Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 22, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 22, 2019

On January 22, 1733, James Oglethorpe arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, where the colony of Georgia would be founded.

Lieutenant William T. Sherman was ordered to Georgia for the first time in his military career on January 21, 1844.

On January 22, 1861, following the passage of Georgia’s Secession Resolution, six delegates, including both from Gwinnett County, signed a statement protesting the decision to secede.

On January 22, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles Jenkins signed a resolution by the legislature asking for federal troops to be removed from Georgia.

On January 22, 1959, Atlanta buses were integrated after a federal court decision.

United States Senator and former Georgia House Speaker and Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. died on January 21, 1971.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the case known as Roe v. Wade.

On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned draft resistors from the Vietnam War era and urged Americans to conserve energy.

On January 21, 1978, the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever album hit #1 on the sales charts, where it would stay for 24 weeks.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta is exhibiting a collection of papers from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., according to the Statesboro Herald.

There are drafts of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance and “Beyond Vietnam” speeches and of his eulogy for four girls who died when Ku Klux Klan members bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama. In drafts and outlines of speeches and sermons, both typed and written out longhand, words and entire lines are crossed out and rewritten. Even an already published copy of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is marked with further handwritten edits.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting begins today in State House District 176, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Early voting begins Tuesday, Jan. 22, for the special election to select a District 176 representative.

Anyone interested in voting early should go to the elections office, 2808 N. Oak St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and is open Monday through Friday.

Election day for the special election is Feb. 12. Ballots can be cast then 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at designated polling places.

The winner will fill the Georgia Statehouse District 176 seat vacated by Jason Shaw. The district is made up of portions of Lowndes, Atkinson, Lanier and Ware counties.

Sharks are gathering off Georgia’s coast, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Southeast coast, from Myrtle Beach to Daytona Beach, is pinging with great white sharks. Eight of the animals fitted with satellite tags that allow them to be tracked in near real time have surfaced recently on the continental shelf here, in what’s thought to be their winter feeding ground.

The biggest concentration is off Savannah. Here, sharks named Grey Lady, Jefferson, Hilton and Luna have signaled their presence since late December. The tagged sharks are a good indication there are plenty more white sharks in the area with them, according to researchers with Ocearch, which began tagging sharks in 2012 and makes the tracking information available online at

“The body of colder water trapped between the Gulf Stream and the coast is a key feature of this region,” said Bryan Franks, assistant professor of marine science at Jacksonville University and Ocearch collaborating scientist. “This ‘wedge’ of cold water extends from the Outer Banks in North Carolina down to Cape Canaveral in Florida. This feature results in a range of water temperatures in a relatively short horizontal distance from the coast out to the Gulf Stream. In addition, there is the potential for abundant prey in the migrating populations along the coastlines and in the dynamic mixing zone on the Stream edge.”

Sharks are also known to gather at this time of year on the third floor of the Georgia State Capitol.

Speaking of sharks, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams kicked off her fundraising “Thank you” tour, according to the Albany Herald.

Democrat Stacey Abrams may have fallen short of her bid to become Georgia’s first black female governor in November, but that has done nothing to keep her out of the spotlight as a possible opponent for Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue next year.

While Abrams has admitted talking to some well-heeled Democratic donors, she will not confirm a run against Perdue. She sure talked like a candidate during a visit to Albany on Monday while kicking off another tour at the Grille House, the first of a series of “thank you” events for supporters across the state.

“Our work is not done because I’m not in the governor’s mansion,” she said. “Our work is not done because we still don’t have Medicaid expansion. Our work is not done because the person who now occupies that office is not talking about criminal justice reform. Our work is not done because all of you have not signed up for the Affordable Care Act. There is still time to sign up, but they’re not telling you this. The governor of Georgia is not telling you to take advantage of your opportunity.”

“The future of Georgia is not metro Atlanta, the future of Georgia is along the Flint River,” she said. “The future of Georgia is along the Chattahoochee, and the Altamaha. The future of Georgia is all of Georgia and we have to have leaders who see all of Georgia and believe in all of Georgia even if all of Georgia doesn’t believe in you.”

From the AJC:

“The system is rigged, but now we know what they’re doing, and we will get it undone,” she said. “And that will only happen if they don’t believe we are going to go home and sit still.”

Abrams has been under intense pressure from donors, elected officials and supporters to challenge Perdue in 2020 after she won more votes than any other Democratic candidate in Georgia history. She has set a late March deadline to make up her mind.

Her allies have said she’s seriously considering a challenge to Perdue – some describe her as increasingly vexed by the government shutdown – and were buoyed by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll that showed her favorability ratings higher than his. The field is essentially frozen until she decides; no other prominent politicians want to challenge her in a primary.

“I am running for office again,” she told the crowd. “I don’t know for what.”

Griffin-Spalding County Board of Education member Syntel Brown was stabbed outside his home, according to the AJC.

Deputies responding to a report of aggravated assault found Brown outside the home with multiple stab wounds and cuts, according to the sheriff’s office.

Brown was treated at the scene by the deputies and a neighbor until emergency personnel arrived and took him to Atlanta Medical Center for treatment. His condition was not provided by authorities.

“After being briefed by my investigators as to the details of the incident and those involved, I made the determination to contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and ask for their assistance,” Sheriff Darrell Dix said in a statement. “At this point the investigation has been turned over to them. No other details will be released at this time as the investigation into the incident and fact gathering is ongoing.”

GBI spokesman Nelly Miles told on Monday the agency has no other information to add about the investigation.

The Macon Telegraph looks at Governor Brian Kemp’s proposed teacher pay raise.

Cindy Flesher, the deputy superintendent for Houston County schools, is part of a system that has about 2,250 certified educators.

It would be like a “pat on the back,” Flesher said, for those educators to get the raise proposed by Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. On Thursday, in his first speech to state lawmakers as governor, Kemp unveiled what he called a “down payment” — teacher raises worth $3,000 per year. The idea is to stop the flow of folks leaving the profession.

The proposed lump-sum raise applies to certified educators who are covered in the state’s education funding formula — classroom teachers and librarians, for example.

“We are more than happy about it,” said Charlotte Booker, president of the Georgia Association of Educators. She was at the Capitol on Thursday, too, like many others, watching Kemp’s speech for details.

“Of course, we want to see more,” said Booker, “but we would be ecstatic to see the first part of it come to fruition.”

The Dalton Daily Citizen also looks at the prospective effects of a teacher pay raise.

“When I first started teaching, we were under ‘Sonny money,’” the fourth grade teacher in Lowndes County said, referring to raises under then Gov. Sonny Perdue, who took office in 2003.

But then came one of the worst recessions in the nation’s history, and along with it came deep budget cuts, including to public education. The teacher raises soon stopped.

“When the economy rebounded, teachers weren’t a priority,” Robinson said. “At a state level, we felt like we were forgotten when the economy rebounded.”

Mary Beth Watson, who chairs the Colquitt County Board of Education, said the raise would be especially significant for newer teachers in the southwest Georgia community. The pay bump would make starting pay for teachers more competitive with other professions. Right now, a new teacher with a four-year degree starts out at $35,512.

Watson said she supports the raise as a way to attract and retain good teachers, even with the added cost to the system for increased benefits. She said the district had been preparing for the cost — potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars — since the raises were first mentioned last year.

“I firmly believe that teachers are the heart of our education system, and that there is no substitute for strong, dedicated teachers,” Watson said.

In Thomas County, the across-the-board pay hike will mean a 4 to 8 percent increase for educators, with new teachers seeing the bigger jump, said Joey Holland, deputy superintendent for finance.

Coastal Georgia legislators are considering anti-offshore drilling measures, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A bipartisan effort led by State Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, and State Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, failed to gain traction last year and left Georgia with no official state stance opposing offshore drilling. Both legislators are working to bring their resolutions back for another try this year.

Jackson said Thursday he expects to introduce his resolution in the last week of January. Gilliard expects his resolution to drop Tuesday. As in 2018, the house and senate versions are nearly identical, rejecting both offshore drilling and the seismic testing needed for oil exploration off the Georgia coast. Both resolutions express support for Georgia’s fishing and coastal tourism industries, extensive salt marsh and marine mammals that would be at risk from seismic testing, oil infrastructure or a spill.

The senate resolution, which last year was SR 706, does not reject drilling for gas. State Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, said that omission reflected a desire to get a better understanding of the concerns about drilling for gas, a spill of which poses less obvious consequences for tourism and fisheries than does an oil spill. It could change as it goes through the legislative process.

During the 2018 legislative session, then-Gov. Nathan Deal expressed “concern” about offshore drilling and requested the state’s Department of Natural Resources study the issue. That study came back in November, enumerating the risks to Georgia’s lucrative coastal tourism and saltwater fisheries. As a candidate, Gov. Brian Kemp stated his opposition to offshore drilling repeatedly. In late November, his spokesman Ryan Mahoney reiterated that “Governor-elect Brian Kemp opposes drilling off the coast of Georgia.”

Gwinnett County will host a series of meetings on transit, according to the Gwinnett Daily News.

Gwinnett County leaders will kick off a series at least 14 public meetings on Tuesday to explain the upcoming vote on whether the county should join MARTA.

Officially under state law, county officials cannot advocate for or against passage of the referendum, but they are allowed to public education to explain the item that will appear on the ballot. In this case, that is the contract which has been negotiated between the county and MARTA and a one-cent sales tax to pay for Gwinnett’s participation in the metro transit system.

County commissioners and MARTA’s Board of Directors have already approved the contract, but it is pending approval by voters in the form of a referendum, which will be held March 19. Early voting will begin Feb. 25 and continue daily, including Saturdays and Sundays, until March 15.

The Partnership for a Drug Free Hall County will host a public forum Thursday night, according to the Gainesville News.

Partnership for Drug Free Hall is hosting “Fix My Pain: Non-Opioid Options for Pain Management,” which will be held at First Baptist Church’s banquet hall on Green Street.

“I find that I have learned a lot about pain from putting this forum together, and it will be a big help to take the next steps for reducing the use of opioids,” said Dallas Gay, one of the main organizers for the partnership.

A workshop and resource fair will precede the forum from 5-6 p.m., where attendees can learn more about acupuncture, chiropractic care and physical therapy.

The Chatham County Board of Elections needs a new Chairman, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Residents interested in taking a lead role in the democratic process have until Feb. 1 to submit their application to head the Chatham County Board of Elections following the expiration of Board Chairman Thomas Mahoney III’s term last month.

Chatham County issued a press release Friday announcing the vacancy that board member Marianne Heimes said they may be ready to fill at their next meeting Feb. 11, depending on whether they can meet with all the candidates.

The search for a chairman comes after the board drew criticism following the Nov. 6 midterm election, with about a dozen speakers at the subsequent meeting complaining about long lines and waiting times, an inadequate amount of voting machines, poorly trained poll workers, and a lack of provisional and sample ballots.

University Hospital and Augusta University Health in Augusta will partner to provide outpatient cancer services, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission is considering deferring payment for federal government employees affected by the shutdown, according to The Brunswick News.

Glynn County Juvenile Court judges are seeking funds to cover a shortfall in payments to court-appointed attorneys, according to The Brunswick News.

Kessell Stelling, Chairman and CEO of Synovus, was elected to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Board of Directors, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

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