Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 8, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 8, 2021

On July 8, 1776, the bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it summoned Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The Liberty Bell inscription includes a reference to Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

The first of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops, under Major General Schofield, crossed the Chattahoochee River between Powers Ferry and Johnson Ferry on July 8, 1864.

Former United States Senator from Texas Phil Gramm (R) was born on July 8, 1942 in Columbus, Georgia, where his father was stationed at Fort Benning.

On July 8, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced his candidacy for President in the 1976 elections.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

First Lady Jill Biden will tour a Savannah vaccination site today, according to the Savannah Morning News.

First lady Jill Biden will tour a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Savannah on Thursday to show her support for local efforts and to encourage community residents to get vaccinated.

The mobile clinic will be held from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Beach High School, 3001 Hopkins St., in Savannah. Anyone age 12 and older who has not yet been vaccinated is encouraged to make an appointment at chdcovidvax.org. Walk-ins will be allowed, but appointments are preferred.

“We’re honored to welcome the first lady to Savannah,” said Chatham County Health Department Nurse Manager Tammi Brown. “Our Health Department has given more than 67,000 vaccinations, but a majority of adults in Chatham County are still unvaccinated and at risk. We aren’t at the finish line yet, so we appreciate her support.”

The first lady will be joined by Sen. Raphael Warnock and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson for the tour and to deliver remarks at Beach High School. The visit is part of the White House Administration’s nation-wide effort to increase education and outreach about COVID-19 vaccination, and to reach the millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated.

As of Tuesday, 40% of Chatham residents were fully vaccinated against COVID and 44% had received at least one shot, according to the state’s COVID vaccine dashboard.

From WTOC:

Thursday afternoon, the First Lady will tour a vaccination site at a high school alongside the Savannah mayor and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The senator’s office released a statement saying, “In order to keep our economy moving forward, we must do all our part to help Georgia and our nation overcome this pandemic. I’m looking forward to joining Dr. Biden in Savannah to share this important message with coastal Georgians.”

Once the First Lady wraps up the events in Georgia, she’ll head down to Orlando to attend the Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals and congratulate students and their families.

Georgia currently has the ninth-lowest vaccination rate in the country, according to the White House. The good news is that a number of counties are reporting zero new cases in the past two weeks.

No word on whether FLOTUS will go door-to-door to check vaccination statuses.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) couldn’t help discussing the door-to-door efforts. From CNN via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Responding to remarks from Biden about mobilizing officials to reach unvaccinated individuals at their homes, Greene tweeted, “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”

Asked about Greene’s tweet by CNN’s John Berman on “New Day,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House does not take medical advice from Greene.

Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) is raising funds despite saying he will not run for reelection, according to the AJC.

[AJC writer] James Salzer found that Duncan’s June 30 campaign finance report shows he still had $827,500 in his account halfway through 2021.

He announced in mid-May he wouldn’t run for re-election and his chief of staff, John Porter, said Duncan has not been actively fundraising since he made that announcement. While there are no specific plans for what he’ll do with his remaining funds, Duncan has several options, including giving it to other candidates’ state campaigns, within legal limits, of course.

According to his latest disclosure, his campaign’s single biggest expense in the first half of 2021 was the $17,000 it spent in April on polling.

From another story by the AJC:

James Salzer — who reviewed the group’s latest campaign disclosure — noted that two of the three contributions were reported to have come during the General Assembly session: $20,000 from the American Federation for Children, an Alexandria, Va. school-choice lobby group, and $10,000 from health care mega-company Hospital Corporation of America. Both were listed on Advance Georgia’s report as being received Jan. 29, a few weeks into the General Assembly’s annual session.

Both groups have reason to give: Republicans have long pushed private school vouchers and other school-choice legislation. And few issues get as much legislative attention — and funding — as health care.

State officials like Duncan and lawmakers have long been banned from taking campaign donations during legislative sessions in an effort to eliminate the appearance that they are being bought off for legislation or state funding.

Governor Brian Kemp joined Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-West Point) and state legislators from Coweta County in responding to FEMA’s denial of individual assistance after a March 2021 tornado,  according to a press release.

“FEMA’s July 1st rejection of Georgia’s request for Individual Assistance for Coweta County, following significant damage to the City of Newnan and Coweta County by an EF-4 tornado and other severe weather during March 25th and 26th of 2021, is very disappointing. After FEMA’s initial denial, we all came together – the State of Georgia, city and county officials, as well as elected representatives and civic groups – to appeal their wrong decision and ensure they fully understood the devastation that families experienced during this traumatic storm. At a time when Congress and the Biden administration are proposing legislation to spend trillions upon trillions of taxpayer dollars, we continue to urge FEMA to do the right thing and grant the state’s request for individual assistance to help Georgians who were impacted and are now trying to rebuild their lives.”

Governor Brian P. Kemp
Congressman Drew Ferguson
State Senator Matt Brass
State Representative Lynn Smith
State Representative Philip Singleton
State Representative David Jenkins

United States District Judge J.P. Boulee rejected a lawsuit seeking to enjoin implementation of Georgia’s new voting laws, according to the New York Times.

In his order, Judge J. P. Boulee of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia said he was basing his decision on the imminence of the July 13 elections and not the merits of the case.

“The court certainly appreciates the gravity of the First and Fourteenth Amendment harms plaintiffs have alleged,” Judge Boulee wrote, but “concerns in this case with respect to the July 13, 2021 runoff elections, including the risk of disrupting the administration of an ongoing election, outweigh the alleged harm to plaintiffs at this time.”

He continued, “The Court reserves judgment regarding the propriety of relief as to future elections and will issue a separate order on this question at a later date.”

The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, celebrated the decision, saying in a statement: “This is just another in the line of frivolous lawsuits against Georgia’s election law based on misinformation and lies. We will continue to meet them and beat them in court.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald:

“The underlying elections have already occurred, and Plaintiffs seek an order that would mandate different rules for the related runoff elections,” Boulee wrote in an 11-page order.

“Election administrators have prepared to implement the challenged rules, have implemented them at least to some extent and now would have to grapple with a different set of rules in the middle of the election.”

The July 13 runoff in Cobb County will pit Republican Devan Seabaugh and Democrat Priscilla Smith to complete the unexpired term of former Georgia Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta. Reeves left the legislature for an administrative position at Georgia Tech, his alma mater.

In southeast Georgia that day, Republicans Leesa Hagan and Wally Sapp will vie in House District 156, which covers parts of Appling, Jeff Davis, Montgomery and Toombs counties. Former Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, is now serving on the State Transportation Board representing Georgia’s 12th Congressional District.

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms will run for reelection in November, according to 13WMAZ.

The mayor and three city council seats are up for election. Wednesday, Mayor Randy Toms confirmed with 13WMAZ that he will seek reelection.

LaRhonda W. Patrick, an attorney, confirms she’s running for mayor.

Stephen Baughier, an accountant, says he’s strongly considering running. Former mayor Chuck Shaheen says he’s weighing his options. Former councilman Tim Thomas says he’ll decide in the coming weeks whether he wants to run.

Qualifying for city races runs August 16-20. Early voting runs October 12-29 — Election Day is November 2.

Augusta City Commissioner Sammie Sias has been indicted on federal charges, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, Sias, 66, has been charged with destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations, and false statement or representation made to a department or agency of the United States. If convicted, the charges carry a maximum of 20 years in federal prison, along with substantial financial penalties and up to five years of supervised release.

“Federal investigations play a significant oversight role in maintaining integrity and transparency from elected officials and in government agencies at all levels,” Acting U.S. Attorney David Estes said in a release. “We commend our law enforcement partners in the FBI and GBI for their diligence in seeking timely and accurate information from those who are chosen to serve the taxpayers of our communities.”

The indictment alleges that Sias “did knowingly alter, destroy, mutilate, conceal and cover up records, documents and other objects, to wit, digital files belonging to Sandridge Community Association” on or about Aug. 5, 2019. The documents included invoices, spreadsheets, work orders, payments, agendas, minutes, financial reports and other documentation of the Jamestown Community Center, Jamestown Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, the SCA board of directors and SCA Summer Camp, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The indictment states that Sias intended to “impede, obstruct and influence the investigation and proper administration of a federal criminal grand jury investigation.”

“The alleged cover-up was not only a violation of the oath taken by this elected official, but a theft of the public’s trust,” Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a release. “Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top priorities and we will do everything in our power to pursue officials who abuse their positions.”

More than half of Georgia’s counties have lagging broadband availability, according to USA Today via the Augusta Chronicle.

In about half of Georgia’s counties – 80 of 158 – measured by a Federal Communications Commission study, broadband access is available to at least 83% of residents. Yet in about half of the state measured by Microsoft – 80 of 159 counties – no more than 21% of households actually have high-speed access, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

In Georgia, 10% of residents don’t have adequate broadband infrastructure and 38.8% live in areas that have only one internet provider, according to the White House.

The proportions of Georgia households that have high speed access varies widely: In Echols County, it’s just 1%; in Baker County, it’s 2%; and in Clay County, it’s 2%. Leading the state are Forsyth County with 93%, Gwinnett County with 81% and Fulton County with 73%.

Statesboro City Council voted to authorize the police department to apply for a $1 million dollar federal grant to hire more officers, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Twiggs County will use a grant to upgrade its sewer system, according to 13WMAZ.

The county plans to make sewer improvements increasing the capacity of their wastewater plant at the I-16 industrial park.

The money will come from the OneGeorgia Authority, which funds economic development in rural counties, and the American Rescue Plan.

“Right now we don’t have the capacity to handle new businesses, and this is what we’re going to do. This grant is going to help us upgrade our capacity for new businesses with sewage and water. We’ll be able to provide businesses with sewage and water,” said commissioner, Lonnie Ford.

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