Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 29, 2024


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 29, 2024

On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, asking that he and his colleagues “remember the ladies” in the fight for Independence.

The future First Lady wrote in part, “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Charles Wesley, hymnist, and brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, died on March 29, 1788 in London, England. Charles Wesley served as Secretary to James Oglethorpe and as a Chaplain at Fort Frederica on St Simons Island. This past Sunday, his hymns were played in churches across the globe, including Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and Rejoice, the Lord Is King.

On March 29, 1865, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant began the Appomattox campaign.

On March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was formally adopted after sufficient number of the states ratified it.

With the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, a politically mobilized African-American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican Party to power, which brought about radical changes across the South. By late 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks to the support of African-American voters.

In the same year, Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, became the first African American ever to sit in Congress. Although African-American Republicans never obtained political office in proportion to their overwhelming electoral majority, Revels and a dozen other African-American men served in Congress during Reconstruction, more than 600 served in state legislatures, and many more held local offices. However, in the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified the 14th and 15th Amendments, stripping Southern African Americans of the right to vote. It would be nearly a century before the nation would again attempt to establish equal rights for African Americans in the South.

Robert E. Lee arrived in Augusta on March 30, 1870.

On March 31, 1870, Thomas Mundy Peterson became the first African-American to vote after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The iconic vote was cast in a local election in Perth Amboy, New Jersey for the town’s charter.  Gary Sullivan of the News Tribune stated, “Exercising his right to vote in a local election on March 31, 1870.  Peterson became the first black man in the United States to cast a ballot.  The amendment had been ratified on February 3, 1870, and within just two months the Fifteenth Amendment was put to use.

An interview with Peterson showed who encouraged him to vote, “I was working for Mr. T. L. Kearny on the morning of the day of election, and did not think of voting until he came out to the stable where I was attending to the horses and advised me to go to the polls and exercise a citizen’s privilege.”  Peterson also revealed his vote in this election, “As I advanced to the polls one man offered me a ticket bearing the words “revised charter” and another one marked, “no charter.” I thought I would not vote to give up our charter after holding it so long: so I chose a revised charter ballot.”

On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower remained the world’s tallest man-made structure until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the International Exposition’s 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909, but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world’s premier tourist attractions.

On March 29, 1937, Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation imposing the first state tax on distilled spirits in Georgia.

If made in another state and imported into Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 80 cents per gallon and alcohol at $1.60 per gallon – or at fractional amounts for smaller containers. If made in Georgia, distilled spirits were taxed at 40 cents per gallon and alcohol at 80 cents per gallon.

Note: GeorgiaInfo says Governor Talmadge signed the legislation, but Talmadge left office in January 1937. It was Gov. Rivers who signed the bill.

On March 30, 1937, Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers signed legislation authorizing non-profit Electric Membership Corporations to electrify rural Georgia.

On March 30, 1945, President F.D. Roosevelt arrived for his final visit to Warm Spring, Georgia.

On March 29, 1971, U.S. Army Lieutenant William L. Calley was found guilty by Court Martial at Fort Benning, Georgia, of massacring Vietnamese civilians at My Lai.

The unit had been conducting a search-and-destroy mission to locate the 48th Viet Cong (VC) Local Force Battalion. The unit entered Son My village but found only women, children, and old men. Frustrated by unanswered losses due to snipers and mines, the soldiers took out their anger on the villagers, indiscriminately shooting people as they ran from their huts. The soldiers rounded up the survivors and led them to a nearby ditch where they were shot.

Calley was charged with six specifications of premeditated murder. During the trial, Chief Army prosecutor Capt. Aubrey Daniel charged that Calley ordered Sgt. Daniel Mitchell to “finish off the rest” of the villagers. The prosecution stressed that all the killings were committed despite the fact that Calley’s platoon had met no resistance and that he and his men had not been fired on.

Calley was found guilty of personally murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment, but his sentence was reduced to 20 years by the Court of Military Appeals and further reduced later to 10 years by the Secretary of the Army. Proclaimed by much of the public as a “scapegoat,” Calley was paroled in 1974 after having served about a third of his 10-year sentence.

On March 29, 1973, the last American troops left Vietnam, ending United States engagement in the war.

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot.

The president had just finished addressing a labor meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel and was walking with his entourage to his limousine when Hinckley, standing among a group of reporters, fired six shots at the president, hitting Reagan and three of his attendants. White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head and critically wounded, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the side, and District of Columbia policeman Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck. After firing the shots, Hinckley was overpowered and pinned against a wall, and President Reagan, apparently unaware that he’d been shot, was shoved into his limousine by a Secret Service agent and rushed to the hospital.

The president was shot in the left lung, and the .22 caliber bullet just missed his heart. In an impressive feat for a 70-year-old man with a collapsed lung, he walked into George Washington University Hospital under his own power. As he was treated and prepared for surgery, he was in good spirits and quipped to his wife, Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck,” and to his surgeons, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.” Reagan’s surgery lasted two hours, and he was listed in stable and good condition afterward.

On March 31, 1999, The Matrix opened in theaters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced four judicial appointments, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced four judicial appointments, three to state courts and one to superior court. The Governor will appoint the Honorable Matthew Rollins to the Superior Court of the Paulding Judicial Circuit, Matthew Swope to the State Court of Coweta County, the Honorable Charles Bailey to the State Court of Dekalb County Division A, and the Honorable Phyllis Williams to the State Court of Dekalb County Division B.

District Attorney Rollins will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the Honorable Tonny S. Beavers from the Superior Court of the Paulding Judicial Circuit. Mr. Swope will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the Honorable John Herbert Cranford from the State Court of Coweta County. Judge Bailey will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the Honorable Johnny Panos from the State Court of Dekalb County Division A. Judge Williams will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Charles Bailey to the State Court of Dekalb County Division A.

Matthew Rollins serves as the District Attorney of the Paulding Judicial Curcuit. He previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in the same office. Born and raised in Georgia, Rollins served four years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. After receiving an Honorable Discharge, he attended Kennesaw State University, where he received his B.S. in Political Science, and Mercer Law School, where he received his J.D. An active member of his community, Rollins is a member of the Dallas Lodge, the Paulding Rotary Club, and the Paulding Bar Association. Rollins and his wife, Minna, have one child and live in Acworth.

Matthew S. Swope is a Senior Assistant District Attorney in the Coweta County office of the Coweta Judicial Circuit, a position he has held since 2017. Before joining the District Attorney’s Office, he served as an Assistant Solicitor General in Coweta County and was an associate attorney at Rosenzweig, Jones, Horne, & Griffis, P.C. in Newnan, Georgia. Swope is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and the Newnan-Coweta Bar Association where he previously served on the Executive Board. Swope was a Board Member of Elevate Coweta Students and the Newnan-Coweta Boys and Girls Club. Swope received his J.D. from the Georgia State University College of Law and his B.A. from Elon University. Swope and his wife, Orren, live in Newnan and are expecting their first child in June.

Charles E. Bailey has served full-time on Division B of the State Court of DeKalb County since January 2022. He previously served the State Court as a pro hac judge and as a part-time judge in the Municipal Court of Decatur. Before pursuing a career in law, Judge Bailey worked for a community mental health center providing intensive case management services to people with chronic and severe mental illness. He also worked for several years in the field of higher education administration at Vanderbilt University. Judge Bailey serves on the Ministry Board and Board of Trustees for Developmental Disabilities Ministries, Inc. He previously served as Chair of the Board of Directors of Oakhurst Recovery Program. Judge Bailey earned his J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School. Judge Bailey is the father of two adult children. He and his family reside in Decatur, Georgia.

Phyllis R. Williams serves as an Associate Judge in the Magistrate Court of DeKalb County. Judge Williams began her legal career at the law firm of Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers before starting her own firm and practicing as a trial attorney for over 25 years. In 2017, she merged her firm with Fox Legal, LLC, where she serves as of-counsel. In addition to her private practice, Judge Williams is currently an adjunct professor at Georgia State University College of Law. She is an active member of the DeKalb Bar Association, DeKalb Lawyers Association, Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, Stonewall Bar Association, Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, and Georgia Association of Women Attorneys. Judge Williams has also served on the Board of Directors for the South DeKalb YWCA, is a graduate of Leadership DeKalb, and is a member of the Leadership DeKalb Beacon Society. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in music with a concentration in piano performance and from Florida State University College of Law with her J.D.

Governor Kemp also appointed a three-member Commission to investigate and make recommendations on the indictment of Pineview Mayor Brandon Holt, issuing Executive Order #

From 13WMAZ on the indictment in January 2024:

The mayor of the City of Pineview is accused of stealing nearly $65,000 from the small Wilcox County city of fewer than 500 residents, the mayor’s arrest warrant shows.

The newly obtained documents offer the first glimpse at the alleged scheme that has landed the mayor in the middle of a 75-count theft case.

Brandon Holt, 34, was arrested last Monday and booked into the Wilcox County jail after the county’s sheriff, Steve Mauldin, and District Attorney Brad Rigby asked the Georgia Bureau investigation to look into possible theft of city funds.

But now, the arrest warrant accuses Holt of siphoning $64,455 from the city’s general account over a nearly three-month period.

Between June 26 to Oct. 11, 2023, the arrest warrant says Holt made 75 transactions through the mobile payment app Cash App, sending funds from the city of Pineveiw’s general account and funneling them into his own personal bank account.

Mauldin and Rigby asked the GBI to investigate Holt on Oct. 20, only nine days after the last Cash App transaction is believed to have been made.

After the GBI’s investigation, Holt was charged with 75 counts of theft by taking, corresponding to each alleged Cash App transaction.
But this is not the first time the 34-year-old mayor has been charged in a theft investigation.

Back in 2022, Holt was arrested in Bibb County on two counts of felony theft by deception charges along with nine counts of financial identity fraud.

The [2022] indictment claims Holt used the account numbers for Macon Asphalt to steal $22,196 from the company. The indictment also shows that the alleged thefts date back to transactions from 2018.

Georgia Administrative Law Judge Lisa Boggs held that Brian K. Pritchard voted illegally nine times, ordering him to pay $5000 in fines, according to the AJC.

A judge ruled Wednesday that the Georgia Republican Party’s first vice chairman, Brian K. Pritchard, violated state election laws when he voted nine times while serving probation for a felony check forgery sentence.

Pritchard, a conservative talk show host, must pay a $5,000 fine and receive a public reprimand from the State Election Board, according to the decision by Administrative Law Judge Lisa Boggs.

Pritchard has previously alleged the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent on his show, but now he has been found to have voted illegally. Recounts, court cases and investigations over the past 3 1/2 years have consistently debunked fraud claims and upheld the 2020 election results.

Prichard has said he didn’t do anything wrong and thought he had completed his probation before voting in Georgia. But that didn’t convince the judge in the case.

“The court does not find the respondent’s explanations credible or convincing,” Boggs wrote in her 25-page decision. “At the very least, even if the court accepts he did not know about his felony sentences, the record before this court demonstrates that he should have known.”

Pritchard registered to vote in Georgia in 2008 and cast ballots in nine elections before his probation was over, according to election records presented in court.

The judge fined Pritchard $500 for each of the nine times he voted illegally, plus another $500 for his illegal voter registration. Pritchard can appeal the decision.

This year’s Presidential Preference Primary results are a political Rorschach test, where the conclusions one draws tell much about the presuppositions underlying them.

The AJC writes that turnout in the March 12, 2024 Georgia Presidential Preference Primary show no movement of African-American voters toward former President Donald Trump.

Nearly 200,000 Black voters participated in Georgia’s March 12 presidential primary, with 95% of those voters choosing a Democratic ballot, according to an analysis of voter turnout data by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The overwhelming support for Democrats either contradicts claims by former President Donald Trump that he is gaining support from Black voters or those voters failed to turn out to vote in the primary.

“I got indicted. … A lot of people say that’s why the Black people like me, because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against,” Trump said to the South Carolina audience.

Trump’s claims of increased appeal to Black voters appeared to be consistent with the most recent polls from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times, which suggest that 20% of Black voters would vote for Trump in the general election. But in Georgia’s March 12 presidential primary, only 5% of Black voters cast a ballot in the Republican primary. The partisan breakdown parallels previous presidential primaries — in both 2020 and 2016, roughly 95% of Black voters voted in the Democratic primary, indicating no major shift in Black voter behaviors yet.

“This idea that Trump is making these huge gains among minority voters, to me, it sort of defies the laws of physics,” said Alan Abramowitz, professor emeritus of political science at Emory University. “There’s no evidence that anything is changing. Maybe in November we’ll suddenly see something different, but I’m skeptical.”

Since the mid-1960s, no Republican presidential candidate has won more than 13% of the Black vote, Abramowitz said. He said a 20% win from Trump would be unprecedented, but it’s still possible the former president could increase his share of the Black vote. From 2016 to 2020, Trump gained 1 percentage point of the Black vote in Georgia during the general election, according to exit polling by ABC News.

Other political scientists predict that the concern for Democrats will not be Trump winning over Black voters, but Black voters not turning out for President Joe Biden. If there are not enough Black voters casting Democratic ballots overall, then turning out 90% of the Black vote in the general election could still result in a loss for Biden.

In the 2024 primary, 8% of Black voters turned out. This turnout is lower than the 33% in the 2020 presidential primary and 15% in 2016. However, turnout in this year’s primary was generally lower with noncompetitive races for each party.

From the New York Times:

Last week, we got the first big tranche of vote history data from a place where we’ve done a recent state poll: Georgia.

At least here, it suggests that most Haley voters already supported Mr. Biden in 2020. It also implies that Mr. Biden’s strength in the primaries is not inconsistent with polls showing him struggling among young and Black voters.

The Haley vote in Georgia

In the Republican primary in Georgia, Ms. Haley received 13.2 percent of the vote. That may not have been anywhere near enough to win, but it could easily be enough to be a big headache for Donald J. Trump if those are Republicans who have soured on the former president.

The vote history data offers a few clues suggesting that Mr. Trump doesn’t have much to worry about here — or at least nothing new to worry about. Most of these voters already backed Mr. Biden in the 2020 election and continue to back him in 2024.

There are two pieces of evidence to support this idea.

The first comes from the vote history data from previous partisan primaries in Georgia. That data shows that about 10 percent of voters in this month’s Republican primary had voted in a Democratic primary in the last eight years — a good indication that they may have been Democrats voting in a Republican contest. These voters probably backed Ms. Haley by a wide margin.

A second comes from our October Times/Siena survey of Georgia, which we matched to the new vote history records. Respondents who voted in the recent Republican presidential primary said they had voted for Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden by a margin of 82 percent to 12 percent in 2020, a tally similar to what these voters say they’ll do in November. Both tallies mirror Mr. Trump’s 85-13 victory in the Georgia primary.

The similarity between the Republican primary results and the poll responses of Republican primary voters suggest that most of Mr. Trump’s weakness in the primary simply came from those already inclined to back Mr. Biden in 2020 and 2024.

Among solid Republicans, Mr. Trump remains on stronger footing. He held a 94-2 polling lead over Mr. Biden among Republican primary voters who identified as Republicans in the Times/Siena survey. Similarly, he had a 91-3 lead among Republican primary voters who had not voted in a recent Democratic primary.

Not surprisingly, the Times/Siena poll last fall found no evidence of serious dissent among these [2024 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary] voters: Mr. Biden had a 96-0 lead over Mr. Trump among Times/Siena respondents who went on to vote in the Democratic primary, four months later.

What’s interesting is that the Times/Siena poll found plenty of evidence of Democratic dissent among the broader group of registered voters. In the head-to-head polling matchup in Georgia in October, Mr. Trump led Mr. Biden by six points, including finding Mr. Biden at just 76-19 among Black voters overall. (In 2020, he won around 90 percent of the Black vote in Georgia.)

Overall, just 4 percent of registered voters turned out in the Democratic primary. Nearly half were 65 and over; just 5 percent were under 30. It turns out that this old and highly engaged group of Democrats is very loyal to Mr. Biden.

This is particularly clear seeing Biden’s support among Black voters, who account for over one-fourth of the electorate in Georgia.

Remarkably, none of the Black voters who flirted with Mr. Trump in the October poll — those who said they would choose him in November 2024 — ended up voting in a primary, whether in the Republican primary or as Democratic dissenters. Mr. Biden led, 96-0, in the Times/Siena poll among self-identified Black voters who turned out in the March 12 primary, versus 74-21 among all other Black voters. Despite Mr. Trump’s support in the poll, only about 5 percent of Black primary voters decided to cast a ballot in the Republican primary, according to state voter records.

This is not the first time we’ve seen a big difference between primary voters and the rest of the electorate. In Times/Siena data, Mr. Biden is struggling badly among irregular young and nonwhite voters, helping to give Mr. Trump a narrow lead among registered voters nationwide. At the same time, Mr. Trump fares poorly among highly engaged voters, like those who vote in special elections.

Mr. Biden has major weaknesses in the polling, but his problems aren’t being put to the test in low-turnout primaries. The general election is when the irregular voters tend to show up, if they show up at all.

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