Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 2, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 2, 2020

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 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

The McRib will be available nationwide for the first time in eight years, according to the AJC.

“The McRib has been a beloved menu item at McDonald’s since its inception nearly 40 years ago,” Linda VanGosen, vice president of menu innovation, said in a statement. “There’s nothing quite like the taste of the McRib.”

The McRib made its national debut at McDonald’s in 1982, and today it’s one of the most anticipated, limited-time menu items offered around the globe. Fun fact: Customers in Germany are able to enjoy the sandwich year-round.

The McRib will make its triumphant return to McDonald’s restaurants on Dec. 2.

Here are today’s General Election stats, drawn from the Absentee voter file released daily by the Secretary of State’s office:

Total votes cast:        4,127,609

Mail-in votes cast:          1,411,112

Electronic votes cast:        11,936

In-person votes cast:    2,704,561

Here’s how Gwinnett County looks in perspective.

2016 Ballots cast for President:            325,636

2018 Ballots cast for Governor:            314,918

202 Early Ballots Cast:                           355,793

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Gwinnett County has already exceeded the total turnout seen for the 2016 general election and election day hasn’t even arrived.

County officials released a report Saturday morning that showed 332,538 ballots had been accepted by elections officials as of the end of Friday. That includes both in-person early voters and people who cast absentee ballots that had been processed and accepted.

By comparison, 332,149 ballots were cast in the 2016 general election, according to the summary from that election.

“(It’s) the volume,” [Georgia Gwinnett College political science professor Matthew] Gunning said. “We’re just simply seeing way more people early vote than in the past. And, in some states, there’s a tendency of Democrats to early vote more than Republicans, but in Georgia, we’re seeing (a lot of) early voting in both heavily Republican counties and in heavily Democratic counties.”

Governor Brian Kemp renewed the Executive Orders declaring a Public Health State of Emergency (EO #10.30.20.01) and Providing Guidance (EO #10.30.20.02). From the Press Release:

On October 30, 2020, Governor Brian P. Kemp signed Executive Order 10.30.20.01 and Executive Order 10.30.20.02, extending the public health state of emergency through December 9 and renewing current COVID-19 restrictions with minimal changes to the sections on Healthcare and Governments. The Order extending the public health state of emergency (1o.30.20.01) is effective immediately. Executive Order 10.30.20.02 takes effect on November 1 at 12:00 AM and runs through November 15 at 11:59 PM.

From WTOC-TV:

The executive order extending the public health state of emergency is effective immediately and will remain in effect through Dec. 9.

The executive order renewing COVID-19 restrictions takes effect on Nov. 1 at 12:00 a.m. and runs through Nov. 15 at 11:59 p.m.

From WSB-TV:

Residents are encouraged to remain home, but if they go out in public they should wear masks.

The governor’s latest order allows counties and states to allow mask mandates in public. Residents who are over 65 years old are no longer ordered to shelter in place unless they live in a nursing home or long care facility or are medically fragile.

The statewide order prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people through December 9. Anyone was has been exposed to COVID is asked to shelter in place to limit the spread. People who do gather should stay six feet away from one another.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also extended her administrative orders related to COVID-19 for 60 days. The administrative order protects customers from having their water services cut off due to non-payment through Dec. 31 and protects people who live in properties subsidized by the government from evictions for 60 days.

Governor Brian Kemp is quarantining after exposure to someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Gainesville Times.

Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife are quarantining after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, his spokesman announced Friday, Oct. 30.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said Kemp and first lady Marty Kemp both got coronavirus tests, but he did not say if they had received the results yet.

In a separate announcement Friday, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson of West Point, Georgia, said he had tested positive for the virus. Ferguson appeared with Kemp at a rally on Tuesday, but it was unclear if Ferguson is the person to whom Hall was referring. Hall did not release any names in his statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that people quarantining like Gov. Kemp may still vote, according to the AJC.

The CDC said voters who are sick or in quarantine can vote if they take steps to protect poll workers and other voters, including wearing a mask and maintaining social distance.

Kemp ability to vote in this year’s election came into question Friday when he self-quarantined after close contact with U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The CDC clarified on Sunday that the coronavirus doesn’t preclude people from exercising their right to vote.

“Gov. Kemp would be able to vote in person while wearing a mask, and maintaining at least 6 feet between election workers and other voters, and washing or sanitizing his hands before and after voting,” said CDC spokesman Jason McDonald. “We also recommend that Gov. Kemp let poll workers know that he is in quarantine when he arrives at the polling location.”

Ballots should be required to be counted on election day, said President Trump when he was in Rome, according to 1010 WCSI.

Trump criticized Supreme Court rulings last week allowing Pennsylvania and North Carolina an extended timeframe to receive and count absentee ballots for the 2020 election. The president has argued the election should end on Nov. 3 and all ballots received after that date should not count.

“If you know what would have been really nice? If our Supreme Court could have ruled that everything has to be counted by the evening of our Election Day, instead of waiting around six days, eight days, nine days, giving them more time,” Trump said. “If they want more time, let them put their ballots in early. They don’t have to wait until the end.”

President Donald Trump rallied Rome Republicans, according to the AJC.

President Donald Trump recognized the Georgia elected officials and candidates in the audience during Sunday night’s rally. The shout outs went to a host of Republican members of Congress up for election on Tuesday, several aspiring lawmakers and a state legislator who has become one of his most visible Black surrogates.

“Every one of them has my full and complete endorsement,” the president said. “Go out and vote for them and let them all come into Congress, right?”

From another AJC story:

Trump’s visit to an airport outside Rome aimed to drive up turnout among mostly white, rural conservatives who form the most reliable bloc of his electoral coalition in Georgia. He’s scrambling to run up the score in this Republican-friendly area, where early-voting turnout has lagged behind other areas, to offset Democratic gains elsewhere.

“You elected an outsider as president who is finally putting America first. And if I don’t sound like a typical Washington politician, it’s because I’m not a politician, thank you,” he told a cheering audience. “We’re there — and we’re going to win.”

Trump focused on his core constituency with his visit to Rome, the heart of one of the nation’s most conservative congressional districts. His strategy is to offset Democratic gains in the suburbs by energizing a rural Georgia base that fueled his 2016 victory.

“There are going to be some heads exploding,” Trump said of Tuesday’s vote, predicting that a “great red wave” will wash over the electorate. He said his advisers suggested he not even travel to Georgia because “we have it won.”

Thousands showed up hours early for Trump’s rally at an airport on the city’s outskirts. A partylike atmosphere prevailed as supporters chanted “four more years” and waved giant American flags. Few wore masks, fewer practiced social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Click here for the AJC’s photo gallery from the Trump event in Rome.

Democrats hid in their basement canceled a planned rally in Rome, saying they were afraid of militia, according to the AJC.

Floyd County Democrats abruptly canceled plans Sunday to rally for Joe Biden in downtown Rome ahead of President Donald Trump’s event, after an organizer said there were safety concerns over a “large militia presence” drawn to the Republican’s visit.

Ruth Demeter, the local party’s chairwoman, said in a statement on its website that the event was canceled “out of an abundance of concern for the health and safety of our citizens.”

“We have been informed that a large militia presence is expected in Rome today due to Trump’s visit,” she said, hours before Trump’s arrival. “Additionally, we are not able to secure police presence for our event because of the airport rally.”

That is the single most ridiculous thing I’ve heard this entire year.

Former President Barack Obama will campaign for Joe Biden in Atlanta today, according to the AJC.

Former President Barack Obama will campaign in Atlanta on Monday at 2:30 p.m. to promote Joe Biden and other Democrats racing to flip Georgia.

The Biden campaign said he would speak at a final get-out-the-vote rally with Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock before Tuesday’s vote. The location of the rally, first announced Saturday, wasn’t immediately disclosed.

Democratic candidate for Vice President and United States Senator Kamala Harris (CA) spoke in Duluth, according to the Albany Herald.

Harris, the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president, highlighted a “drive in” rally for Democrats in the parking lot of the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth on Sunday afternoon, hours before President Donald Trump was set to appear at a rally of his own in Rome. Hundreds of cars filled the parking lot, although several face mask-covered attendees got out of their vehicles and lined a barrier to see her speak.

“Look at where we are Georgia,” Harris said. “Look at where we are and what you have been doing, organizing and mobilizing and getting folks registered to vote. You know, early voting is over but we want to remind everybody they can drop off their ballots in the drop boxes, so we want to make sure that they’re doing that (by) 7 p.m. on election day.”

“You all are going to decide who is going to be the next president of the United States,” she said. “You are. You’re going to decide who is going to be the next president of the United States, and so I am back in Georgia to thank you for all you’ve been doing these years and these months and these weeks and these days. Look at what kind of turnout we’ve already seen in terms of early voting and I just wanted to come back to remind us that we still have a ways to go.”

Before Harris took the stage, Abrams as well as U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and Lucy McBath, both D-Ga., and U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff addressed the crowd.

“All that we are looking to now in terms of Georgia and the prospect of what we might accomplish in this state, in large part we have to say ‘Thank you Stacey Abrams for the work that you have done,’” Harris said.

“We are living in a battleground state, and we are in the heart of that battleground in Gwinnett County,” Abrams said in a fiery speech. “We know that a few years ago, when we said that Georgia was on the move, it was hard to get people to believe us.”

“We knew what we could see. We knew that diversity wasn’t destiny, it was opportunity, and so we started investing and we started running and we started winning, and now we are on the cusp of delivering 16 electoral college votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

“And what did we do in ’16? We delivered Gwinnett County. But, see, then Gwinnett decided to show off and in 2018, you not only sent more blue votes, you sent folks to the state House and now we’re 16 votes away from victory in the state House.”

More than 42% of Bulloch County voters cast their ballots before the end of in-person early voting, according to the Statesboro Herald.

When early voting closed with the last person who was in line at 5 p.m. Friday, 42.2% of Bulloch County residents eligible to vote in Tuesday’s election had already done so.

But local turnout in the last presidential election, in November 2016, was very high, 73.5%. To match that percentage in the current election, about 15,050 more of the county’s 48,090 registered voters would have to participate, either by completing and returning absentee ballots they have already received or voting at their assigned precincts Tuesday.

The total of 20,277 ballots cast as of 5 p.m. Friday included those of 14,407 in-person voters who participated during the 16 days of early voting opportunity, plus 5,734 valid absentee ballots returned, reported Bulloch County Deputy Registrar Shontay Jones.

In all, 8,534 paper absentee ballots were issued to Bulloch residents, but 1,109 were cancelled when their recipients chose to vote early in-person instead. That left 7,403 valid mailed-out ballots, of which 5,834 were returned so far. Additionally, 89 electronic military and overseas absentee ballots had been issued, of which 36 have been returned, Jones reported.

That leaves 1,622 absentee ballots of both types still out.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Less than a third of voters in Clarke and Oconee counties will be going to polling places Tuesday — the rest have already voted.

By the end of the day Thursday in Clarke County, nearly 21,000 people had cast early ballots, and the Board of Elections Office had received 16,604 absentee ballots, said Athens-Clarke County Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee.

Based on past experience and the voting levels she’s seen this year, Sosebee expected around 3,000 more to vote Friday, the final day of advance voting. That would bring the number who had voted before Nov. 3 to about 40,500. Sosebee expects overall voter turnout this year will be about 76% of Clarke’s 76,779 active voters — about 58,000..

As of the end of the day Thursday in Oconee County, 14,685 people had voted early, and 5,354 voters had returned absentee ballots — almost 67% of Oconee’s 30,097 active voters. Early voting was delayed three hours Thursday because of Tropical Storm Zeta.

From AccessWDUN:

The Secretary of State’s Office released a final tally at 10 p.m. Friday, saying that more than 3.87 million voters had cast in-person and absentee ballots in the three-week early voting period. Georgia has just over seven million registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

Ballots Cast as of 10 p.m. on October 30, 2020

Total Number of Ballots Cast: 3,876,202

Total Number of Early, In-Person Ballots Cast Today: 213,027

Total Number of Early, In-Person Ballots Cast: 2,682,162

Total Number of Absentee By Mail Ballots Cast: 1,194,040

Ballots Cast as of Close of Polls on November 4, 2016

Total Number of Ballots Cast: 2,381,416

Total Number of Early, In-Person Ballots Cast: 2,200,117

Total Number of Absentee By Mail Ballots Cast: 181,299

Percent Increases*:

Percentage Increase in Total Turnout to Date: 63%

Percentage Increase in Total Early, In-Person Turnout to Date: 22%

Percentage Increase in Absentee By Mail Ballots Accepted to Date: 559%

From the Gainesville Times:

Turnout has also been high in Hall, with 49,116 people having voted early by the end of the day Thursday, according to Elections Director Lori Wurtz.

For absentee voting, Hall had received and accepted 19,530 ballots Friday, she said. The county received 28,361 absentee ballot requests and canceled about 5,000 absentee ballots when people decided to vote in-person instead, she said. That leaves about 3,800 absentee ballot requests outstanding.

Heavy turnout is expected to continue on Election Day, Wurtz said.

“I don’t think we’ll see less than 75% total of voters voting in Hall County, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it even went quite a bit higher than that,” Wurtz said.

While Hall County has been processing absentee ballots and preparing them for tabulation, the ballots will not be counted and results will not be known until after polls close Tuesday. Wurtz said Friday it would likely be at least 9 p.m. until results became available Tuesday evening.

Longtime Republican Political Consultant Roger Stone will campaign for Congressman Doug Collins today, according to The Hill.

Stone rose to rock-star status among many Trump supporters after he fought against serving a three-year prison sentence for his conviction of lying to Congress and witness tampering during the House’s Russia investigation.

Trump commuted the sentence in July.

Stone in a video announcing the campaign stop Monday praised Collins as a “solid conservative who will stand up to the deep state.” The Georgia Republican has similarly railed against investigations into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“We must defeat the very same establishment forces that tried to stop President Donald Trump’s election and then tried to ruin it. We need men like Doug Collins,” Stone said. “Let’s make America great again by putting Doug Collins in the U.S. Senate and Donald Trump back in the White House.”

Stone and Collins will campaign in Gwinnett County, a suburban county near Atlanta that is the second-largest in Georgia. It is also home to the state’s 7th Congressional District, a GOP-held open seat that Democrats are hotly contesting.

United States Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) will also campaign in Gwinnett County today, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Loeffler is scheduled to briefly drop by Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville on Monday morning as part of a statewide fly around tour of Georgia. This will be her second stop in Gwinnett in as many weeks, following a visit to Buford last week.

Meanwhile, Collins announced that he will hold a rally with Roger Stone, an ally of President Donald Trump, at 3 p.m. at 345 E. Main St. in Buford. Anyone interested in attending the rally with Collins and Stone should RSVP at www.rallywithroger.com.

Loeffler campaigned with former Congressman Bob Barr on Saturday at Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Speaking to a large crowd gathered in the Adventure Outdoors parking lot Saturday, former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr said he recently attended a National Rifle Association board meeting in Arizona.

“And when I told them … I would be at an event with our Georgia U.S. senator, Kelly Loeffler, every one of those board members, Kelly, told me one thing: They are with you because you are with them. You are with us,” Barr said to applause from the crowd.

Introducing Loeffler at the rally, Barr described her as “the Second Amendment senator.”

As if to underscore this, Loeffler held a gun raffle during the rally, handing out firearms to attendees whose tickets she drew from a box.

The Albany Herald looks at Republican Don Cole’s challenge to incumbent Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop in the Second District.

It would be accurate to say that Don Cole has made a heavy investment in the Second Congressional District.

For this election, he resigned a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to mount his own challenge to the sitting congressman.

“Before I resigned (this year), I was speechwriter for Sonny Perdue, secretary of agriculture.”

While working for Perdue, the former Georgia governor, Cole said, he remained in the district and regularly traveled to Washington when necessary to meet with employees in the agency. That was intentional on his part to remain in contact with the people here, he said, something he also did while working with the Farm Service Agency in Cordele.

One of his chief criticisms of his opponent, who has held the office since 1993, is that he is out of touch with the residents.

“I just felt very strongly that the values of the Second District were not being respected, and Sanford Bishop has been up in Washington so long he wasn’t listening to people down here,” Cole said. “He voted to impeach the president.”

The Red & Black looks at State Senator Bill Cowsert’s reelection campaign.

The state house and senate passed HB 426, which allowed for additional penalties on crimes motivated by race, religion and other factors during the session. Cowsert sponsored the bill in the senate.

Now Cowsert is running for re-election after serving in the Georgia State Senate for 14 years. The incumbent Republican is running against UGA law student and Democratic challenger Zachary Perry. Cowsert also works as a lawyer in Athens at Cowsert Heath Attorneys at Law, a firm he helped found in 1995.

“I think I very clearly have the experience, and the ‘know how’ to get things done for residents in this district,” Cowsert said. “And I have such a long involvement with the people of the district that I understand their concerns, their values, their needs, and I’m able to deliver at the statehouse.”

Doc Eldridge, a former mayor of Athens and friend of Cowsert, said that Cowsert has been able to garner continued support in the district by being honest, candid and accessible to his constituents.

“He is not someone that is bigger than the office,” Eldridge said. “I think he fully understands, and accepts with enthusiasm, the responsibilities he has as a statesman.”

Dougherty County voters will decide on an E-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education) tomorrow, according to the Albany Herald.

The 1% special tax, DCSS Superintendent Ken Dyer said Friday, will allow the local public school system to, among other things, make necessary technology upgrades that have proved to be vital as the coronavirus pandemic has forced schools to offer classes electronically. And even though the local system is in the midst of a phased-in return to classes — with sixth- and ninth-graders returning Nov. 9 and the remaining (10th-12th-grade) high school classes coming back to school on Nov. 16 — Dyer said those upgrades must continue.

“We’re fortunate that the system invested heavily in technology the past five years, significantly utilizing E-SPLOST funds,” Dyer said. “That’s helped us meet the needs (brought on by the virus). But some of the schools in the system that are on our (E-SPLOST) projects list had their last upgrades more than 15 years ago. The plan is to modernize schools like Westover (High School), Northside (Elementary) and International Studies (Magnet School).”

Dyer said that, with the E-SPLOST referendum coming up on Tuesday’s ballot, he encourages citizens to “imagine what our school system would look like without 20 years of E-SPLOST funds.” He mentioned improvements at Monroe High School, the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy, Southside Middle School, Magnolia Elementary; technological upgrades to infrastructure, and equipment like iPads and Homebooks.

The projected take from the 1% tax is $90 million over the five years of the E-SPLOST, money that Dyer said would be used for projects that include upgrades at Westover, Northside, International Studies, Dougherty High School, Albany Middle School, Lake Park Elementary and the system’s transportation center.

The Macon Telegraph has a Q&A with the candidates for Houston County District Attorney, Republican incumbent George Hartwig, and Democratic challenger Houston County Chief Assistant District Attorney Erikka Williams.

The Ledger-Enquirer looks at Muscogee County Sheriff candidates, Republican Mark LaJoye and Democrat Greg Countryman.

The Savannah Morning News profiles Republican Jason Buelterman’s campaign for Chatham County Commission Chair.

Some of his ideas are unusual for a Republican candidate, but Buelterman believes that party affiliation shouldn’t be a factor in choosing leaders on a local level.

“Washington’s a train wreck partly because of extreme partisanship, so we need to avoid that filtering down to our level and becoming dysfunctional,” Buelterman said. “One of my platforms is to get rid of the partisan nature of countywide elections.”

“It’s all about relationships, if you develop good relationships with your fellow elected officials,” Buelterman said. “It allows the friction to sort of melt away a little bit when things get divisive. I found that at Tybee, you can accomplish so much more if you have a good relationship with the people that you work with.”

Disqualified Chatham County Commission District 2 candidate Tony Riley was rebuffed when he sought a court order to prevent the local elections board from posting signage that he had been removed from the ballot, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Riley’s legal team argued that the posting of signs declaring his disqualification would cause him undue harm while his overall appeal effort continues at Superior Court.

In his ruling, [Chatham County Superior Court Judge James F. Bass Jr.] determined that the felony behind Riley’s disqualification — a 1995 conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine — met the definition of “moral turpitude” that would block him from running for public office in Georgia.

“The crimes committed by Riley of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine hydrochloride and crack cocaine are crimes involving moral turpitude and therefore, he is not qualified to hold public office unless his rights have been restored. There is no evidence that this has occurred,” Bass wrote in his Friday ruling.

“Since the plaintiff is not qualified to run or hold public office, there is no harm to him caused by the Board hanging signs indicating that he has been disqualified since he is not qualified in the first place,” Bass continue in his ruling.

Georgia State House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) floated the idea of renaming the Savannah Port after former United States Senator Johnny Isakson, according to the Associated Press via WJCL.

A spokesman for state House Speaker David Ralston said Ralston plans to sponsor a proposal next year that would put fellow Republican Isakson’s name on the Savannah port.

Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen said Isakson earned the honor, in part, by ensuring the federal government funded its share of a $973 million deepening of Savannah’s shipping channel. Isakson retired at the end of last year citing health problems, including Parkinson’s disease. He held various offices in Georgia over four decades, including 15 years as a senator.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson nominated Maj. Freddie Blackmon as the new Columbus Police Chief, to replace the retiring Chief Ricky Boren, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

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