Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 22, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 22, 2021

On October 24, 1733, the Georgia trustees ordered a ship to Rotterdam to pick up a group of Lutherans expelled from Salzburg, Austria, and then send the Salzburgers to Georgia.

General James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, signed a treaty with the Spanish government of Florida on October 22, 1736.

On October 24, 1775, Lord John Murray Dunmore, British Governor of Virginia, ordered the British fleet to attack Norfolk, VA.

On October 24, 1790, the Rev. John Wesley wrote the last entry in his journal, which he began keeping on October 14, 1735.

On October 22, 1832, the Cherokee Land Lottery began in Milledgeville, with more than 200,000 Georgians competing for 53,309 lots of land.

Georgia Governor John B. Gordon signed legislation on October 22, 1887 that increased the number of justices on the Georgia Supreme Court from 3 to 5.

President Grover Cleveland arrived in Atlanta for the Cotton States and International Exposition on October 22, 1895.

The first American “Unknown Soldier” was chosen on October 24, 1921 in Chalons-sur-Marne, France.

Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket traveled to Paris and then to Le Havre, France, where it would board the cruiser Olympia for the voyage across the Atlantic. Once back in the United States, the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

On the Presidential campaign trail, Franklin Delano Roosevelt arrived in Atlanta on October 23, 1932, speaking to 10,000, and continued on to his “second home” at Warm Springs, Georgia.

smFDR Atlanta 1932

FDR campaigning in Atlanta and Georgia in 1932.

FDR Georgia

When he arrived at Warm Springs, FDR gave a short speech:

“Two more weeks to go. . . . First, let me say this: this old hat, a lot of you people have seen it before. It’s the same hat. But I don’t think it is going to last much longer after the 8th of November. I have a superstition about hats in campaigns, and I am going to wear it until midnight of the 8th of November. . . . Well, it’s fine to see, and I’m looking forward to coming down here for the usual Thanksgiving party at Warm Springs, and having a real old-fashioned Thanksgiving with my neighbors again. I thank you!”

The Charter of the United Nations took effect on October 24, 1945.

On October 24, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pledged the United States’ support for the South Vietnam government led by President Ngo Dinh Diem.

On October 23, 1971, the Coca-Cola Company launched the advertising campaign “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

On October 24, 1976, Newsweek released a poll showing Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter leading President Gerald Ford in 24 states, with a combined 308 electoral voters.

On October 22, 1991, the Braves played Minnesota in the first World Series game in Atlanta.

Georgia-born Clarence Thomas was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on October 23, 1991.

The Atlanta Braves won Game 2 of the 1995 World Series, beating Cleveland 4-3, on October 22, 1995.

Georgia artist Howard Finster died on October 22, 2001.

One of my dogs is named Finster, after the artist.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp issued Executive Order #10.21.21.01, extending the State of Emergency for Continued COVID-19 Economic Recovery through November 27, 2021.

The COVID death rate in rural Georgia is now higher than for urban areas, according to the AJC.

Since August, as the pandemic’s delta variant caused a surge in cases, rural Georgians have been dying of COVID-19 at more than twice the rate of their urban counterparts, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of state health data.

COVID-19 has claimed more than 19,000 lives in urban counties like Fulton, DeKalb, Muscogee and Bibb, the type of counties where 80% of the state’s population resides. But in the quiet small towns that make up much of the state, the per-capita toll is even greater, especially during this latest surge.

In Pierce County, with a population of 19,000 located a dozen miles northeast of Waycross, a resident was 10 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than someone in 1 million-strong Fulton County, home of the state Capitol, the analysis found.

A big part of the reason for that, medical experts say, is the low vaccination rates in rural Georgia. Only 38% of residents who live in those areas are fully vaccinated compared to 45% in urban counties, according to the AJC’s analysis. But, experts add, the low vaccination rates don’t fully capture why mortality rates are so much higher in rural areas than elsewhere.

Public health experts say rural residents started out more vulnerable to the coronavirus because of a lack of access to medical care, which, in turn, means they are more likely to have untreated or uncontrolled chronic health conditions.

“In general, rural people are older, sicker and poorer, all of which are characteristics associated with more vulnerability to the virus,” said Keith Mueller, director of the Iowa-based Rural Policy Research Institute.

Houston County Superior Court Judge Katherine Lumsden is considering a motion by prosecutors to remove the defense attorney for elected Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Jones, according to WSAV.

It was high-stakes legal maneuvering that could end up with Jones’ criminal defense attorney, Chris Breault, being removed from the case because the state says he’s a probable witness in the public corruption case set for trial Nov. 8, 2021.

The state argued that Breault acted in conjunction with Jones to try and represent a witness in a murder trial that ended in a hung jury earlier this year. And the state maintains the Facebook messages between Breault and that witness should be admitted into evidence to show that Jones would go to any lengths to obtain a murder conviction.

Breault says the state just wants him off the case because he was successful in Jones’ defense of unrelated felony charges involving alleged criminal property damage. That case was declared a mistrial after witness misconduct. The state later announced it was dropping the charges.

“They don’t want me in court arguing for Mark Jones,” Breault said. “That’s the last thing they want.”

Lumsden told the attorneys a decision on that and the other motions she heard Thursday would likely be entered into the court record Friday, or Monday at the latest.

Breault and Lumsden also had a testy exchange over one of the charges against Jones. It is alleged that Jones offered Chief Assistant DA Sheneka Terry a $1,000 bonus to obtain a murder conviction.

Breault: “So, he has the authority to distribute a significant amount of money to his employees and for other things as part of the discretionary funds. So, if he wants to incentivize the results, and he was to incentivize the work for the ADAs, where’s the law that says you can’t do that?”

Lumsden: “It is in the statute.”

Breault: “Where is it, though?”

Lumsden: “The oath of office says I will not take any public money. And forfeiture funds and other funds have very specific rules about what you spend it on. And specifically prohibits you from paying staff with it. I don’t know what the number is, but you can look it up.’

Breault: “I have looked it up and that’s not true.”

“You are getting periously close to being disrespectful,” the judge said.

There was a salacious accusation of Jones allegedly trying to acquire cocaine one night this summer. The prosecution withdrew that motion to present it into evidence.

Republican State Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White) campaigned for Labor Commissioner in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Bruce Thompson said he believes something is seriously wrong with Georgia’s Department of Labor.

“The agency does not realize what their mission is and that is to serve people,” he said.

Thompson, a state senator from District 14 and CEO of several firms, is running as a Republican for the labor commissioner’s position in the Nov. 8 general election.

He said the labor departments in Georgia and the Carolinas received a $45 million grant from the federal government to update software that meshes with federal computer systems to make data transfer seamless.

Georgia’s labor office then pulled out of that agreement to develop its own software independently, he said.

The result: The Carolinas had much less of an unemployment claims logjam during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic than Georgia did, since the Peach State’s labor software was incompatible with federal systems, Thompson said.

Georgia’s has a major problem with workforce development, Thompson said. A number of career centers around the state that were shuttered during the height of the pandemic remain closed and Thompson chided Butler for their continued closure.

Note that the November 8 general election they mention is 2022. This year’s general election is November 2, 2021.

Brunswick voters continue going to the polls in early voting, according to The Brunswick News.

Two non-partisan seats — mayor and North Ward — are being contested.

Eight candidates are seeking the mayor’s seat held by Cornell Harvey the past eight years. Harvey cannot seek another term because of term limits.

Challengers hoping to replace Harvey for a four-year term are incumbent North Ward Commissioner Vincent Williams, Ann M. Senior, Cosby Johnson, Helen Rachel Ladson, Ivan D. Figuroa, John D. Perry II, Robbie Tucker and Travis Slim Riddle.

Four candidates qualified to seek the North Ward City Commission seat held by Williams. Earnest Peewee Culbreath, Gary B. Cook Sr., Kendra Leola Rolle and Neil R. Foster will face each other in that contest.

South Ward Commissioner Felicia Harris is unopposed in her bid for another term of office.

Christina Redden, assistant supervisor for the board of elections and registration, said as of Thursday morning 223 people had cast early votes. A total of 82 absentee ballots have been sent out and 32 have been returned, Redden said.

So far, she said the early votes and absentee ballots are ahead of the pace set in the 2019 city elections where only 8 percent of the registered voters showed up to the polls.

U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker released a new ad, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

One day after a Republican U.S. Senate rival launched a statewide radio ad campaign, University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker released a digital ad focusing on his Wrightsville hometown roots.

The ad features Don Norton, head football coach and athletic director at Johnson County High School.

“People always talk about what a great player he was,” Norton says in the ad. “To me and to our kids here at Johnson County High School, he’s more of a role model and a fantastic human being. He treats everybody as if they are more important than he is.”

On Tuesday, one of Walker’s three GOP rivals, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, began running a radio ad statewide highlighting his recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border. In the ad, Black criticized Walker – who has been endorsed by former President Trump – for what Black’s campaign called Walker’s pro-amnesty, pro-citizenship position on illegal immigration.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said allegations of cell phone GPS signals reported in the vicinity of ballot boxes was insufficient to trigger an investigation, according to the AJC.

The head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the state GOP chairman that there’s not enough evidence to pursue unsubstantiated claims of ballot harvesting in the 2020 elections based on cellphone signals collected by a conservative organization.

GBI Director Vic Reynolds wrote in a letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that GPS signals alone, without any witnesses or perpetrators, fall short of meriting a fresh law enforcement inquiry.

“Based on what has been provided and what has not been provided, an investigation is not justified,” Reynolds wrote.

Reynolds’ letter to Texas-based True the Vote and Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer came in response to their allegations that GPS data identified 279 cellphones that had made multiple trips to within 100 feet of ballot drop boxes between Oct. 1 and Jan. 5.

“What has not been provided is any other kind of evidence that ties these cellphones to ballot harvesting,” Reynolds wrote in the Sept. 30 letter. “As it exists, the data, while curious, does not rise to the level of probable cause that a crime has been committed.”

Without probable cause, the GBI would be unable to obtain a search warrant to examine the same GPS data provided by True the Vote, Reynolds wrote.

Georgia’s statewide high school graduation rate held steady during the pandemic, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Peach State posted a graduation rate of 83.7% for the 2020-2021 school term, down slightly from the 83.8% rate achieved during the previous term, the Georgia Department of Education reported Thursday.

“Given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to see Georgia’s graduation rate holding steady,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Combined with the class of 2021’s increases in ACT and SAT scores, this is an encouraging indicator about the work being done in public schools. Teachers and students have continued to succeed in the face of challenging circumstances.”

High school graduation rates have risen steadily during the past decade. This year’s rate marked an increase of 14% over the class of 2012.

Calls to rename Fort Benning after the late Colin Powell have increased, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Stephen Baker, public affairs director of the Naming Commission, said there was a “noticeable uptick” in the number of online submissions recommending that a base be named for Powell. Fort Benning near Columbus was among the installations that survey takers said should bear his name.

Powell has several ties to the Columbus area. After graduating from the City College of New York and receiving a commission as an Army second lieutenant in 1958, Powell went through basic training at Fort Benning. Columbus at that time was still segregated, and during a 2016 interview with CBS, Powell recalled not being able to get a hamburger in the city.

Immediately after his first tour in Vietnam, Powell; his wife, Alma; and their children returned to Fort Benning. They briefly lived in a rental home in Phenix City before moving into a government-owned home in Columbus. Powell attended Infantry Officer Advanced Course at the post and was promoted to major in 1966.

He left Benning in 1967. Powell’s home at 172A Arrowhead Road is marked with a bronze plaque in commemoration, according to Fort Benning’s website.

Crawford County Sheriff Lewis Walker received the 2020 “Sheriff of the Year” award from the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, according to 13WMAZ.

This year’s meeting took place in Jones County, and they also honored the 2021 Sheriff of the Year – Clay Whittle from Columbia County.

“I never thought of being up here of getting this honor, I’ll tell you that right off the bat,” [Sheriff Walker] said. “You know, just being around the sheriffs and being who you are, that’s something we were taught in bringing up around the home. Our parents taught us to treat others the way you want to be treated and it will take you a long way in life.”

Gov. Brian Kemp was the featured speaker at Thursday’s luncheon. He says they are working to do more for officers, but it starts with a ‘thank you.’

“That’s what the $1,000 law enforcement bonus was all about. Not necessarily about the money, but letting them recognize that we appreciate them putting their lives on the line every day. We appreciate their families, and their staff supporting them in those efforts,” said Kemp.

Grovetown Mayor Gary Jones was fired from his other job as a Waynesboro police officer, according to WJBF via WSAV.

In the statement, Jones claims he was terminated “due to the fact he found discrepancies in the Municipal Court as it relates to unaccounted monies.” Jones claims the city told the chief not to call the GBI so they could conduct an “independent” investigation.

[Jones posted on Facebook:]

“The Waynesboro Chief and the Vice Mayor have called me in off of vacation in a cowardly fashion, to terminate my employment with the city. The letter I was presented was due to the fact that I found discrepancies in the Municipal Court as it relates to unaccounted monies. The city directed the Chief not to call in the GBI or any other outside agency so they could conduct an “independent” investigation with the city attorney…… who by the way admitted along with the City Manager at the last Council Meeting that at least $ 2,000 was unaccounted for. It’s more than that trust me.”

The I-16 overpass in Treutlen County that was damaged by a truck will begin repairs in 2022 and an estimated completion in summer, according to 13WMAZ.

Upgrades to the Savannah Convention Center are on schedule for completion in 2023, according to WTOC.

The upgrades being made to the convention center are vast, which will double it in size. There will be two new exhibit halls making it four total, a new ballroom, kitchen area, meeting rooms, and a 900-space parking garage.

Dougherty County has applied for funding to expand broadband internet access, according to WALB.

[T]he county approved submitting an application for the ARP Broadband Infrastructure Grant.

The county is aiming to serve the unincorporated area in Dougherty County, but because it’s in the early stages, officials can’t pinpoint exactly how many people it will help at this time.

Dougherty County Project Engineer Jeremy Brown said the $15 million project will reach about 90% of unincorporated, underserved or not served areas in the county.

The county is partnering with AT&T for the project. Many of the commissioners, including Clinton Johnson, expressed their concerns over the fact that only one company will be offering the service.

“I don’t want corporate or higher institutions to use federal government dollars to drive where they make more money and still leave people in the unincorporated area uncovered,” said Johnson.

Candidates for Gainesville Mayor discussed affordable housing, according to AccessWDUN.

Current Gainesville City Council member Sam Couvillon, who is a candidate in the mayoral race, said the current housing situation in the city is tricky, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think homeowners are very happy to see the increase in value that has been shown here in Gainesville over the last two years,” Couvillon said. “The tricky part of that is the entry point for a first-time homebuyer is getting to where it’s hard to be able to buy a house, to be able to buy your first house.”

Devin Pandy, who previously ran against Congressman Andrew Clyde for Georgia’s ninth congressional district seat, is also a candidate in the mayoral race.

Pandy said he believes housing affordability is a major issue in Gainesville.

“Almost half of the residents here can only afford $650 a month in rent and utilities before becoming house burdened according to HUD’s definition of being house burdened,” Pandy said.

More solid work on local elections from AccessWDUN.

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