Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 6, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 6, 2022

Samuel Elbert was elected Governor of Georgia for a one-year term on January 6, 1785. Elbert was an early participant in Patriot meetings at Tondee’s Tavern, a Lt. Colonel in the first group of troops raised in Georgia, and a prisoner of war, exchanged for a British General, and eventually promoted to Brigadier General reporting to Gen. George Washington. As Governor, Elbert oversaw the charter of the University of Georgia and afterward, he served briefly as Sheriff of Chatham County.

On January 6, 1961, United States District Court Judge William Bootle ordered the University of Georgia to enroll Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, ending the segregation of UGA.

On January 6, 1988, the United States Postal Service released a stamp commemorating the bicentennial of Georgia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The late United States Senator Johnny Isakson will be eulogized today at his funeral at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, according to 13WMAZ.

The service will be held at Peachtree United Methodist Church Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.

You’ll be able to watch it live on 11Alive.com and 11Alive’s YouTube Channel.

Isakson, a Georgia Republican, served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 15 years. He battled Parkinson’s Disease for more than half a decade revealing his diagnosis in 2015. He stepped down from his Senate seat with two years to go in his term in 2019.

From the AJC:

The event, set for Buckhead’s Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, is expected to draw some two-dozen U.S. senators and many of the state’s top current and former elected officials. Among those slated to attend are Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, House Speaker David Ralston, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Attorney General Chris Carr, an Isakson protégé who once served as his top aide.

Isakson will be eulogized by two of his closest friends from the U.S. Senate: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and now-retired Saxby Chambliss, who met Isakson as a University of Georgia undergrad and served alongside him in the upper chamber for a decade.

Isakson — the only person in state history to serve in both chambers of the Georgia Legislature, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate — died just shy of his 77th birthday on Dec. 19. His family did not disclose the cause of death, but Isakson had battled Parkinson’s disease for the better part of a decade.

Peachtree Road is my home church, where I met the late Mrs. GaPundit, and in 2018 held her funeral and interment there. I remember attending the funeral for the late Senator Paul Coverdell there.

President Joe Biden will deliver a speech in Atlanta next week supporting federal voting rights legislation, according to CNN via the Albany Herald.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Atlanta “to speak to the American people about the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections from corrupt attempts to strip law-abiding citizens of their fundamental freedoms and allow partisan state officials to undermine vote counting processes,” a White House statement said.

The President is also expected to touch upon voting rights in his speech at the Capitol on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, officials say, but intends to address the topic in a far more substantive way next week.

The Senate is expected to take up voting rights in the next few weeks. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set a deadline of January 17 — Martin Luther King Day — for the Senate to vote on a rules change if Republicans continue to block voting rights legislation.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that Biden “absolutely feels that getting voting rights done is fundamental.” She also underscored the President’s “commitment or openness to making changes to the process to protect people’s constitutional rights should that be the point we get to” – namely, pursuing reforms to the filibuster.

From the AJC:

Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock on Tuesday said that passage of federal voting laws is an urgent matter as states such as Georgia prepare for their annual legislative sessions, when harm can be done.

“Our democracy is in peril, and time is running out,” the Atlanta Democrat said. “This is a moral moment, and if we fail to protect the voices and the votes of the American people, then we have fallen way short of our responsibility as members of this body.”

Maybe the President will thank the former United States Senator who gave up his seat one year and one day ago so that the Biden Administration would have control of the United States Senate.

The Eleventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals has reinstated signature requirements for third party ballot access in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling preserved the signature requirements, finding that they didn’t violate voting rights and freedom of association rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The decision reverses a judge’s order that had reduced the number of signatures needed for candidates from Libertarian, Green and other political parties to run for office.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May had lowered the signature requirement to 1% of registered voters for candidates running for nonstatewide office, the same percentage of signatures needed for statewide candidates. May wrote in her September order that the 5% signature requirements created an “unconstitutional burden.”

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit unanimously reversed May’s order based on an appeal by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The decision was written by U.S. Circuit Judge Britt Grant, a former Georgia Supreme Court justice, and joined by U.S. Circuit Judges William Pryor and Frank Hull.

Former Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary resigned and pled guilty to federal charges alleging official corruption, according to the Center Square via the Albany Herald.

Authorities said Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary, who has led the city in DeKalb County since 2013, pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from Stonecrest’s share of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

Lary stepped down as mayor Tuesday.

“Every executive has to make a decision on how far he can take an organization, and I’ve given all I can give,” Lary said. “I ask that you all measure me by the whole story. I did the best that I could do with what we had in place.”

The federal government awarded DeKalb County $125 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. DeKalb disbursed $6.2 million to Stonecrest in July 2020. Federal authorities said Lary created a scheme to route some of the funding to businesses under his name and others connected to him. He used more than $100,000 to pay off the mortgage on his lake house and thousands of dollars more for personal liabilities, authorities said.

Lary admitted to the court Wednesday to stealing about $650,000 in federal aid. His sentencing hearing is set for May 2. Boone was arraigned on a federal charge of conspiracy to commit federal program theft but is still awaiting a hearing.

Governor Brian Kemp’s legislative agenda is set to include Constitutional Carry, continuing with teacher pay raises, and education changes, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp outlined a legislative agenda that includes a push to encourage in-person student learning during the pandemic, an effort to ban critical race theory in Georgia schools and a promise to hike teacher pay.

The governor also said in an interview Wednesday that he’ll back new crackdowns on criminal gang activity and human trafficking, though he offered few specifics on those proposals.

And he pledged to pass the most sweeping firearms expansion in nearly a decade, vouching for a measure that would allow Georgians to carry concealed handguns without a state permit.

With a budget flush with cash, the first-term Republican has more wiggle room to push through priorities, including the remaining $2,000 of his campaign pledge to increase teacher pay by $5,000 by the end of his first term.

“Georgians shouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “These are all things I’ve promised we’d do.”

From Axios:

Kemp insists he’s not hearing about the last election when he talks to Georgians and that they’re more focused on COVID and the economy. “We have people coming up thanking us for staying open, for allowing our kids to be back in classroom,” he said.

• While Perdue said that if he’d been in Kemp’s shoes he would not have certified the election last year without “more information,” Kemp outlined how that would have gone down.

• The constitution “doesn’t say ‘I can.’ It says, ‘I shall.’ And so that’s what I did. I followed the law,” he said.

• Kemp said if a governor doesn’t certify an election, they’d be immediately sued and a court would override the decision.

Georgia will pay $1000 bonuses to state-funded Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers in two rounds, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The Department of Early Care and Learning announced the plan Tuesday, with one bonus planned for early this year and one planned for June. Commissioner Amy Jacobs in a statement called the payments “a small yet significant way to recognize the dedication and hard work shown during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

An earlier round of bonuses last year paid a total of $33.4 million to more than 33,000 teachers statewide. Jacobs told The Associated Press on Wednesday that all three rounds of bonuses are projected to cost about $100 million.

The state and public university system made $1,000 bonus payments to K-12 and university employees last year, also using federal aid.

In addition to the roughly 3,800 prekindergarten teachers and assistant teachers in Georgia’s public schools getting the bonuses, an equal number of prekindergarten teachers and assistants in private schools will get the money. A much larger number of teachers of children 3 or younger are eligible.

Some teachers who get the bonuses work in public schools, which means they will be getting more money when teachers of older children are not. However, lawmakers are likely to take up Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to permanently increase pay for K-12 teachers when they meet beginning Monday.

The department will take applications for the money from Jan. 18 to Feb. 18.

Brunswick Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett delayed a hearing on the Spaceport Camden lawsuit due to illness, according to The Brunswick News.

A hearing Wednesday to determine a request for a temporary restraining order to prohibit Camden County from closing on a deal to purchase a proposed spaceport site has been delayed because of a reported illness by the judge overseeing the hearing.

According to Megan Desrosiers, president and CEO of the environmental group One Hundred Miles, Stephen Scarlett, chief Superior Court Judge of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, rescheduled the hearing for 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 11 at the Camden County Courthouse in Woodbine.

Scarlett will consider arguments from lawyers representing James Goodman and Paul Harris, two Camden County residents who are asking for the purchase of the site from Union Carbide to be banned until voters get a chance to decide the issue in a referendum.

Democrat Stacey Abrams laid out her campaign plan for Governor, according to the AJC.

“I’m not running a doom and gloom campaign because I don’t feel gloomy.”

Abrams spoke during a Democratic anniversary celebration Wednesday marking the twin Senate runoff victories of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in 2021, victories made possible in large part by a massive ground game seeded by Abrams and other Democratic activists for years ahead of the Senate contests.

As Abrams put it, “It was the day Georgia showed who it was – not to the world, but to ourselves.”

Abrams said she’s now in phase one of her rematch attempt against Gov. Brian Kemp, a stage that’s as much about building a fundraising edge as it is amassing volunteers.

“We’re going to take the winter to put that together, and in the spring we’re going to do our massive launch when we call on folks to knock on doors and make phone calls – to do the hard work of campaigning. But we want to do it right.”

Georgia State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) now has two GOP Primary challengers, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Former state representative Jeff Lewis of Cartersville announced Wednesday he plans to run. Qualifying is in March for the May primary election.

“My roots run deep here in Northwest Georgia,” Lewis said in a statement. “I was born here, raised my family here, and built a successful business here. … Sadly, our way of life — and our future — is under attack from the radical left. … It’s time for battle-tested conservative fighters to take them on — not weak, stale politicians that go along to get along and cower under pressure.”

The seat is currently held by state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome. Hufstetler was first elected in 2012 and since 2017 he’s chaired the Senate Finance Committee.

Luke Martin, a former Rome Circuit assistant district attorney and chair of the Floyd County GOP, announced in August he planned to run for the seat. At that time Hufstetler said he intended to seek reelection.

The former district covered all of Floyd County and parts of Bartow, Gordon and Chattooga counties. The new one has Chattooga and part of Floyd moved into District 53.

Heading into the 2022 elections, District 52 is made up of 97,771 people in Bartow, 89.79% of the county population; 85,090 people in Floyd, 86.31%; and 7,938 people in Gordon, 13.79% of that county.

There are 48,525 people of voting age in the district — 81.13% of the total population, according to the Georgia General Assembly’s Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office. The district is 53.81% White, 13.71% Black and 7.98% Hispanic.

Strong local reporting from Diane Wagner at the RN-T. Including voter statistics for SD 52 and 53 is super-helpful.

Richmond Hill will close the City Hall lobby until further notice “out of an abundance of caution,” according to WTOC.

The city posted on its social media that they are closing it out of an abundance of caution for employees and customers.

Bulloch County public schools are moving to their high spread COVID protocols, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The school system says this decision is based on newly released data that indicates higher rates of community spread of COVID-19 and in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s county indicator reports. Superintendent Charles Wilson notified principals Tuesday evening before students returned for the first day of classes on Wednesday after the winter holiday break.

Schools have implemented changes to limit large-group capacities to activities like recess, cafeteria services, and field trips. They will fully activate all other high-level protocols this week. Those include items such as more frequent sanitizing of facilities and social distancing on buses.

Bulloch County Schools says they will continue to serve students in both its traditional face-to-face and virtual learning settings, and as announced on Oct. 29, families have the additional Learn-from-Home option for the second semester. School district leaders will continue to monitor local public health conditions from trusted sources and implement appropriate protocols from its plan.

“I want to reiterate that it is imperative that we continue to keep schools open and operating under the most normal conditions possible, providing our students with a sense of stability while attending to their overall psychological, emotional, mental, academic, and physical well being,” Wilson said.

Savannah-Chatham County public schools will have no change in COVID procedures upon returning from break, according to WTOC.

That said, [Superintendent Dr. Ann] Levett added with the current rate of infections, more staff may be out which could result in rolling closures.

Because of that, the school system is asking all parents to have an emergency plan worked out if their child’s school does have to close. School district leaders have been looking to a medical advisory committee for guidance throughout the pandemic, and right now that committee is urging school leaders to wait to revisit COVID mitigation strategies until at least two weeks after the holiday break.

Dr. Levett says they had about 85 percent of staff back to work after the holiday break. As of mid-December, just over 4,700 school system employees were vaccinated.

Bibb County public schools will be requiring masks, temperature checks, and new quarantine rules, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Liberty County public schools returned to the classroom after going virtual last semester, according to WTOC.

Wednesday was the first day back to in-person instruction for Liberty County students, even those who were virtual last semester.

School officials say the return to in-person classes is critical for a student’s learning. However, one parent says, with the rise in COVID cases in the county, she worries about the risk of sending her student back to school.

Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry says they’ve implemented numerous COVID mitigation measures, in addition to extending mask wearing, there is frequent cleaning of facilities, certain seats reserved in the cafeteria, and traffic direction in the hallways. Burnett says she still wants to see virtual learning as an option this semester.

Dr. Perry says while virtual learning isn’t available, there are still some options for special cases.

“There are some exceptions to how we do that. There’s homebound, where if a student is not able to go to school, we can put them on homebound. I would say when those situations come up, they need to contact us, and we’ll try to work it out,” said Dr. Perry.

Dalton Municipal Court has cancelled some planned court dates due to rising COVID numbers, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The court dates for Jan. 12 and Jan. 19 will not be held. Those who have business before the court on those days will have their cases rescheduled. The court will send out notices with new court dates, but anyone who needs to check on the status of their case can contact the court offices at (706) 278-1913, ext. 101.

Columbia County public schools updated their COVID protocols, according to WJBF.

Springer Opera House in Columbus canceled January shows due to COVID, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Dalton City Council voted unanimously to hire Ron Swanson Caitlin Sharpe as the new Director of Parks and Rec, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“Parks and Recreation is kind of my lifestyle,” Sharpe said. “I’m very excited. I’m very hopeful (that the council) has selected me to serve the community. I’m just here hopefully to enhance the Parks and Recreation operations so the community enjoys their leisure time.”

Sharpe will be paid $100,000 a year. She is an at-will employee of the city, serving at the pleasure of the City Council.

Sharpe, formerly the Parks and Recreation director for Catoosa County, was named the sole finalist for the position in December.

Habersham County Commissioners named Alicia Vaughn sole finalist in the search for a new County Manager, according to AccessWDUN.

Vaughn has served as the interim manager of Habersham County since July 2021. A press release from the county states she has over 14 years of government management experience.

During the commission meeting Tuesday, the commission also voted to appoint Bruce Palmer as commission chairman and reappoint Bruce Harkness as vice-chairman.

Oscar Griffith Jr. is the new Mayor of Lake Park, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Griffith was one of two new council members sworn in at Tuesday’s city council meeting. He and fellow newbie Michelle Ina Lane won election in November, displacing incumbents Thomas Barr and Carl Taylor.

As soon as the new council members were seated, Acting Mayor Ronald Carter announced that, for health reasons, he was quitting. City Clerk Tabitha Fowler said after the meeting that his resignation took place immediately.

Carter was Lake Park’s mayor pro-tem when Mayor Keith Sandlin died Aug. 20, moving Carter into the city’s top position temporarily. The Lowndes County Board of Elections said it has scheduled a special election to fill Sandlin’s seat for May 24.

In a move Griffith said took him by surprise, council voted to name him mayor pro-tem so he could immediately take over the mayor’s duties.

Brunswick Mayor Cosby Johnson was sworn in, according to The Brunswick News.

Cornell Harvey conducted his last official duty Wednesday as the mayor of Brunswick when he watched his replacement sworn into office and take over as head of the City Commission.

Before Johnson took his oath as mayor, Orion L. Douglass, senior State Court judge of Glynn County, swore in Commissioner Felicia Harris to another four-year term in office. Harris could not attend the meeting in person because of an illness, but she took the oath virtually with a full audience in attendance at Old City Hall.

Newly elected Commissioner Kendra L. Rolle was the next to take the oath of office by Douglass.

The evening was a historic event. It marked the first time since Brunswick’s founding that women hold the majority of the five commission seats. Commissioner Julie Martin is the third woman.

Before Johnson took his oath as mayor, Harvey recognized the many dignitaries in the crowd, including U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, state Sen. Sheila McNeill, R-Brunswick, and Glynn County Commissioners Allen Booker, Bill Brunson and Walter Rafolski.

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar was sworn in to a second term, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County Probate Court Judge Lorna DeLoach administered the oath of office for McCollar, District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum and District 4 Councilman John Riggs.

Riggs, who also faced a challenger but won re-election with just under 60% of the district’s participating votes Nov. 2, is the longest-serving council member and now starting a fourth four-year term, and so his 13th year on the council. Boyum, who was unopposed for re-election in 2021, is beginning his 10th year as a council member.

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