Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 21, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 21, 2020

On December 21, 1829, Georgia Governor George Gilmer signed legislation outlawing the teaching of African-Americans to read or write. One year later to the day, he signed legislation claiming for the state all territory occupied by the Cherokee tribe.

On December 21, 1835, Oglethorpe University was incorporated near Macon, later moving to Atlanta.

On December 21, 1863, the Confederate government selected a site in Sumter County for construction of Camp Sumter, which would be better known by the name Andersonville Prison.

General William Tecumseh Sherman received the surrender of Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Trump Tweet January 4

President Donald Trump will rally Republican voters right before the Runoff Elections. From the AJC:

The president said on Twitter late Saturday that he would stage a “big Rally” for U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue on Jan. 4, a day before twin runoffs against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff for control of the U.S. Senate and the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

It’s not clear where the rally will be held, though Republican operatives previously indicated he was likely to head to North Georgia. Like his event in Valdosta on Dec. 5, Trump’s visit holds both promise and peril for Republicans.

Both parties are bringing out every weapon they can muster in the high-stakes race. More than $450 million has been spent on TV ads, and legions of volunteers and staffers are canvassing to drive out voters. More than 1.3 million people have already cast ballots, nearing a presidential-level pace.

Biden staged a rally for the Democrats this past week, tying his plan to contain the coronavirus and push an aggressive economic stimulus package directly to the fate of the runoffs. And Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is set to hold events in Gwinnett County and Columbus on Monday.

Vice President Mike Pence has visited four separate times since the November election, and just about every potential 2024 candidate has visited Georgia to tout the two GOP incumbents.

Senator Kamala Harris‘s trip to Georgia will be trnucated by the need to vote on a COVID stimulus package, according to GPB News.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will make an abridged trip to Georgia today to campaign for Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff against incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Harris will participate in an “outdoor car rally” in Columbus with the two candidates shortly after noon.

Harris was also scheduled to appear in Gwinnett County, but that stop was canceled due to the Senate vote on the pandemic stimulus bill, which is expected to come to the floor today.

“As early voting continues to reach historic numbers in the January runoff election Harris will travel to Columbus to urge Georgians to vote and highlight Ossoff and Warnock’s fight to deliver Health, Jobs, and Justice for all Georgians,” the Ossoff campaign said in a press release.

Governor Brian Kemp attended the White House Christmas Party this weekend, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp faced a slew of social media criticism after he attended a White House Christmas party with his daughter on Friday, despite being repeatedly insulted by President Donald Trump in the weeks since the Nov. 3 election.

“Lucy and I had a great time at the @WhiteHouse Christmas Party today. Merry Christmas, everyone!” the Republican governor said in a tweet along with photos of the and his daughter at the event.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall responded to that criticism, saying the governor and his daughter “were both masked the entire time other than to take a few socially distant pictures,” that seating at the party “was spaced out” and that “staggered times allowed for smaller groups.”

Politico has an interesting story about the difficulty of polling the Senate Runoff Elections.

The public polls that drove so much of the news coverage ahead of November — and generated tremendous distrust afterward — have all but disappeared in Georgia, and they are set to stay that way: Some of the most prolific, best-regarded media and academic pollsters told POLITICO they have no plans to conduct pre-election surveys in Georgia.

And while the campaigns and outside groups are still using survey data to make critical decisions, in many cases, polling has taken a back seat. Strategists are leaning more heavily on absentee and early voting stats, along with the detailed results of the election held just last month.

The Georgia contests come at a perilous time for public and private polling alike. General-election polls in the state had a better track record than most in November, but the added complexity of post-election runoffs is piling on top of the uncertainty about political polling in general. The state was almost evenly divided between the parties in November, but the question of just which voters are going to show up for these irregular elections in January makes polling the runoffs that much harder.

“Should we just expect the Georgia polls to be right? I think that would be a little bit of a mistake,” said Nick Gourevitch, a Democratic pollster. “Everybody fundamentally understands that it’s going to become an issue of partisan turnout. And anybody who tells you they know exactly what’s going to happen in terms of partisan turnout in a special election with two senators to decide control of the Senate in a post-Trump era when he’s not on the [ballot] — nobody knows the answer to that question. It’s a completely unique situation.”

Part of the reason public pollsters are staying away from Georgia is the awkward timing of the races. With the elections being held on Jan. 5, the final two weeks of the race are coinciding with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays — typically a time when pollsters refrain from calling Americans on the phone. The voters who would answer a telephone poll or participate in an internet survey over the holidays might be meaningfully different from those who wouldn’t, which would skew the results.

Democratic pollster Brian Stryker was the lead author of a memo earlier this month that suggested the coronavirus pandemic as a culprit for some of the polling error, which would make measuring the Georgia Senate runoffs in the middle of a coronavirus surge more complicated.

The analysis by Stryker’s firm — ALG Research, which polled for Biden — found a connection between the prevalence of Covid-19 in a state, as measured by new cases and fatalities, and the difference between the final polling average and the election results in that state.

“Simply put, people more worried about Covid were more likely to take our polls,” Stryker’s memo read, “and those people were also more likely to vote for Democrats regardless of their age, education, race, gender or party identification.”

In a phone interview, Stryker pointed out that “the Georgia polls were pretty much dead-on” in November. But, he added, “Covid’s a lot worse in Georgia right now than it was on Election Day.”

CNN reports that “Pop-Up Super PACs” are raising and spending millions on the Georgia Senate runoff elections, according to the Albany Herald.

The message on the two trucks with the blue electronic billboards was hardly subtle and impossible to miss as they rolled through the busy streets of Atlanta.

Drivers paused at lights, pulled out their cell phones to take pictures and watched the bright lights pass by. The backs and sides of each truck were outfitted with flashing LED lit political ads measuring roughly 10-feet wide by 6-feet tall. Their message, “Vote Democrat, Get $1200,” was very big indeed.

[Jon] Jones is the man behind “Relation PAC” a new and relatively small super PAC, or political action committee, entering the fray ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff races on January 5. While personal donations to political campaigns are capped at $2,800, PACs can receive unlimited funding from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups. In other words, they’re a good way to get lots of money without naming names.

Since November 10, super PACs have put upwards of $226 million into Peach state politics, mostly in the form of omnipresent advertising.

“The most concerning (PACs) are those that pop up, just before a hotly contested election, like the ones we’re seeing in Georgia,” explained Brendan Fischer, federal reform director at the Campaign Legal Center. Those PACs “create the appearance of having local roots, but in reality, are financed by or affiliated with national party interests.”

Jones’ Relation PAC opted for “guerilla marketing” by rolling hard-to-miss billboards through neighborhoods and congested traffic. The extra-large lettering reads “Don’t let David Perdue Steal Your Check. Vote Democrat. Get $1200.” The slogan refers to the Covid-19 stimulus checks that the Democratic candidates are pushing for.

Humor is the chosen route for Democrat-backed Meidas Touch. Their television ads show Perdue and Loeffler with green faces and Grinch-like features. A nursery rhyme narration includes the verse, “Their stockings were stuffed from the stocks that were sold, when they heard Covid was coming, before we were told.”

From the AJC:

Apart from the candidates themselves, political action committees have spent at least $150 million since the November general election to rally voters back to the polls for the Senate runoff, records show.

While nearly two-thirds of that spending has come from super PACs connected to either Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the rest has come from special interest groups with business before the new Congress.

Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform for the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said spending by PACs in the Georgia runoffs is akin to an arms race financed by “a small handful of extremely wealthy interests.”

Behind all that money are wealthy individual donors, trade unions and so-called “dark money” organizations pushing national agendas that play as well in New York, Texas or California as they do in Georgia.

With two Senate seats up for grabs, Georgia was a novelty this election cycle. Even so, outside groups didn’t begin pouring money into the races until recently. Non-candidate committees have spent $217.6 million on the races between October and mid-December, five times the amount spent the prior three months, according to the AJC’s analysis.

U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) campaigned in Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., got a warm welcome Saturday in Brunswick where, a day earlier, a federal judge tossed out a suit challenging the votes of some who had moved from other states since the Nov. 3 election and voted in her runoff against Democrat Rafael Warnock.

Her afternoon campaign stop at Brunswick Landing Marina came just three days after U.S. Sen.-elect Tommy Turberville, R-Ala., and other Republican officeholders urged fellow Republicans to vote early to ensure that incumbent U.S. Sens. Loeffler and David Perdue, R-Ga., prevail in the Jan. 5 runoff.

Loeffler said the Democrats have all their bad ideas, including defunding police, socialism and taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, rolled up in one candidate, Raphael Warnock.

Before Loeffler spoke, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., predicted Republicans will have a majority in the House in two years, but until then, “You’ve got (Democrat) Nancy Pelosi as your speaker.”

Republicans must retain the majority in the Senate as a backstop against the legislation that comes out of the House, Carter said.

“If it’s 50-50, Kamala Harris will cast the tie-breaking votes,’’ he warned.

“Folks, if we win Georgia, we save the world,’’ Carter said.

Senator Loeffler also campaigned in Evans, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Loeffler also addressed local issues.

“It’s pandemic relief, it’s getting funding to small businesses who are impacted through no fault of their own…we also have to continue to support our military,” she said. “Fort Gordon’s an important area here, U.S. Cyber Command, we have a huge military construction project going on here, I’m fighting for that…and for our farmers as well, so, just making sure that we don’t have a tax increase too.”

Georgia State Rep. Jodi Lott and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke in support of Loeffler.

“Kelly Loeffler was raised on a farm, literally was working on the farm as a child…she was in the FFA showing animals…she paid her own way through college, worked through college,” Lott said. “She is absolutely the fighter for the little guy.”

“She [Loeffler] went into a male dominated business and was successful,” Haley said. “She’s tough…and I didn’t come because she had a great story, I came because she had a great record. She was one of our most conservative senators in the Senate.”

 

Democrat Raphael Warnock campaigned in Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Senate candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock told a crowd during a rally at the Garden City Stadium that if he elected, he would have “Savannah on my mind.”

Warnock, a Savannah native, and Jon Ossoff addressed more than 200 people on Saturday at a campaign rally to bolster their races against Republican Senate incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson took the stage and told the crowd he was happy to vote as one of the Georgia electors in the Electoral College last Monday.

“You can’t win this state unless you win Savannah, Chatham County and Garden City,” Johnson said. “You can’t win without the coast.”

“Together we’re building a movement for health, jobs and justice,” said Ossoff, who is facing Perdue in the runoff.

“This is the new south Savannah and we’re running against the Bonnie and Clyde of politics,” Ossoff said. “Savannah, how did we wind up with David and Kelly?”

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

Republicans believe they are running marginally ahead in both contests and see Democrats’ early vote performance tracking behind the advantage they built at a comparable point leading up to last month’s general election. They now estimate total spending to surpass $600 million, a colossal sum that has left Georgia oversaturated with political ads.

“It’s harder to move numbers because there’s so much clutter,” said a Republican consultant involved in one of the races. “People are getting slammed at the doors, on their mobile phones. You can’t turn on the radio. Your mailboxes are full with 3 or 4 pieces. Your phone is ringing off the hook.”

Republicans will be closely monitoring the final week of early voting, which ends on New Year’s Day, to see if a last-minute visit from Trump is necessary to motivate his base. Traditionally, the final leg of early voting is the GOP’s strongest.

The first wave of early voting figures suggest turnout will be robust, potentially on pace to top 4 million votes, which would be more than were cast during Georgia’s high-profile 2018 gubernatorial election. But it’s unclear which party that would help.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a Republican lawsuit over signature verification, according to the AJC.

A three-judge panel ruled unanimously Sunday against the lawsuit brought by the political campaigns of Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, as well as the Georgia Republican Party and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The court found that it would be “contrary to state law” to order the secretary of state and State Election Board to conduct a different signature matching process. Elections in Georgia are run at the county level.

“Since the secretary and the election board do not conduct the signature matching process, are not the election officials that review the voter’s signature, and do not control whether the signature matching process can be observed, the campaigns’ alleged injury is not traceable to the secretary,” wrote Judges Charles Wilson, Beverly Martin and Robert Luck.

The appellate court upheld the ruling of a federal judge who denied relief to the plaintiffs last week.

But as the lawsuit fell short, another was filed in federal court this weekend.

Trump supporter L. Lin Wood’s new lawsuit repeats conspiracy theories about Georgia’s voting machines and attacks signature verification procedures, early processing of absentee ballots and ballot drop boxes. Federal courts have rejected a previous lawsuit by Wood.

The Clarke County Republican Party Chair is challenging more than 16,000 voters’ eligibility, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The chairman of the Clarke County Republican Party has challenged the eligibility of 16,024 Athens voters in the Nov. 3 general election, according to the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections.

As a result, the elections board has called a meeting for 4:30 p.m. Monday at the elections office to consider the challenge. The meeting of the five-member board, chaired by Jesse Evans, will be available online for public viewing.

The papers from the GOP were signed by party Chairman Gordon Rhoden, who could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The document purports that these registered voters live out of state, and that the information was obtained from the National Change of Address Registry. Rhoden told the board he has evidence those thousands of voters reside outside the state.

Oddly, the Cobb County GOP also challenged the eligibility of the same number of voters — 16,024 — as are now being challenged in Clarke.

The Cobb County Board of Elections dismissed a set of similar eligibility challenges, according to the Rome News Tribune.

In a letter to the Board of Elections dated Dec. 11, Shepherd said 16,024 people appear on both the Cobb County voter registration database and the National Change of Address registry.

“I believe that each of the individuals named … has, as a result of registering their name and change of address to a location outside of Cobb County, removed to another state with the intention of making the new state their residence,” he said in the letter. “Consequently, each individual is ineligible to vote in Cobb County.”

The board’s counsel found the complaints unconvincing, saying they didn’t necessarily prove those people no longer lived in the county.

In a 4-0 vote, the board found there was no probable cause to deregister the accused.

Bulloch County voters continued their strong early voting turnout, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Almost 4,000 Bulloch County residents had cast in-person ballots as of 2 p.m. Friday during the first week of early voting for the Jan. 5, 2021 runoff.

Bulloch County Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones said 3,946 total votes were cast since Monday – 3,077 at the Elections Office in the County Annex and 869 in the three days voting was available at the Honey Bowen Building.

In-person early voting for the runoff actually outpaced the first week of in-person early voting for the presidential contest by more than 1,000 votes. There were 2,923 in-person votes the week of Oct. 12-16, compared to 3,946 this week.

Including absentee ballots, 7,194 Bulloch voters had voted by Friday afternoon, which is about 15% of registered county voters.

Bulloch turnout is about the same as state turnout. According to the U.S. Elections Project, 1,123,095 registered Georgia voters had cast ballots either in person or absentee at 2 p.m. Friday, a 14.7% turnout rate.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Statewide, [turnout] was at 17.5% as of Saturday, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Led by Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, the site uses data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s files.

Floyd County’s turnout was at 14.9% overall. With 62,240 registered voters, 9,272 people had their ballots accepted either at one of the two precincts or by mail.

So far, 8,588 local voters have requested absentee ballots and 3,620 of them have been returned with votes. None of those have been rejected.

Another 5,652 people have cast ballots in person at one of the two univeral early voting precincts: the Floyd County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave., and Garden Lakes Baptist Church, 2200 Redmond Circle.

From AccessWDUN:

As of last week, 13,516 voters had cast ballots in Hall County, according to numbers supplied by the Hall County Elections Office. That’s almost 10% of Hall County’s eligible voters. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office reports a statewide turnout of 1.1 million voters during the first week of early voting, which is on par with the early vote turnout for the General Election in November.

DeKalb County has opened a new early voting location at Cross Keys High School, according to the AJC.

Elections officials had been attempting to find a location to host early voting in the city since it became clear that the usual spot at Briarwood Recreation Center would not be available due to ongoing renovations. They announced the new location at Cross Keys High School (1626 N. Druid Hills Rd NE) on Twitter over the weekend.

It opened to voters Monday morning.

Four Gwinnett County women were sworn in to office following the November elections, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Over a span of two days this past week, spanning Wednesday and Thursday, Patsy Austin-Gatson, Tiana Garner, Tarece Johnson and Karen Watkins became the first African-American women — in some cases the first African-American period — to be sworn in as Gwinnett County’s district attorney, clerk of courts and school board members, respectively.

The quartet are part of the second wave of African-American women from Gwinnett County to move into elected offices since 2018.

Austin-Gatson will be the first African-American district attorney and Garner will be the first African-American clerk of courts in Gwinnett’s 202-year history. Meanwhile, Johnson and Watkins shared the history-making honor of being the first African-American women to be sworn in as members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday.

They are not the only history-making African-American women who will take an oath of office this month because Nicole Love Hendrickson, the first African-American elected to serve as the head of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, will be sworn in on Dec. 28. They do, however, make up the majority of the history-making women who are about take local office.

The Secretary of State’s Office opened two investigations related to Bulloch County, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Walter Jones, public information officer for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, provided the Statesboro Herald limited details Friday on the two cases open in Bulloch County.

According to the documents emailed to the Herald by Jones, one complaint involves a query into allegations of “improper processing of absentee ballots by election officials.” The complaint is pending presentation to a review board. The second complaint alleges “excess voting,” which also is under review.

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