Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 3, 2024

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 3, 2024

On April 2, 1513, Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, claiming it for the Spanish crown. Today he is best-known in Georgia for giving his name to be mispronounced daily on a sketchy street in Atlanta. It is not known if he was wearing jean shorts, or if those were developed later. Georgians began mispronouncing his name immediately.

Georgia began its love affair with the regulation of what can and cannot be sold on April 3, 1735, when James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony, helped gain passage of “An Act to prevent the Importation and Use of Rum and Brandies in the Province of Georgia.” The act provided that after June 24, 1735, “no Rum, Brandies, Spirits or Strong Waters” shall be imported into Georgia.” Permission was also required to sell beer, wine, and ale.

On April 3, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized “privateers” holding a letter of marque and reprisal to attack British ships. This essentially legalizes what would otherwise be considered piracy. Issuing letters of marque and reprisal is among the enumerated powers of Congress under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, though they have seldom been used.

On April 3, 1865, Richmond fell. On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln toured Richmond, Virginia the day after the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces.

On April 3, 1898, President William McKinley called on Georgians to contribute 3000 volunteers for the Spanish-American War.

On April 2, 1917, Jeanette Rankin took office as the first woman elected to Congress, representing Montana.

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives.

Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanied by Georgians Hosea Williams and Ralph D. Abernathy, was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting a strike by sanitation workers on April 3, 1968. He delivered what is known as the “Mountaintop Speech.”

“[L]ike anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On April 2, 1985, Governor Joe Frank Harris signed legislation recognizing the Right Whale as the official state marine mammal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The City of Oakwood will swear-in Rhonda Wood to City Council, according to AccessWDUN.

A release from the city Tuesday afternoon said Wood will be sworn in at the next monthly city council meeting on April 8. She will fill the Post 4 seat left vacant last September by the passing of her husband, Dwight Wood. She defeated Volley Collins for the seat by an 88-vote margin.

Hall County elections officials, however, later found that 200 people who did not live in the city cast ballots in that election, while 22 people who should have been able to vote in the race did not have the item included on their ballots. An investigation by one county elections official indicated the errors were not the results of Hall County elections staff failures.

“While the City acknowledges the conclusions of the Hall County Board of Elections and the investigation of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office may be on-going, O.C.G.A. Section 21-2-503(b) provides that the City may swear in the presumptive winner – even if a challenge is pending,” Tuesday’s release said.

The city also cited state law indicating that the window for Collins to challenge the results of the race has passed. Wood was originally scheduled to be sworn in on April 2, but that ceremony was canceled after Oakwood’s attorney recommended a postponement.

A recall campaign against Athens-Clarke County’s Mayor, Sheriff, and District Attorney is moving forward, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Organizers of an effort to recall four local elected officials have reached an initial threshold for collecting signatures seeking recall elections, although they have had to abandon their effort to oust District 2 Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link from office.

Still targeted in the recall are Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz, Clarke County Sheriff John Q. Williams, and Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, whose jurisdiction covers both Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.

Because petition organizer James Lee, also known as James DePaola, is not a resident of Link’s intown district, he cannot sponsor a recall effort targeting her.

[Athens-Clarke Elections Director Charlotte] Sosebee also let board members know that Lee and others who have been collecting signatures had surpassed the 100-signature minimum in the applications for recall petitions submitted against Girtz, Williams and Gonzalez. The 100-plus signatures collected in connection with the recall efforts all came from registered voters, as verified by county elections officials.

Specifically, recall organizers had collected 159 signatures in the effort to recall Gonzalez, 126 signatures in the effort against Williams, and 118 signatures in the recall effort targeting Girtz as of March 28, the end of the 15-day period allowed for collecting the signatures.

The next step, getting signatures on an actual petition for the scheduling of a recall election, will be a much heavier lift for organizers and whoever they recruit to help them collect signatures.

Organizers must collect the signatures of 30% of the people who were registered to vote in the last election in which the targeted officials were candidates. For the sheriff, the last election was Nov. 3, 2020; for the district attorney, it was a Dec. 1, 2020, special election; and, for the mayor, it was the 2022 general primary.

Note that District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez was elected from the Western Judicial Circuit, which includes Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County. Not sure how a multi-county recall works.

An Athens-Clarke County citizen was tased by police in a Commission meeting, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Richard Camden Pace, a longtime Athens-Clarke County resident who introduced himself Tuesday as a rabbi, and as founder and director of YeshuaNation.org, was ordered out of the commission chamber by Mayor Pro-Tem Ovita Thornton after not relinquishing the microphone when his allotted three minutes expired during a public comment period at the end of the commission meeting.

Thornton repeatedly urged police to get Pace out of the commission chamber shortly after Pace called Girtz “a paid-off, Satan-worshipping communist child-trafficking Democrat.”

[Later] that Pace ripped up the pro-Palestinian sign, and Thornton told the police officer on hand for the meeting – a routine practice – to “Walk him out. Walk him out. Walk him out.”

Pace resisted the police officer and a struggle ensued, during which Pace was tased as he was taken to the floor. Moments later, as stunned commissioners and citizens looked on, Pace was escorted to a police car. Outside City Hall, Pace apologized to the officer, who in turn told Pace that the commission strictly enforces its three-minute limit on public comment.

“When they tell you it’s over, it’s over,” the officer told Pace.

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) called for Georgia Republican Party Vice Chair Brian K. Pritchard to resign, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Georgia Republican Party first vice chair said he will not step down despite calls to resign from people within his own party, including 14th District U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“Brian Pritchard must resign immediately,” The Rome Republican wrote on her X account Tuesday. “He’s a convicted felon who committed voter fraud and can not continue to be allowed to represent the Georgia GOP.”

Pritchard told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the demands that he resign were “sensationalized,” despite a recent court ruling that he violated state elections laws by voting nine times while on probation for a felony forgery sentence.

This past week, an administrative court judge fined Pritchard for voting illegally and registering to vote while serving a sentence on a felony conviction in Pennsylvania.

Georgia Republican Party Chair Josh McKoon joined MTG in calling for Pritchard to resign, according to the AJC.

State GOP chair Josh McKoon told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that he asked Brian Pritchard to resign last night during a meeting of the state executive committee because he was distracting from the party’s goal of flipping Georgia back to the GOP column.

McKoon noted that he ran on two campaign commitments – to help elect a Republican nominee for president and ending what he described as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ “witch hunt” election-interference trial.

“The judicial finding that our First Vice Chairman registered to vote illegally and voted illegally nine times makes it harder to accomplish both of these goals,” said McKoon.

“His resignation will allow us to focus all of our time, attention and resources on electing President Trump and ending the evil Willis prosecution.”

“Our state party should be the leading voice on securing our elections,” said Greene, who called on Pritchard to resign immediately. “It is unacceptable for our party to have a man in leadership who has repeatedly committed voter fraud himself.”

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission issued a report finding that Douglas County Probate Judge Christina Peterson should be removed from office, according to the AJC.

Christina Peterson, who became a probate judge in an uncontested November 2020 election, has been fighting the ethics charges since they were filed by the director of the state’s judicial watchdog in July 2021. At one point, Peterson faced 50 separate charges accusing her of violating the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, but 20 have been withdrawn or dismissed.

Peterson, a University of Georgia School of Law graduate who practiced as an attorney for several years before taking the bench, was accused of inappropriate social media posts, unnecessarily jailing and fining a woman who sought to amend her marriage license and letting wedding participants into Douglas County’s courthouse after hours without permission. She was also abusive toward a fellow judge and other county officials, obstructed access to public records and had improper contact with a litigant, among other things, the judicial commission alleged.

“(Peterson’s) actions demonstrate a troubling pattern of ineptitude and misconduct,” the panel wrote in a 54-page report Sunday. “She is not fit to serve.”

The Georgia Supreme Court will decide whether Peterson remains on the bench.

Throughout the ethics case, Peterson has said that she has faced unfair criticism as the first Black probate judge in Douglas County. During a trial before the commission panel last year, Peterson admitted to making mistakes in her first year as a judge while learning the ropes and said she was trying to do better.

The commission, which is tasked with investigating complaints of judicial misconduct, has twice sought Peterson’s suspension. Both requests were denied by the state Supreme Court.

Peterson has qualified for reelection this year as Douglas County’s probate judge. She is being challenged in the Democratic primary in May by Douglasville attorney Valerie Vie. No Republican candidates have qualified in the race.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson (D) wants to punish people who leave guns in cars or fail to report stolen guns, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The proposed changes to city code, expected to go before city council for a vote next week, would require owners and dealers to report the theft of a firearm to the Savannah Police Department and also require firearms left in parked vehicles be stowed in a locked compartment.

“It is our responsibility to do whatever we can within the parameters of the law to keep Savannahians safe, and I committing to doing just that, whatever it takes,” said Johnson, who has long signaled his intention to reduce the number of firearms stolen from cars.

Infractions under the new ordinance would be city code violations, and potential penalties are a fine not to exceed $1,000 or no more than 30 days in jail, Johnson said. The ordinance comes as response to crime stats that show the majority of guns stolen from vehicles come from unlocked cars.

In 2023, SPD reported 244 guns stolen from cars, with 203 stolen from unlocked vehicles, according to SPD data. Through the end of March this year, 56 out of 69 firearms stolen from cars came from unlocked vehicles.

“We support the Second Amendment, and the right to bear arms,” Johnson said. “This ordinance will not affect one’s ability to legally carry a firearm in your car, but this ordinance does address irresponsible actions by firearm owners.”

From WTOC:

During his weekly news conference Mayor Van Johnson announced the ordinance would require gun owners to report firearm thefts within 24 hours to the Savannah Police Department.

The ordinance says firearms shouldn’t be visible and secure in a locked glove compartment or locked trunk while the car is parked.

“We want to make sure that we balance the right of someone to bear arms and the responsibility of someone to keep those arms secured,” said Mayor Van Johnson, City of Savannah.

He says so far this year, 69 guns have been stolen from vehicles— 56 of which were unlocked.

“The math ain’t mathing and that is a problem for me,” Mayor Johnson expressed.

“People, when you say the G-word it’s, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re trying to take our guns.’ Well, no we’re not. You can have your guns just lock them up, lock them up, lock them up,” said Johnson.

From WSAV:

• All firearm owners and dealers will be required to report the theft of a firearm to the Savannah Police Department (SPD)

• SPD will record and maintain unique identifying information pertaining to each firearm reported stolen

• Everyone who is traveling with a firearm is required to store them in a locked compartment while the vehicle is parked

• Owners may not allow guns to be visible while parked, and all vehicles containing the firearms must be fully locked when not in operation

“Everybody knows you look under the seat or in the center console that’s not locked. It just doesn’t make sense,” Johnson said.

“This ordinance will not affect one’s ability to legally carry a firearm in your car, but it does address irresponsible actions by firearm owners,” the mayor said. “It is our responsibility to do whatever we can within the parameters of the law to keep Savannah safe. I am committed to doing just that, whatever it takes. I have asked city council for their support.”

The proposal will be read at the Thursday, April 11, council meeting at 2 p.m. If approved, Johnson says the city will hold a 30-day public education campaign as well.

Brunswick City Commissioners are considering a new property tax homestead exemption, according to The Brunswick News.

“The city wishes to provide for a new homestead exemption to property owners in the city within the meaning of and as fully permitted under the provisions of the (Georgia) Constitution of the state of Georgia,” according to a resolution included in the agenda for Wednesday.

Local homestead exemptions must be implemented on behalf of a local government by the Georgia General Assembly. The process usually begins with a local government requesting action by the state.

“Usually what happens is the commission will adopt a resolution asking for certain things, and the house or senate member, whoever, will introduce it as a local action,” Chapman said.

Most times, other legislators will support a local act if it’s endorsed by the delegates representing the area, he said.

If commissioners voted to pass the resolution on Wednesday, Chapman said the assembly’s 2024 legislative session just ended so it would not come up under the Gold Dome until 2025 and could not take effect until 2026.

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