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

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

General Charles Lee of the Continental Army told Congress that Georgia’s value to the young nation required more forces to defend against the British on August 24, 1776.

On August 24, 1931, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution appointing a committee to work with the Governor in planning a bicentennial celebration to be held in 1933.

On August 24, 1945, the United States Postal Service held a first day of issue ceremony in Warm Springs, Georgia for the release of a stamp bearing the images of Franklin D. Roosevelt and The Little White House.

FDR Warm Springs

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Sandra Deal, wife of former Governor Nathan Deal, died at home in Demorest. From the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times:

The Deal family announced that Sandra Deal died Tuesday from breast cancer that metastasized into brain cancer at the family home in the northeast Georgia town of Demorest, surrounded by the former governor and other family members.

Deal, who was a teacher in Hall County for more than 15 years, achieved a goal while first lady of reading to schoolchildren in all 159 counties, all 181 Georgia school districts, and numerous prekindergarten classes, ultimately visiting more than 1,000 schools.

“A child’s brain develops at a remarkable pace between birth and his or her eighth birthday, and this growth depends on a solid start,” Deal wrote in a 2018 opinion piece in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The earlier we can help children learn about their emotions and getting along with others, the better we can inspire them to seek to know more about the world, and it is more likely that they will find success later in life.”

Deal co-chaired the Georgia Literacy Commission, promoting reading proficiency by third grade. In 2017, the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy was named for her at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, where Deal graduated from college.

From the Gainesville Times:

“We have lost a wife, mother and grandmother who loved us unconditionally, as we did her,” the Deal family said in a statement. “She blessed us, taught us and enriched our lives.

“Our family knew this day was coming, and we are grateful that it gave us the opportunity to enjoy as much time with her as we could in her final months. We are grieving but celebrate her life and the example she set.”

The family goes on to describe Deal as “a woman of unshakeable Christian faith” who “did not fear death because she had no doubts about her ultimate destination, and knew that we’d all come together again one day.”

The statement continues: “Beyond our family, she touched thousands and thousands of lives as a teacher and as first lady of Georgia, when she read to students in every county and every school district in the state. The public Sandra Deal matched the private Sandra Deal. She gave to others selflessly, unfailingly and unceasingly. We will miss her but count ourselves lucky that we were hers. She leaves a world that’s better because she was here.”

“Not just the community but the state is mourning,” said Phil Wilheit Sr., a Hall County businessman very close to the Deal family. “She was loved from one end of this state to the other in her tenure as first lady.”

Sandra Deal “was one of the dearest, nicest people I’ve ever known,” he said. “She loved people and people loved her. She loved being around them. She was probably the most welcoming first lady this state has ever had.”

Wilheit said he told Nathan Deal after her death, “Heaven is a better place with Sandra there.”

The couple seemed inseparable in public, often seen together in events, such as one in 2019, when the pair was honored at a Northeast Georgia History Center fundraiser.

“Having lived life as long as I have, I’ve seen so many people go to the next part of their lives in heaven and know that you can’t take it with you,” Sandra Deal said at the event. “It’s what you invest in the lives of people that is left as your gift to the world.”

From Governor Brian Kemp and his family:

“Marty, the girls, and I are truly heartbroken to learn of former First Lady Sandra Dunagan Deal’s passing.”

“The proud daughter of teachers and a two-time graduate of what would become Georgia College & State University, she dedicated her professional life to the same career as her parents – educating the growing minds of Georgia. Her generosity of spirit ensured not only that she was beloved by her students, but also an influential force in their lives, leaving an imprint not just on their minds but also on their hearts. For generations to come, the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy, located on the campus of her alma mater, will continue her good work in bringing the gift of reading to Georgia’s children.”

“She brought the same dedication and a refined spirit to her work as First Lady. During her time in the Governor’s Mansion, while improving its beauty and preserving its memories for future generations, she also visited schools in all of Georgia’s 159 counties and 181 school districts, some of them multiple times, to read to students and demonstrate her earnest care for them.”

“That same level of genuine kindness was a fixture in her life, especially where her family was concerned. Mother to four children and grandmother to six, she loved her family dearly, including her parents whom she took in and cared for when they endured poor health until their own passing.”

“But the greatest joy she had was found in the love of her husband, former Governor Nathan Deal. Both those who had the pleasure of knowing them personally and those that they just met were able to witness a relationship filled with unyielding affection and respect. Through 56 years of marriage, she encouraged and helped the love of her life, and cherished most of all being his wife. With his gentle spirit and wisdom by her side, her soul was full and joyous to the very end.”

“As she will for so many Georgians, Mrs. Deal will remain steadfast in our hearts and memories, just as her family will be in our prayers during this time of mourning. As she goes to await them in a greater world, we ask all Georgians to join us in celebrating her life and contributions to a thankful state.”

From the AJC:

“She brought an exceptional level of beauty, grace, dignity and warmth to that office,” said David Ralston, Speaker of the House of the Georgia General Assembly. “She could be in a room and pick out that one person who needed a lift, whose life needed to be touched, whether it was a school child where she had gone to read or a prisoner working on a detail.”

She sometimes gave tours of the Governor’s Mansion to tourists. “I used to joke that if a docent gave the tour, it was 30 minutes, and if she gave it, it was two and a half hours,” said Ryan. “There was no task too small.”

During her time as first lady, she co-wrote the book on the history of the Governor’s Mansion, “Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion” with two professors from Kennesaw State University. To encourage volunteerism and promote community service, she launched a statewide campaign called “With a Servant’s Heart.” She served as co-chair of the Georgia Literacy Commission and chaired Georgia’s Older Adults Cabinet, which works to improve the lives of seniors.

Mrs. Deal was surprised in 2017 when she and her husband attended a ceremony at her alma mater, Georgia College and State University, for the opening of a new institute dedicated to professional development for teachers. She had not been told in advance it would be named the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy.

She was a long-time member of First Baptist Church of Gainesville and was part of a women’s prayer group there for many years.

She is survived by her husband Nathan; her children Jason, Mary Emily, Carrie, and Katie; and six grandchildren.

From GPB News:

She was involved with “Read Across Georgia Month” and partnered with the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, an initiative to bring students to grade-level reading status by the end of the third grade.

Most notably, she made appearances at 800 schools and pre-K programs, reading to students in all of Georgia’s 159 counties and 181 school districts.

On Nov. 30, 2018, she completed her 1,000th school visit, sharing her passion for books with kids.

“I’ve immensely enjoyed reading to students on my visits, as teaching children to love reading gives them the confidence to learn on their own far into the future,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

Governor Brian Kemp announced the state will spend $125 million dollars to improve healthcare in Georgia, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that he will dedicate $125 million to supercharge Georgia’s School-Based Health Center Program and help strengthen healthcare options for families across the state, including those in underserved and rural communities. The funding will be administered by the Georgia Department of Education through a grant program. Awardees will be able to use grants of up to $1 million per project to support the planning and start-up of new School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) in approved Title 1 schools.

“School-Based Health Centers are effective models for meeting the unique needs of students, families, and their communities,” said Governor Kemp. “By investing these funds, we’re paving the way for new centers across the state where they are needed most. This innovative program is in line with our ongoing efforts to lower costs and increase access to quality healthcare coverage for everyone — especially those in rural Georgia — without assigning an unfair price tag to taxpayers.”

The goal of SBHCs is to provide students the best opportunity to succeed by addressing medical, behavioral, dental, and vision health needs. SBHCs are a proven, effective method for addressing those needs by meeting students where they are – in school, eliminating barriers like transportation, accessibility, and cost for children and families living in communities with healthcare access challenges. SBHCs have also been proven to help communities by reducing avoidable or unnecessary emergency room visits, increasing access to quality healthcare options, improving school attendance records, and increasing the likelihood of students and families seeking care. Additionally, SHBCs comprehensive services support schools with safe reopening and COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

To learn more about SBHCs, please follow this link. Depending on the needs of the individual school and the local community, SBHCs provide the following comprehensive services:

Primary Care (including child wellness exams)
Behavioral health screening and counseling
Diagnosis and treatment of acute chronic illnesses and minor injuries (i.e. asthma, diabetes, and sickle cell)
Immunizations
Vision and hearing screenings
Lab tests
Sport physicals
Referrals to and coordination of outside services
Dental care (including fillings, extractions, fluoride treatments, sealants, and restorative services)
Full-service vision center: eye exams and prescription glasses

United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) says she was “SWATTED,” according to the Rome News Tribune.

A prank call led police to respond to 14th District Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s home in Rome early Wednesday.

“We responded and there was nothing,” Floyd County Police Department Assistant Chief Tom Ewing said.

“Last night, I was swatted just after 1 a.m. I can’t express enough gratitude to my local law enforcement here in Rome, Floyd County,” she stated concerning the prank on her @RepMTG Twitter page. “More details to come.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams campaigned on St. Simon’s Island, according to The Brunswick News.

“If we are not doing the fundamental work of protecting our environment, preparing for resilience and creating new opportunities that put us on the forefront of environmentally advanced energy, then we are losing the race to save Georgia’s future,” Abrams told a small group gathered at the Casino.

“Our environment is our responsibility,” Abrams said. “And my mission as the next governor of Georgia is to protect our state, and that means protecting the Okenefokee swamp, protecting the coast line, protecting Coastal Georgia, protecting South Georgia.”

Abrams compared Georgia to a house that’s been leaking through the roof where every time it rains the basement floods.

“And for years we’ve patched the roof, and we’ve bailed out the basement,” she said.

Funding is available right now to “replace the roof and fix the plumbing,” Abrams said, adding that this will be an either/or choice.

“We can fund all of these things, draw down federal dollars and deliver on our promises and our obligations,” she said.

“Georgia is significantly larger than we were 20 years ago, and yet the size of government has not grown to meet the needs of people,” she said. “The accusation will be, ‘Well she wants to expand the role of government.’ No, I want government to do the job you pay for.”

From The Current via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The Democratic leader says she would support three concrete goals if elected governor this fall: better resilience in the face of climate change; the creation of at least 25,000 green energy jobs over the next four years; and reduced energy costs for Georgians.

“To ensure Georgia’s communities continue to thrive, for now and for years to come, we must better protect our abundant natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize, and leverage the economic benefits of advanced energy to secure a more resilient future,” the six-page policy paper states.

Earlier this month Kemp touted Georgia’s designation as third-best in the country for environmental sustainability by Site Selection magazine, Atlanta CEO reported. Kemp credited that status with helping to attract electric vehicle manufacturers including Rivian and Hyundai Motor Group. While he frequently boasts thousands of jobs created in Georgia by the electric vehicle industry, Kemp’s campaign site has no position paper on the environment.

“Probably the most interesting one was working with the Georgia Tea Party to block the stream buffer erosion bill that the Chamber (of Commerce) tried to pass for several years,” Abrams said. “And we were able to block that bill by combining Democrats and members of the Tea Party because it was bad for the environment and bad for property taxes.”

“Georgia is going to face some more and more real life effects from climate action,” Abrams said. ”We are seeing extreme weather events taking their toll over and over again.”

“So it’s making sure that we’ve got state sponsored shelters, as well as those Red Cross shelters, because those shelters fill up quickly. And those shelters are entirely dependent on resources that come in at first through donations,” Abrams said. “Yes, they will get FEMA dollars and GEMA dollars. But we know sometimes that money takes a while to get there. And they are often overwhelmed and under-resourced.”

For the skilled workforce required for advanced energy jobs, Abrams wants to expand access to technical college by making it free for every student.

“We can get people into the pipeline so that when these dollars become available, we’ve got workers who can do that job,” she said.

“We have aging infrastructure that’s costing us more money, repairs cost more, because we’ve taken too long to get through them. And that means whether we’re looking at the production of energy or looking at water usage, there are many things we can do with infrastructure that can actually reduce costs, and improve access for our communities.”

The Whitfield, Murray and Gordon County Democratic committees hosted a Kennedy Carter Dinner in Dalton, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Featured speakers were Marcus Flowers, the Democratic nominee for the 14th U.S. Congressional District; state Rep. William Boddie Jr., the Democratic nominee for state labor commissioner; and state Rep. Bee Nguyen, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state.

The event featured barbecue and dessert from local minority-owned businesses. The room was decorated with festive red, white and blue decor. Table center pieces were fashioned from edible/recyclable vegetables and herbs, and all were donated to Trinity United Methodist’s food bank for distribution to those in need.

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) said federal climate legislation will benefit rich Georgians who install solar, according to WSAV.

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) said solar energy will create more jobs in Georgia and help families lower utility bills.

“This is about good-paying American jobs that will be created in the production of these solar products,” Ossoff said.

Ossoff said it will provide 30% tax credits to people who install solar panels.

“Georgia is proud to host the largest solar panel manufacturing in the hemisphere,” Ossoff said. “This is going to boost our domestic manufacturing of solar panels and solar technology. It is a national security issue and American energy independence.”

Georgia’s 41,000 farms will be eligible for energy tax credits for climate-smart agricultural practices.

“As demand for these products skyrocket, we want to make sure they are produced here in GA and USA as it is an energy independence issue,” Ossoff said.

The new law would provide rebates for Georgians for energy-efficient appliances and upgrade affordable housing units with floodproofing and storm resistance. Georgia has 75,000 workers in clean energy jobs and 400,000 manufacturing jobs and the new inflation reduction law will invest $180 million in clean power generation by 2030 to the Peach State.

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division will decide whether Twin Pines Minerals can mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, according to The Brunswick News.

The decision is part of a settlement Monday between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Twin Pines Minerals, the Alabama-based company proposing to mine near the south end of the world-famous swamp.

“This is great news for Twin Pines, for our project, and for Charlton County,” said Twin Pines President Steve Ingle. “We appreciate the Corps’ willingness to reverse itself and make things right. We look forward to working with Georgia EPD to complete the permit process so we can bring hundreds of good-paying jobs, tax revenues, and economic development to the people of Charlton County.”

Joshua Marks, an environmental lawyer who was a leader in the fight against the unsuccessful DuPont mining attempt next to the Okefenokee in the 1990s, expressed surprise at the decision.

“It’s baffling that the Corps of Engineers has reinstated decisions that were based on the Trump wetland rule that was invalidated by two federal courts,” Marks said. “How can those decisions be valid when the rule upon which they were based is invalid?”

“This project is promoted by a company run by former coal miners from Alabama with a history of misrepresentation and pollution,” Marks said. “Over 100,000 comments in opposition to the project have been submitted to the federal and state governments.”

“The titanium dioxide Twin Pines Minerals seeks isn’t needed,” he said. “Chemours, the biggest producer of it in North America, says there’s enough supply through the 2030s and has committed not to buy any titanium from next to the Okefenokee.”

From a different story in The Brunswick News:

Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation with One Hundred Miles, an environmental organization based in Brunswick and Savannah, asked what role Abrams envisions the governor and general assembly should play in protecting the Okenfenokee swamp from extractive mining. The Army Corps of Engineers and Twin Pines Minerals reached a settlement Monday that will allow the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to decide the fate of proposed mining at the swamp.

“This is an incredibly easy one,” Abrams said. “The governor appoints the director of EPD. The lawsuit and settlement essentially says the EPD has to make the final determination. My intention would be to ensure that EPD rejects the application, that we pass legislation to permanently protect Okefenokee.”

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson wants changes to election procedures for November, according to WTOC.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson says he’s going to take a list of requests to the Chatham County Board of Registrars meeting Wednesday, asking for them to consider offering things like Sunday early voting opportunities and more early voting locations.

“I am asking the Board of Registrars to expand early voting hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at all locations. Secondly, to offer two days of Sunday voting on October 23rd and October 30 for them to open an early voting site in Pooler, and to have at least nine early voting sites available throughout the County,” Mayor Van Johnson said.

The Mayor also said, to make all that happen, that he believes there might be funds available through partners.

Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones (D) doesn’t fully support Savannah’s decision to engage a federal prosecutor, according to WTOC.

Shalena Cook Jones, the district attorney, voiced concerns in a Facebook Live conversation with two Savannah alderwomen that she was not fully supportive of hiring a federal prosecutor and felt her office was being bypassed.

“If she feels it’s not legal, then sue us,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.

Jones further explained her stance in a statement Tuesday saying in part, “It is legally unenforceable because unless it involves federal property or violates a federal statute, such violent crimes can only be prosecuted by the local district attorney.”

“We have voted. The agreement has been codified. We are going to hire, the person is going to go to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and we’re going to prosecute federal crimes. Period. Point blank. End of story,” Mayor Johnson said.

Below is the full statement sent to WTOC by the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office:

“I did not say the (memorandum of understanding) was illegal. I said “to the extent the City seeks to create jurisdiction in the federal government to prosecute “all violent crimes that occur in Savannah, all cases where SPD is the originating agency, and all cases in which the City of Savannah has an interest” as was stated in the MOU, it is legally unenforceable because unless it involves federal property or violates a federal statute, such violent crimes can only be prosecuted by the local District Attorney.” Both the Mayor and US Attorney have been made aware of this and appear to be in agreement.”

Georgia’s unemployment rate again hit a record low, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Georgia’s unemployment rate fell again last month to a record-low 2.8%, while the Peach State hit an all-time high in job numbers, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The jobless rate declined slightly in July from 2.9% in June and was seven-tenths of a percent lower than the national unemployment rate of 3.5%.

The number of jobs in Georgia rose last month to an all-time high of more than 4.8 million, up 12,500 from June and 214,300 from July of last year.

On the downside, initial unemployment claims increased by 11% last month from June to 28,545. However, first-time jobless claims have fallen significantly during the past year and are down 52%, or 30,266, from July 2021.

The Muscogee County Morgue is no longer overcrowded, according to WTVM.

Just last month [WTVM] reported the Muscogee County Morgue, which can hold 8 bodies, was becoming overcrowded. This was due to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab being overcrowded as well. But now, things are looking up when it comes to autopsy results.

Whether a homicide, suspicious death or death of a child, bodies found in Georgia under certain circumstances must be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab in Decatur for an official autopsy.

“They had a real surge 2 or three months ago which caused a real backlog,” Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said. “Some were out with Coronavirus… They also changed the criteria.”

News Leader 9′s Ashlee Williams reached out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and they cited lack of workers, increased opioid overdoses and a growing state as reasons as to why autopsies had previously been taking longer to process.

Rome and Floyd County continue negotiations over Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenue, according to the Rome News Tribune.

If no agreement is reached by Friday, the state requires arbitration to resolve the dispute. At the end of discussions last week it was agreed that, barring an equitable agreement, both sides should prepare a list of arbiters they could trust along with an estimate of what arbitration might cost Rome and Floyd County taxpayers.

Glynn County Manager Bill Fallon asked citizens who are undecided on the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum to trust him, according to The Brunswick News.

During a roundtable meeting with the media on Tuesday, Fallon said citizens unsure of whether to vote for SPLOST in November can trust his background handling projects as former deputy director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

“We listened, we heard what people said about previous SPLOSTs and project management,” Fallon said.

But he doesn’t expect residents to take his word for it. The county’s new communications director, Katie Baasen, has a mandate to make sure the public is up to date on everything going on with SPLOST projects.

The public information campaign will kick off on Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. in the Brunswick Glynn County Library with an open house. Officials won’t give a formal presentation, but the personnel needed to answer nearly all questions will be on hand for residents to speak with.

Fallon asked residents to have some confidence in the staff and administration. The SPLOST 2022 project list is composed entirely of essential work that will benefit the county, he said, and visitors will pay for roughly 44% of it, per an estimate from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute.

Garden City Mayor Don Bethune announced his retirement, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Currently in his third term at the city’s helm, Bethune, 72, is officially stepping down on Aug. 31, a year and four months before the term’s end, due to “personal reasons.”

A Garden City resident of 44 years, Bethune declined to comment on the nature of his leave, instead saying, “as we go through life, our priorities change. Since I was elected, I had some things come up, so I thought it was a good time for me to step down.”

Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Campbell, 68, who’s in his third term on council and is currently representing the city at-large, will assume Bethune’s place. Bethune had supported Campbell in his run for city council last fall and the two campaigned together in past elections as well.

Campbell will be sworn in as mayor at 3 p.m. on Sept. 8 at city hall. Campbell’s at-large seat will be filled with a nominee chosen by the council at the Sept. 19 meeting. Current council members will each nominate an individual who is in “good standing with the community”. Then, the council and mayor will vote for the new member. Majority wins.

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