Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 6, 2023

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 6, 2023

Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States and the first Republican to hold the office on November 6, 1860. By his inauguration in March, seven states had seceded.

On November 6, 1861, one year after Lincoln’s election, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens of Georgia were elected President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America.

President Teddy Roosevelt left for a 17-day trip to Panama on November 6, 1906 to inspect work on the Panama Canal; he was the first President to take an official tour outside the continental United States.

A dam on the campus of Toccoa Falls Bible College burst on November 6, 1977 under pressure from heavy rains, killing 39 students and faculty.

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R-GA) resigned his office and his Congressional seat on November 6, 1998, effective in January 1999, despite having been reelected three days earlier.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Prospective Augusta voters can attend the “Funky Good Time Voter Rally,” according to WJBF.

Monday evening, city leaders will host a rally supporting the CSPLOST referendum. The referendum would allow for a half cent sales tax to fund a new James Brown Arena.

The referendum is designed so that Richmond County tax payers aren’t the only ones funding the facility. Anyone spending money in Richmond County will be subject to that additional half cent.

Monday night, Commissioners Jordan Johnson and Sean Frantom are hosting the “Funky Good Time Voter Rally” to drum up more support and get people out to vote.

There will be music, food trucks and local leaders will be on hand to talk about why you should vote yes on the referendum and answer questions.

“There’s not a single commissioner elected to the county commission that does not love Augusta. We love Augusta so much so, we’re willing to dedicate our lives in service to Augusta. We would be foolish to not support Augusta’s future. And the fact that we are standing in solidarity should tell you something. It should tell you that we really mean business when it comes to growing Augusta,” explained District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson.

From WRDW:

Economic leaders from across Augusta joined on one front Friday morning to ask voters to vote yes on the James Brown Arena half-penny sales tax.

The chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber led the efforts saying building a new arena to replace the outdated one is critical in attracting new amenities to the area and to better address the needs of the area.

“Our existing employers battle recruitment and retaining employees – the same battle we fight with similar cities to recruit and retain we hear on a daily basis, the battle of finding talent and bringing them to Augusta,” said Dennis Trotter, chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber. “The new arena with first-class acts and first-class entertainment is a key component.”

The election on Tuesday would impose a half-penny sales tax on every dollar of sales. Supporters note that much of that would be paid by shoppers who live elsewhere but buy products in Augusta.

The election comes after passage of special state legislation, House Bill 230, to allow the public to vote on the tax.

The law gets around some of the problems of a SPLOST measure to build a new arena, like the one local voters rejected last year.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

The only county-wide election in Richmond County will be on whether or not to approve a 0.5% sales tax to raise $433,196,500 for major renovations to the Augusta Entertainment Complex, including the James Brown Arena. The vote would cover a $250 million bond, including interest over time through 2043. The vote was authorized by House Bill 230 earlier this year, leaving the final decision up to voters.

This election follows on a vote in 2021 where residents rejected a property tax proposal to fund the arena project. If this vote fails, it could be another five years before the work happens, according to prior reporting in the Chronicle.

Honestly, I’d consider moving to Augusta and voting for anything that would lead to a whitewater park.

Voters go to the pills on Tuesday, November 6, 2023 in local elections. From the Albany Herald:

Over 18 days of advance early voting ahead of Tuesday municipal elections in Albany less than 2,700 voters cast ballots in races for mayor, two City Commission races and a countywide question on extending a penny sales tax.

Voters have one last chance to improve turnout for the fall elections on Tuesday when polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Voters in Leesburg and Smithville also have competitive municipal races on the ballot, and a number of area cities also have 2023 contests that will decide local leaders for the next four years.

“When you consider there are approximately 68,106 voters countywide, in the city (Albany) about 56,982, no, that’s not good,” Dougherty County Election Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said of the turnout for early voting. “That’s with three weeks (including) two Saturdays and a Sunday.

In the Albany mayor’s race, incumbent Mayor Bo Dorough faces three challengers: former City Commission member Henry Mathis, Omar Salaam and Antonio Screen Sr.

In Ward 1 incumbent the city’s longest-serving City Commissioner, Jon Howard, is being challenged by Lawrence McCray. And in Ward VI Marion Gaines-Jones and Larry Harris are looking to unseat incumbent Chad Warbington.

All county voters can weigh in on the ballot question on extending the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) on Tuesday.

Sign into the Secretary of State’s MVP page to check your registration and voting location, and view sample ballots.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

The Athens-Clarke County Clerk of Court race highlights the Nov. 7 election day in Athens, while city council elections are set for the cities of Watkinsville and Winterville.

The Athens-Clarke County Clerk of Court position is a race between Elisa Zarate, who currently holds the position after she was appointed to the role, and Andrew Griffeth, who worked 10 years in the office.

The election will fill the unexpired term of Beverly Logan, who resigned in May. The term ends on Dec. 31, 2024.

In North High Shoals, Mayor Stephen Goad is unopposed, as are the two open council seats held by Fred Johnson and Eric Carlton, both who qualified for re-election.

The City of Camilla is accused of breaking election law, according to WALB.

The city of Camilla is accused of not allowing poll watchers during early voting, which is required by law. Ginger Kimmel, who’s running for Camilla City Council District 1, tells WALB she and her other running mates poll watchers were denied.

“Every election you’re allowed poll watchers, as long as you go by the rules,” [Camilla resident Susan] Rackley said.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, there is an open investigation into poll watchers’ applications being denied twice.

“If you’re a Democrat, you want to make sure the Republicans are doing it the right way. If you’re a Republican, you want to make sure the Democrats are doing it the right way. As a result, and you might be a no party affiliation, but you still want to make sure election workers are conducting themselves properly.” said Mike Hassinger, public information officer for Georgia Secretary of State.”

Floyd County residents will vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to the Rome News Tribune.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for Floyd County residents’ last chance to weigh in on a proposed $110 million SPLOST package.

Rome voters will also fill six of the nine city commission seats and, in Cave Spring, two of the five city council posts are on the ballot as well. All the seats are contested.

The locations of three voting sites — Town Rome, East Rome and Fosters Mill — have been moved. Additionally, what was once 25 precincts has been consolidated into 19.

The SPLOST package depends on approval of a 6-year extension of the existing 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax. Collections would start the day after the 2017 SPLOST collections end on March 31, 2024, and continue through March 31, 2030.

Brunswick City Commission North Ward voters will choose between five candidates, according to The Brunswick News.

Incumbent Commissioners Johnny Cason and Julie Martin opted to not seek reelection after serving on the commission the past 12 years.

It will be up to the voters of Brunswick to choose new representation for the open South Ward and North Ward seats. Because City Commission posts are nonpartisan, candidates are not required to declare political affiliation.

Running for the South Ward seat are Christopher Bower and Lance Sabbe. Five candidates are contesting for the North Ward seat — Gwen Atkinson-Williams, Gary Cook, Leroy E. Dumas Jr., Paige Edwards and Zack Lyde.

Three weeks of early voting wrapped up on Friday with only 358 ballots cast, according to the Glynn County Board of Elections.

Registered city voters who have yet to cast a ballot must go to their assigned polling locations Tuesday, the day of the election. The city’s polling places are at Howard Coffin Park, College Park and Bethel Evangel Community Church.

Brunswick South Ward voters have two candidates from whom to choose, according to The Brunswick News.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson’s reelection campaign raised twice as much as his 2019 campaign, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The citywide at-large posts amassed some of the largest sums ever, and Mayor Van Johnson raised more than double his 2019 total. Some of the largest, and most frequent, donors come from Savannah’s development and business community.

Since Johnson’s first contribution disclosure of this campaign cycle, he has raised $412,401 ― $200,000 more than his first bid for mayor.

The deluge of money and its sources invested in this year’s elections has drawn criticism, with some of those critiques coming on Johnson, who in 2019 criticized opponent Eddie DeLoach over his trove of contributions. Now, Johnson’s fundraising total rivals that of DeLoach’s.

Johnson’s most prominent opponent, Post 1 At-Large Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, has made “not for sale” a calling card of her campaign, using it in social media posts and hashtags. Gibson-Carter has raised almost $11,000 this cycle, with only four contributions at $1,000 or more.

The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that Delta-8 and Delta-10 cannabis products are not controlled substances, according to the Daily Report.

The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled delta-8, delta-10 and other hemp-derived cannabinoids are not controlled substances in an opinion authored by Presiding Judge Christopher McFadden released on Thursday.

“This is the latest in what’s been an ongoing legal war between the people who believe that these hemp products like delta-8 and delta-10 are illegal controlled substances and business owners who look at the language of the hemp law that passed in 2019 and say, ‘These are legal extracts from hemp. They don’t have the type of delta-9 THC that gets users high, so we’re allowed to sell these and have been for the past four years,” said plaintiff-appellant attorney Thomas Church of the Church Law Firm.

According to Church, Georgia’s criminal code outlaws marijuana and THC, except when found in hemp or hemp products. “The state said the gummies didn’t fall under the exception, since they do not constitute ‘hemp products,’ but the Court rejected that argument. The plain language and use of disjunctive ‘or’ means they are exempt from the criminal code since the delta-8 and delta-10 in the edibles constituted ‘hemp,’” Church said

From WSB-TV:

Delta-8 is sold in local gas stations and vape shops. Some people say it helps them physically and mentally.

But Channel 2 investigative reporter Sophia Choi learned that doctors have been warning that people are getting sick from the products, including children.

Right now, Delta-8 is legal in Georgia because of a loophole in the Federal Farm Bill, which allows the sale of hemp, cannabis with less than point 3 percent THC.

Georgia passed its own version of the law with the 2019 Hemp Farming Act.

Delta-8 is isolated from hemp, so therefore OK for retailers like Michael Peterson to sell.

Dr. Gaylord Lopez heads the Georgia Poison Center, where he’s seen increasing calls about Delta-8 – 208 in the last year alone.

Tom Church said the Delta-8 industry welcomes regulation. He’s an attorney who successfully represented Delta-8 distributors and retailers in court after they started getting raided because police couldn’t tell the difference between pot and Delta-8.

“These are business owners; these aren’t drug dealers. They want to do things right and they want to comply with the law,” Church said.

Thornton said Delta 8 is gaining popularity. Sales of Delta-8 reached $2 billion in the past two years, according to Forbes.

The Georgia Supreme Court asks whether it has Constitutional authority to promulgate rules and regulations for the  Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, according to the AJC.

“Before taking action on the standards and rules, the Court must first assure itself that it has power to do so,” the two-page order states. “The Court is limited to exercising only the judicial power that the Georgia Constitution vests in it.”

The court’s narrow question didn’t seek to resolve the broader issue of whether state lawmakers overstepped their authority by establishing the panel, as a bipartisan group of district attorneys argued in a separate legal challenge that’s pending in Fulton County Superior Court.

But the court’s order could temporarily halt the commission from taking action on complaints against prosecutors, at least until lawmakers revisit the legislation and, potentially, remove the Georgia Supreme Court from the process.

The law, Senate Bill 92, requires the Georgia Supreme Court to sign off on the proposed rules and code of conduct for the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, which set a high bar to punish prosecutors. But the court order indicated it might not have the authority to oversee the commission.

There are signs that lawmakers anticipated the potential constitutional conundrum.

The Senate passed a floor amendment during legislative debate that would have removed the Georgia Supreme Court’s role in the process, but the change wasn’t adopted by the House and it wasn’t in the final version that was ultimately approved by both chambers and signed into law by Kemp.

Former Governor Nathan Deal will receive awards from Japan, according to AccessWDUN.

According to a press release from the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta, Deal has been named the recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun Gold and Silver Star.

The release said Deal is receiving the award due to his implementation of policies to attract foreign investment. He also personally encouraged Japanese companies to invest in Georgia during his visits to Japan.

“As a result, the number of Japanese companies in the state significantly increased, and many Japanese companies made additional investments,” the release reads.

Deal visited Japan in Sept. 2012 to attend the 35th Southeast U.S. / Japan Associations Conference held in Tokyo to serve as Georgia’s official Head of Delegation.

“Governor Deal appealed for investment in Georgia at the conference as well as at the companies he visited,” the release reads. “This was the first visit to Japan by a Georgia governor in five years.”

“Governor Deal celebrated the establishment of Japanese companies, and attended numerous ceremonies, including groundbreaking ceremonies for new facilities,” the release said. “In addition, by actively exchanging opinions with Japanese companies and incorporating their opinions into his own policies, he created a favorable investment environment, and contributed to forming positive relations with the Japanese community.”

“In addition, in March 2011, in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, he sent a letter of condolence to the Consul General in Atlanta, expressing his readiness to provide support,” the release said. “Furthermore, on March 22nd of the same year, he visited the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta and signed the Book of Condolence and Encouragement for those affected by the earthquake, demonstrating his solidarity with the Japanese people.”

Senate Bill 63 by State Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) would require cash bail for more offenses, according to WSAV.

“Right now I’m 182 officers short, and I’m trying to hire them every day, and if I pack the jail 1600 to 1500 people, I don’t have anybody to look out after them.” Chatham County Sheriff John T. Wilcher said.

Senate Bill 63 would add new charges, including several misdemeanor offenses, to a list of crimes that require a person to post bail to be released from jail.

Crimes like trespassing, forgery, and bribery, some of which the Chatham County Sheriff agreed were not high-level offenses.

Republican state Representative Jesse Petrea says the bill would make public safety a priority number one – telling me the legislation would take more criminals off the street and prevent repeat offenses.

“I think it’s aimed at a mindset of being more concerned about criminals than victims, which has been a problem we have been dealing with across this state,” state Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), said.

“I mean we have people that before, the day they’re released, they’re out committing more crimes,” he continued.

“I’m not a debtor’s prison. If somebody gets brought in here for criminal trespassing, and they can’t post a $1300 bond, I’m not keeping them in jail two or three months before they go to court. That has a lot of issues behind it. Number one medical, number two you have to feed them, number three you have to take care of them, and it just makes the bill go up and up and up,” Sheriff Wilcher said.

FLOTUS Jill Biden returns to Georgia, visiting Augusta on Wednesday, according to WRDW.

During her visit on Nov. 8, she will meet with local officials and key stakeholders leading the Workforce Hubs to discuss ways the community is working together to expand pathways to good-paying jobs.

From the AJC:

This will be Biden’s second visit to Georgia this year. In September, she met with scientists at Emory University who are the recipients of a first-of-its-kind federal grant to help research possible future use of mRNA technology, the basis of COVID-19 vaccines, to combat cancer and other illnesses.

In 2022, she made official visits to Athens and Fort Moore, then known as Fort Benning. She also campaigned for Stacey Abrams in Atlanta.

Former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) sounds off on current events, according to the AJC.

Stacey Abrams joined other Democrats in calling for increased humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in the escalating war between Israel and Hamas, though she didn’t echo other liberal figures in her party who warn the conflict could endanger President Joe Biden’s reelection.

“I believe that the Muslim community recognizes just how horrific October 7 was,” she said of the “horrific” surprise attack by Hamas terrorists that killed more than 1,400 Israelis. “What they are asking for is recognition that there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding.”

Biden is facing growing backlash from liberal Democrats over his steadfast support of Israel in the growing conflict, sharpening a rift within his party as Israel expands its ground invasion of Gaza, the home to 2.3 million people.

On Biden’s reelection chances:

“I think President Biden has been an exceptional president. On a range of issues, he’s overperformed expectations. He’s navigated incredibly difficult circumstances. And he has shown he is willing to stand with the people of Georgia, the people of the country, to move the country forward. We have to remember what we’ve faced if we want to continue to build on the progress we’ve had. But we can’t ignore the fact that people’s lives are harder. And this is not because of the president. It is because of global issues and international challenges and market conditions and a whole host of things that don’t matter to you when you’re sitting at the kitchen table….”

On whether she’s ruled out another run for office:

“No. No, politics is a part of what I am and part of what I do. My approach is to do the work. Politics is one of the tools that I can use to do so. The work that I do, supporting small businesses and defending diversity, equity and inclusion … All of those are facets to get to what I believe in most importantly, which is that we should have the rights, the freedom to be successful. The freedom to dream of what can be. And politics is one of the tools that I can use, but for right now I’m focusing on some other things.”

Bulloch County will consider revising their Smart Bulloch 2040 Comprehensive Plan, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“Our amendment, which was formally adopted in September … really just addressed the Future Growth Map, the growth areas and two of the character areas for unincorporated Bulloch County,” Pope said.

The amendment created new “suburban neighborhood” and “suburban corridor” character areas in the southeastern-most part of the county.

“But that was, again, an amendment,” he said. “This new update is an update required by the Department of Community Affairs that every local government in Georgia has to go through on whatever timetable they’re on, but every five years they have to update their plan.”

In fact, the Smart Bulloch 2040 Comprehensive Plan isn’t just the Bulloch County government’s plan. It is jointly a plan of the county for all of its unincorporated area and a plan of the cities of Brooklet, Portal and Register for the areas in their city limits. But the city of Statesboro has its own plan and is doing a separate update.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program opens December 1, 2023, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The program is opening one month later than in the past. Homebound households are defined as those households in which every household member is confined to the home because of medical conditions or disabilities. Elderly households are defined as those households in which every member is aged 65 years or older. (If anyone in the household is under age 18 and all the other household members are 65 or older that household will meet the definition of elderly.)

All households participating in the program must meet the income criteria; be responsible for paying the cost of energy for home heating directly to the supplier; and be U.S. citizens or aliens admitted to the U.S. for lawful, permanent residence.

Cave Spring City Council will consider adopting a spay and neuter ordinance, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Katy Walters, director of Floyd County Public Animal Welfare Services, is scheduled to talk to the council about adopting the ordinance, which already has been approved for the city of Rome and the unincorporated parts of the county.

It requires all dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered and microchipped. Walters said it would apply to dogs age 6 months and older and to cats at 4 months and above. Exceptions are allowed for licensed breeders and working animals such as police K9s or hunting dogs or if the animal is not medically sound.

A six-month education period would go into effect once the ordinance is enacted. Walters said animal control would not be actively searching for unaltered pets but would check their status as they come across them.

The goal is to reduce the number of stray calls and the euthanization rate at PAWS. The department is combining the authority of the ordinance with revised policies on the intake of stray animals and its euthanasia timeline.

U.S. Representative Rick Allen (R-Augusta) is accepting applications for interns in the DC office, according to the Statesboro Herald.

A pro-Palestinian protest was held in Augusta, according to WRDW.

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