Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2021


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2021

Today is Georgia Day, celebrating the founding of the Thirteenth Colony on February 12, 1733.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

On February 14, 1779, Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke led a charge against British forces at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

On February 13, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed legislation that proposed a Constitutional Amendment changing the 2-year terms for Governor and other statewide Constitutional Officers to 4-year.

On February 13, 1956, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation adopting a new state flag incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

On February 14, 1956, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation calling for the protection, cleaning and maintenance, and display of historic Confederate flags at the State Capitol.

On February 14, 1958, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution purporting to censure President Dwight D. Eisenhower for using National Guard troops in the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On February 14, 1977, the B-52s played their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in Athens.

Later that year, the group began making regular runs in the Wilson family station wagon up to New York City for gigs at seminal New Wave clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. With Kate and Cindy in their mile-high beehive wigs and 60s thrift-shop best, and Fred looking like a gay, demented golf pro, the B-52s made an immediate impression on the New York scene, and their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster,” became an underground smash.

The B-52s are still in business three decades later, minus Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985. Significantly, their success is widely credited for establishing the viability of the Athens, Georgia, music scene, which would produce many minor successes and one massive one—R.E.M.—in the years immediately following the breakthrough of the B-52′s.

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdell voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

On February 13, 2007, United States Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta) died at home.

Seven years ago, on February 12, 2014, most of Georgia state government was closed by Executive Order because of an ice storm.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Shall we consider this the first salvo in the 2022 Georgia Governor’s election? From the New York Times op-ed by Stacey Abrams and Lauren Groh Wargo:

We met and became political partners a decade ago, uniting in a bid to stave off Democratic obsolescence and rebuild a party that would increase the clout of regular, struggling Georgians. Our mission was clear: organize people, help realize gains in their lives, win local races to build statewide competitiveness and hold power accountable.

Georgians deserved better, so we devised and began executing a 10-year plan to transform Georgia into a battleground state. As the world knows, President Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in November, and the January runoff elections for two Senate seats secured full congressional control for the Democratic Party. Yet the result wasn’t a miracle or truly a surprise, at least not to us. Years of planning, testing, innovating, sustained investment and organizing yielded the record-breaking results we knew they could and should. The lessons we learned can help other states looking to chart a more competitive future for Democrats and progressives, particularly those in the Sun Belt, where demographic change will precede electoral opportunity.

The steps toward victory are straightforward: understand your weaknesses, organize with your allies, shore up your political infrastructure and focus on the long game. Georgia’s transformation is worth celebrating, and how it came to be is a long and complicated story, which required more than simply energizing a new coterie of voters. What Georgia Democrats and progressives accomplished here — and what is happening in Arizona and North Carolina — can be exported to the rest of the Sun Belt and the Midwest, but only if we understand how we got here.

That last part is powerful. It’s technically a header, but it’s also the first step. Like admitting you have a problem. Any candidate who wants my vote for a leadership position in the Georgia Republican Party needs to demonstrate that they’ve given some thought to that issue. And that they’re capable of understanding it and translating it to action.

Governor Brian Kemp announced that CVS will begin COVID-19 vaccinations in 12 stores in Georgia, according to WGXA.

“Public-private partnerships have been critical to our vaccination efforts here in Georgia, helping to ensure long-term care facility residents and staff along with those in our priority populations have access to the vaccine,” said Governor Kemp. “With limited supply and increasing demand, we are working diligently to administer the vaccine to as many Georgians in our Phase 1a+ populations as possible. I am grateful to CVS for their continued partnership in those efforts and look forward to continuing to work together to administer this life-saving vaccine to the people of Georgia.”

Appointments are open now, and vaccinations will begin on Friday, February 12.

Patients must register in advance at or through the CVS Pharmacy app, and people without online access can contact CVS customer service: (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided.

The Georgia General Assembly passed the current fiscal year Suppemental Budget yesterday, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The state House of Representatives passed the spending plan 165-4. The Georgia Senate then approved it unanimously less than an hour later.

While lawmakers signed off on most of the spending recommendations Gov. Brian Kemp made last month, legislative leaders worked with the governor to add $60 million to provide one-time $1,000 raises to more than 57,000 state employees earning less than $80,000 per year.

Front-line state workers including public health nurses, troopers, road crews and child welfare caseworkers deserve raises after stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England said.

“They don’t have the option to only be virtual,” said England, R-Auburn. “They have to have face-to-face contact. … Their jobs aren’t glamorous. But they’re there every day.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, said the $1,000 bonuses will be funded by a mix of federal dollars and savings from higher Medicaid payments the federal government has been making amid the pandemic.

From the Center Square:

Two budgets are passed through the General Assembly every legislative session. Lawmakers must review and approve spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, also known as the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) budget, and approve the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The state plans to spend a total of $26.5 billion in fiscal year 2021. The original budget, passed in June, was $25.9 billion after Kemp directed state agencies to reduce spending by 10%. Lawmakers now plan to spend a little more than $600 million more on K-12 schools, bringing the total for school funding for the current fiscal year to $10.2 billion.

Lawmakers allocated additional funding for indigent care hospitals, nursing homes, nursing permit exemptions, tourism and airports in response to COVID-19. The state plans to use $100,000 to hire a chief labor officer to oversee unemployment insurance benefits and respond to financial audit requests.

House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Terry England, R-Auburn, touted the Legislature’s plan Thursday to spend nearly $60 million to issue one-time bonuses to full-time state employees who make less than $80,000. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, state authorities and members of the Legislature would be excluded from the pay supplement package, England said.

The Georgia State Senate passed SB 33 and SB 34, both aimed at fighting human trafficking, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

One bill [SB 33] sponsored by state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, would allow human-trafficking victims to sue their traffickers in civil court for monetary damages.

The other bill, [SB34] also sponsored by Dixon, would shield human-trafficking victims from public scrutiny if they seek to legally change their names by keeping name-change petitions under seal.

“This is an issue that’s crucial to my county and yours … and will help victims of human trafficking,” Dixon said.

Both bills passed unanimously and now head to the House for more voting. Kemp will likely sign them into law should they pass the General Assembly.

The governor has made fighting human trafficking a priority since taking office in 2019, charging the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to crack down harder on traffickers through a multi-agency task force. He also tasked his wife, First Lady Marty Kemp, to lead the trafficking-focused GRACE Commission

First Lady Marty Kemp wrote on Facebook:

I’m grateful for Senator Clint Dixon’s leadership in pushing meaningful legislation to combat human trafficking. SB 33 and SB 34 are important reforms to support survivors, and we’re proud to announce both received bipartisan support in the Senate and will move on to the House.

The Gainesville Times looks at surveys of voter confidence in our elections.

According to a series of polls by the nonpartisan organization Center for Election Innovation & Research, while 83% of Georgians expressed confidence in elections, voter confidence waned among Republicans in the state following the 2020 presidential election.

Carl Cavalli, a political science professor at the University of North Georgia, said it’s a good sign that election confidence among both parties is still above 70%.

“The optimistic view is that confidence does not dip below about 70% for either party either before the general election or before the runoff,” Cavalli said. “Looking at the overall numbers again, the optimistic view is that both parties had equally high confidence in the general election — around 90%.”

The center ran three polls during the 2020 election cycle — in October, November and January. In its October survey, election confidence reached 91% among Georgia’s self-identified Republicans and Democrats.

Each survey’s margin of error was ±4.4% for 500 respondents, and October respondents were likely general election voters, and January respondents were likely runoff election voters.

November respondents were limited to those who voted in person during the general election.

In the lead-up to the general election, polls showed that 93% of Republicans expressed overall confidence in the election process.

But Becker directly attributes a 22% dip in voter confidence among Georgia Republicans in the center’s post-election polling in January to months of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud by the former president.

Trump secured the state’s 16 electoral votes in the 2016 general election, but Joe Biden beat Trump by more than 11,700 votes in Georgia, a result that was confirmed by two recounts.

Additionally, Biden had almost double the absentee-by-mail votes than his predecessor, with roughly 850,000 for Biden compared to about 450,000 for Trump.

David Estes serves as acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia after the resignation of the Trump Administration appointee, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

David Estes, of Scottsboro, Ala., assumed the duties of First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia in January 2018. Before coming to the Southern District, Estes was a prosecutor in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and, in 2002, joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama as an assistant U.S. Attorney.

He is married and lives with four children and two step-children in Savannah.

In a release, the U.S. Department of Justice said nearly all presidential appointees from the previous administration offered their resignations, although U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals were asked to temporarily remain in place. President Joe Biden will make an announcement regarding his U.S. Attorney nominations to the Senate.

United States Senators Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) and Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) are working for larger payments for COVID relief, according to the AJC.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer credited Sens. Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Georgia voters as the three Democrats outlined plans Thursday to provide average working families of four making $75,000 a total of $8,200 in federal relief under the latest COVID-19 aid package.

However, all of the relief may not be in the form of a direct payment. For example, a family of four making $75,000 a year with children ages 4 and 8 would receive up to $5,600 in direct payments and a $2,600 increase in benefits through an enhanced Child Tax Credit.

The details mirror the previously mentioned $1,400 payments to single taxpayers, $2,800 for joint filers and $1,400 per dependent. The latest relief package is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks through a budget reconciliation process.

“Thanks to Sens. Warnock and Ossoff, this COVID bill will be bigger and bolder and bring significantly more help to Georgians and Americans,” Schumer said during the Thursday news conference. “They have been pushing me as (Senate Majority Leader) to get these things done.”

Georgia Southern University will name a new convocation center after the late State Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill and his late wife, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The Jack and Ruth Ann Hill Convocation Center will be the signature building on Georgia Southern’s south campus. It will be located on university-owned land on the southwest side of the intersection of Lanier Drive and Veterans Memorial Parkway (US 301 bypass). The University System of Georgia approved the center Tuesday,

“This will be a tremendous addition to our Statesboro campus, for our local community, and for our students,” said Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero. “We are grateful to the governor and the Legislature for supporting this project, which will be a permanent reminder of the generational impact made by Jack and Ruth Ann Hill.”

He was a senator for 30 years, serving as chairman of several crucial committees, including Appropriations, which has broad jurisdiction over legislation involving budgeting and spending state and federal funds.

Funding for the project will come from a combination of state and privately raised funds. Gov. Brian Kemp’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget recommendations to the General Assembly include more than $12 million for construction.

Augusta Transit customers will be required to wear masks on buses, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Transit is taking a hard line against riders who refuse to wear face coverings.

The service will report bus riders who refuse to wear face coverings to law enforcement, then federal authorities, Deputy Director Oliver Page said.

Under President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring all transit passengers to wear masks, it will take action against any who refuse, Page said.

Page said the majority of riders wear masks appropriately but in a few instances, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has been called to remove ones who refuse. Each time the rider has left the bus voluntarily and none have been arrested or fined, he said.

Hall County is reopening public libraries, according to AccessWDUN.

“Over the past few weeks, the COVID-19 statistical data has decreased for the Hall County community,” Hall County Administrator Jock Connell said in a media statement. “Given this information, in addition to the numerous social distancing practices that are in place at the government center, we are carefully expanding our appointment-only hours to 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning Monday, Feb. 15.”

The facility’s current hours for appointments are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the county adopted the more stringent schedule earlier this year when COVID cases were on a post-holiday rise.

Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson is accused of numerous ethics violations, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The complaint alleges the mayor has violated six provisions in the city’s Code of Ethics.

The complaint was filed Feb. 9 and is supported by a coalition of four organizations – The Mary Turner Project, Concerned Clergies of Valdosta, NAACP Lowndes Chapter and Valdosta/Lowndes Community Alliance.

According to the complaint, the coalition claims Matheson “demonstrated that he is incapable of, and/or uninterested in, representing all citizens of Valdosta equally.”

The complaint stems from things said during the mayor’s weekday morning radio show on Talk 92.1, a station owned by Matheson, which “combines and conflates his roles as the Mayor of Valdosta and Conservative political pundit.”

The complaint claims the mayor’s show “regularly disseminates inaccurate, divisive, and inflammatory claims that often demonize local citizens and political viewpoints that differ from his own.”

A prime example, the complaint states, is a Jan. 12 show, when Matheson said, “One day, it’s illegal to pay somebody to vote, but on the next day, being election day, it’s legal to pay someone to canvass even though they don’t canvass – even though they don’t go to a house. They hop on a bus, they go down, they vote, they come back and they cash a $75 check.”

Jack Morris, Matheson’s radio cohost, then said, “A lot of what that is is they pay $75 to find five friends to take to the polls.” Matheson refers to these checks as being cashed at the same liquor store.

Check out the latest addition to Georgia’s bald eagles on the Berry College Nest Cam.

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