Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 3, 2022

3
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 3, 2022

May 3d is National Widow’s Day.

Georgia delegates convened in Augusta on May 4, 1789 to approve a new state Constitution and consider amendments.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest led troops who captured raiders near Rome, Georgia who were intent on disrupting the Western & Atlantic Railroad on May 3, 1863.

General William Tecumseh Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign on May 3, 1864 with troops marching from Tennessee toward Catoosa Springs, Georgia.

One year and one day after General Sherman began the Atlanta campaign, on May 4, 1865, Atlanta surrendered. On the same day, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in Virginia and into the Wilderness.

One year after that, on May 4, 1865, the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet convened in the old Georgia State Bank Building, which was located at the site of the present-day Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, Georgia.

Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gone With the Wind on May 3, 1937.

On May 4, 1965, the Rolling Stones played a show at Georgia Southern.

The British band played in Hanner Fieldhouse to an overflow crowd of more than 3,500 people, according to a retrospective by Jim Hilliard in the Statesboro Herald. The gym’s capacity was about 1,500.

Hilliard said organizers figured they could sell 1,800 tickets at $2.50 each, which would be enough to pay the band and have some money left over for expenses.

The Stones had played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday, May 2, and advance ticket sales were brisk the Monday and during lunch Tuesday, the day of the concert.

Hilliard said he signed the contract booking the Stones on behalf of Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity. The contract called for the new fraternity to pay the band $3,000 for the appearance. Hilliard said he got a $1,500 loan from First Bulloch Bank to make the deal happen.

The Stones were expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. and play for at least an hour, but Hilliard had lined up three front bands, and “it proved to be a fatal flaw in plans for the concert,” he said in his retrospective.

The noise was deafening as the original Stones lineup — Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — hit the stage nearly an hour late.

Jagger and the other band members were “openly hostile” at having to wait so long to play.

On May 4, 1970, National Guard members shot into a crowd of protesting students, killing four and wounding nine others on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

On May 4, 2003, I had the fortune of marrying the first Mrs. GaPundit. Happy Anniversary.

For tomorrow, Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You! I’ll be taking the day off unless something earth-shattering happens. Like, say, the Supreme Court overruling a nearly-50-year old precedent.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed Senate Bill 500 by State Senator Brian Strickland (R-Henry County) and others. From the Press Release:

Governor Brian P. Kemp signed major opioid legislation to secure $636 million for state and local governments to bolster critical treatment and prevention efforts (SB 500). The funds are made available by the $26 billion multistate opioid settlement with Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – and opioid manufacturer and marketer Johnson & Johnson.

“Like every other state, the opioid crisis has hit Georgia communities and families hard and with lasting effect,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “These funds will help us fight the good fight against the disease of addiction, help us make our communities more secure, and help us see that justice is done for the victims of these opioid manufacturers and distributors. I want to thank Senator Brian Strickland and his co-sponsors for carrying this legislation, and the members of the General Assembly that voted unanimously for it so that impacted Georgians can begin the process of healing.”

“We have worked from the very beginning to ensure Georgia is in the best possible position to receive 100 percent of the resources available to us under the multistate opioid settlement, and today’s bill signing is the culmination of this years-long effort,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “With addiction on the rise, an alarming number of overdoses reported since the start of the pandemic, and the influx of deadly fentanyl flooding our state, Georgia families and communities are in desperate need of help before more lives are lost. With this $636 million, Georgia will now have additional resources to strengthen our response and address this crisis head on. We appreciate the House and Senate for their unanimous support of this critical measure.”

Fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses have been increasing nationally and in Georgia in recent years and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2019 to 2021, fatal drug overdoses in Georgia increased by 55.9 percent – representing the loss of 2,327 lives. Opioids, specifically fentanyl, appear to be driving these increases. During this same time period, fentanyl-involved overdose deaths increased by 218.4 percent – representing the loss of 1,248 Georgia lives.

Under the national settlement agreement, the state is required to enact a litigation bar that prevents local governments from pursuing any further legal action in the future. This litigation bar, provided by SB 500, ensures Georgia and local governments are able to receive 100 percent of the settlement dollars available for allocation. With SB 500 signed into law, the state will receive an initial allocation of $66 million from the Johnson & Johnson funds within 90 days, as opposed to over a multi-year period. In addition, more than 230 local governments, public service entities, hospital associations, sheriffs’ offices and community service boards are positioned to receive financial relief through regional distribution or direct payment of funds.

Read more about the $26 billion multistate settlement agreement here.

Bulloch County had 117 early voters on their first day, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In-person early voting for the May 24 primaries and nonpartisan general election started Monday in Bulloch County and statewide, with some new rules in place, at least since the last statewide election in 2020.

Bulloch County now has one absentee ballot drop box, inside the Board of Elections and Registration area of the County Annex at 113 N. Main St., Statesboro. By law, the drop box will only be available during the in-person early voting hours. Those are 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday through May 20, plus 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, May 7, and Saturday, May 14.

Senate Bill 202 required a second Saturday for voting, in addition to the 15 Monday through Friday early voting days. One Sunday for voting also became a statewide option, but Bulloch County has not adopted Sunday voting.

As Monday drew to a close, poll workers at the annex said they had seen a steady influx of voters but nothing overwhelming. After 5 p.m., [Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay] Jones reported there had been 117 first-day, in-person advanced ballots cast.

Meanwhile, from April 25, the first day that absentee ballots could legally be mailed, through Monday, the Bulloch County elections staff mailed 197 of the paper ballots to individual voters. Under Senate Bill 202, the first day voters can apply for the ballots is later and the last day officials can mail them is one week earlier than in the past.

From WTOC:

[In Chatham County, [t]here was also a relatively small line at the Eisenhower Office Monday afternoon. The possibility of a wait had one early voter looking for shorter lines.

“Eisenhower could be a little crowded, but the Civic Center was just really appealing to me. So, I say to anyone who can come out early, take care of it,” Robert Bryant, early voter said.

With voting and the election process under the microscope yet again this cycle, the chairman of the Chatham County Board of Registrars says he hopes that leads to even better turnouts.

“I think that, as I said, the added scrutiny to the process has led to added interest. And I hope that leads to increased turnout. Because our board is committed to providing as much access as we can to allow for those who wish to have their voice heard through voting to do so,” said Chairman Colin McRae, Chatham County Board of Registrars.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Gwinnett County is offering voters a total of 19 consecutive days of early voting ahead of the May 24 primary election. That period began Monday and will continue through May 20.

“In the past, (early voting locations have) been rolled out, but this time it’s different,” Manifold said. “We’re open 7 to 7 at all 11 locations — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — for 19 straight days. We’ll be here.”

A combined final voter total for the first day of early voting at all 11 advance in-person voting sites in Gwinnett County was not immediately available Monday night, but Manifold said the sites had seen a total of 1,346 voters between all of the sites as of 5 p.m.

In addition to that, the county has so far received 2,274 requests for absentee-by-mail ballots for the primary.

One key change that affects absentee-by-mail voting is that Senate Bill 202 put limits on how many absentee ballot drop boxes a county is allowed to have.

In 2020, there was no limit so Gwinnett had 23 drop boxes. The total allowed now is based on one for every 100,000 registered voters. That means Gwinnett is only allowed to have six drop boxes, and they have to be located inside advance in-person voting locations and can only be accessed while those voting locations are open.

Another change that voters will see this year is the switch to non-partisan Gwinnett school board elections. This will be the first time that has been implemented, with those races appearing on the Republican, Democratic and Nonpartisan ballots (the nonpartisan ballots are for people who only want to vote in the nonpartisan races rather than also voting in GOP or Democratic primary races).

Only school board districts 2 and 4 will appear on this year’s ballots.

“When our staff is out talking to people, that’s one of the key points that we like to remind people of, that if you live in one of those districts and you want to vote for school board this year, you’ve got to do it in May,” Manifold said. “You can’t wait until November. It’s not going to be on the ballot in November.”

But, Monday also marked a key rollout in Gwinnett’s language equity plans for elections.

The county, which is required by federal law to provide elections materials in English and Spanish, is in the process of adding voting paperwork in four Asian languages: Korean, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Sample ballots for the primary election that are written in Korean, Vietnamese and Mandarin were posted on the county’s elections website on Monday.

From the Rome News Tribune:

There were 112 ballots cast Monday at the [Floyd County] elections office and 77 cast at the Anthony Center. In general, [Floyd County Elections Supervisor Pete] McDonald said, the turnout ramps up toward the end of the three-week early voting period.

Most of the local races will be decided on the Republican primary ballot, except for the 14th congressional district race. State House Districts 12 and 13 as well as the state Senate 52 and 53 seats will be decided in the primary, as well as the only County Commission seat where there’s a contest.

Another item, the extension of the education local option sales tax — often incorrectly referred to as ESPLOST — will be decided on the May primary ballot. Voters are being asked if they’ll approve an extension of a joint city-county schools ELOST package, with the new collection to run through March 31, 2029.

The early voting locations are both new this year.

The first day of early voting had some minor issues in Metro Atlanta, according to the AJC.

In DeKalb County, approximately 6,800 voters were initially assigned to incorrect County Commission districts. Affected DeKalb voters are in the Avondale High, Northlake, Rehoboth, Glennwood, and Winnona Park precincts.

Those voters were able to cast ballots for their correct races when they showed up at early voting locations Monday, according to county election officials. Additionally, 99 affected voters have already requested absentee ballots. Those ballots will be canceled and new ballots issued, elections officials said. There is no additional action required on the part of voters except to submit the corrected ballots.

A similar issue arose in Cobb County, where some early voters received incorrect ballots when they arrived at their precinct. A temporary solution is now in place, said Janine Eveler, director of Cobb County Elections & Registration.

Eveler said officials discovered the Secretary of State’s office didn’t upload the latest ballot information into voter check-in computers that create the ballot card. Replacement equipment was expected to be delivered later Monday.

In the meantime, poll workers are manually “bringing up the correct ballot” for voters on the touchscreen ballot marking device, Eveler said.

Fulton County also reported temporary problems operating voting machinery, Regina Waller, a Fulton County senior public information officer said.

A former United States Senator left his walled compound long enough to vote for himself. From The Brunswick News:

Perdue, a Sea Island resident, said afterward that he and Bonnie were the 71st and 72nd ballots cast on the first day of early voting, which runs through May 20. He cast his ballot at Glynn County Fire Station No. 2 on St. Simons Island — one of three early voting locations in the county — and he encouraged others to take advantage of the early voting period.

“We want people to get out and vote early,” Perdue said. “The truth is if we don’t vote then we have no right to complain about the governance that we have.”

He served for one term as a U.S. senator, succeeding Saxby Chambliss and falling to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff by a razor thin margin in the 2020 general election.

That same candidate will hold a meet and greet in Columbus next Monday, according to WTVM. He will also meet with a couple groups in Gwinnett County, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Former Governor Sonny Perdue spoke with WALB’s Jim Wallace about his new role as Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, according to WALB.

“As the new Chancellor, what are some of the first things you want to do on the job? What’s the state of the University System Of Georgia?” Wallace asked.

“Well, I think the state of the University System is strong. That’s what I’m assessing currently. A lot of people ask me what is my vision. What am I going to do right out of the box? I’m going to listen. I’m going to visit campuses. We were in Albany just a couple of weeks ago for a board meeting. Albany State did a good show down there. Very professional. And we were very impressed with your town and your academic institution there. But we are going to get around the state, talking to faculty, students, and the Presidents, to others about those in the community, about what they see as the needs. We got a great system here, Jim. It’s not broke, and we don’t have a need to fix it,” Perdue said.

“I know that you probably want to make sure that the University System of Georgia is the top in the nation. Would you say that is one of your goals?” [said Wallace]

“Absolutely, the undisputed best is the way I like to say it. We’ve got a great regent from Albany, Barbara Rivera Holmes, there. She’s in the chamber business. It’s her job to say Albany is the best community within which to live and we want to say that about the university system. But not only do we want to say it, but we also want others to say it. We want to be recognized nationally as the undisputed best higher education system in the nation. I don’t apologize for aspiring to greatness. I think we’ve got the capability,” said Perdue. “We’ve got a great system for governance here in the state, where the Board of Regents, appointed by the governor directs the policies of this system. And our institutions have a wide lane in which to implement those based on their own unique characteristics in every community. So it’s a great governance model. And the collaboration and shared governance between faculty, and students, as our primary customers. Families. It’s a great opportunity to make a difference. Jim, this is really about the future prosperity of our state, which I believe begins with a good educational base. Both in K through 12, but especially a higher education opportunity, where students can progress along with their careers. And add more prosperity for themselves, their families, and their future generations,” Perdue replied.

The Gainesville Times looks at the matchup between two incumbent House members in HD 100.

A 2021 redrawing of district lines moved state Rep. Dewey McClain, D-Lilburn, out of District 100 and into District 109. The two Republican candidates for District 100 are both serving in other House districts in the legislature — David Clark of Buford in District 98 and Bonnie Rich of Suwanee in District 97. The winner will face Democrat Louisa Jackson, who faces no primary opposition.

Ryan K. Buchanan was sworn in as the new United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, after being nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate, according to the Rome News Tribune.

A new federal voting lawsuit alleges Georgia’s requirement of a “pen and ink” signature on absentee ballot forms violated federal law, according to the AJC.

In the fall, the State Election Board approved rules that require voters to print out absentee ballot application forms, sign them by hand and return them. In 2020, voters were able to apply for ballots online without filling out paper forms.

Three groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, saying the new “wet signature” requirement violates provisions of the Civil Rights Act that prohibit election officials from denying people the right to vote because of minor errors in an application.

In announcing the lawsuit, the groups said the new signature requirement “unfairly limits ballot access for those who do not have the resources, like printers, to complete applications under the new restrictions.”

“The requirement of a ‘wet’ signature on an absentee ballot application simply creates a pretext to unfairly disqualify voters, particularly Black and brown voters, from their constitutional right to vote,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, one of the groups filing the lawsuit. “This rule is yet another attempt by the Georgia Legislature to suppress voting rights.”

The law has prompted numerous lawsuits that say it violates various voting rights protections. The law’s supporters say it improves election security while still making it easy to vote — especially in comparison to many other states.

My late wife would have been physically unable to sign her name the last 9-12 months of her life.

The City of Port Wentworth appears to be on its way to becoming a functioning municipality again. From the Savannah Morning News:

The City of Port Wentworth’s most crucial staffing positions have officially been filled, bringing some stability after a chaotic two-month period at city hall.

City Manager Steve Davis and City Attorney Scott Robichaux were officially sworn in during last Thursday’s council meeting after serving as the acting manager and attorney for two months. A new city clerk, Zahnay Smoak, was hired by Davis earlier  month.

According to Davis, previous roles left empty by a mass resignation have all been filled. Plans to create additional city staff positions are in the works in order to accommodate the growing municipality, said the city manager.

Davis and Robichaux were first named to their posts by four council members after a slew of city employees quit en masse in February. Among those who resigned was the previous city manager, Edwin Booth and City Clerk Shanta Scarboro, who both cited a “hostile work environment” as their reasons for leaving.

The Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce hosted a public forum for Bryan County Board of Education candidates, according to WTOC.

14 candidates are vying for a seat in this race. With all the scrutiny board members have faced throughout the pandemic, this is an important election to the community.

The Bryan County Board of Elections confirmed Kate Strickland is the first independent candidate to qualify to run for a spot on the board in Bryan County. She’s running for chairman and said health and safety are her two main areas of concern.

“I’m not happy and when momma’s not happy, momma does it herself right,” said Kate Strickland, Independent candidate running for chairman.

A full house of people came out to watch how each candidate addressed issues, including Superintendent Paul Brooksher.

Georgia State Representative Carl Gilliard is hosting Family Empowerment Week, according to WSAV.

 

 

 

Three Candidates for State Senate District Three spoke to the Brunswick Kiwanis Club, according to The Brunswick News.

The candidates seeking the party’s nomination in the primary are Nora Lott Haynes, Mike Hodges and Jeff Jones, all three of whom reside on St. Simons Island.

On the topic of gambling, all three voiced opinions strongly against legalizing it in Georgia.

Another Kiwanis member asked them about state income taxes, saying he felt the sales tax is a fairer way to generate revenue.

All three agreed. Hodges said he would consider eliminating the state income tax in favor of a sales tax. Jones said sales taxes allow the state to tap into the “underground cash economy.”

Haynes said taxes could be lowered across the board with little impact if not for wasteful government agencies.

Early voting in the May 24 primaries is underway and ends on May 20.

13WMAZ profiles the candidates for Houston County Commission Post 4.

The Bibb County Commission is considering a measure to help move derelict cars off the streets, according to 13WMAZ.

County commissioners are set to discuss an ordinance Tuesday that would make it easier for the county to remove junked cars from private property. The county would work with the sheriff’s office to identify abandoned cars left pretty much anywhere in Macon-Bibb.

Vehicles left in vacant lots, or even private property, would be subject to towing.

“If it’s parked in front of your house and hasn’t been moved in a month, that’s a big problem,” said Captain Wilton Collins with the Bibb Sheriff’s Office.

If they find a car that’s been there longer than 15 days, the sheriff’s office or code enforcement department would deliver a notice to the property owner.

Under the new ordinance, the property owner would have 10 days to remove the car.

Mt. Airy in Habersham County is considering banning suburbanization subdivisions and mobile homes, according to AccessWDUN.

[T]own leaders have formalized a temporary moratorium on subdivisions and mobile homes.

“We’re holding off on mobile homes because we realize that our mobile home ordinance is kind of outdated,” said Mayor Ray McAllister. “It doesn’t reflect some of the things that the state legislature has changed over the last several years.”

McAllister said Mt. Airy, other municipalities, and Habersham County are working to standardize development regulations so no one jurisdiction has a clear advantage over the others.

The Georgia Forestry Commission has banned burning of yard waste in 54 counties, according to AccessWDUN.

The measure, which took effect on Sunday morning, runs through September 30th. The state asks affected residents not to burn “yard and land-clearing debris.”

According to environmental officials, the smoke harms the state’s air quality because it pushes ozone levels higher. “These conditions have been linked to lung and heart disease in humans,” the agency said in a press release.

“These restrictions are required by the state Environmental Protection Division, so less particulate matter is released into the air,” said Georgia Forestry Commission Protection Chief Frank Sorrells. “The risk of wildfire is also high at this time, and the Georgia Forestry Commission will be closely monitoring fire activity to keep Georgians and their property safe.”

The 54 Georgia counties affected are Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Bibb, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Columbia, Coweta, Crawford, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Lumpkin, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Peach, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Putnam, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Twiggs, Upson, Walker, and Walton.

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