Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2024

20
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 20, 2024

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.

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp spoke about this year’s elections to 11Alive.

Biden and Trump are preparing to go head-to-head in a debate next month in Atlanta. Gov. Kemp said the road to the White House runs through Georgia, and the debate’s presence here shows how the state is at the center stage of the political universe.

“I think it’s a great opportunity, as I’ve been saying, for Republicans and for President Trump to make the case of why people should vote for him,” he said.

“I think there’s an ability to really contrast that with President Biden, and I hope that’s what he does,” Kemp added.

Kemp answered, “I’m supporting the ticket,” as to whether he would endorse the former president.

“I’m going to continue to do that,” he said. “We’re building a ground game and raising money right now to help everybody from, you know, like Justice Andrew Pinson in the May primary to many legislators that we’re supporting in the primary. We do the same thing in the general election and turning out the vote, and that is going to help our whole ticket all the way up to the top and the presidential race.”

Kemp said he’s “just a team player,” adding, “I am going to support the Republican ticket from the bottom of the ticket all the way up to the top. And I’ve had people ask me, you know, ‘why are you going to vote for somebody that was so mad at you and said so many bad things about you,” he said. “Just simply because I think they’d be a better president than Joe Biden’s been.”

[Senate Bill 189] , which faced much scrutiny during its revision, has five central elements: restrictions on the use of drop boxes and mobile voting, changes in absentee and provisional ballots, and an expansion on where people can serve as poll workers.

“The same crowd that’s saying things about 189 are the same people that were talking about how bad Senate Bill 202 is going to be,” Kemp said “And, after we passed that bill … we added days that people could vote early on the weekend, including Sunday, adding more accessibility for elections.”

He said the legislature was methodical about what ended up in the final piece of the bill. He said he was very comfortable with Senate Bill 202 during the last election.

“The bill got where it was, and it passed, and I signed it,” he said. “And that’s the way the process is, and now we’ll let that play out as we go into the next election.”

[Discussing HB 1105, “The Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024”:]

“This is a state of almost 11 million people,” he said. “And I think people were outraged, and I was too about the whole Laken Riley tragic murder that we saw and somebody that had broken into this country illegally and had been apprehended two different times and was still here, you know, and we didn’t even know he was here.”

Kemp said they talked to municipalities, sheriff’s offices, and others about the bill.

“I think at the end of the day; we got a good piece of legislation that will help with the issue here, to make sure when somebody gets arrested that we’re, you know, checking to make sure that they’re here legally.”

Kemp said he’s not looking past 2024 at the moment.

“I think part of Republicans’ problems are is that we’ve had too many people looking in the rearview mirror, what happened in the past — and too many people looking too far ahead,” he said, adding what he believes it takes to be successful.

“We need to stay focused on one thing, and that is winning in 2024. That’s exactly what we did in 2022,” he said.

Statewide, voters cast more Republican ballots than Democratic, according to State Affairs.

Whether they’re concerned with a Georgia Supreme Court race or women’s reproductive rights, voters showed up to cast early ballots this week in the Georgia primary election. And Republicans embraced the opportunity more than Democrats, continuing a trend in recent years.

“This isn’t Democratic voters becoming Republicans. This isn’t even a massive turnout of Republicans,” Atlanta political strategist Fred Hicks told State Affairs. “What it is is Democrats are disaffected and they’re staying home in key blocs, particularly African Americans.”

As of Friday morning, according to GeorgiaVotes.com, 453,035 Georgians had cast early votes. Republicans outpaced Democrats, 242,140 to 203,305. There were 7,545 nonpartisan ballots cast.

The Secretary of State could not provide the party breakdown of primary election turnout for 2020 and 2022.

The total turnout for the 2024 primary is 36% lower than it was in 2022.

“This will be the fourth straight statewide election where Republicans have outpaced Democrats,” Hicks said.

More Republican voters turned out in the 2022 primary and general election as well as the presidential primary in March and now this one, said Hicks, who has worked on Democratic and Republican campaigns across the country for the past 20 years.

There was a little positive news for Democrats: The Georgia Secretary of State’s office said more Democrats — 15,008 — voted absentee than Republicans. Records show 14,835 Republicans cast mail-in ballots.

Glynn County saw low voter turnout in early voting for tomorrow’s General Primary Election, according to The Brunswick News.

“We’re doing better than we did for the Presidential Preference Primary,” said Christina Redden, deputy director of the Glynn County Board of Elections and Registration.

As of 2 p.m. Thursday, only 4,616 people had cast early votes. There are more than 58,000 registered voters in Glynn County.

In some instances, the candidates winning the primary elections will face no opposition from the other party in the November elections.

Redden said the low turnout is a “statewide plague.” Less than 10% of Glynn County voters showed up to early vote, she said.

“This is not how people normally vote in Glynn County,” she said. “I think it’s probably voter fatigue.”

Poll workers are prepared for and are hoping for a busy day on Tuesday.

“We’re prepared to get slammed,” Redden said. “A busy day makes things go so much faster.”

From WRDW:

Officials say more than 4,000 people cast ballots in Columbia County as of Monday.

Meanwhile, in Richmond County, early voting data shows more than 9,000 people cast ballots in person and through absentee ballots.

From WJBF:

The Georgia primary is not only bringing people to the polls, it’s also taking residents across their usual party line.

“I wish they was on the Republican ballot. It’s not. So, if we want to elect and do what we need to do, we’re going to have to vote Democrat which I typically don’t do,” said David Fields.

He’s talking about the race for Richmond County Sheriff and District Attorney. Residents who pull the Republican ballot are able to vote for all races, party specific questions and even the Special Election on whether the Mayor should be a full voting member.

But, the ballot does not include the Sheriff and District Attorney race.

In order to vote on those candidates, traditional Republican residents will have to pull a Democratic ballot which includes all races as well as the Special Election on whether the Mayor should be a full voting member.

Meanwhile, the nonpartisan ballot allows voters to only select Justices, Judges, all five contested Commissioners, the Marshal and the Special Election.

“In Georgia, there is no party affiliation attached to your voter registration,” said Travis Doss, Executive Director, Augusta-Richmond County Board of Elections.

Another point of concern is the questions on the ballot which differ based on the party affiliation. Travis Doss says they are just opinions and not binding.

“If the question on the Republican side is ‘does everybody chocolate ice cream? The majority says yes. It doesn’t mean we’re getting rid of vanilla and strawberry. It’s just an opinion question.”

From the Augusta Chronicle:

During elections, America’s two main political parties take the opportunity to ask voters how they feel about selected issues by adding “nonbinding advisory questions” on election ballots.

Also, not everyone will be asked the same questions. State Democratic and Republican leaders selected eight questions to ask voters in their respective parties.

County party leaders asked more questions. Richmond County’s Republican Party added three questions to GOP ballots. Columbia County Republicans added six questions.

Perhaps Richmond County’s biggest question is at the root of a May 21 special election: Can Augusta’s mayor vote with commissioners instead of solely as a tiebreaker? If a majority says “yes,” the decision becomes official July 1.

Columbia County’s nonbinding questions saved perhaps the biggest hypothetical for last: Do you support the incorporation of Columbia County? The proposal would be to incorporate the county’s entire land area, except the cities of Grovetown and Harlem, into a new city. That city would then immediately merge with Columbia County to create a consolidated government.

Voters go to the polls tomorrow to decide the General Primary Elections. From the Albany Herald:

Polling places will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in elections that include a countywide race for sheriff and school board District V in Lee County. Lee County’s Republican voters also will weigh in on a non-binding ballot question for a homestead exemption on school taxes for individuals older than 65.

In Dougherty County, contests for sheriff, Superior Court judge, district attorney, District 5 county commission and school board seats as well as Georgia House District 153 are among the choices on the ballot.

With low turnout during the early voting period ahead of the election, [Lee County Elections Supervisor Veronica] Johnson was unsure how many will show up at the county’s 10 precincts on Election Day.

“I don’t know if people are going to wait and show up on Tuesday or there’s just not a lot of interest,” she said.”We were ready for a good turnout for this election, but it’s been very flat.”

Lee County ballots will include a Republican primary for sheriff, with incumbent Reggie D. Rachals and challenger Dean F. Gore on the ballot. In the nonpartisan District V school board race incumbent Fran Walls faces challenger Mary Egler.

Dougherty County’s Democratic primaries include the following races:
– School Board District 5: James C. Bush, incumbent, and Wanda M. Mallard.
– County Commission District 5: Gloria Gaines, incumbent, and Thomia Tonya Thomas.
– Sheriff: Keithen Hall and Terron Hayes.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

In Clarke County, the race for sheriff showcases incumbent John Q. Williams, completing his first term, against Clarke County School System officer Tommy Dorsey in the Democratic primary. The winner is expected to fill the office with no opposition in November.

Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson did not seek re-election, but two Democrats, Michael Eberhart and William C. Gaulden Jr., are seeking the office. They don’t face any opposition in November.

There are some contested races for seats on the Athens-Clarke County Commission.

District 2 Commissioner Melissa Link is opposed by Jason Jacobs and in District 8 Sidney Waters is challenging incumbent Carol Myers. In District 6, two newcomers, Rashe Malcom and Stephanie Johnson, are seeking the seat.

In Oconee County, Commission Chairman John E. Daniell is challenged by Pamela Lohr Hendrix in the Republican primary, while in the same primary incumbent commissioner Mark T. Saxon is opposed by Victoria E. Cruz.

Many state political office holders are unopposed in the primaries, but in the Athens area, State Rep. Marcus A. Wiedower of District 121 is opposed by fellow Republican John Michael Grigsby.

Another key primary vote takes place this year in Jackson County, where longtime sheriff Janis Mangum decided against seeking another term. Four candidates have filed to take over her office.

Dale Allen Dillow, a former investigator for the sheriff’s office; Ken Harmon, the police chief for Commerce; Kevin McCook, the training director for the sheriff’s office; and, Chris Nichols, a captain in the Athens-County Clarke County Police Department, are all in the running in the Republican primary. Due to the number of candidates a runoff is likely.

From the Rome News Tribune:

A Georgia Supreme Court seat will also be decided in Tuesday’s election, along with the Democratic nominee to face U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, in November.

There are no Democrats running for Floyd County sheriff or clerk of court, so the winners of the Republican primary will appear alone on the general election ballot this fall.

Voters who ask for the Republican ballot can choose between incumbent sheriff Dave Roberson and challenger Robbie Whitfield, also a veteran law enforcement officer. They’ll also get the contest between the incumbent clerk, Barbara Penson, and challenger Mary Hardin Thornton of the Rome Finance Department.

Former congressman John Barrow is challenging incumbent Andrew Pinson for the state high court seat Gov. Brian Kemp filled with Pinson two years ago.

Sitting judges are usually appointed and rarely see challengers, but there’s also an open seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals. Presiding Judge M. Yvette Miller is retiring — on time instead of early, which is leaving no vacancy for Kemp to fill. The candidates are Jeff Davis, a former Georgia State Bar executive director, and Tabitha Ponder, a Cobb County magistrate judge.

The Georgia Republican State Convention elected Amy Kremer as the state’s Republican National Committeewoman, according to the Associated Press via WRDW.

Delegates at the convention in Columbus rendered a split decision, choosing Amy Kremer for one of the two RNC seats, but retaining incumbent Committeeman Jason Thompson.

Kremer and other challengers argued that Thompson and Ginger Howard, the other incumbent, hadn’t done enough to support Donald Trump. They pointed out the continued desire of party activists for confrontation with internal and external enemies, even as many in leadership tried to preach unity and ease divisions that have left Republican Gov. Brian Kemp estranged from the party organization.

“We need somebody willing to stand up and fight,” Kremer told delegates. “If you want the grassroots to have a voice, then you need to vote for change.”

Kremer, who got her political start in the Tea Party movement, wasn’t part of the mob that stormed the Capitol as Congress met to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election win. But it was her group that secured the permit for the “Save America” rally where Trump told the crowd to “fight like hell.” She spoke at the event and was among the most active fundraisers in the “Stop the Steal” movement advancing the lie that Biden’s victory was stolen.

Delegates reelected Thompson despite attacks saying his wife and daughter worked for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the Republican chief election official who defended the 2020 election result in Georgia that saw Biden capture the state’s 16 electoral votes. Raffensperger was repeatedly likened to the devil during the weekend convention.

Thompson fell short of a majority in an initial three-candidate race but won in a runoff.

President Joe Biden spoke at Morehouse College yesterday, according to USA Today via the Savannah Morning News.

President Joe Biden on Sunday warned graduates at one of the country’s most revered African American academic institutions of “extremist forces aligned against the meaning and message of Morehouse” College in a commencement address that sought to lay out the stakes of the 2024 election.

“Graduates, this is what we’re up against,” Biden said during a 27-minute speech that leaned heavily into themes of faith and democracy in an appeal to Black voters. “They peddle a fiction, a character about what being a man is about − tough talk, abusing power, bigotry. Their idea of being a man is toxic.”

“But that’s not you. It’s not us,” he said.

Biden’s remarks to the 414 graduates at Morehouse, an all-male historically Black college in Atlanta, came as he is struggling to unite Black voters, particularly Black men, around his candidacy. Many Morehouse students and faculty criticized Biden’s participation when it was announced because of his support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

Polling shows Biden is vastly underperforming his 2020 performance among Black voters, a reliably Democratic constituency, as some drift to Donald Trump, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee.

A New York Times/Siena College poll of six battleground states, including Georgia, found Biden has support from 60% of Black voters and Trump, while Trump is backed by 20% of Black voters. Biden won Black voters in the 2020 election by a 87%-12% margin, according to exit polls.

In his speech, Biden touted his presidency as one that has delivered to Black Americans, pointing to efforts to invest in Black families and communities, cut child poverty, expand work opportunities, reduce prescription drug prices and cut student loan debt. He called out the “poison of white supremacy” and “systemic racism.”

He said he is committed to “show that democracy, democracy, democracy is still the way,” even in the face of inequality for Black Americans.

“What is democracy if Black men are being killed in the street? What is democracy if the trail of broken promises still leave Black communities behind?” Biden said. “What is democracy if you have to be ten times better than anyone else to get a fair shot? Most of all, what does it mean, as you’ve heard before, to be a Black man who loves his country even if it doesn’t love him back in equal measure?”

From Bloomberg via the Macon Telegraph:

President Joe Biden is stepping up a push to reach Black voters with weekend trips to students in Atlanta and business leaders in Detroit, signaling his need to lock in a bloc that’s critical to his reelection chances in November.

While overwhelming support from Black voters was key to Biden’s victory in 2020, there’s concern among his supporters and evidence in polls that former President Donald Trump is making inroads. That increases pressure on Biden to connect with Black voters who say he hasn’t delivered enough on promises such as canceling student debt or increasing their prosperity.

Biden’s team is redoubling its outreach as some Black leaders call on him to step up his engagement and as his election rematch with Trump takes shape with this week’s announcement of two debates, starting in June.

Black voters make up some 33% of the electorate in Georgia, while Atlanta, the state capital, is home to the second-largest Black population in the US. Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes in 2020, meaning that the state’s 16 Electoral College votes could have gone the other way if fewer than 1% of Black voters had chosen Trump or stayed home.

Black voters favored Biden over Trump by 63% to 27% in the latest Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll of swing states, which has a 4 percentage-point margin of error. That compares with 92% Black support for Biden in the 2020 election, according to Pew Research Center data.

Trump’s campaign is making a concerted effort to increase appearances before Black audiences, where aides believe his message on inflation and ending US involvement in overseas wars will appeal to Black voters and their frustration on pocketbook issues.

From the AJC:

The visit came as Biden’s campaign is struggling to recapture the excitement and energy that propelled his narrow 2020 victory in Georgia, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in nearly three decades.

Polls show Trump gaining more traction with Black voters — long the party’s most loyal constituency — and tight races in Georgia battleground states in a rematch that many voters say they dread.

While senior Democratic strategists don’t worry about Trump forging a breakthrough among Black voters, they fret that many who voted for the Democrat in 2020 will stay home this November.

“Black Georgians don’t need Joe Biden to tell them what’s good for them,” said Republican state Rep. Mesha Mainor, a Black legislator from Atlanta who switched parties last year. “Black Georgians were much better off before Biden’s failed policies sent inflation to historic highs.”

More from the AJC:

Biden first visited with Democratic supporters, including Stacey Abrams, during a visit to Mary Mac’s Tea Room. He later went to a high-dollar fundraiser at the family office of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank.

Biden told donors on his second visit the “threat Trump poses is greater in a second term than it was in the first term.”

More from Biden at the fundraiser:

“It’s clear that when he lost in 2020, something snapped, I’m being serious. He just can’t accept the fact he lost. That is why Jan. 6 happened. Every legal avenue Trump tried to change the election failed. So he unleashed an insurrection. He sat there for three hours, watching what was happening, not saying a word.”

– President Joe Biden

Biden delivered the Morehouse commencement address a day later. He told graduates of his commitment to “root out systemic racism” while fighting the “extremist forces aligned against the meaning and message” of the school.

Governor Brian Kemp announced a pair of appointments to the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, according to a Press Release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced two appointments in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. The Governor will appoint Carolyn “Tippi” Cain Burch to serve as a judge on the Superior Court of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit and Don Kelly to serve as the District Attorney of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

Ms. Burch will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the Honorable Ron Mullins from the Superior Court of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. Mr. Kelly will fill the remainder of the Honorable Stacey Jackson’s term following District Attorney Jackson’s extended medical leave and untimely passing this month.

Carolyn “Tippi” Cain Burch is a native of Columbus, Georgia, with twenty-three years of experience practicing law in trial and appellate courts. She has worked in private practice representing individuals, businesses, business owners, government entities, and candidates and committees – including at King & Spalding LLP, Chalmers, Pak & Burch LLC, and, most recently, as a solo practitioner in Columbus. She also previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Appellate Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia. Ms. Burch is active in her community and serves as a Master in the Clarke-Carley American Inn of Court and the Columbus American Inn of Court. She is the Secretary of the Columbus Bar Association and is a member of the Leadership Georgia Class of 2014. Ms. Burch has also served on the Executive Board of the Atlanta Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society and the Board of Trustees for the Georgia Legal History Foundation. She is an active member of the State Bar of Georgia where she previously served on the Business Court Special Committee and was a member of the YLD Leadership Academy Class of 2009.

Ms. Burch earned her undergraduate degree from Auburn University and her law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. Following law school, she clerked in the Superior Court for the Macon Judicial Circuit and for the Honorable C. Ashley Royal in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Ms. Burch lives in Columbus with her husband, Sam Burch, and their daughter, Winnie. She and her family are active members of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus.

Don Kelly is a native of Columbus, Georgia and currently serves as the Acting District Attorney of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. He began his career as an assistant district attorney in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. In 1996, Mr. Kelly opened his own law firm and practiced civil and criminal litigation for several years before returning to the Chattahoochee District Attorney’s Office in 2003. Mr. Kelly has served as a prosecutor consistently for the last 21 years. He was the leader of the Violent Crime Unit from 2014 until 2020, where he oversaw the prosecution of all serious violent felonies in Columbus and acted as the lead prosecutor in over 50 murder cases. The late District Attorney Stacey Jackson appointed Mr. Kelly to serve as the Chief Assistant District Attorney in July 2022. When District Attorney Jackson took medical leave in November 2023, Mr. Kelly stepped in as Acting District Attorney in his absence.

Mr. Kelly earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and his law degree from Georgia State University College of Law. Following law school, Mr. Kelly served as a law clerk for the Honorable Mullins Whisnant and the Honorable Bill Smith, both superior court judges in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. He lives in Columbus with his wife, Allison, who is a teacher. The Kelly’s have four adult children and attend St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus.

From WTVM:

Don Kelly will fill the remainder of the Stacey Jackson’s term as District Attorney. Kelly, a Columbus native, announced his run for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit in the 2024 election in March. In a statement, Kelly said this opportunity is a great honor and he looks to carry on Jackson’s legacy.

“I want to thank Governor Kemp for this appointment and the opportunity to serve as our community’s next District Attorney,” Kelly said. “It is a great honor to follow in the footsteps of my long-time friend, the late Stacey Jackson. Stacey was more than a friend. He was a part of my family. He cared deeply about people and about justice. He had a relentless commitment to get the job done right. I look forward to carrying on his legacy and his fight for justice. I am committed to stopping the epidemic of gang violence in our community, which has caused families to live in constant fear. I will be the voice of these unseen victims and do everything within my power to see justice done in our community and to see our families kept safe from violent crime.”

Governor Kemp issued Executive Order # 05.16.24.01, appointing Charles E. Bailey as Judge of the State Court of DeKalb County – Division A and Executive Order # 05.16.24.02, appointing Phyllis R. Williams as Judge of the State Court of DeKalb County-Division B, and Executive Order # 05.16.24.03, appointing Spencer D. Tyson as Solicitor General of the State Court of Effingham County.

Joey Recker and Kim Fuller are running for Mayor of Plains, to succeed 40-year Mayor L.E. Boze Goodwin, who recently resigned, according to WALB.

“I want to listen to people I want to hear what they have to say. I want to really hear their concerns. Now I know I can’t fix every problem for every person every time. But I know I can listen and that I can go to work. And what I think is important is that they get a response,” said Joey Recker, candidate for Plains Mayor.

Joey is a native of Plains and tells WALB that if he is elected, he wants Plains to be more than just a “presidential city.”

When asked what she hopes to bring to the table, Kim Fuller, who is also Jimmy Carter’s niece, said the following:

“I believe Plains has her own legacy and I want to help the citizens of Plains further that legacy. I would encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote on Tuesday.”

The Georgia Primary will be on Tuesday, May 21.

Democratic candidates are competing to succeed retiring Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul, according to the Albany Herald.

“It’s almost like I have a cheat sheet,” Dougherty Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Terron Hayes said. æOver the years, I’ve watched, and I’ve learned. Any time you have a change at the top of an organization, there are going to be changes. But the managerial changes will be minor with me.”

“I’ve learned so much from my fellow officers in the department and from the man whose place I hope to take. (Sproul) has been more than a boss to me, he’s been my friend. Over the years, he’s allowed me to grow to the point that I’m ready to move into that office.”

Hayes’ opponent, Albany State University Police Officer Keithen Hall, who worked 32 years with the Albany Police Department before retiring and taking a position at ASU, said his connection is with the community.

“Everywhere I go, people are coming up to me and saying, ‘We got you … we’re with you … we got your back,’ ” Hall said. “I was born and raise in Albany; I know the people here. If somebody starts acting up here, I’m going to call their grandma. Those personal connections are a real big deal.”

“When I worked Robbery/Homicide (with APD), I found my calling. I can read people; there’s a rhythm to this. I think those things are very important.”

Polls in all precincts will be open for Tuesday’s primary election from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals is challenged by Dean Gore, according to the Albany Herald.

“You have to stay ahead of the criminals because they’re going to find ways to use the new technology to commit crime,” Rachals, who is being challenged by Dougherty District Attorney’s Office Investigator Dean Gore, said. “We stay up; we have to.”

“That’s one of the best things about this department. Everyone, from me down, works together to serve the citizens of this community. Our department works overtime, double-time if they have to, to make sure things are being done right.”

Gore, who started as a jailer at the Dougherty County Jail under then-Sheriff Jamil Saba, has worked his way up the ranks, covering virtually every aspect of law enforcement.

“I’ve done it all … started as a jailer, became a deputy, then worked on a special FBI task force, was promoted to sergeant, worked as part of the local SWAT team, and later had the opportunity to take a position as an investigator with the Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office,” Gore said. “Law enforcement service runs in my family: My great-granddad was a railroad detective, my granddad and dad were officers with the Albany Police Department, and my oldest son has worked with the APD. That’s five generations.”

Rachals said that while the “24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year” nature of his position does not afford him the opportunity to campaign as much as he’d like, he’s gotten the word out about his re-election campaign through social media, signs and “holding meet-and-greets” to reach out to the community whenever he can.

The Savannah Morning News writes about the Democratic candidates for Chatham County Commission District 8.

The seat covers much of Savannah’s west side, extending to Port Wentworth and northwest Chatham County to the Effingham County line. As such, the race drew two candidates from Savannah’s westside neighborhoods ― Laureen Boles and Marsha Buford ― and a third candidate from Garden City, Deidrick Cody.

Some Gwinnett County voters will decide a referendum to incorporate a new City of Mulberry, according to AccessWDUN.

In an effort spearheaded by Georgia House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration (R-Auburn) and State Senator Clint Dixon (R-Buford), Mulberry has quickly become a topic of debate among residents of Northeast Gwinnett County.

Previously proposed as “The City of Mill Creek,” efforts to adopt Mulberry as a municipality began late last year and have since continued as the bill allowing it on a voter’s ballot has successfully crept its way through both the Georgia House and Senate.

Efstration cites his motivation in support of Mulberry as a need to control the rampant growth and development seen throughout the area.

“The idea here is that local government that’s closest to the people can be most responsive,” Efstration said. “If a council member has a constituency of less than 10,000 residents, there’s a chance for you to easily get in touch with that council member to express your concerns or your support for any proposal, and for the process to be streamlined. In many ways, this will take away the responsibility that county government currently has in that area.”

Additional concerns in support of Mulberry include gridlocked traffic and teeming school systems.

In early February, Senate Bill 333 passed at a vote of 30 to 18.

“Commissioners that do not represent that area, from other parts of the county were actually out-voting [District 4 Commissioner Matthew Holtkamp] and approving those zonings,∏ Dixon said on WDUN’s The Drive at 5. “Leader Efstration and I got involved and the community asked what could be done. From a legislative perspective, it would be to get more local control by creating a city.”

Gwinnett County commissioners and some members of the Gwinnett legislative delegation have expressed opposition to the push to create Mulberry. One of the main issues they have cited is the potential financial impact on the rest of the county.

Late last week, Gwinnett County Judge Tadia Whitner ruled in favor of keeping the measure on the ballot after an emergency hearing in a lawsuit brought forward by Stephen Hughes. The suit alleged that the proposed city’s charter was unconstitutional since it did not allow for the city to levy taxes.

Judge Whitner’s decision came after Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr filed an opinion to the court arguing that the lawsuit was improperly filed. Carr said in that filing that the vote should move forward.

If voters choose to adopt the City of Mulberry on Tuesday, the city’s residents will be able to vote for their city council during the election cycle in November, according to officials.

State Rep. David Sampson (D-Albany) defends his seat against two challengers, according to WALB.

“I’m pretty confident that the people of this community will see fit to send me back to Atlanta,” said Representative David Sampson, District 153 incumbent.

In the past two years, Sampson said he’s worked on different legislation, including House Bill 77. The bill allowed for a fourth superior court judge to be appointed in Dougherty County to help with court backlogs.

“I’m going to work hard to do what I’m supposed to do to help the people that make the decisions about allocating funds. I want to make sure they know that I can be trusted with what I do and how I move things forward as it relates to Dougherty County,” Sampson said.

This is the sixth year Tracy Taylor is running for office and his third time running for the house seat.

He said with his experience on both sides of the aisle, he believes he can bring significant growth in the local economy and infrastructure.

But one of the youngest House candidates, Joshua Anthony, said he believes he’s the change Dougherty County needs.

“I’m tired of the same thing. I grew up here. This is my hometown. I can’t continue to see this go the way it’s going,” Anthony said.

Anthony is a senior at Georgia State University and said his interest in legislation sparked at age 14. He said he’s already created a gun legislation bill and a five-year plan for Dougherty County that will focus on infrastructure, education and economic growth.

State Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) also defends his seat against a primary challenger, according to The Current GA.

In his career in the Georgia General Assembly, Watson has faced primary opposition only once, in 2010, when he won a Savannah-area seat in the state House of Representatives.

Fourteen years later, the four-term state senator and chairman of the powerful Health and Human Services Committee from the Isle of Hope again has a challenger from his own Republican Party.

It is Beth Majeroni, a hard-right conservative firebrand from Skidaway Island who has emerged from the ferment that has reshaped the local and state Republican Party since the 2020 presidential election to take him on in Tuesday’s primary election in her first ever bid for elected office.

Watson is a rise-through-the-ranks, pay-your-dues member of the state’s Republican establishment — “I’m the one who establishes relationships with the governor, lieutenant governor and everyone, so we can get things done,” he said.

Majeroni, meanwhile, is a product of the GOP’s rebellious “grassroots,” which believes lawmakers like Watson are “non-conservative conservatives,” part of the “uniparty” of legislators, lobbyists and special interests in Atlanta that rule the state.

“I’m the conservative who stands up for what’s important to people in the community versus what’s important to special interests and lobbyists,” Majeroni said.

The stark differences between the two candidates over who is more authentically conservative and Republican have made the District 1 Senate race a bellwether election in Coastal Georgia, a battle-of-the-brands test of how deep into local Republican ranks the appeal of Majeroni’s far-right conservatism does — or doesn’t — go.

Governor Kemp signed into law House Bill 1229, which revises the City of Dalton Charter, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The charter was finalized and approved by the mayor and council in November after more than a year of work by city leaders and staff to revise the founding document. It was submitted to the state legislature earlier this year and approved.

The city’s leadership began the process of drafting a new charter in 2022. The previous charter had not been revised since the 1970s, and much of the document was more than 100 years old with some sections dating to Dalton’s founding in 1847. Many sections of that charter were out of date and no longer reflected current practices or state laws.

“It was a project that was 50 years in the making,” said City Administrator Andrew Parker who oversaw the effort to draft the new charter. “Once it was approved by the General Assembly and recently signed by the governor into law, it was a small celebration internally because for those involved in the elected body and the staff that had a hand in putting it together, that was kind of special to see it had made it finally through the process finally of being signed into law.”

“Hopefully this charter will serve the city for the next 50 years before it ever needs to be updated again,” Parker added.

“No, the old charter didn’t necessarily correlate to the practices of today where you have working committees appointed by the council that provide oversight to various departments and functions of city government and then you have an administrator that provides operational management to the city and so (the new charter) basically just cleaned up some of those practices,” Parker said. “It doesn’t really change a whole lot of the day-to-day function, it just modernized it to what we’re doing today.”

In future meetings, the mayor and council will review the city’s Code of Ordinances to ensure they work in concert with the new charter.

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit’s Hall County Drug Court celebrated the milestone of 1000 graduates, according to AccessWDUN.

Officials with the Northeastern Judicial Circuit said the program was created in 2001 by Judge John Girardeau as an alternative to incarceration for people in the criminal justice system who are struggling with substance use and mental health disorders.

The program recently celebrated 10 graduates in March and recognized 45 drug court graduates last year alone. The program currently serves nearly 250 participants.

To graduate participants must complete at least 24 months of drug and alcohol treatment, random drug screens, individual counseling and demonstrate productive use of time through consistent employment or public service activities.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson held a press conference about gun violence, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson held a press conference on Sunday afternoon to discuss the gun violence that occurred over the weekend. Savannah Police (SPD) is investigating five separate shootings that occurred between May 17 and 19, in which two people were killed and an additional 14 people were treated for injuries.

Johnson noted that the incident that occurred on May 18 at Ellis Square, in which 11 people were injured, including six with gunshot wounds, is defined as a “mass shooting,” according to The Gun Violence Archive.

“We are better than this,” said Johnson. “And certainly, we will continue to insist that we are better than this. And it’s important for us to act better than this.”

“Unfortunately, for me, this is a common refrain,” said Johnson. “When you allow [guns] to be everywhere, you can’t be surprised when they show up. And when you allow them to be everywhere, and you allow guns to be stolen from everywhere, and then they show up everywhere. And when we don’t have the wherewithal within personal relationships to diffuse or bring down the temperature on violent events, unfortunately, this is what occurs.”

Johnson said he thinks “city government has a role” in addressing public safety issues. He cited the recently-implemented gun storage ordinance, the employment of a special assistant U.S. attorney who prosecutes federal crimes, and the police’s use of ShotSpotter.

Johnson also noted that the Chatham County primary election is coming up next Tuesday, May 21.

“We need people who are gonna prosecute crimes, and we need judges who are gonna sentence people harshly,” said Johnson.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack touted the Biden Administration’s agricultural achievements, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was the former governor of Iowa, and Georgia Rep. Sanford D. Bishop (D-District 2) touted the progress of the American Rescue Plan.

They announced funding for local farmers and discussed some of the pressures from the latest proposals of the Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill, which is updated every five years, was extended from its update in September 2023 to 2024, because Congress couldn’t reach an agreement on allocating funding.

Vilsack and Bishop are hopeful the climate guardrails will be kept in place and funding will be allocated to protect all of the farmers, not just some. Vilsack has made climate change and sustainable farming practices one of his key initiatives serving under President Joe Biden.

From the Macon Telegraph:

The farming population is shrinking in the U.S. from compounding forces like extreme weather events that hinder growing conditions and financial hardship to sustain farming income.

There were fewer farmers in 2022 than in 2017, and in those five years, Georgia lost 3,175 of them, the majority under 50 acres, according to the Department of Agriculture’s 2022 Census.

The latest draft, released last week, will be presented by Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), the House Committee on Agriculture chairman, and will be reviewed and marked up by the Committee next week.

“We hope that we will have a product that will manage the risk and provide a safety net for our producers,” Bishop said. The current proposal shows a 10-20% subsidy for “price reference crops,“ (think the major crops like corn, rice, wheat, soy) to help with inflation.

But critics say that subsidizing price reference crops only helps the bigger producers, not all farmers.

The Garden City Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a rezoning for what would be the largest electric truck charging station in the country, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Days after the head of the Federal Highway Administration visited the Port of Savannah to tout plans for what would have been the largest electric-truck charging facility of its kind in the nation, a non-elected local board pulled the plug on the project this past week.

On May 10, Voltera CEO Matt Horton stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt, whose agency had just awarded the company $7.8 million to support development of the complex and accelerate efforts to electrify short-route trucks that make more than 16,000 trips to and from the nation’s third-busiest port on a typical workday.

Four days later, the Garden City Planning and Zoning Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor and city council, expressed its distaste for Voltera’s vision by unanimously denying the company’s development plan.

Experts say the commissioners’ opposition to the facility, which ultimately would have the capacity to charge more than 100 big rigs simultaneously, signals a potential new battlefront for clean-energy developers aiming to slash heat-trapping pollution from the nation’s transportation sector.

The site at 2303 U.S. 80, about four miles from the port gates, was rezoned for the project last year by the city council. However, the planning commission’s rejection of the development plan blocks the city from issuing the required building permits.

“Voltera purchased our property after receiving a letter in December 2022 from Garden City staff confirming the appropriate classification for Voltera’s project as automobile service station’ – a use that is permitted ‘by right’ at this location under the Garden City zoning ordinance,” Tom Ashley, the company’s vice president for government and utility relations, said in an emailed statement. “Staff made this determination after reviewing Voltera’s proposed business operations and a concept plan for the facility. … Staff are responsible for placing uses within appropriate, existing categories.”

Macon County Sheriff Leonard Johnson died Saturday, according to 13WMAZ.

The Sheriff’s Office says he died after a medical issue.

Johnson was sworn in as interim sheriff in 2018, making history as the first person of color to take the position in Macon County.

He was later elected sheriff in November 2018. He had announced his retirement and was not seeking sheriff re-election in April 2024.

From WALB:

Gov. Brian Kemp released a statement on Johnson’s death Sunday, saying: “Marty, the girls, and I are truly saddened by the passing of Sheriff Leonard Johnson. He was a valued member of law enforcement who made history for his community.”

Kemp added: “We ask all Georgians to join us in praying for his family and Macon County during this time of mourning.”

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