Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 7, 2022


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 7, 2022

On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution.

On December 7, 1801, Georgia’s United States Senator Abraham Baldwin was elected President Pro Tem of the Senate.

On December 7, 1864, federal troops under W.T. Sherman engaged Confederate forces at Jenks’ Bridge on the Ogeechee, and Buck Creek and Cypress Swamp, near Sister’s Ferry, Georgia Confederates burned the bridge over the Ogeechee.

Today is the 81st anniversary of the Japanese bombing attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

GeorgiaInfo has the reactions of Georgia leaders to the Pearl Harbor attack,

U.S. Sen. Walter F. George stated: “Japan’s deed is an act of desperation by a war-mad people. The attack on Hawaii is a deliberate act of the Japanese government. I am utterly amazed. It is unthinkable… . An open declaration of war will give us greater freedom of action.” Noting the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, George optimistically predicted that “it may take two or three years to fight this war to the end.”

U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell responded to the attack by stating: “Japan has committed national hari-kari. I cannot conceive of any member of Congress voting against a declaration of war in view of the unpardonable, unprovoked attack on us. I am utterly astounded.”

U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson, chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, added: “Of course we will have to declare war. There is nothing else for Congress to do. This is a concerted action by the Axis Powers, but I am confident our Navy is ready and will render a glorious account of itself. It probably means we will be drawn into the world conflict on both oceans.”

On December 7, 1946, the Winecoff Hotel in downtown Atlanta, previously considered fireproof, burned in the worst hotel fire to date.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today at 1 PM, Governor Brian Kemp and his family will light the Capitol Christmas Tree, according to WJBF in Augusta.

Governor Brian Kemp, First Lady Marty Kemp, Jarrett Porter, Lucy Porter, and Amy Porter will host the ceremony alongside special guests Clark Howard, the Atlanta Boys Choir, and others.

The ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. and will be livestreamed online at

Governor Kemp announced he will appoint William “Bill” Ray Oliver to a new judgeship on the Superior Court for the Mountain Judicial Circuit, according to AccessWDUN.

Oliver will fill the vacancy created with the passage of Senate Bill 395 that added a third judge in the circuit that covers Habersham, Rabun and Stephens counties.

Gov. Kemp spoke to legislators at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Bienial Institute in Athens, GA, and discussed his priorities for the coming session, according to the AJC.

Kemp touted Georgia’s achievements during the last two years in economic development, education, and public safety.

On the economic front, the past year has marked the creation of 51,132 private-sector jobs and more than $21.2 billion in investment, Kemp said during a luncheon speech at the University of Georgia closing out the Biennial Institute, a three-day orientation session for newly elected legislators.

Kemp reiterated a pledge he made on the campaign trail to seek another $1 billion state income tax cut on top of the $1 billion reduction the General Assembly approved this year.

Kemp also said he would push during the 2023 legislative session beginning next month to increase benefits through the lottery-funded HOPE Scholarships program to 90% of tuition coverage. HOPE provided full tuition coverage until 2011, when growing demand for scholarships combined with the rising costs of tuition forced the General Assembly to reduce benefits.

In the public safety arena, Kemp said he plans to continue a crackdown on human trafficking and on criminal gangs recruiting children.

Last year, the governor formed a multi-agency Crime Suppression Unit that has made hundreds of arrests, while Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr more recently created a Gang Prosecution Unit that has produced 11 indictments of 46 suspected gang members.
“We cannot rest on our laurels,” Kemp said. “This is an ongoing fight against criminals.”

Democratic United States Senator Raphael Warnock won the runoff election over Republican Herschel Walker. From the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times:

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the Senate for the rest of President Joe Biden’s current term and capping an underwhelming midterm cycle for the GOP in the last major vote of the year.

With Warnock’s second runoff victory in as many years, Democrats will have a 51-49 Senate majority, gaining a seat from the current 50-50 split with John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania. There will be divided government, however, with Republicans having narrowly flipped House control.

“After a hard-fought campaign — or, should I say, campaigns — it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken,” Warnock, 53, told jubilant supporters who packed a downtown Atlanta hotel ballroom.

In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The senator appeared to be headed for a wider final margin in Tuesday’s runoff, with Walker, a football legend at the University of Georgia and in the NFL, unable to overcome a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions despite supporting a national ban on the procedure.

“The numbers look like they’re not going to add up,” Walker, an ally and friend of former President Donald Trump, told supporters late Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. “There’s no excuses in life, and I’m not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight.”

Two Lowndes County poll workers were involved in a car wreck while delivering memory cards to the voting office, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Deb Cox, supervisor of elections, said in an interview with The Valdosta Daily Times that two poll workers were en route Tuesday evening to the Board of Elections from South Lowndes to deliver memory cards with the election results when they were involved in a vehicle accident near Gornto Road and Woodrow Wilson Drive.

The workers reported suffering no injuries and declined to go to the hospital.

An election board member went to the accident site to retrieve the memory cards and check on the workers.

“They seem to be OK to the best of my knowledge right now but we did get the results back. A board member went and picked up the results, brought them back up here for us to upload and then went back to take care of the poll workers,” she said.

Also involved in a car wreck: the entire Republican Party.

From WTOC in Savannah:

According to Billy Wooten, the Chatham County Board of Elections supervisor, three polling locations had scanners that went down. He says that under state law, the protocol in that situation is to place the ballots in an emergency bin – which is on the ballot box – to be counted later.

Voters do have the right to stick around and make sure their ballot is cast once the machine is fixed.

Some folks at a location on Wilmington Island, however, say that they were told otherwise.

“When I questioned whether or not that was the law or if that was true, the polling manager, again, said yes, we didn’t have a choice but to place the ballot in the emergency bin and to keep the line moving and move along,” Andrew Cannon said.

Cannon said he filed a complaint with the Election Authority, and Wooten says the issue was corrected and all votes were counted.

“We’re sorry somehow that information got out or someone said something they weren’t going to say, but that’s a very reliable poll, that Wilmington Island poll,” Wooten said.

The assistant manager at that polling location said around 1:00 p.m. that the machine was back-up and all the ballots from the emergency bin had been cast.

From WSAV in Savannah:

One Precinct manager said turnout was good seeing about 150 people per hour.

From the Macon Telegraph:

Almost 50,000 of the county’s 105,707 registered voters cast a ballot in today’s election. Of that total, 30,744 voted for Warnock and 18,318 for Walker.

Desmond Brown won runoff for Macon Water Authority District 2 over Lindsay Holliday. Brown reclaims a seat he gave up during a failed MWA chairman bid earlier this year.

The final vote tallies for Muscogee County are in. Almost 55,000 of the county’s 120,970 votes cast ballots in today’s election. Of those, 35,462 vote for Raphael Warnock and 19,432 voted for Herschel Walker.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via The Brunswick News:

Warnock was leading Walker 51.1% to 48.8% as of 11:50 p.m. Tuesday night, with 98% of precincts reporting. The Warnock victory in the final contest of the 2022 election cycle gave Democrats 51 seats in the Senate to 49 for Republicans.

The lengthy campaign that finally concluded Tuesday night was the most expensive race of the 2022 cycle, with outside groups and the candidates’ campaigns spending more than $401 million in the race, according to campaign-finance tracking group OpenSecrets.

“It is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken,” Warnock said to a jubilant crowd celebrating the victory at a downtown Atlanta hotel.

“The people once again rose up in a multi-racial, multi-religious coalition of conscience,” Warnock said.

“I’m not gonna make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight,” Walker told his supporters. “I want you to believe in America and continue to believe in the Constitution and believe in our elected officials.”

“The best thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life is run for this Senate seat right here and the reason I’m gonna say that is I had a chance to meet all you and hear what you guys feel about this country,” Walker added.

Georgians turned out in droves to cast their ballots during the early voting period ahead of Tuesday’s runoff, with more than 1.7 million voting early during the newly shortened period. Total turnout as of Tuesday night was 3.5 million, a record for a midterm runoff in Georgia.

From the Statesboro Herald:

In Bulloch County, Walker received 13, 548 votes to Warnock’s 7,760 with a 47.2% of registered voters casting votes, approaching but not exceeding the Bulloch County turnout at the Nov. 8 general election, which was 52.6% of registered voters.

Many Bulloch precincts had higher Election Day turnout today than on Nov. 8.

Democrats’ Georgia victory solidifies the state’s place as a Deep South battleground two years after Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won 2021 runoffs that gave the party Senate control just months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate in 30 years to win Georgia. Voters returned Warnock to the Senate in the same cycle they reelected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp by a comfortable margin and chose an all-GOP slate of statewide constitutional officers.

Walker’s defeat bookends the GOP’s struggles this year to win with flawed candidates cast from Trump’s mold, a blow to the former president as he builds his third White House bid.

Early and mail voting did not reach the same levels as years past, and it was likely the total number of votes cast would be less than the 2021 Senate runoff election. Voting rights groups point to changes made by state lawmakers after the 2020 election that shortened the period for runoffs, from nine weeks to four, as a major reason for the decline in early and mail voting.

Walker joins failed Senate nominees Dr. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire as Trump loyalists who ultimately lost races that Republicans once thought they would — or at least could — win.

From the Savannah Morning News:

It is still early to know for sure what allowed Warnock to win a full term in the Senate. But there are a few factors that undoubtedly played a role.

1. Not much changed from election night

Georgia voters who overwhelmingly embraced other Republican candidates on election night balked at electing Walker, and nothing much changed in the runoff.

Walker was a historically weak candidate, with a string of scandals — from allegedly paying for multiple abortions to allegations of domestic violence. Gov. Brian Kemp soared to an easy re-election, but thousands of Kemp voters cast ballots for Warnock over Walker.

Warnock focused on these voters during the runoff, featuring them in advertisements. Kemp endorsed and campaigned with Walker, but it was not enough.

2. Turnout remained strong

Total turnout was about 3.4 million voters as of election night, lower than the 3.9 million in the general – and just under half of all registered Georgia voters.

This represented a turnout drop off of about 15%. The 2021 runoff that originally sent Warnock to D.C. alongside Sen. Jon Ossoff had a drop off of 10%. While demographic information will not be available for some time, according to an analysis by Emory University Professor Bernard Fraga, Black voters saw the lowest dropoff in early voting from the general to the runoff.

From CNN via the Albany Herald:

The recriminations arrived swiftly for the GOP late Tuesday night.

“The only way to explain this is candidate quality,” Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said on CNN, noting the delta between Gov. Brian Kemp’s November victory and where it appears that Walker will end up when all the votes are counted.

He said he hoped Warnock’s victory would serve as a wake-up call for the GOP. “If we don’t take our medicine here, it’s our fault. … Every Republican in this country ought to hold Donald Trump accountable for this.”

Many Republicans attributed the closeness of the race on Tuesday night to the fact that Kemp came to Walker’s rescue in the runoff after keeping his distance during last month’s general election. He not only campaigned for him but put the muscle of his own turnout operation into efforts to help the GOP Senate nominee.

Morale among Walker’s campaign staff hit an all-time low in its final days as it became clear to them their candidate would likely lose his race to Warnock, according to multiple people familiar with his campaign.

Several of Walker’s staff members became frustrated as the runoff election progressed over the last month, sensing their advice for the embattled candidate wasn’t being heeded as outside voices with little political experience were empowered.

From WALB:

Poll workers at Lowndes County precincts told WALB News 10 that voters came in at a pretty steady pace. Some voters and poll workers said they feel early voter turnout was exceptional so election day hasn’t been as hectic as they thought.

“Right around 30 percent is (what we saw Tuesday morning.) We haven’t seen many voters today. It looks like it’s going to mirror the turnout from the election where two-thirds voted advanced and one-third on election day,” Deb Cox, Lowndes County elections supervisor, said. “It’s a good day to get out and make your voice heard. There’s no reason not to.”

Early voting started Monday, Nov. 28 and ended Dec. 2. Some Georgia counties opted for Saturday early voting.

Early voting records were broken as 1.8 million early votes were cast.

“Georgia has struck the perfect balance between accessibility and security,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “These historic turnout levels emphasize that any lawful voter who wants to cast a ballot can do so easily. Turnout and voter participation is excellent. Our elections division will continue working with county election directors to expand early voting opportunities in the future.”

From WJBF in Augusta:

“We were matching the numbers that we did over a longer period of time in a very short period of time,” said Travis Doss, the executive director of the Richmond County Board of Elections.

They won’t know the exact turn-out for Tuesday until later, but they’re optimistic.

“The numbers have been steady,” said Nancy Gay, the executive director of the Columbia County Board of Elections. “I mean they had 350 at some of the precincts by 11 o’clock this morning. I was going into this election looking for at least a 20 percent turnout on election day, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get at least that.”

“I think we probably will finish out the day somewhere between 40 to 50 percent, probably around the 45 percent mark,” said Doss.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Floyd County’s election results are in and, as expected, Republican Herschel Walker trounced U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock with 70.5% of the vote.

Just under half of Floyd County’s 60,369 registered voters — 46.9% — cast ballots in the runoff. Walker netted 19,950 to Warnock’s 8,340, according to unofficial results from the secretary of state’s office.

Warnock was the favorite in East Rome, 914 to 892, and in South Rome, 442 to 113. Walker handily won the county’s other 23 precincts.

Three Fulton county municipalities elected city council members, according to the AJC.

Josette Bailey appeared to handily defeat challenger Barbara Neville by a nearly 3-to-1 margin for the East Point city council…. Bailey and Neville emerged from a field of five candidates in November general election to fill the council seat vacated by former Councilman Thomas Calloway.

The closest local race of the night was in Roswell, where Sarah Beeson was expected to defeat Allen Sells.

Beeson was leading Sells by 53% to 47%, and would take the council Post 1 seat formerly held by Marcelo Zapata.

Linda Becquer Pritchett seems to be the new council member in the city of South Fulton. Pritchett appeared to defeat Mario Clark by a nearly 2-to-1 margin and will take over the District 7 seat held by Mark Baker.

Richmond County Board of Education District 2 incumbent Charlie Hannah was reelected, according to WRDW in Augusta.

Hannah faced off against Rev. Larry Fryer on Tuesday. Hannah had 2,967, 54%, vs. 2,543, 46%, for Fryer.

Incumbent Venus Cain has represented the District 9 super-district for the past 15 years and now will represent it for another four.

She fought off a challenge by Christopher Mulliens.

With 99% of votes counted, Cain had 18,452 votes, 70%, vs. 7,887, 30%, for Mulliens.

Also keeping his post was District 7 incumbent Charlie Walker, who ran for a second term against newcomer Brittiany Broadwater.

With 99% of votes counted, he had 4,577 votes, 53%, compared to 4,122, 47%, for Broadwater.

From the Augusta Chronicle, explaining why in the world there were runoffs:

The initial [District 2] race that ended on Nov. 8 also included Yiet Knight, owner of Universal Child Care and Learning Center, who did not have enough votes to proceed into the runoff.

Richmond County Board of Elections Director Travis Doss reported that Tuesday’s runoff went “very well.” He reported a turnout of almost 48%, which he said was very impressive for a runoff.

Thank goodness you can now get a lap dance in Augusta, as the City Commission loosened t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶t̶h̶e̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶a̶l̶s̶ rules governing strip clubs, according to WJBF.

“It’s a tough situation it’s a tough topic and were understanding that at the end of the day we have to make decisions for the city of Augusta,” said Commissioner Jordan Johnson.

Commissioners are making city codes regulating adult nightclubs less restrictive, as a way to help these businesses do better.

“We’ll let the customers that go to them be the judge of whether they want to continue to go to them or not,” says Commissioner John Clarke.

The changes allow dancers the freedom to touch themselves when performing as well as touching customers in public. So, the new rules legalize lap dances in Augusta.

“People want to see that, well, certain people want to see that, and I don’t see any problem in letting people enjoy themselves,” says Commissioner Dennis Williams.

“That’s not the only provision that’s in this ordinance, and I believe you know that as well, at the end of the day we just want to make sure we are a business-friendly city,” said Commissioner Johnson.

Some Gwinnett County residents told Commissioners their thoughts on the proposed 2023 county budget, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County leaders mostly heard positive feedback on the county’s proposed 2023 budget during a public hearing on Monday night, but they also heard calls for additional mental health services and more polling precincts.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners will continue to accept written feedback from residents about the proposed budget until Dec. 31. The board will then vote on the final proposed version of the budget on Jan. 3.

“In focusing on our five priority sets, the foundation for critical decisions (in the budget) provides guide points for success,” Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson told attendees at the public hearing.

Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a one-time cost of living payment to help county employees, according to AccessWDUN.

This approval means that on December 16, eligible full-time employees will receive a $1,500 payment and regular part-time employees will receive a $750 payment.

The county said in a press release that this payment will be used to help support the retention of employees within the county and mitigate the effects of inflation on the county workforce.

Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson said the payments are necessary as the county struggles with retaining first responders, utility workers and hard-to-fill positions across the organization.

“Gwinnett residents deserve sustainable, high-quality county government services and those are made possible by a strong, reliable workforce,” Hendrickson said. “We intend to keep Gwinnett a preferred community where everyone can thrive by being the public sector employer of choice.

Statesboro City Council is considering whether to renew a rent-free lease of office space to their Congressional representative, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“City has traditionally provided office space in City Hall to our Congressional representative,” City Attorney Cain Smith summarized in his memo for the mayor and council.  “This lease would continue placement of the office in City Hall through Rep. Allen’s current two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

“I have a question. So, why is it free?” asked District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers.

At first there was some laughter among the city officials.

“Well, no, that’s a reasonable question,” said District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum. “Is he getting free resources across the district?”

“But it’s not for Rick Allen. It’s for the seat,” said District 4 Councilman John Riggs.

“John Barrow actually started that,” noted Mayor Jonathan McCollar.

The Georgia Ports Authority Board approved a plan to renovate the Port of Savannah for greater capacity, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

“For nearly 40 years, Ocean Terminal has been handling a mix of container ships and breakbulk vessels,” authority Executive Director Griff Lynch said. “The realignment is part of a broader effort to transform the terminal into an all-container operation, shifting most breakbulk cargo to the Port of Brunswick.”

The GPA plans to move breakbulk cargo, which doesn’t easily fit into shipping containers, to Colonel’s Island Terminal in Brunswick. Construction has started on 360,000 square feet of dockside warehousing that will serve auto processing there, as well as three additional buildings and 85 acres of auto storage space on the south side of the island.

The 200-acre Ocean Terminal facility will be modified in two phases.

The work will begin with rebuilding the docks to provide 2,800 linear feet of berth space capable of serving two big ships simultaneously. The docks will be served by new ship-to-shore cranes.

“As the dock construction progresses, GPA will continue to operate container ships at Ocean Terminal,” Ed McCarthy, the ports authority’s chief operating officer, said. “The work … will be conducted alongside container and breakbulk operations.”

Apart from new cranes and berth enhancements, the project will bring expanded gate facilities and paving to allow for 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) of annual cargo capacity. Wharf renovations are scheduled to start in January, with completion of the entire terminal redevelopment expected in 2026.

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