Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 25, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 25, 2021

On October 25, 1774, the First Continental Congress addressed a petition to King George III raising concerns about the Coercive Acts passed by Parliament and asserting its loyalty to the monarch.

The wooden keel of USS Monitor was laid at Continental Iron Works at Greenpoint, New York on October 25, 1861.

On October 25, 1980, “You Shook Me All Night Long” became AC/DC’s first top 40 hit.

The Greene County African American Museum opened in Greensboro, Georgia earlier this month, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Opening day for the Greene County African American Museum in Greensboro on Oct. 16 marked a joyous occasion for all in attendance. But for Hillman, it was the first step in encapsulating the long-overlooked history of Black leaders in Greene County.

“It all goes back to when I was a child growing up in White Plains,” said Hillman, executive director of the museum. “I always wanted to know — how did I enter into history?”

Growing up in a segregated school setting, there were very few resources and only the white community had access to a public library. But teachers at her school worked to ensure students saw that Black leaders were making a difference, Hillman said.

Now, she hopes the museum in Greensboro can serve as a resource for those hoping to learn about Black history and to commemorate forgotten Black leaders in Greene County.

“Even though we’re living in 2021, some things are still happening, and until we understand our history, how can we pass anything on to our children?” Hillman said. “That’s one thing I want to do. I want to bring encouragement, to bring a voice to those people who came before me.”

The Norfolk Southern Railway is donating archival material to the Atlanta History Center, according to the AJC.

In 1836 the state of Georgia decided to build the Western & Atlantic railroad to link Georgia’s ports with the Midwest. A surveyor, seeking a location for the southernmost point of the W&A, found a likely spot in the North Georgia woods, and hammered a spike in the ground.

That mark on a map became a scruffy settlement called Terminus, which turned into Marthasville, and then Atlanta.

Next month Norfolk Southern opens its new national headquarters in Atlanta, and to celebrate, the company has donated a massive archive of railway history to the Atlanta History Center.

The Southern Railway archive includes hundreds of thousands of pages of correspondence, minute books, reports, construction plans, and more than 20,000 photographs that together provide a look at the growth of Atlanta and the Southeastern United States.

“The history of Southern Railway is inseparable from the history of this region,” said Jim Squires, chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern, in a statement. “This treasure trove of material belongs in Atlanta, and there’s no better home than the Atlanta History Center.”

“This puts us on the map as a museum with a quintessential railroad collection,” said Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the history center. “It gives us that piece of Atlanta history, and regional history, with such granular detail and so many stories we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Among the other memorabilia in the archive is the breakfast menu from the dining car that carried Franklin Delano Roosevelt to his favorite retreat in Warm Springs. On offer were stewed prunes, figs with syrup and cream, scrambled eggs with minced ham, Post Toasties, Grape Nuts, pots of coffee, tea and Postum and, for the very hungry chief executive, a breakfast sirloin steak.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A Dublin, Georgia man is accused of spending $57,000 in federal COVID relief loan proceeds to buy a Pokemon card, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Vinath Oudomsine was charged by criminal information on Tuesday with one count of wire fraud after the government said he lied about how many employees he had and the revenue his business generated in an application for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, during the pandemic.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines, though the actual sentence is usually far less.

The funds were meant to be used as working capital or for normal operating expenses, such as rent and utilities. But unlike Paycheck Protection Plan loans, EIDLs are not eligible for forgiveness.

According to the charges filed in the Southern District of Georgia, Oudomsine submitted an application for an EIDL in July 2020 on behalf a business he said has been in operation since 2018. The application stated that his business had 10 employees and gross revenue of $235,000 over 12 months.

As a result, prosecutors said, the Small Business Administration awarded Oudomsine an $85,000 loan on Aug. 4.

But five months later, Oudomsine used a large chunk of the funds to buy a Pokemon card for $57,789, prosecutors said. It wasn’t clear in court filings which Pokemon card Oudomsine is accused of purchasing, but certain rare and valuable Pokemon cards can sell for thousands of dollars.

This is the last week of in-person early voting, according to the Rome News Tribune.

[Last] week, 165 people have voted at the Floyd County Administration Building at 12 E. Fourth Ave. and 131 people have cast their ballots at the Rome Civic Center at 400 Civic Center Drive.

All together, 523 people have cast ballots in the municipal election.

[This] week will be the last week to vote before the Nov. 2 election and both polling places will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In addition to the people who voted in person, the elections office has sent out 144 absentee ballots and gotten 43 back.

Friday was the last day for a voter to request an absentee ballot. Those voting by absentee ballot can either return their ballot by mail or cast in the county’s ballot box, which will be located in the Floyd County Administration Building in the Community Room on the second floor.

All precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 2.

Bulloch County last week reported early voting numbers ahead of the weekend, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Through Thursday, 450 people had taken advantage of in-person early voting in the Nov. 2 city election in Statesboro. In Portal, only one person voted early for that city’s election and two people voted in Register, as of Thursday.

In the first two weeks of early voting, from Oct 12 until Friday morning, Brooklet had 10 in-person absentee voters and no requests for mailed-out absentee ballots, said Brooklet City Clerk Lori Phillips.

Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia’s unemployment has reached an all-time low, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp applauded Georgia’s unemployment rate dropping for the seventeenth straight month to 3.2% for September, an all-time low. Additionally, the number of employed Georgians rose above 5 million for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, and the number of unemployed Georgians was reported at the lowest level since June 2001 (161,786).

“As the top state for business for an eighth straight year with an all-time low unemployment rate, Georgia’s economy is booming,” said Governor Kemp. “Keeping Georgia open for business and getting people back to work has led to nearly 200,000 jobs added this year, record investment in communities across the state, and the fewest unemployed Georgians in twenty years. This historic news highlights the Peach State as the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Jobs were up 14,300 (1.3%) over the month and up 194,400 (4.4%) over the year to 4,578,200. 86% of the jobs lost in March 2020 and April 2020 have been gained back.

To take advantage of recruitment tools available to manage an employee talent search at no cost, employers can reach out to the Georgia Department of Labor for support and also access Employ Georgia to post job openings, search applicants, and invite potential candidates to apply. For more information on jobs and current labor force data, visit Georgia LaborMarket Explorer to view a comprehensive report.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Last week’s decline brings claims to the lowest level since the pandemic struck in March 2020. Claims, a proxy for layoffs, are holding well below a recent peak of 424,000 in mid-July but remain above 2019’s weekly average of 218,000.

Claims could return to their pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Employers are clinging to employees given it’s so hard to hire, it’s so hard to retain,” Mr. Frick said.

Job openings reached a record high this summer, though they eased in August. The openings are proving difficult to fill, in large part because fewer workers are seeking jobs. The labor force, the supply of people working or looking for a job, declined in September, separate Labor Department data show.

Americans are quitting their jobs at historically high rates, a sign of worker confidence in the job market. About 4.3 million employees quit in August, the highest for records dating to 2000, according to the Labor Department. The increase in workers quitting is also making some employers more eager to retain the employees they have.

Many economists expect worker shortages to persist, as long-term shifts, including accelerating retirements, reduce the pool of available workers. Some, though, think the severity of the shortages will ease this fall because of an abating pandemic, school reopenings and expiring unemployment benefits.

From WTOC:

Georgia briefly touched an all-time high jobless rate of 12.5% at the start of the pandemic in April 2020.

The state’s previous all-time low unemployment rate was 3.3% in January 2020.

Employer payrolls rose slightly from August, reaching 4.58 million statewide. Payrolls are the top labor market measure for many economists.

Payrolls still remain 1.9% below their pre-pandemic peak. The number of Georgia workers reporting having jobs rose above 5 million

Governor Kemp also had something to say about the Braves’ playoff win.

From FoxNews:

In a tweet posted shortly before midnight, while much of the Atlanta area was still celebrating the Braves’ 4-2 victory in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series – clinching the team’s first league title since 1999 – Kemp was recalling the events of the past summer, when Major League Baseball pulled its All-Star Game out of Atlanta and moved it to Denver in a dispute over Georgia’s new election law.

Kemp’s tweet took aim at both MLB and Stacey Abrams, the Democrat whom Republican Kemp defeated in Georgia’s last gubernatorial election in 2018 who has since made election and voting issues the focus of her continued political activism.

Back in April, MLB decided to relocate the scheduled July 13 All-Star Game after critics complained that Georgia’s election law would adversely affect minority and low-income voters.

Abrams continued to receive blame for the All-Star shift, despite arguing against economic boycotts in an essay for USA Today. But her seemingly contradictory positions prompted Kemp to call her “the biggest flip-flopper since John Kerry.”

Most potential jurors for the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers have seen, heard, or read about the case, according to WRDW.

Some people who last week were deemed fair-minded enough to serve on the jury still voiced opinions on the case or said they knew Arbery or the white men charged with chasing and shooting him.

One potential juror said she joined a bike ride to raise money for the slain Black man’s family.

Another said she has known one of the defendants, Greg McMichael, for 30 years because they worked together in the district attorney’s office.

They’re among 23 people the judge deemed qualified to serve.

Dozens more will be needed before a final jury gets selected.

Attorneys are sifting through 600 candidates to find 64 qualified potential jurors.

From there, they’ll narrow that down to 16 — 12 jurors and four alternates.

Redistricting next month will be complicated by the closer partisan split of the Georgia General Assembly and Georgia’s electorate, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

[T]he Georgia Democratic Party of 2021 is stronger than it was a decade ago. In the last two election cycles, Democrat Stacey Abrams lost an open gubernatorial race to Republican Brian Kemp by just 1.4 percentage points, while Democrats flipped two GOP-held congressional seats in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

Democrat Joe Biden carried Georgia by 11,779 votes last November on his way to turning Republican President Donald Trump out of office. And two months later, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeated Republican incumbents to win Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.

Republicans will still be in charge of drawing new maps based on the 2020 Census results during a special legislative session starting Nov. 3. But Georgia political observers aren’t looking for a repeat of 2011’s GOP successes.

The Peach State’s Black population has grown by 15.8% during the last decade. The state’s Hispanic population is up by 31.6%, and Asian Americans in Georgia have soared by 54.8%. All three minority groups tend to vote for Democrats.

Another trend that could play in Democrats’ favor in the upcoming redistricting process is a loss of population during the last decade in rural South Georgia, where voters tend to favor Republicans. By law, redrawn legislative districts cannot vary in population by more than 10%.

“[Republicans] are going to have to move some seats out of South Georgia to North Georgia,” said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. “It may take some creative cartography.”

Georgia Republicans do have some advantages they didn’t enjoy during the 2011 redistricting. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 2013 ruling did away with the “preclearance” provision of the federal Voting Rights Act, which required states with a history of racial discrimination to submit their congressional and legislative maps to the Justice Department.

Bullock said a further motive for Republicans not to take advantage of the lack of preclearance is that drawing districts designed to elect Black legislators helps Republicans politically by allowing them to “pack” surrounding districts with white voters likely to support GOP candidates.

“The idea that without preclearance, these Black districts are going to be carved up and split up is not going to happen,” he said.

Georgia Democrats released their own Congressional Redistricting plan that would give them an additional seat, according to the Associated Press via the Statesboro Herald.

The proposal would likely split Georgia’s congressional districts 7-7 among Democrats and Republicans, compared to the current 8-6 GOP majority. Republicans have already proposed one map that could create a 9-5 Republican split, and additional plans tilted toward the GOP are likely.

Georgia’s redistricting showdown is drawing near, with Gov. Brian Kemp having set Nov. 3 as the first day of a special session to create new maps for Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats as well as the 56 state Senate seats and 180 state House seats.

Democrats argue that their new map is superior because it creates six districts with majority nonwhite populations, recognizing that’s who’s driving population growth in a state where whites may already be in the minority.

“It should reflect our diverse population,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia said in a telephone interview. “It should allow voters of color to elect the political candidates of their choice.”

Bishop also said the map should reflect a state that the recent narrow Democratic wins show is divided 50-50.

“Georgia’s voters are pretty much divided equally,” he said.

The Second District Georgia Republican Party held ant event and straw poll this weekend.

United States Representative Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) responded to Democratic changes to plans to track banking activity, according to The Brunswick News.

In a plan supported by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, banks would be required to report the transactions of all personal and business accounts to the Internal Revenue Service where the inflow and outflow totaled $600 or more annually.

Democrats are now raising the threshold to $10,000 annually and exempting W2 wage income from the inflow and outflow data. The idea is to catch tax cheats, emphasize Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., two outspoken backers of adjusting the reporting threshold.

Rep. Buddy Carter, Coastal Georgia’s voice in the U.S. House of Representatives, says there are more important issues the dominant political party in Congress ought to be addressing.

“With a border crisis raging out of control, skyrocketing inflation making it harder for families to put food on the table, and gas prices nearing decade-long highs in all 50 states, there are certainly more pressing items for the Biden Administration to focus on right now,” Carter said in a statement to The News.

“This unprecedented intrusion on the private lives of Americans also places a crushing data collection and reporting burden on small banks struggling to keep themselves and the communities they serve afloat. In doing so, it hands over hordes of data to an agency that has repeatedly — sometimes willingly — suffered data breaches, unnecessarily exposing Americans to identity theft.”

“President Biden and Washington Democrats should immediately abandon the plan as well as their hyper-partisan socialist agenda and focus on fixing the many crises he’s thrust on the American people,” Carter said.

A state Administrative Law Judge ruled that the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission may no longer pursue charges against former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, according to the AJC.

A state administrative law judge decided that it’s taken too long for ethics investigators to go after former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine on allegations that he illegally used campaign funds for a down payment on a house, luxury cars and other personal expenses.

Judge Ronit Walker also ruled that the state ethics commission couldn’t go after Oxendine for accepting $120,000 in bundled contributions from two Georgia insurance companies in 2008 when he was running for the Republican nomination for governor.

“No matter how patently obvious it may be that corporations are ‘affiliated,’ the legislature has chosen only to penalize the donor,” Walker wrote in dismissing the illegal contributions case against Oxendine, citing state law.

“We strongly disagree with the decision by the administrative law judge and will pursue all appellate options available to us to ensure that Mr. Oxendine is ultimately held accountable,” said David Emadi, executive secretary of the ethics commission. “We do not consider this case concluded.”

The Macon Telegraph and Ledger-Enquirer have a series on how salt marshes on the Georgia coast are changing. It’s a great read if you like spending time in the water.

Salt marshes like the one Wright visited are segments of the Carolinas and Georgia that many people find hard to forget. The briny wetlands provide food and shelter to marine life, fuel local economies, draw recreational anglers and commercial oystermen, and provide scenery that distinguishes them as unparalleled in the eastern United States.

But these expanses of grass, which cover 1 million acres from the Outer Banks to north Florida, face danger from the earth’s changing climate and rising seas. Higher ocean levels threaten to erode marsh banks and kill tidal grasses.

Changes in South Atlantic salt marshes are not as obvious as what’s occurring on the Gulf Coast, where thousands of acres of marine wetlands have eroded and entire islands have disappeared. But scientists in the Carolinas and Georgia are paying close attention as the warming earth causes the sea to expand and polar ice to melt.

Anywhere from 14 to 34% of the existing salt marshes along the South Atlantic could be lost by 2060 if seas continue to rise as expected, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Charleston office, which bases its estimate on a variety of factors, including a moderate increase in ocean levels.

Marshes near Wilmington, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Savannah are among those facing threats.

Three school districts in the Columbus area have made masks optional rather than mandatory, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

A third school district in the Columbus area is making masks optional for students, employees and guests in its buildings.

Citing a decreasing number of COVID-19 cases, the Harris County School District has changed its mask policy from mandatory to optional, effective Monday.

HCSD joins Troup County and Lee County in making such a change this month. St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School is phasing in an optional mask policy, and on Oct. 18 Brookstone School made masks optional as well.

Masks remain required on buses, per the Jan. 29 federal order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HCSD will return to mandatory masks in buildings if the number of reported cases among its students and employees in the district rises about three-quarters of 1%, according to the news release.

That threshold amounts to 45 weekly cases.

Devin Pandy’s campaign for Mayor of Gainesville has received funding from out-of-state donors, according to the Gainesville Times.

More than a third of Pandy’s campaign funds have come from out of state, including from California, New York and Alaska, and more than 80% are from outside of Gainesville, according to campaign contribution disclosure reports. But some of them might be names you recognize from Hollywood.

Pandy has raised a total of $6,221 since his last filing on Oct. 15, and only 12 of 104 listed donors are from the city. Forty-three are from elsewhere in Georgia and 49 donors are from out of state. The average amount donated was $60.

Pandy said he has out-of-state supporters from his 21 years in the U.S. Army and some people still support him after he ran against U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District. His fundraising efforts came largely from social media, his campaign website and events in Gainesville, he said.

His opponent, Sam Couvillon, has raised $44,605 since starting his campaign in April, and $24,500 was from listed donors in Gainesville, according to his most recent filing on Oct. 5. The total amount includes $6,005 in donations under $100, which candidates are not required to report individually.

Couvillon said many of his former fraternity brothers from University of Georgia donated money as well as people who know him from his time living in Jacksonville.

Couvillon had $21,878.77 cash on hand as of Oct. 5 and spent most of his funds on consulting fees, promotional products, advertising and his website.

Effingham County is relocating some offices beginning at the end of this month, according to the Savannah Morning News.

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