Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 12, 2022


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 12, 2022

James Oglethorpe arrived at Augusta on September 12, 1739, 279 years ago today.

French troops arrived near Savannah to prepare for a siege against British forces there on September 12, 1779.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp accepted the resignation of Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced Friday that the governor has accepted the resignation of Mariah Parker from the District 2 seat on the Athens-Clarke County Board of Commissioners.

The letter requested the acceptance based on the fact Parker is currently residing outside the boundaries of District 2, according to the statement.

The letter was effective on Sept. 8 and the acceptance of the letter by the governor is required by state law, according to the news release.

Kemp also ordered a special election to fill the vacancy. Athens-Clarke County officials announced earlier that they plan to hold the special election on Nov. 8, the same date as the general election.

I can’t imagine circumstances under which Gov. Kemp would not have accepted the resignation.

The Associated Press noticed four year later that statewide Republican candidates are seeking votes outside Metro Atlanta. From the AP via AccessWDUN.

Kemp kept going north, deep into the Georgia mountains that have become one of the most Republican areas in the country over the last three decades. He stopped at a gas station turned coffee shop in Toccoa to urge people to “turn out an even bigger vote here in this county and in northeast Georgia than we’ve ever seen before.”

“Ask your kids, your grandkids, your friend’s kid, are they registered to vote?” Kemp told attendees. “If they’re eligible, and they’re not, we got to get them registered, and we’ve got to go tell them to pull it for the home team.”

The emphasis on this rural region represents a notable shift in the GOP’s strategy in Georgia. The party grew into a powerhouse in Georgia once it began combining a strong performance in the Atlanta suburbs with growing dominance in rural areas. But that coalition has frayed in recent years as voters in the booming Atlanta region rejected the GOP under former President Donald Trump, turning this onetime Republican stronghold into the South’s premier swing state.

“It reflects a lot of the country right now, in the sense that it’s very populist, very close to the vest, very isolated in the sense of distrust of government, very strong-willed, mountain Appalachian-type individuals that are very self sufficient,” said former Rep. Doug Collins, the Republican who preceded Clyde in representing northeast Georgia’s 9th Congressional District.

North Georgia was 19% of [Republican Guy] Millner’s vote in 1994. It was 26% of Kemp’s vote in 2018. Some of that is due to population growth, but reflects a partisan shift to Republicans. Millner won less than 51% of the vote in the region. Kemp won almost 72%.

NPR covers the other side of the struggle for rural votes in Georgia.

Until recently, a statewide candidate spending significant time in this thinly-populated, substantially Black, southwest corner of Georgia was virtually unheard of.

For years, Democrats failed to win statewide in Georgia. The ground began to shift about four years ago when Stacey Abrams made her first bid for governor.

“Atlanta cannot live without Albany, and Albany cannot live without the investments that come from Atlanta,” Abrams said in 2017, launching her campaign, not in Atlanta, but in Albany. “We need to talk to those forgotten voters, the ones who are rarely talked about. I am running for governor because we need a governor who comes from a town like Albany. Where we begin does not dictate what we become.”

“I know everybody looks at Atlanta as the African American mecca,” says Albany Commissioner Demetrius Young. “But if you follow this blue wave in Georgia, it came right through Albany down into Southwest Georgia. We need to hold the ground that we’ve gained.”

More than 50,000 people have registered in Southwest Georgia since 2018. The majority are non-white, the New Georgia Project says.

“This is a both/and strategy. I think some people want to use it as an either/or,” says Andra Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University.

“Even though Democrats expect to lose in rural parts of the state, they can’t underperform there. Because if they underperform there, they end up losing the election.”

Democrats hope to slice into the GOP’s margins, particularly in racially-diverse rural counties. Warnock has emphasized the plight of rural Black farmers. Abrams prominently highlights rural hospital closures as she pitches her plan to expand Medicaid.

Republican Former SC Governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley campaigned with Herschel Walker, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

As Rick Desai began to introduce former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley at a rally for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker in Norcross on Friday, he linked the Indian-American community to the Republican Party.

“The Republican Party loves the Indian-American community and the Indian-American loves the Republican Party,” Desai declared as attendees cheered.

“It warms my heart that you came,” she said. “We have seen the Indian community vote Democrat for a long time, not because they’re Democrats. My parents voted Democrat until Reagan. You know why? Because Republicans never talked to them.”

“Herschel Walker wanted to talk to you. Herschel Walker said he wanted the Indian-American community to know that he was going to fight for them too. That’s what this is about.”

“They came here legally, they put in the time, they put in the price like all of these people did,” said Haley, referring to immigrants in the crowd. “My mom, every night at dinner, is so offended at the illegal immigration that continues to cross these borders because they knew what it was like to do it the right way.”

“They don’t want to see someone given a pass and you look at legal immigrants, they are more patriotic than any of the liberals these days because they love America.”

Walker’s rally in Norcross highlights the importance Gwinnett’s multicultural community appears to have for both political parties in a highly contested U.S. Senate race that has garnered national attention.

“You know, I always keep one eye on Georgia because I want to make sure all is going well,” Haley said. “You’ve got an interesting race here. You’ve got a Senate race that all of the country is watching.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service:

“The courage we have seen from Gov. Brian Kemp has been extraordinary,” Haley told reporters during a late afternoon stop at The Varsity restaurant in Midtown Atlanta. “He’s the one who saved the economy for businesses like The Varsity.”

On Friday, Kemp said he moved quickly when the pandemic struck Georgia to augment hospital staffing and medical supplies to cope with the outbreak of COVID-19, just as he is moving now to fill the gap in health-care delivery looming when Wellstar’s Atlanta Medical Center closes on Nov. 1.

“Expanding Medicaid would not save that facility,” the governor said. “I’m sitting down to find a solution. … We’re going to figure this out.”

Abrams has said Medicaid expansion would be a top priority if she defeats Kemp in November. Georgia is one of only 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act a then-Democratic Congress passed more than a decade ago.

“Brian Kemp continues palling around with extremists who want to pass a national ban on abortion or make abortion illegal with no exceptions — dangerous positions that threaten Georgians’ lives, health, and freedom,” Democratic spokesman Max Flugrath said.

Former Governor Sonny Perdue now serves as Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

But not until Friday did the long-time public servant officially take on “maybe the most impactful job I’ve ever had” when he was formally invested as the 14th chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

“We touch the lives of people where it really counts and help them add value to themselves,” Perdue said during an investiture ceremony inside the chambers of the state House of Representatives that coincided with his 50th wedding anniversary.

“He focuses on the details; he’s data driven,” said Teresa MacCartney, the university system’s executive vice chancellor of administration, who served as acting chancellor last year and early this year after Wrigley left. “He always wants to know how we can do better.”

Perdue took the opportunity at Friday’s ceremony to put in a plug for the system’s new website, Georgia Degrees Pay, which launched last month, part of his commitment to transparency through sharing data with the public.

“It shows the value of a Georgia degree and a college diploma,” he said. “We’re not hiding anything. … We want to earn the public’s trust.”

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce endorsed Republican Tyler Harper for Agriculture Commissioner, according to the Albany Herald.

As a seventh-generation farmer, state senator, and small business owner, the chamber said Harper has “a proven record of delivering results and fighting for our farmers, producers, and consumers across the state.”

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office is working on voter list maintenance, according to the Albany Herald.

Voters throughout Georgia may be receiving official election mail as part of a comprehensive effort to improve the accuracy of Georgia’s voter rolls, the Secretary of State’s Election Division announced this week. Approximately 208,000 active voters may have moved within Georgia, according to data from the Department of Driver Services.

In June of this year, the Elections Division identified these voters by cross-referencing Drivers Services records that reflect more recent activity indicating a different address than the existing voter records on file, including records obtained through the state’s partnership with the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC. To increase the accuracy of current election records, the mailer will ask the recipients to respond by confirming their current address. Individuals who do not respond will not be affected.

From Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office:

“Georgians move every day, and the last thing on their mind is updating their voter registration,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “We want to help make sure there’s no surprises when election day comes around.”

The mailer encourages voters to visit My Voter Page to ensure the accuracy of their information by providing a link and a QR code. All Georgia voters are encouraged to visit MVP to check their registration status, early voting and election day locations, and absentee voting information.

The Floyd County Board of Elections is interviewing candidates for a new elections supervisor, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Pete McDonald has a one-year contract to oversee local elections that expires at the end of the year. He said there are at least 10 potential candidates the board is in the process of talking with, one on one, in closed sessions.

“They hope by the end of the month they’ll have someone to announce… The plan is for the person to come on board while I’m still here and go through the November election with me,” McDonald said.

The county has been without an elections chief since November 2020, following a tumultuous vote-counting process that led to the resignation of Robert Brady. After revising the job description and boosting the salary from the mid $30,000s to between $59,000 and $94,400, depending on experience, a search was launched.

Democrat Stacey Abrams has been born again into the South’s most popular religion, college football, betting on legalized wagering. From the AJC:

Just in time for college football season, Stacey Abrams has launched a new round of Georgia Bulldog-themed campaign ads promoting her call to legalize sports betting.

The Democrat’s campaign rolled out a round of 15-second and 30-second ads targeting voters who visit online betting sites and webpages linked to top-ranked Georgia’s football team.

It’s part of an effort to legalize casino gambling and sports betting to expand the HOPE scholarship and finance a needs-based higher education program. First outlined in August, the plan is another sharp policy divide with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who leads in the polls.

“While Georgians still place bets, Kemp is forcing them out of state to do it, taking the tax dollars with them,” the narrator said. “That means even when Georgia wins the bet, states like Tennessee get the tax money.”

Kemp opposed legalizing sports betting in 2018 but steered clear of the debate this year. His spokesman Tate Mitchell has said the governor plans to work with legislative leaders on a measure to allow sports betting in 2023 if he’s reelected.

The idea appears to have significant public support. A 2020 poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that about 58% of Georgia voters support legalizing sports betting.

Democrat Stacey Abrams led a rally in Augusta, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Saturday a small but enthusiastic crowd gave Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams several standing ovations. Abrams came to Augusta as part of her campaign for the Nov. 8, 2022 general election in which she will face Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Abrams addressed the crowd on issues of reproductive rights, Medicaid expansion and gun control.

“I’m running for governor because as a woman, I’m now a second class citizen in the state of Georgia,” she said. “I don’t have the right to control my own body in the state of Georgia, I don’t have the right to determine my future in the state of Georgia. It took a man to break Georgia’s promise. It’s gonna take a woman to put it right.”

Democratic Rep. Gloria Frazier of Georgia’s District 126 said the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned the federal protection to a woman’s right to abortion motivated her. “One of the reasons I’m running and supporting her is Roe v. Wade; my right and my daughter’s right… to control their bodies, whether they want to have an abortion. I cannot sit by and let a man determine and tell me what is best for my body.”

“There’s no reasons why rural hospitals are closing at the rate that they’re closing,” [Augusta Commissioner Jordan] Johnson said. “Right here at home, we have the Burke County hospital and hospitals across the rural area that have closed or that is not quality because of the governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid.”

Abrams criticized Kemp loosening concealed carry laws, and argued for stricter legislation on open carry, increased background checks, and similar measures. But she clarified that she does not want to take away anyone’s firearms.

From WRDW:

News 12′s Craig Allison sat down with Abrams before the rally in an exclusive interview to talk about things Augusta and Georgia’s voters are most concerned about.

Abrams said, “But the larger issue is one of the intersections of crime and poverty in the state of Georgia. And while we must do what we can to help support law enforcement, we must also tackle the root causes.”

Abrams goes on to say that while Georgia has a low unemployment rate, she believes this is because many people are working multiple jobs.

“We know that already a thousand producers, showrunners and directors said that they were going to reconsider whether they were going to bring jobs to Georgia because of how these laws are going to affect women,” said Abrams. “But if we have a governor that is actually meeting the needs of our people by saying ‘if you are a film or entertainment product that is employing women, you don’t have to make arrangements to fly that woman to California, or North Carolina, or to another state to give her medical care.”

WRDW has transcribed the interview.

Floyd County Republicans rallied to support their candidates, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Headlining Saturday’s event were the GOP candidate for Senate, Herschel Walker, as well as 14th District U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Walker is facing Sen. Raphael Warnock and Greene is being challenged by Democrat Marcus Flowers in the Nov. 8 general election.

Greene spoke first about the floods that have devastated Chattooga County, stating it was great to see people helping their neighbors. She then launched into a full broadside on most of President Biden’s and the Democratic Party’s perceived failures since the last election.

“We have a wide open border right now, it’s a complete invasion,” Greene said. “They are bringing fentanyl and other dangerous substances, and there’s also human and child trafficking.” She then pivoted into an attack on Biden’s focus on expanding green energy, saying it’s “destroying the fossil fuel industry that has given us exceptionalism for 75 to 100 years.”

Chatham County Chair Chester Ellis would set up a slush fund for future transportation needs under the name “One Chatham” under a proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation (T-SPLOST), according to the Savannah Morning News.

One Chatham is not a street or a bridge or the address of a property to be purchased as part of a larger project. One Chatham is an initiative, devised by Chatham Chairman Chester Ellis as a contingency fund for projects that may need extra cash in the future.

As Ellis described One Chatham at its launch in June 2021, the initiative is meant to “make sure that we are good stewards of the resources that the citizens of Chatham County have given us to work with.”

Ask Ellis to specify the projects that One Chatham’s $10.2 allocation will go toward should the 1% sales tax gain voter approval on Nov. 8, and he can’t. Nobody else can either.

The absence of details means voters will be asked to vote on the tax without knowing where approximately 2.5% of the estimated $500 million total  — previously $420 million, adjusted for inflation — TSPLOST package is going.

TSPLOST is a 1% tax is meant to serve as a revenue source for Georgia municipalities to fund various transportation-related capital improvement projects, such as roadwork, bridges, pedestrian and bike trails and public transportation. Approval of the TSPLOST referendum would increase Chatham’s sales tax on most goods and services from 7% to 8%, starting Jan. 1, 2023.

Since no municipalities can advertise TSPLOST by law, the Savannah Chamber of Commerce takes up the mantle of “campaigning” for the item on the November ballot.

Chamber President and CEO Bill Hubbard said he considers One Chatham to be a small part of TSPLOST, and sees it as “what businesses do.”

The Savannah Morning News has more on the “One Chatham” proposal.

State legislators may consider boosting tax credits for the music industry, according to the Capitol Beat News Service .

“We see what has happened with the film business,” Chuck Leavell, the Georgia-based keyboardist for The Rolling Stones and previously for The Allman Brothers Band, told members of a legislative study committee. “You’re going to attract all manner of performers … if we can put these incentives in place.”

The Joint Georgia Music Heritage Study Committee began a series of meetings Sept. 7 looking for ways to grow the music industry in a state with a rich and diverse musical history including the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding, Little Richard, James Brown, Johnny Mercer, Ray Charles, and Jason Aldean.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2017 providing tax incentives to musical productions, including both live and recorded performances.

But the tax credit is due to expire at the end of this year unless the legislature renews it.

A bill introduced during this year’s legislative session called for lowering the spending threshold to qualify for the credit from the current $500,000 for a live performance to $100,000 and from $250,000 for a recorded performance to $50,000.

House Bill 1330 also proposed doubling the value of the tax credit from 15% of a production company’s qualified expenses to 30%.

A Crisp County Superior Court Judge ruled that a recall petition against County Commission Chair Joshua Deriso may proceed, according to WALB.

A Crisp County judge has ruled a recall petition against Cordele City Commission Chairman Joshua Deriso is legally sufficient.

The judge ruled that “probable cause exists to believe that the alleged facts cited in the recall petition are true”.

Sims must get 30% of the 5,923 eligible voters at the time Deriso was elected. That is a total of 1,974 valid signatures from eligible voters.

At last check, Sims had 500 signatures before the lawsuit called the validity of the application into question.

I note that petitions often lose large numbers of signatures as they are found to be invalid for substantive or procedural issues.

Chatham County Commissioners adopted a resolution against gun violence, according to WSAV.

“We needed to send a stronger message about the gun violence that was going on and about violence, period,” said Chairman Chester Ellis. “I don’t care what kind of weapon you use, I don’t care if it’s even your fist. Violence needs to stop. And that’s what this is about.”

Ellis said gun violence is not a political issue, but one that hurts the entire community. The resolution calls for the county to improve gun violence research and prevention, working with local law enforcement to reduce the number of weapons illegally in the hands of residents.

It also encourages disarming people convicted of domestic abuse, as well as funding mental health and trauma services.

“The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted in our culture, which is why we must take a public health approach to ensuring our families and communities are safe,” the resolution reads. “We must place a renewed emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research.”

WTVM profiles the two candidates for Georgia State School Superintendent.

Alisha Thomas Searcy and Incumbent Richard Woods are no strangers to the classroom. With their experience, both talk about why they feel educators should be paid fairly and how they’ll ensure students and staff are safe on campus.

Managing 1.8 million children who attend schools across the state of Georgia has been Richard Woods’ responsibility for the past eight years.

“The record is clear. I’m really the only candidate that has been a classroom teacher, been an administrator. So you know, I have the experience 30-something years right now in pre-K through 12th-grade education,” said Woods.

Woods explicitly wants to increase school resource officers and ensure schools have adequate mental health resources.

When Woods became Georgia’s School Superintendent, Alisha Thomas Searcy was wrapping up her time at the State House of Representatives. Searcy became the first African American elected from Cobb County to serve in the House, where she stayed for six years.

“When I left the legislature in 2014, I went back to school, got a master’s degree in education leadership and also participated in two different very intense superintendent training programs. And then became a superintendent,” said Searcy.

Searcy says she also plans to increase starting pay for all teachers to $65,000 yearly to decrease classroom burnout.

“I need voters to know that this is a critical election, that Democrats and Republicans can vote for me as the State School Superintendent because I want to focus on not red or blue, not Democrat or Republican. I want to focus on your child,” said Searcy.

The Savannah Morning News profiles the candidates for Attorney General.

Incumbent Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican who has held the seat since 2016, has carried the water for the state’s conservative leadership on the base’s bread-and-butter issues. Most notably he’s defended the state’s restricting of abortion rights, known as the “Heartbeat Law,” and a series of voting revisions in 2020 and in 2021 that tightened requirements for absentee ballots, among other measures.

In the wake of Georgia’s purpling in the 2020 presidential election, Carr drew the ire of former President Donald Trump because Carr was unwilling to help overturn the results of the election in Georgia. Trump endorsed one of Carr’s 2022 primary opponents even

With Democratic nominee Jen Jordan, a state senator representing the Atlanta area, as Carr’s ideological opposite, the attorney general’s race may very well come down to the candidates’ stances on reproductive and voting rights — which may push moderate independent voters toward the left.

Carr has gained national attention for defending the state’s early economic re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he’s actively fought against federal mandates for masks and vaccines. In his role, he has led the state’s defense of its sweeping changes to voting laws and the “Heartbeat Bill.”

State Sen. Jordan garnered the national spotlight and became a household name outside of her North Atlanta-area district in 2019 when she delivered a deeply personal speech against HB 481, the state’s “Heartbeat Bill.”

The Whitfield County Board of Education and Dalton Board of Education meet separately tonight, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

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