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

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

Former Confederate General John B. Gordon was sworn-in as Governor of Georgia on November 9, 1886.

The next day, November 9, 1932, President-elect FDR addressed a national broadcast to the American people and mentioned that he would spend Thanksgiving at his “second home” in Georgia.

On November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht began the organized destruction and looting of Jewish businesses and homes in Munich, Germany.

On November 9, 1989, the former East Germany announced that citizens could cross the border to West Germany. That night, crowds began tearing down sections of the wall that divided the city.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp joined Speaker David Ralston and Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan in a joint statement:

“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our American government. Any allegations of intentional fraud or violations of election law must be taken seriously and investigated. We trust that our Secretary of State will ensure that the law is followed as written and that Georgia’s election result includes all legally-cast ballots — and only legally-cast ballots. We will continue to follow this situation to ensure a fair and transparent process.”

Georgia appears likely to be hosting two runoff elections for the United States Senate and one for Public Service Commission. From the AJC:

But the runoff that is getting national attention is the second one, on Jan. 5, that will decide both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate elections and potentially which party controls the U.S. Senate. (The runoff for state and local races is Dec. 1.)

Adding to the oddity is that Georgia has two U.S. Senate races on the ballot and both will now be decided by runoffs. Republican Sen. David Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in one race. Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock in the second. Georgia’s twin U.S. Senate runoffs are bringing national attention to Georgia, including expected visits by national political leaders. And local television will be filled with campaign advertising for a few more weeks.

Why two dates? Federal elections, such as the U.S. Senate and Congress, follow different rules for runoffs, including an extension of voter registration. The nine-week runoff election for federal races is used in Georgia because federal law requires time for overseas voters to return ballots in federal elections, such as the U.S. Senate.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Republican Jason Shaw has won the race for Public Service Commission, District 1. Incumbent Republican Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald leads his race, but a runoff remains a possibility in District 4 as vote counting continued Friday.

The 2020 PSC races reflected the changing demographics of Georgia. The sitting PSC commisioners are all white. And only one Black person has ever served on the PSC. But this year the two white incumbent Republicans, each of whom first gained that seat through an appointment, faced two Black Democratic challengers who have not held public office.

The District 4 race remained too close to call.

By 2 p.m. Friday, McDonald led the District 4 race with 50.01% of the vote over his opponent Democrat Daniel Blackman, who garnered 46.88%.

Georgia requires candidates to get more than 50% of votes to avoid a runoff. As of 2 p.m. Friday, McDonald had fewer than 400 votes over than 50 percent benchmark.

If a runoff is required it will be held Dec. 1, more than a month earlier than the two Senate runoff races scheduled for Jan. 5.

Outgoing Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) will head the Trump campaign’s Georgia recount effort, according to AccessWDUN.

Collins said in the statement that the Trump campaign was “confident” the recounting group will “find evidence of improperly harvested ballots and other irregularities.”

“We are concerned about the lack of transparency in the tabulation process,” said Matt Morgan, Trump 2020 general counsel. “In order for Americans to have full faith and confidence in our elections, every legal vote must be counted and every illegal or fraudulent vote must be excluded.”

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign emailed supporters on Friday soliciting attorneys who could help ensure the vote counting process is “fair and transparent” in eight Georgia counties, including Clayton, Henry and Fayette. And Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, in a Buckhead news conference Friday, said the party was looking into “six or seven” allegations of election irregularities in Georgia but gave no details.

From the Associated Press via the Gainesville Times:

But at the state Capitol, hundreds of Trump supporters rallied to allege the election has been stolen from their candidate. They chanted “Four more years!” as flag-bearing trucks circled and congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke.

“I will not stop fighting for President Trump, I support him 100%,” said Greene…. Trump has called Greene a “future Republican star.”

Saturday, Greene repeated comments that other Republicans weren’t doing enough to stand up for Trump and claimed that Biden’s lead in Georgia is illegitimate, although no substantiated allegations of fraud have come to light.

“This is not a blue state,” Greene said. “It is my opinion that they are stealing this election.”

There’s more voting yet to come in Georgia with two U.S. Senate runoffs set for Jan. 5. Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff meet again for Perdue’s Senate seat after Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel won enough votes so that neither Perdue nor Ossoff could clear the 50% threshold needed for victory.

Democrat Raphael Warnock faces Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a second runoff trying to win the remaining two years of another Senate term. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler to succeed retiring Republican Johnny Isakson earlier this year.

Runoff Election #1: Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler (Atlanta) v. Democrat Raphael Warnock. From the Savannah Morning News:

Loeffler and Warnock, the top two vote-getters in a 20-candidate jungle of a senate race, will now only have each other as opponents.

Loeffler, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s pick for the seat, took office on Jan. 6 to take over for the remainder of Johnny Isakson’s term.

Loeffler had to fend off challengers from both sides of the aisle for the Nov. 3 election. President Donald Trump-endorsed candidate Doug Collins was as much of a competitor to the seat as Warnock, but Collins couldn’t overcome Loeffler last week.

Neither of them were able to garner more votes than Warnock on Nov. 3, but Warnock was unable to get the required 50 percent and one vote to be elected outright.

Runoff Election #2: Republican Senator David Perdue (Glynn County) v. Democrat Jon Ossoff. From the Macon Telegraph:

Incumbent U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff are headed to a runoff election, meaning Georgia will host two contests in January where the balance of power in the Senate could be at stake.

The Associated Press called the runoff election just after 10 p.m. Friday.

Georgia had several thousand votes left to count, including thousands of provisional ballots. Perdue led Ossoff 1.94% (2,453,679 votes to 2,357910) but had less than 50% of the vote. To avoid a runoff, a candidate must achieve at least 50%, plus one vote.

Runoff Election #3: Republican Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald v. Democrat Daniel Blackman. Bubba is currently about 3000 votes short of 50% plus one vote.

Runoff Election #4: Democrat Deborah Gonzalez v. James Chafin (NP). See Wednesday’s edition for more.

The big winner in Georgia on Tuesday was Stacey Abrams. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“My heart is full,” Abrams said on Twitter Friday. In another tweet she said, “We are just getting started.”

Last year, Abrams and her former campaign manager wrote a 16-page document filled with data and trends on Democratic voters in the state. They described it as a blueprint for victory in 2020.

“With a diverse, growing population and rapidly changing electorate, Georgia is not a future opportunity for Democrats; it is a necessity right now,” it said. “Georgia is every bit as competitive as perennial battleground states. With one of the youngest and the most African American electorate of any competitive state, Georgia has demographic advantages that don’t exist in other states.”

“We owe Stacey Abrams our greatest gratitude and respect,” said Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser during the Obama administration. “Rarely does one person deserve such disproportionate credit for major progress and change.”

Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead described a homicide as a “targeted assassination” related to gang activity, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Broadhead, while delivering a previously scheduled, general report on crime Tuesday morning to Statesboro City Council, noted that Steele’s death was the seventh in the city limits this year. This is, by three deaths, is the most homicides in any 12-month period in Statesboro in at least 10 years, which was as far back as Broadhead looked for his statistical report. He had not yet added this latest killing to his slides, which included a chart of the dates, times, victims and arrested suspects in 2020’s previous six killings.

“I can tell you that Saturday night’s killing was a targeted assassination,” Broadhead said to the mayor and council members.

During this pandemic year, the numbers of homicides and “shots fired” incidents investigated by the SPD have surged, but robberies and aggravated assaults have decreased significantly, pulling down Statesboro’s overall violent crime rate. A story detailing that aspect of Broadhead’s report will appear in the Tuesday, Nov. 10, edition.

Georgia Republicans shouldn’t be so glum, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

“Republicans actually had a very good day on Tuesday,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University. “Republicans have to look at the overall picture and feel fairly good.”

Swint said down-ballot Republican candidates in Georgia generally proved more popular than Trump because of the president’s character shortcomings.

“The Republican Party’s messaging policy-wise and platform was widely embraced by voters,” Swint said. “It just didn’t translate to the top of the ticket, most likely because of [Trump’s] personal appeal, or lack thereof.”

“Some share of Republican voters just couldn’t vote for Donald Trump,” added Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. “Once they voted for Joe Biden, they voted for Republicans for Congress and the state legislature.”

Democrats were outvoted in Georgia by 200,000 votes in 2016. Two years later, Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp by 55,000 votes.

“Over two election cycles, the 200,000-vote margin Republicans have enjoyed has evaporated,” Bullock said. “It’s another step in what may be another realignment in Georgia to the Democratic Party.”

That realignment has been coming during the last decade with demographic changes in the makeup of Georgia’s electorate.

The good news for Republicans is they continue to hold a narrow 8-6 advantage in Georgia’s congressional delegation. Also, the underperformance of Democrats in legislative races leaves the GOP in charge of reapportionment and redistricting, the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts that takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census to adjust for population shifts.

GOP leaders may decide to sacrifice some of their incumbents in Atlanta’s inner suburbs in order to draw stronger Republican districts in the outer suburbs and exurban areas, he said.

“My assumption is they’ll look around the north side of metro Atlanta and say, ‘We can’t save these folks,’ ” Bullock said. “Democrats may come out with some gains, even though they don’t control redistricting.”

From the Athens Banner Herald:

While experiencing a statewide blue victory, at the same time, local Democrats were disappointed in their hopes to make gains in lower-level races. Democrats sought to build on their majority in the U.S. House, while Georgia Democrats hoped to cut into the Republican majority in the Georgia General Assembly.

The party was disappointed at both levels.

In the Athens area, Democratic House candidate Mokah Jasmine Johnson fell short in her effort to unseat Republican Houston Gaines in House District 117, and Democratic challenger Jonathan Wallace fell short in his race against incumbent Republican Marcus Wiedower.

“Biden didn’t have any coattails,” said University of Georgia political analyst Charles Bullock. Some of Biden’s support might have been not so much a vote for the Democrat as a vote against President Donald Trump, he said.

“The Republicans’ high-water mark was 16 years ago,” Bullock said.

Historically, Republicans have won in Georgia runoffs, but this time could be different, Bullock said.

In addition, “it may be harder for Republicans to reunite” in the race for the seat held by Kelly Loeffler; supporters of her main Republican rival in the wildcat election might find it hard to forgive her attacks on their candidate.

From the Macon Telegraph:

Turnout was up almost everywhere. And one trend in blue and red counties alike: support for the libertarian candidate was way down, with Jill Jorgensen securing far fewer votes than Gary Johnson even with much greater participation.

This year, Columbus’s Muscogee County, Athens’ Clarke County, Savannah’s Chatham County, and Macon’s Macon-Bibb County expanded their margins for the Democratic candidate over 2016, when they were already heavily blue.

[Macon-Bibb Democratic Party Chair Anissa] Jones described three main drivers of boosted Democratic turnout in traditionally blue areas. First, the defeat of Stacey Abrams by less than half a percentage point in the 2018 gubernatorial race was still painful.

Second, President Trump’s handling of the pandemic motivated many Democratic voters. And finally, the national focus on systemic racism after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer brought both white and Black Democrats to the polls, Jones said.

In Georgia, counties with large Black populations were essential to Biden’s margin in the state, and to the success of other Democratic candidates. Macon-Bibb County is 54% Black, 41% white and about 3% Latino.

But the apparent shift to Biden was not representative of a wider “blue wave” across the Peach State. In other parts of the state that voted for Trump four years ago, President Trump actually increased his share of the vote.

In Bleckley, Crawford and Twiggs counties — all rural counties near Macon — Trump saw an increase in his support from the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton, reflecting a deepening split seen elsewhere across the country between rural and urban voters. The Republican vote share in each county increased by 0.6% to 3% above his performance four years earlier, even as Biden outperformed Clinton’s vote total in each.

Muscogee County elections officials certified last week’s vote totals, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

[T]he Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration decided it needed to certify local election results Friday night, rather than waiting until a meeting that had been scheduled for Nov. 12.

Before the state officially can declare any runoffs, or call for a recount, the vote in all 159 counties must be certified locally before state election leaders can certify the overall results.

One of the tasks involved was reviewing 324 provisional ballots, which voters cast when they encounter some issue at the polls that precludes their voting as usual. The issue could be that their names didn’t show up on the voter rolls, or they didn’t have the required identification, or they went to the wrong voting precinct and didn’t have time to get to the right one.

The board also had to handle 386 ballots sent from overseas, most from people deployed with the armed forces. Those come through what’s called “electronic ballot delivery,” and the elections board has to examine each and transfer the votes onto a standard paper ballot, like the ones used for mail-in absentee votes. Once transferred, the votes are fed into an optical scanner to be counted.

Boren said the Muscogee elections board finished certifying its results at 10 p.m Friday.

Some key dates to come, should runoffs be set as anticipated, are:

Dec. 1: The date for a possible state Public Service Commission runoff between Republican incumbent Lauren Bubba McDonald and Democrat Daniel Blackmon, for which mail-in ballots would be sent out and early voting would begin as soon as possible.

Dec. 7: The deadline to register to vote in the expected U.S. Senate special election runoff in January between incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, and a second Senate runoff between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger John Ossoff.

Dec. 14: The date early voting’s to begin for January runoffs.

Dec. 19: The date set for mandatory Saturday early runoff voting.

Jan. 5: The day the runoffs are to be held.

Gwinnett County experienced some slowdowns in ballot counting over the weekend, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

County spokesman Joe Sorenson said there were more than 500 votes that had been expected to be counted Saturday, but problems with the computer system prevented them from doing so. This comes after the county experience a “software glitch” on Tuesday that caused a delay in counting thousands of absentee ballots until Friday.

“A total of 535 absentee by mail ballots that required a signature cure and three military/overseas ballots were not able to be tabulated on Saturday because Dominion Voting Systems technicians were unable to make the system adjustments needed to complete a results upload,” Sorenson said.

Technicians from Dominion are trying to fix the computer issue that delayed results on Saturday so the county can begin adjudicating ballots on Sunday morning. In addition to the absentee and military and overseas ballots, there are 965 provisional ballots left to be counted.

Sorenson said the board is scheduled to meet Monday morning to review the provisional ballots.

Richmond County elections officials were still counting votes on Sunday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“If you cast a ballot this year and you were eligible to do so I can guarantee that your vote has been counted,” [Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey] said.

Poll workers, monitors and election board members gathered at the Board of Elections Warehouse on Lumpkin Road on Saturday morning to tabulate provisional and military ballots received by Friday at 5 p.m. Bailey said there were 188 provisional ballots, 45 military and a few “odds and ends” such as ballots picked up in drop boxes election night where the voter did not sign the back or the signature did not match.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Elections will meet to certify election results and submit them to the Secretary of State.

 

Democrat Chester Ellis claimed victory as Chatham County Commission Chair, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As the next Chatham Commission chairman, Chester Ellis pledged that he will work to unite all county residents and promote prosperity for everyone during a post-election celebration at his campaign headquarters on Friday.

With all Chatham votes counted by the Board of Elections (other than provisional and overseas ballots) and announced at just after 6:51 p.m. on Thursday, Ellis cemented his lead by garnering 68,231 votes to take 52.44% of the vote share, while Buelterman trailed with 61,875 votes for 47.56% of the total.

Democrat Jared Williams will take office as the first African-American District Attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Williams bested Republican incumbent Natalie Paine on Tuesday with 88,261 votes, or 50.51%, to Paine’s 86,481 in results not yet certified by elections boards in the circuit’s three counties of Richmond, Columbia and Burke.

“It was my prayer life and my work ethic,” said Williams, 32, “and the fact that I didn’t take anything for granted. It didn’t matter to me when someone had a Trump sticker on their car or a Biden mask, I was going to go up and tell someone who I was and what I stood for.”

Outside metro Atlanta, only the Albany judicial circuit has a Black district attorney, Greg Edwards.

Clarke County public schools will return to in-person classes this week, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Resuming in-person instruction is not risk-free, but remaining virtual also has health risks and is taking an educational toll, according to [interim Superintendent Xernona] Thomas.

District administrators hope they will have adequate substitute teachers to cover when regular classroom teachers must be absent for COVID-19 or other illnesses. But central office administrators might also be pressed into service — though it’s possible a school or class could have to close partially or entirely because of a lack of substitutes.

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