Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 27, 2021

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May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 27, 2021

On May 27, 1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams to let Adams know of the death of a mutual friend.

On May 27, 1863, Chief Justice Roger Taney, sitting as a federal district court judge, issued a decision in Ex parte Merryman, which challenged President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the right of habeas corpus. Lincoln ignored the ruling.

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill in Paulding County, Georgia, where Sherman’s forces attacked Johnston’s Confederates on May 27, 1864. Among the combatants on the Union side was Ambrose Bierce, who would later write The Crime at Pickett’s Mill. Pickett’s Mill is the site of annual reenactments.

On May 27, 1864, the Federal Army, having been stopped in its advance on Atlanta two days earlier by the Battle of New Hope Church, attempted to outflank the Confederate position. Some 14,000 Federal troops were selected for the task, and General Howard was given command. After a five-hour march, Howard’s force reached the vicinity of Pickett’s Mill and prepared to attack. Waiting were 10,000 Confederate troops under the command of General Cleburne.

The Federal assault began at 5 p.m. and continued into the night. Daybreak found the Confederates still in possession of the field. The Federals had lost 1,600 men compared to the Confederate loss of 500. The Confederate victory resulted in a one-week delay of the Federal advance on Atlanta.

Here are some photos of the battlefield and links to additional material.

On May 27, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the United States was in an unlimited national emergency and laid out conditions under which Germany’s expansionism would constitute an attack on the United States.

On May 27, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter blasted the “Stop Carter” movement in a speech in Cincinnati.

On May 27, 1995, actor Christopher Reeves was thrown from his horse in an equestrian competition in Culpepper, Virginia, becoming quadriplegic.

Seven years ago, a poll by Rasmussen showed Democrat Michelle Nunn beating both Jack Kingston and David Perdue in a General Election matchup and Democrat Jason Carter beating Gov. Deal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Marietta may have to change the name of their most prominent landmark. Fitzgerald, Georgia is building a 62-foot steel-framed topiary Big(ger) Chicken. From WTOC:

The Fitzgerald 62 foot tall topiary chicken is taking form but not flight as begins to look more like a bird and less like a chicken coup.

Fitzgerald Mayor Jim Puckett said the wings will be added next. He said construction did slow down over the last year because of the pandemic and that the Tennessee-based artist, Topiary Joe, was recovering from surgery. Puckett said they’re still working on a timeline for completion.

The money to build the chicken comes from SPLOST dollars that could only be used for tourism projects.

Wikipedia says that Marietta’s Big Chicken is 56-feet high.

It’s a good story about priorities in local government, but the chicken part stole the show for me.

Atlanta City Council member Antonio Brown got a lesson in irony crime wave politics. From the AJC:

An Atlanta city councilman and mayoral candidate running on a campaign of “reimagining public safety” became a victim of the city’s crime wave Wednesday when his car was stolen while he was attending an event.

Four people jumped into Councilman Antonio Brown’s car and took off while he was attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Atlanta police confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they are investigating the vehicle theft.

The incident happened along Verbena Street in northwest Atlanta about 11:45 a.m., police said. The victim told officers he had gotten out of his car to speak with someone. That’s when “several males entered his unlocked car and drove away with it,” police said.

The theft comes within weeks of Brown announcing his mayoral campaign amid an increase in violent crime across the city. Brown threw his hat into the contentious race May 14, joining the ranks of Councilman Andre Dickens, attorney Sharon Gay and City Council President Felicia Moore, who previously pointed to Atlanta’s “out of control” crime as her motivation for running.

Brown kicked off his run for mayor with a platform of “reimagining” public safety and policing in Atlanta. Earlier this year, he sponsored a City Council ordinance to look into the feasibility of restructuring Atlanta’s public safety agencies and creating a new city department focused on “wellness.”

The councilman was also among the seven councilmembers who voted in support of an ordinance to withhold $73 million of the Atlanta Police Department’s budget until Bottoms’ administration drafted a plan to reinvent the culture of policing in the city. The ordinance, which was narrowly voted down, came in the aftermath of mass demonstrations nationwide sparked by the deaths of numerous Black people at the hands of police officers.

Brown is under indictment on several federal fraud charges. Prosecutors said the councilman lied about his income on applications to obtain loans and credit cards used for personal purchases. All of the alleged incidents occurred years before he won the council seat in 2019.

Governor Brian Kemp announced the award of more than $6.7 million dollars in Law Enforcement Training Grants, according to a press release:

Today, Governor Brian P. Kemp and Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Executive Director Jay Neal announce the award of 63 grants in the amount of $6,756,389 for the Law Enforcement Training Grant Program. During the 2020 legislative session, Governor Brian Kemp recommended and lawmakers approved the creation of a law enforcement training grant program through the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for state and local law enforcement agencies.

“We are committed to giving law enforcement officers across the state specialized training and resources needed to provide the best possible public safety to Georgia’s citizens,” said Governor Kemp. “This grant program will help pay for essential training – including in use of force and de-escalation – for state and local law enforcement officers and give them the tools they need to keep our communities safe.”

“Governor Kemp and the Georgia legislature have made it a priority to provide our law enforcement officers with the training and resources they need to better serve the people of Georgia, and we at CJCC are pleased to be a part of this effort,” said CJCC Executive Director Jay Neal.

Governor Kemp is expected to issue an Executive Order limiting the ability of schools to require masks, according to the AJC.

The Republican disclosed his plan during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News where he railed against “pandemic politics,” the latest in a series of decisions to curry favor with conservatives ahead of a challenging reelection campaign.

“We’re not going to have a mask mandate for our kids. Our teachers have had the ability to get vaccinated. It certainly doesn’t keep anyone from wearing a mask,” he said, adding: “The time for mandates is over. Our numbers have plummeted.”

Georgia’s fight against the pandemic has dramatically improved as the vaccine became widely available. Hospitalizations have plummeted in recent months, and more than 3.2 million Georgians – or roughly one-third of the state – have been inoculated.

Anthony Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said it was “questionably unconstitutional.”

“The governor doesn’t have the inherent authority to dictate local school policies unilaterally,” he said. “I am unaware of any statute that would empower him to usurp power delegated to school authorities.”

Georgia Power Company announced that Chris Womack will serve as the new Chairman and CEO, according to a press release:

Georgia Power today announced that Chris Womack will assume the roles of chairman and CEO, effective June 1. He will now officially lead the company as chairman, president and CEO. Womack succeeds Georgia Power Chairman and CEO Paul Bowers; whose retirement is also effective June 1. For more than a decade, Bowers has led Georgia Power to a premier position in the industry, from storm response and customer satisfaction, to the growth of a diverse fuel portfolio and a deep commitment to the communities the company serves.

“As I shared eight months ago when I came back to Georgia Power, it is an exciting time to be a part of this company. We’re not only making history as we move closer to bringing online the first new nuclear units in the U.S. in decades, we’re also growing and evolving as a company,” said Chris Womack, president of Georgia Power. “We’re focused on finding new, innovative ideas and energy solutions that we believe will help build a sustainable energy future for our state and bring incredible value to our customers. Our company has a legacy of providing world class customer service and reliability to Georgians, and we are committed to continuing that great work.”

“Furthermore, our company, our communities and our country are all engaged in important work around social justice and racial equity. We will continue to stand together with our neighbors to address these issues because we want to be a part of shaping a future where all Georgians can thrive. Every day our team works to be a positive force in our communities in so many ways, whether it’s financial investments or volunteerism, because we believe that together we can make a bigger impact. I’m excited to see us continue and grow those efforts,” added Womack.

On Monday, Georgia Power announced the company and the Georgia Power Foundation are committing to invest $15 million annually from 2021-2025, $75 million over the five-year period, to help advance racial equity and social justice efforts in Georgia. The social justice funding supports initiatives focused on education equity, criminal justice reform and economic empowerment.

“I am supremely confident Chris is the type of extraordinary person to lead Georgia Power,” said Tom Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company. “His depth of experience across our system, the energy industry as a whole, and his record of public service within Atlanta, the state of Georgia, the entire Southeast and nationally will prove to be incredibly valuable as Georgia Power continues to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy for millions of Georgians. I look forward to working with Chris as he bolsters Georgia Power’s great legacy of service and citizenship.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr spoke to the local media in Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

Carr is seeking a second full term in office and has so far drawn the challenge of Democrats Jen Jordan and Charlie Bailey, both Atlanta attorneys. He said while in southwest Georgia he plans to “meet with Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards, a couple of sheriffs in the area and a group that is involved with my campaign.”

“The virus did not stop criminals from committing crimes,” the attorney general said. “So we’ve had to stay vigilant. Although our plans were impacted by the virus, our (statewide) Security Threat Group (Gang) Unit and our efforts to impact Human Trafficking have been successful. We’ve rescued around 144 people who were being trafficked, we’re targeting 120 more, and we’ve had 18 indictments, I believe. We’ll send you the actual stats, but they show we’ve had some successes.

Carr said that getting out into other parts of the state is one of the things he likes best about campaigning for office.

“I love to be around people,” he said. “I like having the opportunity to sit down and have conversations, look people in the eye. I recognize that it’s a digital world now, but I enjoy getting together with business owners who put in the long hours to make their businesses work. I’m energized by that.”

“I stand on rule of law,” Carr said. “I was elected to do a job, which is to uphold the constitution of the United States and of the state of Georgia. I do believe that any viable complaints should be investigated, and that’s what we did. Sixteen times — by Trump judges and non-Trump judges — the complaints were looked into, and there was not enough evidence to overturn the election.”

“First of all, you do what’s right,” he said. “Politics are important to our state and country, but politics can’t be the driving force when you hold public office. In the end, the government — serving the people who put you in office — is what matters.”

The Democratic Party of Georgia Chair spoke about how they affected the 2020 elections here, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

The short answer: time, money and plenty of staff and volunteers using “tailored outreach” to make Georgia’s electorate younger, less white and more focused on absentee and early voting than it’s ever been.

“These victories weren’t random … the result of some miracle,” Georgia Democratic chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams told party donors on a conference call Tuesday evening.

Williams described years of organizing and a deliberate timeline of ramping up staff ahead of 2020, insisting that Georgia’s growth alone didn’t ensure record presidential and Senate vote totals for Democrats. Rather, she said, it was tapping into that changing population to maximize votes.

For example, the party began its push toward vote-by-mail in the spring, ahead of the primary.

The party aimed events, most online because of the coronavirus pandemic, at specific demographic groups. The campaign spent at least $1.5 million on “in-language” advertising, including digital, radio and print, for the general election, plus another $2.5 million ahead of the Senate runoffs. Democrats matched surrogates to specific communities, and those targeted events, party officials said, were led by paid staffers who reflected the various races and ethnicities.

A spike in absentee voting benefited Democrats. The party reported that Biden managed an 8 percentage point advantage over Trump in absentee support, compared with an essential draw between Trump and Hillary Clinton four years earlier.

Younger and nonwhite participation increased to Democrats’ advantage. The party’s analysis found turnout by 18- to 24-year-olds was 51% in 2020, compared with 46.4% in 2016. For 25- to 29-year-olds, turnout jumped from 42% to 46%. Black turnout in November topped 66%, compared with 61.5% in 2016. Asian American voters and Latino voters also increased their combined share of the electorate to 5.5% in November, up from 3.7% four years earlier.

Those numbers meant Democrats widened their advantage in metro areas, including suburbs closest to Atlanta. The party’s analysis did not detail the apparent shift toward Democrats by some white, college-educated voters in those metropolitan and suburban counties because of dissatisfaction with Trump.

Democratic U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff (both Atlanta) want to force Georgia into Medicaid expansion, according to the Associated Press via AccessWDUN.

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock on Wednesday wrote a letter saying they want the federal government to find a way to provide health insurance coverage to people in Georgia and 11 other states that haven’t agreed to expand the Medicaid program.

“The federal government, which already funded coverage for these individuals through the Affordable Care Act, has a responsibility to step in and help these citizens who have been left behind by their state leadership,” Ossoff and Warnock wrote. “We cannot continue to allow Americans with low incomes to suffer any longer just because they live in a state that has been overcome by political obstruction.”

In the letter to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Georgia’s senators said they were working on legislation to create a federal workaround or “pursue other strategies” to provide coverage in holdout states. The two said they want the legislation attached either to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal or his proposal to provide additional education and family support benefits.

They said any alternative should not require insurance premiums and should require people who are insured to cover a low share of costs, like the traditional Medicaid program. Warnock and Ossoff didn’t outline how they would make up for the state share of the costs over the long term, though.

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found the additional federal money offered under the coronavirus relief incentives would send Georgia about $1.4 billion over two years, and the state’s share of expanding coverage would be about $640 million. Georgia would end up $700 million ahead. More than 450,000 people in the state could become eligible for coverage.

But Republican leaders in Georgia and other states have ignored the enticement. Instead, Gov. Brian Kemp has been pursuing a more limited expansion that would impose work or education requirement to receive the benefits. The plan seeks to add an estimated 50,000 poor and uninsured Georgia residents to the Medicaid rolls in its first two years, with Republicans saying it’s a more narrowly tailored, fiscally responsible alternative to a full expansion.

President Joe Biden’s administration froze former President Donald Trump’s approval of Kemp’s plan, although Georgia lawmakers provided money for it anyway in the budget beginning July 1.

From the AJC:

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock penned a letter calling for provisions to “close the coverage gap” in Georgia and other states that have refused to expand Medicaid to be included in any federal legislation that addresses health care and the economy.

“We can no longer wait for states to find a sense of morality and must step in to close the coverage gap and finally ensure that all low- and middle-income Americans have access to quality, affordable health care,” the senators wrote.

“Closing the coverage gap and providing more Americans with quality, affordable health care coverage is the most effective policy to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities and would be a major step towards decreasing the high rates of uninsured Americans in non-expansion states,” the two wrote.

“We have a duty to our constituents and a duty to those suffering from a lack of access to health care to provide for them when they are in need,” the senators wrote.

Six metro Atlanta cities will receive fewer federal stimmie-bucks than they thought, according to the AJC.

At least six metro cities will receive drastically lower amounts — up to 73% less — than the initial estimates released when the American Rescue Plan Act was pitched to Congress. Alpharetta will only receive about $6.6 million instead of the original estimate of $21.2 million. Johns Creek will receive $7.1 million, down 73% from the initial estimate of $26.6 million.

“We certainly are disappointed with the negative impact caused by the Treasury’s interpretations and final allocation methodology especially in light of the initial projected allocation,” said Tom Harris, finance director of Alpharetta.

Other metro Atlanta cities that also expect to receive significantly reduced pandemic relief: Brookhaven, Smyrna, South Fulton and Stonecrest.

The city [of Atlanta] is expecting $170.9 million from the American Rescue Plan. Atlanta’s Finance and Executive Committee learned on Wednesday that $64 million in relief funds will be sent to the city “in the next few weeks” that could be used to balance an expected $38 million revenue shortfall in their current fiscal year 2021 budget.

Brookhaven, which was expecting to get $17.5 million, found out three weeks ago that it was getting roughly half that amount, City Manager Christian Sigman said. The north DeKalb County city was among the wave of cities that found out their funding had been slashed under complicated financial formulas buried deep within the 242-page piece of legislation passed by Congress.

“It was probably a good 30 days or 60 days after the legislation was signed before people started realizing their allocation was going to be using another method,” Sigman said, “and it wasn’t exactly going to be the number that was bantered around in the House committees.”

Congressman Jody Hice (R-Monroe) is running against the mainstream media in addition to other candidates in his campaign for Georgia Secretary of State. From CNN via the Albany Herald:

Rep. Jody Hice says former President Donald Trump would’ve won the 2020 election in Georgia if it were “fair.” He says that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent out 700,000 ballot applications to “illegal voters,” and that there’s going to be “some fraud mixed up in there.”

Hice’s various misleading and false claims attempt to undercut the validity of Biden’s victory. But Hice, with Trump’s support, is now the leading Republican candidate to oust Raffensperger in 2022 and run the 2024 elections for the state of Georgia. It’s a trend in battleground states across the country as Trump loyalists seek to become their state’s top election officials, which could give them outsized influence in a close race in the 2024 presidential election.

“I believe if there was a fair election, it would be a different outcome,” Hice told CNN when asked if he believed Trump won Georgia. “Absolutely.”

“I do not believe for one moment that Georgia is a blue state,” he added.

Trump’s Big Lie that he was the true victor has taken hold of many Republicans. A CNN poll last month found that 70% of Republicans say they do not think Biden won enough votes to be president.

Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican eying a Senate bid in Georgia, backs Hice for the job — and was critical of a settlement reached between the Georgia secretary of state’s office and Democratic organizations over signature matching, an issue Trump railed against even as Georgia election officials said it had no influence over the race.

“The Constitution is quite clear that it’s the responsibility of the legislative branch, of the state legislative branch, to run the elections and certainly I would have hoped that he would have gone through and gotten input from them before he did that,” Carter said.

The Georgia State House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee heard testimony about a crime wave in Atlanta, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

“There’s going to be politics in this,” state Rep. J Collins, [R-Villa Rica], chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security, told committee members. “(But) this committee wants to dig down and look at the facts.”

Murders in the city of Atlanta are up 50% so far this year over the same period in 2020, while rapes have increased by 82%. The city also has seen a surge in incidents of illegal street racing, prompting the General Assembly to pass legislation this year to criminalize organizing, promoting or participating in street races.

Wednesday’s kickoff meeting was to begin developing a list of witnesses who will be called to testify during a series of hearings the committee plans to hold next month and in July.

“We need to find out what it would take to put this ship back right in the water,” said Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell. “If you don’t have strong public safety, you have chaos.”

COVID inflation is affecting the costs of more than just my political opinions. Agriculture is being hit with increased costs, according to the AJC.

In 2020, the state’s farmers had strong sales because Americans working from home and government aid programs purchased more. But this year, growers are contending with increased expenses for everything from workers to cardboard boxes.

The costs of “our boxes are up 20%,” said Sam Watson, co-owner of the 700-acre Chill C Farms in Moultrie. “We are paying double for wooden pallets. Our chemical costs are up. Labor’s up. Fertilizer’s up.”

At the same time, Watson said, “we sold squash today for $6 a box. That is what I sold it for in our first crop in 2007.”

Increased transportation costs means the buyer will spend $8 to ship that $6 box of squash to some place like Philadelphia.

Agriculture is still Georgia’s largest single industry. In many counties, farmers are major employers and buyers of goods that keep local economies floating and taxes coming in. A bad year in farming could impact everything from local school spending to the state budget.

The pandemic’s effects on supply chains already have been felt in other industries. Lumber prices have skyrocketed due to a pandemic-related slowdown at Georgia’s mills as well as a surge in demand because of home improvements.

Albany City Commissioners voted to adopt a new noise ordinance that limits the hours for fireworks, according to the Albany Herald.

Commissioners unanimously approved the new ordinance, which will set the hours for use of fireworks from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. The action was part of an overall noise ordinance that addresses other sounds that can be a disturbance, including car stereos.

State law does not allow for local governments to pass legislation that applies only to fireworks, but covering the topic under a blanket noise ordinance is allowed.

Several commissioners had identified fireworks as an issue that drew complaints from constituents whose sleep was disturbed. Other residents were concerned about whether the bangs were from firearms or legal explosive devices.

Under the state’s fireworks legislation, the cutoff time for fireworks is set at midnight, but cities and counties can set an earlier time as part of a general noise ordinance.

State [law] allows for setting off fireworks later on holidays, including the upcoming Memorial Day celebration, with the cutoff time of midnight. Other holidays that allow for fireworks later in the night include New Year’s Eve and Day and the 4th of July.

Local ordinances may not supersede those holiday guidelines set by the state.

CMA CGM Marco Polo, the largest container ship to call on East coast ports, called on Savannah yesterday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The CMA CGM Marco Polo attracted thousands of onlookers to the banks of the Savannah River on Wednesday morning. The 1,300-foot vessel slipped past River Street at approximately 9 a.m., helped along by four tugboats, three of them spraying geysers of water skyward in welcome.

The Port of Savannah was the Polo’s third destination in its inaugural call on the U.S. East Coast. The ship, which is carrying cargo from Southeast Asia, already visited ports in New York and Norfolk, Virginia, in recent days and will sail for the Port of Charleston after unloading cargo in Savannah.

The Polo has a 16,000-container capacity, surpassing the last record-setting ship to call on Savannah, the COSCO Development in 2018.

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