Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2022

11
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 11, 2022

On January 11, 1765, Francis Salvador of South Carolina became the first Jewish elected official in America when he took a seat in the South Carolina Provincial Congress. Salvador’s grandfather was one of 42 Jews who emigrated to Georgia in 1733. Salvador later became the first Jewish soldier to die in the American Revolution.

On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument.

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Marvin Griffin of Bainbridge was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 11, 1955.

Marvin Griffin Monument

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will stop in Atlanta today for a photo opportunity. From WTOC:

When asked about what her district needs to hear from the president and vice president Tuesday, [U.S. Rep. Nikema] Williams said, “It’s about putting the entire power of the White House behind this move to get voting rights legislation.”

The White House says the president and vice president will focus on what they call the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of American elections.

President Biden and Vice President Harris will speak at the Atlanta University Center Consortium on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College.

They are expected to return to Washington later Tuesday night.

From WSAV:

While in Georgia Tuesday, Biden will be in the home district of the late civil rights leader John Lewis and will be visiting the church and gravesite of Martin Luther King Jr.

Biden says voting rights are under historic threat, so expect to hear his strongest endorsement yet to get legislation passed on Capitol Hill.

“He is quite focused on ensuring the American people know what is at stake here,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “The president will be there to endorse the bedrock to vote.”

The president’s speech Tuesday will endorse two plans currently stalled in Congress by Senate Republicans. The bills are designed to strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act and improve everything from redistricting to campaign finance laws.

Biden will also call on Senate Democrats to change the Senate rules to get around Republican opposition.

From CNN via the Albany Herald:

During his speech in Georgia, which will take place on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, Biden “will forcefully advocate for protecting the most bedrock American right: The right to vote and have your voice counted in a free, fair and secure election that is not tainted by partisan manipulation,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

“He’ll make clear in the former district of (the late Rep. John Lewis) that the only way to do that is for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” she added.

In his speech, Psaki said, Biden will “describe this as one of the rare moments in a country’s history when time stops and the essential is immediately ripped away from the trivial. And that we have to ensure January 6 doesn’t mark the end of democracy but the renaissance for our democracy, where we stand up for the right to vote and have that vote counted fairly, not undermined by partisans afraid of who you voted for or try to reverse an outcome.”

Prominent Georgia leader Stacey Abrams — arguably the Democratic Party’s preeminent voting rights advocate after using her 2018 gubernatorial loss to Republican Brian Kemp to elevate the issue — will not attend Biden’s speech due to a conflict, a spokesman said. After the election, Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization that advocates for voter protection across the country, and she’s running for governor again this year.

From CNN via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

While in Atlanta, the pair will also lay a wreath at the crypt of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, and visit Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, according to the White House. Changing the filibuster rules in the Senate, which require 60 votes to end debate on legislation, is set to be a major focus of the day — and Biden’s address specifically.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand,” Biden will say, according to an excerpt of his remarks released by the White House. “I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”

“He’ll make clear in the former district of (the late Rep. John Lewis) that the only way to do that is for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” she added.

Crickets from voting rights advocates. From CNN via the Albany Herald:

Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, and representatives of several voting rights groups are urging Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to remain in Washington on Tuesday if they don’t have a clear plan to advance voting rights legislation.

“We don’t need even more photo ops. We need action, and that action is in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights (Advancement) Act as well as the Freedom to Vote Act, and we need that immediately,” Albright told reporters on Monday.

Phi Nguyen, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, addressed the President and vice president, saying, “We beg you to stay in Washington tomorrow because we don’t need you here in Georgia.”

“We need legislation that will ensure that our democracy accurately reflects the growing diversity of this state and of this country. Mr. President and Madam Vice President, we beg you to ground that plane the same way that we continue to beg you to ground the planes of so many of our community members who are being deported because we still lack a pathway to citizenship,” Nguyen said.

If you hear a clanking sound when Governor Kemp walks back into the Capitol, it will be all the coins in his pockets. From FoxNews:

In a major sign of strength as he faces a general election challenge from Democrat Stacey Abrams as well as a Republican primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue, Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp reports bringing in over $7 million in fundraising the past six months.

The fundraising figures for July 1 through Monday, Jan. 9 – which were shared nationally first with Fox News on Tuesday – follow an impressive $4 million that Kemp hauled in from February through June of last year. And the governor’s 2022 reelection campaign says that they currently have over $12 million cash on hand.

“These numbers affirm what we’ve said from the very beginning: the Kemp for Governor campaign has the resources to win the primary and in November,” Kemp campaign manager Bobby Saparow told Fox News.

Saparow emphasized that “Kemp has been working hard in recent months, meeting with voters, donors, and Republicans who care about the future of this state and our country.”

And he pledged that “our campaign will continue to outwork anyone in the field to ensure we keep Georgia red in 2022.”

From the AJC:

Kemp disclosed the fundraising figures weeks ahead of the next reporting deadline because it coincides with the start of the legislative session, when the governor and lawmakers are banned from raising money.

But he’ll have another avenue to collect checks during the 40-day session. He signed a Republican-backed measure last year that created a new “leadership committee” that allows the governor and a few House and Senate leaders to create funds that can raise unlimited amounts of money.

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday announced $47 million in COVID assistance to education institutions, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced the recipients of Round 1 of the second installment of the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER II), amounting to a total of over $47 million in additional emergency assistance to support K-12 and higher education entities as they continue to address the disruptions and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we work to meet the needs of students, parents, and teachers by maintaining in-person learning, we know that our schools and education support organizations will need additional help,” said Governor Kemp. “We also know our education providers play a critical role in providing the workforce needed to combat the health and economic effects of the pandemic. This round of funding is geared toward the goal of keeping our kids in the classroom with minimal disruption to their education while strengthening that classroom-to-workforce pipeline. By working around the clock, we have weathered the difficulties presented by COVID-19 for almost three school years. With this new round of support, we will help get our educators and students across the finish line of the pandemic.”

Governor Kemp will back legislation to fight gangs and crime, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp will back legislation to create an anti-gang unit in the state attorney general’s office and devote millions of dollars to hire dozens of technicians at the state’s overwhelmed crime lab.

The Republican also plans to include funding to train an additional Georgia State Patrol class of 75 cadets this year, along with a separate initiative to provide tuition-free education for technical college students pursuing law enforcement and criminal justice degrees.

And he will support a new crackdown on human trafficking that adds the crime to a list of violent offenses that require a superior court judge to require a defendant facing the charge to post bond to be released. It’s part of a yearslong effort spearheaded by his wife, Marty, to curb the crime.

The anti-gang unit is designed to allow Attorney General Chris Carr, a close political ally also facing a tough reelection campaign, more leeway to prosecute gangs statewide.

Kemp also backs legislation to give the attorney general more authority to work with state and local officials to prosecute gang-related crimes.

“In too many jurisdictions across our state, soft-on-crime local prosecutors have been unwilling to join our fight to rid their communities of these criminal networks,” Kemp said in draft remarks. “With many urban — and some rural — counties facing alarming levels of violent crime, we have the responsibility to act.”

Attorney General Chris Carr (R) announced that Georgia will join a multi-state settlement of opioid lawsuits, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Attorney General Chris Carr has announced that the state of Georgia has signed on to the $26 billion multistate agreement with Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen — the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors — and opioid manufacturer and marketer Johnson & Johnson.

“As part of our commitment to protecting the lives and livelihoods of Georgia citizens, we are dedicated to holding those accountable who have played a critical role in contributing to the opioid epidemic,” Carr said in a news release. “Today’s announcement is the result of our tireless efforts to achieve the best possible outcome for our state and fellow citizens. This includes working with our litigating local governments so that our state is positioned to maximize its recovery under this settlement. We are confident that joining the settlement at this time will prove beneficial to our state, our citizens and our communities, as we continue our fight to end this epidemic and address the widespread damage it has caused.”

The settlement agreement resolves investigations and litigation over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic, particularly as to whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

Macon-Bibb County Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson has resigned, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Her last day is expected to be Jan. 21.

[Ms. Watson’s resignation] letter stated it was a “very difficult decision” due to the supportive staff and board members who made Watson’s tenure a “very positive experience.”

She cited the following reasons for her departure: “Not having an assistant makes meeting the demands of an excessive workload, rapidly changing elections laws, policies, and procedures more complicated and overwhelmingly stressful. So much so, that I find it extremely hard to disconnect during non-work hours, and it has taken a toll on my mental health. Election officials throughout the state share these same sentiments and have also decided to resign, retire, and or pursue other careers.”

Board of Elections at-large member Mike Kaplan said Friday was a “sad day for our country and especially Macon-Bibb,” as he traced Watson’s troubles back to allegations of improper vote counting during the Presidential Election.

Kaplan said workers were “followed home every night” and under round-the-clock surveillance.

“The stress and fear is too much,” Kaplan said, adding that he believes Watson went through “a very contentious election where she was in fear of her life.”

Democratic State Senator Jen Jordan (D-Cobb and Fulton) reported more than $1.3 million in her campaign for Attorney General, according to the Albany Herald.

Sen. Jen Jordan’s campaign for Georgia Attorney General announced Monday that it has raised more than $1.3 million this cycle with more than $1 million cash-on-hand heading into the 2022 legislative session.

This announcement comes on the heels of Charlie Bailey’s announcement that he is dropping out of the Democratic primary for attorney general, leaving Jordan as the only Democrat in the race.

“Sen. Jordan has stood up to defend Georgians’ rights both in the legislature and as a courtroom litigator,” campaign manager Meg Scribner said. “Meanwhile, Chris Carr has catered to the most extreme wing of his party instead of doing his duty to protect the people of this state. Georgians are ready for new leadership, and the financial support we’ve received is a testament to the broad coalition we have built to win in November.”

Since announcing her candidacy in April 2021, Jordan has coalesced support behind her candidacy. In addition to her record-breaking fundraising, she recently announced a number of high-profile endorsements, including EMILY’s List, NARAL, End Citizens United and Let America Vote.

From AccessWDUN:

[Democrat Charlie] Bailey told The Associated Press on Monday that a number of prominent Democrats had asked him to change his focus.

“I think it’s the best place that I can make the most impact for the working people of this state,” the 38-year-old Atlanta Democrat said.

Bailey set out goals for lieutenant governor including expanding the state-federal Medicaid program to cover more adults, increasing school funding, and raising pay for teachers and law enforcement officers.

Bailey jumps into a crowded Democratic field for lieutenant governor, with incumbent Republican Geoff Duncan deciding not to run again. Declared Democratic candidates include state Rep. Erick Allen of Smyrna, Jason Hayes of Alpharetta, state Rep. Derrick Jackson of Tyrone, Bryan Miller of Watkinsville, state Rep. Renitta Shannon of Atlanta and others.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens rolled out part of his Administration, according to the AJC.

Atlanta Habitat for Humanity President and CEO Lisa Y. Gordon will become the city’s Chief Operating Officer. Gordon’s first day will be Feb. 7 and her appointment will be sent to the Atlanta City Council for confirmation.

“Lisa has deep experience in municipal government leadership,” Dickens said in a statement. “As a former cabinet officer and policy advisor in the Franklin administration, she brings strong knowledge of Atlanta and city government to this important role. We are excited to have her on the team.”

The mayor’s office also announced that Courtney English will be Dickens’ senior advisor. English, who served two terms on the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, ran for City Council President last year. He also served as Director of Community Development for the the housing nonprofit Star-C.

Austin Wagner, a Smyrna city council member and spokesman for Dicken’s mayoral campaign, will become the mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Longtime City Hall employee Theo Pace, who currently serves as Director of City Council Staff, will also become a Deputy Chief of Staff starting Jan. 31.

Beginning Tuesday, Kenyatta Mitchell will become Atlanta’s director for Intergovernmental Affairs. Mitchell previously served as Associate Vice President of Government Relations for HNTB.

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) introduced a resolution to create a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting voting in Georgia by non-citizens, according to the AJC.

The election-year proposal would put the question on the ballot for voters to decide. It’s the latest attempt to prohibit voting by noncitizens after similar legislation in previous years failed to advance.

Miller, who represents the Gainesville area, faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican from Jackson.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is also up for reelection, previously called for a constitutional amendment to bar noncitizen voting.

The Georgia Constitution says that citizens are entitled to vote. The proposed amendment would change the Constitution’s language to say that only citizens can vote.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black (R-Commerce) rolled out 62 more endorsement in his U.S. Senate campaign, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Gary’s understanding of the needs and opportunities of our state make him the only choice for serving Georgia’s citizens,” Tifton Mayor Julie Smith said. “His leadership has proven his ability to represent all Georgians, and rural Georgia needs his expertise to continue to be the No. 1 state in which to do business, particularly as it relates to agribusiness and feeding the world.”

“Georgia needs a fighter in the US Senate that will stand up for our conservative values and fight for us. Gary Black fights for us now and he always will,” Josh Turner, the mayor of Cleveland, said.

Eighteen Richmond County schools have gone virtual due to COVID-related staff shortages, according to WRDW.

At the start of the second week back from winter break, the Richmond County School System is transitioning students from seven more schools to home learning.

Last week, the district transitioned 11 schools due to staffing shortages as a result of the COVID-19 surge that’s being fueled by the ultra-contagious omicron variant of coronavirus.

Students will return for in-person instruction on Jan. 18.

The Evans County Charter School System has reinstated its mask mandate due to rising COVID numbers, according to WTOC.

ECCSS says they are experiencing higher than normal absenteeism among students ranging from 17 percent at middle, 20 percent at elementary, and 24 percent at high school.

The district plans to continue normal operations as long as it has adequate staff, and it is safe to do so. However, the district advises parents to have a backup plan in the event partial or total closures occur.

The system will be shifting to its COVID-19 Moderate Spread protocols beginning Tuesday, January 11. Masks will be required until community spread decreases to below 200/100,000. All other mitigation protocols remain the same.

Thomasville City Schools are requiring masks, according to WALB.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson reinstated virtual city council meetings due to COVID numbers, according to WTVM.

Columbus mayor Skip Henderson has ordered that all city council meetings will be held virtually due to a rapid increase in COVID cases in Muscogee County.

According to the order, a significant number of positive tests, illness and exposure to COVID-19 is making it difficult for the Columbus City Council to meet in-person, so effective immediately all Columbus Consolidated Government boards and commissions will meet by video or teleconference.

The order expires on Feb. 28, 2022 unless the mayor or city council opts to extend it.

The Harris County school system is warning parents of possible bus shortages, according to WTVM.

“While we announced this possible disruption in August, to date we have been able to maintain our pool of certified and backup drivers. However, due to the increase of COVID-19 cases, once again there is a possibility of bus routes not being covered,” said Justin Finney, HCSD assistant superintendent of business services and technology. “We want to give parents as much notice as possible so that they are aware and can begin to formulate a plan.”

HCSD’s transportation plan of action for routes that are missing drivers is to have drivers complete their own designated routes and then drive a second route for the absent drivers.

A route disruption could delay arrivals at school by two hours. As soon as transportation personnel are aware of a delay – as early as 6 a.m. – they will make every attempt to notify the parents of those affected.

Polk County schools are going virtual after rising COVID numbers, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office will receive a $52,000 grant to promote mental health awareness, according to WTVM.

The sheriff’s office successfully competed for the grant from the State of Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council FY 2022 Law Enforcement Training Program in December.

“Over the years, there have been many instances of public outrage over the handling of citizens in mental health crises by law enforcement,” said Sheriff Greg Countryman. “Those reform cries from the public, the health and safety of our staff during COVID 19, and the benefits of this training were the very reasons why the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office successfully leaped at the opportunity to apply for this grant funding.”

“The hope is that when officers understand their own emotional “stuff” and address it through various, effective, and well-known coping strategies, and practice good mental and behavioral self-care, they will experience less personal stress and better de-escalate potential volatile encounters without excessive force,” said Thomas Waynick, CEO/executive director at Pastoral Institute.

Officials say this training will be administered to sworn staff of the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office this year

Rome City Commissioners elected their colleague Sundai Stevenson as Mayor the first African-American to serve in that role, according to the Rome News Tribune.

It was a 5 to 4 vote that took place after Superior Court Chief Judge Jack Niedrach swore in returning Commissioners Randy Quick and Jamie Doss and newly elected Commissioner Elaina Beeman.

Commissioner Bill Collins nominated Stevenson and was seconded by Commissioner Bonny Askew. Quick then nominated Craig McDaniel, who served as mayor last year, and was seconded by Doss.

The vote for mayor pro tem followed the same 5-4 pattern, with [Mark] Cochran winning the majority vote to succeed Stevenson in that role.

The board also reappointed City Manager Sammy Rich.

Dougherty County courts will receive $2 million in relief funding to address the case backlog, focusing on cases involving violence, according to the Albany Herald.

Chief Judge Willie Lockette said the majority of these funds will go toward hiring personnel. Since these are serious violent crimes, they will need more security and investigators.

Lockette said after getting the grant, they had to rethink their strategy of addressing the backlog of cases.

Originally, the circuit was asking for $6.6 million to use the Albany Civic Center to host trials. They needed that space because of COVID-19 protocols, as many cases have multiple defendants involved.

“Right now, we have 146 cases with 303 defendants. We have a number of cases that involve as many as 14 defendants, all charged with murder,” said Lockette.

The Floyd County Board of Education voted to place an ELOST (Local Option Sales Tax for Education) on the 2022 ballot, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The board unanimously approved a resolution Monday night to put the ELOST package on the May 24 election ballot.

This ELOST will serve as an “infrastructure” package that will provide upgrades and modernizations for all of the buildings in the county school district.

“Moving forward now, if we need a new roof at Model Elementary School, we won’t have to pull from the general fund, but use ELOST money,” Boardmember Jay Shell said.

Also on Monday, FCS boardmembers elected Melinda Strickland as chair and Shell as vice chair for 2022.

Former Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist will speak to Whitfield County Republicans, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Whitfield County Republican Party is pleased to announce special guest speaker Johnny Crist for its first meeting of the new year.

After 12 years of leadership in Lilburn he chose to step down as mayor and run for the state House District 108 seat.

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