Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 3, 2021


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 3, 2021

May 3d is National Widow’s Day.

Georgia delegates convened in Augusta on May 4, 1789 to approve a new state Constitution and consider amendments.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest led troops who captured raiders near Rome, Georgia who were intent on disrupting the Western & Atlantic Railroad on May 3, 1863.

General William Tecumseh Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign on May 3, 1864 with troops marching from Tennessee toward Catoosa Springs, Georgia.

One year and one day after General Sherman began the Atlanta campaign, on May 4, 1865, Atlanta surrendered. On the same day, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in Virginia and into the Wilderness.

One year after that, on May 4, 1865, the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet convened in the old Georgia State Bank Building, which was located at the site of the present-day Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, Georgia.

Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gone With the Wind on May 3, 1937.

On May 4, 1965, the Rolling Stones played a show at Georgia Southern.

The British band played in Hanner Fieldhouse to an overflow crowd of more than 3,500 people, according to a retrospective by Jim Hilliard in the Statesboro Herald. The gym’s capacity was about 1,500.

Hilliard said organizers figured they could sell 1,800 tickets at $2.50 each, which would be enough to pay the band and have some money left over for expenses.

The Stones had played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday, May 2, and advance ticket sales were brisk the Monday and during lunch Tuesday, the day of the concert.

Hilliard said he signed the contract booking the Stones on behalf of Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity. The contract called for the new fraternity to pay the band $3,000 for the appearance. Hilliard said he got a $1,500 loan from First Bulloch Bank to make the deal happen.

The Stones were expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. and play for at least an hour, but Hilliard had lined up three front bands, and “it proved to be a fatal flaw in plans for the concert,” he said in his retrospective.

The noise was deafening as the original Stones lineup — Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — hit the stage nearly an hour late.

Jagger and the other band members were “openly hostile” at having to wait so long to play.

On May 4, 1970, National Guard members shot into a crowd of protesting students, killing four and wounding nine others on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp last week made four appointments to Cobb County judicial seats, according to a press release.

Governor Brian P. Kemp announced his appointment of Judge Eric Brewton to the Cobb County State Court Division I seat; Ms. Ashley Palmer to the Cobb County State Court Division II seat; Judge Henry Thompson to the newly created seat in the Superior Court of the Cobb Judicial Circuit, effective January 1, 2022; and Ms. Jaret Usher to the Cobb County State Court Division II seat.

Judge Eric Brewton holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. Judge Brewton was appointed to the Cobb State Court, Division II seat in 2010. Previously, he served as Staff Counsel for Travelers Insurance Company. Judge Brewton was also an attorney at the firm of Brock, Clay, and Rogers, P.C. He is a member of the Cobb County Barr Association. Since 1986, Judge Brewton has been involved with East Cobb Young Life and Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.

Brewton will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge David Darden.

Ms. Ashley Palmer holds both a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Vanderbilt University. She currently serves as Senior Assistant County Attorney for the Office of the Fulton County Attorney. Previously, she worked as Staff Attorney for the Office of the Fulton County Attorney after serving as Assistant Public Defender for the Circuit Public Defender’s Office, Clayton Judicial Circuit. Ms. Palmer served as an attorney at the firm of Powell Goldstein LLP (N/K/A Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner), as well. She is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, the High School Mock Trial State Finals Planning Committee, and the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys. Ms. Palmer is married to her husband, Robert, and they are parents to three children: Robert, Ashton, and Avery.

Palmer will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Eric A. Brewton to the Cobb State Court, Division I seat.

Judge Henry Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree from Emory University and a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. He previously worked in the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office for seven years, leaving there as a Senior Assistant District Attorney. Judge Thompson practiced law from 2003-2006 as a criminal defense attorney at the firm of Thompson & Pursley, P.C. in Marietta, Georgia, served in the Cobb Judicial Circuit as an Assistant District Attorney, and prior to that, served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Western Judicial Circuit. Judge Thompson is married and has four children.

Thompson will be appointed to the newly created seat in the Superior Court of the Cobb Judicial Circuit, effective January 1, 2022.

Ms. Jaret Usher holds a bachelor’s degree from Kennesaw State University and a law degree from Regent University School of Law. Currently, Ms. Usher serves as the Division Director for the Legal Division at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Previously, she served as Prosecutorial Liaison. Ms. Usher also worked as the Senior Assistant District Attorney for the Gang Unit at the Office of the District Attorney, Cobb Judicial Circuit after serving as Assistant Solicitor General for the Office of the Solicitor General, Cobb Judicial Circuit. Prior to serving as Assistant Solicitor General, she served as an associate for Hollberg & Weaver, LLP, and Staff Attorney for the Cobb County Superior Court, Senior Judges Office. Ms. Usher serves on the Kennesaw State Alumni Board and is a member of the Cobb County Bar Association. She is married to her husband, Patrick, and they have two children: Gabriel and Eli.

Usher will fill the vacancy created by Judge Henry Thompson’s appointment to the newly created seat in the Superior Court of the Cobb Judicial Circuit, effective January 1, 2022.

Governor Kemp also announced the appointment of two Solicitors General.

Governor Brian P. Kemp announced his appointment of Mr. Graham Floyd as Solicitor General of Appling County and Mr. Tracy Brown as Solicitor General of Jeff Davis County.

Both Floyd and Brown are replacing Mr. William Terry Turner. Turner previously served as Solicitor General of both counties. His resignation was effective March 31, 2021.

Graham Floyd comes to the position serving as Associate City Attorney for the City of Baxley since 2009, Counsel with Appling County BOE since 2011, Partner at JohnsonFloyd, LLP since 2013, as well as Associate Judge of Juvenile Courts with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit since 2018. Floyd graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications, and a Juris Doctorate from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. Floyd is a current member of the State Bar of Georgia, the American Bar Association, and the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. He is married to his wife Cristen and has three children: Camille, Robert, and Charlotte.

Tracy Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southwestern University and a law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law. He most recently served as Sole Practitioner for Tracy Alan Brown, P.C., with offices in Jesup and Baxley. Prior to this role, Brown served as a partner with Brown & Johnson, LLC. Brown is a current member of State Bar of Georgia, Superior Court of Georgia, State of Georgia Supreme Court, State of Georgia Court of Appeals, United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, and United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He and his wife, Michele, live in Baxley and have three children: Dylan, Keri, and Kaydin.

Gov. Kemp appointed a committee to assist in nominating a new Georgia Child Advocate.

Governor Kemp announced the formation of the Nominating Committee for Georgia’s Child Advocate. Georgia code requires the appointment of a nominating committee to recommend at least three candidates qualified to serve as advocate. The position is open due to the resignation of current advocate Rachel Davidson, who has accepted another position.

State law requires the nominating committee to review applicants for the position and recommend at least three candidates to the Governor for consideration. The committee will consist of Tom Rawlings, Frank Berry, and Melissa Carter.

Frank W. Berry is the Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH). In this role, he manages the $16 billion agency responsible for health care purchasing, planning and regulation, and improving the health outcomes of Georgians. Prior to joining DCH, Berry was the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. He served in this role for over four years and has more than 35 years of public service experience.

Tom C. Rawlings was appointed in February 2019 by Governor Brian Kemp to serve as Director of the State Division of Family and Children Services, where he supports the efforts of over 6,000 DFCS employees who protect Georgia’s most vulnerable children and assist the state’s struggling families. He previously served as Interim Director of the agency under Governor Nathan Deal. Prior to joining DFCS, Tom served as Georgia’s Child Advocate for the Protection of Children and helped lead efforts to improve our state’s child protection system. Governor Deal appointed him to the Office of the Child Advocate post in January 2017, and he also served as the Director of that agency from 2007-2010 under Governor Sonny Perdue. He is an honors graduate of both Duke University and the University of Georgia School of Law and earned a masters in international human rights law, with distinction, from Oxford University.

Melissa Carter is a Clinical Professor at Emory Law School and the Executive Director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center. She brings more than 18 years of experience in policy development and legislative advocacy, including efforts that resulted in the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act and dozens of state child welfare laws. Melissa serves in a variety of other roles on several statewide policy advisory bodies, including the First Lady’s Children’s Cabinet, the State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, and on several nonprofit governance boards. She also holds an adjunct teaching position as a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine. Melissa earned her Bachelor of Science summa cum laude and Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois.

Applications will be accepted from Monday, May 3 at 8:00 a.m. through Friday, May 7 at 5:00p.m. Qualified candidates should submit a resume to Melissa D. Carter by email to

Gov. Kemp issued a new Executive Order # providing COVID guidelines. From the Press Release:

Key provisions of the new executive order:

1. Modifies the social distancing and sanitation requirements for residents and visitors to “strongly encouraged.”

2. Eliminates the restaurant and bar table distancing requirements and workers mask requirement.

3. Eliminates all specific requirements for gyms and fitness centers, movie theaters, body art studios, estheticians, hair stylists, and massage therapists.

4. Reduces the requirements for Conventions.

5. Eliminates the requirement that childcare facilities prohibit all unnecessary visitors.

6. Provides that Live Performance Venues, regardless of seating capacity, are only required to follow the guidelines for all Organizations, and such venues may implement additional measures in conjunction with the performer or organizer of an event.

7. Maintains that professional, collegiate, and high school sports organizations and events shall operate pursuant to the rules or guidelines issued by their respective league, conference, or association.

8. Clarifies that graduation ceremonies are only required to follow the guidelines for all Organizations.

Governor Kemp over the weekend went to the Texas border, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp made an unannounced daylong trip to the U.S. border with Mexico — where 300 Georgia National Guard troops are stationed — and he wanted to make sure conservative voters know about it.

“Since the Vice President won’t visit our nation’s border to witness the crisis we’re facing, I decided to go myself,” Kemp said on social media, a knock on Kamala Harris, who has taken a lead role on immigration policy following spikes of migrants to the border.

“I felt like it would be good for me to go back and see our folks and make sure they got everything they need and really learn a little more about what they have going on right now,” Kemp told Channel 2 Action News before his flight.

The cost of the trip wasn’t immediately clear, though Kemp’s office said it was arranged through a Department of Defense program that pairs up officials with pilots in need of more training hours.

“There are nearly 300 Georgia Guardsmen serving on the border right now. The governor traveled today to thank them and see what they’re up against,” said campaign aide Tate Mitchell. “That’s called leadership.”

From 11Alive:

The southern border has seen an increase in recent weeks in arrivals by migrants, often from Central America seeking asylum in the U.S. It has put a strain on border resources and made it difficult for President Joe Biden to institute policy changes – including ending detention of children and reuniting separated families – he promised on the campaign trail.

Republicans have contended that Biden invited the influx of arrivals by vocally rejecting former President Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, while Biden in turn has said the Trump administration left him a “God-awful mess at the border” by undermining the transition process.

The AJC writes that Governor Kemp is likely to sign House Bill 146 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), granting paid family leave for more state employees.

House Bill 146 grants three weeks of paid time off to workers following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

The legislation, which passed the General Assembly in March with minimal dissent, is a milestone for Georgia, which has long ranked among the bottom of states in terms of providing family benefits. Until four years ago, many Georgia workers couldn’t use earned sick leave to care for an immediate family member.

“I think it’s an important step that’s going to help a lot of young families across our state,” said state Rep. Houston Gaines, the Athens Republican who sponsored the parental leave bill. His district includes portions of the University of Georgia, home to many professors and state employees who’d benefit from the measure.

Currently, state employees qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the minimum required under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. When Georgia workers give birth to or adopt a child, many must cobble together vacation days, short-term disability and other leave to take time off. For private sector workers, benefits differ by company.

Georgia Public Broadcasting  looks at what Georgia’s large number of new voters could mean for redistricting.

Along with the surge in population, Georgia’s voter rolls have swelled dramatically over the past decade, largely with non-white and suburban voters who have turned a reliably red state into a purple battleground that narrowly elected Joe Biden and two Democratic U.S. senators.

Republican lawmakers in control of the redistricting process will have to balance rapidly diversifying metro Atlanta suburbs with slow-growing rural communities in an effort to preserve their power for the next 10 years.

Bryan Tyson, an attorney who specializes in redistricting and election law for the firm Taylor English Duma, told GPB News earlier this week that rural counties that haven’t kept pace in growth with the metro areas will likely see bigger districts that weaken their influence — especially since districts have equally sized populations, not amounts of voters.

“It’s like squeezing a balloon — you squeeze on one side, it’s going to pop out the other side,” he said. “So if there’s a lower population in one part of the state, it’s going to have to grow north, which means Atlanta is going to continue to pull districts towards it.”

According to a GPB News/Georgia News Lab analysis, voter registration in Georgia soared to over 7.6 million active voters, adding more than 2.25 million people since 2012, the year of the first elections held on the current district maps. That nearly 42% increase was driven by a surge in nonwhite voters flocking to Atlanta’s suburbs, and in part by the state’s 2016 “Motor Voter” law that automatically registers voters when they interact with the Department of Driver Services.

As a result of the influx, three historically Republican metro Atlanta counties — Gwinnett, Cobb and Henry — flipped blue in the 2016 presidential race and by 2020 provided enough votes to help President Joe Biden narrowly win the state and send two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in a January runoff.

Statewide, the share of white voters has fallen nearly 7% since 2012, down to just 52.6% in November 2020. The share of Black voters, a reliable backbone of Democratic support in Georgia, has stayed steady at 30%.

The Democratic Party of Georgia is hiring staff ahead of 2022 elections, according to the AJC.

The Democratic Party of Georgia on Monday announced it hired seven new full-time positions for a slate of political and organizational posts around the state. The party now boasts the largest number of staffers it has ever had during an off-year in the election cycle, officials said.

“Georgia Democrats made history this past election cycle by investing early and heavily in organizing and outreach, and with this strong team in place, we are well-positioned to build off of those successes heading into 2022 and beyond,” said Scott Hogan, the party’s executive director.

The party’s hires include a mix of veteran operatives and younger staffer as part of a broader effort to expand year-round campaign efforts, particularly when it involves mobilizing diverse groups that powered the Democratic gains in 2020.

Beginning today, all remaining Georgia Emergency Management Agency mass vaccination sites will be administering the J&J vaccine, according to WTOC.

This includes the Chatham County vaccination site at Gulfstream Aerospace, operated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. It’s allowing drive-ups with no appointment necessary for the Johnson and Johnson shot. They will be giving out the vaccines until operations end on May 21.

Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will still be available at the site through appointments. However, first doses of the Pfizer shot will no longer be given.

Richmond County Board of Education President Charlie Hannah may run for Mayor of Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“I’m 98% in it,” said Hannah, an Augusta native who’s worked as a photographer, electrician, property manager and purveyor of legal documents.

His two-year stint as school board president – elected by the board, he presides over meetings, signs checks and represents the board – will wrap up next year when Augusta elects its next mayor.

Hannah is the third hopeful to lay claim to the post held by Mayor Hardie Davis. Hannah joins District 2 Commissioner Dennis Williams and Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick in pursuit of the full-time post.

City government has term limits and Davis can’t seek a third consecutive term. Elections for Augusta mayor and five commission seats will be held in the summer of 2022.

Lawyers will argue a lawsuit over the propriety of Governor Kemp’s appointment of Superior Court Judge Jesse Stone for the Augusta Circuit, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Thursday via videoconferencing, attorneys for Maureen O. Floyd and Judge Stone set forth their arguments over the legitimacy of Stone’s holding office. Senior Judge Michael L. Karpf heard the arguments and told the attorneys they could expect a ruling within 10 days. Karpf agreed to preside over the Burke County Superior Court petition after the eight judges of the Augusta Judicial Circuit recused themselves.

Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Stone, a long-term Republican member of the General Assembly, in February to fill the seat of retired Judge Michael N. Annis. The governor swore Stone into office Feb. 22.

Floyd filed a quo warranto petition challenging the legitimacy of Stone’s appointment in March. Floyd’s attorney Joseph Rhodes and Samuel Emas argued that the governor in effect forfeited his right to appoint anyone to the judgeship because of the long delay before Stone’s appointment.

Annis gave Kemp notice of his intent to retire in late 2019 and set the official date as Feb. 1, 2020, months shy of what would have been his final day in office, Dec. 31, 2020. The lengthy delay between Annis’s official retirement date and the governor’s selection of Stone to replace him is the twist that brought on a controversy and the petition.

Floyd’s attorney Emas added that the delay also in effect extended the term of office for the judicial appointment. The law on judicial appointment is written to give the appointee at least six months in office before he must run for election. If Kemp had appointed someone to replace Annis promptly, the appointee’s term would have ended in December. With the delay, Stone doesn’t have to run for office until May 2022.

The University of Georgia announced it will not limit guests at the spring commencement, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

UGA said that due to a change in state COVID-19 regulations, plans for spring graduation have adapted.

If they choose, graduates can sit on Dooley Field during the ceremony. Before, it was required that they sit in the stands with their guests. There will also be no limit to the number of guests in the stands, a change from previous restrictions.

Masks will be “strongly encouraged.”

Commencement will begin May 13 and end May 15, taking place in Sanford Stadium, and will be held over four ceremonies to comply with social distancing guidelines. Three of these will be for undergraduate students and the fourth ceremony will be for the masters, specialists and doctoral degrees.

Bulloch County promoted Cindy Steinmann to Assistant County Manager, according TO the Statesboro Herald.

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