Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 21, 2022

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Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 21, 2022

On September 21, 1780, General Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andre and began plotting to surrender West Point to the British.

On September 22, 1862, Republican President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which stated,

“. . . on the first day of January [1863] . . . all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

On September 21, 1863, the federal Army of the Cumberland retreated to Chattanooga after its defeat at Chickamauga.

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President Rutherford B. Hayes visited Atlanta on September 22, 1877. Click here to read the text of his speech in Atlanta.

White vigilantes seeking to assault African-Americans after reports of four white women being assaulted led to the Atlanta Race Riots on September 22-24, 1906, which would claim the lives of at least 25 African-Americans and one white person.

On September 22, 1918, the City of Atlanta gasoline administator prohibited non-emergency Sunday driving to conserve fuel for the war effort.

Bert Lance resigned as Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter on September 21, 1977. After a jury acquitted him on ten federal charges in 1980, Lance served as Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia from 1982 to 1985.

General Colin Powell was confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 21. 1989. Powell served as National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan before being appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President George H.W. Bush; in 2000, Powell was nominated by President George W. Bush as Secretary of State, the first African-American to hold that post.

On September 21, 2011, R.E.M. announced on their website that they were quitting as a band.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Democrat Stacey Abrams wants the November election to hinge on abortion, according to CNN via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, is up against a GOP incumbent in a generally favorable Republican environment, while trying to meet the high expectations following her narrow defeat in the 2018 race. But she’s found an issue to center her campaign around as Election Day approaches: protecting abortion rights in Georgia.

“It’s going to be front and center in the conversation,” Abrams told CNN in an interview Saturday while campaigning at a farmers market in Atlanta.

In particular, Abrams has focused on a 2019 law signed by her Republican rival, Gov. Brian Kemp, that bans most abortions when early cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant. After initially being blocked, the law went into effect earlier this year following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade — a decision that has energized Democrats across the country, helping shift the midterm political landscape into more unsettled territory. Abrams is testing how much the issue can shift things in her favor in a state President Joe Biden narrowly carried in 2020, but that has long voted Republican.

“Women deserve full citizenship in the United States and certainly in the state of Georgia, and they are being denied that because of Brian Kemp’s 6-week ban,” said Abrams, who lost to Kemp by fewer than 2 points four years ago. She says she hears from outraged health care providers as she travels the state. “We are driving not only doctors and nurses out of the state, we’re likely going to drive jobs away. And that should be terrifying to anyone regardless of your political persuasion.”

“Governor Kemp’s position is his position, and there’s much more important issues for the state of Georgia than just the abortion issue,” Dr. Barry Zisholtz, a Kemp supporter, told CNN following the governor’s remarks at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum Sunday in Sandy Springs. “People want to make it just about one issue, but I think people need to be concerned about paying for their groceries and for gasoline too.”

But Abrams supporters say abortion could be a deciding factor that could sway women who previously voted for Kemp.

Georgia voters don’t appear to care so much. From the AJC:

Georgia Democrats hoping the battle over abortion rights will upend the midterm elections got mixed news from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released this week.

Only a handful of Georgians — 5% — listed abortion as their top issue in the election. And more than half of likely voters indicated that the political divide over abortion won‘t influence their decisions to cast their ballots in November.

But the poll also indicated that nearly half of respondents said they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to protect access to abortion. That includes about half of women and 90% of Democrats.

The AJC poll found that, for a significant bloc of Georgia voters, the decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case remains a key mobilizer. About 44% of likely voters said it made them “more motivated” to vote in the midterm, including roughly half of women, three-quarters of Democrats and one-third of independents.

“I think across the country, especially for women … of course it will be the Dobbs decision,” former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, now a White House aide, said when asked last week what would motivate voters.

In the new poll, 25% of likely voters said they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to limit abortion. That includes 47% of Republicans and about one-quarter of men.

But the support for abortion rights reflected in the poll doesn’t seem to be moving the needle for Georgia Democrats.

Some 36% of likely voters listed cost of living, jobs and the economy as the most important issue facing the nation. That was followed by 20% of voters who said “threats to democracy” was the top concern. About 14% listed immigration and border security.

Former Savannah Alderman Tony Thomas was arrested and charged with felony theft by taking, according to WTOC.

According to the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office booking website, Thomas was arrested Tuesday by the Pooler Police Department for felony theft by taking. Pooler Police arrested Thomas at the Parker’s off Godley Station. In the booking report, Thomas was listed as the store’s manager.

Thomas was an alderman in Savannah for several years before losing in the 2019 election.

Mr. Thomas has some background with the criminal justice system.

Some Georgians will receive payments intended to address COVID problems, according to 13WMAZ.

The first batch of assistance payments have started rolling into bank accounts. They’re one time payments of $350.

According to the department of human services, those who have email as their contact preference should receive money first.

Those who have email and U.S. mail listed as contact will start receiving payments beginning next week.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced last month that he dedicated more than one billion dollars to help vulnerable Georgians deal with inflation and the economic impact of COVID-19.

• If you were enrolled Medicaid, SNAP, and/or TANF government benefit programs by July 31, 2022, you are eligible (this includes anyone in the active enrollees’ assistance unit).

• Cash assistance will not be provided to those enrolled after the aforementioned cutoff date.

• Georgians who are enrolled in more than one of the previously mentioned programs will received one cash assistance payment.

• DHS will be communicating with eligible Georgians through the Georgia Gateway portal – it appears you won’t need to do anything on your end, the state will arrange the payment.

• All eligible Georgians should log into their Georgia Gateway accounts and verify their personal information and contact preferences are up-to-date

Funds for this revenue award are coming from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund which was part of the American Rescue Plan act, his team announced.

Some Lowndes County residents will receive assistance with water bills, according to WALB.

Coastal Plain EOA has partnered with Lowndes County leaders to provide residents assistance with their water bills. Something people said came right on time.

“Lowndes County wanted to take the opportunity to help citizens that needed the most help in our community. And this was a great way for us to partner with an agency here in town that has a reputation for doing right within the community and helping those that need it the most. And so really, the commissioners and leadership the team here took it as an opportunity just to help as many people as we could that really needed it during these times,” said Rachel Thrasher, community development director for Lowndes County.

Coastal Plain leaders said this is a federally-funded program. This program was started to provide assistance to low-income families. Last year was a pilot year for them. And after seeing success, they decided to keep this going.

One hundred local residents attended a discussion of homelessness issues, according to The Brunswick News.

The meeting was organized by the Historic Brunswick Neighborhood Planning Assembly — which represents the area south of Gloucester Street — to discuss the homelessness issue and for give city residents a chance to air their concerns on the record for city officials.

She noted several developments recently, including the city’s plans to revise ordinances related to camping out in public spaces, homeless shelters, group homes and halfway houses.

She also reminded them of the city and county’s plans to hold an all-day joint summit to discuss the homelessness issue on Oct. 5 at the College of Coastal Georgia’s Southeast Georgia Conference Center.

“People are starting to talk … At the end of the meeting, we want to have a unified voice with which to participate in the homelessness summit,” she said.

“If we had (Florida Gov.) Ron DeSantis here, he’d bus them to the St. Simons Island Pier and they’d be gone in a matter of two days,” [local resident James] McCormick said.

Ally Moline, who runs Silver Bluff Brewery on Newcastle Street with her husband, said there’s not much police can do.

“It’s like that in every city, all the way down to Florida.”

Middle Georgia counties report higher numbers of public records requests for election information, according to 13WMAZ.

Many offices across the state report being understaffed. But on top of that, officials say they’re working under a microscope with records requests coming in weekly that they’re required to respond to.

“Before 2020, we would have them on rare occasions. That picked up quite a bit since 2020,” said Tom Gillon with Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections.

Both Bibb and Houston counties’ Board of Elections offices say they’ve received an increase of records requests. It went from maybe one a month to several a week.

“We get between five to ten a week,” said Andy Holland with Houston County Board of Elections office.

Gillon says Republican groups make up the majority of their requests. While Holland says it’s a mix. But both say their offices are receiving some copied and pasted template requests from groups or individuals asking for the same public records.

Records requests range from ballot images, logs of scanned records range from ballot images, logs of scanned absentee ballots, tapes from the tabulator, and items on election management computers.

Officials say since the 2020 election, they’re also seeing more people wanting to observe the election process, including watching poll workers count absentee ballots.

Video shows evidence contradicting the testimony of a former Coffee County Republican Party Chair, according to WALB.

A Republican Party official in Georgia told a computer forensics team to copy components of the voting system at a rural elections office two months after the 2020 election and spent nearly all day there, contradicting her sworn deposition testimony about her role in the alleged breach of the equipment, a new court filing says.

The filing late Monday is part of a broader lawsuit challenging the security of the state’s voting machines that has been drawn into a separate investigation of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss in Georgia. The apparent breach happened on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to stop the certification of the election.

Interior security camera video from the Coffee County elections office shows Cathy Latham, the county Republican Party chair at the time, welcomed the computer forensics team when it arrived, introduced the team to local election officials and spent nearly all day there. She also instructed the team what to copy, which turned out to be “virtually every component of the voting system,” the filing says. The video directly refutes Latham’s testimony in a sworn deposition and her representations in filings with the court, the document states.

The filing comes in response to Latham’s attorneys’ attempt to quash subpoenas for her personal electronic devices, including any cellphones, computers and storage devices.

Richmond County Board of Education members discussed safety issues, according to WRDW.

At least one Richmond County School Board member made a motion to suspend homecoming activities and tailgating during Tuesday’s meeting.

The motion did not pass, so all those activities will go on as scheduled.

They said there would be enhanced safety measures and asked the community to report anything suspicious.

Going into Friday, the Director of School Safety Mantrell Wilson says the administration is talking, and nothing is off the table, but security measures will remain tight-lipped.

“Sharing the security measures we are putting in place aren’t always the best practice. Those things need to remain confidential due to people being able to circumvent them if we share them,” he said.

The Augusta Chronicle looks at the candidates for Richmond County Board of Education.

The Richmond County Board of Education could be replacing nearly half of its leaders by the end of the holiday season. It will already be seeing a new representative for District 6 as A.K. Hasan has chosen not to run for re-election, clearing the way for young newcomer Tyrique Robinson, who is running unopposed. Incumbent Walter Eubanks of District 3 is also running unopposed, so he will serve another term.

Districts 2, 7 and 9 are up for election too, but the current representatives have some competition.

The Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office is still struggling with a case backlog related to COVID, according to the Albany Herald.

[I]n Dougherty County and other smaller Superior Court jurisdictions around the state, there is a personnel shortage for some of the most vital legal work, prosecutors and public defenders needed to adjudicate a backlog of court cases that was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, District Attorney Greg Edwards’ office is about one-third short of being fully staffed at 16 assistant district attorneys, with five vacant positions as of last week.

“Other circuits are having kind of the same issue with getting lawyers in,” the district attorney said. “There’s always turnover in DA’s offices, people coming in and out. Recently I’m having people moving out, but nobody’s coming in.”

While five is a small number, there are some much larger numbers that are in play due to the issue. There are some 10,000 outstanding felony cases in the county, and of those 2,500 or so involve some of the most serious, from murder and armed robbery to aggravated child molestation and aggravated rape.

A couple of hundred people have been waiting in jail for more than two years, either because they cannot afford bail or were denied bail due to the severity of the charges against them.

Lockette estimated the cost of incarcerating those people is about $6 million annually for county taxpayers.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr says a COVID-related moratorium on executions has run its course. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Georgia should be allowed to execute the longest-serving inmate on the state’s death row despite an agreement that capital cases would not move forward during the pandemic, a lawyer for the state argued Tuesday.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Brooke Chaplain told members of the Georgia Supreme Court an agreement between Attorney General Chris Carr and the Federal Defender Program contained in a series of emails was essentially a position statement, not a legally binding contract.

“This was a group of attorneys working together to figure out how we move forward during a pandemic,” she said. “It was to work with the defense bar saying, ‘We will not move forward while you can’t visit with your clients.’ ”

The attorney general obtained an execution order that Presnell be put to death last May. But a Fulton County judge stayed the execution after the Federal Defender Program, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, sued the state on behalf of Presnell and nine other prisoners for breach of contract.

Doherty said the state’s decision to move ahead with executing Presnell forced his lawyers to prepare for a clemency hearing without being able to present expert testimony and other live witnesses because of the COVID restrictions.

Chaplain’s argument that the emails between the attorney general’s office and the Federal Defender Program did not constitute a legally binding contract got pushback Tuesday from several of the justices.

“The state is expressly representing to people, ‘We want this to be what the state agrees to,’ ” said Justice Charles Bethel, referring to the emails. “[But] what’s laid out as what was agreed to did not factually happen.”

“The terms … are in writing,” added Justice Carla Wong McMillian. “That’s as close as you can get to a written contract.”

Gainesville City Council voted to expand the city’s drinking dining district, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Gainesville City Council on Tuesday approved a number of changes to its alcohol laws.

The city’s downtown dining district roughly doubled in size, with its Southern boundary expanding from Jesse Jewell Parkway all the way to Industrial Boulevard.

The 50-50 ratio requiring providers to keep sales of alcohol below 50% now applies only to liquor.

The “main goal” of expanding the downtown dining district, said Mayor Sam Couvillion, was to “pull in the Midland Greenway.”

In Gainesville’s downtown dining district, people can carry out up to two unsealed alcoholic beverages of 16 ounces each in plastic cups from noon until midnight from a restaurant or growler shop. The rule applies to any alcoholic beverage, as long as you stay within the dining district.

A federal Commission has recommended new names for two Georgia military installations, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The Naming Commission submitted the third and final portion of its report to Congress Monday, recommending hundreds of Confederate-inspired street and building names for renaming or removal.

In May, the commission recommended renaming Fort Gordon near Augusta for former President and World War II military leader Dwight Eisenhower and renaming Fort Benning near Columbus for Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife Julia. Moore’s 32 years of service in the Army included commanding combat troops in Vietnam.

The annual defense bill in 2021 created the commission, composed of eight volunteers chosen by the defense secretary and Congress, and gave it until Oct. 1 to submit its recommendations. The commission was given $2 million to complete the task.

Garden City Council members appointed a new at-large member to fill a vacancy, according to WTOC.

The appointment follows the former mayor stepping down and Bruce Campbell taking his place.

Council members nominated three candidates and voted 4-2 for Pastor Gwyn Hall of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

Some residents didn’t think that was fair.

“We’re the ones paying y’all’s bills so we should have a choice in who sits up there with y’all.”

“The residents are feeling there is still no transparency in Garden City,” said Donna Williams, president of the Garden City Community Group Inc.

Another resident said: “I think Garden City has a serious ethics problem and I also feel that since Gwyn Hall is on the ethics board, he should see the ethics problem.”

The city is in compliance with the charter, which states following a resignation, the mayor pro tem will fill the mayor’s position and if a council member’s spot becomes vacant, the remaining members can appoint someone to that position.

Bibb County Commissioners voted to move forward with a $35 million dollar economic development project, according to 13WMAZ.

Bibb commissioners Tuesday moved forward with a plan to buy more than 21 acres of land on Coliseum Drive just across the street from the Centreplex. It’s for a development they say could bring in millions of dollars.

Commissioners spent a lot of time behind the scenes hashing out the plans. After about an hour in executive session, they decided to spend $14 million to buy the property. Over $10 million will come from SPLOST money, and $3 million from the county’s general fund.

“You’ll see some commercial property. We’ve already been in discussion with potential medical offices. As well as parking there. You’ll see up to 825 residences there,” said Mayor Lester Miller as he presented the plans.

Those 825 ‘residences’ are split between a new hotel, condos and apartments. They’ll also include restaurants and retail space in the development, and even a park area, which leads to the pedestrian entrance to the Ocmulgee Mounds.

Lucas says this is another huge plus for east Macon. She says it’s been a big year for the area, with this project, and with construction wrapping on Jeffersonville Road.

The next step is finding a developer to plan the project. They hope to close on the property by January.

Glynn County Commissioners are considering revising their zoning ordinance to address a problem, according to The Brunswick News.

County Commission Chairman Wayne Neal made the conclusion during a discussion at Tuesday’s special-called meeting about a woman trying to open a dance studio but isn’t allowed to because it isn’t specifically listed in the light industrial zoning ordinance.

The woman, who Neal said has been trying to resolve the issue for six months, wants to open her businesses in a building with ceilings tall enough to do everything she wants inside. And the owner of the building does not want to rezone the property commercial.

Commissioners were asked to consider an amendment to the ordinance that would allow schools offering instruction in art, music, dance, drama, gymnastics, cheerleading or other similar activities would be allowed. Gyms and fitness studios would also be allowed if county commissioners approve the proposal at a later meeting.

“There is nothing in light industrial for these type of businesses,” Neal said. “I would like to direct staff to create language (in the ordinance) so this doesn’t become so onerous to get things done.”

Chatham Area Transit launched a smartphone app called CATTracker, according to WTOC.

It’s now easier for Chatham Area Transit riders to track their bus and plan ahead with a new app available for Apple and Android users.

Some CAT bus riders say they often struggle knowing exactly what time their bus will make it to their stop. Instead of playing a guessing game, now there’s a cat tracker app.

It shows them in real time exactly where their bus is at and what time they can expect it’s coming to them.

The Savannah Morning News looks at complaints about the effects of increased post-COVID tourism in Tybee Island.

“In the months of June, July of 2020, there was essentially no property available on the island,” said Maria Lancaster, director of sales and marketing for Tybee Island Vacation Rentals, a management company that oversees about 270 short-term vacation rentals on the island.

Though she and other business owners who depend on visitorship were grateful for the jumpstarting economy, another conflict arose: Tybee never saw so many people flood the island at a time when resources and employees were at their lowest.

The challenge became how to handle the influx of visitors with the limited capacity of the small barrier island. It’s a tightrope that the city has been trying to walk for decades – balancing the economic benefits of tourism with the city’s infrastructure and the needs of its permanent residents – but on a heightened scale.

While city officials believe that the pandemic-induced spike in tourism is starting to balance itself out again, the overall trend of increased visitorship has been on the city’s radar for years.

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