Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 8, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 8, 2020

President Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction on December 8, 1863.

First, it allowed for a full pardon for and restoration of property to all engaged in the rebellion with the exception of the highest Confederate officials and military leaders.

Second, it allowed for a new state government to be formed when 10 percent of the eligible voters had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Third, the Southern states admitted in this fashion were encouraged to enact plans to deal with the freed slaves so long as their freedom was not compromised.

On December 8, 1899, Georgia Governor Allen Candler signed legislation to levy a tax on all dogs older than four months.

The United States declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. Montana Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin, the first female elected to the United States House of Representatives, cast the sole dissenting vote.

Gregg Allman was born December 8, 1947 in Nashville, Tennessee.

John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment building in New York City on December 8, 1980.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State Senators who attended a committee meeting last week are urged to quarantine after former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani tested positive for COVID-19, according to the AJC.

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, a Gainesville Republican who did not attend the hearing, said senators who participated in the Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting who have not previously contracted COVID-19 were encouraged to quarantine for two weeks. Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City, did not wear a mask while in the Capitol.

“We are clearly disappointed that Mayor Giuliani disregarded the health and well-being of others by not wearing a mask when it clearly would have been appropriate,” Miller said.

State Sen. William Ligon, a Brunswick Republican and chairman of the subcommittee that held the hearing, said in a statement that Giuliani was in “close proximity to senators, Senate staff, members of the media and the general public,” and he encouraged them to follow health recommendations.

Senate staff members who came in contact with Giuliani have been asked to get COVID-19 tests and work remotely until they receive negative test results, said Steve Tippins, Miller’s chief of staff.

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #12.07.20.01, appointing a panel to investigate charges against Spalding County Commissioner (District 5) Donald F. Hawbaker and recommend whether Hawbaker should be suspended.

Commissioner Hawbaker was indicted earlier this year after a SWAT standoff, according to the AJC.

Donald Hawbaker, 65, was arrested Feb. 4 after deputies went to the Sun City Peachtree community in Griffin to serve an arrest warrant for simple assault and disorderly conduct, the sheriff’s office said.

The District 5 commissioner was accused of pointing a gun at his wife and telling her to leave the house, Sheriff Darrell Dix said previously.

When deputies arrived at the 55-and-older community about 2:30 p.m., they were met with gunfire from the home, authorities said. No one was hit.

Concerned that Hawbaker may be been struck, Dix called in the SWAT team and ordered his department’s armored personnel carrier to drive through the front of the house.

Hawbaker was eventually taken into custody, ending the standoff that lasted more than two hours. A grand jury indicted him Thursday on one count of aggravated assault under the Family Violence Act, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and five counts of aggravated assault on law enforcement officers.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger re-certified the results of the Presidential election after the recount, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“We have now counted legally cast ballots three times and the results remain unchanged,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said.

“I know there are people that are convinced the election was fraught with problems. But the evidence — the actual evidence — the facts, tell us a different story,” he added.

Biden defeated President Donald Trump in Georgia by 12,670 votes.

“All this talk of a stolen election, whether it’s Stacey Abrams or the president of the United States, is hurting our state. … Continuing to make debunked claims of a stolen election is hurting our state,” Raffensperger said, likening Trump’s refusal to concede the presidential election to Abrams’ actions following the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Raffensperger said he will push “major reform” of election processes in the upcoming legislative session, an effort supported by Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan.

As of Monday, 1,076,431 Georgians had already requested absentee ballots for the runoff elections. More than 43,000 ballots had already been cast and accepted.

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations will assist the secretary of state’s office with 250 active cases tied to voting irregularities in 2020, but state election officials have denied that widespread fraud occurred.

Raffensperger again spoke out against election disinformation, saying the “truth matters.” In a Wall Street Journal opinion article published Sunday evening, Raffensperger said Trump was using a “playbook” established by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. The state’s top election official drew parallels between Trump’s actions in 2020 to Abrams’ “refusal to concede” to Kemp in the closely fought 2018 election.

“All of this talk about a stolen election, whether it’s Stacey Abrams or the president of the United States, is hurting our state,” Raffensperger said during Monday’s news conference. “It is now time to direct our energies towards the Jan. 5 runoff election.”

Governor Kemp closed the door on holding a Special Session to choose Presidential electors, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Speaking to lawmakers at the Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, a legislative session primer held every two years at Athens’ The Classic Center, Kemp reiterated a statement issued late Sunday regarding election challenges.

President Donald Trump, who lost the Nov. 3 election in Georgia by approximately 12,000 votes to Joe Biden, recently appealed to Gov. Kemp to convene a special session in hopes the Republican-controlled Legislature would designate Trump loyalists to award the state’s 16 Electoral College votes on Dec. 14. When Kemp refused, Sens. Brandon Beach, Greg Dolezal, Burt Jones and William Ligon and House Reps. Colton Moore and Vernon Jones called for the special session.

Kemp told lawmakers Monday doing so “is not an option” under Georgia law. A statute enacted in 1960 prohibits the Georgia General Assembly from choosing delegates to the Electoral College except in cases where an election cannot be held.

“You all will be taking an oath to uphold the laws and constitution of our state, and now more than ever, it is important to remember that thousands of brave men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice for those laws, that constitution and all that they protect,” Kemp said.

“I’m confident that each of you will live up to the words and greater calling regardless of political consequences. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

From The Hill:

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) said Sunday that a special session of the legislature almost certainly would not take place.

“Calling the General Assembly back in at this point would almost be along the lines of a solution trying to find a problem. And we’re certainly not going to move the goalposts at this point in the election,” Duncan said in an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

“We are going to continue to follow the letter of the law, which gives us a very clear-cut direction as to how to execute an election. And we’re going to continue to take that on. … I absolutely believe … that the governor is not going to call us into a special session,” he added.

The State of Texas has sued Georgia and three other swing states over the Presidential election, according to The Hill.

Texas announced on Tuesday that it would be filing a lawsuit in the Supreme Court against four battleground states in an effort to halt presidential electors from finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Texas argued that electors from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin should not be allowed to cast their votes in part because those states unconstitutionally changed their voting procedures during the coronavirus pandemic to allow for increased mail-in ballots. Biden won all four states.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) alleges that the new voting processes in the battleground states skewed the presidential election results and asked the Supreme Court to delay Monday’s deadline for the Electoral College to make Biden’s victory official.

The lawsuit was filed directly with the Supreme Court because it has exclusive jurisdiction over legal disputes between states. Paxton also argued that the high court is the only one equipped to handle such a case over the Electoral College.

Click here to view the complaint filed by Texas.

From Newsweek:

The suit charged executive and judicial officials in the four states with making “significant changes” to election rules, a move that the plaintiffs argue “did away” with security measures for absentee and mail-in ballots. Among the measures that the plaintiffs say were removed were signature verification, witness requirements, poll observers and authorized secure ballot drop-off locations.

Signature verification and the ability for people to observe the election process are two issues the Trump campaign and the president have stressed in their election fight. Poll observers being kept too far from where ballots were being opened was one of the first problems the campaign had with the election, and Trump has pushed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to demand signature verification in the election.

From the AJC:

“With all due respect, the Texas attorney general is constitutionally, legally and factually wrong about Georgia,” said Katie Byrd, spokeswoman for Republican Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.

The court filing takes issue with Georgia’s absentee ballot signature verification process, arguing that a court settlement early this year violated state law. The settlement between Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the Democratic Party required election workers to consult with two co-workers before rejecting absentee ballots because of potentially mismatched signatures.

The lawsuit also objects to a State Election Board rule that allowed absentee ballots to be opened and scanned two weeks before Election Day. No votes were allowed to be tabulated until polls closed.

Democrats are complaining about Cobb County’s early voting arrangments for the runoff elections, according to the AJC.

Democratic Senate Candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have joined advocacy groups including the NAACP and the ACLU in criticizing Cobb County elections officials over their plan to open fewer early voting locations for the January runoffs than they did for the general election.

The number of early voting locations will be reduced from 11 ahead of the Nov. 3 election to just five leading into the January 5 runoff. Cobb is the only major metro county planning to significantly cut the number of early voting locations.

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler has said it was not her desire to have fewer locations, but that a staffing shortage forced her hand.

“We lost several of our advance voting managers and assistant managers due to the holidays, the work load and the pandemic,” she wrote in an email. “In addition, the remaining team members who agreed to work would do so only if the hours were less onerous. For November, we stretched our staff to the limit to offer eleven locations.”

UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock says Georgia will remain a swing state for the rest of the decade, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We will be a competitive state certainly for the rest of this decade,” University of Georgia Professor Charles Bullock said. “The trends indicate that the substantial Republican margins of a couple of years ago have evaporated. Upon close examination, it’s clear that what Republicans need to do is pick up voters in urban areas — they can’t just write them off.”

Bullock delivered an election analysis to lawmakers at the Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, a pre-legislative primer held every two years at Athens’ The Classic Center. Bullock is considered the foremost authority on Georgia politics, having spent more than five decades observing the state’s elections and political figures.

Long-term demographic trends help explain the Democratic gains. The state has become more ethnically diverse over the last quarter-century, with white voters making up a significantly smaller percentage of the electorate — from 70%-plus in 1994 to less than 60% in 2020.

Metro Atlanta has seen the state’s most rapid political evolution, Bullock said. Democrat Barack Obama won three Atlanta-area counties in 2012; Biden won nine in 2020.

Biden also increased the Democrats’ advantage in the four biggest metro Atlanta counties: Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett. He attracted 225,000 more votes in those counties alone than Hillary Clinton received in 2016, erasing the statewide 211,000-vote advantage Trump posted four years ago.

Biden also grew “surprising” support among Georgia retirees and college-educated whites, Bullock said. Biden attracted 12% more of the vote from Georgians age 65 and older than Clinton did and enjoyed a 10% pickup among college-educated white women and 19% among college-educated white men.

“Voters blew up that status quo in the general election.”

The Republicans’ path to winning in two years — as well as in the 2024 presidential election — is to make gains in the state’s urban and suburban areas and to limit the recent divisiveness among the state’s GOP members that could weaken party candidates, Bullock said.

“At the same time, it’s hard to beat an incumbent,” Bullock said. “Right now, I give the Republicans the advantage for the statewide constitutional office in 2022.”

 

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler (R-Carrollton) spoke in Gainesville, according to the Gainesville Times.

The October jobless rate was 2.9%, compared to 2.8% in February, or pre-pandemic levels. The area hit a record high of 10.7% in April.

“And there are help wanted signs everywhere,” an audience member said.

“Yeah, the same in my hometown (of Carrollton) and we’re not doing near as good as y’all,” Butler said. “… You guys are doing fantastic, unless you’re trying to hire.”

Georgia, overall, has an improving economic picture as well.

“I personally feel there’s a quarter of a million job openings out there,” Butler said. “I’m 100% confident that I’m dead-on there.”

“Georgia actually has done a very good job getting our economy back on track,” he said. “The thing is we don’t know what (Congress) is going to pass next. Is it something that actually helps or is it going to be a hindrance?”

Butler said he has spent a lot of time on Zoom video calls “with congressional staff in the last 6-8 months and begged and pleaded with them not to do X, Y and Z because of what it’s going to do … and I don’t really know if I’ve made any headway.”

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff (D-DeKalb) rallied in Gwinnett County with former Obama Administration Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro in Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Jackson County schools are converting to online learning, according to AccessWDUN.

All schools in the Jackson County School System are switching to a remote learning format Wednesday due to concerns about COVID-19, according to a Monday evening press release.

The release says recent high numbers of staff absences in the district have made them unable to provide enough substitutes and transportation support, which risks the overall safety of students and staff.

Therefore, all students in the district will participate in remote learning until the start of winter break on Thursday, Dec. 17.

However, the release does advise parents to have a plan should the remote learning period need to be extended into early January.

Right whale calves have been spotted off the Georgia coast, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Researchers spotted the first live right whale calf of the season off the coast of Cumberland Island Friday while surveying for them by plane. Then on Sunday researchers saw the second right whale baby just off the beach in north Florida.

The whale moms are nicknamed Chiminea and Millipede, the latter for the series of boat propeller scars down her back, said Georgia Department of Natural Resources Senior Biologist Clay George.

Along with the mother/calf pairs, a fishing boat captain sighted two other whales off Tybee over the weekend.

“They’re scattered across the entire calving habitat at this point,” George said. “So people need to keep their eyes open when they’re boating.

But since 2017, scientists have documented the deaths of 32 North Atlantic right whales, outpacing the known births. Entanglement in fishing gear and boat strikes are the leading causes of known right whale deaths in recent years.

Only about 360 North Atlantic right whales remain.

The Southeast waters off Georgia and Florida are the whales’ only known calving grounds. Pregnant females come here in winter from the feeding grounds off New England and Canada to give birth.

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