Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2022


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2022

In September 2021, I took a two-day course with the Georgia River Network that included one day of Safety and Rescue for Flatwater Paddlers and one day of Safety and Rescue for Whitewater Kayakers. It was one of the single best investments I’ve made in my own paddling (with the exception of a very good PFD made specifically for kayakers).

The Georgia River Network is putting the same classes on this year on June 4 and 5th. These are not “how to kayak” classes, but in my opinion, if you’re spending time on the water, you should take them.

I’m often asked what I do on election day. My tradition is to walk over to vote at my precinct, and then go do fun stuff. This Tuesday, I’ll be on the river all day after I vote.

Georgia Colonists signed the Treaty of Savannah with the Lower Creeks on May 21, 1733.

George Washington left Georgia on May 21, 1791, crossing a bridge over the Savannah River at Augusta.

On May 22, 1819, the steamship Savannah left the port of Savannah for Liverpool, England. After 29 days, it became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. On May 22, 1944, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the voyage of the Savannah.

On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with his cane. Brooks used the cane as the result of injury sustained in a previous duel, and found Sumner at his desk in the Senate Chamber. In the course of a two-day Senate speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have nullified the Missouri Compromise on the expansion of slavery, Sumner had criticized three legislators, including a cousin of Rep. Brooks, Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.

Blue jeans with copper rivets were patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis on May 20, 1873.

On May 20, 1916, more than 20,000 visited Stone Mountain for the dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of a Confederate memorial on the north face.

American Charles Lindbergh landed at Paris on May 21, 1927 in The Spirit of St. Louis, completing both the first nonstop transatlantic flight and the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris.

On May 22, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the commencement address for Oglethorpe University at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

On May 21, 1942, German authorities removed 4300 Polish Jews from Chelm to an extermination camp at Sobibor and killed them by poison gas. The Sobibor camp’s five gas chambers would kill 250,000 Jews during 1942 and 1943.

On May 20, 1995, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to automotive traffic.

The 400th episode of The Simpsons aired on May 20, 2007.

On May 21, 2011, Herman Cain announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Current voting statistics from the SOS file of absentee and advance voters:

712,921 ballots have been returned

656,122 ballots were cast in person

56,445 mailed absentee ballots were cast

407,502 Republican Primary ballots

300,684 Democratic Primary ballots

Signs have gone missing in State House District 153, and shenanigans have been called. From WALB:

Al Wynn and David Sampson are Democratic candidates for State Representative. Just days before the primary, Wynn held a news conference in front of the Government Center in Albany – alleging illegal activity.

“We have 200 plus signs that are missing and we don’t know where they’re at,” he said.

Wynn said one of his supporters told him she witnessed one of his election signs in her yard being swapped with a Sampson election. She also said a prominent Dougherty County official did it – not Sampson. But since there is no video evidence, the official was not named.

Mr. Sampson denied having participated in shenanigans.

From the Albany Herald:

“We rode around and counted our signs, and we could hardly find 20 signs of ours,” Al Wynn, who is running in the House District 153 Democratic primary, said. “We put out close to 300. That’s not even counting the labor that went into it.

“They’ve been stolen. The officer that took the police report said the charge would be theft by taking.”

In the police report, Wynn listed the value of the stolen signs at about $2,000 and said that the bulk were stolen between Saturday and Monday.

“I was telling somebody this morning this is crazy,” Wynn said during a telephone interview later in the day. “It would never even occur in my mind to take political signs.”

Although it is too late to get new signs to place around the district, Wynn Campaign Director Leviticus Grimes expressed optimism at the candidate’s prospects during the news conference.

“These signs are missing,” he said. “Somebody is taking these signs, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it. God is not pulling them up. We don’t play that way. We run a clean race.”

Dude, if you paid $2000 for 300 signs, the real crook might be the guy with the screen printer.

Governor Brian Kemp will announce a new KIA plant to be built in Bryan County, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will announce plans by Hyundai Motors, which manufactures the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands, to build an assembly plant at the Bryan County megasite, according to people familiar with the matter but not authorized to comment publicly. The governor’s office has called a 3 p.m. Friday press conference at the megasite property.

Details on the deal are scarce, as many local and state officials involved are prohibited from speaking about it due to non-disclosure agreements. According to reporting from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the factory will build electric vehicles and employ as many as 8.500 workers.

Hyundai Motors will bethe second automaker to announce plans to build an EV factory in Georgia in the last six months. Rivian signed a deal in December to build a 7,000-employee assembly plant along Interstate 20 east of Atlanta near the town of Rutledge. Rivian is a well-financed startup that has targeted the truck and van sectors in the same way Tesla has sedans and SUVs.

An issue with the Bryan County location was that it was comprised of several parcels, possessed by three different owners, a situation that complicated negotiations with potential tenants.

The State of Georgia solved that problem in 2021, buying out all the owners and assembling a 2,284-acre site at a cost of $61 million. The sale was financed by Amazon’s purchase of a portion of the Pooler megasite.

Kia is one of the Georgia Ports Authority’s best customers, utilizing its terminals in Savannah and Brunswick.

I am issuing three demerits to the Savannah Morning News for improper use of the word “comprise” and another two demerits for being pretentious.

The Savannah Morning News also notes that Tuesday, May 24 is Primary election day.

Through Wednesday, May 19, over 565,000 people had early voted in Georgia, according to the Secretary of State’s office — a 153% increase from the same point in the early voting period in the 2018 primary election and a 189% increase in the same point in the early voting period in the 2020 primary election.

Early voting ends Friday. After that, voters will have to cast ballots on Election Day or by returning a completed absentee ballot. The deadline to request absentee ballots has passed.

A few things are prohibited at the polls. Under Georgia law, it is illegal to carry firearms within 150 feet of a polling place, or, if a line extends out the door of the polling place, within 150 feet of the end of the line.

Those planning to cast an in-person ballot must present a photo ID at the polling place.

Valid forms of identification include a Georgia driver’s license — even if it is expired — a passport, military photo ID, an ID from any federal or state body of government, a government employee photo ID, or tribal photo ID.

Voters cannot wear clothing promoting any political candidates or political slogans, including facemasks.

Voters who show up to polling places but do not meet all the requirements can request a provisional ballot. Provisional voters must present a photo ID to the county registrar’s office within three days of the election to have their ballots counted.

From WTOC:

More than 1,400 people have cast their ballot in person early at the five different locations throughout Chatham County,

If they continue on that pace to finish the week, they could end with nearly 16,000 votes, which would be triple the amount we saw in the 2018 primary election.

“Thankfully with this increased turnout we have seen relatively few speed bumps in the process, there was an early speed bump with the coding of a few voters for early voting for a state house seat, 2 state house races that had a little error there that was quickly corrected,” McRae said.

More than 500,000 voters have voted in person in Georgia, which is nearly three times the turnout for the 2018 primary election.

The county has mailed out more than 3,000 absentee ballots and received about half of them back, remember those need to be returned by the time the polls close on Election Day.

Also from WTOC:

Chatham County Board of Registrars Chairman, Colin McRae, says he believes voting legislation passed in Georgia is actually spurring more people in the Peach State to vote early.

“We’re seeing a trend where a lot more votes are being cast before Election Day than there ever has been in a comparable election.”

To put it in perspective, 2018 saw a total of just over 6,200 ballots cast early for the entire month of May, either in person or absentee. And this year, in just the first two weeks of early voting, 9,600 ballots were cast either in person or absentee.

McRae points out the Registrars Office has also sent out just over 3,200 absentee ballots, and that historically, 70 to 80% of those are returned.

“Quick math tells you somewhere between 2,100, 2,500 might come back. And that would be nearly five times as many absentee ballots as were returned in 2018, the last gubernatorial election,” said McRae.

McRae says while that could translate to fewer people in line on the actual Election Day, the higher early voting numbers could mean more people are getting interested in the voting process, and we could actually see a busier Election Day.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Early voting ends Friday and as of midday on Tuesday, a total of 4,142 ballots had been cast in-person, according to Charlotte Sosebee, Athens-Clarke director of elections and voter registration.

There are 82,986 eligible voters in Athens-Clarke, according to Sosebee.

The window for applying for an absentee ballot has passed, and according to the election’s office, 1,738 absentee ballots were requested. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office reported that as of the end of day Monday, 654 absentee ballots had been collected in Athens-Clarke.

Of the total ballots cast in Athens-Clarke through Monday, 2,380 were Democrat and 1,621 Republican. Additionally, 56 nonpartisan ballots were cast, according to the secretary of state’s office, whose data is not as recent as the local elections office.

In Oconee County, just more than 3,000 early ballots were cast as of the end of day Monday, with 2,591 of those Republican and 409 Democrat. A total of 221 absentee ballots were already cast in Oconee, with 488 requested, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Hall County reports lower turnout than expected, according to the Gainesville Times.

Even with more early voting locations and more days to vote than in 2018, Elections Director Lori Wurtz said she believes misinformation proliferated on social media and other platforms may have led to lower numbers.

She thought Hall County might pass its total 2018 midterm primary turnout during the early voting period, but that isn’t likely to happen with one day left of early voting.

As of May 18, 10,567 people have voted in Hall County, which is about 7.6% of eligible voters. The total turnout in the 2018 primary was 19,431, which was about 17.8% of eligible voters. [Editor’s Note: that 19,431 figure for 2018 was for all ballots cast, including Election Day.]

Early voting turnout is nearly three times as high as the last midterm primary in 2018, according to the Associated Press.

That’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

From the AJC:

In Georgia’s first post-Trump primary election, unprecedented waves of voters have already swept into polling places — most of them Republicans.

Early voting turnout is nearly three times as high as the last midterm primary in 2018, a sign of relentless voter participation in one of the most politically competitive states in the nation.

This time, Republicans are receiving the most votes after Georgia was nearly evenly split in the presidential general election race in 2020. About 57% of voters so far have cast Republican ballots.

Republican voters say they’re motivated by competitive races, anger over inflation and a desire to regain lost ground from 2020, when Democrats won the presidential race and two U.S. Senate seats.

“People are fired up,” [Governor] Kemp said. “They’re mad at Biden inflation. They’re mad about the crisis at the border, and they’re ready to push back.”

Early voting typically accounts for about half of all votes cast, meaning total turnout this year might be about 1.5 million — or higher if election day turnout is strong. Overall turnout will probably fall short of the 2.3 million primary voters in the 2020 presidential election but surpass the 1.2 million seen in 2018.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden hit his all-time low approval rating, according to the AJC.

President Joe Biden’s approval rating dipped to the lowest point of his presidency in May, a new poll shows, with deepening pessimism emerging among members of his own Democratic Party.

Only 39% of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s performance as president, according to the poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research, dipping from already negative ratings a month earlier.

Overall, only about 2 in 10 adults say the U.S. is heading in the right direction or the economy is good, both down from about 3 in 10 a month earlier. Those drops were concentrated among Democrats, with just 33% within the president’s party saying the country is headed in the right direction, down from 49% in April.

Of particular concern for Biden ahead of the midterm elections, his approval among Democrats stands at 73%, a substantial drop since earlier in his presidency. In AP-NORC polls conducted in 2021, Biden’s approval rating among Democrats never dropped below 82%.

Overall, two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy. That rating is largely unchanged over the last few months, though elevated slightly since the first two months of the year.

But there are signs that the dissatisfaction with Biden on the economy has deepened. Just 18% of Americans say Biden’s policies have done more to help than hurt the economy, down slightly from 24% in March. Fifty-one percent say they’ve done more to hurt than help, while 30% say they haven’t made much difference either way.

The new poll shows just 21% of Americans say they have “a great deal of confidence” in Biden’s ability to handle the situation in Ukraine; 39% say they have some confidence and 39% say they have hardly any.

The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections announced they successfully suppressed some votes screwed up some ballots, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Just days before the May 24 primary election, the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections reported Thursday it found and corrected two ballot errors that affected 86 potential ballots.

The first error was in Precinct 8B, the Cedar Shoals High School polling site, where there were incorrect ballot combinations for the board of education Districts 1 and 8. The District 1 seat is up for election while District 8 is not.

That affected 73 voters, where some in District 1 did not have the school board race shown on their ballot. Additionally, some voters in District 8 had the District 1 race on their ballot.

Of the 73 affected ballots, 49 were requested absentee ballots and 24 were in-person early-voting ballots, according to the elections office release.

Under Georgia law, those 24 voters cannot change or recast their votes.

As of Thursday morning, 25 of the requested 49 absentee ballots had already been collected and they also cannot be changed or recast. Voters who requested an absentee ballot but have not voted can receive a corrected ballot.

Another error was discovered and fixed on Tuesday for residents on Hunnicutt Drive. Those residents live in commission District 5. However, they were assigned to District 2.

The District 5 seat is on the ballot this year, while District 2 is not. Nine residents who voted with the incorrect ballot cannot change or recast their votes, including seven in-person ballots and two absentee ballots.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville reversed the determinations by an Administrative Law Judge and Secretary of State to remove Republican Jeff Lewis from contention for Senate District 52. From the Rome News Tribune:

A Fulton County judge has effectively put state Senate District 52 candidate Jeff Lewis back on the Republican primary ballot pending his appeal.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger disqualified Lewis after a hearing last week, but Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville issued a stay Thursday afternoon, pending the outcome of Lewis’ appeal.

Thursday’s stay allows votes for Lewis to be counted, but still leaves the potential for him to be disqualified even if he wins. The “transparency” law passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year is a new one, untried by courts.

The challenge stems from Lewis’s failure to file nearly 10 years worth of campaign finance disclosures from his previous time in the state House.

Rome City Schools says that overcrowding in elementary schools will continue unless voters bow down to their superior intellect vote to pass the E-LOST (Local Option Sales Tax for Education). From the Rome News Tribune:

Plans to alleviate overcrowding in nearly all Rome elementary schools hinge on the education local option sales tax vote on the Tuesday ballot.

On the ballot is an ask to extend through March 31, 2029, the current ELOST — a 1-cent sales tax that goes directly to the school systems. The Rome City and Floyd County systems have a revenue-sharing agreement in place.

If the ELOST fails, the middle school project will have to be delayed until they examine what voters want and try again in 2023, he said.

Governor Brian Kemp appears to have opened a 2:1 lead over his opponent, according to a new poll from FoxNews.

Sixty percent of Republican voters prefer Kemp, while 28% go for Perdue (it was 50% vs. 39% in March). Another 8% support either Kandiss Taylor (6%), Catherine Davis (1%) or someone else (1%). Only 3% are undecided.

“The political science literature tells us that endorsements tend to be slightly less effective when the candidates are already well-known, as is the case in the Georgia Republican primary for governor,” says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News Poll with Democrat Chris Anderson.

When it comes to what is important to voters at the ballot box, 65% say it’s extremely important their candidate “can win against the Democrat in November” and those voters break for Kemp by 36 points.

The least important factor for a candidate is being a strong supporter of Trump, with a quarter (25%) saying it is extremely important to their vote decision. Perdue is ahead among these voters by 15 points.

“In this race in particular, Trump doesn’t seem to have the juice to oust a popular incumbent,” says Anderson. “With fewer backing Perdue than saying Trump’s endorsement made them more supportive, this race is clearly more about the candidates themselves than Trump’s preferences.”

From Yahoo News:

Perdue’s campaign has scheduled $0 worth of ads for the campaign’s final week, while political action committees backing him have placed about $280,000 worth of ads on the air, according to data from the ad tracking company AdImpact. Compare that to Kemp, whose campaign is set to spend more than $1 million in ads during the campaign’s homestretch. A pro-Kemp PAC sponsored by the Republican Governors Association has readied nearly $700,000 in advertising.

Perdue’s campaign hasn’t been on the air since late last month, that data showed.

Governor Kemp will fly into Columbus for a rally on Monday, according to WTVM.

Statesboro homeowners could face a 20% increase in the property tax millage rate under a proposed budget, according to the Statesboro Herald.

After initially showing the mayor and council a proposed budget that included no increase in the property tax rate or fees, Statesboro City Manager Charles Penny has suggested a 20.5% increase in the millage rate, adding 1.5 mills to the city’s current rate of 7.308 mills.

Compounded by inflation in appraised values, this would increase the tax collected on most properties by about 26%. Without factoring in tax exemptions, the city tax on a property with a $100,000 market value – at Georgia’s 40% standard assessment – was about $292 last year and so would increase by about $76.

During a work session Tuesday, most council members appeared to support the millage increase, or at least did not speak against it. In a phone interview Wednesday, Mayor Jonathan McCollar confirmed that he supports the budget proposal, including the tax increase.

“A millage rate increase has been something that’s been discussed with the council since I’ve been in office, since 2018, and what we’ve managed to do is use great stewardship to utilize the resources that we have,” McCollar said. “But the space that we’re in right now is that there’s three things that we really are going to have to address.”

Much of the Mayor’s reasoning has to do with the city’s struggle to retain workers. But if my home county proposed a 20% property tax increase on top of the current inflation, it would absolutely kill homeowners.

Georgia legislators are concerned with the mental health of farmers, according to WALB.

The goal of a conference hosted at the University of Georgia’s Tifton Campus was to address mental health amongst Georgia’s farmers.

House Bill 1013 tells insurers to treat mental illness as a physical illness.

Robert Dickey, chairman of the agriculture committee in the Georgia House of Representatives, said it’s the first of many steps to come to help with the mental health crisis among farmers. The bill also expands incentives for students to enter the mental health field.

Preliminary research from this year by Mercer University shows that 10% of first-generation farmers think about committing suicide every day. Previous research supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2016 already showed that farmers in Georgia were more than three times more likely to commit suicide.

Add in the pandemic, and that’s why Dickey said passing this bill was important this year more than ever.

“This [bill] is really revolutionary. The inflation problem makes things worse for farmers. The weather outside, making things dry and it’s planting season,” said Dickey

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear a case on who has standing to sue over the removal of Confederate monuments, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

A Civil War heritage preservation group has the right to sue Henry and Newton counties over the removal or planned removal of Confederate monuments, a lawyer for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) told the Georgia Supreme Court Thursday.

Legislation the General Assembly passed in 2019 authorized “any person, group or legal entity” to challenge any acts in violation of the law, which prohibited the desecration or removal of historic monuments from public property.

Kyle King, representing the SCV, also cited Georgia’s Open Meetings Law, which allows citizens to sue government entities over violations without having to prove they suffered any direct harm.

But the Georgia Court of Appeals didn’t see it that way when it ruled last year that the SCV lacked legal standing to sue the two counties because its members could not show removing the monuments harmed them directly.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-NWGA) has been asked about a tour he led on January 5, 2021, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.

“Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee’s possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021,” Reps Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, the chairman and vice-chairwoman of the committee, said in a letter Thursday.

“Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of January 6, 2021,” they wrote.

The voluntary request to Loudermilk comes a week after the committee, comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans, subpoenaed five of their Republican colleagues, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The Dalton Daily Citizen News profiles the candidates for State House District 6, currently held by State Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth).

Jason Ridley (incumbent)

Lee Coker

The Savannah Morning News profiles some of the candidates for and open seat as Chatham County Recorder’s Court Judge.

Joe Huffman

Richard Sanders

Anthony Burton is the third candidate. I can’t find an SMN profile of him, so here’s his website.

WTVM profiles the candidates for Muscogee County Board of Education District 2 and Mayor of Columbus.

Brunswick City Commissioners adopted a short term rental ordinance, according to The Brunswick News.

Former Republican State Representative Willou Smith has died, according to the AJC.

A House member representing Brunswick from 1987 to 1997 and, later, a state school board member, Smith blazed trails and served as a community activist and volunteer, local and state politician, successful businesswoman, and she was a professional musician (harpist).

“She was as charming as anybody could be and she was smart as a whip as well,” said longtime friend and mentor former Georgia GOP U.S. Senator Mack Mattingly.” She was just a person you wanted to be around.”

Smith forged ahead at a time when women leaders, especially from rural Georgia, were fewer on the ground in both business and politics. And she mentored and encouraged other women, drafting more than a few into the nascent local Republican party.

“Remember, this wasn’t New York. It wasn’t even Atlanta.” said son Cal Smith. “So she was a real unicorn in (coastal Georgia’s) Glynn County.”

Smith not only led the pack as a Glynn County commissioner and state lawmaker, but she was also a pragmatist who reached across the aisle to serve her constituents.

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