Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 28, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 28, 2023

On November 28, 1520, Ferdinand Magellan became the first European to navigate from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

On November 28, 1777, Congress appointed John Adams as commissioner to France, replacing Silas Deane.

The Grand Ole Opry began live radio broadcasts from Nashville, Tennessee on November 28, 1925.

The Tawana Brawley case began on November 28, 1987; the greatest lasting impact would be the rise to celebrity of community activist the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia State Senate Republicans unveiled a proposed redistricting map for their own chamber ahead of the Special Session that convenes tomorrow, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Athens Banner Herald.

A proposed state Senate redistricting map released Monday would create two additional Black majority districts in the General Assembly’s upper chamber in keeping with a federal court order.

Senate District 17 in Henry and Newton counties and Senate District 28 in Douglas and Fulton counties would become majority Black under the proposed map, released two days ahead of a special legislative session on redistricting beginning Wednesday.

The addition of two Black majority state Senate districts would comply with a ruling U.S. District Judge Steve Jones handed down last month that found the congressional, state House and state Senate redistricting maps the Republican-controlled General Assembly drew two years ago in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Jones also ordered state lawmakers to add five Black majority seats to the Georgia House and one Black majority seat to the state’s congressional delegation.

Currently, Republicans hold 33-23 and 102-78 advantages in the state Senate and House, respectively. The GOP holds nine of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats.

The 17th Senate District is currently served by Republican Brian Strickland of McDonough, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The 28th Senate District is currently represented by the GOP’s Matt Brass of Newnan, chairman of the Rules Committee.

Under the proposed map, the voting-age population of Strickland’s 17th Senate District would go from 59.4% white to 61.8% Black. That would be accomplished by shifting the district’s boundaries westward to take in a large portion of majority-Black Clayton County.

Changes to the 28th District would be more significant. The district Brass now serves would be shifted northward out of Coweta County to include southwest Fulton County, eastern Douglas County, and southern Carroll County.

The voting-age population of the 28th Senate District would go from 69.4% white to 54.1% Black.

The proposed map also would modify 13 other Senate districts from their current boundaries. Eight of those districts would remain majority Black, while five would remain majority white.

The proposed Senate map will be followed later this week by draft maps for Georgia’s state House and congressional districts. Lawmakers must approve new district lines by a week from Friday, the deadline Jones set for them to finish their work.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Mercer University political science professor Chris Grant, who specializes in electoral politics, said he expects Republicans to pack voters in districts as much as legally possibly by arguing against splitting counties or communities for new district lines.

And when you’re maximizing a group, as opposed to a party, you oftentimes have to do that because you have to concentrate,” Grant said. “You’re in essence packing voters in a way because you’re trying to get a concentrated effect of minority representation. So there’s gonna be some interesting shapes, I have no doubt.”

Keeping counties and cities together often benefits Republicans more, he said.

Especially in the rural and suburban areas, has been to the benefit of Republicans having larger representation shares. Whereas for Democrats, with people that tend to vote Democratic, do not tend to live as spread out as people who vote for the Republicans,” Grant said.

“(In rural areas) there’s broader expanses of land, so maps look cleaner and prettier.”

The new maps are expected to help give Democrats a majority in the U.S. House in 2024, and narrow the Republican majority in state districts.

The new districts come as the 2020 Census showed that between 2010 and 2020, Georgia’s total population increased by more than 1 million people, to more than 10.7 million — all of it in the minority population.

The Black population increased by nearly 500,000 people since 2010, accounting for 47.46% of the state’s growth rate, while Georgia’s white population decreased by 51,764 people and made up 50.06% of Georgia’s population in 2020.

From the Georgia Recorder:

On Monday, state Sen. Shelly Echols, a Gainesville Republican, announced the draft of new Georgia Senate districts while inviting the public to chime in on the redistricting process that begins Wednesday with the start of a special legislative session.

The draft map is the early attempt at a legislative response to U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones’ ruling on Nov. 2 that the state’s GOP-drawn boundary lines violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting strength of Black Georgians.

Georgia Senate Republicans on Monday lauded Echols, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Reappointment and Redistricting, for conducting a thoughtful, inclusive and transparent” process that has a map ready for public consideration prior to the start of the special session.

“The courts have been very clear that redistricting is a process primarily for the legislature, and we are confident in, and appreciative of Sen. Echols’ leadership in helping us fulfill this important legislative responsibility,” the GOP statement said.

The proposed maps contemplate Senate Republicans drawing new districts to eliminate the metro Atlanta turf of Democratic Sens. Elena Parent and Jason Esteves, who now represent districts consisting of a voting age population that is primarily white. The proposed map places the senators in new districts that have a significant Black population. If the Republican map presented on Monday remains intact, then it appears to safeguard the district lines for Democratic Sen. Valencia Seay of Riverdale and Sen. Marty Harbin, a Republican whose district runs through the more rural counties of Pike, Spalding, Fayette and Lamar.

Jones ruled on Nov. 2 that Seay’s and Harbin’s districts did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. He determined that the significant increase in Black populations in Cobb, Fulton, Douglas, and Fayette counties since 2010 was sufficient to create one majority Black congressional district, or at least two predominantly Black districts.

On Wednesday, the Georgia Senate and House chambers are scheduled to conduct floor sessions to consider the new maps at 10 a.m., followed by public hearings at 1 p.m. As of Monday, no draft of the House’s proposed maps had been released. The Senate proposed map is available online and written comments can be submitted by the public. .

According to Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia and the author of “Redistricting: the Most Political Activity in America,” the proposed Senate map appears to meet the terms set by the federal court for south metro Atlanta.

Bullock noted, however, that the Democrats will have the opportunity to contest the maps before Jones, who must approve the redrawn districts prior to the 2024 election. There is now a 33-to-23 Republican advantage in the state Senate, while Republicans control nine of the 14 congressional seats in the state.

“Sometime after Dec. 8, the plaintiffs can argue before (Jones) that the maps don’t comply,” Bullock said. “The state will have their opportunity to put on evidence saying here’s what we’ve done to follow the judge’s directions.”

Bullock said that redrawn maps are often created with the intent of weakening the reelection bids of strong political opposition. Occasionally, that means balancing tough decisions between members of the same party who have strong leadership potential.

“Sometimes you have to choose who has better long term prospects when you’re cutting a roster,” Bullock said. “It’s like with NFL teams in which everybody has talent but not everyone can stay on the team.”

From the AJC:

One veteran state lawmaker described a proposed Senate redistricting map unveiled Monday in blunt terms: “It could have been an annihilation, but it wasn’t.”

The GOP version of the court-ordered map revisions created two majority-Black new districts without pairing incumbents against one another and while safeguarding most Republican members. The map, released ahead of a special legislative session that begins Wednesday, also avoided drawing any obvious districts designed to flip one party to another.

But the redistricting did create vastly different boundaries for two Atlanta-area Democratic incumbents seen as potential statewide candidates down the road: Sens. Jason Esteves and Elena Parent.

Both legislators would see a major shift in their districts’ voter demographics — from mostly white to majority Black — should the map be adopted. Neither would immediately comment on the changes, but an ally sent this analysis: “They shuffled around deck chairs in an attempt to put lipstick on a pig.”

If the two Democrats were the losers of the overhaul of the Senate map, then GOP Sens. Matt Brass of Newnan and Brian Strickland of McDonough are the winners. Both were rewarded with more conservative-leaning territories.

Also from the AJC:

While the revised political boundaries would increase the number of majority-Black districts from 13 to 15, Black voters wouldn’t necessarily gain representation in next year’s elections. Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats while most white voters in Georgia back Republicans.

The Senate map protects incumbents of both parties, minimizing the chances that many seats will change hands. Republicans hold a 33-23 majority in the state Senate, an advantage that will likely remain intact after redistricting.

Debate on the map will begin during a special redistricting session at the state Capitol that opens Wednesday. New maps with additional majority-Black districts in Congress and the state House are expected to be released later this week.

[State Sen. Jason] Esteves’ current district in Cobb and Fulton counties is 22% Black; his new district that stretches south along Atlanta’s westside would have a 52% Black voting-age population

[State Sen. Elena] Parent’s district would change from 29% Black to 51% Black as its boundaries shift from the Decatur area in DeKalb County, forming a vertical strip that stretches to Morrow in Clayton County.

Neither Esteves nor Parent commented on the new map Monday.

The proposed map would also protect Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Strickland, a Republican from McDonough. The Black population in Atlanta’s southern suburbs has grown in the past few decades.

If the proposed map is approved, Strickland’s new district would split the nearly 70% Black city of McDonough and stretch east into Newton, Morgan and Walton counties.

Strickland’s proposed district would lean Republican, with voting-age Black residents accounting for 31% of the population, while the district to the west would be 60% Black and represented by state Sen. Gail Davenport, a Democrat from Jonesboro.

In a statement, Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones also praised Echols’ work on the proposed new districts that fulfill “obligations as specified by the court order.” Jones presides over the Senate.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Eight of the nine senators currently in Gwinnett’s Senate Delegation would remain in the delegation under the proposal unveiled on Monday, but District 41, which is held by Sen. Kim Jackson, D-Stone Mountain, would become a solely DeKalb district.

District 41’s slot in the Gwinnett Senate Delegation would be replaced by District 43, which is held by Sen. Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia.

Anderson’s district would pick up the southern tip of Gwinnett, including the Centerville area, most of the eastern part of Snellville, a small part of Grayson and Gwinnett’s portion of Loganville.  Those are areas that have been in District 55, which is held by Sen. Gloria Butler.

District 43 would also include all of Rockdale County, the Lithonia area in DeKalb County and part of Newton County.

The remainder of Gwinnett’s Senate Delegation would continue to include Senate Districts 5, 7, 9, 40, 45, 46, 48 and 55. Those seats are currently held by Sens. Sheikh Rahman, Nabilah Islam Parkes, Nikki Merritt, Sally Harrell, Clint Dixon, Bill Cowsert, Shawn Still and Gloria Butler, respectively.

The Gwinnett County Board of Elections seeks poll workers, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county will hold poll official hiring events on Dec. 4 in Lawrenceville and on Dec. 18 in Dacula. The county previously held a poll official hiring event on Nov. 17 in Norcross.

“The events are open to residents of diverse backgrounds, including those who speak two or more languages,” county officials said in an announcement. “During the event, attendees must complete an I-9 form and provide original identification documents for verification.”

Next year’s elections cycle will be a busy one highlighted by a presidential election on top of congressional, state legislative and county-level offices. In addition to the state’s general election and general primary election — both of which could produce runoff elections — there will also be a presidential election in the spring.

Gwinnett’s pitch to residents is that signing up to be a poll official is that it will people a chance to be involved in the electoral process. If that alone is not enough an enticement, there is also the $390 stipend that poll officials receive.

Demetrius Nelson announced he is running for Gwinnett County Board of Education District 3, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

A veteran math teacher has officially kicked off his campaign for the Gwinnett County Board of Education’s District 3 seat.

Demetrius Nelson has launched his campaign for the seat, which is currently held by school board member Mary Kay Murphy and is up for election in 2024. He previously taught middle school math in the Norcross cluster, but currently teaches in another metro area school system and has 15 years of experience as an educator.

“I am running because it is past time to have more leaders whose decisions, that impact you, are guided by shared principles that we value: sympathy, empathy, trust, fairness and credibility,” Nelson wrote in an open letter to the community on his campaign website.

Nelson is one of at least four candidates running for the District 3 seat, with the others being Domonique Cooper, Kirk Buis and Steve Gasper. The seat will be decided in Gwinnett’s nonpartisan school board elections in May 2024.

The Georgia Senate Foster Care & Adoption Study Committee adopted recommendations for legislation, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Challenges within the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services were spotlighted during budget hearings earlier this year when DFCS director Candice Broce reported to lawmakers the hefty cost of “hoteling,” or housing children who are in DFCS custody in hotels or DFCS offices.

In fiscal year 2022, DFCS spent $28 million in hoteling costs.

To help address the issue, $10 million was added to the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget to help address hoteling of children in DFCS custody.

While Broce provided updates throughout the year that indicated record lows of hoteling, the committee continued to meet for recommendations on how to better improve the foster care and adoption system.

The committee approved recommendations at its fourth and final meeting Nov. 27.

Committee chair Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-32, said some of recommendations can be accomplished through legislation and may require budget approvals, while some can be accomplished through DFCS without any legislative intervention.

“I think we’ve got a clearer picture of where we stand in Georgia now with foster care and adoption, and I really appreciate everybody’s hard work and look forward to moving the ball down the field,” Kirkpatrick said.

That’s a very well-written and comprehensive article worth reading in its entirety.

From the AJC:

“The work on behalf of our foster kids will never be finished,” said Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, a Republican who chairs the Senate Study Committee on Foster Care and Adoption. “This committee’s work is just a strong start.”

Many of the specifics have yet to be hashed out, but Kirkpatrick said that the energy for reform is ripe in Georgia. Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, key Georgia lawmakers, and the state’s commissioner for the Department of Human Services are all on board to reform the system, she said.

“We’ve got a window of opportunity right now,” said Kirkpatrick. “The ducks are lining up in a row to where we really can make some progress.”

Kylie Winton, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Human Services, said the department is grateful that the committee developed the recommendations to improve foster care and adoption in the state.

“We cannot do this work alone, and we look forward to supporting and effectuating these recommendations as we continue to serve children and families across the state,” Winton said in a statement.

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