Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 23, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 23, 2020

Wesleyan College in Macon was chartered on December 23, 1836, becoming the first college chartered specifically to grant degrees to women.

On December 22, 1864, General Sherman wrote to President Lincoln,

“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

On December 23, 1864, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution specifying that the Senate chamber should be lit by electricity for the next Session. That is the last time the legislature sought enlightenment before passing laws.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

https://youtu.be/wn_Gtg2ZTFI

My favorite non-bourbon liquor, Richland Rum, was recognized by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, according to The Brunswick News.

Richland Rum has been named a recipient of the 2020 GLOBE Award in the international trade division.

It’s the fourth consecutive year the company has earned the annual award that highlights companies that entered new international markets during the previous year. Richland Rum was among 17 companies to hear the recognition from the Georgia Dept. of Economic Development.

“Success in global markets takes commitment and hard work” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “Our Georgia made products and services are making a mark around the world. We’re proud to celebrate these companies for their contributions to a thriving Georgia economy through exports.”

“We are very excited to receive this award as it signifies our commitment to reaching a diverse audience around the world,” [Stephen Oakey, the company’s director of marketing/public relations] said. “Richland Rum is the spirit of Georgia, but it is also a global spirit, and one that is meant to be shared.”

Company proprietors Karin and Erik Vonk said the ability to reach more international markets requires time, labor and effort.

“It is remarkable to think that sugarcane grown in Richland, Ga., can become a world class rum that is enjoyed by people in countries thousands of miles away,” they said. “Our commitment to making a high quality, artisan rum with both domestic and international appeal is as consistent as the hearty growth of our sugarcane, and we are thrilled to have been recognized by the GDEcD with a 2020 GLOBE Award.”

More than 1.6 million votes have been cast in the January 5, 2021 Runoff Elections for United States Senate and Georgia Public Service Commission, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The wave of early voting in the Georgia runoff mirrors high turnout ahead of the general election in November. About 1.9 million Georgians had cast ballots at this point in early voting for the presidential election, according to state election officials.

President Trump is said to be considering active opposition to Governor Brian Kemp moving forward, according to The Daily Beast.

“It’s a fait accompli,” said one veteran Trump political adviser.

According to two people who’ve discussed Kemp with the president this month, Trump has largely focused on how Kemp would be “nothing” without him or his endorsement in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. The president has also mentioned that he’s looking forward to fundraising and campaigning against Kemp in Georgia, in the likelihood that a GOP primary challenger emerges.

One of the sources said that Trump had privately compared his desire to see Kemp’s political future ruined to how he wanted to see the political implosion of his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, during an attempted comeback this year in Alabama.

“It is not wise because if you haven’t learned anything from the Senate race this year, you could at least say that having two strong candidates has nearly cost us the seat,” said former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA). “ So I think that Georgia no longer has the luxury of having a divided Republican primary and then going on to win in November.”

In a column outlining his vision of the future of the Trump movement last week, campaign advisor Steve Cortes explicitly called for knocking out Kemp in the 2022 cycle.

“[S]erious candidates must also be equipped to challenge the many squish Republicans who failed our movement in recent weeks,” he wrote, “such as Governor Kemp of Georgia…”

President Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, dropped by the signature verification audit in Cobb County, according to WSB radio.

Mark Meadows, President Trump’s Chief of Staff, arrived at the Marietta site Tuesday afternoon, where the audit is focused on the county’s November absentee ballot envelopes. During the unannounced visit, Meadows only stayed for roughly 20 minutes, and did not speak to Channel 2 Action News nor the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The outlets were the only two onsite to speak with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about the process.

The limited signature audit takes teams of GBI agents and state election investigators to examine the absentee envelope signatures, which were separated from the actual ballot when they were processed. That ensures a secret ballot, a right that’s cemented in the state constitution. Signatures are matched twice during the ballot count process.

The signatures are compared to public state records, including driving services forms.

“We’re looking for similarities,” said Special Agent in charge Bahan Rich, describing the signature probe. “We’re looking for consistency. Consistency in shapes of letter. We’re looking for slants, if you will, in shapes of letters.”

The audit is the first of its kind in Georgia. At the advice of UGA experts, it works similar to polling, using a 10 percent sample. That means 15,000 envelope signatures are under a review that includes comparing the signatures to state records.

“In this process you can have up to five different individuals looking at the envelopes,” Rich explained. “Those that are designated that still need even more review, then we’ll physically go down to the (office), and look at documents in possession of the Cobb County’s election office, and go from there regarding the particular envelope.”

Allegations against Democrat Raphael Warnock are to the point where the AJC is on the verge of believing the alleged victim, or at least taking her story seriously. From the AJC:

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock’s ex-wife told Atlanta police officers that her husband was a “great actor” after he denied her claims that he ran over her foot with his car, according to body cam footage of the March 2020 incident that aired late Tuesday on Fox News.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in March that Warnock wasn’t charged with a crime and an officer said in a police report that medical officials didn’t find visible signs of injury in the foot. The Democrat disputed Ouleye Warnock’s allegations, telling the AJC on March 7 that “it didn’t happen.”

Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Ouleye were amid divorce negotiations when the incident occurred and finalized their split about two months later. Ouleye Warnock has declined to be interviewed about the incident and court records indicate the divorce case has been sealed.

In the body cam footage, Ouleye Warnock told the officer that she’s been “very quiet about the way that he is for the sake of my kids and his reputation” surrounding his U.S. Senate bid.

“I’ve tried to keep the way that he acts under wraps for a long time and today he crossed the line,” she said. “So that is what is going on here. And he’s a great actor. He is phenomenal at putting on a really good show.”

“Domestic abuse is a very serious issue, and this new body cam footage is certainly difficult to watch,” Loeffler said. “Georgians deserve answers to these very serious allegations, and his ex-wife’s voice deserves to be heard.”

Independent Keith Higgins was sworn in as District Attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District, which serves Appling, Camden, Glynn, Jeff Davis, and Wayne Counties, according to The Brunswick News.

His first official day as the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the five-county judicial circuit is Jan. 4. The office and its team of attorneys and investigators is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, advising law enforcement and determining which cases should go to court.

The independent candidate defeated incumbent DA Jackie Johnson in the November election, securing 52.8 percent of the votes in a hotly contested race. Higgins acquired 8,500 signatures, more than double the amount needed, in order to run as an independent for the post.

“I want to thank all the people who worked tirelessly to get me on the ballot and get me elected,” Higgins said. “I want you to know that I still need your help, along with the help of everyone else in this circuit.”

The Georgia Supreme Court will extend the judicial state of emergency, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The state has decided the recent spike in coronavirus infection rates makes it too dangerous to resume trials in January, when such restrictions were to be eased. Muscogee County, part of the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, had hoped to resume operations on Jan. 4, summoning a pool of jurors for criminal trials.

Now those plans will have to be postponed: Jane Hansen, public information officer for the Supreme Court of Georgia, said the chief justice met with the state’s Judicial Council on Tuesday, and decided further to extend a “judicial emergency” declaration suspending jury trials until February.

It will be the 10th time since March that the emergency has been extended.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson (D) and other local elected Democrats want more federal funds for the city, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, along with 10 other Georgia elected leaders from across the state, have asked Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to fight for more COVID-19 relief for local governments.

In a letter sent to Sens. Perdue and Loeffler this week, the officials said the proposed COVID-19 relief package, which is currently awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, fails to provide vital funds for essential workers in local governments.

With the city’s revenue stemming from four major sources — property taxes, sales tax revenue, hotel/motel tax and franchise fees — Johnson said city and county governments are where the rubber meets the road and he was disappointed that they were left out.

The letter, which was also signed by Jordan Johnson, commissioner-elect of Augusta-Richmond County; Austin Wagner, councilman, City of Smyrna; Nicole Love Hendrickson, commission chair-elect, Gwinnett County; and Jasper Watkins, III, commissioner-elect, Gwinnett County, said any relief packaged passed without local and municipal aid is incomplete and inadequate.

The Chatham County Board of Elections has changed the location of a polling place for the January 5, 2021 Runoff Elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Chatham Board of Elections has announced a change to the polling place for Precinct 7-11 in Pooler on Tuesday, just two weeks ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff election.

Voters at this precinct previously cast ballots at First Seventh Day Adventist Church. The poll will be now located at the Marriott Courtyard banquet hall, 419 Pooler Parkway.

The Glynn County Board of Elections rejected a challenge to 262 voters’ qualifications, according to The Brunswick News.

Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, based his challenge on the voters’ residency. He brought to the board’s attention data produced by Mark Davis, Derek Somerville and a Texas-based organization called True the Vote, he explained.

The residences listed on voter registration records were compared to the U.S. Postal Service’s national change of address database, Jones said. After making a “sincere” effort to filter out military service members and students, he said as many as 262 voters registered in Glynn County have filed change of address forms in other locations, many out of state.

Board members entered a closed session to discuss potential litigation, emerging roughly 45 minutes later to rule that Jones’ evidence did not constitute probable cause to launch an investigation into the 262 voters’ registration information.

Board member Keith Rustin and Chair Patty Gibson did not believe his evidence was convincing enough to undertake the task in the middle of a runoff election. Even if they wanted to, Gibson said the board was bound by a federal law which prevents them from altering voter rolls within 90 days of an election.

The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections rejected a similar challenge, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The original document that targeted 16,024 voters was amended Dec. 18 by local GOP Chairman Gordon Rhoden to challenge 4,943 Clarke voters’ eligibility in the runoff. Rhoden alleged these voters had moved their residency outside the county.

At the advice of Judd Drake, the attorney representing the elections board, a motion to reject the challenge carried without opposition at a Monday meeting, although board member Patricia Till, a Republican Party appointee, abstained.

However, the action by Rhoden appeared to violate voter protections set forth by the National Voting Registration Act, according to Drake.

The Richmond County Board of Elections will hear a challenge to voters’ qualifications, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Jeremy Coghlan says he has a thumb drive with the list of registered voters whose names also appear on the National Change of Address registry with an address outside of Augusta.

The former WBEK owner filed the complaint with Richmond County Board of Elections, which has called a meeting today to discuss it. The 1 p.m. session will be conducted via Zoom and livestreamed.

At least one Georgia county – Muscogee – found probable cause in a similar challenge. The county will go about contacting more than 4,000 voters, whose provisional ballot won’t be counted until they prove their residency, Elections Director Nancy Boren told WTVM.

It’s not clear if Coghlan’s list includes ballots already cast, but the state maintains lists of everyone who votes early. Poll workers check voter IDs at advance voting sites.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday his office mailed 8,000 warning letters to registered voters who requested an absentee runoff ballot but also moved their mailing address out of the state.

The Lowndes County Board of Elections meets today to address challenges to voters, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The Lowndes County Board of Election announced it will convene at 1 p.m., Dec. 23 on a telephone conference call to discuss what it called “the sufficiency of a challenge.”

The call is open to the public as required by Georgia open government and elections laws.

To participate in the call, those interested can dial in at (229) 671-3400 and enter meeting code 990 543 082 to be admitted.

The Whitfield County Courthouse is being gutted and the interior build-out redone, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Sandwiched between the U.S. Senate runoffs in January and the city election in November, with full funding provided by the four-year Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that voters approved in June, Whitfield County plans to start and finish all the work inside that part of the courthouse built in 1961.

That original building is a three-story, 48,000-square-foot concrete framed structure, Benson said, “meaning it’s got concrete columns and concrete beams set in place with concrete floor decks and a concrete roof deck” that all serve as the structural part of the building. “None of the interior walls carry any load,” he said, “so we can totally demolish or remove all of the interior walls without affecting any structural integrity of the building.”

Suwanee Municipal Court was named Program of the Year by the Georgia Municipal Court Clerks Council for their COVID-19 response, according to AccessWDUN.

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