Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2020

On March 3, 1779, the British Army met America forces in Screven County, Georgia.

On March 3, 1779, 238 years ago [] , the first major battle of the British Army’s push into the American South took place at Brier Creek at the old road between Savannah and Augusta. According to Battle and President of the Brier Creek Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution Craig Wildi, the American loss resulted in the deaths of at least 200 patriots.

Studies done by Battle in conjunction with other professional organizations have uncovered evidence that some of Georgia’s soldiers who lost their lives in the fight for independence may still lie in graves at the battle site.

“This was the 16th bloodiest of all battle sites throughout the Revolutionary War,” Battle said. “We found so many artifacts under our original permit, Georgia DNR (Department of natural Resources) shut the study down.”

The land around the battle site is public, managed by Georgia DNR as part of the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. The wildlife management area is about 15,000 acres. Battle and Wildi said they want 500-600 acres set aside to fully study the site, but said DNR hasn’t been willing to dedicate more than about five acres for site preservation and management.

Last year, the Sons of the American Revolution held a commemorative event to place flags in honor of those who died at the battlefield. Because the event was hosted by a non-profit organization, Wildi said Georgia DNR waived the requirements for certain liability insurance policies and other fees for group events. This year, he said they are requiring the group to pay for those requirements; payments the small non-profit says it can’t afford.

During the surveys for and original push for the Palmetto Pipeline, bulldozers and other equipment were brought onto the site to widen roads across it inside the wildlife management area. The proposed pipeline map originally had the right of way slated to cross the battlefield. While both said they were relieved the pipeline was stopped, they say other challenges remain in saving the site.

On March 3, 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise.

In February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced a bill that would admit Missouri into the Union as a state where slavery was prohibited. At the time, there were 11 free states and 10 slave states. Southern congressmen feared that the entrance of Missouri as a free state would upset the balance of power between North and South, as the North far outdistanced the South in population, and thus, U.S. representatives. Opponents to the bill also questioned the congressional precedent of prohibiting the expansion of slavery into a territory where slave status was favored.

Even after Alabama was granted statehood in December 1819 with no prohibition on its practice of slavery, Congress remained deadlocked on the issue of Missouri. Finally, a compromise was reached. On March 3, 1820, Congress passed a bill granting Missouri statehood as a slave state under the condition that slavery was to be forever prohibited in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36th parallel, which runs approximately along the southern border of Missouri. In addition, Maine, formerly part of Massachusetts, was admitted as a free state, thus preserving the balance between Northern and Southern senators.

The Missouri Compromise, although criticized by many on both sides of the slavery debate, succeeded in keeping the Union together for more than 30 years.

On March 3, 1845, Congress overrode a Presidential veto for the first time.

On March 3, 1874, Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation permitting persons or companies to lease Georgia prisoners for terms from one to five years, with the Governor setting the rates.

The act required the humane treatment of convicts and limited them to a ten-hour work day, with Sunday off. Equally important, leases had to free the state from all costs associated with prisoner maintenance. Once all state convicts were leased, the law provided that all state penitentiary officers and employees be discharged.

Just think of how much progress Georgia has made with privatizing the justice system — now, instead of leasing convicts, we have private probation companies overseeing released prisoners.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Two coronavirus cases have been identified in Georgia, according to the AJC.

Two people who live in the same household in Fulton County are the first in Georgia to test positive for the new coronavirus, Gov. Brian Kemp and state officials announced Monday evening at a hastily arranged press conference.

The two showed symptoms of the illness shortly after one of the people returned to Georgia from a trip to the northern Italian city of Milan, officials said.

“I want to reassure you that they’re at home, in home isolation with other household members, with minimal symptoms so they’re not hospitalized,” [Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said.

“Georgians should remain calm,” [Governor Brian] Kemp said. “We were ready for today.”

From WSB-TV:

Kemp said the newly formed state coronavirus task force played a big role in being proactive in this case.

“We thought it was important that we come today and tell you about this even as our epidemiologists are still investigating and find any potential contacts in the community,” Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said.

United States Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler released a statement:

“We’re closely monitoring the cases of coronavirus in Georgia and urge everyone to take extra precautions. Governor Kemp and the Trump Administration are working with us to ensure we keep Georgians healthy and safe,” said Senators Perdue and Loeffler. “It is of utmost importance that Georgia has the resources necessary to respond accordingly. Fortunately, we have the best and brightest working at the CDC here in Atlanta to continue to help prepare the country.”

From Georgia Health News:

Gov. Kemp said he spoke on Monday evening with Vice President Mike Pence, who is coordinating the federal response to the disease, about the two confirmed cases.

“Our team has been working around the clock to prepare for any scenario,’’ Kemp said in a statement. “Already, state health officials have established contact with these individuals to gather more information, monitor their condition, and determine any exposure. They are confident that our efforts to prepare for this moment have enabled us to manage these cases appropriately and minimize any risks moving forward. We remain in constant communication with our partners at all levels of government, and we will continue to update members of the public as information becomes available.”

Toomey said in a statement that Georgia foresaw the likelihood of finding cases of COVID-19, and that the state planned for that eventuality.

“The immediate risk of COVID-19 to the general public, however, remains low at this time,’’ she said in a statement. “I cannot emphasize enough the need for all Georgians to follow the simple precautions that DPH always urges to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”

Early Voting has begun across Georgia for the Presidential Preference Primary. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Residents wishing to take advantage of early voting can cast a ballot during the following hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 2-6, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 7, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on March 8, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 9-13, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 14 and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 16-20, according to a statement from the board of elections.

Election Day for the presidential primary will be held on March 24.

From the Savannah Morning News:

From March 2 – March 13, voters will be able to cast early ballots at the Chatham County Board of Elections Main Office at 1117 Eisenhower Dr., Suite E. The office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Southwest Chatham Library, 14097 Abercorn St. will be the only other location for advance in-person voting during this time. The library will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Saturday and Sunday voting for March 14 and March 15 will be held at the Eisenhower Drive location from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. On March 16, the location will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

“It’s a little more than I expected,” said Lynn Bailey, executive director for Richmond County Board of Elections. “Normally in a presidential primary, we get off to slow start because you have so many candidates.”

The 214 voters cast ballots on the first day of what are now three weeks plus one Saturday of in-person early voting for any reason ahead of Georgia’s March 24 presidential preference primary.

Bailey said the higher turnout may indicate greater interest in the primary.

“I think generally there seems to be a good deal of interest in this election and we may see more participation in advance voting,” she said.

Gwinnett County Early Voting may proceed as planned after a federal court ruling, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

An effort by three civil rights groups to get the federal courts to force Gwinnett County to open its satellite early voting sites this week for the presidential preference primary election failed Monday after a U.S. District Court judge rejected their request.

“Just because the right to vote is fundamental does not mean you have the right to vote in any particular manner,” U.S. District Court Judge Steven Grimberg said.

Grimberg said not offering early voting at the satellite locations this week does not violate the constitutional rights of voters since there will be two weeks, including one full weekend, of early voting at the satellite sites in addition to the headquarters location.

“Inconvenience … does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation,” the judge said.

“The best comparison is the March 2016 (presidential preference) primary and there are significantly more hours being offered now than there were then,” Grimberg said.

Sumter County Superior Court Judge Rucker Smith denied a request for an injunciton against the new voting system, according to the Gainesville Times.

In a lawsuit filed last week in Sumter County Superior Court against the five members of the county election board, the activists said the machines’ large, bright, vertical touchscreens and large font allow other people in the room to see a voter’s selections.

In denying an emergency motion seeking a switch to hand-marked paper ballots, Sumter County Superior Court Judge Rucker Smith wrote in an order signed Monday that the activists hadn’t proven that it will “impossible or impracticable” for the election officials to arrange the voting machines “in a manner that protects the secrecy of the ballot while allowing sufficient monitoring.”

The judge wrote that it is not his responsibility to determine how the machines should be configured, but that it is the responsibility of the election officials to comply with Georgia law.

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 23




10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 23) House Chamber




1:00 PM HOUSE Lumsden Subcommittee of Public Safety and Homeland Security 506 CLOB






2:00 PM HOUSE Sales Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means 133 CAP


2:30 PM HOUSE Academic Achievement Subcommittee of Education 514 CLOB



3:00 PM HOUSE Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 506 CLOB



3:00 PM HOUSE Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 514 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE Welch Subcommittee of Judiciary Civil 132 CAP





SB 307 – “The Living Hope Home Act”; related to supportive housing for pregnant women age 18 or older; enact (H&HS-45th)

SB 312 – Georgia Commission on African American History and Culture; create (Substitute)(UAff-2nd)

SB 346 – State Board of Veterinary Medicine; membership; increase; registered veterinary technician member; authorize (AG&CA-8th)

SB 367 – Effectiveness of Educational Programs; number of student assessments; reduce; when assessments must be administered; provide (ED&Y-9th)

SB 394 – Attorney General; authority to investigate and prosecute certain crimes and offenses; provide (Substitute)(PUB SAF-56th)

SB 402 – Bonds and Recognizances; conditions for unsecured judicial release on a person’s own recognizance; provide (PUB SAF-29th)

SR 645 – Georgia Building Authority; implementation of a workplace wellness program for the General Assembly and state agencies; urge (RULES-53rd)


Modified Structured Rule

HB 755 – Charter schools; local boards of education shall provide itemized allotment sheets for the upcoming fiscal year by July 1 of each year; provide (Substitute)(Ed-Belton-112th)

HB 789 – Insurance; creation of a surprise bill rating system based upon the number of certain physician specialty groups contracted with a hospital within a health insurer’s network; provide (Substitute)(SCQHC-Newton-123rd)

HB 830 – Retirement and pensions; increase percentage of eligible large retirement system’s assets that may be invested in alternative investments (Ret-Benton-31st)

HB 932 – Georgia Podiatry Practice Act; podiatric medicine and surgery; change certain provisions (Substitute)(H&HS-Gaines-117th)

HB 957 – Education; certain charter school employees shall be included in the health insurance fund for public school teachers; provide (Substitute)(Ed-Jones-47th)

HB 966 – Conservation and natural resources; regulate the harvest and sale of palmetto berries (Substitute)(A&CA-Burchett-176th)

Structured Rule

HB 829 – Local school district tax; authorize assessment of residential homesteaded property owned by individuals of 65 years of age or older at 20 percent of its fair market value; provide for local referenda (Substitute)(W&M-Stephens-164th)

HB 888 – Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act; enact (Substitute)(SCQHC-Hawkins-27th)

HR 962 – Local school district tax; authorize assessment of residential homesteaded property owned by individuals of certain ages at 20 percent of its fair market value; authorize General Assembly -CA (Substitute)(W&M-Stephens-164th)

Anti-Human Trafficking legislation supported by Governor and First Lady Kemp passed the Senate yesterday, according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 393 would allow district attorneys to request lawyers with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to help prosecute crimes related to sex trafficking and gangs. State Sen. Brian Strickland, a McDonough Republican who often files bills on the governor’s behalf, said the practice of using GBI attorneys was common.

“No matter where gang violence, human trafficking and other organized crime is occurring in Georgia, we have the ability to take those orchestrating these crimes down and these criminals will have no safe place to set up shop in our state,” he said.

The legislation passed 35-19 on a party-line vote, with some Democrats arguing against giving the GBI power to arrest, investigate and prosecute.

“We need to consider what sort of conflicts of interest and power shifts occur when we allow a team of prosecutors who are … unelected — unlike our district attorneys — to prosecute cases,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat.

Senate Bill 435, also sponsored by Strickland, aims to create a way for victims to have prior convictions vacated if they were charged while they were a victim of human trafficking.

House Bill 823 bars anyone convicted of human trafficking from getting a commercial driver’s license if their conviction involved driving a commercial vehicle. It mirrors a federal law, the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act, that has established a similar ban.

The Georgia Senate Appropriations Committee approved revisions to Gov. Kemp’s proposed budget reconciliation for the current fiscal year, according to the Albany Herald and the Capitol Beat News Service.

The Georgia Senate Appropriations Committee put its stamp on Gov. Brian Kemp’s $27.4 billion mid-year budget plan Monday, agreeing with the House on restoring some spending reductions in the governor’s recommendations while putting back other cuts on their own.

The fiscal 2020 mid-year budget, which covers state spending through June 30, complies with 4% across-the-board spending cuts Kemp ordered last August to help offset sluggish state tax collections. Many of those reductions started taking effect last fall.

“What we tried to do is restore cuts where we can to services that directly affect children, the elderly, the disabled, and essential public safety needs,” said committee Chairman Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the mid-year budget on Wednesday.

State Senator Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) will not run for reelection, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

“I’m 78 years old and I’ve got some things I still want to do,” Black told The Valdosta Daily Times.

Black said he recently made up his mind and reached out to potential successors interested in running for his seat.

“I made the decision about two weeks ago,” he said. “I notified about seven people who expressed interest in running for my seat once I got out and I wanted them to have time to think on it.”

“Sen. Ellis Black has proudly represented South Georgia communities in the Senate, and his leadership will be greatly missed when he retires,” said Georgia Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton. “I appreciate Sen. Black’s faithful service, as he has proven himself to be a loyal, capable leader who always puts the concerns of his constituents over politics. I wish Sen. Black health and happiness in retirement, and Senate Republicans are beyond grateful for all that he’s done for the people of Georgia.”

State Rep. Colton Moore (R-Trenton) is not running for reelection, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In an announcement released Sunday night, Moore said, “politics should never be a profession and public office should never be a career.”

“In my career and in politics, I have concluded my time, resources and treasure are not best suited for serving in the Georgia House of Representatives,” he said in a statement. “Elected office is a heavy burden, but a great honor. Freedom and liberty are not free, the price must be paid for every generation.”

“I hope you will find I have served diligently and with integrity,” he said. “The unborn have a better chance at life, our debt has been acknowledged, and the problems of overregulating teachers [are] now common discussion amongst lawmakers.”

In September 2019, Deffenbaugh announced he was running again for the District 1 seat he held from 2013 to 2018.

District 1 includes Dade and Walker counties.

Carried by his hometown, the then-24-year-old Moore joined the Georgia Legislature after he beat incumbent state Rep. John Deffenbaugh, R-Lookout Mountain, 2,184 votes to 1,858 in the state House District 1 Republican primary in May 2018.

From the Rome News Tribune:

In the Public Service Commission’s campaign, two incumbents – District 4’s Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, R-Clarkesville, and District 1’s Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland – qualified, along with District 1 candidate Elizabeth Melton, a Libertarian. The District 2, 3 and 5 seats are not up for reelection until 2024.

In the state Senate seats representing parts of Fulton County, Republican Harrison Lance qualified for the District 6 seat, and incumbent Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, and Republican Michael Caldwell of Woodstock qualified for District 21. Also, incumbent Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, qualified in District 32.

The Brunswick News covers local candidate qualifying:

Candidate qualifications for the upcoming primary began Monday, with 14 Republicans and two Democrats qualifying for offices Glynn County residents will be able to vote on in May.

At the federal level, incumbent Republican Buddy Carter and Democrat Joyce Griggs qualified for the District 1 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republicans Jeff Jones, the incumbent, and Buddy DeLoach qualified for the District 167 seat, and Republican incumbent Don Hogan and Democrat Julie Jordan qualified for the District 179 seat of the state House of Representatives.

According to the Glynn County Republican Party, eight candidates qualified for local offices.

Jordan, Glynn County Democratic Party chair, said no other democrats qualified on Monday but that more were on the way.

Whitfield County Commission Chair Lynn Laughter faces opposition to her reelection, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

On the first day of qualifying for the May 19 elections, two people on Monday qualified for the race for chairman of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, incumbent Lynn Laughter and fellow Republican Jevin Jensen.

Republicans Kevin Cooke, a state representative from Carrollton who is the associate athletic director at Shorter University and who has been a member of the legislature since 2011; John Cowan, a neurosurgeon at Rome’s Harbin Clinic; Dalton’s Clayton Fuller, an attorney; and Rome’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, co-owner of Taylor Commercial Inc., all qualified for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from District 14, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties. The incumbent, Republican Tom Graves, announced last year he would not seek another term.

Incumbent Republican Chuck Payne of Dalton qualified again for District 54 state senator, as did Dan McEntire of Dalton, a Republican small businessman. Payne has served in the state Senate from the 54th district, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, since 2017, and he served in the United States Army before embarking upon a three-decade career with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. McEntire, a native of Chatsworth who graduated from Murray County High School and served as Chatsworth’s mayor for four years, established Supreme Carpet Inc. in 1988.

Incumbent Calhoun Republican Matt Barton qualified for District 5 state representative, as did challenger Orianna Sanders, a Democrat. The district includes part of Murray County.

AccessWDUN covers local races:

Senator, District 50: Andy Garrison, Stacy Hall, Tricia Lynne Hice and Bo Hatchett qualified as Republicans. Dee Daley qualified as a Democrat. The incumbent, John Wilkinson, is expected to qualify for the Ninth District congressional race.

Representative, District 29: Incumbent Matt Dubnik qualified as a Republican. Pat Calmes qualified as a Democrat.

Representative, District 30: Incumbent Emory Dunahoo qualified as a Republican. Leigh Miller qualified as a Democrat.

Representative, District 103: Incumbent Timothy Barr, Derrick McCollum and Donald Schmidt both qualified as Republicans. Clifton Marshall qualified as a Democrat.

Senator, District 27: Brooke Griffiths qualified as a Democrat. The incumbent is Sen. Greg Dolezal of Cumming.

Senator, District 45: Sammy Baker, Clint Dixon, Noemi Puntier qualified as Republicans. Matielyn Jones qualified as a Democrat. Incumbent Renee Unterman is seeking the Seventh District congressional seat.

Representative, District 8: Stan Gunter qualified as a Republican. Dave Cooper qualified as a Democrat. Incumbent Matt Gurtler is running for the Ninth District congressional seat.

Representative, District 9: Clint Smith and Will Wade qualified as Republicans. Sharon L. Ravert qualified as a Democrat. Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, is expected to enter the Ninth District congressional race.

Representative, District 10: Victor E. Anderson and Jimmy Dean qualified as Republicans. Rep. Terry Rogers, R-Clarkesville, is the incumbent, but he has said he won’t seek re-election.

Augusta‘s nonpartisan elections have drawn candidates, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Incumbents Richmond County Marshal Ramone Lamkin and State Court Judge Kellie Kenner McIntyre had sworn their qualifying affidavits by 9:30 a.m., as had Augusta Commission candidates Robert Cooks, Catherine Smith McKnight and Jo’Rae Jenkins.

The Georgia Supreme Court upheld a mayoral election in Blythe, finding that not enough votes were allegedly bought to change the results, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Macon-Bibb Commissioners are considering outsourcing some permitting and inspections, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Mayor Robert Reichert and County Manager Keith Moffett have proposed hiring SAFEBuilt Georgia LLC to provide services based on a 60-40 split of the estimated $1.2 million in fees collected annually, with the company getting an estimated $720,000 and some additional hourly fees.

Local contractor David Thompson, who actually favors overhauling the county’s current Business Development Services Department, has raised concerns over whether the agreement complies with state law.

Georgia law allows local governments to collect regulatory fees to perform services designed to protect public health, safety and welfare but they cannot use those fees to raise revenue for general purposes.

Mark Woodall, director of government affairs for the Associated General Contractors of Georgia, said his organization does not have a preference as to whether a government or private company provides the service, but he does question the division of the fees.

He asked: “If SAFEbuilt is charging 60 percent, what will the 40 percent fund pay for?”

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