electoral vote margin.

Carter led in 21 states and the District of Columbia, with 273 electoral votes (three more than necessary to win), while President Ford led in 17 states with 113 electoral votes.

The online Georgia archives at UGA has a collection of campaign materials, including a 1976 Carter for President brochure.

On October 10, 1980, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site was established in Atlanta.

United States Senator Sam Nunn announced on October 9, 1995 that he would not run for reelection. From CNN’s contemporary story:

“I know in my heart it is time to follow a new course,” Nunn told reporters gathered in the Georgia State Capitol. He said his decision followed “a lot of thought and prayer” and he expressed enthusiasm about meaningful days ahead in the private sector.

“Today I look forward to more freedom, to more flexibility,” he said, adding he planned to spend time with his family, to write, and “devote a substantial amount of time” to public policy and public service. He said he has no immediate plans for a presidential bid.

Nunn hailed America as “the greatest country in the world,” but cited problems that need attention, including education concerns, illegitimate children, and widespread violence and drugs. He expressed optimism on such items as the strong military and entitlement reform.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said of Sam Nunn’s retirement,

“For those who listened carefully, it is clear that the Democratic Party is not the vehicle for the values outlined by Sen. Nunn.”

Nolan Waters of Knight-Ridder wrote of the announcement,

Nunn’s departure is a watershed.

“Nunn is the last of the great moderate Southern Democrats. This creates a huge hole for the party,” said Merle Black, a specialist on Southern politics at Emory University in Atlanta.

Nunn, like President Clinton, helped organize a group of moderate Democrats, the Democratic Leadership Council, in an attempt to move the party rightward after the 1984 landslide re-election of President Reagan.

“He has been fighting the liberal wing of his party for over two decades,” Black said. “It’s been a losing battle.”

In place of Nunn, the state’s most prominent politician is becoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich – whose futuristic, activist style of conservatism seems radical along-side Nunn’s traditionalism.

Former Georgia Governor and President of the United States Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 11, 2002.

Bobby Cox managed his last game in Game Four of the NLDS on October 11, 2010.

On October 10, 2015, Donald Trump made his first campaign stop in Georgia.

Trump Atlanta 1

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that an election must be held in the Western Judicial Circuit, according to the AJC.

The ruling pits Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointee to the Western Judicial Circuit, Brian Patterson, against Deborah Gonzalez, an Athens-based lawyer and former Democratic state representative. The special election will take place on the same ballot as the presidential election, which is expected to draw the highest turnout in recent history.

The court’s ruling can be traced to District Attorney Ken Mauldin’s retirement in February. Typically, the governor would appoint a new DA to fulfill the office until the next election. However, according to a 2018 law, if the next election is within six months of an appointment, the appointee can stay in office until the following statewide election.

After Mauldin’s early retirement, there was a delay of several months before Kemp appointed Patterson to the empty seat. This would have been the last year of Mauldin’s four-year term, and according to the 2018 law, Patterson’s appointment would have lasted until 2022 — creating a gap of six years between elections for Athens’ district attorney. The term limit set by the state constitution for district attorneys is four years.

In a decision written by Chief Justice Harold Melton, the court ruled that the 2018 law cited by Kemp and Raffensperger was unconstitutional. Melton quoted the lower court in the decision, which wrote, “It is fundamentally unfair and constitutionally impermissible for public officials to disenfranchise voters in violation of state law so that they may fill the seats of government through the power of appointment.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald:

In Thursday’s ruling, the court declared the state law violates Paragraph I (a) of the 1983 Georgia Constitution.

“The final sentence of Paragraph I (a) says simply, ‘Vacancies shall be filled by appointment of the governor.’ It does not say appointments to fill vacancies do anything to change the existing, four-year term of office held by the district attorney who vacated the office before the end of that term,” Chief Justice Harold Melton wrote for the court.

“Accordingly, when the governor’s appointee fills a vacancy in an office of district attorney, he or she steps only into the remainder of the unexpired fixed four-year term for the office.”

The Western Judicial Circuit comprises Clarke and Oconee Counties.

A Paulding County teacher has sued over coronavirus allegations, according to the AJC.

The lawsuit alleges that lax state and local standards have exposed staff, students, families and the Paulding community to risk of infection by the sometimes deadly virus.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the State Defendants have steadfastly refused to issue meaningful, binding requirements for school districts concerning how they are expected to operate during the pandemic,” says the complaint in Fulton County Superior Court. This is in “sharp contrast” to standards for restaurants, retailers or summer camps, the lawsuit notes.

The Georgia Association of Educators, the state’s second-largest teacher advocacy organization with 28,000 members, is a party to the suit with the anonymous Paulding employee and education group member, described as a longtime teacher. She is referred to only by her initials M.J. because she fears retaliation by the school district, the suit says. She lives with a parent, nearly 80, who has a lung disease that enhances the risk of consequences of COVID-19.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Gov. Brian Kemp, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Commissioner of the Department of Public Health Kathleen Toomey and multiple Paulding County School District officials are listed in the complaint that includes two unnamed plaintiffs — an educator and a parent on behalf of a child in the Paulding school system.

Woods responded to the lawsuit in a statement Thursday and said the department — along with the Department of Public Health — issued detailed guidance to school systems, including encouraging masks as part of the dress code but, ultimately, Georgia schools have the authority to make their own decisions on how to reopen.

“At the end of the day, the Georgia Constitution provides for the local control of public schools,” he said in a statement. “There is often a misconception that the state school superintendent has unilateral authority over all operations of public schools, and that is simply not true. The GAE complaint is asking the Georgia Department of Education to exercise authority we do not have.”

Whitfield County schools set dates for high school students to return to full-time in-person learning, according to the Dalton Daily News Citizen.

Currently, all elementary and middle school students who did not opt for total virtual learning this year are attending in-person classes five days a week, but because of the size of the student population at the system’s high schools, those students are broken into two cohorts, each attending two days a week and learning virtually the other three. On Monday, Oct. 26, cohorts will be discontinued, and all face-to-face high school students will attend school in-person Monday-Thursday, with five-day weeks beginning on Monday, Nov. 30.

All of those plans are contingent upon the community rates of COVID-19 remaining relatively modest, said Superintendent Judy Gilreath.

“Our intent from the beginning has been to get back to a regular schedule, but the (level) of the virus in our community was always going to determine what we do and when.”

Cobb County voters begin early voting in-person on Monday, October 12th, according to the AJC.

Early voting begins Oct. 12, and the Cobb County Elections and Voter Registration Office will open 11 places for advance voting.

Janine Eveler, director of the agency, said she expects at least 200,000 people to vote early this year. More than 141,000 Cobb voters cast ballots during the 2016 early voting period for the general election, Eveler said.

Cobb residents also have the option of dropping off absentee ballots at 16 drop-box locations around the county. Those locations can be viewed on Cobb County Elections’ website. You can also visit the website to request a mail-in ballot.

Click here for more information from the Cobb County Board of Elections.

From the Brunswick News:

Early in-person voting begins Monday or Tuesday, depending on if the county celebrates the federal Columbus Day holiday. Early voting ends Oct. 30 at designated polling places in every county in the state.

Early voting will be offered during a stretch of 12 consecutive days in some counties, including Camden and Glynn.

Masks are encouraged but not required at polling places. Poll workers will be wearing masks and taking other precautions. Voting stations will be sanitized throughout the day.

Elenore Gale, elections supervisor in McIntosh County, said her county will begin early voting on Oct. 12 because the county does not recognize the federal Columbus Day holiday. She predicted a higher than average turnout for early voting because of the long lines expected on Nov. 3. The turnout will also be higher because of some hotly contested local races, she said.

From the AJC:

Each of Georgia’s 159 counties has at least one early voting location, and there are dozens scattered around metro Atlanta. In Fulton County alone, there are 30 early voting sites, including State Farm Arena, the High Museum of Art and the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.

Early voting is also available on a Saturday, on Oct. 24. The final day of in-person early voting is Oct. 30. Times and locations vary depending on each location’s availability.

You must vote at a location in the county where you are registered.

Clarke County voter registration is up since the Primary Elections, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Georgia secretary of state’s office this week released a preliminary count of the number of Georgians registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election — nearly 7.6 million, up by about 600,000 since the 2018 general election. That’s a nearly 9% jump. Almost a third of that increase, about 200,000, has come in just the past few months. The state listed about 7.4 million registered voters for this spring’s party primaries and nonpartisan elections.

But Clarke County’s voter rolls have jumped much more than that since the primaries, according to the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections and Voter Registration Office — from about 71,191 to 81,906, almost 15%.

The statewide and local surges in voter registration for this fall’s election reflect two factors, said University of Georgia political analyst Charles Bullock.

One is simply that people are automatically registered when obtaining driver’s licenses from the Georgia Department of Driver Services.

“It’s now so easy to register. You have to opt out rather than opt in,” Bullock said.

The second factor is public interest in the election.

“It indicates that there are a lot of people who want to make sure they can participate in the election,” Bullock said.

A third factor could also be at play in Clarke County, said Linda Lloyd, executive director of Athens’ Economic Justice Coalition.

Lloyd and the coalition for years have been active in registering voters, and this spring and summer they got help from several other organizations, including the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, the Athens chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority alumni, the Athens Unitarian Universalist Church and others.

The Glynn County Republican Party will host an event with Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) on Saturday, October 10, 2020.

The Brunswick News reports higher than normal levels of campaign sign stealing.

A contributing factor to the sign thefts in those areas might be the heavily polarized political climate, she said.

“It’s just pretty hyper-partisan and you’re getting people who are very passionate about their candidates and taking signs, which I don’t condone at all,” [Glynn County Democrats Chair Julie] Jordan said.

Theft isn’t the only possible explanation for some of the disappearances. For code enforcement officers in the city of Brunswick and Glynn County, pulling up signs in public rights-of-way is a routine part of the job.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has endorsed Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff for United States Senate, according to 11Alive.

The endorsement was not a surprise, coming from a Democratic mayor on behalf of Democratic candidates, but reinforced the party’s ambitions in Georgia, where both races are seen as competitive.

The mayor framed the two Senate elections as an “opportunity for us not just to change the landscape of representation in Georgia, but change the landscape of our nation – two Senate seats, two opportunities for us to send strong leaders to the Senate.”

“This is a race that the entire country is watching,” the mayor said.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree said gun violence and mental health issues are up this year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Saturday shooting death of transgender woman Felycya Harris brought the year’s homicide total to 28, on par with 2019. Roundtree said the office hasn’t determined whether to investigate the case as a hate crime.

The recent incidents, including a homicide at Augusta Mall last week, reflect what Roundtree said are events “rapidly escalating to gun violence.”

“We have seen a recent uptick in gun violence. We are throwing every possible resource we have at that issue,” Roundtree said.

The year’s count of non-fatal aggravated assault cases involving a gun is at 174 – on par with last year’s 173 – but gun violence has increased 79% overall since 2013, he said.

Does “on par with” 2019 mean with this day last year or all of last year?

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