Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 16, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 16, 2021

On July 16, 1790, Congress declared Washington, DC the new capital city.

On July 17, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman set up headquarters in Fulton County on Powers Ferry Road near the Chattahoochee River. Late that night, Confederate General Joseph Johnston was replaced by newly-commissioned Gen. John Bell Hood.

For nearly three months, Johnston and Sherman had maneuvered around the rugged corridor from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Although there was constant skirmishing, there were few major battles; Sherman kept trying to outflank Johnston, but his advances were blocked. Though this kept losses to a minimum, there was also a limit to how long Johnston could maintain this strategy as each move brought the armies closer to Atlanta. By July 17, 1864, Johnston was backed into the outskirts of Atlanta. Johnston felt his strategy was the only way to preserve the Army of Tennessee, but Davis felt that he had given up too much territory.

On July 16, 1914, Asa Griggs Candler, retired President of Coca-Cola, wrote his brother Warren, who was a Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, a letter offering one million dollars and 72 acres of land in Atlanta for the church to establish a new university in the East.

The greatest political journalist to ever put pen to paper, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, was born on July 18, 1929. That makes Sunday “Gonzo Day.” You have been warned.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for a third term at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 18, 1940.

President Harry S. Truman signed the second Presidential Succession Act on July 18, 1947

The original succession act designated the Senate president pro tempore as the first in line to succeed the president should he and the vice president die unexpectedly while in office. If he for some reason could not take over the duties, the speaker of the house was placed next in the line of succession. In 1886, during Grover Cleveland‘s administration, Congress removed both the Senate president and the speaker of the house from the line of succession. From that time until 1947, two cabinet officials, (their order in line depended on the order in which the agencies were created) became the next in line to succeed a president should the vice president also become incapacitated or die. The decision was controversial. Many members of Congress felt that those in a position to succeed the president should be elected officials and not, as cabinet members were, political appointees, thereby giving both Republican and Democratic parties a chance at controlling the White House.

In 1945, then-Vice President Truman assumed the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt died of a stroke during his fourth term. As president, Truman advanced the view that the speaker of the house, as an elected official, should be next in line to be president after the vice president. On July 18, 1947, he signed an act that resurrected the original 1792 law, but placed the speaker ahead of the Senate president pro tempore in the hierarchy.

The United States performed the first test of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at the Trinity site in New Mexico.

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the project, watched the mushroom cloud rise into the New Mexico sky. “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” he uttered, reciting a passage from an ancient Hindu text.

Georgia-born Ty Cobb died on July 17, 1961.

Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson set a new record for longevity in office on July 16, 1963, having served 48 years, 8 months, and 12 days since his election in 1914. Vinson’s record held until 1992 and his tenure is now sixth-longest.

The Beatles premiered The Yellow Submarine on July 17, 1968 in London.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by Congress on July 17, 1984. From the New York Times:

President Reagan, appealing for cooperation in ending the “’crazy quilt of different states’ drinking laws,” today signed legislation that would deny some Federal highway funds to states that keep their drinking age under 21.

“We know that drinking, plus driving, spell death and disaster,” Mr. Reagan told visitors on a sweltering afternoon. “We know that people in the 18-to-20 age group are more likely to be in alcohol-related accidents than those in any other age group.”

“It’s a grave national problem, and it touches all our lives,” he added. “With the problem so clear-cut and the proven solution at hand, we have no misgiving about this judicious use of Federal power.”

Under the law Mr. Reagan signed today, the Secretary of Transportation is required to withhold 5 percent of Federal highway construction funds from those states that do not enact a minimum drinking age of 21 by Oct. 1, 1986. The Secretary is required to withhold 10 percent of the funds for states that do not act by Oct. 1, 1987.

The President said he was “convinced” that the legislation would “help persuade state legislators to act in the national interest to save our children’s lives, by raising the drinking age to 21 across the country.”

A senior White House official said after the ceremony that it was not clear that the new law would compel states to raise their drinking ages, even with its incentives and penalties.

He said some states, such as Florida, were proving resistant to the changes because people considered it unfair to allow residents to vote and serve in the armed services at the age of 18 but not to drink in public.

On July 18, 1988, the Democratic National Convention opened at the Omni in Atlanta. That night, actor Rob Lowe would shoot a videotape in a hotel with two hairdressers, one 22 and one 16. Several weeks later, the era of the celebrity sex tape began.

On July 18, 2000, United States Senator Paul Coverdell died of a cerebral hemorrhage. I remember where I was when I heard the news.

A new historical marker in Warner Robins marks the location of an African-American community called Jody Town that was eliminated in the 1970s, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“Jody Town was more than a neighborhood. It was a community. We had businesses. We had churches. We had organizations. We had entertainment. Of course, we had this park, Memorial Park, so it was just a hub of life for military men who came from across the southeast to come lay the foundation for Robins Air Force Base,” Johnson-Granville said.

Nearly 50 years after the neighborhood was destroyed by a federal urban renewal program, the community has been memorialized by a new Civil Rights Trail historical marker in Memorial Park.

The Jody Town Community Reunion Committee, the Georgia Historical Society and the City of Warner Robins unveiled the historical marker on June 29.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Chatham County COVID cases have risen into the red zone, according to the Savannah Morning News.

On Thursday Chatham’s community transmission rate hit 111 new cases over the previous two weeks per 100,000 residents, a “high” rate not seen since May 9. The number of patients hospitalized for COVID at Savannah’s three hospitals reached 37, a level not seen since late March. Several deaths from COVID have been added to the county total in June despite the ready availability of three vaccines.

Chatham’s vaccination rates shot up in the winter and spring as older people rushed to get the shot. But then it slowed to a crawl as those under 65 became eligible. By Wednesday, 41% of Chatham’s population was fully vaccinated and 45% had received at least one shot. That’s slightly better than the statewide rates of 39% fully vaccinated and 44% with at least one shot, but it’s below the national numbers of 48% and 56%, respectively.

The city is under a mask advisory, but not a mask mandate.

[Savannah Mayor Van] Johnson is keeping an eye on the COVID indicators and is ready to reapply the mask mandate in the city, if appropriate. State law limits local mask mandates to be employed only when the the transmission rate is in the “high” category and only on public property.

From WTOC:

The Community Transmission Index (CTI), which is used to measure the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days per 100,000 residents, is back in the red in Chatham County.

The CTI in Chatham County is 111 on Thursday, July 15, according to the Coastal Health District. The CTI has doubled since the start of July.

A Gainesville community vaccination event had only three people turn out, according to AccessWDUN.

“Unfortunately, we only had three people to come for the vaccination during the four hours,” [Gainesville City Council member Barbara] Brooks said. A volunteer also got his shot that day and recruited his mother, Brooks said, bringing the total number vaccinated to five. “That in itself is a blessing, that five more people did get vaccinated, but it was a huge disappointment.”

Brooks said the vaccination campaign would continue, but will change its tactics after they administer the second dose to the five on July 24. “What we’re going to do it look at how we can take it inside of communities, rather than have it externally. That’s our next step.”

The Georgia Supreme Court put a hold on the legislative split of the Augusta Judicial Circuit after the trial court ruled the split could proceed, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In an opinion released late Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Supreme Court made it clear nothing will proceed or change with the splitting of the Augusta Judicial Circuit until it says otherwise.

Meanwhile, the entity taxed with recommending when and if charges should be made to judicial boundaries and judgeships has weighed in: The best outcome for the state and the public is for Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties to joined back together to form the Augusta Judicial Circuit.

The recommendation and analysis prepared by the staff of the Georgia Judicial Council, is to be presented Friday to a committee on judicial workload assessment which may then make a recommendation on potential circuit alteration to the full state Judicial Council. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice David E. Nahmias is the chairman of the Judicial Council.

Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown, created a separate judicial circuit comprised solely of Columbia County and leaves Richmond and Burke counties in the Augusta Judicial Circuit.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called for Fulton County , according to USA Today via the Athens Banner Herald.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Thursday called for the firing of two county-level election officials, citing “continued failures” in handling and administering elections in Fulton County.

“Fulton County’s continued failures have gone on long enough with no accountability. Rick Barron and Ralph Jones, Fulton’s registration chief, must be fired and removed from Fulton’s elections leadership immediately. Fulton’s voters and the people of Georgia deserve better,” Raffensperger tweeted.

Local county officials have been at war over whether or not to fire Barron, the county’s election’s director. Democratic members of the Fulton County Commission want to keep him, while Republican members want to fire him, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Georgia’s unemployment rate hit the lowest level since before the pandemic, according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped another tenth of a percentage point to reach four percent in June, according to the latest report from the Georgia Department of Labor.

State Labor Commissioner said the labor force increased 3,000 over the month to over 5.1 million, up 178,000 since April 2020.  Georgia’s employed residents in June saw a monthly increase of 8,000, up 592,000 since April of last year to 4,956,857.  The number of unemployed dropped 5,000 from May to June to 208,033, down 414,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.  The number of jobs was up 32,800 in June, and up 464,000 since businesses began shutting their doors due to COVID 19.

“We have gained back 76 percent of the jobs lost in the pandemic and currently have over 190,000 job listings that need to be filled. We are working with employers across the state to fill those positions because if they continue to go unfilled, it will stall out new job creation,” Butler said in a prepared statement. “Several job sectors are already breaking all-time highs as we continue to see Georgia’s economy recover.”

An I-16 overpass bridge was damaged when a trailer hit it and shifted the bridge several feet and the interstate will be closed for several days, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The incident occurred on Georgia Highway 86 in Treutlen County, forcing heavily traveled I-16 to be closed in both directions between exits 71 and 78.

“We are very grateful that there were no injuries or fatalities as a result of this incident,” Georgia Commissioner of Transportation Russell McMurry said Thursday during a news conference with Gov. Brian Kemp at the state Capitol.

The DOT is working to reopen one lane of I-16 westbound by Sunday. One lane of I-16 eastbound is expected to open by Monday.

While the damaged bridge will be removed during that time, there is no timetable for replacing it, McMurry said.

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) addressed President Trump’s statement against him, according to the Gainesville Times.

Miller, who has seen strong fundraising numbers to start his campaign, said he is not worried about losing his support base because of Trump’s statement.

“I think the people who donated previously to my campaign donated to my campaign with no anticipation of Donald Trump’s endorsement,” Miller said. “I don’t ever recall a president of the United States endorsing or not endorsing a lieutenant governor candidate.”

Miller said he has not had any contact with Trump recently and suspects that Trump has bad information about him and his campaign.

“They’ve given him bad information for their ulterior motives,” Miller said. “They falsely claimed that I refused to take cause. That is categorically untrue. … I continue to investigate and use every means possible to investigate the 2020 election.”

“The voters of Georgia care about issues and the plan for the future of the state more than they care about endorsements,” Miller said.

From the AJC:

Miller appeared on the Martha Zoller Show on Gainesville radio station WDUN to respond.

“We had a little incident overnight,” Miller joked to Zoller of the former president’s statement. “I didn’t realize I was on the radar screen but apparently, I’m making somebody nervous. And that’s not a bad thing.”

The “somebody” is most likely Miller’s fellow state senator, Burt Jones, who has been prepping a statewide run for sometime. Although Jones flirted with the idea of running for governor, he’s been assumed to be headed into the LG race lately. That’s an assumption largely confirmed by Trump’s late-night statement, since Jones (with his father) have met with Trump would likely be the Trump pick for that race.

“I believe that he has been misinformed, either intentionally or, incidentally,” Miller said of Trump. “And I think it’s probably intentionally by people who have their own motives. And let me tell you something, Martha, I’m making people nervous, or they wouldn’t be reacting like this.”

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black (R-Commerce) announced fundraising results for his United States Senate campaign, according to the Albany Herald.

With only three weeks and no fundraising events, Black raised more than $703,000 from more than 670 donors. All but 50 contributors were from Georgia.

“I feel like the home-grown candidate, the harvest has been bountiful, and we have a lot to be thankful for,” Black said in a news release. “Making a contribution is more than just an investment of money – it’s loaning a candidate your reputation, and I will always remember the trust that represents.”

From the AJC:

The leading Republican fundraiser so far is a young military veteran who was virtually unknown in state politics before he entered the race. Many Republican heavyweights are waiting to see how the field shakes out – and if Georgia football legend Herschel Walker, now living in Texas, enters the contest.

Latham Saddler has tried to fill the void. Saddler, a former Navy SEAL and banking executive, raised more than $1.4 million during the three-month period and has about $1 million in the bank.

He ended the quarter with more cash in his coffers than Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, the most prominent Republican in the contest so far. Black took in about $700,000 in the three weeks since entering the contest, and spent about $20,000 of that sum.

A third contender, military veteran Kelvin King, raised about $370,000 and loaned himself another $300,000 during the quarter. He’s got about $560,000 left in the bank.

From another story in the AJC:

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice has jumped to an early fundraising lead in the race for Georgia secretary of state, bringing in $576,000 so far from donors including an organization founded by Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign manager.

Behind Hice, campaign finance reports show that Democrat Bee Nguyen raised $387,000 from February through June, followed by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger at $249,000. Republican David Belle Isle brought in $164,000.

Raffensperger will face a difficult campaign before next year’s Republican primary, raising less than half as much as Hice so far this year after drawing the ire of Trump supporters. Raffensperger certified the election, rejected allegations of fraud and refused Trump’s demand to “find” more votes.

Democratic United States Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are supporting a new Medicaid expansion bill, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff introduced the Medicaid Saves Lives Act this week to extend Medicaid to up to 4 million low-income Americans who earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but not enough to buy coverage on the private market.

“Expanding Medicaid is the single most effective solution to close our state’s coverage gap,” Warnock told reporters Wednesday during a conference call.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is pushing an alternative version of health-insurance reform in Georgia. The state submitted a waiver request to the federal government asking to move forward with a limited expansion of Medicaid, which the Trump administration approved last year.

But the waiver was put on hold by the Biden administration because of concerns over a work requirement.

The new legislation would require the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services to create a new program looking like Medicaid that would offer coverage with no premiums and low copayments.

Democrat Wade Herring (Savannah) announced he will run for the First Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler), who is considering a run for United States Senate, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Herring, a lawyer at HunterMaclean Law Firm, says he was inspired to run after seeing current 1st District Rep. Buddy Carter’s reaction to the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol and his vote to overturn the election results.

“The insurrection showed in a profound way a sickness in the soul of America, and that’s a problem,” Herring said. “The only way to fix the problem is to get in there and work for a solution that puts our families first, our district first, our nation first — not politics. That’s why I’m running for Congress.”

Herring said if he is elected he’ll pursue a platform that will provide broader access to health care, infrastructure, broadband access, early childhood education, affordable college, voting rights and protecting the coast from the effects of climate change.

“We are going to be at the forefront of the adverse impacts of sea level rise,” Herring said. “We’ve got to get ready for that and stop denying the reality of that.”

Gwinnett County Public Schools named a single finalist to succeed legendary Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education has named Calvin Watts as the sole finalist to replace outgoing Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, putting the district on the cusp of a history-making leadership appointment.

The board is required under state law to wait 14 days before taking a final vote to hire Watts, who is currently the superintendent of the Kent School District near Seattle, Wash., to lead the district, putting a decision on whether to hire him just before Wilbanks’ last day, which is July 31. The school board is expected to hold a special meeting July 29 for a final vote on hiring Watts.

Watts is a former assistant superintendent in Gwinnett County Public Schools, and rose through the administrative ranks in GCPS before leaving to become superintendent of the Kent School District in 2015.

“I have always referred to Gwinnett County Public Schools as the place where I grew up professionally,” Watts said.

GCPS will also increase raises for teachers above previously announced levels, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county’s school board voted Thursday to amend the district’s fiscal year 2022 budget to increase the planned cost-of-living salary raises already included in the budget for the teacher salary scale by an extra $1,000.

The district had budgeted raising the salary on each step of the salary scale by $1,000 this year. The budget amendment approved this week, however, changes that to a $2,000 raise for each step on the scale.

Looking at starting level salaries for a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree education level and who is starting with the district this year, they will be paid $48,646 for the year. The starting pay for a new teacher during the 2020-2021 school year was $46,646.

Columbus trash collection is lagging due to higher numbers of evictions, according to WTVM.

City officials say that an increase in evictions may also be contributing to trash delays, and with a federal moratorium on evictions ending soon the problem may only get worse.

Columbus City Councilwoman Toiya Tucker says an increase in evictions is behind the delay.

“Currently in June we had…and not just in District 4 but citywide we had 69 evictions,” said Tucker.

And every time there’s an eviction the yard waste piles up.

“It takes a crew days to actually get that yard waste up,” said Tucker.

And with the CDC federal eviction moratorium coming to an end, Tucker say we will start to see an uptick in evictions.

The Savannah Board of Aldermen has proposed keeping the current property tax millage rate for FY 2022, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The proposed 2021 rate is technically considered a tax increase because the city’s property tax digest has grown by 2.73% and the 12,739 mills will produce more total revenue. However, only property owners who see an increase in their assessed value — and who aren’t eligible for the Stephens-Day exemption — will pay more in 2021.

Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely said during a mid-year budget workshop it was important for residents to understand that the language was nothing more than a formality required by the state.

“We’re not changing anything. We’re just going to maintain the way it is,. but it’s going to sound like (an increase) when (the notification) goes out,” she said.

Chatham County Commissioners today consider an FY2022 budget, according to WTOC.

Some Chatham County services might be impacted since the county commission did not approve their 2022 budget on time.

On Friday, July 16, the Board of Commissioners will meet to try to approve that budget and prevent any additional impacts.

Chairman Chester Ellis says he is expecting the proposed 2022 budget to get approved Friday morning but because of the delay, he will immediately be asking the commission to take action after a gap in services.

A budget wasn’t approved last month as some commissioners’ questions went unanswered.

Augusta may raise streetlight fees, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The city streetlight subcommittee, chaired by Commissioner Sammie Sias, on Thursday approved a new fee schedule for all the nearly 80,000 Augusta land parcels, regardless of size.

The new annual fees, included on an owner’s property tax bill, are $100 per residential property and $150 per commercial parcel. Residents within Hephzibah and Blythe are exempt.

Right now most residents in the old city limits pay for streetlights as a portion of their property tax bill, from which $85 is transferred to the streetlight fund. Most homeowners outside the old city limits pay an $85 fee, which was raised from $30 in 2018. For neighborhoods without streetlights, the current way to get them is by petition.

The changes may lower total tax bills for some property owners, [City Administrator Odie Donald] said.

Port Wentworth City Council District 1 has drawn at least two candidates for an open seat, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Gabrielle Nelson, current Port Wentworth planning commission member, will face off against Alfonso Ribot, CEO of the Metropolitan Savannah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MSAVHCC), for the District 1 post in the November election.

Donald Hodges resigned from the office in May. He served a little more than a year on the council after being appointed to the seat in Feb. 2020 by Gov. Brian Kemp. Hodges replaced Shari Dyal, who resigned upon moving her residence outside of Port Wentworth.

The top issues voiced by the candidates involved development, as Port Wentworth is one of the fastest growing cities in Georgia, and bringing in more recreational resources.

The Whitfield County Commission named County Engineer Kent Benson as interim administrator, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Whitfield County Engineer Kent Benson will shadow County Administrator Mark Gibson, preparing to step into that role when Gibson leaves on Wednesday to become chief operations officer for Whitfield County Schools.

The county Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Monday to name Benson interim administrator until a hire is made for the position. Chairman Jevin Jensen typically votes only if there is a tie.

Benson, who has served as county engineer since March 2007, oversees the county’s building and infrastructure projects, transportation and stormwater planning, and the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) projects. A SPLOST is a 1% sales tax on most goods sold in the county that funds capital projects. Benson has a bachelor of engineering degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech.

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