Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 31, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 31, 2023

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

The United States Congress admitted Nevada as the 36th state on October 31, 1864. Kind of fitting, in a way.

The carving on Mount Rushmore was completed on October 31, 1941.

President Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail to help his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her race for United States Senate from New York on October 31, 2000. On October 31, 2014, Bill Clinton came to Atlanta to campaign for Michelle Nunn for United States Senate.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Laurens County School District was the first in Georgia to permit non-officer employees to carry guns on campus, according to 13WMAZ.

In 2014, Georgia allowed local school boards to permit people other than police officers to carry guns on campus as long as they are trained. Laurens County Schools became the first system to allow teachers to be armed in 2018.

“It seems like Burt Jones is maybe taking that as part of his mission to bring some more focus into school safety,” [Laurens County School District Superintendent Clifford] Garnot said.

Outside all of the Laurens County Schools, you will see warning signs that let you know staff are armed and trained.

Garnto says administrators recommend teachers for the school district’s gun carry program.

“One of the first things we do is we get a psychological done for each participant and once they pass the psychological, then we move on to our training, which is in-class training, as well as field training,” Ganto said.

Garnto says there are 55 to 60 staff members who are currently armed and trained. He says some parents were concerned about the new program, but they changed their opinions when they saw how other schools handled shootings.

“It makes that process that much quicker by having people on site who are trained, who know that responsibility and are mentally capable to take on that responsibility,” Garnto said.

School Safety Director Curt Kersey runs the week-long training the teachers and staff have to go through.
Teachers and staff take the training over the summer and they get a stipend for taking part.

“We work close with Laurens County Sheriff’s department,” Kersey said. “We have intense training at the range, active shooter training.”

Lowndes County is seeing low numbers of early voters, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Supervisor of Elections Deb Cox said the early voting turnout has been slow and informed residents that the Lowndes County Elections Office’s final week operating hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday, Oct. 30, to Friday, Nov. 3.

Shared documents showed about 1,056 individuals cast their vote within the first week of advanced voting starting from Monday, Oct. 16, to Sunday, Oct. 22. The largest voting day within the week was Wednesday, Oct. 18, with approximately 199 votes and one provisional ballot.

The second week totaled slightly lower than the first: Only 994 votes were made, the documents said.

Cox explained that only city residents are able to vote in the Nov. 7 election due to the county not having any active contests. Elections are being held for the cities of Dasher, Remerton, Hahira and Valdosta.

The Port of Brunswick is on track to become the number one port for roll-on, roll-off freight, according to the Savannah Morning News.

It is an ambitious goal but GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch said what they can accomplish in doing so exceeds the accolade.

“It’s not about being No. 1,” said Lynch during the Brunswick State of the Ports luncheon on Monday. “What is important is when you have the capability to be No. 1 ― that shouts economic development and it’s a job creator in the state. When Hyundai thinks about its site location, they are looking for a place to bring the cargo in, the parts and a place to export. It is important we have the assets to help companies make the right site selection and that is Georgia.”

Hyundai will help them reach that goal.“It’s really exciting,” said GPA Board Chairman Kent Fountain. “The investment Hyundai is putting here and getting the vehicles here is exciting.  Hyundai is a huge partnership.”

The ports have 264 acres of land that will be developed and used for auto processing.

“In layman’s terms, it is a big parking lot and most of it will be auto storage,” said Edward Fulford, manager of media relations at GPA. “There will be parking spaces for all of these vehicles and while they are here on terminal, there will be auto processing such as adding camera, stereos and floormats – there are a myriad of things that will happen.”

During the presentation, Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter announced $11.4 million in funds for the widening and deepening of Brunswick harbor.

Talks of a recession have been looming for months but Carter said the ports will help keep the state going. “I hope we are not headed into a recession but if we are, the Georgia Ports is going to be the steady force that will keep us and get us through this. That is why we have to continue to invest in the infrastructure.”

From The Brunswick News:

The Port of Brunswick is poised to be the No. 1 roll-on/roll-off port in the nation by 2026.

“Organic growth, a steady pipeline of new customers and the ability to take on new trade will boost Brunswick’s roll-on/roll-off volumes, which are already expanding at a strong rate,” Lynch said. “To accommodate the anticipated market, GPA has initiated an aggressive infrastructure plan, strengthening Colonel’s Island for auto and machinery processing.”

During fiscal year 2023, roll-on/roll-off volume increased 18% — to more than 705,000 units of automobiles and heavy machinery in and out of the port.

Including Ocean Terminal in Savannah, the GPA handled a record 723,515 roll-on/roll-off units during the same time period.

The Port of Brunswick also served 610 vessels, representing an 11% increase over the previous year. Colonel’s Island handled 495 of the ships.

“At 1,700 acres, Brunswick is the nation’s premier gateway for auto and roll-on/roll-off cargo,” [Port Authority Board Chair Ken Fountain] said. “Brunswick’s gateway port model features four on-site auto processors, room for customers to grow their business with three available parcels of land totaling 264 acres and direct access to Interstate 95 for car and machinery carrier trucks.”

The port authority has also received permission for a fourth roll-on/roll-off berth at Colonel’s Island which will increase the number of vessels that can dock at the port. Once completed, the new berth will be able to handle vessels that can carry as many as 7,000 vehicles.

Twenty years ago, the Port of Brunswick was ranked No. 8 as a gateway port. In 2010, it rose to No. 3, holding that rank the past 13 years.

But Lynch said both ports in Brunswick and Savannah are poised for growth because more than half the cargo delivered by cargo ship — 56% — comes to the East Coast. Two decades ago, the West Coast handled 54% of the cargo, Lynch said.

“We want to be the No. 1,” he said. “There is going to be a shift. Our job is to be ready for that.”
There is also a manufacturing shift in the nation, with a growing number of manufacturers moving or opening in the Southeast, he said. And more large cargo ships are under construction and should be delivering goods to ports around the world by 2026.

“These things are going to be driven to Georgia ports,” Lynch said.

Governor Kemp asked federal legislators to support the further deepening of the shipping channel, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

“GPA is vital to our national supply chain and as a job creator for our state,” Kemp wrote in a letter to U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, copies of which went to the offices of all members of the delegation. “It is critical we work together to ensure GPA can continue to accommodate ever-larger container vessels calling on our ports.”

The ports authority is asking Congress to approve the study as part of the Water Resources Development Act federal lawmakers are due to consider next year. The study would be undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Kemp asked for unanimous support from the delegation’s Republicans and five Democrats.

“Leaders from both parties and from across Georgia provided a unified voice in support of SHEP,” the governor wrote. “It is time for us to provide that level of leadership again.”

More than 2400 new homes are being built in Statesboro, according to the Statesboro Herald.

At least 2,427 planned housing units — including 290 student apartments (with up to 691 beds) in a multistory building beside the Georgia Southern campus, upwards of 300 apartments elsewhere in Statesboro, 1,004 townhomes and 690 single-family homes in subdivisions mostly on the edges of town — were in various stages of city-OK’d development as of mid-October.

“Now, this does not include small developments of less than 20 (units each),” said city Planning and Development Director Kathy Field. “The list would just get too long.”

“You’re very close to 3,000 units. So that’s what we’re seeing,” Field said. “Now, it’s not all going to happen at once. As you know, it happens slowly, and there’s a development process they have to go through.”

The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission sent Govern0r Kemp an even shorter than usual list of candidates for a fourth seat on the Dougherty County Superior Court, according to the Albany Herald.

Dougherty County Superior Court is set to have a fourth judge on the bench come January, and the sole candidate for the position is Albany attorney Joseph Dent, Dougherty Chief Judge Willie Lockette announced on Monday.

The Judicial Nominating Commission of Georgia named Dent as the sole candidate to Gov. Brian Kemp, who could interview the attorney this week, Lockette said while giving an update on the judge’s position to the Dougherty County Commission.

“Joe is a good guy,” Lockette told a Herald reporter as he rushed from the commission meeting to his courtroom to conduct a proceeding. “He’ll make a great judge.”

“The position is scheduled to be filled as of Jan. 1, 2024,” Lockette told commissioners. “The reason we are getting a new judge is the skyrocketing case load, which is causing delays.”

The Georgia House Study Committee on Fishing and Freshwater Resources heard testimony about how legislation designed to clarify riparian rights actually obfuscated the issue, according to GPB News.

Yellow Jacket Shoals landowner Samuel Brewton III fired a gun at a family of kayakers. He’s serving a decade in prison.

Later, his brother, attorney Ben Brewton, took a different tack, and sued.

He got what he wanted: a settlement from the state saying since he owns land adjacent to the Flint River, he owns rights to the piece of the river flowing by his land, too. About a year later, members of the Georgia House are still talking about that.

SB 115 was meant to make Brewton’s settlement a one-time thing, by reiterating that the state owns the riverbed under navigable rivers.

But there was a hitch: SB 115 did not define navigable.

That’s the job of the house committee, which heard a few definitions in that first meeting.

First, the federal definition: If in its natural state a river was likely used by people for trade and commerce in 1788 when Georgia became a state, it’s navigable today.

“The United States Supreme Court said ‘We don’t look at the water body as a whole. We actually look at it on a segment by segment basis,’” [Southern Environmental Law Center attorney April] Lipscomb said. That could create the need for untold numbers of official determinations along even a single river.

Plus, said Lipscomb, how is a boater to know they have floated between navigable and un-navigable sections of river?

“You know, I think it’s really hard for an average person to get out on a river and figure out if that segment of the river was susceptible of being used for trade or travel using whatever watercraft was used it back in 1788,” she said.

Scott Robinson is head of fisheries for the Georgia DNR. He told lawmakers to know what DNR calls navigable, look where DNR maintains boat ramps like the one Allen Ragsdale used to float to Yellow Jacket Shoals.

“We do consider downstream of there to be open to public use,” Robinson said. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to put a boat out there.”

“Public access is important for more than just fishing,” Lipscomb said. “There are people who boat, there are people who swim. There are people who just like to get on the water and enjoy that space.”

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree wrote Augusta Commissioners that his agency will evict people who overstay lodging rentals, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The issue goes back to July, when local hotel owners complained that they had guests staying for more days than for which they had paid. They said law enforcement declined to remove the people from the property.

In subsequent meetings, representatives from the sheriff’s office gave different perspectives. One asked for a local ordinance while another said people who overstay are being removed.

“As an ‘Inn Keeper,’ any guest may be asked to leave the property after the contractual agreed upon time and date. Failure to do so risks arrest under the Criminal Trespass statute,” Roundtree wrote in the undated letter to the commission.

In order to help the sheriff’s office do this, Roundtree asked that local hotel owners have guests sign something that specifies it is not a landlord/tenant agreement and that all guests check out after a week. He then noted that “the guests should then sign a new contract if they wish to stay an additional week.”

The Georgia Supreme Court ruling Efficiency Lodge, Inc. v. Neason et al., where several residents of a long-term stay hotel sued when management attempted to evict them without filing a formal eviction claim in court, determined that under some circumstances a resident at a hotel could be considered a tenant. But they returned the ruling to the lower court to determine whether or not that applied in that specific case.


The Savannah Morning News continues to profile candidates for City Council.

District 5 – Estella Shabazz, incumbent, Robert Bryant, Chase DeCarlo, Lisa Jackson-Lockhart, youth pastor Mike McCann

District 6 – Kurtis Partee, incumbent,  Chase DeCarlo, Lisa Jackson-Lockhart, and Mike McCann

Two bonus points to the writer of the District 6 article for correctly deploying the Oxford Comma, aka, the Serial Comma.

Albany Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard stands for reelection next month, according to the Albany Herald.

Lilburn Mayor Tim Dunn faces former Mayor Johnny Crist and a third candidates, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The dynamic of having Dunn and Crist running against each other in particular has raised some eyebrows. The two worked together for years when Crist was mayor and Dunn was a city councilman. In fact, Dunn was mayor pro tem — essentially the second in command — under Crist.

“Johnny came to me in advance to tell me that he was going to run and I said, ‘Well Johnny, you might win but I’m the better mayor,’ “ Dunn told the Daily Post. “I have that relationship with him. I was his pro tem for eight years and was in every meeting that he was in so we know each other pretty well.”

Lilburn has three contested races this year. In addition to the mayoral race, there are two contested City Council races. In the Post 1 race, Councilwoman Yoon-mi Hampton is running against Christina van Maanen. In the Post 2 race, Councilman Scott Batterton is being challenged by Tiffany Brunson and Joseph Payne.

The mayor’s race, like the two contested City Council races, will largely be a referendum on how the Lilburn’s leadership has handled growth and development.

State Rep. Dar’Shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) will host a small business event with State Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) and the Secretary of State’s Office, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

State Rep. Dar’Shun Kendrick, whose district includes portions of Gwinnett, Rockdale and DeKalb counties, and Rep. Doreen Carter, D-Lithonia, are teaming up with the Secretary of State’s Office for the free-to-attend fifth annual Financial Fit, or FIN FIT, “Fearlessly Fundraising for Small Businesses” event from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the Georgia International Horse Park, 1996 Centennial Olympic Parkway in Conyers.

“I am proud to partner with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to the 95th House District for this event,” Kendrick said. “I was able to work with the Secretary of State’s office to help plan an insightful panel on businesses resources and success stories. My support of small businesses has never wavered ever since being elected in 2010. I invite all constituents in Rockdale and the surrounding areas to take advantage of the networking, resources and opportunities on this day.”

“We thank Georgia State Representatives Dar’shun Kendrick and Doreen Carter for partnering with the Georgia Secretary of State to bring this financial empowerment event to Conyers,” Secretary of State’s Office Assistant Commissioner of Securities Noula Zaharis said.

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