Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 1, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 1, 2023

Georgia’s Trustees decided on November 1, 1732 that the first settlement would be named Savannah and located on the Savannah River.

Parliament passed the Stamp Act on March 22, 1765 with an effective date of November 1, 1765, to fund British military operations.

The Stamp Act, however, was a direct tax on the colonists and led to an uproar in America over an issue that was to be a major cause of the Revolution: taxation without representation.

Passed without debate by Parliament in March 1765, the Stamp Act was designed to force colonists to use special stamped paper in the printing of newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, and playing cards, and to have a stamp embossed on all commercial and legal papers. The stamp itself displayed an image of a Tudor rose framed by the word “America” and the French phrase Honi soit qui mal y pense—”Shame to him who thinks evil of it.”

Outrage was immediate. Massachusetts politician Samuel Adams organized the secret Sons of Liberty organization to plan protests against the measure, and the Virginia legislature and other colonial assemblies passed resolutions opposing the act. In October, nine colonies sent representatives to New York to attend a Stamp Act Congress, where resolutions of “rights and grievances” were framed and sent to Parliament and King George III.

Georgia Commissioners and Creek leaders signed a treaty on November 1, 1783.

Richard B. Russell, Jr. was born in Winder, Georgia on November 2, 1897.

In 1927, at age 29, Russell was named Speaker of the House – the youngest in Georgia history. In 1930, Russell easily won election as Georgia governor on his platform of reorganizing state government for economy and efficiency. Five months shy of his 34th birthday, Russell took the oath of office from his father, Georgia chief justice Richard B. Russell Sr. He became the youngest governor in Georgia history – a record that still stands. After Georgia U.S. Senator William Harris died in 1932, Gov. Russell named an interim replacement until the next general election, in which Russell himself became a candidate. Georgia voters elected their young governor to fill Harris’ unexpired term. When he arrived in Washington in January 1933, he was the nation’s youngest senator.

Russell had a long and storied career in the United States Senate, during which he served for many years as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, unofficial leader of the conservative Southern wing of the Democratic party and a chief architect of resistance to civil rights legislation. He also ran for President in 1952, winning the Florida primary.

Jimmy Carter ended his first Presidential campaign with a rally in Flint, Michigan on November 1, 1976.

Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States on November 2, 1976.

The current Georgia Constitution was ratified on November 2, 1982 by the state’s voters.

On November 2, 2010, voters elected Republican Nathan Deal as Governor, and the GOP swept all of the statewide offices on the ballot.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Early voting continues this week for local elections, but Bulloch County is seeing very low numbers, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Voter participation has been very low through the first 13-plus days of early voting in Statesboro District 2, Brooklet and Register city elections. The 17-day state-mandated early voting opportunity concludes at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3. Then traditional Election Day voting will be available 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, at entirely different locations.

In Statesboro, only Council District 2 has an election, the one between incumbent council member Paulette Chavers and challenger Lawton Sack, and only that district’s registered voters can participate.

Two other city districts had seats up for election this year, but each had only one candidate to qualify, so the District 3 and District 5 elections were cancelled.

This has contributed to a situation in which probably more residents have come in to try to vote but were ineligible than have actually voted early, Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones said Tuesday, Oct. 31.

“I would say that we’ve probably had more voters that we’ve had to turn away than we’ve had that actually could vote … some being in the county, but also in some of those districts that the election was cancelled or they were in a different City Council district,” she said.

As of noon Tuesday, Oct. 31, early voting had been available for 11½ weekdays and two Saturdays (Oct. 21 and Oct. 28). Through all of those days and until about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, a cumulative 156 people had cast ballots in the Statesboro District 2 election. The district has more than 4,000 registered voters.

Meanwhile, early voting in the Register city election had been not merely slow, but nonexistent. Because the town, with about 150 voters, contracts with the county election office to oversee its municipal elections, Register residents who vote early must do so at the County Annex in Statesboro. None had done so, on either of the Saturdays or any of the weekdays, as of early afternoon Oct. 31.

The city of Brooklet, meanwhile, has been conducting its own early voting, as usual, at Brooklet City Hall, 104 Church St.

Brooklet’s cumulative total, as of 2:45 p.m. Oct. 31, was 32 early voters, and 15 of them cast their ballots last Saturday, Oct. 28. Brooklet had only one resident to vote on the first Saturday, Oct. 21, Phillips said.

Coffee County voters are deciding whether to extend an E-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education), according to WALB.

If Coffee County residents vote “yes” for the E-SPLOST — that 1% tax increase will help revitalize two schools including George Washington Carver’s freshman campus on Gaskin Avenue.

“We plan to incorporate the new construction on that site, to esthetically be pleasing to the community, and also to provide a safe environment for all of our students to attend,” Coffee County Schools Superintendent Morris Leis said.

Before you head to the polls to cast your vote, here’s something you should know. Renewing the educational sales will only extend the current 1% sales tax for education for an additional five years.

An extension of the current sales tax is not an additional tax.

Valdosta Mayor Scott James faces challengers in next week’s election, according to WALB.

“It’s been a great four years. I am excited about revitalizing the 166-year-old city, we want to make it for a better quality of life so we want to enhance the CDBG program, that will be a focus, and just more affordable housing,” Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said.

But J.D. Rice, another mayoral candidate, says that the city needs a new vision.

“Valdosta needs progressive change,” Rice said. “Our property tax is too high, and we can’t keep putting the burden of financing the city on the backs of taxpayers. But if we expand by adding new industry, folks will be able to buy homes and cars to relieve the burden of current taxpayers to make it more equitable for everyone to enjoy Valdosta.”

Mayor candidate Fallon Harris echoes this need for a new direction in city leadership. She says there are ways the city can help its citizens secure housing, but they are not being used.

“I think we need to use some of the grant money that we received to be accessed for housing and build outside of the southside,” Harris said. “That’s a lot of the issue is that people can’t get to work, because we don’t really have a local Valdosta transit where you can go to work so that’s also another problem.”

In addition to the mayoral race, there are multiple seats on the city council that are up for reelection, including districts 1, 3, 5, and at-large positions.

Early voting for all city positions will end on November 3rd. The last day to vote will be Tuesday, November 7, at 7 p.m.

Chatham Area Transit will offer free rides on Election Day, November 7, 2023, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Fixed-route and paratransit services from CAT will be fare free from 5 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. on Nov. 7 to transport Chatham County residents near their polling places. Dubbed ‘CAT to the Polls’ is offering the fare-free rides to eliminate potential barriers to voting, said Faye DiMassimo, CAT’s executive director.

“The opportunity to be a part of making sure that connection is made for those who are getting out to the polls to exercise that right to vote is an important one,” DiMassimo said. “We’re proud to be a part of this.”

DiMassimo also said fare-free service on election day is a “proud tradition of transit services across the country.” CAT has offered the services in the past as well, she said.

District 2 Alderman Detric Leggett, who serves on the CAT Board that approved of the fare-free transit, addressed the topic at city council’s Oct. 26 meeting.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and challenger Kesha Gibson-Carter spoke at forums ahead of Tuesday’s elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Savannah, do you feel safer? Are citizens experiencing episodes where landlords are increasing their rent by $300-$500 a month?” Gibson-Carter said in interview. “Does it feel different? And the answer is no.”

Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Van Johnson said his plans to run for re-election were only if the city were better off than four years ago, and if he felt he could offer more. Johnson first declared his intent to run for re-election in early January 2023.

“I think by all metrics Savannah is better than it was before,” Johnson said. “I’ve been able to follow through on the majority of my campaign promises despite inconceivable odds.”

But Savannah’s mayoral race also drew a third candidate, Tyrisha Davis, who is running to rally Savannah’s younger population. One commonality among Johnson’s challengers? Savannah needs new leadership.

A federal lawsuit over election rules alleges that Macon-Bibb County closed polling locations to disenfranchise voters, according to 13WMAZ.

One of the places singled out in the case was Macon-Bibb County. They pointed to how the county reduced voting locations, with many of the closed polling stations serving minority neighborhoods.

Orville Burton, a professor at Clemson University and expert witness in the case, says 2015 Macon-Bibb County used to have 40 polling locations. Now, they have 32.

Burton says those polling places closed mostly in predominately black neighborhoods like Macon’s Memorial Gym.  In 2016, Memorial Gym closed for renovations and the polling place was moved to the sheriff’s office.

Macon-Bibb County election supervisor Thomas Gillon says Macon-Bibb County told the election board to consolidate.

“We decided to reduce the number of polling places and some of it was easy because some of the polling places were schools that were being either torn down or remodeled or such so we had to be out of there. Otherwise, we just figured the best way was to combine different precincts into the same building,” Gillon said.

The judge also cited Hancock County for reducing its polling places. Particularly one in a black neighborhood that was 17 miles from Sparta. Burton says that reducing polling places, makes it difficult for people to vote.

“So many minorities are at an 8-5 job or limited where they can go — it’s like almost putting another poll tax back in because it puts a disparate burden on the people who live further away,” Burton said.

The federal judge gave the state until Dec. 9 to draw up a new voting map.

Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp met with families of Israeli hostages, according to Atlanta News First via WRDW.

They spoke privately with around a dozen family members of those killed or missing in Israel since the bloody conflict began on Oct. 7. Anat Sultan-Dadon, the consul general of Israel to the Southeastern United States, accompanied the delegation which will travel to Chicago to meet with officials there later this week.

Kemp has shown support for Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel that killed an estimated 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians. He urged the United States to “stand strong” with Israel, saying, “Our support for this valued ally as the Israelis fight against terrorism and defend their country is unwavering.”

On Oct. 11, Kemp ordered the U.S. flag and the flag of Georgia to fly at half-staff on state grounds and buildings until sunset the following Saturday.

“As we continue to stand with and pray for the people of Israel, we’re also mourning the loss of American citizens killed in the terrorist attacks,” the governor posted that day on social media.

“It was just our honor to be able to stand with these families and victims and help echo their sentiments about bringing the hostages home,” said Gov. Kemp on Tuesday. “To hear it from victims and family members makes it even more real but also unreal that something like this could happen.”

“There’s a public information campaign going on right now,” he said, “So it’s important for leaders to stand up and let the citizens that we represent know where we stand, and I think the Kemp family and the state of Georgia’s been very clear on that.”

Last week, Gov. Kemp called lawmakers back to the Capitol for a late-November, court-ordered special session to redraw Georgia’s congressional districts. Rep. Esther Panitch (D-Sandy Springs) had asked Kemp to consider discussion on her 2023 bill that would make antisemitic acts punishable by law after it failed to pass the General Assembly. Panitch is Georgia’s only Jewish state representative, but Kemp indicated a special session wasn’t the right time to consider general legislation.

“If I did that, we’d have every legislator down here that has an issue that’s important to them that they’d want to bring up during special session,” the governor said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the members of the general assembly on a lot of different issues that we have in the past and some that were debated last year.”

“We only have a week, seven to 10 days, to try to get all this work done and we’ll deal with all those other things in the regular session of the General Assembly and quite honestly, the representative knew that,” Kemp said.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) responded to criticism by U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta), according to 13WMAZ.

But DFCS is saying that many allegations that have been leveled against them are, in fact, misleading or not true. They also say that the subcommittee has not worked with the agency as part of their ongoing reform efforts.

“DFCS remains committed to serving the interests of the state’s most vulnerable population and finding workable solutions to the difficulties inherent in working with foster children — with or without the Subcommittee’s help,” the agency’s lawyers wrote.

A press release from Ossoff’s office said DFCS Commissioner Candice Broce proposed “locking up children with special needs” at an August meeting with judges in Georgia, according to testimony from Paulding County juvenile court judge Carolyn Altman.

“Commissioner Broce said that DFCS was not set up to be caregivers for these children, and she asked judges to consider detaining the children — locking them up in a juvenile detention center for a few days — so that DFCS could maybe find a placement for them,” she testified. “As judges, we do not lock up children, especially special needs children, because we cannot find a place for them.”

The agency’s lawyers say that the August meeting where those allegations stem from were misconstructed: “Yesterday’s testimony on this point was lacking critically important context and accuracy.”

“Some judges in attendance spoke about the extreme difficulty balancing the child’s treatment needs, the family’s safety concerns, and overall safety for the community,” they wrote. “Often, solutions are tough to find.”

“Commissioner Broce did not encourage judges to violate state law, and it has never been DFCS policy to punish a child with complex needs through detention,” they wrote. “She and the participating judges all shared ideas on how to tackle these challenges in a more united front to further improve Georgia’s child welfare system.”

The agency also took issue with claims by one of the witnesses that the number of children in Georgia’s foster care system is “11,000 and rising.”

According to the agency, the number of children in Georgia’s foster care system decreased significantly since May 2018, when 14,202 children were in foster care. In their letter, they say that since January 2022, the number of children in foster care has remained steady.

In January 2022, there were 10,432 children in foster care and in August 2023, there were 10,464 children in foster care.

“In more than 35 hours of witness interviews with DFCS personnel, or in the back-and-forth document requests that yielded nearly 10,000 pages of documents, the Chairman’s investigators never once asked what kind of help or assistance the Department could use from the federal government — and that need is considerable,” they wrote.

The Marshes of Glynn Libraries held a ribbon-cutting for a new vending machine with children’s books, according to The Brunswick News.

The book vending machine at the Brunswick library will offer a new and fun way to distribute prize books for children participating in the libraries’s numerous reading challenges, said Geri Mullis, director of Marshes of Glynn Libraries.

“It’s already filled,” Mullis said. “The actual machine itself is thanks to Glynn County.”

The books were purchased with a grant from the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy, Mullis said, and participants in the numerous reading challenges offered at the local libraries throughout the year — including the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, the Summer Reading program and more — will receive tokens to get free books from the vending machine.

[Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ralph] Staffins congratulated Mullis and her team on their hard work and reminded everyone at the ribbon cutting ceremony that they were standing in this year’s Georgia Public Library of the Year, a designation Marshes of Glynn Libraries received earlier this year to honor its two locations, the Brunswick and St. Simons libraries.

Augusta Commissioners may consider an ordinance requiring decals for food trucks, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Carla Delaney, director of Planning and Development, brought the proposal to the commission as part of a discussion on regulating food trucks. Delaney said that the $5 decal would help quickly identify food trucks who are in compliance with Department of Health and fire inspections alongside a business license tax certificate.

“A $5, good-for-one-year decal just makes sense,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.

The commission held a broader conversation about the current ordinance when Commissioner Jordan Johnson questioned some elements of the current rules, call them too restrictive, such as a ban on an external grill outside the food truck.

The decal will be subject to a vote of the full commission before it becomes official. Johnson also asked for the commission to revisit the ordinance in coming months to potentially revise and streamline it.

Corporate ticket sellers and scalpers disagree over state legislation, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Legislation introduced in the House this year would remove restrictions in current state law that prohibit ticket purchasers from reselling their tickets.

The bill is aimed at primary ticket sellers that prohibit consumers from reselling their tickets on the secondary market, state Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, told members of the House Regulated Industries Committee. Hilton said such restrictions create monopolies that drive up ticket prices.

“I care about consumers,” he said. “I want them to be able to resell wherever they want.”

“It’s important to give consumers a choice,” added Sean Auyash, a representative of StubHub, one of the nation’s leading secondary ticket sellers.

But representatives of the entertainment and sports industries argued the bill would benefit secondary ticket sellers that resell tickets at marked-up prices at the expense of musical artists and sports teams.

“This is not helping consumers,” said Mala Sharma, president of Georgia Music Partners, the state’s leading music industry advocacy organization. “This bill is only helping the secondary markets get their hands on more tickets.

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