Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 16, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 16, 2020

The Mason-Dixon line separating Pennsylvania from Maryland was established on October 18, 1767.

In 1760, tired of border violence between the colonies’ settlers, the British crown demanded that the parties involved hold to an agreement reached in 1732. As part of Maryland and Pennsylvania’s adherence to this royal command, Mason and Dixon were asked to determine the exact whereabouts of the boundary between the two colonies. Though both colonies claimed the area between the 39th and 40th parallel, what is now referred to as the Mason-Dixon line finally settled the boundary at a northern latitude of 39 degrees and 43 minutes. The line was marked using stones, with Pennsylvania’s crest on one side and Maryland’s on the other.

Twenty years later, in late 1700s, the states south of the Mason-Dixon line would begin arguing for the perpetuation of slavery in the new United States while those north of line hoped to phase out the ownership of human chattel. This period, which historians consider the era of “The New Republic,” drew to a close with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which accepted the states south of the line as slave-holding and those north of the line as free. The compromise, along with those that followed it, eventually failed.

The Pennsylvania Gazette published a criticism against the British Tea Act on October 16, 1773.

The Tea Act of 1773 was a bill designed to save the faltering British East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as yet another example of taxation tyranny. In response, the “Philadelphia Resolutions” called the British tax upon America unfair and said that it introduced “arbitrary government and slavery” upon the American citizens. The resolutions urged all Americans to oppose the British tax and stated that anyone who transported, sold or consumed the taxed tea would be considered “an enemy to his country.”

Five thousand British and Hessian troops surrendered to patriot militia on October 17, 1777, ending the Second Battle of Saratoga, and leading to France recognizing American independence and sending military aid.

An editorial published pseudononymously by Alexander Hamilton on October 17, 1796, accused Thomas Jefferson, then a Presidential candidate, of having an affair with a slave.

Happy birthday to the Texas Rangers, created on October 17, 1835.

In the midst of their revolt against Mexico, Texan leaders felt they needed a semi-official force of armed men who would defend the isolated frontier settlers of the Lone Star Republic against both Santa Ana’s soldiers and hostile Indians; the Texas Rangers filled this role. But after winning their revolutionary war with Mexico the following year, Texans decided to keep the Rangers, both to defend against Indian and Mexican raiders and to serve as the principal law enforcement authority along the sparsely populated Texan frontier.

On October 16, 1854, Abraham Lincoln, a candidate for Congress, spoke against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and called the practice of slavery “immoral.”

Lincoln, who was practicing law at the time, campaigned on behalf of abolitionist Republicans in Illinois and attacked the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He denounced members of the Democratic Party for backing a law that “assumes there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another.” He believed that the law went against the founding American principle that “all men are created equal.”

On October 18, 1867, the United States took over Alaska from Russia and ran up Old Glory there for the first time.

Separated from the far eastern edge of the Russian empire by only the narrow Bering Strait, the Russians had been the first Europeans to significantly explore and develop Alaska.

Seeing the giant Alaska territory as a chance to cheaply expand the size of the nation, William H. Seward, President Andrew Johnson‘s secretary of state, moved to arrange the purchase of Alaska. Agreeing to pay a mere $7 million for some 591,000 square miles of land-a territory twice the size of Texas and equal to nearly a fifth of the continental United States-Seward secured the purchase of Alaska at the ridiculously low rate of less than 2¢ an acre.

On October 18, 1870, Rockdale and McDuffie Counties were created when Georgia Governor Rufus Bullock signed legislation creating them.

On October 16, 1918, visitors to the Southeastern Fair at the Lakewood Fairgrounds were required by the Georgia State Board of Health to don face masks in order to prevent the spread of the Spanish flu.

Paul Anderson, known as the “World’s Strongest Man,” was born in Toccoa, Georgia on October 17, 1932. From his New York Times obituary:

As the unknown substitute for the injured American champion at the first Soviet-American dual athletic competition, in Moscow in 1955, the 5-foot-9-inch Anderson was scorned by his hosts.

The scorn turned to snickers when Anderson called for a weight of 402.4 pounds, more than 20 pounds above the world record. The snickers stopped when the 340-pound Anderson lifted the weight. By the time he set another record, in the clean and jerk, he was being hailed by Soviet fans.

The stunning achievement at the height of the Cold War made Anderson an instant American hero, and it was largely an anticlimax when he set three more world records at the world championships in Munich, Germany, later that year.

Although virtually conceded the gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, Anderson was stricken with a severe inner-ear infection.

Competing at 304 pounds and with a 103-degree fever, he fell so far behind his chief rival that on the final of three required lifts, he needed to clean and jerk 413.5 pounds, an Olympic record, to claim the gold. Twice he tried and failed. On the third attempt he asked God for a little extra help and got it.

“It wasn’t making a bargain,” he said later, “I needed help.”

Paul Anderson Memorial Park in Toccoa is a private park supported by a 501(c)(3) organization.

Maynard Jackson was elected Mayor of Atlanta on October 16, 1973. Jackson was the first African-Amercian Mayor of Atlanta; he served eight years, and was elected for a third, non-consecutive term in 1990.

On October 16, 1976, Jimmy Carter campaigned in Youngstown, Ohio.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Here are today’s General Election stats, drawn from the Absentee voter file released daily by the Secretary of State’s office:

Total votes cast:       1,197,031

Mail-in votes cast:          646,371

Electronic:                            5,115

In-person votes cast:     545,545

A billboard near the site of President Trump’s campaign appearance in Macon today dubs the political rally a “Trump COVID Superspreader event,” according to the Macon Telegraph.

The billboard, which was paid for by national nonprofit Rural America 2020, is located on I-75S near Hartley Bridge Road and the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

Bibb County commissioner-elect Seth Clark issued a statement about the billboard.

“This billboard is a public service announcement,” said Clark. “Nobody wants to see a superspreader event but that’s exactly what these rallies are becoming. By ignoring experts’ warning on distancing and masks the President and his campaign are flying from one location to the next and leaving COVID hotspots behind. We don’t need that in Georgia, particularly since our state has already seen well over 300,000 infections.”

Calvin Palmer, the head of Bibb County GOP, told GPB he was not worried and that there would be significantly more than 500 people there, but he would wear his mask to keep people safe around him. He estimated at least 20,000 people would show up for the rally.

So far, the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and Trump campaign have not reported how many people they are expecting. When Trump stopped at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport in 2018 ahead of Gov. Brian Kemp’s election, security and campaign officials told 13WMAZ there were about 12,500 people inside the event and around 6,000 outside. Friday’s rally will be at the same airport, but not at the same hangar.

Did Executive Order expire just before midnight last night?

Order Expired October 15

That’s about halfway down Page 6. I skimmed the rest of the 52-page order and didn’t seen anything different, though I did not pore over it exhaustively.

The AJC writes that Governor Kemp extended the order an additional two weeks.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday extended the state’s coronavirus restrictions an additional two weeks, making no significant changes to broad rules that govern how Georgians should live, work and gather amid a pandemic.

The new rules, which expire Oct. 31, keep in place a three-phase system for in-person visits to senior care facilities based on the rate of coronavirus testing, the length of time the home has gone without a new case and other factors such as community spread.

They also renew safety guidelines for restaurants, bars and other businesses to follow to remain open. And they extend a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, which has become a focus of public health experts who have encouraged the governor to impose stricter limits.

Like previous executive orders, the rules also empower many Georgia cities and counties to impose face covering requirements, but do not call for a statewide mask mandate.

As of 6:15 this morning, a new E.O. was not on the Governor’s website.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

The only change to the new order involves volunteer firefighters. Kemp suspended the requirement that a volunteer firefighter “must attend a certain amount of group department drills and meetings each calendar year in order to earn creditable service” for 2020.

I don’t know how the following story got pushed off the AJC’s front page.

Governor Kemp yesterday announced that Georgia received federal approval for its health care waivers, according to WSB-TV.

“Today, we are proud to announce that our innovative approach to health care reform will be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” Kemp said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

In an elaborate ceremony, the woman who oversees the federal Medicare program signed the two waivers so that Georgia can move forward with its plan to overhaul healthcare statewide.

One waiver allows the state to pay insurance companies subsidies, which Kemp believes will encourage more companies to go back into especially rural counties. He believes those subsidies will lower premiums by as much as 4% in metro Atlanta to 25% in some rural counties.

Another waiver will block access to and instead refer customers to local brokers, who Kemp said will help them find affordable coverage.

“When you think about a lot of markets in Georgia, especially in the rural parts of our state, there’s only one carrier through,” Kemp said. “There’s no other options. And that, you know, decreases competition, which raises the price.”

There are some requirements to be eligible for this. You have to either be working, be in school or vocational training or volunteer 80 hours a month.

The first part of the plan goes into effect next July and then the rest is phased in through January 2023.

From ABC News:

Georgia will become the first state to offer federally subsidized health insurance to its residents only through private brokers under a plan being approved by President Donald Trump’s administration.

A separate part of the plan would offer Medicaid to some of the state’s poorest able-bodied adults, but only on the condition that they work, volunteer, receive job training or attend school.

“This opportunity will help hardworking Georgians climb the ladder, while having a health care safety net below them. We are making insurance accessible for those who need the most,” Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said in an announcement Thursday at the state Capitol.

“Georgia is going a step further and moving away from a government-run system and is instead leveraging the private sector and competition to enroll people in coverage, and we applaud this innovative, market-driven approach,” [Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services Administrator Seema] Verma said.

Under Kemp’s proposal, uninsured adults in Georgia who make no more than the federal poverty level would qualify for Medicaid assistance if they spent at least 80 hours a month working, volunteering, training or studying. They would also have to pay monthly premiums. The federal poverty level is just under $12,500 for an individual.

The federal government would pay for 67% of Georgia’s narrower program, the same share that it subsidizes other Medicaid benefits, not the 90% that 38 other states normally get under full Medicaid expansion.

From the Brunswick News:

Stating the problem, Kemp said Georgia suffers from one of the nation’s highest rates of uninsured, while insurance premiums are too high and there’s a lack of competition in the private health- insurance market.

“This status quo is simply unacceptable,” the governor said in announcing the plan at the Georgia Capitol. “It threatens our families and our state’s future.”

The General Assembly passed legislation last year authorizing Kemp to pursue the two waivers. The state hired Deloitte Consulting to help develop the waiver applications, which were submitted to CMS late last year.

The Medicaid waiver will make Georgians earning up to $12,000 a year eligible to enroll in Medicaid or employer-sponsored health insurance if they spend at least 80 hours per month engaged in a “qualifying activity” Those include employment, on-the-job training, participating in job-readiness activities, vocational training, higher education or community service.

The second waiver will replace the ACA’s insurance enrollment website and let Georgians enroll directly with insurance carriers, local brokers or private sector web-broker sites.

“ has fundamentally failed Georgians,” Kemp said. “The enrollment process has been nothing short of disappointing.”

Verma praised Georgia for becoming the first state to take advantage of the unprecedented flexibility the Trump administration is offering through the health insurance waiver process.

“We have delivered by getting Washington, D.C., out of your health care,” she said. “We have worked to empower states.”

Wait times for in-person early voting appears to be declining, according to the AJC.

Wait times significantly improved at many polling places Thursday, with the longest delays shrinking from as much as 12 hours at the beginning of the week to about two hours in packed precincts. In some areas, voters cast their ballots in a matter of minutes.

Election offices in Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties set up websites this week to help voters make better decisions about when to vote, showing wait times at each polling place. While voters again swamped some precincts Thursday morning, waits declined to less than an hour in most locations by the afternoon, according to the websites.

But voters continued to experience scattered problems Thursday.

Some polling places saw significant decreases in lines and wait times, including the Dunwoody Library in north DeKalb County, where the total time to vote was down to about 30 minutes Thursday afternoon.

Bulloch County is seeing high levels of voter turnout, according to the Statesboro Herald.

With lines forming each morning before the doors open, 1,733 Bulloch County voters cast ballots in the first three days of early, in-person voting for the Nov. 3 general election, one-third more than turned out in the first three days of early voting four years ago.

Meanwhile, the number of mailed-out absentee ballots returned by Bulloch County voters through Wednesday, 2,902, already exceeds the total number returned in the 2016 presidential general election by almost 80%.

Added together, those two current voter counts, 1,733 and 2,902, indicate that 4,635 Bulloch County residents, or roughly 10% of the county’s registered voters, have already participated, with two and a half weeks remaining before Election Day.

The Savannah Morning News has more information about the prior felony conviction allegations against County Commission candidate Tony Riley.

A copy of Riley’s Declaration of Candidacy obtained from the Board of Elections reveals that on March 2, Riley signed an affidavit stating that he had never been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, or if he had, that his civil rights had been restored and at least 10 years had elapsed from the completion date of his sentence.

But according to public documents obtained from the United States District Court, in August of 1995 Riley was sentenced to a prison term of 292 months for “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine hydrochloride and crack cocaine,” with details provided about his case and co-conspirator Michael Woodard.

“Riley counted money, weighed drugs, and provided advice to Michael Woodard during the conspiracy. Riley also received user quantities of cocaine base on numerous occasions from Woodard and other members of the conspiracy,” the U.S. District Court document states. “On August 5, 1993, Riley demonstrated his role in the conspiracy by assisting Michael Woodard in the attempted purchase of ten kilograms of cocaine from an undercover DEA agent.”

A subsequent document obtained from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, dated Nov. 1, 2011, states that Riley’s previously imposed sentence in this case was reduced to “time served, plus 10 days,” meaning that less than 10 years had elapsed since the conclusion of Riley’s felony sentence when he signed his candidacy-declaration affidavit on March 2.

Republicans rallied at Lafayette Square in LaGrange, according to the LaGrange Daily News.

Eight candidates addressed the crowd of about 100, emphasizing the need to vote. Central themes were defeating “socialist” Democrats, ousting Minority Leader Bob Trammell and supporting law enforcement.

The first candidate to speak, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, said this election was important “because what we’re seeing is a push toward socialism.”

Ferguson said David Jenkins, who is looking to unseat Trammell in the competitive state House District 132 race, has “gone up against the machine.”

Jenkins said the COVID-19 crisis would pass and that he looked forward to working with other local Republicans in Atlanta.

State Sen. Randy Robertson, on the other hand, went on the attack against Trammell and his “Democratic minions.”

Republican Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff, who has a Democratic opponent in Ricky Ward, took the stage to ask people to tell their friends to vote and not be complacent.

“The stupidest thing anybody could ever do would be to defund law enforcement,” Woodruff said. “Who would you call when it got rough at your house?”

Elsewhere, Republicans seek votes from African-Amercian voters with a statewide bus tour, according to the AJC.

With less than three weeks to go before the general election, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and his famous first-cousin hit the road Thursday with an appeal to Black voters.

After stops in Gainesville, Cherokee and Paulding County, Perdue and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue swung by the Black Voices for Trump office in Mableton.

“I feel momentum,” David Perdue told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before addressing voters. “I have been all over Georgia in the last few weeks and there is a Trump bump out here that the polls just don’t pick up. It was there in ’16, it is here now. There is a growing energy out here.”

Sonny Perdue told the crowd that if Trump is not elected more racial unrest will spread.

“If you elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and hand this over to the Democrats again, America is gonna be like that. Not just Portland or Minneapolis or Kenosha,” Sonny Perdue said. “It’s gonna be Atlanta, Georgia. It is gonna be all over this country. So, I want to thank you for having the courage to stand up and not be a token of the Democratic Party.”

And like his first-cousin, Sonny Perdue scoffed at the polls. He noted that he got under 10% of the Black vote when he ran for governor in 2002, but that number rose to about 20% when he was re-elected four years later.

“Black people are not stupid. They understand what this administration means,” said [Sonny] Perdue. “They understand what a job is, a better job is. And they know that they have been played like clowns for years by the Democratic party and they tired of it.”

Greg Bluestein writes for the AJC about GOP efforts to attract more rural voters.

President Donald Trump is aiming to run up the score with rural voters on Friday when he visits the Macon area, his second campaign rally in the state over the last month and the latest sign of a tightening battle for the White House in Georgia.

His target audience is not Macon-Bibb County, which Hillary Clinton easily carried four years ago. It’s the surrounding rural areas where Trump and other Republicans have tallied huge margins in recent statewide elections.

As Democrats consolidate support in Atlanta’s vote-rich suburbs, Republicans are trying to wring out every vote they can to offset those losses. While Stacey Abrams dominated many suburban areas in 2018, Gov. Brian Kemp narrowly defeated her because he captured about 90% of rural Georgia.

Senator Kelly Loeffler’s husband has given more than $5 million dollars to a PAC supporting her reelection, according to the AJC.

Finance records released late Thursday show that Jeff Sprecher contributed $5.5 million to the pro-Loeffler Georgia United Victory PAC, a free-spending outside group formed in August to boost the Republican’s campaign.

Sprecher, who runs the Atlanta-based company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, doled out the vast sum in three separate contributions between Aug. 6 – days after the group was formed – and Sept. 2.

The group raised about $9.8 million overall and has roughly $450,000 left in its account. Other big donors include $1 million from hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin and $500,000 from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, a Republican mega-donor.

Two Washington-based conservative groups also chipped in hefty contributions to Loeffler, who is running to fill the remaining two years of retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. Policies, Solutions and Action for America gave about $1.5 million, while RightOn Issues added another $1 million.

State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) says George Soros is picking up the tab for Democratic Chatham County District Attorney candidate Shalena Cook Jones, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A political action committee funded in part by billionaire George Soros has invested nearly $80,000 on advertising materials promoting Chatham County District Attorney candidate Shalena Cook Jones, according to campaign finance filings.

The funding from the Justice & Public Safety PAC – Georgia came into question this week after a video featuring comments by Georgia House Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-District 166) was posted to social media. In the video, Rep. Petrea claims Soros has given Jones $200,000 as part of a “complete fund designed to target DA races across the country because he wants DAs who are weaker on crime.”

Jones refuted the claims Thursday and called the allegation a red herring. Soros in no way influences or impacts her messaging , Jones said, nor does he impact the people of the community.

Flyers distributed by the Justice & Public Safety PAC – Georgia during the primary and again recently in support of Jones help set off allegations.

A search of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission office’s political contributions database returned a record showing Berlin Rosen, a New York-based public relations and campaign communications consulting firm, as a contributor for the Justice & Public Safety PAC – Georgia mailings. It shows they spent roughly $79,200 on independent expenditure direct mail and digital advertisement and production during the primary race.

A search of the FEC website shows records of a Justice & Public Safety PAC, which Soros contributed to in 2019, but there is no record or mention of spending in Georgia or any record of Jones’ campaign listed on the documents. The PAC does use Berlin Rosen for direct mail, however.

Augusta is converting some downtown parking spaces into dedicated short term spaces for curbside pickup, according to the Augusta Chronicle. Something many private companies have already done without requiring press releases and public meetings.

The Gainesville Times profiles candidates for Hall County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The district is one of 40 in the state. The districts are units of state government that educate about conservation at community events and in classrooms, review erosion and sedimentation control plans for developments and help landowners and farmers implement conservation practices on their properties.

Hall County’s district, which was formed in 1983, has five supervisors. Some recent projects include presenting at Ag Day, where local students learn about agriculture, installing five pollinator garden beds at the Hall County Agricultural Services Building and hosting an endangered species workshop at Elachee Nature Center.

Mike Haynes, the current chairman, has been a supervisor since 1983 and is on the ballot for reelection. The board’s work reviewing erosion control plans and distributing government funds to farmers for property improvements is important for ensuring the long-term environmental health of the area, he said.

“If we don’t do things to protect our soil from eroding, years down the road, it’s not going to be here,” Haynes, a North Hall poultry and cattle farmer, said. “There’s no telling how much soil has been washed into the lakes and rivers over the years.”

Speaking of Sonny Perdue, the United States Department of Agriculture has extended free shool lunch programs, according to AccessWDUN.

An announcement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Wednesday, October 14, extends the free meal program from it’s original deadline. Initially the announcement provided free meals through December 2020, but this new extension means that breakfast and lunch will be provided for free for all school children for the entirety of the school year.

In a September press release from the USDA, the program ensures that children have access to nutritious food as families recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We appreciate the incredible efforts by our school foodservice professionals year in and year out, but this year we have an unprecedented situation. This extension of summer program authority will employ summer program sponsors to ensure meals are reaching all children – whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually – so they are fed and ready to learn, even in new and ever-changing learning environments.”

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