Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2022

On April 28, 1776, Colonel Lachlan McIntosh wrote from Savannah to General George Washington.

he concluded his letter with the report that because the South had limited manufacturing capability, the price of needed goods was two or three times higher than in the North, making procurement of clothing and arms for the new recruits difficult.

This last tidbit would prove prescient as lack of manufacturing proved an insuperable problem for the Confederacy. On May 16, 1777, McIntosh dueled against Button Gwinnett, scoring a fatal wound against one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. McIntosh was acquitted at trial but forced to leave Georgia and eventually served under Washington at Valley Forge.

In 1787, McIntosh was a Commissioner representing Georgia in a series of three boundary disputes with South Carolina, two which were resolved on April 28, 1787 with the Convention of Beaufort.

On April 28, 2014, the earliest ever Primary Elections in Georgia began, as in-person early voting started across the state.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

On Tuesday, the DeKalb County Board of Education moved quickly to fire Cheryl Watson-Harris effective immediately. From 11Alive:

The news comes after Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods issued a scathing letter Monday, scolding the DeKalb school board for not taking action to improve conditions at Druid Hills High School. Videos from students have gone viral over the past few weeks after they exposed mold, a sewage leak and crumbling walls at the high school.

Recently, the board rejected a proposal to modernize the school. They instead decided to lump Druid Hills with several others in the district to get repairs. Some opposed said the school needs more than simple updates and that the modification would not make Druid Hills safer.

An interim following Watson-Harris’ departure has already been announced. According to a release from DeKalb County Schools, the board voted to name Dr. Vasanne Tinsley as the interim superintendent, citing her ability to operate the day-to-day activities of the DeKalb County School District.

From the AJC:

“I want to thank Mrs. Watson-Harris for her service to DeKalb County School District and we wish her the best in her future endeavors,” Board Chair Vicki Turner said during the meeting.

A statement released after the meeting said the board’s relationship with Watson-Harris had been “deteriorating for some time to the point the association became irreconcilable.”

“The Board lost confidence in Mrs. Watson-Harris’ ability to provide the leadership the district needs in the face of significant challenges,” the statement said.

The termination comes on the same day that Turner blamed Watson-Harris for not addressing poor conditions at Druid Hills High School in a letter to Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods. The school has been the center of a districtwide debate after students released a video showing water-damaged ceilings and walls, electrical hazards and plumbing issues.

The board’s 4-1 vote to fire Watson-Harris happened during a virtual meeting. Vicki Turner, Diijon DaCosta, Anna Hill and Joyce Morley voted in favor of termination. Deirdre Pierce was the lone no vote. Two board members, Allyson Gevertz and Marshall Orson, were absent.

A Facebook post notes that Interim Superintendent Tinsley is now the eigth DeKalb County Superintendent since 2010:

Vasanne Tinsley (interim): 2022-
Cheryl Watson-Harris 2020-2022
Ramona Tyson (interim): 2019-2020
Steve Green 2015-2019
Michael Thurmond 2013-2015
Cheryl Atkinson 2011-2013
Ramona Tyson (interim): 2010-2011
Crawford Lewis: 2004-2010

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, who served as DeKalb Superintendent from 2013-15, discussed the situation in his State of the County Speech, according to the AJC.

the CEO spent the largest portion of his speech talking about something over which the county government has no control: in the wake of the local school board unexpectedly ousting Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris during a Tuesday night meeting, he pleaded for leaders to think of the children.

“It ain’t about the superintendent, it ain’t about the school board, it ain’t about the school board chair,” Thurmond said. “It’s about 100,000 children.”

Six full minutes of Thurmond’s 17-minute speech were devoted to the DeKalb County School District. Without using specific names, he accused school board members of playing politics.

“Enough,” he said once, then twice, pounding on the lectern.

Thurmond was superintendent of DeKalb County schools from 2013-15, taking on a situation so rocky that then-Gov. Nathan Deal had seen fit to replace six school board members, and the district’s accreditation status was very much in question.

“I didn’t go through all that, this county didn’t go through all that, to go back down that road again. It makes no sense,” Thurmond told Wednesday’s crowd, which included the entirety of the school board and new interim superintendent Vasanne Tinsley.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods (R) responded to the kerfuffle, according to 11Alive.

Within 24 hours, DeKalb County’s Board of Education fired their superintendent and quietly swore in an interim leader — now Georgia’s top educational official is criticizing the move calling it a “step backward.”

“In my April 25 letter to the DeKalb County Board of Education, I called on the governance team to work together to get all your facilities to a standard quality across the district,” Woods wrote. “I also called on the governance team to ‘empower Superintendent Watson-Harris to take swift and immediate action.’”

“Instead of moving deliberative and decisively in line with my recommendations, the board chose to largely meet this moment with dysfunction and deflection,” Woods said.

“Also in my letter, I referred to the issues identified as ‘an opportunity for DeKalb County Schools to restore trust with the community [and] enact bold and sweeping change to the way it maintains and invests in its facilities,’” he wrote, citing his initial letter.

“The events at yesterday’s called meeting continue to erode not only the public’s trust, but my trust in your seriousness to address the issues facing DeKalb County Schools,” Woods said. “The board seems to have focused the bulk of its efforts on defining and parsing out the definition of ‘cosmetic fixes’ and blaming years of neglect and poor planning on a Superintendent who has only been at the post a short while — certainly, the issues at Druid Hills High School and across the district did not originate during Superintendent Watson-Harris’ tenure.”

Governor Brian Kemp expressed his concern about the Board’s action, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his office will remain in close contact with the state Department of Education “to determine what further action is needed.”

“I am highly concerned that these serious issues in DeKalb County could be a result of a school system choosing politics over students, families, and educators,” Kemp said.

[Board member Marshall] Orson said he didn’t know the Tuesday termination vote had been planned and would not have supported the action.

“There was a group on the Board of Education that decided they no longer wanted Cheryl Watson-Harris to be superintendent of DeKalb County,” he said in an interview with the AJC. “They just needed to figure out when they were going to take a step to remove her.”

[Board member Allyson] Gevertz said the firing showed the board’s “ineptitude” and failed to ensure student success.

Governor Kemp yesterday signed Senate Bill 441, which will allow the GBI to investigate election allegations, according to a press release:

Governor Kemp signed a bill that takes further steps to ensure secure and fair elections and enhances criminal case data exchanges to reduce criminal case backlogs (SB 441).

“Building on the strong, commonsense measures in our Election Integrity Act of 2021, this new law will allow us to engage highly-qualified personnel from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to assist in ensuring our elections are secure and fair,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “In addition to signing this bill into law, I also allocated $504,116 in Fiscal Year 2023 funds for these positions.”

“Furthermore, and thanks to the leadership of Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, Senator Bo Hatchett, and Speaker Ralston, this bill will help us improve communication protocols within the judiciary and keep our communities and crime victims safe. When communication breakdowns exist between law enforcement, crime victims, prosecutors, judges, and potential employers, then justice cannot be effectively served, and we commend all who worked to pass this bill and improve this reporting system.”

From Fox5Atlanta:

“We just felt like, you know, this was a good policy decision,” Gov. Kemp said in an exclusive interview.

Senate Bill 441 mainly deals with how the state shares criminal case data, but late in the legislative session, lawmakers added a section pertaining to the GBI.

“It shall be the duty of the bureau to […] identify and investigate violations […] involving elections which if established are sufficient to change or place in doubt the results of an election,” the bill reads.

“I think it’s going to continue to bring integrity to the elections process,” Gov. Kemp explained.

“They got a lot on their plate and this will have really dedicated people at GBI that’ll be able to do this with a lot more resources,” said Gov. Kemp. “One of the things that we saw during the signature audit process was having the forensic folks that were the best GBI had being able to come in and do that, so I think there’s a lot of advantages to that going forward into the future.”

“The GBI, I mean, they’re high integrity. All I’ve ever told Director [Vic] Reynolds and the men and women at GBI and all state law enforcement is to follow the facts and the truth and just let it take you where it may and that’s what we’ve done,” said Gov. Kemp.

Four Augusta-area state legislators face election challenges, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta-area Democrat Brian Prince currently represents House District 127, now renumbered District 132. Republican Jodi Lott represents House District 122 but Lott, who is unopposed, is running in District 131, as her district will be known in January. State House District 130 now refers to an Augusta-area district. Prior to November, the number designated an area that included Atlanta-area Spalding and surrounding counties.

District 130 is now assigned to the area represented by Rep. Sheila Nelson, District 125. Nelson declined to run again, and two political newcomers, Lynn Gladney and Daniel Swenson, are pursuing the new District 130 seat.

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