Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 17, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 17, 2023

On November 21, 1620 (November 11 under the calendar used then), the first governing document of the English colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Mayflower Compact, was signed by most of the male passengers of the Mayflower.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

On November 17, 1732, the first English headed to colonize Georgia set off from Gravesend, England, down the Thames. Their supplies included ten tons of beer.

On November 17, 1777, Congress submitted the Articles of Confederation to the states for ratification.

Abraham Lincoln began the first draft of the Gettysburg Address on November 17, 1863.

Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 18, 1863.



President Abraham Lincoln delivered an 87-word speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

On November 19, 1864, as Sherman marched toward Savannah, the Georgia delegation to the Confederate Congress in Richmond, Virginia, sent a message to the state,

“Let every man fly to arms! Remove your negroes, horses, cattle, and provisions from Sherman’s army, and burn what you cannot carry. Burn all bridges and block up the roads in his route. Assail the invader in front, flank, and rear, by night and by day. Let him have no rest.”

Carl Vinson was born on November 18, 1883 in Baldwin County, Georgia. At noon on that day, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented four time zones for the first time.

Efficient rail transportation demanded a more uniform time-keeping system. Rather than turning to the federal governments of the United States and Canada to create a North American system of time zones, the powerful railroad companies took it upon themselves to create a new time code system. The companies agreed to divide the continent into four time zones; the dividing lines adopted were very close to the ones we still use today.

Most Americans and Canadians quickly embraced their new time zones, since railroads were often their lifeblood and main link with the rest of the world. However, it was not until 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Mickey Mouse debuted in a black-and-white film called “Steamboat Willie” on November 18, 1928.

On November 18, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled from Washington, DC to Savannah, Georgia by train for Georgia’s Bicentennial and delivered a speech at Municipal Stadium.

Herman Talmadge was sworn in as Governor of Georgia on November 17, 1948, ending the “Three Governors” controversy. Click here for a review of the “Three Governors” episode by Ron Daniels.

The first issue of National Review magazine was published on November 19, 1955.

Carl Vinson was honored on his 81st birthday in Milledgeville, Georgia on November 18, 1964; Vinson did not run for reelection in 1964 and retired after 50 years in office.

Apollo 12 landed on the moon on November 19, 1969.

President Richard M. Nixon flew into Robins Air Force Base for Carl Vinson’s 90th birthday on November 18, 1973; on the trip he announced the next American nuclear supercarrier would be named USS Carl Vinson.

Nixon Vinson 1973

President Richard Nixon, Secretary of the Navy John Warner, Carl Vinson, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird on November 18, 1973. John Warner would later be the namesake of USS John Warner, a Virginia-class nuclear submarine.

Richard Nixon declared before a television audience, “I’m not a crook,” on November 17, 1973.

Reagan Gorbachev 11191985

President Ronald Reagan met for the first time with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on November 19, 1985.

On November 18, 1989, Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey signed the Abortion Control Act, the first abortion restrictions enacted after Roe v. Wade.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

A Sugar Hill City Council election is headed to overtime in a runoff election after earlier being called against the incumbent, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The city announced the tie between Meg Avery and Councilwoman Jenn Thatcher when it posted the certified results of the Nov. 7 election online earlier this week. The initial results showed Avery beat Thatcher by five votes. Provisional ballots that were counted this week, however, moved the race to a tie with each candidate receiving 729 votes, according to the certified results.

“The city had five provisional ballots that were certified by the Gwinnett County Board of Elections and were counted (Tuesday),” the city said as it announced the certified results. “This resulted in a tie in Post #3 and the city will have a run-off election on December 5th for that Post only.”

Early voting for the runoff will be held from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day from Nov. 27 until Dec. 1. Election day voting will then take place from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Dec. 5.

All voting will take place at Sugar Hill City Hall, which is located at 5039 West Broad St.

Sugar Hill is not the only Gwinnett city which will have a runoff next month. There will also be a runoff between Catherine Hardrick and Norman A. Carter in Snellville for that city’s Post 1 council seat on Dec. 5.

Snellville will also hold early voting for its runoff from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. from Nov. 27 until Dec. 1. The Snellville early and election day voting will take place at Snellville City Hall, which is located at 2342 Oak Road.

Valdosta voters started early voting in their runoff elections yesterday, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

On Nov. 7, four candidates vied for the at-large Valdosta City Council seat, District 7. Nick “Big Nick” Harden received the most votes and Bill Love received the second-most, but neither received the 50%-plus-one-vote needed to win the seat outright.

City voters are choosing between Harden and Love in the runoff. Election Day will be Dec. 5, but it’s preceded by an early voting period of approximately two weeks, interrupted by the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the Lowndes County Elections website, early voting for the Valdosta runoff election is taking place at the Lowndes County Elections Office, 2808 N. Oak St.

Effingham County voters approved a T-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation), according to WSAV.

Effingham County officials are already working on roadway projects funded by TSPLOST approved in last week’s election.

“Let’s say 5 years when this TSPLOST ends you’re going to see a very different county,” said Effingham’s county manager Tim Callanan.

A 1% sales tax over the next five years is going to raise $120 million dollars for Effingham County roads – it’s the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST).

He says the extra tax will benefit residents the most since a majority of their sales tax comes from non-residents.

Adding to TSPLOST’s increased sales tax, Callanan says industries are taxed 18% more on their property because of the burden they put on roads

“Those improvements are going to benefit not just the freight,” said Callanan. “It’s gonna benefit the public as well because they’re going to use the same roads, but the industrial areas are just going to be chipping in more.”

Governor Brian Kemp endorsed the “Cop City” training center, according to the AJC.

Gov. Brian Kemp drew a direct link between the economic vitality of Georgia’s capital city and the Atlanta police and firefighter training center on Thursday as he challenged political leaders to “be clear and direct” about their support for the complex.

“For Georgia to continue to be the top state for business, to attract talent, jobs and investment, to keep our communities safe and to ensure a brighter future for all who call our state home, we must support the Atlanta Public Safety Center,” he said.

“And by ‘we,’ ” Kemp added, “I mean Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between.”

The governor’s speech at the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s annual meeting was a signal that he and other Republicans will prioritize the $90 million project in 2024, ahead of an election that could be dominated by concerns about public safety and the economy.

The project is championed by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, a Democrat who says it will provide world-class training to officers and firefighters who now use outdated facilities. It has repeatedly won the support of Atlanta’s left-leaning City Council.

State legislators will gavel into a Special Session for Redistricting on November 29, 2023, according to the Associated Press via WRDW.

Unlike earlier decades, when Republicans avoided losses, some Georgia GOP lawmakers are now likely to walk the plank when new districts are drawn. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in October ordered Georgia to draw Black majorities in one additional congressional district, two additional state Senate districts, and five additional state House districts.

A new Black-majority congressional district, combined with similar rulings in other Southern states, could help Democrats reclaim the U.S. House in 2024. New legislative districts could narrow Republican majorities in Georgia.

But some Democrats could get thrown overboard too, as Republicans seek to comply with the court while preserving their power. The GOP could reduce losses in Georgia’s General Assembly by targeting Democrats representing predominantly white districts. But it’s unclear if the GOP can legally prevent Democrats from gaining a congressional seat.

“Republicans could take it out on white Democrats rather than Republicans,” said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist who studies redistricting.

“We’ll be in a place that Judge Jones will be able to accept and will be what’s best for for our members,” State House Speaker Jon Burns recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

State Senate Republicans are looking toward the state’s planned appeal. If the state later wins an appeal, Georgia could have new districts in 2024 and revert to current lines in 2026.

“We went through the process. We followed the letter of the law. And we believe that in the end, we’ll, we’ll be victorious on that,” said state Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican.

From the 1970s through the 2000s, white Democrats across the South fought a rearguard battle against demands for Black representation and rising Republican power. Legislative chambers across the South ultimately flipped from Democratic to GOP control, and only Virginia has flipped back. New districts that benefitted Black voters often created an adjoining heavily white district that elected Republicans. At times, Republicans advocated for more Black districts, and supporters of minority representation tacitly accepted GOP assistance.

That dynamic dissolved after the 1990s, in part because Southern Democrats outside majority-minority districts were vanishing.

“There are just not a lot of white Democrats left, quite frankly,” Bullock said.

One key question is whether Republicans can dissolve Georgia’s current 7th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Lucy McBath, while drawing a new majority-Black district on the west side of metro Atlanta as mandated by Jones. The 7th’s voting age population is 33% white, 27% Black, 21% Hispanic, 15% Asian and 4% other or multiracial.

Opportunities for Republicans to limit losses could be better in Georgia’s legislature. Of 78 Democratic-represented state House districts, white people are the voting-age majority in eight, and the largest group in 12 more. Whites are the voting-age majority in three Democratic-represented Senate districts, and a plurality in three other Democratic districts.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a long-serving Decatur Democrat whose white-majority district touches a number of Black-majority districts, calls redistricting “hand-to-hand combat with your neighbor.”

“It’s not a pretty process,” she said. “It’s a selfish process in many ways.”

Some Republicans are still in peril. Republican state Sen. Brian Strickland of McDonough lives in an area highlighted by the plaintiffs for a new Black-majority district. He says he’ll fight on even if his district is redrawn.

“I can’t control the redistricting process, but I can control who I am as a candidate,” Strickland said. “And so I’m prepared to take my message out to voters no matter whose district I’m in.”

Georgia has a backlog of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cases, according to 11Alive via 13WMAZ.

Through an open records request filed in October, 11Alive obtained internal emails between the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and leaders from Georgia’s Department of Human Services. The emails, which discuss the department’s use of overtime to resolve the backlog, point to January 31 as the timeframe for which the issue could be resolved.

When 11Alive asked the Georgia Department of Human Services about the date, a statement from DHS said “internal projections are subject to change.”

“As we approach the holidays, we are continuing to work tirelessly to resolve the backlog and to improve output to ensure we are more able to respond to substantive changes in volume moving forward,” the statement said. “Any customer in need of immediate food assistance can visit and find a list of community resources at the top of our homepage.”

The SNAP benefits backlog has impacted Georgia families on and off for a year now as the Georgia Department of Human Services struggles to process cases within federal guidelines. According to data provided by DHS this week, Georgia has a total of 105,801 pending renewals to date, 35,674 of which are overdue, with 31,080 pending state action. This number of recertifications, a process required for beneficiaries, is separate from any new applications the department must also process.

Last month, Georgia DHS confirmed to 11Alive that the department is moving to a new telephone system, which will increase voicemail capacity. The state also continues to offer overtime and stipends with overtime hours, giving DHS the ability to process an additional 10,000 cases per month.

The state is also assessing the next steps when it comes to the use of technology like bots and AI. Georgia’s push for automation for parts of the SNAP certification process has long been a sticking point between the USDA Food and Nutrition Service and DHS. In a pair of September letters, Commissioner Broce writes that “more BOT technology is the right path forward,” a plan she said has staff support, while the USDA FNS tells 11Alive federal regulators do not think bots are the answer.

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston (D) continues to lead the litigation against the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission (PAQC), according to the AJC.

Senate Bill 92, which Gov. Brian Kemp championed early this year and signed in May, created a new state-appointed commission to investigate, sanction, and even remove locally elected District Attorneys. District attorneys including Fulton County’s Fani Willis, balked at the time, calling the law racist.

In an interview this week, Boston said she decided to sue the state of Georgia over the new commission as soon as Kemp made it clear in early January that he wanted to see it happen.

“When a governor signals that this is their priority, you’re going to see his party make it happen,” Boston said, “So at that moment, I said, this is done. I’ve got to be prepared for what happens next.”

“The role of the DA, if we continue down this pathway, will be undermined and it shouldn’t be” she said. “We are constitutional officers. We hold a very special role within our communities and we have to uphold the sanctity of that role.”

Destination Augusta wants to look at ziplines near their waterfront, according to WJBF.

“Zip lining around the river is going to happen,” said Jennifer Bowen of Destination Augusta.

A Commission committee agreeing to partner with Destination Augusta to create an urban outdoor adventure center on the city riverfront.

“Allow us to pursue that project; specifically to look at something that would incorporate zip lines, but not just zip lines, somewhere around the riverfront,” said Bowen.

As part of SPLOST 8, voters approved $1.75 million to bring more “zip” to downtown Augusta – something that’s already in place in our sister city of Columbus, Georgia.

“We wanted to make sure we put more quality of life in SPLOST 8. This just another element of it it’s going to be exciting to see it down there near the 5th Street bridge,” said Bowen.

“It may put us on the list of vacation spots, so that’s a good thing as well. Because we’re always talking about generating more income, more interest in Augusta,” said Commissioner Stacy Pulliam.

City engineers say if zip lining comes to the 5th Street bridge, the structure will be able to handle it. If the full commission approves next week, the hope is phase one will be up and going sometime next year.

Ziplines plus a whitewater park would be a great tourism and recreation asset for the area, IMHO.

Barrow County’s Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner was arrested for alleged theft, according to AccessWDUN.

Patricia Ritchie, 59, of Winder, was taken into custody Thursday by the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office and bond has yet to be set after charges were brought forward of alleged theft, according to spokesman Todd Druse.

Tax Commissioner Jessica Garrett contacted the county sheriff’s office on Nov. 2 after she noticed missing cash receipts from the motor vehicle account. The criminal investigations division has been actively looking into the allegations and was able to secure a single arrest warrant for theft by taking, Druse said.

Precise amounts resulting from the thefts are unknown at this time, but investigators have confirmed that more than $25,000 was taken.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

The investigation resulted in one count of felony theft. Ritchie remained in the Barrow County Detention Center late Thursday awaiting a bond hearing.

Although no other accounts associated with the tax office appear to be compromised, the investigation is continuing, according to the release from Sheriff Jud Smith.

Three Valdosta City Council members hosted a Town Hall meeting to hear about housing issues, according to WALB.

Residents and city leaders are gathering to discuss and clear up misconceptions about what the city can and cannot do regarding housing in Valdosta. WALB heard a few citizens’ concerns and to see what the city could do about this matter.

Councilman Eric Howard is one of the three city councilmen leading a town hall. He says it’s an opportunity for citizens to hear directly from city leaders, about their rights, not about affordable housing or vouchers.

“We decided we wanted to start educating people on what your city government can and cannot do,” Howard said. “So we can have our citizens armed with the truth. This is on what your rights are as a renter and as a homeowner when it pertains to the city.”

RSV case numbers are rising, according to the Associated Press via the Savannah Morning News.

RSV infections are rising sharply in some parts of the country, nearly filling hospital emergency departments in Georgia, Texas and some other states.

To help counter the surge, federal officials on Thursday announced they were releasing more doses of a new RSV shot for newborns that have been in short supply.

In Georgia, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital system is in “surge” mode because of RSV, with a high volume of patients straining staff, said Dr. Jim Fortenberry, the system’s chief medical officer.

“Our emergency departments, our urgent cares are extremely busy. The pediatricians’ offices are extremely busy too,” Fortenberry said.

Not helping matters: The newly available shots to protect newborns against RSV have been difficult to get, meaning a new medical weapon is not being fully deployed.

“It was really going to help and unfortunately there is a shortage, and we at Children’s are also seeing that shortage,” Fortenberry said.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

“Because we have circulation of RSV and flu at relatively moderate levels, when you put COVID on top of it, it really can push up the overall activity for respiratory viruses,” [state Epidemiologist Dr. Cherie] Drenzek said.

While those trends represent good news, Drenzek said they shouldn’t give Georgians a false sense of security. The threat posed by COVID, RSV and flu together is greater than the sum of their parts, she said.

“Because we have circulation of RSV and flu at relatively moderate levels, when you put COVID on top of it, it really can push up the overall activity for respiratory viruses,” Drenzek said.

Drenzek said the good news is no surges in COVID cases have been reported, while the boosters that became available in September should be effective against the variants currently circulating. People over the age of 65 remain the most vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID, including death, she said.

Thomasville Police Chief John Letteney announced his retirement, according to WALB.

Chief John Letteney has served the department and the Thomasville area for three years. His final day as chief will be on January 12.

The search for a new chief is currently active. The city hopes to be in the final stages of hiring a new chief by the end of 2023.

“We have contracted with the Georgia Association of Police Chiefs to provide the initial assessment of our candidates and select those that are best suited to our position,” Thomasville City Manager Alan Carson said. “Our next step will be to conduct interviews with the finalists, which we hope to complete by early December.”

Columbus will begin building a new judicial building in 2026, according to WTVM.

The judicial building will consist of eight floors with 18 courtrooms and underground parking. The building is expected to cost around 185 million dollars. Those funds come from bonds sold and SPLOST tax dollars.

“We’ve been re-engineering this thing because when COVID drove all the costs up, we were wildly over budget we were like $50 million, and we just couldn’t do that,” said Mayor Skip Henderson. “So they’ve made a lot of different adjustments and one is to continue to use the wings and the former parking underneath and that way it’s going to save the taxpayers and also a lot of money.”

Mayor Henderson says it will still take some time for the Columbus Government Center to be torn down, but construction on the judicial building is expected to begin in 2026.

Steve Gasper joined the field for Gwinnett County Board of Education District Three, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Steve Gasper announced his bid for the seat, which is currently held by school board member Mary Kay Murphy, on Wednesday. He is one of a handful of candidates — along with Domonique Cooper, Kirk Buis and Demetrius Nelson — who have said they will run for the seat in the May 2024 nonpartisan school board elections.

“I firmly believe that education is the cornerstone of our children’s future, and it’s time for us to come together as a community to ensure that every child receives the quality education they deserve,” Gasper said in a statement.

Gasper, a former vice chairman of the Gwinnett Republican Party, has spoken on numerous occasions at school board meetings over the last few years, often criticizing the leadership of the district under a Democrat majority on the school board. He is a former educator and a Boy Scout volunteer and baseball coach, and his family has lived in the Suwanee area since 2009. He and his wife, Kelly, are the parents of twins who are currently in the eighth grade in Gwinnett County Public Schools.

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