Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 24, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 24, 2021

General Charles Lee of the Continental Army told Congress that Georgia’s value to the young nation required more forces to defend against the British on August 24, 1776.

On August 24, 1931, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution appointing a committee to work with the Governor in planning a bicentennial celebration to be held in 1933.

On August 24, 1945, the United States Postal Service held a first day of issue ceremony in Warm Springs, Georgia for the release of a stamp bearing the images of Franklin D. Roosevelt and The Little White House.

FDR Warm Springs

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Herschel Walker registered to vote in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The former University of Georgia football star registered to vote in Georgia on Aug. 17 after decades of living in Texas, state records show. He listed his residence as the Buckhead home owned by his wife, Julie Blanchard, one of multiple properties he maintains in the state.

Walker’s supporters hope that his high name recognition, combined with a likely endorsement from former President Donald Trump, establish him as the clear front-runner in the race to unseat Warnock if he enters the contest. Several public and internal polls of the race show Walker with an early advantage.

But some senior Republicans have voiced concern that Walker’s past could dog his potential candidacy, including his history of violent behavior, struggles with mental illness and an ongoing state investigation into whether Blanchard cast an illegal ballot in Georgia while living in Texas. She has said she did nothing wrong.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Electronic voter registration records show Walker registered last Tuesday at an Atlanta house owned by his wife, Julie Blanchard.

Former President Donald Trump has been urging Walker to run for Senate as a Republican against Democrat Raphael Warnock next year. Walker has acknowledged that he is considering a run, but has declined to discuss his plans.

From Newsweek:

Walker, who has been living in Texas, registered to vote in Georgia, which means he’s a resident of that state now.

The Newsweek story is incorrect. Voter registration does not determine a person’s residency. It’s far more complicated than that. I’d be interested to know whether Mr. Walker registered online or in-person. Also, I suspect the AJC and his other opposition will tell us soon whether he moves his driver’s license to Georgia.

Governor Brian Kemp spoke in Columbus, according to WRBL.

Attendees were able to meet Gov. Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp, who arrived following a trip to LaGrange earlier in the day. Kemp spoke to the crowd about his efforts fighting crime in Atlanta, pay raises for teachers and “defending election integrity” through Senate Bill 202.

Kemp also spoke about how his experience building his first business helped guide his decisions to “protect the livelihood of small businesses” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re just working hard every day to build support, continuing to build our ground game,” Kemp said. “We announced grassroots chairs in all 159 counties months ago. We’re continuing to build that out. We’re also focusing on our fundraising, but also just reminding people of the successes we’ve had and the record I’ve put together fulfilling campaign promises that I was talking about back in 2017 and 2018.”

From the LaGrange News:

Kemp sat down with The LaGrange Daily News for an interview following his speech and was asked specifically about the unemployment rate and how local businesses, such as restaurants, continue to struggle to find employees. Many local restaurants have had to shut down or change their hours due to the limited number of employees they have available.

“We have to keep focused on workforce development,” Kemp said. “But I also think it’s going to take a little time. I think the economy is getting reshaped. A lot of displaced restaurant workers may now be working in a manufacturing plant somewhere, so it’s just a really unique environment out there.”

Kemp said Georgia needs to keep working on areas where it’s had a lot of success —workforce development, the state’s technical college system, career academies and career technical agricultural education programs.

Kemp was also asked about the COVID-19 pandemic. Troup County has seen 486 new cases over the last two weeks and three public schools have been closed since Wednesday due to rising cases.

“The answer is getting people vaccinated,” Kemp said. “There are one or two things are going to happen. The Delta variant spreads so fast, people are going either going to get COVID-19, and they’re going to have natural antibodies, or they’re going to get vaccinated … You can debate mandates for masks and vaccines and shutting down or not, and every state in the country is dealing with this, and if they’re not, they’re fixing to be.”

Kemp said his biggest concern is ensuring that hospital workers have the staff they need to deal with the rising numbers.

“The problem is you’ve got a lot of the rural hospitals that had beds, they just don’t have enough staff. Because there’s literally a nationwide shortage … A lot of health care workers are worn out. They don’t want to work in that environment. A lot of them retired. And so we’re trying to help augment that staffing. We just announced a few days ago an additional $125 million to help hire up to 1,500 people.”

“There was a survey, some polling, that said three out of 10 people had not gotten it because it hadn’t [gotten] final approval. So, we’ll see if that plays out,” he said. “I hope that’s the case. But the point is, if people are considering getting vaccinated, I would tell them to make that decision with prudence because the Delta variant is spreading so fast that if they wait too long, it’s going to be for naught.”

The Effingham County courthouse has been closed to the public, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Effingham County Judicial Complex and the Clerk of Court’s offices were closed by judicial order on Friday after numerous people tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The order, set to expire 8 a.m. today, was extended for the remainder of this week, announced Clerk of Courts Jason Bragg.

Bragg said he and 12 of his deputy clerks contracted the virus. Of the 13, one staffer went to the hospital. Bragg said he did not know if everyone in the office was vaccinated against the virus.

Statesboro City Council meets today and will consider vaccine incentinves, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia nursing homes are seeking millions in federal COVID relief funds, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Georgia Health Care Association submitted a request Monday for $347 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Congress passed last spring for nursing homes, citing a significant decline in nursing home occupancy during the pandemic.

Statewide, nursing home occupancy fell from 84.5% in December 2019 to 69.6% in February 2021 before rebounding slightly to 72.2% last month. However, 27.7% of nursing homes have occupancies at or below 64%.

“These reductions in occupancy have resulted in a devastating loss of revenue,” said Tony Marshall, the association’s president and CEO. “Long-term care providers have a critical need for additional financial resources to continue to remain viable to meet the needs of vulnerable Georgians during this period of recovery.”

The Hall County Board of Education voted down a proposal to pay incentives for employees who get vaccinated, according to the Gainesville Times.

The measure, proposed by Superintendent Will Schofield, was meant to incentivize school employees to get the jab by Oct. 15. The district estimates only 50% of its employees are fully vaccinated at a time when the district is battling a surge of cases, with 219 students and staff testing positive for the coronavirus and 686 currently under quarantine. Mask mandates have been imposed at six schools across the district.

“When my people are going down like flies,” Superintendent Will Schofield said, “I’d pay $400 out of my own pocket to (get staff vaccinated),” adding that five staff members are currently in the intensive care unit with COVID-19.

Board chair Craig Herrington, vice chair Nath Morris and board member Mark Pettitt voted against the motion. Every member objected “in principle” to paying employees as a means of incentivizing vaccination, but members Bill Thompson and Sam Chapman said the benefits outweighed the costs and voted for approval. “If I can save one life, I’m all for it,” Chapman said.

Left wing groups say they will oppose a state takeover of the Fulton County elections board, according to the AJC.

The groups united near the Capitol after the State Election Board last week appointed a performance review panel to investigate problems in Fulton, the state’s most populous county and one that backed Democrat Joe Biden over Republican Donald Trump with 73% of the vote.

Fulton’s elections were fraught with problems last year, such as long lines, undelivered absentee ballots and conspiracy theories, but voting organizations say the county is being scapegoated by Georgia’s Republican majority.

“We’re taking action to make sure that democracy is protected and that our right to vote is protected,” said Helen Butler, executive director for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a civil rights organization. “We do not intend for our local boards of elections to be taken over in this process.”

The takeover process was created by Georgia’s new voting law, passed in the spring by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. After the performance review is completed, the State Election Board has the power to install a temporary superintendent with authority over vote counting, polling places and staffing.

United States District Court Judge J.P. Boulee enjoined enforcement of Georgia’s prohibition of photography within voting precincts, according to the Associated Press via WTOC.

A federal judge has found that a part of Georgia’s sweeping new election law that broadly prohibits the photographing of a voted ballot is likely unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee on Friday granted a preliminary injunction on that section of the law, meaning it cannot be enforced for now. In the same order, he declined to block a number of other provisions that mostly have to do with monitoring or photographing parts of the election process.

The judge’s order came in a lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity group, and others. Boulee wrote that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit “have shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim” that the broad ban on photographing a voted ballot in both public and nonpublic places violates their First Amendment rights.

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter was sued by the City of Grayson alleging she is obligated to collect property taxes for the city without putting a portion of the money in her own pocket, according to the AJC.

A hearing was held on August 13 for the lawsuit that the City of Grayson filed against Porter in late July after she declined to collect the city’s property taxes. Public officials who attended the court hearing reported a large crowd attended, including some employees from Porter’s office who appeared to be there in support of her.

The state Legislature took the power to negotiate city-county contracts out of the hands of some tax commissioners and placed it into the hands of county commissions. The new law currently affects only Gwinnett and Fulton counties, as it was written to apply to counties that have 14 or more cities.

The City of Grayson and Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners tested the new law by entering a June agreement without Porter that would obligate her to collect the city’s taxes. Grayson would pay a $1.80-per-parcel fee to the county under the contract but not a personal fee to Porter.

Now, Porter is challenging the constitutionality of the bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp. Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, who is representing Porter, argued in a counterclaim that the law unconstitutionally redefines duties and targets the tax commissioners of Fulton and Gwinnett.

“(Porter’s) labor and services have been sold by and between others, for those others to reap the benefits and collect the fruits of her labors, without her having had any say in the matter whatsoever,” Sears wrote.

Stone Mountain Park has a new logo showing the lake side of the mountain, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association took the next step Monday toward deemphasizing the Confederate symbolism that has made the park in DeKalb County a lightning rod.

The association’s board adopted a new logo that depicts the southern face of the mountain away from the massive carving of three Confederate leaders. It replaces the previous logo dominated by images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

The Stone Mountain board passed four resolutions in May aimed at toning down the Confederate imagery associated with the park while remaining in compliance with a state law that prohibits removing historic monuments from public property.

The new logo, the subject of one of the resolutions, features Stone Mountain Lake in the foreground with the mountain rising behind it. The back side of the park, which is less familiar to many parkgoers, features two golf courses, a campground, granite quarry, grist mill and the Evergreen Conference Center.

The resolutions also call for providing historic context to the carving by adding a museum exhibit at the park’s Memorial Hall, relocating the Confederate flags lining the park’s main walk-up trail to the base of the mountain, and seeking national historic site designation for a covered bridge at the park designed and built by a Black contractor from Athens.

The Murray County Board of Education proposes to keep the same property tax millage rate as the prior year, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Murray County Board of Education plans to hold the property tax rate steady at 15.5 mills, the same as it’s been since 2003.

“We’ve kept it the same whether (local) property values went up or down, (even though) it costs more to live every year, as we all know,” said Steve Loughridge, Murray County Schools’ superintendent. While a millage rate of 15.5 should “bring in about $13.7 million” for the school system, that same millage rate provided $14.1 million in revenue for Murray County Schools in 2009, before ‘The Great Recession’ deflated everything.”

Murray County Schools’ millage rate is lower than any surrounding school system, Loughridge said.

Though the millage rate of 15.5 mills will remain the same, “the way Georgia code is written, it has to be labeled a tax increase, even though we don’t feel like it is,” because properties with higher assessments than the previous year will pay more in taxes, he said. “It has to be labeled a tax increase because property values go up or down depending on the market, and we have no control over” that.

“Your taxes could go down if your property value went down,” he said. The school system “could raise the millage rate when property values go down, and that, to me, would be a tax increase.”

Rome City Commissioners are working to change the curfew for teens, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rome City Commissioners took the first step Monday toward changing a city-wide curfew for teens from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The curfew applies to all people under the age of 17 who are not accompanied by a responsible adult. Commissioner Bonny Askew said the Public Safety Committee recommended the move after a rolling fight downtown on Aug. 14.

Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett called the fights “heart wrenching at best.” She said charges were filed against nine juveniles and two adults. They ranged in age from 14 to 17.

Former State Representative Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) will run for State Senate District 3, according to The Brunswick News.

Jones, who represented District 167 (which covers parts of Glynn, McIntosh and Long counties) from 2015 to 2020, announced Monday he intends to run for the State Senate District 3 seat in the 2022 elections. That office, — which covers all of Glynn, McIntosh, Camden and Brantley counties and part of Charlton County — is currently held by Sen. Sheila McNeill, R-Brunswick.

Jones lost his bid for a fourth term to represent District 167 last year when he was defeated in the 2020 Republican primary by current Rep. Buddy DeLoach, R-Townsend.

Among the “critical issues” Jones said he wants to address through legislation are replacing Dominion voting systems with a secure paper ballot system, preventing the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and passing legislation that prevents the federal government from infringing on citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

Five candidates qualified for the Troup County Commission seat vacated by the death of Richard English, according to the LaGrange News.

English was the longest serving commissioner in Georgia when he passed away earlier this month. He’s also the only Black commissioner Troup County has ever had.

Candidates who have qualified to run for his position include Kendall Butler (nonpartisan), Travis Hart (democrat), Jimmy McCamey (democrat), Norma Tucker (nonpartisan) and Ernest Ward (democrat), according to Troup County Elections Supervisor Andrew Harper. Qualifying ends at noon on Wednesday, so the field could get larger.

Since this is a special election, there will not be a primary. Every candidate will run against the other candidates, and if one gets to 50.1% of the vote, then they will be the new commissioner. If no candidate reaches that number then the top vote getters will be in a run-off on Nov. 30.

Four candidates qualified for Mayor of Hogansville, according to the LaGrange News.

Lake Park Mayor Walter Keith Sandlin has died, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

[Lake Park City Council Member Tom] Barr said City Councilman Ronald Carter is mayor pro-tem and will take over Sandlin’s duties. He said the Lake Park City Council still has a quorum.

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