Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 30, 2021


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 30, 2021

On November 30, 1782, British and American signed a preliminary treaty in Paris to end the American Revolution, which included withdrawal of British troops and recognition of American independence.

On November 30, 1819, the SS Savannah returned to Savannah, GA from its trip as the first steamship to cross the Atlantic.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Politico has a fascinating story about absentee voter fraud in North Carolina.

[Mark] Harris had lost the 2016 Republican primary for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District by a mere 134 votes. A handful of absentee votes in Bladen County had made all the difference.

The story of what happened in the race for North Carolina’s 9th District shows just how rare and also how basic and local election fraud really is. What happened in Bladen County in 2018 wasn’t carried out by sophisticated computers from a foreign land, but by low-level operatives with handwritten lists and spreadsheets in a forgotten stretch of eastern North Carolina where the median household income is $36,000 a year, where the most prominent employer is a hog-slaughtering plant and where folks were desperate enough to knock on doors and ask for people’s votes for candidates they didn’t know.

On the night of the June 2016 primary, as Mark Harris conceded victory to Pittenger, [his son] John clicked through the results: Out of 26,606 cast his dad had lost by a margin of one half of 1 percent. It was late, 11 p.m., when he shot both of his parents an email: “I mentioned by text that things looked strange coming out of Bladen County. I’ve taken another look, and can confirm that the absentee by mail votes look very strange.”

The results were close enough that Harris and his campaign team considered calling for a recount. Any wrongdoing they could find, they figured, would only bolster their argument. In his email, John Harris highlighted the wild mail-in ballot numbers in Bladen, which ran completely counter to the overall results:

• 221 votes for Todd Johnson, who finished third overall in the district

• 4 votes for Mark Harris, who nearly won the election

• 1 (one) vote for Robert Pittenger, the sitting congressman

“The irregularity suggests perhaps there is a more systemic error, and given that you outperformed Pittenger in both early voting and on Election Day in Bladen County, it may be worth investigating,” John went on in his email. “This smacks of something gone awry.”

Today is Runoff Election day in a number of jurisdictions. If you’re not sure if you have a runoff on your local ballot or where to vote, you can sign in to the Secretary of State’s MVP Page. Once you sign in, you can click the link for a sample ballot, which should tell you whether you have anything to vote for, or check on your voting place.

From the AJC:

Runoffs are taking place in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fayette, Fulton and Gwinnett counties, giving voters one last chance to finalize their city’s leadership. Many of those races proceeded to a runoff after tight or dead-heat general elections. Runoff elections are required in Georgia for races in which no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the general election.

Historically, runout is low during runoff elections, especially when there isn’t a high-profile race on the ballot. During the early voting period, 157 ballots were cast in-person in Stonecrest — the most populous city in DeKalb with nearly 60,000 residents. The council runoff is the only race on the ballot, with only residents in District 1 casting votes.

Tucker, which has its own heated council runoff, has had slightly better turnout so far with 411 in-person ballots cast. Imani Barnes, a staunchly progressive candidate, is running against Cara Schroeder, who said she’s running a nonpartisan campaign. It’s the last election in a busy year for Tucker that resulted in many new elected officials, albeit not progressive candidates backed by the county’s Democratic party.

From another AJC article:

A celebrity gossip blog that isn’t exactly known for its fact-checking is one of the sources of a last-minute rumor in the Atlanta mayor’s race that Felicia Moore wants to shut down Atlanta’s strip clubs or restrict their hours.

Moore has said multiple times that she doesn’t support closing clubs, and now the Atlanta mayoral candidate has been forced to spend time during the final hours of the runoff campaign explaining it herself.

Moore addressed the controversy Monday night in an interview with Charles Blow. “It’s a lie,” she said of the notion.

The false rumor about Moore seemed to gain traction after Atlanta rapper T.I., who supports Andre Dickens, reposted a screenshot of the blog post, along with other anti-Moore memes, to his Instagram page.

Valdosta today sees a runoff election for city Board of Education Super District 7 East, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Incumbent board member Debra Bell faces challenger David Gilyard in the runoff election for Valdosta Board of Education District 7 Superward East.

Polls are scheduled to be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, for the runoff, according to the Lowndes County Board of Elections.

On Nov. 2, […] Bell received 614 votes, Gilyard received 514 and candidate Paul Leavy garnered 177 votes. As the top two vote-getters, Bell and Gilyard face each other in the runoff.

Three partial weeks of early voting in the runoff ended last week. The election board reported only 183 votes cast at the board office and 14 absentee ballots returned.

Albany City Commission Ward III voters return to the polls for a runoff election today, according to the Albany Herald.

Tuesday’s contest will decide the makeup of the commission for the next two years, with Wards II and V decided during the November general election.

Polls will be open at seven precincts from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in the race between incumbent Commissioner B.J. Fletcher and challenger Vilnis Gaines.

“We’re going with (the glass) half-full and not half-empty and hope people are back from sharing with their family and come out on Election Day,” Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said.

Through the three days of early voting last week, a little less than 200 of the 8,394 registered voters in Ward III cast ballots. An additional 23 absentee ballots were requested from Nickerson’s office.

“We encourage our voters who did not participate in the Nov. 2 general election to participate in the runoff and for people who did participate to participate on Tuesday,” Nickerson said.

Gaines finished first in the three-way general election with 39.15 percent of the vote (435) and Fletcher was second with 35.73 percent (397) of the vote in the three-way race. Daa’iyah Salaam finished third with 279 votes, or 25.11 percent.

Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms and City administrator David Corbin discussed the IRS lien against the city in a press conference, according to 13WMAZ.

City administrator David Corbin said people need to know the context. He says the city does not owe back taxes and says the liens would not affect the city’s bond rating. Corbin says it’s double A, which is strong.

According to city records, Warner Robins has already paid more than $420,000 to the IRS for failure to file proper records. The federal agency wants them to pay another $370,000. Corbin says city lawyers hope the IRS will eventually cancel that.

In a letter to Toms this month, Corbin wrote that the city made “multiple reporting errors” to the IRS and that was not acceptable. Corbin said he, the Mayor and council were aware of the tax problems but he decided not to go public with the news.
During the conference, Toms took the time to address his opponent Larhonda Patrick.

“My opponent and the people working for her, a former mayor and a former council member, have been feeding misinformation to the press. They have used this to hurt me politically and to hurt the reputation of the city and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. I call on the voters to reject this fake narrative and these blatantly vengeful tactics. If they do it to me, they will do it to you,” Toms said.

From the Macon Telegraph:

Warner Robins voters will choose between incumbent Randy Toms and challenger LaRhonda Patrick in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff election.

In the Nov. 4 general election, Toms received 3,290 votes (45.5%), followed closely by Patrick (3,197 votes, or 44.2%). Stephen Baughier came in third with 746 votes.

“I’ve worked for this city for 35 years; it’s what I know, what I do,” Toms said election night. “If we’re able to win, we’re going to keep moving forward like we’ve been doing. Things are going well, and I hope the people will give me a chance to continue moving forward with the progress we’re making.”

Atlanta voters will cast their ballots for newish leadership, according to the AJC.

Tuesday caps off a historic election cycle that saw the incumbent mayor forego a reelection bid and a former mayor seek a third term at City Hall. The race ends with two City Council colleagues on the ballot for mayor: Councilman Andre Dickens and City Council President Felicia Moore, who both have big plans to bolster the ranks of the police department, improve basic city services and reopen City Hall to the public.

Moore finished with 41% of the vote in the Nov. 2 general election, while Dickens was in second place with 23%. For both campaigns, getting 50% of the vote in the runoff means winning over voters who selected other candidates in the general election, namely former Mayor Kasim Reed, who was locked out of the runoff with just 600 fewer votes than Dickens.

In addition to selecting a mayor, Atlanta residents will vote for a new City Council president, with Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong and former Woodruff Arts Center CEO Doug Shipman advancing to the runoff for that post. Several City Council and school board seats are also on the ballot.

Across metro Atlanta, voters in the cities of Fairburn, Forest Park, Peachtree City and South Fulton also have runoff elections for mayor Tuesday.

The Dalton Daily Citizen News looks at legislative redistricting changes that affect Whitfield and Murray Counties.

[State Rep. Rick] Jasperse has represented part of Murray County since he was first elected to the state House in 2010. His District 11 currently includes parts of Chatsworth and central and southeast Murray County along with sections of Gordon and Pickens counties. But the new House map removes Murray County from that district and moves part of the district into Cherokee and Forsyth counties.

“It has always been a pleasure to represent Murray County,” Jasperse said. “Murray County is who I am. I grew up in rural east Tennessee, and I know that way of life. But that’s what happens in reapportionment. Someone is always going to be disappointed. I look forward to getting to know the people in the new parts of my district and serving them.”

State Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, said he is happy with the results for state Senate District 54, which he represents.

“We (state senators) all got to spend 20 minutes one-on-one with the chairman of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee (Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon) and give him our wish list,” he said. “I told him I had just one wish and that was to keep all of Whitfield and Murray counties in the same district. I said they are in the same judicial circuit and are sort of sister counties. They’ve been in the same district for a long time.”

Payne got his wish. All of Murray and Whitfield remain in District 54, as does part of Gordon County. But Payne lost the part of Pickens County that had been in his district.

State House District 4 has for the past decade been basically the city of Dalton and some surrounding areas. State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, said that will continue to be the case but with some differences.

“I picked up some area to the north,” he said. “But I lost some area south of the city to Steve Tarvin.”

That’s a great and thorough example of local political coverage.

Governor Brian Kemp continued to bask in the warm glow of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce endorsement of his reelection, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

“Governor Kemp has made economic growth a priority in Georgia,” said Ben Tarbutton, president of Sandersville Railroad Co. and the chamber’s 2022 board chairman.

“Despite the challenges facing our state during the pandemic, Governor Kemp has led us in being designated the No.-1 state in which to do business for the eighth consecutive year as we boast record unemployment levels — a feat no other state can tout.”

Kemp said he is honored to have the Georgia Chamber in his corner going into next year’s race.

“During my first three years in office, I’ve been proud of stand alongside the industry leaders, local chambers and business owners represented by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to continue building a business climate that is unrivaled across the country,” the governor said.

“Working alongside these hardworking Georgians, we kept Georgia open for business during a once-in-a-century pandemic. … Thanks to their partnership, we are leading the nation in economic recovery with record low unemployment and unprecedented jobs and investment coming to the Peach State.”

Governor Brian Kemp announced personnel changes. From the press release:

Effective December 1, current Director of Communications, Cody Hall, will leave the Governor’s Office and Katie Byrd will continue her service to the state as the Governor’s Director of Communications.

Beginning on December 15, Andrew Isenhour will return to the Governor’s Office as Deputy Director of Communications.

Additionally, Evan Meyers is serving as Deputy Executive Counsel.

Katie Byrd will serve as the Director of Communications for the Office of Governor Brian P. Kemp, effective December 1. She most recently served as Press Secretary in the governor’s office. Before that, Katie served as Director of Communications for Attorney General Chris Carr from 2016 to September of 2021. In that role, she helped coordinate the Attorney General’s Statewide Opioid Task Force and Georgia Anti-Gang Network and represented the office on the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force. Immediately prior to joining the Office of the Attorney General, Katie was a Communications Specialist for Global Commerce at the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). Previously, she served as a Communication Specialist for Governor Nathan Deal, Special Assistant to First Lady Sandra Deal, Deputy Communications Director for Governor Deal’s Inaugural Committee, and Communications Specialist for Deal for Governor. Katie earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a varsity letter in cheerleading from the University of Georgia. She resides in Coweta County with her husband and their two children.

Andrew Isenhour will serve as the Deputy Director of Communications in the Office of Governor Brian P. Kemp, effective December 15. Prior to joining the governor’s staff, he served as Director of Communications for Stand Together in Washington, D.C. and worked in communications at the Board of Regents. Andrew also worked in the administration of former Governor Nathan Deal for seven years, including as chief speechwriter throughout Deal’s last term in office. He then assisted Deal as he chaired the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Federal Priorities from 2019-2020. Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a graduate certificate in Public Administration from the University of Virginia, and a master’s of business administration from North Carolina State University. He resides in Cobb County and attends Mount Paran Church.

Evan Meyers is Deputy Executive Counsel in the Office of Governor Brian P. Kemp. Prior to joining the governor’s staff, Meyers served as an attorney for the House Budget and Research Office with numerous committee assignments, including the House Judiciary Committee. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in Criminal Justice and Sociology, and a law degree from Georgia State University College of Law.

From the AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp is shuffling key advisers into new positions to gear up for the 2022 election.

Cody Hall, the spokesman for Kemp’s official office, was named the campaign’s director of communications and senior adviser. The 20-something is already a GOP veteran with experience working for Hunter Hill’s campaign, Kemp’s 2018 bid and the Georgia Chamber.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth County) spoke in Savannah, according to WSAV.

The Republican-controlled Georgia General Assembly recently approved maps redrawing the state’s district lines.

“I was very pleased with the work that we did there, felt like it was very transparent. I think it was very open, we were very inclusive,” said Duncan.

“Had 11 trips around the state, 11 different opportunities to meet with our reapportionment chairs,” he continued. “It was great to hear folks from both sides come into my office and privately share their agreement and their support for those maps, and certainly not everybody’s gonna be happy, but I’m very proud of the work that we did.”

“If this party takes the unfortunate direction of lifting up a candidate that’s divisive, doesn’t understand the true needs of an empathetic approach, we’ll lose again,” Duncan said. “We’ll come in a solid second place, but that doesn’t do anything for us.

“That leaves us in the position that we’re in today, and that’s no control of the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate or the White House.”

Duncan says it’s imperative for Republicans to take a different approach to the 2022 primaries and 2024 presidential election if they want a chance to regain control of the White House.

Georgia State Legislators may again consider raising their pay in the next session, according to the Center Square.

The Georgia Legislature ended its special session last week and will return to the state Capitol in January. Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, told his colleagues in the House they should think about increasing their part-time base pay of $17,342 while they are out.

“I rise to just give you something to think about over Thanksgiving and over Christmas,” Williams said on the House floor. “What I want to talk about is kind of like a favorite person that you really had deep feelings for, but you are not free to tell everybody about your feelings. That’s how it is for pay raise in this House.”

Both chambers of the General Assembly attempted to pass bills in the 2021 regular session that would have increased lawmakers’ pay. The Senate bill did not survive a full Senate vote, and the House bill did not make it to a floor vote.

Republicans rejected the legislation because they believed a raise was not necessary, especially for a part-time job. Williams said lawmakers are fearful of backlash from constitutes. He reassured them local elected officials are paid more than legislators and still have long political careers.

“Most of you know I am right, but you’re terrified to see it in your district,” Williams said. “And it’s only because you’re more afraid of your district than your district is thinking about. If you think you’re in trouble, you ought to talk to some of your city council and mayors that make so much more money than you do, and they have been reelected year after year.”

Legislators may also consider repealing the ban on raw milk sales for human consumption, according to the Georgia Recorder.

State Rep. Clay Pirkle, a Republican and south Georgia farmer, says he is generally wary of regulations but that he sees food safety as the glaring exception. Concerns about public safety, he said, are driving interest in legislation for him.

“Anyone can bottle and sell raw milk under a pet label if they pay a small licensing fee (to the state),” said Pirkle, who is leading the study panel. “No inspections, no regulations, no safety guidelines.”

Pirkle said the study committee will make a recommendation soon on whether lawmakers should consider legislation that could potentially bring raw milk into the mainstream. The regular session starts in January.

A southwest Georgia dairy, Providence Dairy, posted videos on their social media showing milk being dumped early on in the pandemic.

Some cash-strapped dairy farmers, intrigued by tales of raw milk being sold at a premium at farmers markets across metro Atlanta and north Georgia, also see a chance to reach new customers.

Kenneth Murphy, a Meriwether County dairy farmer and lifelong raw milk drinker, and others have argued state intervention would help level the playing field with producers currently working with little government oversight.

“I get roughly $1.60 a gallon. The pet food people get $8 to $10 a gallon for theirs,” Murphy came to Atlanta to tell lawmakers earlier this month. “I’m not going to be able to sell probably the whole 140-cow volume every day, but it will give me an opportunity to get a little bit more money for my milk.”

What a fascinating article. Seriously.

Brunswick is considering regulating short term rentals, according to The Brunswick News.

The proposed ordinance would require owners to get an Accommodation Excise Tax Certificate from the city. It will be a violation to use, rent, offer or advertise a short-term rental within city limits without a valid certificate.

The certificate will be issued to a person with ownership interest in the short-term rental or to a managing agency or agent that manages the property.

Short-term rentals will be required to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom and on all habitable floors. Rental homes will also be required to have a properly maintained fire extinguisher and have solid waste collection service at least once a week.

There are limits on the number of vehicles, restrictions on the number of people on the property between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and a ban on using short-term rentals for commercial events. A local point of contact must be available 24 hours a day.

The proposed fee is $150 a year, with an annual renewal fee of $100 for each short-term rental.

Dana Williams will take office as the new Mayor of Thunderbolt, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Prior to winning the mayoral seat against two-term incumbent Beth Goette, Williams served a term on council and on the ad hoc water committee. He credits his win to constant communication with the public, frequently posting on social media about council discussions and employing an on-the-ground approach to his campaign.

“I was knocking on doors and gave out my card with my personal cell phone number on it to everybody I talked to because I wanted people to know that I am available,” said Williams, “I had so many people tell me that they had never had a Thunderbolt politician knock on their door.”

But Williams is breaking the silence, and he said he’s bringing that same energy to the top post in the city. In addition to making himself available, Williams and Town Administrator Bob Milie said they’re working on modernizing Thunderbolt’s approach to communication with the public by using social media.

Floyd County Commissioners appointed two interim Board of Elections members as they prepare for a new board reconstituted under new state legislation, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Floyd County Commissioners appointed former elections board chairs Steve Miller and Pete McDonald as interim elections co-supervisors until the new board is assembled.

Earlier this month, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that dissolves the current three-member board and replaces it with a new five-member board.

The five members will be appointed by the Floyd County Commission. The law calls for them to choose four of the members from lists submitted by the two local political parties whose candidates for governor received the most votes in the previous election.

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