Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 13, 2019

On March 13, 1736, the Spanish Governor of Florida complained to Georgia’s James Oglethorpe about English settlements and forts in areas claimed by Spain.

On March 13, 1868, the first impeachment trial of a United States President began in the Senate. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House for allegations based on his Reconstruction policies that allegedly violated federal law.

Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African-American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote.

In March 1867, in order further to weaken Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including Cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate.

On March 13, 1957, Governor Marvin Griffin signed a joint resolution by the Georgia General Assembly purporting to impeach United State Chief Justice Earl Warren and associate justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Thomas Clark, Felix Frankfurter, and Stanley Reed, and calling on Congress to impeach the Justices.

On this date in 1992, 25 years ago, “My Cousin Vinny” was released.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Republican James Burchett appears to have won a special runoff election for House District 176, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

He beat Franklin Patten of Lakeland to fill Jason Shaw’s former Georgia House of Representative seat, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State website.

Burchett will now represent District 176, which covers portions of Lowndes, Lanier, Ware and Atkinson counties.

Shaw was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Public Service Commission this year, forcing a special election for his seat on Feb. 12.

Not including provisional ballots, a total of 4,322 ballots were counted on Election Day Tuesday for the runoff.

There are 30,340 registered voters in District 176. Less than 15 percent of voters participated in the runoff election.

Burchett of Waycross garnered the most votes with 59 percent or 2,555 votes. During the special election, he received 1,494 votes.

The race was overwhelmingly determined by Ware County’s turnout. Burchett received 1,575 votes from his home county, which is more than Patten got from every county in the special election. Patten only received 4 percent of the Ware County vote or 73 votes.

Under the  Gold Dome Today




10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 31) House Chamber


12:30 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary 132 CAP

12:45 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs Election Subcommittee 406 CLOB







2:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB




3:00 PM HOUSE Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care 341 CAP


3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 415 CLOB




In Congress, Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue joined Congressman Buddy Carter in seeking to name Savannah as home to a new Air National Guard Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Air Force is considering locations to establish an additional AES to meet recommendations by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Perdue, Isakson and Carter encouraged the Air Force to select the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station for the new AES.

“As the Air Force continues with its strategic basing process to establish a new Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron within the Air National Guard, we respectfully request your careful consideration of the 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Hilton Head Air National Guard Station as a top candidate to fulfill basing criteria,” the letter reads.

“It would mean a couple of things for Savannah,” said Carter. “It would mean that we would have emergency personnel located right here and that would make a whole lot of difference. Secondly, this would bring over 100 jobs to our area. It would bring jobs to our citizens. And we’ve got 10 different nursing schools right in this area that they could draw from.”

House Bill 501 by State Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment committee, according to The Brunswick News.

Tyler Harper, the state Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee chairman, may have tried to speed along the passage of the oyster mariculture bill — House Bill 501 — by noting it had the same language in Senate Bill 182, which earlier passed the committee and the full Senate.

The discussion lasted for nearly 30 minutes, and included, at times, heated testimony to the committee by Savannah Republican state Rep. Jesse Petrea, the bill’s sponsor, and state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island. Jones spoke first, giving background as to his experience with the subject and legislation.

“In the remaining 30 seconds that I have here, let me make it clear to this committee, this bill does not have the support of the producers, of the people, this legislation is intended to help,” Jones said. “And so, I would submit to this committee, if this legislation is not supported by those people, the oystermen and the producers and the distributors and the restauranteurs, if they do not support this legislation, I just have to ask then, why are we even considering passage of this legislation?

“If this legislation does not help those that we are working to help, and in fact will work against the growth of the mariculture industry in Georgia, then I submit to you that this bill should not be passed out of committee today.”

The State Senate will consider House Bill 316, the elections bill, today, according to the AJC.

The conflict over election integrity will be a driving force in Wednesday’s state Senate vote to switch Georgia to a $150 million voting system that combines touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots. The state’s current electronic voting machines don’t produce paper ballots.

Voters would pick their candidates on touchscreens that are attached to ballot printers. Then voters could review their printed choices before inserting their ballots into scanning machines.

The Republican majority in the Georgia General Assembly is siding with election officials who want to install the new voting machinery, called ballot-marking devices, in time for next year’s presidential primary election. The measure, House Bill 316, has already passed the state House, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp supports the voting technology.

Democratic legislators are aligned with cybersecurity experts who prefer paper ballots bubbled in with pens, a voting method that avoids the inherent risks of a computerized system.

The Glynn County Board of Elections discussed House Bill 316, which would change election procedures, according to The Brunswick News.

House Bill 316 would, among other things, standardize the voting equipment of all Georgia counties, open new avenues for voter registration and change the rules on voting precinct realignments and polling place closures.

The state House of Representatives approved the bill last month, and the Senate plans to take up the discussion today.

Board Chairwoman Patty Gibson asked Channell if the state plans to purchase all the new machines needed or just the touchscreen voting equipment.

“As far as additional expenses, I don’t foresee any because right now we have all those same expenses that we have currently with absentee ballots and provisional ballots,” Channell said.

Gibson responded that she wanted to be absolutely sure before the county gets too deep into the budgeting process for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

The AJC hosted a public forum on Gwinnett County’s MARTA referendum.

With only three days left in early voting, and voting day on March 19 still to come, about 35 county residents who are also subscribers to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gathered at Gwinnett Technical College on Tuesday evening to hear key players discuss the referendum.

How they vote will be closely watched around the region. Gwinnett County’s MARTA decision could boost momentum for transit expansion in other counties across metro Atlanta. Or it could sidetrack those efforts for years to come. The referendum’s outcome is expected to provide a glimpse of a changing attitude toward MARTA and public transit — a traditionally hard sell outside Fulton and DeKalb counties where the state’s largest transit agency operates. Cobb County officials are aiming to hold a transit referendum in 2022, but no concrete plans have been approved.

If voters approve it, the transit plan between Gwinnett and MARTA would span 30 years and includes a heavy rail connection to MARTA’s Gold Line with a station in Norcross. Bus service would add rapid bus and bus rapid transit and serve riders in most parts of Gwinnett. Current bus routes reach Lawrenceville and the southwest part of the county.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is calling on Atlanta’s business community to oppose House Bill 481, the abortion bill in the state Senate, according to the AJC.

Corporate powers and business groups explode in outrage each time a “religious liberty” measure surfaces in Georgia. Stacey Abrams wants to know why a bill that would outlaw most abortions isn’t triggering the same reaction.

The Democrat on Tuesday called on the powerful coalition to rally against House Bill 481, which would ban most abortions as soon as doctors can detect a heartbeat – as early as six weeks.

“It’s very short-sighted for the business community not to be engaged right now,” said Abrams. “Because once this bill is signed into law, that becomes the reputation of Georgia.”

[B]usiness boosters have said little about the abortion bill, which has earned support from Kemp and other Republican leaders. The governor, for one, said the restrictions preserve the sanctity of life and help uphold his campaign promises.

“I campaigned on signing the toughest abortion bill in the country,” he said, “and this is the toughest one we’ve got in the Legislature now.”

Two candidates are running for a seat on the Lowndes County Board of Education for District 2, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The district, which represents the southeast part of Valdosta, has been vacant since Vanassa Flucas announced her departure during the Aug. 28, 2018, city school board meeting.

Instead of filling it then, the board voted to wait until special elections this month.

Only District 2 residents can vote to fill the seat.

E-SPLOST, a one-cent sales tax that goes toward both city schools and Lowndes County schools, is also on the ballot. If passed, the proposed E-SPLOST would go into effect when the current education special purpose local option sales tax ends.

Early voting for the two races lasts until Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19.

Five candidates for Augusta Commission District 5 met voters in a forum, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

As of Tuesday, only 95 people had voted early ahead of the election next week.

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson announced she will not run for reelection this year, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Johnson said she has decided to not seek re-election when her office is up for re-election this fall, meaning nearly a decade of leadership at the top of Lawrenceville’s government will come to and end at the conclusion of 2019.

With several redevelopment projects in the city either underway or in the planning stages, Johnson said she felt it was the right time to step away from life as an elected official. Those projects that are being worked on will ensure whoever the next mayor is will have steady ground to stand on, she said.

But the former mayor — who also spent six years on the City Council from 2003 to 2008 — looked back on what has been accomplished through a partnership between herself, the city council, city staff and community partners and emitted a sense of both satisfaction and pride in her hometown.

Democrat Jasper Wilkins announced he will run again for Gwinnett County Commission District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Grayson resident Jasper Watkins III, who was the Democratic party’s nominee for the seat in 2016 and narrowly missed pushing Commissioner Tommy Hunter into a recount, has confirmed he plans to run for the seat again next year. The retired Army officer said he filed his paperwork earlier this year.

“District 3 is our county’s ‘Last Frontier’ and we’ve got to make some serious changes to ensure our growth and continued prosperity,” Watkins said in a statement. “While I truly believe our county elected officials serve with the best of intentions, our existing commission can be improved upon.

So far, Watkins and Snellville insurance adjuster Derrick Wilson are the only candidates who have publicly announced candidacies for the seat. Hunter, the Republican incumbent, has not yet formally said whether he will seek re-election.

Macon is considering how to reduce pedestrian accidents, according to the Macon Telegraph.

“I found that Macon was leading the state in pedestrian deaths, and it bothered me,” said Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas.

Lucas helped start the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Safety Review Board four years ago. The group consists of regular citizens, traffic engineers, public health and education officials, and the Bibb sheriff’s office.

“Macon should not lead the state, and be way up there in the nation for pedestrian deaths, we just shouldn’t be,” she said. “It’s an important health issue, public health issue, public safety issue, and one that we are finding that we can address.”

It’s still a problem. Pedestrian deaths last year in Macon/Bibb County reached 14, the highest total in at least seven years. Three deaths occurred over just one weekend.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is budgeted for $130 million dollars in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget, according to the Savannah Morning News.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga., 1st District), have all pushed to secure full capability funding to keep SHEP on track in fiscal year 2020.

Prior to the administration’s 2020 budget planning, Isakson, Perdue, Carter and the Georgia U.S. House delegation wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, noting the project is getting close to its final stages and asking for $130 million to keep the project on schedule, according to Casey Black, spokesperson for Perdue.

Isakson, Perdue and Carter also met with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to discuss the fiscal year 2020 budget request Feb. 14 in Isakson’s Washington office.

Carter, Perdue and Isakson all praised President Trump and his administration for the funding.

“I want to thank President Trump, OMB Director Mulvaney and Acting Director Vought and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James for the highest budget request for SHEP to date,” Carter said. “This again proves their understanding of the critical importance of this project for America and the need to keep it on time and on track. We have fought tirelessly for this federal support and we will continue this work until it becomes a reality. With a benefit to cost ratio of 7.3 to 1, there is no time to waste.”

James said the civil works budget for the Corps reflects the Trump administration’s priorities for water resources infrastructure.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Trump’s budget request for fiscal 2020 would be the federal government’s largest annual expenditure yet on the $976 million Savannah harbor expansion. The figure was contained in the Army Corps of Engineers’ detailed civil works budget Tuesday, the day after the White House released Trump’s broader $4.7 trillion proposed budget.

“That is wonderful, wonderful news,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, the Georgia Republican whose district includes Savannah. “We’re halfway through, but that does us no good. We need to be completely through before we see the benefits. I think the administration has finally caught on to that.”

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia noted in a statement he’s been fighting to deepen the Savannah harbor for his entire two decades in Congress.

“With this announcement, the finish line is finally in sight,” Isakson said.

Trump’s $130 million budget request would put the harbor expansion on target for completion in 2022, GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said in a news release.

Operation Gunsmoke in Georgia and South Carolina netted 26 indictments, allegedly targeting violent gangs, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The investigations were initiated by the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement Task Force of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Bobby L. Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. According to a news release from Christine’s office, investigations began in 2017 of a member of the Bloods street gang who is alleged to have coordinated criminal activity while being held in the Aiken County Detention Center awaiting retrial for murder in a 2008 drug-related home invasion.

ATF agents in Georgia and South Carolina identified multiple targets in the investigation. Nine were named in 25 criminal charges listed in three indictments by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia, while 17 additional defendants have been indicted in the South Carolina district.

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