Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 12, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 12, 2021

John Percival, an Irish Member of Parliament who served as a Georgia Trustee, was born on July 12, 1733.

In the British House of Commons, Percival served on the committee on jails with a young member named James Oglethorpe, who shared his idea about a new colony in North America for the deserving poor. Percival, like Oglethorpe became a Georgia Trustee, and during Georgia’s first decade, with Oglethorpe in America, Percival worked harder than anyone to champion Georgia’s cause and secure its future.

The United States Army Medal of Honor was created on July 12, 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation authorizing the award.

The first U.S. Army soldiers to receive what would become the nation’s highest military honor were six members of a Union raiding party who in 1862 penetrated deep into Confederate territory to destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Lt. Frank Reasoner of Kellogg, Idaho died in action on July 12, 1965 and was later posthumously awarded the first Medal of Honor to a United States Marines for action in Vietnam.

On July 12, 1984, Congresswoman Geradine Ferraro (R-NY) joined the Democratic ticket with Presidential nominee Walter Mondale. Ferraro was the first woman and first Italian-American woman nominated for Vice President. Mondale and Ferraro lost the General Election in the largest ever Republican landslide to Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp began his reelection campaign, according to FoxNews.

“We need everyone engaged, because we know the Democrats are united,” Kemp told a crowd of supporters Saturday at his campaign kickoff at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, a solidly conservative part of the Peach State.

Kemp, working to shore up his base, closed his speech by arguing that the Democrats have overplayed their hand in Georgia. “Make no mistake. They’re going to continue to cancel conservatives across the country,” he said. “They are trying to go after anyone in the country that doesn’t share their values.”

Kemp also revealed his fundraising figures, announcing he hauled in $3.9 million over the past three months, with roughly $9.2 million in his campaign coffers with a year to go until the Georgia primary.

From 13WMAZ:

“We want all Georgians, no matter what zip codes or what neighborhood they’re in to have great opportunities, to be safe, and to be strong,” he said in his speech. “We live in the greatest state in the country.”

From the Associated Press:

“It used to be you never challenged the incumbent governor within your party,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a former chief of staff to two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue and a top national fundraiser for Republicans. “That just makes you weaker as a party going into the general election.”

Kemp’s plan so far echoes how he won three previous statewide contests including 2018: play to conservatives in rural and small-town Georgia, while appealing to enough moderates concentrated around Atlanta. His argument that pivots from Trumpian drama to continuing 20 years of GOP control.

“Our state’s been on a tremendous path here for decades now,” Kemp told The Associated Press in an interview before Saturday. “And it’s because we’ve had good leadership, not only in the governor’s office, but also in the General Assembly.”

To the middle, Kemp promotes a teacher pay raise, investments in rural broadband and a GOP version of Medicaid expansion. To all, he touts his “measured reopening” after the initial shutdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the lowest state unemployment rates nationally.

For his part, Kemp said “reminding people of my record, which I didn’t have in 2018” will corral support. And even if Georgia Republicans run the gamut from archconservative Rep. Majorite Taylor Green to metro Atlanta residents who voted for Biden, Kemp disputed the idea the GOP is too factionalized for him to win a second term.

“It depends on where you are. Some people may say that Marjorie Taylor Greene’s a problem for the party,” Kemp said. “But, you know, if you’re up in her district, she seems to be pretty well liked. I respect the voters. I’m going to campaign on who I am, running statewide.”

From the AJC:

Kemp mixed boasts of Georgia’s low jobless rate and teacher pay raises aimed at a broader audience with crowd-pleasing conservative red meat about the state’s new anti-abortion law and election overhaul.

And he took direct aim at Abrams, who is expected to mount a rematch against Kemp, describing her and other Democrats as too liberal for Georgia — and too eager to promote “cancel culture.”

“Make no mistake: They’re going to continue to cancel conservatives across the country,” he said, echoing the message he emphasized in a campaign ad played to warm up the crowd. “They are trying to go after anyone in the country that doesn’t share their values.”

John Watson, the former Georgia GOP chair, said the message he sent was one of “strong accomplishments that demonstrate leadership in the hardest of times.” Pressed on whether the pro-Trump wing of the party could hobble Kemp, he expressed confidence Republicans would unite behind the governor. “The rest will take care of itself.”

“I will make this commitment to you: I will not waver in that fight. I don’t care if it’s the Justice Department, Major League Baseball or anyone else,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to defend that. Because the truth is on our side.” [said Kemp]

“I’ve gotten a lot of questions about President Trump. I’ve reminded people I worked very hard for him, supported his legal efforts. But the campaign, to me, is reminding people of all the things we’ve done.”

From GPB:

“I’ve also held my commitment to fight for rural Georgia, to strengthen rural Georgia,” he said. “We have created a promise of a rural strike team; we have been laser-focused on rural broadband.”

Conservative voters in rural Georgia are a core constituency for Republicans, and even the slightest drop in turnout and support could prove the difference-maker in a closely divided state — something the party saw firsthand in the dual Senate runoffs.

“In Houston County alone, David Perdue got 41,428 votes [in November]. … In January, he got 36,700,” U.S. Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) said. “Let me tell you something: We can’t let that happen again.”

“I know there’s some that are worried about the race getting nationalized,” Kemp told reporters after his speech. “I personally think the Democrats did a good job in nationalizing races in the state of Georgia [in 2020]. And Republicans didn’t have a good message to combat that.”

Betty Bryant, who serves on the Spalding County election board, said Kemp was a man of integrity who hasn’t let conservatives down, despite disappointment from some grassroots voters that the governor certified the election for President Joe Biden.

“I think for reasons that are unknown to us, he did the things he did,” she said. “He knows the law; we don’t. And I’m going to be supporting him again.”

The AJC analyzes ballot drop box use during 2020.

The state’s new voting law, passed by the Republican majority of the General Assembly, limits the availability of the boxes in future elections, especially in Democratic areas where voters relied on drop boxes.

About 56% of absentee voters in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties returned their ballots in drop boxes before November’s election, according to ballot transfer forms.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia Public Broadcasting found out how many people used drop boxes by obtaining ballot transfer forms from election officials, then spending over 90 hours entering data from thousands of handwritten forms into a spreadsheet. The forms showed how many ballots were collected daily from each drop box leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

In metro Atlanta’s four most populated counties, more than 305,000 out of 547,000 absentee voters deposited their ballots in drop boxes. By comparison, a sample of 11 smaller counties across Georgia found 32% of absentee voters used drop boxes, with the rest delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

Drop boxes were an innovation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, approved by the State Election Board to accommodate a surge in absentee voting during last year’s elections, including Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Republican Donald Trump.

Every county is required to install at least one drop box, but no more than one for every 100,000 active registered voters. That means the number of drop box locations in metro Atlanta’s four core counties will shrink from 111 to 23.

“They are no longer useful,” Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said. “The limited numbers mean you cannot deploy them in significant numbers to reach the voting population.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan said the voting law explicitly allowed drop boxes in statute for the first time, with requirements that ensure they’re kept secure inside polling places. Temporary drop box rules approved last year permitted drop boxes 24 hours a day under constant video surveillance, inside or outside government property.

“There should have been some regulation and tightening rather than having drop boxes all over the place,” said Dugan, a Republican from Carrollton. “Even though it’s not as broad as it was during the emergency period, it still is there. It still exists and people can take advantage of it, or they can mail it from their house or go in and vote.”

U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) disclosed having raised more than $7 million dollars for his reelection, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock raised $7 million from April through the end of June, setting what his campaign on Friday called a record for statewide candidates in Georgia.

The Atlanta Democrat, who won the January runoffs to win a special election for the Senate seat, will be back on the ballot in 2022. He has $10.5 million in cash that he can spend.

Republican former State House member Meagan Hanson announced she will run for Congress in the Sixth District, according to the AJC.

A former state legislator, Hanson said Monday she’d fight to “get America back on track” by pushing for lower taxes and standing against the Democratic agenda.

“Conservative values aren’t just a talking point for me,” said Hanson, an attorney, in a statement. “They are what I’ve been fighting for my entire life – on the grassroots level, in the legislature, and in the court system.”

So far, candidates include U.S. Army veteran Harold Earls and activist Suzi Voyles. Jake Evans, a former Georgia ethics commission chair, is expected to run. Retired U.S. Army colonel Eric Welsh recently dropped his bid.

Depending on how the district lines are drawn, Republican candidates in the neighboring 7th District could also switch races to challenge McBath. That means Dr. Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician who narrowly lost to Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in 2020, could swap contests.

Georgia House Bill 231 went into effect and offers additional protections for victims of abusive relationships, according to WTVM.

In Georgia, a new law recently went into effect that expands the list of who can apply for a protective order if they’re in an abusive relationship.

House Bill 231, signed by Governor Brian Kemp back in May, now provides protections for those in dating relationships, who were in dating relationships and those in a relationship where there’s a pregnancy.

Branch calls the new law a game-changer for those in relationships outside of marriage or formerly married.

“That leaves out a lot of people. People in dating violence, dating situations where there’s been violence. Former boyfriend and girlfriends…”

To those in a violent and abusive relationship, Branch asks that they consider calling Safe Shelter’s outreach team to talk about options.

“It’s a Superior Court order. If it’s violated, the perpetrator can be arrested for stalking, which is a felony. So it’s a big deal, and it can protect you and your children.”

The Georgia Supreme Court is looking for a quick resolution of lawsuits over the legislative split of the Augusta Judicial Circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In a order issued Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that two lawsuits which seek to prevent Columbia County from splitting into a separate court system from Augusta-Richmond and Burke should be ruled on as soon as possible.

The split was authorized in Senate Bill 9, passed by the state legislature earlier this year, and two plaintiffs – Willie Saunders and the Black Voters Matter Fund – sued to stop it being implemented. Senior Judge Gail S. Tusan of Superior Court of the Augusta Judicial Circuit issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the split, which would have otherwise gone into effect on July 1. The temporary restraining order was upheld by Senior Judge Adele Grubbs when Tusan was recused from the case.

The Supreme Court order Wednesday stayed the temporary restraining order, citing the potential legal issues of a court order against Governor Brian Kemp, who is one of the defendants, but also ruled that SB 9 could not take effect until the Supreme Court said otherwise.

To resolve the issue as quickly as possible, the Supreme Court ordered the Superior Court to hold a hearing on an interlocutory injunction no later than July 12, when a hearing was already scheduled, and to rule “as soon as possible following the hearing.” An injunction would be a more permanent ruling than the short term temporary restraining order lifted by the Supreme Court.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is moving forward toward granting growing licenses, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted Wednesday to finalize scores given to grower applications. Those scores will be used to award licenses, but the commission stopped short of awarding them.

After nearly two hours of closed executive session, the commission chair addressed members of the public who had tuned in to the virtual meeting to say they would not award licenses yet, while acknowledging tension over the pace of the application approval process.

“Please do not blow up the phone of staff or anybody else, or commissioners,” said Commission Chairman Dr. Christopher Edwards. “Let them go home to their families.”

Nearly 70 companies have applied for six licenses to be issued.

The commission previously promised to issue licenses by June 30. Patients and applicants have grown frustrated by the wait.

Edwards, who is unpaid as chair, said the commission will publish “intent to award information” at the next meeting, but did not indicate when that will be.

Zane Bader, co-founder of the Georgia Cannabis Trade Association, has said applicants have voiced concerns about the process, and whether the agency has the staffing or ability to answer questions about complexities of the application requirements. Hundreds of questions have been submitted by businesses and published in a document on the commission’s website, many of them answered with the phrase: “The Applicant should determine its approach without an expectation for Commission guidance on business processes.”

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget originally recommended the commission receive a startup budget of $1.2 million. Instead, lawmakers allocated $225,000 for the 2020 budget year. The commission reported that funding didn’t cover its basic expenses. For the just-concluded 2021 budget year, the commission requested $531,000 to fund operating expenses and add an attorney. It received $352,137.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners will discuss how to spend $18 million dollars in federal COVID funding, according to 13WMAZ.

The organizations and initiatives they’re looking to allocate money to are those that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the big highlights include: $5 million for blight elimination and building more affordable housing, $3 million toward Visit Macon to boost tourism, and $4 million toward the Brookdale Warming Center.

Mayor Lester Miller told 13WMAZ in April that he planned to secure around 15 years worth of funding for the Brookdale Warming Center. The ordinance says the $4 million would be used for building upgrades, staffing, personal protective equipment and “additional support and operational services.”

Mayor Lester Miller and Mayor Pro Tem Seth Clark are also sponsoring an ordinance to put $2 million toward “community violence interruption services.”

Allegations against Dougherty County Probate Judge Leisa Blount following a 2020 arrest are continuing, according to the Albany Herald.

A criminal case involving terroristic threats against Dougherty County’s Probate Court judge could be moving toward disposition, either through prosecutors taking it to a grand jury or dismissal.

Judge Leisa Blount was arrested in March 2020 on one count each of terroristic threats and violation of oath by a public officer.

“I hope within the next month or two we’ll know where we’re going with it,” Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brian Shealey of Valdosta said. “We may present it to the grand jury, or I may make an assessment we’re not.”

The Statesboro Bulloch County Airport will borrow $750k to build a new hangar, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Both County Manager Tom Couch and Airport Manager Kathy Boykin say that the airport should be able to repay loan a large portion of the loan with its income from hangar rentals and fuel sales. While repaying in five years at a very low, 1.5% annual interest rate, Couch said, the county- operated airport can also hold on to much of the nest egg it has accumulated and be better prepared for any possible break in Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST, revenue.

Another project awaiting construction is the “rehabilitation,” or resurfacing, of the airport’s parallel taxiway, at an originally estimated overall cost of $1.2 million. For projects like that, the airport receives Federal Aviation Administration grants through the Georgia Department of Transportation, but these usually require a local share in the funding.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comments on a plan to dredge Brunswick harbor, according to The Brunswick News.

Those opposed to the plan, which would remove a long-held winter dredging window in Georgia, say the proposed work will kill nesting sea turtles that come to the state’s beaches every summer to lay their eggs.

A public comment period is now open and will close July 21.

“The purpose of the report is to investigate the feasibility of reducing transportation cost inefficiencies associated with the federal deep draft navigation channel at Brunswick Harbor, Georgia,” said Rashida Banks, a spokesperson for the corps’ Savannah District. “It also incorporates the South Atlantic Regional Biological Opinion for Dredging and Material Placement Activities in the Southeast United States (2020 SARBO) into operations and maintenance of the Brunswick Harbor Federal Navigation Project.”

The corps is undertaking this action in partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority, Banks said.

Tybee Island is considering a management contract with Chatham Emergency Management Services, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As the Tybee Island Fire Department (TIFD) currently operates without a fire chief, the city is proposing temporary management by Chatham Emergency Management Services (CEMS), previously known as Southside Fire, which operates in the county’s unincorporated areas.

The proposal could also put Tybee’s beach safety services, also known as Ocean Rescue, which operates under TIFD, under CEMS.

Thursday’s council meeting discussion of the issue was met mainly with opposition from the public and TIFD employees with concerns regarding employment, subscription fees and quality of service.

Mayor Shirley Sessions clarified that Tybee residents would not be required to pay a subscription fee during a temporary management period, which would last 90 days unless extended by another agreement.

Rome City Commission will hear a draft ordinance to allow a trial period for public alcohol consumption in a portion of downtown, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Downtown Development Authority is backing the proposal, which will be the third time in five years that an effort to permit open containers has been brought before the commission.

Commissioners rejected the concept in 2017 and again last year. If it is successfully placed on first reading, a full public hearing prior to a final vote would be held at the July 26 meeting.

The ordinance amendment that will be presented Monday night stipulates that people won’t be able to carry around alcohol in a bottle, glass or can.
Beverages may only be taken out from downtown venues in a plastic or aluminum container furnished by the establishment. Those containers cannot exceed 20 ounces.

Consumption would be limited to the streets, sidewalks, greenspaces or other public places within the Downtown District. It is specifically prohibited in the parking decks.

Floyd County Commissioners will consider a proposal to move the elections office, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Currently, the election office is housed in a corner of the basement of the County Administration Building. A storage closet on the second floor has been modified to house vote counting operations and the commission meeting room is used for early voting.

Officials have been looking for a larger space that would include convenient parking and easier handicap accessibility. County Manager Jamie McCord has said the space in the administration building also could be put to better use.

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