Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2022

On July 5, 1737, James Oglethorpe sailed from England to Georgia with a warship and troop transports carrying a regiment to be stationed at St. Simons Island.

On July 5, 1742, Spanish forces based in Florida sailed past Fort St. Simon, bypassing English forces there. That night, Oglethorpe’s troops left Fort St Simon and fell back to Fort Frederica.

Fort Frederica National National Monument on St. Simons Island

Union cavalry under Gen. Kenner Garrard reached Roswell, Georgia on July 5, 1864, setting the town alight.

The Augusta Chronicle has a nice piece on man of mystery Button Gwinnett.

Two signers – George Walton and Lyman Hall – now rest together beneath a monument on Greene Street in front of the Municipal Building. Augusta lacks only Gwinnett to complete the set.

It probably will never happen.

The late Gov. Zell Miller, a college history professor before his political career, called Gwinnett a “man of mystery and unanswered questions both in life and death.”

His friendship with a neighbor – future Declaration signer Lyman Hall – drew him into politics and he went to the State Assembly, and was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress. In that role, he signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

He also returned to Georgia where he was credited as the “father” of the state’s first constitution, ratified in 1777. He hoped to become the state’s first governor, but his political ambition was thwarted by rival Lachlan McIntosh.

[Gwinnett’s grave] was thought to be in a Savannah cemetery, but others said Gwinnett was buried atop an old Indian mound near his home on St. Catherine’s Island. Those bones, however, were washed out to sea during a hurricane and now his ghost is said to haunt the region.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Speaking of Fort Frederica National Monument, renovations to the visitor center have begun, according to The Brunswick News.

The visitor center will be closed and the current park film unavailable during the project.

Rangers will continue to offer public programming as staffing and weather allow and will be working from a temporary space in the park library in the same location as the bookstore.

Deputy Superintendent Steve Theum said the new exhibits will “shed light on important park and area resources previously unavailable to the public through the museum.”

The renovations will create more space for educational retail items in the bookstore, where sales support vital programming, Theum said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified this month’s runoff elections, according to the Albany Herald.

A total of 460,602 ballots were cast in the runoffs.

“The success of the primary and runoff reflects the tremendous work of our county election officials,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “Election officials in all 159 Georgia counties worked tirelessly to deliver accurate results and a voting system that works for all Georgians.”

Candidates seeking a recount must request one within two business days after certification. Under O.C.G.A. § 21-2-495, a recount can be requested by the second-place candidate if the difference in votes between the winning candidate and second-place candidate is not more than 0.5% of the total votes cast in the race.

Governor Brian Kemp suspended the motor fuel tax for another month, according to The Hill.

The suspension of the state’s excise tax on motor fuel, which had been paused starting in March, was extended by Kemp on Friday, with the governor additionally halting the state sales tax on locomotive fuel. The suspension lasts until Aug. 13 at 11:59 p.m.

“To provide actual relief to Georgians, I am once again extending the supply chain state of emergency and suspending our state motor fuel tax. In addition to these actions, I am suspending the locomotive fuel tax to help fight rising costs that are being passed on to consumers,” Kemp said in a statement.

The Georgia governor claimed in his statement that President Biden and other Democratic leaders were not tackling the issue. Last month, however, Biden called for a 90-day suspension of the federal gas tax and for states to pause their own gas taxes or take other measures in response to surging prices at the pump.

Governor Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams will disclose their most recent fundraising in coming days, according to Politico.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp should have no problem fundraising — and in some ways, he doesn’t. He locked up in-state donors in the GOP primary even after former president Donald Trump recruited a challenger. And so far, he has brought in more than $22 million in his bid for reelection — already more than what he raised in the whole 2018 cycle.

Abrams officially joined the race last December — about nine months later than the incumbent governor — but was only $1.6 million behind him in fundraising, according to financial disclosure forms for each campaign committee filed in March. By now, Abrams may have already overtaken Kemp; the second quarter filing period ended on June 30, and results will be released in early July.

“Stacey Abrams has always been an elite fundraiser. And I don’t think that that dynamic is going to change,” said Chip Lake, a veteran Georgia GOP consultant. “Look, he [Kemp] doesn’t have to outspend Stacey Abrams, but he can’t get blown out of the water.”

In addition to the advantage of incumbency, Kemp actually emerged stronger after his bitter primary race. Trump’s rage at Kemp for not backing his false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent threatened to split the party, but Kemp’s smashing victory over Trump-endorsed David Perdue in May gave the governor a jolt heading toward the general election.

“We have entered this general election, fully aware that we will be out-raised and out-spent,” said Cody Hall, Kemp’s spokesperson. “But you know, it’s a matter of how much we can keep pace, and we feel confident about that.”

“When you’re in a gunfight, you don’t care where your ammo was manufactured, you just need it,” said John Watson, the Georgia GOP chair during the 2018 election cycle. “And so because of that, there will be and will continue to be an aggressive outreach to national donors and small donor programs. I anticipate that will be absolutely a critical part of [Kemp’s] overall finance plan.”

Leadership PACs are new to this election cycle in Georgia. For the first time, gubernatorial candidates can run leadership PACS that accept unlimited donations and coordinate directly with the candidates in addition to their main campaign committees. Kemp has already raised an additional $4.7 million through this new campaign tool.

Based on early disclosures filed from her contributors, Abrams has at least $3.5 million: $1 million of which came from Democracy II, a PAC run by liberal mega-donor George Soros; $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association; and $1.5 million from Fair Fight Inc, the political action committee arm of the non-profit organization that Abrams founded in 2018.

Her campaign committee has about $20.8 million — slightly behind Kemp’s campaign committee, although she’s been raising money for less than half the time. She also paused fundraising after the Supreme Court’s draft decision on abortion became public to support reproductive rights groups.

“Every cycle gets more expensive. And I think this one will be more expensive than the last — as is every future election cycle,” Watson said. “So whatever the costs were before, I can only guarantee you one thing: it’ll be more this time.”

Some Savannahians protested the Supreme Court Dobbs decision, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Those participating Monday say the protest stemmed from a call to action on a community Facebook page that focuses on reproductive and women’s rights.

With homemade signs, the group took advantage of a busy downtown Savannah spot with high visibility to share their message, which they say received mixed reaction at times.

“We’ve had maybe one, two comments that were suggesting that they were against abortion and that it completely fine. That is their choice. That is the whole point of this, it is a very personal choice. And for some, they could never have an abortion, and that is completely fine. But for others, they need that life-saving health care. And it is important that that is still available to them,” Kasey Giddens said.

Protests also occurred in Columbus, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Around 70 people from Columbus and surrounding areas participated in the protest. Ilene Kent, who helped organize the event, kicked it off by praising President Joe Biden for announcing Thursday that he would back an exception to the Senate filibuster to protect abortion access. The Supreme Court’s ruling will disproportionately affect people who have few financial resources, she said.

“That will change when we elect Stacey Abrams,” Kent said. “We not only must get out the vote. We must vote all the way down-ballot.”

Many of the speakers stressed the importance of getting out the vote in the midterm elections this year. Patricia Lassiter, member of the Muscogee County Democratic Party, encouraged the crowd to consider running for an office.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners will consider a resolution protesting the Dobbs decision, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Following the lead of South Fulton Mayor Khalid Kamau, local commissioners are co-sponsoring a resolution to address the ban. The commissioners include Mariah Parker, Jesse Houle, Tim Denson and Carol Myers.

The language of Athens-Clarke’s resolution will be modeled after the resolution from Kamau and Atlanta City Councilperson Liliana Bakhtiari, and will dictate that local government funds will not be used to enforce the criminalization of abortion care.

[Commissioner Mariah] Parker said that Georgia is not a pro-family state and pointed to the refusal “to expand Medicaid, fully fund public schools, or universalize childcare, or raise the minimum wage” as evidence.

“We need to do what we can here in Athens to ensure that people are supported in creating the families that they want,” said Parker. “So whether that’s supporting families and making sure they have access to what they need to have a family life where they can thrive or in their private medical decisions around not starting a family yet.”

The Atlanta resolution bans the use of city funds to investigate reports of abortion care and dictates that the police treat reports of abortion-related care as “the lowest possible priority.”

Atlanta also saw abortion protests, according to the AJC.

A Monday rally, led by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, began at the Midtown MARTA station and made its way to Peachtree Street during The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race. After the race was over, the group migrated to Piedmont Park and stopped again at the corner of 10th Street and Monroe Drive, where the rally grew to about 200 people.

Activists have gathered at rallies across metro Atlanta and elsewhere around the country since the Supreme Court ruling. In several states across the U.S., trigger laws have gone into effect, limiting or prohibiting abortion access immediately.

Former State Senator William Ligon (R-White Oak) may testify at the Fulton County Witch Hunt Grand Jury, according to The Brunswick News.

Former Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and others will have to testify, though prosecuting attorneys will be limited in what questions they may ask, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office is investigating whether former President Donald Trump, Ligon and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in the state.

McBurney, originally appointed to the bench by Gov. Nathan Deal, will provide the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office with guidelines on what questions may be asked before the grand jury.

Ligon’s subpoena stems back to a special Senate Judiciary subcommittee he chaired to look into the state’s election results, which favored Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over Trump, a Republican.

Health insurers must treat mental health issues at the same level as physical ailments under Georgia’s new mental health parity law, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

“Parity kicks in immediately,” Rep. Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth, said about the new law’s July 1 start date. Jones, along with Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, co-sponsored the omnibus bill in the state house of representatives earlier this year.

“Georgia families hopefully have a greater opportunity to receive treatment they’re entitled to,” Oliver said of the change introduced by the new parity law.

“Folks that have not been getting adequate treatment: new funding is coming, new attention is coming,” Oliver said.

Oliver — along with several other mental health advocates — pointed out that Georgians can report suspected parity violations to the state insurance department.

Georgians’ reports about their experiences would be key to making sure the law is enforced, Oliver said.

The Georgia insurance department will soon hire a new mental health parity officer to help oversee the law, Weston Burleson, director of communications officer for the insurance department, said.

The Savannah Morning News has a Q&A with each of the major party candidates for First Congressional District.

Incumbent Republican Buddy Carter (Pooler)

Carter: “Well, first of all, if you look at what’s going on in our country, right now, the last thing we need is to send another Democrat up to Washington D.C. to allow with these failed policies of the Biden administration and the Democratic majority. People are concerned, they’re concerned about inflation. They’re concerned about gas prices, they’re concerned about crime. They’re concerned about our southern border, they’re concerned about the weak policies that are shown on the national stage on the world stage. They’re concerned about all those things.”

“And people understand that policies have consequences. And what we are suffering right now are the consequences of the last election, and of the policies of the Democratic administration and the Biden administration. People in the 1st Congressional District don’t want to send someone to Washington, D.C. who’s going to be voting with Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, they want to see real change, they want to go back to when we had inflation under control, when we had a growing economy, when we had our southern border secured, and when we were respected on the world stage.”

“This is about the failed policies of the Democratic Party and the Biden administration; it’s about inflation; it’s about gas prices; it’s about crime; it’s about our southern border; it’s about our lack of respect on the world stage, thanks to this administration; it’s about leaving Afghanistan, and leaving Americans behind enemy lines, something that we never do.”

Democrat Wade Herring

Herring: “Well, as I have explained before, on January 6 (2021), when Mr. Carter stood to vote to overturn the election, he violated his oath of office to protect the Constitution. That’s a Congressional representative’s fundamental job: protect the Constitution, to protect the peaceful transition of power, to honor the voice of the people. And he violated that fundamental job, and he has forfeited his right to remain in office.”

“A democracy depends upon a respect for the Constitution, and for institutions like fair and free elections, and that peaceful transition of power and the long-term interests of the executive branch and the legislative branch — he violated all of that on January the sixth.”

“And in addition to those things, the things that I’ve talked about consistently: the importance of protecting voting rights; the importance of accessible, affordable health care, particularly earlier on in people’s lives; the importance of education, again, especially for younger children; and, and yes, daycare; the importance of protecting this very special place where we live.”

NPR traveled to a swing Congressional District in Virginia to see how a focus on January 6th is working out there.

[Kimberly] Berryman, who works with special needs students, said she was shocked and scared by the attack at the Capitol. But she said she’s more worried about price hikes and supply shortages than litigating Jan. 6.

“Just move on to something else,” she said.

Berryman said she usually votes for Democrats, including [U.S. Representative] Abigail Spanberger, who currently represents the competitive 7th Congressional District in Congress. But Berryman said she’ll consider voting for a Republican if they do a better job addressing her concerns about high prices.

“There are people out here that really can’t afford it. And I’m one of them,” she said.

A federal court is considering a challenge to Georgia’s elections for Public Service Commission, according to the AJC.

A federal judge deciding whether statewide elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission discriminate against Black voters said in court Friday that he’s struggling with whether race or politics explain why almost all winning candidates are white.

Just one Black candidate has ever won an election to the Public Service Commission in its 143-year history, when Democrat David Burgess won in 2000 after being appointed to the post.

A five-day trial concluded Friday after U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg heard testimony from plaintiffs who allege Georgia’s system of statewide elections for all five commissioners deny Black voters an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. Over 30% of Georgia voters are Black, but they’re always outnumbered by the state’s white majority that tends to elect Republicans.

An attorney for the plaintiffs told Grimberg that Georgia’s long history of electing white candidates shows that the statewide voting method denies representation for Black voters on the commission that regulates electricity and natural gas prices.

Commission members must live in one of five districts, but voters from across the entire state are allowed to vote for all commission seats.

An attorney for the state, Bryan Tyson, said Black voters have been able to participate in the political process, but just because their candidates haven’t won doesn’t mean the voting system is discriminatory.

“How people vote is driven more by party than by race,” Tyson said. “No one has been prohibited from voting based on race.”

Grimberg could issue a ruling before mid-August, when election officials face a deadline to finalize ballots before the November election.

The Georgia State Senate Development Authorities and Downtown Development Authorities Study Committee will consider whether local development authorities should have state oversight, according to the Center Square via the Albany Herald.

Senate Resolution 809 created the five-member Senate Development Authorities and Downtown Development Authorities Study Committee.

In an announcement, Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, said the committee will explore ways “we can maximize the benefit brought to our communities by local development authorities, while also ensuring proper safeguards are in place to protect taxpayers from abuse.”

“While Georgia is home to large economic centers such as Atlanta and Savannah, our state’s small businesses that line main streets and city squares are the backbone of the state’s economy,” Burns added. “While local development authorities are responsible for much of the prosperity we see in our small towns, the state currently lacks any oversight of these authorities or data on millions of dollars of tax abatements issued by them.”

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