Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 2, 2022

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 2, 2022

On March 2, 1807, the Congress passed legislation outlawing the importation of slaves from Africa or anywhere outside the United States.

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico.

Texas Flag 1836-39

The United States Congress passed the first Reconstruction Act on March 2, 1867.

On March 2, 1874, Gov. Smith signed legislation allowing anyone fined for a criminal conviction to arrange for a third party to pay the fine in exchange for the convict’s labor.

On March 2, 1950, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the beginning of construction of Buford Dam, which would create Lake Lanier.

President Lyndon B. Johnson attended ceremonies at Lockheed in Marietta for the first C-5A aircraft to come off the assembly line on March 2, 1968. President Johnson’s remarks can be read here.

The Georgia Historical Society reopened their Research Center in Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Anyone can come and visit the Georgia Historical Society,” says [W. Todd] Groce, GHS’ president and CEO, “only you’d have to have a question. A question about the past. How did we arrive at this point? Because, that’s what history does. It helps us understand the present and gives us a context for the present, so that we can make better decisions going forward.”

This graceful space first was dedicated as the repository of Georgia’s pre-colonial and revolutionary history in 1876, a time when Savannah, not Atlanta, was the state’s most culturally and economically relevant city. The property was a gift by Mary Telfair and her sister Margaret Telfair Hodgson to memorialize her late husband William B. Hodgson, a scholar of Middle Eastern studies and an American diplomat, who had died five years earlier.

The $5 million restoration of historic Hodgson Hall and the expansion of the 1970s-era Abrahams Annex are the most visible results of a 10-year, $23 million capital campaign that launched in 2008 after years of GHS staff growing concerned about space to viably store the blossoming collection, which had been passively growing for decades. Groce says the decision to actively seek the collections of living Georgia legends so that they wouldn’t be lost forever made the campaign all the more urgent.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

I’d like to ask for your feedback again on these two candidates for Lieutenant Governor. I’m looking through the responses to Secretary of State Raffensperger’s video and will try to post on that for Friday.

I’m including two different videos from Sen. Burt Jones – one with a biographical focus, and one focused on his endorsement by former President Donald Trump. Together they add up to less time than the Butch Miller commercial, and I think they provide a fuller picture of the candidate than just the Trump endorsement.

Camden County voters are going to the polls to decide a referendum on whether to allow the county government to proceed with a land purchase for the Spaceport Camden, according to The Brunswick News.

Early voting for a referendum to determine if Camden County will purchase an industrial site for a planned spaceport has generated a steady turnout of voters.

The polling place in Kingsland attracted 429 voters on Saturday, the first day of early voting. Another 386 people cast their votes Monday.

Voters will be asked the following question on the referendum: “Shall the resolutions of the Board of Commissioners of Camden County, Georgia authorizing the Option Contract with Union Carbide Corporation and Camden County’s right and option to purchase the property described therein be repealed.”

A yes vote means the county will not be allowed to purchase the industrial site owned by Union Carbide. A no vote means the county will be allowed to close on the deal to purchase the land as a launch site.

Election day is March 8 at all polling places in the county.

United States District Court Judge Steve Jones gave the green light for Georgia to use new legislative district maps for the May 24 Primary elections, according to the Associated Press via 13WMAZ.

The lawsuits, filed by African American organizations and individual voters, allege the maps weaken the growing electoral strength of communities of color in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The plaintiffs had filed motions for preliminary injunction seeking, among other things, to keep the state from using the new maps during any elections, including this year’s midterms.

In his order, Jones cautioned that “this is an interim, non-final ruling that should not be viewed as an indication of how the Court will ultimately rule on the merits at trial.”

“Under the specific circumstances of this case, the Court finds that proceeding with the Enacted Maps for the 2022 election cycle is the right decision. But it is a difficult decision. And it is a decision the Court did not make lightly,” Jones wrote.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

A ruling handed down Monday by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones declared the May 24 primaries are too close for the court to change the maps drawn by the General Assembly’s Republican majorities last fall.

The new congressional map is expected to help Republicans gain one congressional seat in Georgia, which would give the GOP a 9-5 majority.
On the other hand, projections show Democrats stand to gain at least one seat in the Georgia Senate this year and a half dozen seats in the House.

From the AJC:

“The court finds that the public interest of the state of Georgia would be significantly undermined by altering the election calendar and unwinding the electoral process at this point,” Jones wrote in a 238-page order released Tuesday. “Elections are complex and election calendars are finely calibrated processes, and significant upheaval and voter confusion can result if changes are made late in the process.”

Candidate qualifying for the primary election begins Monday, and then voters will be mailed notifications of their new congressional, state and county districts before early voting begins May 2.

Jones relied on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a similar case last month, when the high court put on hold a lower court’s ruling that had found new congressional maps in Alabama diluted representation of Black voters. Justices in the Supreme Court’s conservative majority wrote that changes to Alabama’s map would have come too close to the 2022 primary, leaving little time to create new districts.

Under the Gold Dome Today – Committee Work Day

9:00 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

9:00 AM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

9:00 AM Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee 307 CLOB

10:00 AM HOUSE Regulated Industries Occupational / Professional Licensing Subcommittee 606 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM HOUSE INDUSTRY AND LABOR COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM HOUSE LEGISLATIVE & CONGRESSIONAL REAPPORTIONMENT COMMITTEE 506 CLOB HYBRID

10:00 AM Senate Health and Workman’s Comp Subcommittee of Insurance and Labor Committee Mezz 1

10:00 AM Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee 307 CLOB

11:00 AM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE 506 CLOB HYBRID

11:00 AM HOUSE BUDGET & FISCAL AFFAIRS OVERSIGHT 403 CAP HYBRID

11:00 AM Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee 450 CAP

12:30 PM HOUSE DEFENSE AND VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE 606 CLOB HYBRID

1:00 PM Senate Health and Human Services Committee 450 CAP

1:00 PM Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee Mezz 1

1:30 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Income Tax Subcommittee 403 CAP HYBRID

2:00 PM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

2:00 PM Senate Retirement Committee 310 CLOB

2:00 PM Senate Education and Youth Committee 307 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL COMMITTEE 132 CAP HYBRID

3:00 PM HOUSE PUBLIC SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE 406 CLOB HYBRID

3:00 PM Senate Finance Committee 450 CAP

4:00 PM Senate Transportation Committee 450 CAP

Yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp announced a new partnership to expand rural broadband. From the Press Release:

Governor Kemp announced a newly-formed partnership between Reynolds-based Flint Energies and Conexon Connect to deliver fiber broadband to 31,000 underserved and unserved homes and businesses in Crawford, south Houston, Macon, Marion, Muscogee, Peach, Schley, Talbot, and Taylor counties.

“Today is another milestone in the ongoing effort to bring broadband to unserved and underserved customers in rural Georgia,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “I thank Flint Energies, Conexon Connect, and the state and local leaders who are partnering to make this transformational project possible. We’re showing that Georgia is continuing to lead the nation in developing collaborative, innovative, and fiscally conservative approaches to leveraging funding to positively impact and serve our citizens.”

Together, Flint Energies and Connect will launch and deploy a 3,000-mile fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in middle Georgia. This $90 million project is made possible through recently announced American Rescue Plan grant funds of $25 million, $7.5 million FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Funds, and significant investments by Flint Energies and Connect. Work on the project will begin immediately, with estimated completion in 2026.

“As Chairman of the Public Service Commission, we have taken a leading role in helping with efforts to expand rural broadband around the state,” said Public Service Commissioner Tricia Pridemore. “Connectivity is essential for Georgia’s ratepayers, and I applaud Flint Energies and Conexon on this exciting project.”

“I’m grateful for Flint Energies’ investment in our communities and for bringing true broadband to portions of their service area that have lacked access for far too long,” State Senator Larry Walker said. “Flint has served middle Georgia for over 85 years and with this announcement, the co-op has once again shown its commitment to members. By bringing high-speed internet to, heretofore, overlooked areas, rural households, farms, churches and businesses will be able to enjoy the benefits of connectivity to today’s online world. This is a game changer.”

“As former board member of Flint Energies, I know firsthand the commitment that our state’s EMCs have to the communities they serve,” said State Representative Robert Dickey. “The House has worked tirelessly on the issue of connecting all Georgians and I’m excited to see that hard work beginning to pay off.”

Flint Energies CEO Jeremy Nelms stated: “This project accomplishes two goals. The system will deliver immediate benefits such as improved power outage response times, better load balancing, and more efficient power delivery, ensuring that Flint will be able to support its rural members’ electrical needs for another 85+ years. Secondly, and of equal importance, the fiber system provides an opportunity to help meet the critical need of high-speed broadband for rural Flint members who have been waiting for adequate service.”

“Today’s announcement marks Connect’s seventh project working with Georgia EMCs to deliver fiber-to-the-home internet service to their members,” Conexon Connect CEO Randy Klindt said. “The collaboration amongst Georgia’s cooperatives and their shared mission of improving the lives and communities of those they serve is inspiring to all of us at Conexon. We’re excited to work with Jeremy and his team as they move forward.”

The partnership between Flint Energies and Connect is made possible by Senate Bill 2 passed in 2019, which allows electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) including Flint Energies, to provide broadband services or leverage EMC infrastructure in other ways to aid deployment of broadband. Including Flint Energies, 20 EMCs in Georgia are currently providing high-speed internet or partnering with a provider to expand broadband service in rural communities across the state. Collectively, these projects represent a $770 million investment and will impact more than 282,000 Georgians in 89 counties.

About Flint Energies
Celebrating its 85th year of service in 2022, Flint Energies is a not-for-profit electric cooperative owned by its Members in parts of 17 central Georgia counties. Flint employs nearly 230 employees and serves nearly 95,000 electric meters. We are 100% locally controlled and democratically governed by nine Directors elected from among the membership. In 1937, Flint Energies was created to bring people together to meet common needs like reliable electric energy, and our mission remains focused on improving the quality of life in Middle Georgia.

About Conexon Connect
Conexon Connect is the internet service provider (ISP) arm of rural fiber broadband design and construction management leader Conexon. The subsidiary was formed to operate and manage cooperative fiber-to-the-home networks. Connect leverages Conexon’s decades of co-op operations, fiber-optic design and construction, telecommunications, federal and state lobbying and customer experience management expertise to successfully launch and operate projects. The Connect approach is to work with electric cooperatives to launch and deploy high-speed fiber-optic networks – the gold standard of communications transmission – enabling them to offer world-class fiber broadband to their members. In partnership with Georgia EMCs, Connect will deliver fiber internet access to approximately 188,400 rural homes and businesses across the state.

Former United States Senator David Perdue is opposing the largest economic development project in Georgia, according to the Associated Press via the Athens Banner Herald.

A planned $5 billion electric vehicle plant that’s billed as the largest economic development project in Georgia’s history is drawing opposition from an unusual source: former Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

Perdue — also a former corporate executive — is looking to unseat Georgia governor and fellow Republican Brian Kemp in this year’s gubernatorial race. The campaigns have traded attacks on a range of issues in a contest spurred by former President Donald Trump following his election defeat in the state.

On Monday, Perdue ripped into Rivian Automotive’s planned battery and assembly plant east of Atlanta, which Kemp was expected to tout on the campaign trail as a major achievement.

“This bad deal is nothing more than a scheme by Kemp to promote himself in an election year at Georgians’ expense,” Perdue said in a statement. “Kemp thought he could get away with this under the guise of ‘economic development,’ but all he is doing here is selling us out and lining George Soros’s pockets.”

Kemp campaign spokesman Cody Hall called Perdue’s criticism “sad.”

“It is unfortunate that he’s choosing to play politics with 7,500 jobs, $5 billion worth of investment in a local community — and in a rural community — that needs more jobs and more economic development,” he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

I’m not sure how creating 7500 jobs and more than $5 billion worth of investment is “at Georgians’ expense.”

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce sent out a press release on the Rivian deal touting a public opinion survey it commissioned.

A recent, independently commissioned Georgia Chamber poll of the four-county area (Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton) named as home to Rivian’s $5 Billion future manufacturing facility shows a strong 2-to-1 support for the project. According to the poll, respondents cited the positive impact the facility will have on local community jobs, businesses, schools, and healthcare as primary reasons for their support.

“We are committed to helping the Department of Economic Development and local partners facilitate a transparent and environmentally friendly plan of action that leads to the same kind of economic success and corporate stewardship we see across Georgia and call on political candidates to do the same,” said Chris Clark, President & CEO of the Georgia Chamber.

“Unfortunately, recent efforts by candidates from both parties to criticize economic growth projects, local efforts or major sporting events for political gain are counterproductive and harmful to the long-term economic prosperity of our communities and the economic mobility of the next generation. The Georgia Chamber is committed to the lives and livelihoods of the residents of the Peach State and hope that it will be the priority for anyone seeking elected office as well.”

The following are key findings from the poll:

54% of registered voters in the area have heard of the Rivian project.

The project enjoys a 2-to-1 advantage in support among those who are aware of it, with 49% of aware voters supporting it, and 24% opposing it.
Support for the Rivian project is strong among highly likely voters, who support it by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

“This poll confirms the widespread positive sentiment that we’ve felt within the community and the state since the Rivian project was announced in late December. While there is certainly more work to be done by the state, local community and Rivian, citizens recognize the immense opportunity that this project represents for families, local businesses, schools and area infrastructure.”

“For years, the Stanton Springs community and the state have worked together to bring high-quality, cutting-edge businesses from around the world to the area in conscientious ways. This poll reflects the community’s optimism that they can grow responsibility while maintaining the values that have made this region special,” said Clark.

“I share the support that our community has in this project. I believe this type of business in our area will enrich the lives of our community members especially our young families,” said Reverend Fred Perriman. “Even though a development of this size may present its own set of challenges, the addition of Rivian in our county will provide opportunities for well-paying jobs as well as positively impact business in Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties. Additionally, as a devoted family man, I believe that better paying jobs and incomes are the foundation for a better tax base for our schools, roads, and local economy. We owe it to our future generation to help make their lives better.”

The poll, sponsored by The Georgia Chamber surveyed 450 randomly selected registered voters in Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton Counties regarding the proposed Rivian assembly plan that will be located in Staton Springs. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.6% and was conducted on Feb 11 – 13 by Cygnal, which has been named the most accurate polling firm in America by the New York Times. Cygnal polls frequently in Georgia. While the Georgia Chamber commissioned the poll, it was conducted independently by Cygnal.

Former Governor Sonny Perdue was approved as the next Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

The system’s Board of Regents voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Perdue to lead the state’s 26 public colleges and universities, their more than 300,000 students and more than 40,000 faculty and staff.

Regent Don Waters of Savannah said management and leadership are more important to the chancellor’s role than an academic pedigree.

“Sonny Perdue is extraordinarily well equipped to lead the University System of Georgia,” he said. “His skills make him the right person at the right time.”

Regent Barbara Rivera-Holmes of Albany said Perdue will take on his new role with the university system at an important time for higher education in Georgia.

“We’re facing a national and global labor crisis … a workforce challenge,” she said. “Our institutions are our biggest economic development drivers. … Sonny will do a phenomenal job.”

A small piece I missed yesterday in the Associated Press article about the passage of “Constitutional Carry.” Via the Statesboro Herald:

[A] House Public Safety & Homeland Security subcommittee passed House Bill 1358, its version of the Senate bill, with little debate.

The subcommittee also passed House Bill 1378, which would remove Georgia’s legal prohibition against carrying guns in churches. Rep. Rick Jasperse, a Republican from Jasper, said churches would be treated like other private property owners, meaning they would have to post signs to keep people from carrying in guns and ask people who had guns to leave. Violators could be charged with trespassing.

The measure would also allow probate judges to renew weapons carry licenses online and by mail and would let people sue if anyone created a multi-county database of people who apply for weapons carry licenses. It would require counties and cities to sell seized guns at least once a year, and let people sue if they didn’t. It would also prevent authorities from barring the sale of guns and ammunition during a state of emergency. Officials also couldn’t close gun-related businesses during an emergency unless they closed all businesses.

State House leaders announced a new proposal to cut income taxes, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Legislation introduced in the House Tuesday calls for lowering Georgia’s income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.25%, returning $1 billion to state taxpayers.

“We believe as a core principle that government must live within its means, that there is no such thing as government money,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told reporters during a news conference unveiling the bill. “It belongs to Georgia taxpayers.”

In proposing a third tax cut, Ralston cited the highest inflation rate in the last 40 years – 7% statewide last year and 9.8% in Atlanta – leaving Georgians in need of tax relief.

Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the tax cut would mean Georgia families with incomes of $30,000 a year would pay no state income taxes, while those with incomes of $50,000 annually would owe only $400. The cuts would take effect with the 2024 tax year.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said strong growth in tax revenues despite the impact of the pandemic means the state can afford an additional tax cut.

“The growth we’ve seen in revenues … is outpacing what the needs are,” he said.

But Ralston cautioned against completing eliminating the state income tax, an idea being pushed by state Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville.

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

Ralston again rejected abolishing the income tax Tuesday, saying it would “blow a catastrophic hole in the state budget.”

“I think the responsible way to do it is through an incremental approach that we have adopted here in the House,” Ralston said. “I know it doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker quite as well.”

Cutting out even $1 billion from the state budget could pressure the state’s ability to keep up with a growing population in schools, universities and in the Medicaid health insurance program.

Democrats, though, say Georgia’s bright budget picture presents a once-in-a-generation chance to improve government services that will disappear if Republicans reduce revenue with a tax cut.

“What happens when the money’s not there?” asked House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Macon Democrat. “They’re still going to have these families that are sick, still not going to have expanded Medicaid, still not going to have rural broadband. There’s a lot of things that we could do to build the infrastructure for the development of people in Georgia.”

Senate Bill 456 by State Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White) would restrict mail-order abortion drugs, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

A Georgia woman would have to be examined by a physician in person and sign a consent form before she could be prescribed abortion pills under a bill passed Tuesday by the state Senate.

The moves come a couple of months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ended a federal rule requiring women to pick up the medication in person. The federal government had already set aside the rule temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Proponents of the Georgia bill say drug-induced abortion can lead to complications, so physicians need to closely monitor patients.

“This bill’s about protecting women. … We shouldn’t dismiss the importance of the physician. That’s the nature of this bill,” said Sen. Bruce Thompson, a Republican from White who is sponsoring the measure.

“Abortion care in Georgia is likely to be extremely restricted by this summer, after the Supreme Court rules on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban,” said Sen. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat. “That is why this bill matters in this current environment.”

From the AJC:

Senate Bill 456, filed by state Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, would require pregnant women to see a doctor in person before being able to obtain mifepristone, the abortion pill. Pills could not be sent through the mail or given on state property — or at any k-12 school or college that receives state funds. A doctor would also have to perform an ultrasound before the drugs could be prescribed and schedule a follow-up visit.

“This bill is about access to health care (and) ensuring that powerful drugs such as these are prescribed as they were intended,” Thompson said. “This is not about restricting abortions, but rather protecting vulnerable women and ensuring they receive the necessary examination and important care required.”

Opponents of the legislation say the bill, which is titled the Women’s Health and Safety Act, is disingenuous when it limits the choices available to women who no longer want to be pregnant. A statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth. Georgia also ranks among the worst in the nation for maternal mortality rates.

“Historically, when abortion access is limited, maternal mortality rates increase,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain. “It will be undoing the good work we are trying to do in other areas to improve our maternal mortality rates. You cannot do good work on women’s health with your right hand while simultaneously undermining it with your left. That is not progress.”s

The State Senate voted to pass SB 514, the “Unmask Georgia Students Act,” allowing parents final say over whether their children wear masks in school, according to CBS46 via WTVM.

In the State Senate, Republicans passed the “Unmask Georgia Students Act,” sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon on behalf of Governor Brian Kemp. The bill passed [nearly] along party lines. It would block schools from completely requiring face masks without letting parents choose if they want to opt their children out of it.

“The fact still remains that there’s about 44 school districts that still have mask mandates in place so it has not been lifted statewide,” said Sen. Dixon. “Local school districts can still implement mask mandates, this just allows parents to opt their children out if they choose to do so. I ask my colleagues for favorable consideration,” Dixon said introducing the bill on the Senate floor.

Opponents warn the decision could lead to more illnesses and death.

Dixon’s bill has a sunset clause – an expiration date of June 30, 2027. If the pandemic worsens, he says the governor can suspend the law through an executive order.

From the AJC:

The vote was 32-19, with no Republicans opposed and one Democrat in favor.

“We are effectively saying that individual parents are substantially more important than the collective in that case,” said Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta.

Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, said schools went too far with masks, noting that relatively few children have died of COVID-19 and calling the pandemic a “statistical non-event” for them.

No word on whether Locutus will lead the collective as we are assimilated.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson addressed a rise in gun violence, according to WTOC.

Five shootings in less than seven days, two of those deadly, including one just Monday night that claimed a 17-year old’s life.

Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter gave us a breakdown of where we are with homicides so far this year.

He said Monday’s killing of a 17-year old was the sixth homicide this year, and that’s two higher than where we were at this point last year.

“This is not random crime we’re talking about. These are individuals that there’s something going on. And what we have to do ultimately is break into what’s going on,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

The Mayor called on loved ones of those involved in potentially dangerous activity to intervene by getting resources like the new Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement involved.

U.S. Senate Candidate Herschel Walker (R) removed himself from the program at an event sponsored by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, according to the AJC.

U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker pulled out of a weekend event organized by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after she spoke at a white nationalist rally where attendees cheered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and chanted Vladimir Putin’s name.

Walker had planned to speak Saturday at Greene’s “Second Amendment and Freedom Rally” in Rome alongside U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, strategist Stephen Bannon and other far-right figures.

But his campaign told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that he will no longer participate in the rally, which was to promote a gun rights expansion in Georgia. His campaign spokeswoman offered no additional comment.

Other Republicans, including former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, said they still plan to attend.

Perdue, who is challenging Gov. Brian Kemp, said through a spokeswoman that he would attend to highlight the “need to protect the Second Amendment and expand our God-given right to bear arms.”

“Given the invasion in Ukraine, we see the need to protect it now more than ever,” Perdue campaign spokeswoman Jenni Sweat said.

State Representative Winfred Dukes (D-Albany) announced he will join the field for Agriculture Commissioner, according to the Albany Herald.

Dukes said his experience serving in the House of Representatives for 26 years makes him an outstanding candidate.

Dukes has worked on countless agricultural polices during his service as a member of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee. In announcing his candidacy, he noted his role in enacting laws impacting the state’s farmers markets, prohibition of domestic septage in fertilizer, liming material, and soil amendments, the “Georgia Hemp Farming Act” for hemp growing in Georgia, and the availability of low-interest loans for farmers.

“Winfred Dukes will be an Agriculture Commissioner with years of government experience,” former Georgia Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who also is from Albany, said. “He was born and reared surrounded by the farm industry. His leadership as a legislator gives him an understanding of the needs of both rural and urban communities. He knows the budget process due to his work on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

“Dukes will work to expand the market for small farmers, improve food safety and support the next generation dedicated to a green, growing Georgia.”

Mokah Jasmine Johnson announced she will run for State House District 120, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Johnson, who heads the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, said despite having a new district number as the result of a redrawn legislative map, the issues are still the same. She previously ran for the state House District 117 seat in 2020.

“The bright futures of our children and grandchildren are still at risk,” Johnson said in a news release announcing her campaign.

“I believe this district and all Georgians deserve more and better,” she said in the release. “As your state representative, I will work with local leaders in Barrow, Athens-Clarke, Jackson, and Oconee counties to protect our democracy and way of life.”

State Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) campaigned near his primary opponent’s home town, according to the Gainesville Times.

Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, spoke to a lively Republican crowd in Braselton, Monday, Feb. 28, leaning on false claims of election fraud in 2020 to distinguish himself against Sen. Butch Miller in the lieutenant governor’s primary race.

“I’m tired of weak-kneed Republicans acting like Democrats,” Jones told the largely senior crowd of about a 100 people at The Village at Deaton Creek.

When asked by crowd members what he would do to prevent future election issues, Jones said he would advocate for eliminating ballot drop boxes and Dominion voting machines. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, and Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes.

“I don’t know if there’s something wrong with the machinery, but people everywhere I go believe there’s something wrong with the machinery,” Jones said. “When the perception is there, it doesn’t matter what the reality is.”

Prosecutors in the case against Augusta Commissioner Sammy Silas asked for more time to prepare, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Gov. Brian Kemp suspended Sias from office in August after a review panel determined the allegations could adversely affect his role as commissioner. The commission appointed former commissioner Alvin Mason to serve the last 17 months of Sias’ term, and Mason is now running for the District 4 seat, facing retired business owner Betty Reece.

Sias doesn’t have to step down unless he’s found guilty or his term ends in December. As a consequence, the city is paying two District 4 commissioners, himself and Mason, their part-time commissioner salaries, which are $17,258 and $17,679, respectively.

Bibb County planning and zoning commissioners approved a microdistillery to be located in the Central Business District, according to 13WMAZ.

Plans call for building a tasting room, outdoor patio and production area. They will run a 150-gallon-still for gin and an old-style copper still for other spirits.

They will be blending and distilling whiskey, gin, vodka and rum with mash from two local beer pubs, according to the application. Mash is the fermented mixture of water, grain and yeast that is distilled into liquor.

Most distilleries do their own fermentation, but it takes a lot of space to store raw grain, Robinson said. He plans to outsource fermentation but using his own recipes.

Robinson said he has no interest in running a late-night bar or restaurant, but plans to open the distillery to the public from about 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Liquor production could happen seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., but not while the public is in the building, he told P&Z.

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