Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 10, 2024

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Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 10, 2024

Bridget Bishop was the first person hanged after being convicted of practicing witchcraft in the Salem witch trials on June 10, 1692.

On June 10, 1793, Washington, DC officially replaced Philadelphia as the Capital of the United States. To honor Washington, today we will adopt a smugly superior attitude, name-drop constantly, and speak condescendingly to those who currently live in the states we used to live in.

Rebecca Latimer Felton was born on June 10, 1835 in Decatur, Georgia and later became the first woman to serve in the United States Senate after being appointed by Governor Thomas Hardwick to fill a vacancy in 1922.

The United States Naval Academy graduated its first class on June 10, 1854.

The Girl Scouts of America were incorporated in Washington, DC on June 10, 1915.

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland became the first political convention broadcast on the radio on June 10, 1924.

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10, 1935.

President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963.

I am delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.

While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity–for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men–this legislation is a significant step forward.

Apple Computer shipped the first Apple II computers on June 10, 1977.

Coca-Cola introduced Classic Coke on June 10, 1985.

Ray Charles, who was born in Albany, Georgia died on June 10, 2004.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting for Primary Runoff Elections opens in Richmond County today, according to WRDW.

Sheriff Richard Roundtree and challenger Eugene “Gino Rock” Brantley are back on the ballot for the Democratic sheriff runoff.

Also on the ballot will be the nonpartisan Superior Court judge runoff.

Advance voting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Linda W. Beazley Community Room of the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building at 535 Telfair St., the Charles Evans Community Center at 1866 Highland Ave., the Robert Howard Community Center at 103 Diamond Lakes Way, and the Warren Road Recreation Center at 300 Warren Road.

The last day for early voting will be this Friday.

In order to be counted, voted mail-in absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. June 18.

There will be a drop box open in the Linda Beazley Room during the advance voting period as allowed by law.

Election Day voting will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 18, and all polling locations in Augusta-Richmond County will be open. Voters must report to their assigned precinct in order to vote on Election Day.

From AccessWDUN in Gainesville:

Ballot boxes to drop off early voting ballots are now accessible during business hours for Hall County’s registered voters.

Three locations are available for voters to cast their ballots with the June 18 runoffs for local primary races are accessable between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. from Monday, June 10 through Friday, June 14.

Voters can access the boxes for dropoff at Spout Springs Library in Flowery Branch, the Gainesville Civic Center or North Hall Community Center in Gainesville.

A link to the Hall County Government’s details for the primary runoff election and early voting details can be found, here.

In Gwinnett County, advance in-person voting expands from four locations to ten locations today.

Registered voters may vote advance in-person every day, including one weekend:

• June 8 – June 9: Four locations will be open from 9:00am to 5:00pm
• June 10 – June 14: Ten locations will be open from 7:00am to 7:00pm

Find an advance voting location near you, and check wait times before heading to an advance voting location. If you did not vote in the May 21 primary election, you may still vote in this runoff election if you are registered.

Voters may request an absentee by mail ballot for the June 18 General Primary and Nonpartisan General Election Runoff now through Friday, June 7. Voting by mail is an option for all voters, not just those who will be out of town. A completed state application form must be received before an absentee by mail ballot is issued. Please complete the absentee ballot application form online or call the Voter Registrations and Elections Office at 678.226.7210 to request an application.

Voters must return their voted absentee by mail ballot by Tuesday, June 18 at 7:00pm. Ballots can be returned by mail, hand-delivered to the Voter Registrations and Elections Office, or dropped into one of the six secure ballot drop boxes located inside advance voting locations around the county. No postage is necessary.

Please note that not all voting locations have drop boxes. Ballot drop boxes are now located inside designated advance voting locations and are only available during advanced voting hours and days.

Click here to see a list of all Gwinnett County Advance Voting locations and drop box availability.

Augusta is receiving state assistance after a downtown shooting, according to WRDW.

Using what the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office described as an “assault rifle,” at least one shooter fired into a crowd, striking some of the people.

Two people were injured in addition to one gunman who was shot by deputies.

That’s despite what witnesses telling us they heard something like 100 rapid-fire gunshots, sparking chaos in local businesses.

It could have easily been a mass shooting, but it wasn’t, Sheriff Richard Roundtree said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

“I cannot stress the magnitude of the intervention of our deputies. There is no doubt that without swift and heroic efforts to neutralize a heavily armed gunman, the potential for massive loss of life was extremely great,” he said.

Mayor Garnett Johnson asked for and received a commitment from Gov. Brian Kemp for Georgia State Patrol troopers and Georgia Department of Natural Resources officers to bolster deputies’ patrols of downtown.

Roundtree said there was already an increased presence of officers in the area. The state help will add to that.

With Roundtree just days away from a Democratic runoff election that could determine his fate for the next four years, there was a statement from his opponent.

Eugene “Gino Rock” Brantley said:

“My thoughts are with those affected by this senseless act of violence, and I sincerely hope for the safety and well-being of everyone involved. The recent events underscore the urgent need for change in our approach to public safety.”

Republican candidate Chuck Hand walked off stage at the Atlanta Press Club debate for the Runoff Election in the Second Congressional District, according to Georgia Recorder.

Wayne Johnson, a former Trump administration official, and Chuck Hand, who is a construction superintendent who was convicted of a misdemeanor for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, are in a June 18 runoff. Johnson was the top vote-getter last month, winning about 45% of the vote. Hand came in second with 32%.

Whoever wins this month will face longtime Democratic incumbent Congressman Sanford Bishop of Albany in a southwest Georgia district that leans Democratic. Early voting starts Monday.

“I’m not interested in debating the issues of the 2nd District with a man who doesn’t even reside in it, especially one who orchestrates attacks on my wife,” Hand said in brief remarks during the debate at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.

“This race is very simple. It’s either 8th District money or 2nd District heart. The choice is yours. It’s the dollar versus the change,” he said. “Now this is where I get back in my truck and head back to southwest Georgia because I got two races to win.”

Hand is referring to a press conference held in late May in Columbus by third-place finisher Michael Nixon, who hired a law firm to investigate claims against Hand and his wife that Nixon said were passed along to him earlier in the race.

Nixon, who has endorsed Johnson, said he wanted the public to be aware that Hand and his wife “bring with them to this race significant criminal backgrounds and a demonstration of financial irresponsibility.”

After the debate, Johnson acknowledged that he does not currently live within the boundaries of the 2nd District. The Macon resident said he employs people in the district and owns properties inside the district and that he will move to a home he owns in Plains if elected, though it is not required.

“I just didn’t think he wanted to stand in front of people and answer to what Michael Nixon put forth,” Johnson told reporters after the debate. “I’m a little bit – I won’t say surprised – I’m a little bit disappointed, because voters need to know who they’re sizing up to be their representative. And when you’re absent, nobody can size you up.”

“It’s perfectly fine to attack me as a candidate. I expect that. But to come out and publicly attack my wife, that’s a completely different situation,” Hand said. “My wife has paid her debt to society, long before I ever met her. And she’ll tell you it was the best thing that ever happened to her. It changed her life for the better and now she walks with the Lord.”

Also getting more contentious: the GOP Primary Runoff for the Third Congressional District, according to the AJC.

Former state Sen. Mike Dugan branded his opponent for a west Georgia-based U.S. House seat a “D.C. insider” soaking up out-of-state money. Brian Jack countered that Dugan compromised conservative values by backing a 2015 transportation tax bill.

Those were among the sharpest clashes in an otherwise tame Atlanta Press Club debate on Sunday between the two rivals for the 3rd Congressional District seat in their final face-to-face showdown ahead of the June 18 runoff.

Dugan, a former Georgia GOP Senate leader who finished a distant second to Jack in the primary, contrasted his mostly in-state contributions with the Jack’s donor list that mostly comes from outside of Georgia.

And he tried to temper Jack’s experience as a former aide to Trump by reminding voters he also worked for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a controversial figure in MAGA circles.

Jack countered by framing his record with McCarthy as part of an overall mission to “fire Nancy Pelosi,” the long-serving Democratic House leader pushed out in a Republican takeover of the chamber.

And he swiped at Dugan’s support for a Republican-backed measure in that raised nearly $1 billion for road improvements by hiking some gas fees and charging a new $5 nightly hotel tax.

Jack called it the “largest tax increase in the history of Georgia” and said he will work with Trump to “cut taxes and ensure we have prosperity going forward.”

While some anti-tax activists derided the package as a punitive increase on hotel fees, the conservative Georgia Public Policy Foundation said found it no evidence it led to higher gas taxes.

Throughout the campaign, Jack has relentlessly linked himself to Trump’s agenda, telling voters to recall “how successful they were” when Trump was in the White House. The former president’s blessing, amplified by Jack’s fundraising edge, helped the candidate finish atop the first round of voting.

Dugan, meanwhile, has leaned into his record as one of the state Senate’s top Republicans, highlighting his role supporting GOP-backed measures that included an overhaul of voting rules, new abortion limits and an expansion of gun rights.

Former Republican State Senator Janice VanNess earned a spot in the Democratic Primary for Rockdale County Commission Chair, according to the AJC.

Welcome to one of the most intriguing races in Georgia. Once a rising GOP star, VanNess is battling to lead the County Commission in one of Georgia’s most liberal bastions. And she’s running as a Democrat.

VanNess bested Jenkins and two other rivals in last month’s primary, forcing a June 18 runoff against Rockdale County Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt. The winner is guaranteed to capture the seat in November, which is why VanNess ran with a “D” by her name.

After stints as a commissioner and GOP state legislator, VanNess tells audiences she’s a reluctant candidate, only joining the race when another contender she supported dropped out. But she felt compelled to run because someone needed to bring “smart growth and responsible leadership” to her native county.

She calls herself an independent-minded Democrat who backs Medicaid expansion and supports lower taxes. She said she won’t vote for Donald Trump but won’t yet endorse Joe Biden either.

Of all the races featuring conservative figures running as Democrats — and there are several of them — party leaders are most worried about VanNess’ quest to lead Rockdale’s County Commission.

“It’s very unpredictable. Rockdale has never been a divisive political county,” said state Rep. Rhonda Taylor, a local Democrat who is staying neutral in the race. “And we really don’t know what will happen.”

Perhaps that’s why party leaders are rallying behind Nesbitt, a former law enforcement officer first elected to the County Commission in 2008 and as the county’s chief executive in 2016.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who chairs the state Democratic Party, accused VanNess of trying to “deceive Georgians about her true partisanship in order to win votes.”

VanNess isn’t exactly trying to hide her GOP roots. A fourth-generation Rockdale native, VanNess has stayed active in civic groups after serving two terms on the Commission and a short stay in the Legislature. In a county of roughly 100,000, her Republican background is common knowledge to local leaders.

But she isn’t emphasizing her partisan history either as she appeals to voters upset over the county’s growth and tax policy. She refers to herself constantly as a “fiscal conservative” — a favorite GOP description — while steering clear of divisive issues such as abortion.

“I won’t change back to the Republican Party. I’ve made my choice moving forward,” VanNess said, maintaining that her party affiliation shouldn’t matter much in a local contest where the biggest divides revolve around zoning issues and tax rates.`

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles hosted a Victim Impact Session to listen to crime victims, according to the Albany Herald.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is engaging crime victims through Victim Impact Sessions. The VIS is facilitated by the Georgia Office of Victim Services through a district attorney’s office. Victim Impact Sessions allow victims to discuss their case in a meeting with a Parole Board member, staff from the Georgia Office of Victim Services, and Clemency staff.

Board members Meg Heap, Joyette Holmes and Wayne Bennett recently participated in Victim Impact Sessions. Heap and Bennett met with victims in Albany.

“As a victim advocate early in my career, I know that the impact is very real on the victim,” Heap said. “I am thankful, although painful for them, that these victims decided to meet with us in Albany.”

Parole Board Chairman Terry Barnard met with crime victims in Ware County.

“Victim input provides an important factor in the parole decision-making process, and as a board we’ve strived to find every victim in Georgia so their voice can be heard,” Barnard said.

Holmes met with victims in Clayton County.

“These sessions can be very emotional for the victims; however, our experienced victims staff maintain a safe and comforting place for them to tell their stories,” Holmes said.

The Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement agencies are hosting a cookout, according to the Albany Herald.

A Community Cookout is set to be held on Saturday, June 15, to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement.

The purpose of this cookout is to emphasize the “serve” in “Protect and Serve,” according to a release by the county.

According to a flyer for the event, there will be free hamburgers and hot dogs while supplies last. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs, or a blanket, to the event.

A Columbus City Council swearing-in was postponed for pension issues, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

In a 6-3 vote May 28, the council appointed retired Columbus police officer Byron Hickey to succeed the late Jerry “Pops” Barnes as the District 1 representative and fill the remaining two years of the four-year term. Barnes, who died April 14 at age 80 from an undisclosed illness, was the District 1 representative on the 10-member council for 17 years.

The council is the governing body of the Columbus Consolidated Government. The city consolidated with Muscogee County in January 1971 after the charter was ratified in November 1970. So the city council has a dual function as the county commission — and councilors must be sworn in by the probate court judge for the city part of their role and by the superior court judge for the county part of their role.

Monday morning, Hickey was sworn in by Columbus Probate Court Judge Marc D’Antonio because D’Antonio couldn’t attend Tuesday night’s meeting. But after that ceremony, an email the same day Hickey received from CCG human resources director Reather Hollowell informed him that his city pension would be suspended while he served on the council because the city’s pension ordinance considers councilors as full-time employees, despite the charter treating councilors as part-time employees.

That’s why, although Hickey’s swearing-in was on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting, Mayor Skip Henderson announced the ceremony would be delayed. But nobody involved would explain why then.

Hickey told the Ledger-Enquirer on Friday that he doesn’t know why this conflict arose this late in the process.

“I was just told this was a unique situation,” he said. “… I just feel it’s unfair to retired people who put in, in my case, over 30 years of service to the city, to be penalized and punished for being in public office on the council.”

The city attorney is drafting a revised pension ordinance to present to the pension board. The revision would reclassify councilors as part-time. That would make their participation in the pension plan optional, just like the option to participate in the city’s health insurance plan, so city retirees could serve on the council while still drawing from their pensions.

“We’re waiting on the mayor to set up the meeting and work with the city attorney to draft everything,” Councilor Toyia Tucker of District 4 told the L-E on Thursday. “… We want to come up with the language to do this right for any future person running for the city council.”

The Dalton Board of Education will hold their last public meeting about the proposed FY 2025 budget, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

A previous hearing was held during the board’s May public meeting, where the tentative budget’s third draft for all funds listed estimated revenues of $109 million, with total expenditures anticipated at just under $113 million, bringing the projected ending fund balance for fiscal year 2025 to $16,937,332.

According to data released by DPS, the proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 encompasses a general fund budget of $114,381,019, a special fund budget of $7,546,533, a school nutrition fund budget of $7,133,176, a capital fund budget of $15,388,213 and a debt service budget of $6,355,735.

The fiscal year begins July 1.

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission held a meeting to discuss their proposed budget, according to The Brunswick News.

JWSC Executive Director Andrew Burroughs said the average household will see an increase of $2.48 per month on average, around 4%, on its water and sewer bill when the new fiscal year begins July 1. Over the last seven years, the average household bill has increased by $3.28, he said.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year 2025 is $38.93 million, up by 8.2% from this year’s budget of $35.97 million.

Water and sewer rates will account for 61% of the planned revenue increase. The rest will be driven by population growth, development fees and other revenue streams.

First among the reasons Burroughs mentioned is “skyrocketing construction costs.” Higher costs mean higher budgets for projects.

Rate increases can be offset by new customers. This year so far, the utility has added 708 new meters.

Albany Ward 1 City Commissioner Jon Howard hosted a Town Hall about poverty and related issues, according to the Albany Herald.

Nearly 30 percent of Albanians live below the poverty level. On Saturday, residents learned the reasons why there is so much poverty in the city. In fact, Albany ranks 158 out of 159 in child poverty. According to officials, education is a major contributor to poverty in Albany.

“Three lowest in child poverty at about 43%, so almost half of Dougherty County’s children live in poverty in this community. Which is a really really sad number, but it’s not like the other counties who are neighboring, it’s a regional issue and it’s a state issue,” Shaunae Motley, president and CEO of United Way Southwest Georgia, said.

“We had some solutions today, some recommendations, and I hope our community can benefit from this information and move forward,” Bo Dorough, mayor of Albany, said.

United States Representative Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Albany) announced a federal grant for the Jack Hadley Black History Museum in Thomasville, according to the Albany Herald.

The grant was made possible through the Museum Grants for African American History and Culture program.

The Jack Hadley Black History Museum strives to educate individuals about the history and culture of African Americans both in southwest Georgia and across the nation.

“The Jack Hadley Black History Museum has been a critical organ for historical preservation and education in Thomas County for the past 30 years, and I am delighted to announce this new award that will allow the museum to expand its programming and audience,”

Bishop said. “Museum grants present opportunities for our trusted, local institutions to thrive and continue to educate the American people while also attracting tourism that brings economic growth to our communities. In Congress, I will continue to support federal funding for museums to help ensure that our nation’s history and culture are preserved, studied, and understood all over our country.”

Gwinnett County Public Schools is among the best employers in the nation for new college graduates, according to AccessWDUN.

Gwinnett County Public Schools was placed in the top 1% of “America’s Best Employers for New Grads” by Forbes.

The district came in at number 185 on a list of the top 400 employers.

“This honor speaks volumes about our organizational culture and values,” GCPS Superintendent Dr. Calvin J. Watts said in a release. “It reflects our school district’s commitment to creating a supportive and dynamic work environment where new graduates can thrive and develop professionally. As such, we believe in fostering a culture of inclusivity, innovation, and excellence, where every employee feels valued and empowered.”

“Our emphasis on professional development and continuous learning ensures that our employees are well-equipped to meet the challenges of today’s educational landscape,”  Cathy Hardin, GCPS’ chief human resources officer, said. “Making Forbes’ ‘America’s Best Employers for New Grads’ list is a validation of the hard work our teams put in every day. It is a testament to our dedication to attracting and retaining top talent and ensuring our students receive the highest quality education. Being an employer that leads with empathy, values equity, moves and works effectively, and produces excellent outcomes makes a difference in our workspace and our community.”

GCPS was only one of two K-12 school districts to make the list, ranking ahead of Yale University (209), the University of Pennsylvania (231), the University of Florida (237), Brown University (239)  and Duke University (258).

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