Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 24, 2022


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 24, 2022

John Hancock was elected President of the Second Continental Congress on May 24, 1775.

The Brooklyn Bridge opened May 24, 1883.

Then-Lt. Governor Marvin Griffin announced his candidacy for Governor on May 24, 1954.

John Smoltz tied the record for most strikeouts by a Braves pitcher, throwing 15 Ks against Montreal Expos on May 24, 1992.

Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan, who was born on this day in 1941.

Four years ago today, the 2016 General Primary and Nonpartisan General Election was held in Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is Primary Election Day from 7 AM to 7 PM. From the Statesboro Herald:

Despite a statewide record rate of early voting, just about 10% of Bulloch County’s active, registered voters voted early in-person by Friday’s deadline or had returned paper absentee ballots.

However, the number who voted early in-person here this time is nearly twice that from the last primary with a governor’s race, four years ago.

Now, the county’s 16 traditional precinct polling places will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday for the other 90% of voters. Total turnout from that last similar primary in May 2018 was only 20%, so the 2022 total is already halfway there. Will more voters come out Tuesday than already voted early?

“You know we always hope so, to have a good voter turnout, but it’s one of those things that you can’t really call it,” said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones. “Like I said, we’re up in early voting from 2018, but it could turn out to be a good Election Day, or it could be slower.”

From the Brunswick News:

Long lines are not anticipated at polling places throughout the region for today’s primary election thanks to absentee and early voting.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State office, record-setting turnout has been seen across the state due to short lines, easy ballot access and confidence in ballot security.

From WTOC:

After record breaking early voting turnout, today we will see how many Georgians turn out for Election Day.

Normally turnout for a midterm primary is lower, but with record numbers for early voting, they are not really sure what to expect — but they do expect strong turnout.

Historically a primary race this election cycle would get around 20 percent turnout for Chatham County, but early voting numbers already have half of that – around 10 percent.

With a possible influx of voters, the board of elections says they are ready despite a large number of poll workers dropping out because of several Savannah-Chatham graduations happening today.

They had assigned around 820 poll worker spots but will start today with closer to 760 workers – of the site managers – the majority of them have done with before so it should not impact the timing of getting through the line today.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Locally, the non-partisan races for Gwinnett County Board of Education Districts 2 and 4 will likely have the most significant impact. This is the first time Gwinnett has had non-partisan school board races, and elections officials have been stressing the fact that their non-partisan races means there will not be school board races in November.

Michael Rudnick is challenging incumbent school board member Steve Knudsen in the District 2 race.

The open race for school board District 4 includes Kelly Kautz, Tony Sellers, Adrienne Simmons, Matt Sones and Alexis Williams.

Other nonpartisan races appearing on Gwinnett ballots are for judicial seats.

Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Tracie Cason is facing a challenge from Andre Johnson while Superior Court Judge Angela Duncan is facing a challenge from B. Thassanee “B T” Parker and Superior Court Judge Tim Hamil is facing a challenge from Karen Scott Greene.

Voters have to go all the way to the end of their ballot to find the nonpartisan races if they choose a partisan primary ballot. If they prefer to only vote in the nonpartisan races, however, they can ask for a nonpartisan ballot.

The only county level seats that have contested party primaries are Gwinnett Board of Commissioners District 2 and Gwinnett Solicitor General.

The contested primaries for both seats are on the Democratic Party side.

Meanwhile, Erica Dove, Matt Miller, Elaine Amankwah Nietmann are running for an open seat on the Gwinnett State Court bench to replace retiring judge Pamela South.

Point of Personal Privilege

Bruce Thompson, a personal friend and the candidate for whom I will cast my ballot for Labor Commissioner today, asked me to run the following. No money nor favors changed hands, though he did give me a pair of tickets to a UGA game in 2016. But I admire and respect him greatly.

Senator Bruce Thompson: Labor Department is broken and must be fixed 

Georgia State Senator Bruce Thompson is on a mission: To change the culture of the Georgia Department of Labor and fix what he calls a broken agency. And he’s been on the campaign trail for the past 12 months working to fulfill that mission to become Georgia’s next Labor Commissioner.

The Republican from Bartow County has picked up a number of major endorsements along the way, including former Congressman Doug Collins, former Congressman and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, Governor Nathan Deal, and former Congressman Jack Kingston. He also has the endorsement of hundreds of State Senators, State Representatives, County Commissioners, County Sheriffs, Mayors and City Council members, as well as local community and business leaders from across the state.

This is an open seat this year with Republican incumbent Mark Butler not seeking reelection.

Thompson will face Kartik Bhatt and Mike Coan in the May 24 GOP primary with the winner moving on to the general election in the fall against one of five Democrats.

Thompson says the Georgia Department of Labor is broken and needs to be fixed. “Georgia was already experiencing some labor strains and workforce issues prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic highlighted these and so many more problems,” says Thompson, who currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee. “We’ve had thousands of Georgians trying unsuccessfully to get through to the Department of Labor as the pandemic forced businesses to close and lay off employees. The frustration level has now grown to a peak, and no one is getting answers or anyone at the agency to answer the phone at the department. And the sad part is, that two years later as we are transitioning out of the pandemic, the Department of Labor still has open cases from 2020 that are yet to be resolved.”

“On top of that, we have an agency that inappropriately used over $1 million in state and federal funds to buy lunches for DOL workers for over a year (and most of those folks were working from home and still haven’t returned). We have widows and others getting their wages and tax returns garnished after the DOL helped them apply for benefits, but now the agency is saying they weren’t eligible for the benefits and wants the money back with penalties and interest,” said Thompson. “If that isn’t enough to cause you to lose faith in a government agency, now two Georgia labor department employees are being federally indicted for human trafficking.”

Morale  at the DOL is at an all-time low which Thompson attribute to a lack of leadership and focus by the current Commissioner and his Executive Team. Ironically, one of his opponents served as Deputy Commissioner at the agency until recently and has openly stated how well he felt the agency was run under their leadership. “No one could have done a better job during the pandemic than Commissioner Butler!”

Thompson disagrees and continues to drive home the importance of a wholesale change even referring to a scene in the movie Facing the Giants, where a player addresses the coach about the team’s poor performance and attitude. The player’s line, “Coach, attitude reflects leadership,” is an accurate depiction of the Department of Labor ,says Thompson.

Thompson says he’s ready to immediately roll up his sleeves and fix this broken agency. “On Day One, we will establish new expectations for the employees of the agency to behave differently, from top to bottom by answering the phones and treating people’s requests with a high degree of urgency.”

“Listen, we are like an emergency room not a doctor’s office, and we need to response accordingly. When someone calls the Department of Labor, they need and deserve immediate attention rather than being forced to a voice mail that might be called back in days regardless of their level of influence.”

Morale within the agency is at an all-time low which Thompson attribute to the agency   distractions and failed leadership team. “If my opponent was truly focused on fixing the agency and leading his people as he asserts, why was he seen every day of session hanging out at the Capitol and in the cafeteria with lobbyist groups and friends. This style of leadership is what has led the culture at the agency to decline exponentially over the past several years and it must stop,” says Thompson.

Thompson also plans to modernize technology at the labor department within the first six months – pointing to “antiquated” software used by the agency that led to millions of claims be backlogged and rampant fraudulent activity. He says that modeling Georgia after other states that upgraded their systems would make it easier to file legitimate claims while protecting millions of taxpayer dollars from fraudulently being paid out.

Thompson also plans to rebuild relationships between the labor department and stakeholders in the business communities across the state. “We’ve got to reestablish the confidence the business community had in the Department of Labor many years ago by ensuring their voice is being heard.”

He also plans to put a major focus on workforce development, including what he calls the four verticals – students, retirees, veterans, and those that are were incarcerated and now must reenter the job market. As a leading sponsor of the Apprenticeship Bill (SB 379), he is thrilled at the possibilities this new emphasis can become as we develop the next generation of young men and women in Georgia.

Announcing his candidacy to his 2012 Republican Leadership Group at one of their sessions, he explained he didn’t seek out political office but was being asked to run nine years ago because of his strong and successful business background. An experienced “fixer,” Thompson has taken several struggling “broken companies” and turned them into successful ventures.

“I have been tagged as bit of a bulldozer or even a bulldog, but hey the Bulldogs fared pretty well this year in Georgia!” “This agency is not a sexy high-profile agency that anyone really cares about…until they need it and Georgians sure needed it in recent years as many people lost their cars and homes trying to get their unemployment benefits because of the pandemic. Thompson often says that every single person is experiencing the effects of this agency as businesses struggle to keep their doors open with the labor shortage. It is clear that this agency is broken, and he is the guy to fix it!!

Former Vice President Mike Pence rallied the voters with Governor Brian Kemp, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

At the rally, Kemp stuck to touting his record over more than three years as governor.

“We have stood up and [taken] the fight to street gangs and street racers, and we’re going to continue to do that as long as I’m your governor,” he said. “We passed the strongest election integrity [legislation] in the country. … We’re the No.-1 state in the country for business.”

Kemp said his decision to reopen Georgia’s economy early in the pandemic was the right move and has paid off.

“We caught unmerciful grief from the national media … and [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Stacey Abrams, saying we moved too early,” he said. “I wasn’t listening to them. … I was listening to the barbers, cosmetologists, waitresses, and the restaurant owners who said, ‘We can’t go another day, we can’t last another week.’ ”

“There was no greater champion of the conservative agenda that we advanced with the support of the people of Georgia in Washington D.C.,” Pence told the crowd. “With Governor Kemp’s support and your support … we achieved the lowest unemployment, the highest household income, the most energy production, the most pro-American trade deals, the most secure border, and the strongest military the world has ever known.”

From the AJC:

A confident Kemp arrived to rally with hundreds of cheering supporters at an airfield in Kennesaw, where former Vice President Mike Pence proclaimed that the governor is the “only candidate in this race who has defeated Stacey Abrams — whether she knows it or not.”

Saying he was “with Brian Kemp before it was cool,” Pence invoked a friendship with the governor that dates to 2018. And he warned repeatedly of a “tidal wave of left-wing policies” that Abrams and Biden have promoted.

“It doesn’t have to be like this,” he said. “And Georgia has an opportunity to set the course for America back to freedom and opportunity.”

“This is all about making sure that we keep Georgia on the track of growth and opportunities and that Georgia has the kind of leadership that says no to the radical left policies that are dominating Washington,” Pence said.

Chatham County Board of Elections sent out precinct cards with incorrect information to some voters, according to WTOC.

Chatham County Elections Supervisor Billy Wooten says the error on the precinct cards wasn’t brought to his attention until last Friday.

So, he wants to get the word out any way possible before voters head to the polls that even though some people were mailed precinct cards by the state that said the fire station was precinct 8-17, that it’s not, it’s 7-11.

There are signs on the front door of station 14 letting voters know.

8-17 is the Savannah campus of Georgia Tech, as listed on the Board of Elections website.

“We’ve alerted those poll managers that there could be some confusion, because some voters received a card that the state sent out that said the opposite. Luckily those polls are close, you know, and we can get voters to the correct place. We don’t want to inconvenience the voters if at all possible.”

Herschel Walker was joined by Vince Dooley for a rally in Athens, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Walker’s rally at The Foundry in Athens, which had an attendance of less than 100 people, featured remarks from former UGA football coach Vince Dooley and former Georgia football player Col. Mike Steele.

Stacey Jackson is the new District Attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, serving Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot, and Taylor Counties, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

“The unique thing about this position is, see, I’m from here. I grew up here,” the Harris County native said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “I chose to make this my home and to practice here. I care about the community.”

After the recent discord within the DA’s office resulting from the reign of Mark Jones, who took office in 2021, fired experienced prosecutors and caused repeated controversy before going to prison for misconduct, Jackson decided the office needed him.

“I saw that there was a need for someone to come in an provide stability and credibility to the DA’s office, and I’m just sitting around, and I said, ‘Well, why not me? I’ve been there before.’”

Jackson served as an assistant district attorney from 2000-2008, before starting his private practice.

Appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, Jackson takes over from Sheneka Terry, who became acting district attorney in October 2021 when Kemp suspended Jones for alleged misconduct. Jones went to trial in November, but pleaded guilty before the jury reached a verdict. He’s serving a year in prison.

It’s a very good article that goes on to discuss his goals and priorities at length. It’s worth reading in it’s entirety.

Augusta voters will choose a new Mayor – or at least runoff candidates — and a number of City Commissioners, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta voters will select a replacement for term-limited Mayor Hardie Davis among the nine candidates in the nonpartisan race. Four of the candidates have held elected office – Charlie Hannah, A.K. Hasan, Steven Kendrick and Marion Williams. Political newcomers Donald Bradshaw, Robert Ingham, Garnett Johnson, Lucas Johnson and Lori Myles are also on the ballot.

Five Augusta Commission seats are also up for a vote and all but one – Commissioner Brandon Garrett’s District 8 seat – are contested. Six candidates are running in District 2, two in District 4, and three each in District 6 and Super District 10.

In Columbia County, voters will decide on its District 4 Commission seat and on two of its school board races. For the commission seat, first-term Commissioner Dewey Galeas, a retired Army officer and nurse anesthetist, faces Alison Couch, a lifelong resident and small-business owner.

The only competitive local primary for state legislature is in Georgia House District 132, where Democratic incumbent Brian Prince faces challenger Traci ‘Acree’ George.

Columbus voters will choose between incumbent Mayor Skip Henderson and challenger John Anker, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

One is incumbent Skip Henderson, a former Columbus Councilor who left the body after two decades to run in 2018. He hopes to buck historic trends and secure a second term.

The challenger is John Anker, a Columbus businessman who hopes frustration with the current administration, record-breaking homicide numbers in 2021 and a police officer shortage will push voters toward change.

Columbus reported a record 70 homicides in 2021 while struggling to hire officers to replace those who left. Last year, 74 police officers resigned — the most in a 12-year period dating back to 2009. The department hired 37 officers in 2021, the fewest in that same period. The police department has roughly 130 vacancies, according to city data.

Anker has seized on those issues and made them a key part of his campaign. He’s accused the city of “playing with the numbers” regarding the officer shortage.

Henderson disputed Anker’s statements regarding the vacancies. Henderson said there were 444 budgeted Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council certified positions within the Columbus Police Department. However, those officer numbers don’t include 20 recently reclassified cadet positions.

Lula City Council member Lamb Griffin is retiring after thirty years on council, according to the Gainesville Times.

“Lamb (Griffin) expressed his appreciation for the current and past council members and said he knew he would miss being an active member of the council but will continue to be involved in seeing the city grow and prosper,” Mayor Joe Thomas wrote in a statement Monday.

Griffin’s resignation letter states he resigned his position to “attend to my personal needs and that of my family.”

City Attorney Joe Homans will review the city charter and address when to call a special city election, the letter states. The earliest time set by the state is in November.

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