Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 30, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 30, 2020

James Edward Oglethorpe was born in London, England, on December 22, 1696. He was elected to Parliament, where he worked on prison reform and had the idea of a new colony where “worthy poor” Brits could be sent. In 1732, Oglethorpe was granted a charter to create a colony of Georgia in the new world.

On December 22, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy.

On December 25, 1776, Continental forces under General George Washington began crossing the Delaware River and the next day launched a suprise attack on Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.


On December 23, 1783, George Washington resigned as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna, Austria.

The War of 1812 ended on December 24, 1814 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Belgium by British and American representatives.

A belated Happy Birthday to Columbus, Georgia, founded on December 24, 1827 when Gov. John Forsyth signed legislation incorporating the new town.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation that prohibited teaching slaves or free African-Americans to read or write on December 22, 1829.

Governor George Gilmer signed legislation appropriating $20,000 to build the Georgia State Insane Asylum in Milledgeville on December 23, 1837.

Georgia Governor George Towns signed a constitutional amendment that removed the requirement that governors own at least 500 acres real estate and other property valued at least $4000 on December 30, 1847. At the time, an amendment to the state constitution had to be passed twice by the General Assembly in subsequent sessions, but did not require voter approval.

Martha Bulloch and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. were married at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia on December 22, 1853. Their son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. would later be elected President of the United States.

The Gadsden Purchase, establishing the southern border of the United States with Mexico, was signed on December 30, 1853.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia on December 28, 1856 and moved to Augusta, Georgia with his family a few years later. Wilson would later practice law in Atlanta, marry Ellen Axson of Rome, Georgia, and serve as President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Recently, Princeton University removed Wilson’s name from campus.

The USS Monitor, the first federal ironclad steamship, sank on December 30, 1862 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

On December 25, 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued an unconditional pardon of all Confederates.

The Kimball Opera House in Atlanta, a former location of the State Capitol, caught fire on December 27, 1894 and was destroyed.

On December 29, 1896, Georgia Governor William Y. Atkinson signed legislation creating the state Schoolbook Commission.

The American Political Science Association was formed on December 30, 1903, and has been misunderstood ever since.

President Calvin Coolidge lit the first National Christmas Tree on the White House grounds on December 24, 1923.

On December 26, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt watched a private viewing of Gone With the Wind at the White House.

U.S.S. Atlanta was commissioned on December 24, 1941 at the New York Navy Yard as the lead ship of a new class of Light Cruisers. USS Atlanta (CL-51) was sponsored by Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.


Eugene Talmadge, who was elected four times as Governor of Georgia, in 1932, 1934, 1940, and 1946, died on December 21, 1946, leading to the Three Governors Controversy.

The first live recording of Led Zeppelin was made at Gonzaga University on December 30, 1968.

Lockheed received the contract to produce 50 C-5B cargo aircraft for the federal government on December 30, 1982.

The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site was created in Plains, Georgia on December 23, 1987.

Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR on December 25, 1991, signalling the end of the Godless Communist regime.

The NAACP Effingham branch will commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation on Friday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, which said that as of Jan. 1, 1863, “all slaves in the rebellious states shall be henceforth and forever free.”

It was not until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified by three-fourths of the states on Dec. 18, 1865, that the abolition of slavery actually took place.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the last day of in-person early voting for Fulton County, according to the AJC.

Early voting locations in Fulton will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and will not reopen. On election day next Tuesday, voters must go to their assigned precincts to cast a ballot.

Voters have until Thursday in DeKalb and Cobb Counties.

President Donald Trump will lead a rally in Dalton on Monday, January 4, 2021, according to the Rome News Tribune.

President Donald Trump’s appearance in Dalton next Monday will mark the first time a sitting president will have visited Dalton since President George H.W. Bush toured a Shaw Industries facility and held a rally at the airport while campaigning for reelection in August 1992.

Trump carried Whitfield County in November with 69.7% of the vote even while losing the state with 49.25% of the vote to Democrat Joe Biden’s 49.51% of the vote.

Trump is hosting a rally for Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in next Tuesday’s general election runoff, and Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who faces Democrat the Rev. Raphael Warnock in another runoff. The event, set for the Dalton Municipal Airport at 7 p.m., is open to the public.

Other speakers expected are Loeffler, Perdue, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr., a Republican member of the state’s Public Service Commission who is also involved in a runoff, and other Republicans.

“Northwest Georgia and Whitfield County is a strong Republican area,” [Republican State Rep. Kasey] Carpenter said. “But we need to make sure that all those voters come out to vote in the runoff. We want to have a huge turnout to balance out areas where Republicans aren’t as strong.”

While this will be Trump’s first visit to Dalton as president, he is no stranger to the city. He was married to actress, model and Cohutta native Marla Maples from 1993 to 1999, and during their courtship and marriage he reportedly visited Dalton and Whitfield County several times.

Perhaps the most well-known time that Trump came to Whitfield County was in October 1991, when he accompanied Maples when she returned to Northwest Whitfield High School to crown that year’s Homecoming queen.

Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will campaign in Georgia as well, according to the AJC.

Biden is set to campaign in Atlanta on Monday – the day before the Jan. 5 runoffs – for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. That’s the same day that President Donald Trump plans to hold a final rally for Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Dalton.

And Harris will travel to Savannah on Sunday for a campaign stop with the two Democratic contenders, seeking to energize supporters in a coastal area where early voting turnout has lagged.

Voter turnout is lagging in Hall County early voting, according to the Gainesville Times.

Paige Thompson, Hall County elections coordinator, said that 21,438 ballots had been cast at the four polling locations as of Wednesday, Dec. 23.

In comparison, some 25,092 ballots were cast between Oct. 12 and Oct. 20, the first seven days of early voting in the general election, Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.

Paige Thompson, Hall County elections coordinator, also said that 20,742 absentee ballots had been issued as of Wednesday. The total number of ballots that have been returned and accepted is 11,784, she said.

A comparison of those numbers to ones during the same period in the general election weren’t available Wednesday.

From the AJC:

So far, more than 2.3 million people have voted [statewide], according to an analysis of data from the secretary of state’s office.

After a Christmas break, the number of early votes has resumed a pace close to the presidential election. In the November election about 5 million Georgians voted. Here’s how the early votes break down.

Most voters are voting in-person, but mail voting remains popular. About 797,000 people have cast mail ballots, which is 34% of the early vote. About 450,000 requested mail ballots have not been returned.

About 55% of early voters are white and 32% are Black, which is a slightly higher proportion of Black voters than the overall pool of all registered voters.

Females make up 55% of early voters compared to 44% for males.

Voters 65 and older make up 34% of all early votes, a number that has been steadily dropping as more votes have rolled in.

No fraudulent ballots were identified in an audit of 15,000 absentee ballots in Cobb County, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The audit by GBI law enforcement officers found Cobb County Elections Department had a 99.99% accuracy rate in performing signature verifications.

“Three strikes against the voter fraud claims and they’re out,” Raffensperger said in a statement.

“We conducted a statewide hand recount that reaffirmed the initial tally, and a machine recount at the request of the Trump campaign that also reaffirmed the original tally. This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match processes,” he added.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton ordered a suspension of jury trials due to rising COVID-19 statistics, according to the Gainesville Times.

Citing the “rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases,” Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton issued an order Wednesday, Dec. 23, prohibiting all jury trials, which is anticipated to continue until at least February.

Hall County court administrator Jason Stephenson said all January trials will be canceled, though the first two Superior Court trial weeks had already been canceled due to local hospitalizations and advice from District 2 Public Health.

Hall County Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin signed a similar order Wednesday, saying the notice will be published online and in the courthouse.

Melton’s order also reminds courts that in-person proceedings “must be conducted in full compliance with public health guidance.” It is the ninth extension of the original order March 14, which has closed down courts for months, prolonged jury trials and caused backlogs for judges and attorneys.

The new extension runs until 11:59 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8.

United States District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. dismissed the latest lawsuit attempting to overturn the 2020 Georgia General Election, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A federal judge on Monday morning dismissed Atlanta lawyer Lin Wood’s attempt to stop Georgia’s ongoing U.S. Senate runoff elections.

Wood later on Monday filed notice he would take the case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In this case, filed on Dec. 18 in federal court in Atlanta, Wood contended the procedures that Georgia election officials are using to conduct absentee balloting in the runoff elections violate Georgia’s election laws. Wood also said the Dominion Voting Systems Corp. electronic voting machines that Georgia uses are part of an effort to commit election fraud. And he said the situation is violating his constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. said Wood has no standing to sue and his claims were insufficient for the case to proceed. Batten was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

“The fact that the process for voting by absentee ballot is different from voting in-person does not establish an injury in fact,” he said. “Courts have sanctioned the use of distinct voting processes for absentee and in-person ballots, acknowledging that ‘[a]bsentee voting is a fundamentally different process from in-person voting, and is governed by procedures entirely distinct,’” Batten said, citing a prior case.

United States District Court Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, sister of former Democratic candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams, issued a restraining order to prevent election officials to require voters with an address outside Georgia to vote provisional ballots, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner lasts eight days, remaining in effect through Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoffs for the U.S. Senate and state Public Service Commission. It follows a lawsuit filed by a nonprofit advocacy group on behalf of a Columbus man working for the U.S. Navy in California, who was among more than 4,000 voters whose residency was challenged by local Republican Alton Russell.

Russell’s challenge was based on a U.S. Postal Service list called the “National Change of Address” or NCOA, which showed those voters had out of state addresses, though they still were registered in Muscogee County. The list is used periodically to clear people from voter registration lists after they’ve moved away , but it also includes people temporarily living elsewhere for work, college or military service.

After meeting privately with its attorneys Tuesday, the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration voted to file a motion asking the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a stay on Gardner’s restraining order, so that the challenge can continue.

“Here, the challenge to thousands of voters less than a month prior to the runoff elections — after in-person voting had begun in the state — appears to be the type of ‘systematic’ removal prohibited by the [National Voter Registration Act],” the judge wrote, adding Russell’s challenge “does not include the type of individualized information that the Muscogee board would have needed to undertake the individualized inquiry required by the NVRA.”

The judge also found the board’s actions likely violate the First and 14th Amendments by placing an undue burden on the right to vote and risking disenfranchising eligible voters, and that those actions could cause the degree of immediate and irreparable injury that a restraining order is meant to prevent.

From the Augusta Chronicle and Athens Banner Herald:

Appointed by President Obama, Gardner is the sister of Stacey Abrams’, whose organizations filed multiple legal challenges surrounding the 2018 gubernatorial election, which she narrowly lost to Gov. Brian Kemp, and led voter participation drives this year that likely helped Joe Biden win Georgia.

[Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger contended Tuesday that Majority Forward was funded by Fair Fight through the Senate Majority PAC, a Democrat-led committee.

“That a judge would rule on a case brought by a group heavily funded by her sister is very concerning,” he said.

He said Georgia law permits voter eligibility challenges and that Gardner undermined the “rule of law” by issuing the injunction.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission filed allegations against Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Christian Coomer, according to the AJC.

Georgia’s judicial watchdog agency on Monday filed ethics charges against state Court of Appeals Judge Christian Coomer, alleging he violated the code of judicial conduct and campaign finance and lending laws.

It is believed to be the first time a sitting appellate judge has faced formal ethics charges from the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Coomer, who once served as state House majority whip, was appointed to the Appeals Court by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018.

In a statement, Dennis Cathey and Doug Chalmers, lawyers representing Coomer, said the judge “strongly denies” the allegations. “The allegations misstate the facts and the law, and they significantly overstep the JQC’s jurisdiction.”

The charges now go before the JQC’s hearing panel, chaired by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. If the panel finds violations, it can recommend possible discipline to the state Supreme Court, which has the final say.

Previously, the state ethics commission filed separate charges against Coomer, alleging he improperly transferred almost $22,000 from his former state House campaign account to his law firm and personal banking accounts. Under state law, elected officials can only use campaign contributions to run in elections and maintain their office, not for personal expenses unrelated to campaign matters.

When those charges were filed in October, Chalmers, Coomer’s lawyer, said the complaint got “both the facts and the law wrong.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to rule on the application for a Camden Spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

Camden County launched a bid to establish a spaceport in January 2014, saying the project could create 2,500 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $200 million.

Nearly seven years have passed since county officials announced those plans. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to make a decision on a license to operate a spaceport in March, with no further public comment accepted.

Camden County officials have spent more than $9 million on the project and are optimistic it will get FAA approval.

In Bulloch County, women took the reins of both prosecutors’ offices, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Officials, family and friends gathered in front of the south-facing steps of the Bulloch County Courthouse at 1 p.m. Monday for the swearing-in of Daphne Jarriel Totten as the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit’s new district attorney and Catherine Sumner Findley as the county’s new solicitor-general.

Both acknowledged that they are apparently the first women elected as the chief prosecutors for these particular jurisdictions. Both were until recently assistant district attorneys for the circuit under the direction of now-retired District Attorney Richard A. Mallard.

As district attorney, Totten leads an office that also employs 10 assistant district attorneys, four full-time investigators and other personnel, for a total staff of 27 people. The elected district attorney and appointed assistants prosecute cases involving felony charges in the Superior Courts of Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins and Screven counties.

Findley won the office [of Solicitor General] by first taking the lead in what was originally a three-person race, over Assistant Solicitor Mark A. Lanier, at that time the only solicitor remaining, and another assistant district attorney, Ben Edwards, in the June 9 Republican primary. Findley then won 53.5% of the votes to Lanier’s 46.5% in an Aug. 11 runoff.

Democrat Jared Williams, incoming District Attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit said the office will narrow its focus on prosecutions, according ot the Augusta Chronicle.

The incoming district attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit intends to follow through on his campaign promises to narrow the focus of prosecutions in the three-county circuit of Burke, Columbia and Richmond.

Jared Williams says he believes the focus should be squarely on violent crime and major drug trafficking cases. He intends to form specialized teams “to combat the crimes that scare us the most.”

Williams captured the top prosecutor’s job with 50.51% of the vote over incumbent Natalie Paine, who led the office for more than three years. His term will begin Jan. 4.

Williams has pledged to use pre-trial diversion, which would withhold prosecution of felony cases with the goal of dismissing charges to help young people get on track without the burden of felony convictions.

By forming prosecuting teams to focus on violent crimes, Williams believes cases can be streamlined and adjudicated sooner.

“I’m tired of people being shot in the street. The focus needs to be on the crimes that keep you up at night,” Williams said.

Criminal records expungement under legislation passed this year becomes available Friday, according to the Albany Herald.

A new law that increases the number of criminal records that can be sealed takes effect Friday. The law, the result of Senate Bill 288, allows certain misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to qualify for expungement.

More than 4 million Georgia residents had a criminal record in 2016, according to the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO). Georgia is joining 41 other states that have eased record-sealing restrictions.

“It is vital that we continue to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system so that reformation and reintegration is the goal, and not just punishment,” said Corey Burres, GCO’s vice president of communications. “With SB 288, we are making real efforts to help past offenders access opportunities that may not be available to them due to their criminal record.”

The new law allows Georgians to petition the court to have some misdemeanor convictions restricted and sealed four years after completing their sentence if they have no new convictions and pending charges. Sex crimes, family violence and DUI offenses do not qualify for expungement.

Those who have been pardoned for nonviolent felony offenses can apply for expungement, under the law. It also would grant liability protection for employers who hire former felons.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 288 into law after full bipartisan support from the General Assembly.

In Glynn County, Democrats rallied for the Ossoff-Warnock ticket, according to The Brunswick News.

In lieu of cheers, two dozen or so cars at the Glynn County Democratic Party’s drive-in political rally sent up car horn honks instead.

Democrats from far and wide gathered — either in cars or at a respectable distance from one another — in the parking lot of Lanier Plaza on Tuesday as the sun set to hear from current and former party figures in the community.

“I look out and all I see are these masks. I’m so sorry we’ve got to wear these things, but we know what we must do,” said Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey, one of the evening’s speakers. “But we also know there are smiles behind them because we are turning Georgia blue.”

Former U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., earned some cheers and honks himself as he urged Democrats to get their friends and families to vote for Democrats in the three runoff races, even if they have to drive them to the polls themselves.

“I can’t imagine them looking people in the eye and saying ‘I voted against your economic interest and your family interest,’” Fowler said.

“I’d never vote for somebody who lived in a gated community and would not receive his neighbors and find out what their concerns are,” Fowler said.

Democrat Nicole Love Hendrickson took the oath of office as Chair of the Gwinnett County Commission, according to AccessWDUN.

She is the first African American to hold the position, according to a Gwinnett County press release.

Hendrickson’s ceremony, as well as the two last week for District 1 Commissioner Kirkland Carden and District 3 Commissioner Jasper Watkins III, was done with COVID-19 precautions in place.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“I ran to create change, but I would be remiss if I did not reflect on the historical significance of today’s swearing in,” Hendrickson said. “Just 55 years ago, a Black woman could not even vote. Being the first Black Democratic woman to hold this seat is not a responsibility I take lightly. I realize I stand on the shoulders of giants and that my victory represents another step forward in advancing the vision of a country where all people have access to opportunities to succeed.

“Today the proverbial glass ceiling has been shattered again, and for that, I am proud.”

Hendrickson was the last of three swearing in ceremonies for new members of the county commission — all African-American — who will be taking office as 2021 begins. She is also the first Democrat to serve as the leader of the county commission in 36 years.

Before the ceremony, outgoing commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash praised Hendrickson and the background that she has coming into the job.

“The one thing I know about Nicole is that she loves Gwinnett,” Nash said. “She has a big heart for the community and I think that’s a great start … While she has a foundation and knows some things about the county organization, I think she recognizes that she has a lot to learn, and I think that’s a great attribute for an elected official to have. You know, I have 43 years working in local government and I still learn something almost on a daily basis. It’s just such a big area and so broad.”

Augusta Commissioner Francine Scott took the oath of office to represent Super District 9, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

She replaces Commissioner Marion Williams, who concludes his second set of two consecutive terms representing the super district, which spans commission districts 1, 2, 4 and 5. Because of term limits, Williams can’t run again until a later election.

Scott joins new District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson and District 3 Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight, each of whom also won August runoffs. McKnight was sworn in last week, and Johnson takes his oath Wednesday.

Dalton Municipal Court has postponed all proceedings scheduled for the January 6 and 13 sessions, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Statesboro City Council will likely consider a revised Food Truck ordinance, according to the Statesboro Herald.

City of Cornelia computer systems were affected by a ransomware attack, according to AccessWDUN.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute spotted the fourth baby Right Whale calf of the season, according to the Savannah Morning News.

While flying their surveys for north Atlantic right whales, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute team spotted a 27-year-old female right whale nicknamed Nauset and her new calf.

Right whales are highly endangered with an estimated 366 individuals remaining. Their only known calving grounds are the waters off Georgia and the east coast of Florida.

Nauset’s calf, her fourth, is also the fourth live baby right whale recorded so far this calving season, which typically extends into the spring. Another newborn right whale calf was found dead in North Carolina. Biologists believe it died during or shortly after birth.

In short, deaths are up and calving is down.

“I’m still optimistic,” [DNR senior biologist Clay] George said. “In the 2000s, we saw how quickly the population can grow if mortality is managed and females have lots of calves. If we can slow ships down in the right places, and remove heavy fishing rope from their habitat, the whales would have a fighting chance.”

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