Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 7, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 7, 2020

On December 7, 1801, Georgia’s United States Senator Abraham Baldwin was elected President Pro Tem of the Senate.

Today is the 79th anniversary of the Japanese bombing attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

GeorgiaInfo has the reactions of Georgia leaders to the Pearl Harbor attack,

U.S. Sen. Walter F. George stated: “Japan’s deed is an act of desperation by a war-mad people. The attack on Hawaii is a deliberate act of the Japanese government. I am utterly amazed. It is unthinkable… . An open declaration of war will give us greater freedom of action.” Noting the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, George optimistically predicted that “it may take two or three years to fight this war to the end.”

U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell responded to the attack by stating: “Japan has committed national hari-kari. I cannot conceive of any member of Congress voting against a declaration of war in view of the unpardonable, unprovoked attack on us. I am utterly astounded.”

U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson, chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, added: “Of course we will have to declare war. There is nothing else for Congress to do. This is a concerted action by the Axis Powers, but I am confident our Navy is ready and will render a glorious account of itself. It probably means we will be drawn into the world conflict on both oceans.”

On December 7, 1946, the Winecoff Hotel in downtown Atlanta, previously considered fireproof, burned in the worst hotel fire to date.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the deadline to register to vote in the January 5, 2021 United States Senate and Public Service Commission runoff elections, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Dec. 7 is the deadline for Georgians to register to vote, including military or overseas absentee voters.

The races will determine which party controls the Senate: a win by either Republican candidate would give the GOP a slim majority, while a Democrat sweep in Georgia would split the chamber right down the middle, meaning Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could cast a tie-breaking vote, should senators vote along party lines.

More than a hundred parents rallied calling for the reopening in-school learning for Atlanta and DeKalb County schools, according to the AJC.

More than 100 parents and students rallied at Piedmont Park on Sunday and urged Atlanta and DeKalb County to reopen schools and resume in-person classes.

Lining 10th Street and holding signs with messages like “Virtual school is depressing” and “School not screens,” the families said they were frustrated with Atlanta Public Schools’ and DeKalb County Public Schools’ decisions to continue holding virtual classes. They said their children’s education has suffered in the virtual format, while making life difficult for working parents.

As cases continue to rise in metro Atlanta, APS and DeKalb have both said they will offer in-person classes when coronavirus rates drop below 100 infections per 100,000 people for 14 straight days. Both Fulton and DeKalb reported more than 300 confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Parents at the rally said those metrics are unrealistic and pointed to some studies showing schools are not major drivers of community transmission of the coronavirus.

Governor Kemp has ordered flags on state buildings to half-staff today for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

President Trump rallied with voters in Valdosta this weekend, according to the Albany Herald.

“This election was rigged,” Trump said. “They found a lot of ballots and they got rid of some, too.”

Trump gave Loeffler and Perdue strong endorsements. He said he didn’t know Loeffler before the Atlanta businesswoman was appointed to the Senate late last year to succeed retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, but has come to admire her.

“David’s been my friend for a long time,” the president said. “Nobody in Washington is more respected.”

The president called Kemp earlier Saturday and reportedly asked the governor to call a special session of the General Assembly to address his concerns about how the election played out in Georgia. The president also asked for an audit of absentee ballot signatures.

“Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing,” Trump said during the Valdosta rally.

“We want you to vote on Jan. 5,” Loeffler told the crowd. “If you’re our voice on Jan. 5, we’ll be your voice for years.”

“We’re going to fight and win those two [Senate] seats and make sure you get a fair and square deal in the state of Georgia,” Perdue added, addressing the president.

From the AJC:

[Trump] called Perdue’s opponent, Jon Ossoff, “a radical left-wing zealot,” and Loeffler’s rival, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, “a dangerous extremist who is radically opposes your values.”

“This election was rigged, and we can’t let it happen to two of the most respected people in Washington,” Trump said. “Your governor could stop it easily if he knew what the hell he was doing.”

Trump urged the crowd to vote in January, even though that election, he said, is likely to be corrupt, too.

In a barbed message to the governor, Trump called out to U.S. Rep. Doug Collins at one point, who made it known in 2019 that he hoped to be appointed to the Senate by Kemp, only for Kemp to appoint Loeffler instead.

“Doug, you want to run for governor in two years?” Trump asked.

“Your governor,” the president said later, “should be ashamed of himself.”

Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Savannah on Friday, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday said the presidential election is still undecided as he urged Georgia Republicans to put aside shared “doubts” about how fairly that race was conducted and show up for the state’s Senate runoff elections.

“We’re on ‘em this time,” Pence said. “We’re watching. We’re gonna secure our polls. We’re gonna secure our drop boxes. So get an absentee ballot and vote and vote today.”

“As our election contests continue, here in Georgia and in courts across the country, I’ll make you a promise,” Pence said at a rally for the Senate races. “We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out.”

Pence said Georgians need to re-elect Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5 election because a Republican-controlled Senate “could be” the party’s last line of defense against a Democrat-controlled House and White House.

Gov. Kemp and Lt. Governor Duncan released a letter addressing calling a Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly, according to AccessWDUN.

Republican Brian Kemp issued a joint statement Sunday with Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, saying it would violate state law for the General Assembly to name electors instead of following the current state law that calls for the governor to certify electors after results are certified.

“Any attempt by the legislature to retroactively change that process for the Nov. 3rd election would be unconstitutional and immediately enjoined by the courts, resulting in a long legal dispute and no short-term resolution,” the two said in their statement.

Trump and Kemp spoke by phone hours before Trump held a rally on Saturday in Valdosta. The president asked Kemp to order the legislative session and the governor refused. According to a tweet from the governor, Trump also asked him to order an audit of absentee ballots from the presidential race in his state. Kemp has said he can’t do that because he has no authority to interfere in the electoral process on Trump’s behalf.

State lawmakers could call a special session on their own, but only if 60% of members in both houses of the General Assembly demanded a session in writing. That’s unlikely, especially because more than 40% of the current members of the state House are Democrats.

On Saturday, four Republican state senators including William Ligon of Brunswick, Greg Dolezal of Cumming, Brandon Beach of Alpharetta and Burt Jones of Jackson launched a written petition trying to collect the signatures to force a special session. All four attended Trump’s rally Saturday in Valdosta.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) discussed claims about Georgia’s voting system, according to the Albany Herald.

“I worry that this continuous you know fanning of the flames around misinformation puts us in a negative position with regards to the January 5 runoff,” Duncan told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union. “The mountains of misinformation are not helping the process, they’re only hurting it. And Jake, I worry we are handing off a playbook to the Democrats for January 5 and certainly I can’t think of a worse playbook to hand off over the last four or five weeks to the Democrats.”

Duncan told Tapper on Sunday that Trump’s attacks on Kemp and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “disgusts” him and spoke about the threats elected officials in the Peach State have received.

“All of us in this position have got increased security around us and our families and it’s not American, it’s not what democracy is all about but it’s reality right now. So we are going to continue to do our jobs. Gov. Kemp, Brad Raffensperger and myself all three voted and campaigned for the President but, unfortunately, he didn’t win the state of Georgia but it doesn’t change our job descriptions,” Duncan said.

“As the lieutenant governor and as a Georgian, I’m proud that we’re able to look up after three recounts and watch and be able to see that this election was fair. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. I don’t know if any election was perfect in the history of this country but certainly it’s only been nominal changes since we have had three recount (s),” Duncan said.

“I voted for President Trump, I campaigned for him and unfortunately he did not win the state of Georgia,” Duncan said. “So, yeah, you know, on January 20, Joe Biden is going to be sworn in as the 46th President. The Constitution is still in place. This is still America.”

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani tested positive for COVID-19 days after speaking to Georgia legislators, according to the Albany Herald.

He was most recently at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta on Thursday to attend a Georgia state Senate hearing on the November election. During a break in the hearing, Giuliani removed the mask he was wearing to greet and take pictures with supporters.

The Trump campaign said in a statement late Sunday night that Giuliani tested negative twice “immediately preceding his trip to Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia” last week. The campaign added that Giuliani did not experience any symptoms or test positive for Covid-19 until more than 48 hours after his return.

Georgia Democratic state senator Elena Parent, who attended the hearing at the Georgia Capitol on Thursday with Giuliani, told CNN that Giuliani and his team “willingly endangered all of us to pander to Trump.”

“It was reckless and irresponsible for the Georgia Senate Republicans to hold an in-person hearing without requiring masks and social distancing during a pandemic. Clearly the COVID risk from (Giuliani) and team, who have been attending hearings maskless all around the country, was high and they willingly endangered all of us to pander to Trump,” Parent said in a statement emailed to CNN Sunday.

She added, “Mayor Giuliani’s blatant disregard for public safety measures in this pandemic is irresponsible and puts Georgians in danger.”

Georgia State House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington) sent a letter suggesting changes in absentee ballot handling, according to the Albany Herald.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Vice Chairwoman of the State Election Board Rebecca N. Sullivan, the group suggested additional oversight was needed in the process of verifying signatures on absentee ballots and ballot applications.

[The letter read:]

As I am sure you have seen over the past month, many Georgians, including my colleagues who have signed this correspondence, have serious concerns about Georgia’s elections. As we approach a critical election on Jan. 5, it is clear that Georgia voters must have confidence in the election process going forward. To that end, below you will find two common-sense suggestions: a rule that should be promulgated by the State Election Board and additional resources of which the Office of the Secretary of State or the SEB could take advantage.

I. Absentee Ballot Application and Mail-In Absentee Ballot Signature Review Process. As the process currently stands, when a voter wishes to vote early by mail, they submit an Absentee Ballot Application either through the mail or online. When a local Board of Registrars receives a paper application, typically, a single employee of the BOR is responsible for the initial review of a signature on a paper application. If that paper application is accepted, the BOR mails an absentee ballot to the voter. The process for reviewing signatures on the external envelope of a returned Absentee Ballot is the same – a single employee of the BOR is allowed to “approve” a signature without oversight by other employees or independent observers. Additional BOR staff members are only involved in reviewing signatures when the initial reviewer seeks to reject the ballot.

Even with the massive increase in absentee ballot participation this year, in many counties a single solitary person is responsible for accepting voter signatures on applications and absentee ballots themselves. This fact is alarming to me, my colleagues who have co-signed this correspondence, and Georgians across the state.

To increase confidence in our election process, it is imperative that signatures be appropriately scrutinized and that the signature review process is above reproach. With that goal in mind, I propose the SEB promulgate a rule requiring that the signature review process on absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots include an independent observer from each political party represented in the races on the reviewed ballots. (In Georgia, this would typically be a Republican and a Democratic observer, but it may also include a Libertarian or another third party observer where the race warrants it.)

Some absentee ballots were mailed later than planned, according to the Gainesville Times.

Rollover ballots, which elderly or disabled voters can request to receive automatically, were scheduled to be issued by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office on Nov. 18. However, the county was notified on Dec. 1 that those ballots were mailed on Nov. 30, according to the county website.

Voters are asked to allow seven to 10 business days for their ballots to arrive. They can check the status of their absentee ballot on the My Voter Page section of the Secretary of State’s Office website.

Former Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang spoke in Columbus this weekend, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Yang, a former Democratic presidential candidate, was in Columbus to kick off the Muscogee County Democratic party’s canvassing efforts ahead of the Jan. 5 election.

Joined by former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson, state Rep. Carolyn Hugley and other local public officials, Yang stressed the importance of what the election means for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

If Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeat Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the Democrats will gain control of the U.S. Senate. Atlanta will play a key factor, Tomlinson said, but Democratic voters in Georgia’s other large cities like Columbus must turn out.

“The rest of the country doubted Georgia could turn blue,” Yang said. “There are still a lot people around the county who aren’t so sure about our prospects on Jan. 5.

Statesboro City Council will consider final passage of legislation to allow drive-through alcohol sales, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After tentative approval Tuesday, a provision allowing drive-thru and delivery sales of beer and wine in Statesboro is one of several city law changes the mayor and council could enact when they meet again Dec. 15.

One of the other ordinance changes pending final approval is also related to alcoholic beverages. It will allow the package sale of beer and wine from stores to begin at 11 a.m. on Sundays, instead of the current start time 90 minutes later. The change was authorized by a new state law enacted this summer.

House Bill 879, approved by the Georgia General Assembly when its previously suspended 2020 session resumed in June, made several changes in the state’s regulatory control of alcohol. Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law Aug. 3.

Floyd County Commissioners will elect a Chair from among their members, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on who will chair the board in the coming year.

Commissioner Scotty Hancock is finishing his second year in the position and Commissioner Wright Bagby Jr. has served two years as vice chair. Bagby and Commissioner Allison Watters were both reelected to new four-year terms on the board in November.

A vote on who will chair the County Elections and Registration Board also is scheduled.

Harrison Deal, a UGA student and GOP campaign worker, died in a car accident Friday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A University of Georgia student who was working as a field staffer on Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s election campaign was killed in a car wreck Friday.

Harrison Deal, who expected to graduate from UGA in 2022, worked in the Athens office for the Loeffler campaign.

Vice President Mike Pence informed a gathering in Savannah about the fatal crash, which caused Loeffler to cancel her plans to join Pence at the rally, according to a report in the Washington Times.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also canceled his plans to attend the Savannah rally.

The Kemp family said in a statement: “Today we lost a member of our ‘Kemp Strong’ family and words cannot express how much Harrison Deal’s life, love and support meant to us. He was a person of deep faith, unmatched in integrity and incredible kindness. Harris was the Kemp son and brother we never had.”

Loeffler tweeted: “It is with an extremely heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Harrison Deal. My heart aches for his family and Jeff and I will continue to surround them in love and prayer in the days ahead. Harrison was a beloved member of our campaign team.”

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