Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 10, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 10, 2020

Today we celebrate the birth of the United States Marine Corps, which traces its lineage to the Continental Marines, formed by a resolution adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775. Here, former Georgia Governor and United States Senator Zell Miller tells of his decision to join the Marine Corps and the change it made in his life.

A monument to Nancy Hart was dedicated in Hartwell, in Hart County, Georgia, on November 10, 1931. Hart was an active Patriot in the American Revolution.

On November 10, 1934, two years after his election as President, FDR made his 28th trip to Georgia.

United States Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Moultrie) was born on November 10, 1943. Chambliss was elected to Congress in 1994 as part of the “Republican Revolution” led by Newt Gingrich.

The iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sunk in a winter storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975.

Former State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko was indicted by federal prosecutors on November 10, 2004 on eighteen counts.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday released October 2020 state revenue numbers.

The State of Georgia’s net tax collections in October totaled nearly $2.02 billion, for an increase of $35.2 million, or 1.8 percent, compared to last year when net tax collections totaled $1.98 billion. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $8.21 billion, for an increase of $400.2 million, or 5.1 percent, compared to October FY 2020.

The changes within the following tax categories account for October’s overall net tax revenue increase:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for October decreased by roughly $12.9 million, or -1.2 percent, down from FY 2020 when net Individual Tax revenues totaled more than $1.05 billion. The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net decrease. Individual Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) decreased by $7.9 million or -4.6 percent. Individual Withholding payments declined by $6.6 million, or -0.7 percent, compared to last year. Individual Income Tax Return payments were down $11.6 million, or -6.8 percent, versus FY 2020. All other Individual Tax categories, including Non-Resident Tax payments, were down a combined $2.6 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections increased by $66.4 million, or 6.3 percent, up from last year when gross sales tax approached $1.06 billion. Net Sales and Use Tax increased by $52 million, or 9.9 percent, compared to FY 2020, when net Sales Tax revenue totaled $522.9 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $533.5 million, for an increase of $5.4 million, or 1 percent, over the previous fiscal year. Lastly, Sales Tax refunds increased by $9 million, or 166.2 percent, compared to FY 2020.

Corporate Income Tax: Net Corporate Income Tax collections decreased by nearly $21.3 million, or -28.8 percent, compared to October 2019, when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $73.7 million for the month. The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net decrease. Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) increased by $16.9 million or 67.6 percent. Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments were up $8.3 million, or 21.7 percent, over FY 2020. Corporate Income Tax Return payments declined by $21.7 million, or -48 percent, from last year. All other Corporate Tax payments, including S-Corp payments, combined for an increase of $9 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections during the month increased by $2.6 million, or 1.7 percent, up from a total of $150.9 million in FY 2020.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fee collections declined by roughly $0.8 million, or -2.2 percent, compared to October 2019, when Motor Vehicle fees totaled $35 million. In contrast, Title ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections increased by $3.9 million, or 7 percent, compared to last year’s total of nearly $55.3 million.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) was chosen as the House caucus candidate for Speaker, sealing his reelection to the seat when the General Assembly reconvenes. From WUGA:

Ralston is already Georgia’s longest-serving House speaker since Tom Murphy reigned for four decades. Republicans won or lead 103 of 180 House races, down two from the prior term. Democrats had hoped to gain a majority in last week’s election but fell far short. Republicans flicked away a challenge from Buford Republican David Clark in choosing Ralston. Clark is one of a dwindling number of Republicans opposed to Ralston’s leadership.

From the AJC:

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, defeated Buford Republican state Rep. David Clark with a vote of 90-2, officials said. Ralston has led the chamber since 2010 and is expected to be reelected when lawmakers return in January since his party holds a majority.

“I’m excited about moving forward with this caucus, and I’m excited about working with all of you as we prepare for next session,” Ralston said after his win.

He then called on Republicans to unite behind Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both are in runoff elections in January. Ralston had been a vocal supporter of Loeffler’s Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, in the election last week.

Before the vote, Ralston recounted legislative wins, such as the passage of a hate-crimes law and extending health care benefits for low-income mothers to tackle the state’s maternal mortality rate. He also pointed to $5 million raised by the caucus to protect Republican members from Democratic challenges.

“Let me ask you, how does it feel to beat the odds?” Ralston said to the room of Republicans. “The ‘blue wave,’ when it got to this House of Representatives, was a squirt gun last week.”

United States Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler yesterday released a joint statement calling for unrestrained chaos and anarchy the resignation of Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler released a joint statement Monday calling for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “step down” as votes in the 2020 general election continue to be tallied. Both are in the early days of preparing for two January runoffs against competitive democratic challengers.

“There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems. While blame certainly lies elsewhere as well, the buck ultimately stops with the Secretary of State,” the two wrote. “The mismanagement and lack of transparency from the Secretary of State is unacceptable. Honest elections are paramount to the foundation of our democracy. The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections. He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.”

Raffensperger responded to the call for his resignation, calling the accusations coming from the two senators “laughable” and noted that Perdue is likely “irritated” he is in a runoff and both the Republicans, as well as himself, are upset with the outcome of the presidential election.

“The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me,” Raffensperger wrote. “As Secretary of State, I’ll continue to fight every day to ensure fair elections in Georgia, that every legal vote counts, and that illegal votes don’t count.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

“The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state. Georgians are outraged, and rightly so. We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process. This isn’t hard. This isn’t partisan. This is American,” the statement issued by the two senators read.

“We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party. There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year, and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems. While blame certainly lies elsewhere as well, the buck ultimately stops with the secretary of state.” [said the joint statement.]

On Monday, Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan told CNN that the state has not seen any evidence of voter fraud during the election process. “We’ve not had any sort of credible incidents raised to our level yet, and so we’ll continue to make sure that the opportunity to make sure every legal ballot is counted is there, but you know at this point, we’ve not seen any sort of credible examples,” he said.

On Monday, the Secretary of State’s Office said on Tuesday or Wednesday they would know which races would be going into audit. Joe Biden currently leads President Donald Trump in Georgia by 10,646 votes.

From the Savannah Morning News on voter registration and voting procedures:

The runoff will be preceded by a period of early voting, starting Dec. 14 and running until Dec. 31, including one day of Saturday voting. Counties have the opportunity to offer more days of early voting, but three weeks is the state-required minimum.

The state-required day of Saturday early voting will be on Dec. 26.

Absentee ballots, which have become a mainstay in Georgia elections since the COVID-19 pandemic began, are an option for the runoff election as well.

The secretary of state’s office’s new online absentee ballot request portal, ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov, is up and running, and voters can now request a ballot for the runoff.

Disabled, elderly, military and overseas voters will receive an absentee ballot automatically if they received one for the Nov. 3 election.

The SOS office also said that vote counting should be finished today or tomorrow, according to the Savannah Morning News.

When it came to the topic of illegal voting, Sterling said they will find people who illegally voted or cast their vote twice.

“We are going to find that people did illegally vote, there are going to be double voters, and people that did not meet the qualifications to be a registered voter to vote in this state. That will be found,” Sterling said.

Sterling said he feels it would be unlikely to find the current number of votes Biden is leading Trump by in Georgia to be fraud, but when the margins of the presidential race are this tight, “every little thing matters.”

The Republican National Committee is repositioning assets into Georgia, according to CNBC.

The RNC told field staffers under the Trump Victory committee that at least two dozen of their over 100-member field staff in the Badger State will be heading to the Peach State, according to a Republican Wisconsin campaign official aware of the plans. The Trump Victory committee is a joint operation between the Trump campaign and RNC.

This person told CNBC that the move comes as the RNC is looking to put resources toward what could be two Senate runoffs set to take place in January. NBC News projected that the race between Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock will go to a runoff. That contest is expected to cost well over $100 million.

The other race in the state between Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Democrat Jon Ossoff has yet to be called by NBC News.

Some Trump Victory field staff will remain in Wisconsin, while others will be losing their temporary positions, this person added. Those going to Georgia will be performing door-knocking and other field duties for the Senate contest.

“The benefit of building the largest field program in political history is that we can walk and chew gum. We will keep part of our team in Wisconsin to man the re-count, which will not begin for a couple more weeks, and we will barnstorm Georgia to ensure the integrity of the vote for the President and hold the line in the Senate,” Cassie Smedile, a spokeswoman for the RNC, told CNBC late Monday.

RNC employees being deployed to Georgia should (a) count their blessings that they’re not being fired, and (b) have a plan and cash to make it home afterwards.

A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit involving the Postal Service will focus on the Georgia runoff elections, according to Bloomberg Law.

“I agree on the runoffs — they’re so important and indeed could tip the balance of power in the Senate,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said in Washington. “We want everyone’s votes to be counted.”

The focus on Georgia will include requiring the USPS to continue to provide data on delivery performance in the state and other evidence that plaintiffs may request.

USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said the Postal Service is confidant about its ability to successfully carry out its role in the runoff process Georgia.

“We are not aware of any issues regarding the delivery of election mail in Georgia, and we will continue to be in close contact with Georgia election officials to ensure a successful mail-in voting process for voters that choose to cast their vote by mail in the January run-off elections,” according to a statement.

The Glynn County Board of Elections will meet to discuss the upcoming runoff elections, according to The Brunswick News.

At least three races on the Glynn County ballot are going to a runoff — two U.S. Senate races and the state Public Service Commission race.

The runoff election for Public Service Commission is scheduled for Dec. 1, while the Senate runoff will be held on Jan. 5, 2021. It is too late to register for the state runoff, but Georgia residents have until Dec. 7 to register and vote in the Senate races.

Gwinnett County certified its election results, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The certification came after the elections board reviewed about 1,100 provisional ballots. County spokesman Joe Sorenson previously said there were 965 provisional ballots, but he said on Monday that those were the provisional ballots cast on election day. He said he was informed this week that there had been additional provisional ballots cast during the three-week early voting period that had to be dealt with.

[T]hey finally give a picture of how write-in candidate George Puicar fared in the Gwinnett County Board of Education District 5 race. Puicar received 291 votes, which was 0.76% of the votes cast in the election and not enough to defeat Democrat Tarece Johnson.

There was no Republican nominee for the seat, but Gwinnett Republicans had been throwing their support behind Puicar’s candidacy this fall after longtime incumbent school board member Louise Radloff lost to Johnson in the Democratic primary in June.

Longtime board member Mary Kay Murphy, a Republican, narrowly won re-election by getting 50.54% of the votes in her race against Democrat Tanisha Banks. That is just barely out of the threshold where Banks could have requested a recount. Under state law, if Murphy’s margin of victory had been less than 1%, Banks could have been able to request a recount.

And, Gwinnett’s transit referendum still failed, although the margin of defeat narrowed slightly.

The “No” votes ended up representing 50.13% of the votes cast in the referendum, down from 50.14% over the weekend.

The AJC writes about the runoff election in which Georgia Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald  defends his seat against the Democratic challenger.

On Monday afternoon, the GOP’s Lauren “Bubba” McDonald was trending less than 0.1% below the 50% he needed to avoid a Dec. 1 runoff with Daniel Blackman, who is attempting to become the first Georgia Democrat elected to statewide office in years. Libertarian Nathan Wilson received about 3% of the vote, just enough to force the District 4 race into a runoff.

In the only other Georgia PSC contest this year, incumbent Republican Jason Shaw was a fraction of a percent over 50% to potentially remain in the PSC’s District 1 seat, according to tallies reported by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office as of Monday afternoon. Some votes were still being counted.

McDonald will face Blackman again on Dec. 1, more than a month before potential runoffs to settle contests for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.

McDonald, who easily outraised Blackman in campaign donations, described himself as “an independent conservative voice” and stressed experience gained over years on the PSC and in owning a funeral home business.

Governor Brian Kemp has endorsed Commissioner McDonald in the runoff election, writing on Facebook:

My friend, Commissioner Lauren Bubba McDonald, is on the run-off ballot and needs our support to continue his good work on the Public Service Commission. I hope you will join me in re-electing Bubba on December 1st!

Governor Kemp endorses Bubba McDonald

Failed candidate Andrew Yang is coming to Georgia to work for the Democrats in the runoff, according to WBTW TV.

Democrat Jon Ossoff will campaign in Augusta this week, according to the Augusta Herald.

Ossoff’s “Future of Georgia” tour begins Tuesday in Atlanta. He’ll talk about what’s at stake in the runoff and recovery from COVID-19 through economic relief for working families and small businesses, according to a news release.

He’ll stop in Macon, Columbus, Albany and Savannah before visiting Augusta at 11:30 a.m. Friday at James Brown Arena, with details subject to change.

Perdue led Ossoff by 89,866 votes Monday, but with 49.75% in the three-way Nov. 3 contest with Libertarian Shane Hazel, didn’t get over the 50% majority need to avoid a runoff.

Kingsland City Council member Lamar Stokes resigned his seat to move out of the city, according to The Brunswick News.

Georgia Congressman David Scott (D-Southside of I-285) may Chair the House Agriculture Committee, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Scott has announced that he’s seeking to run the influential panel after the current chair, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, lost Tuesday to his Republican challenger, Michelle Fischbach. Peterson had served for nearly three decades in Congress and is a fixture in the agricultural community.

Scott is the next most senior member of the committee, which has jurisdiction over federal agriculture policy as well as school meals and authorizes funding for various government programs related to farming. The panel, in conjunction with the Senate, also writes the farm bill, the current version of which expires in 2023.

House Democrats will vote the week of Nov. 30 on contested committee chairmanships, Roll Call has reported.

If Scott wins his bid to lead the committee, he would be its first African American chairman. He’d also be the first Georgia lawmaker to lead it.

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