Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Politics for April 9, 2024

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Politics for April 9, 2024

After two days of exchanging letters with his Union counterpart, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee agreed to meet and make arrangements for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. At 2 PM on April 9, 1865, Lee and Grant met in a private home owned by Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and Lee agreed to the surrender of his army.

Lee was resplendent in his dress uniform and a fine sword at his side. Grant arrived wearing a simple soldier’s coat that was muddy from his long ride. The great generals spoke of their service in the Mexican War, and then set about the business at hand. Grant offered generous terms. Officers could keep their side arms, and all men would be immediately released to return home. Any officers and enlisted men who owned horses could take them home, Grant said, to help put crops in the field and carry their families through the next winter. These terms, said Lee, would have “the best possible effect upon the men,” and “will do much toward conciliating our people.” The papers were signed and Lee prepared to return to his men.

From the account by Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain:

“At such a time and under such conditions I thought it eminently fitting to show some token of our feeling, and I therefore instructed my subordinate officers to come to the position of ‘salute’ in the manual of arms as each body of the Confederates passed before us.”

“When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to ‘attention,’ preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon’s columns should pass before our front, each in turn.”

“The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation.”

“By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell.”

On April 9, 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta held the funeral for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 100,000 mourners reportedly showed up for the funeral, which could accomodate only 800; 200,000 mourners followed the mule-drawn hearse to Morehouse College.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Voters go to the polls today in a Special Election for House District 139 the seat vacated by the death of State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), according to WTVM.

There are four candidates running are: Sean Knox, Robert Mallard, Doctor Donald Moeller, and Carmen Rice.

The winner of this special election will immediately fill the seat and serve the remainder of Smith’s original term which ends December 2024.

Candidates who want to run for the full two-year term will have to win the primary on May 21 and win the election in November.

Voting takes place tomorrow in Columbus, Cataula, Ellerslie, and Waverly Hall.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

 

From the Secretary of State’s Office:

A run-off, if needed, shall be held on May 7, 2024.

The Catoosa County Republican Party filed a federal lawsuit against local election officers, according to the AJC.

A few days ago, it looked like the political and legal standoff over the Catoosa County GOP’s refusal to qualify Republican contenders the local party deemed to be phony conservatives was subsiding.

The local board of elections voted to qualify the four candidates rejected by party activists as Republicans said they were preparing to press forward with their campaigns.

Now there’s a new wrinkle. The party filed a six-page lawsuit asking a federal judge to block the election board from qualifying the quartet as Republicans, saying the party would be “significantly harmed” if they were listed on the GOP ticket and won election.

A hearing is set for April 17 — less than two weeks before early voting is set to begin ahead of the primary.

Some Coastal Republicans joined the chorus calling for the resignation of GAGOP Vice Chair Brian K. Pritchard, according to The Current GA.

Late last month, a state administrative judge ruled that conservative talk show host Brian Pritchard had broken state election laws by voting nine times while serving probation for a felony check forgery sentence.

In a posting on Facebook last week, Kandiss Taylor, chair of the 1st District Republican Committee, lambasted Pritchard for failing to relinquish his seat as first vice chair of the state GOP. She said the man who described himself as a “champion of election integrity” was a distraction from the state GOP’s main priority: getting Donald Trump elected in November.

“He spends his days ‘exposing’ what he believes to be corruption but refuses to be held to the same standard he has erected,” Taylor wrote.

Hours after Taylor and Greene urged Pritchard to step down, the host of “BKP on Politics” on the Voice of Rural America network, refused state GOP chairman Josh McKoon’s demand for his resignation during a meeting of the executive committee.

Pritchard’s wife added to the online spat with support for her husband. She launched vitriolic attacks on Taylor and Greene “Why would the communist left and the RINOs have so much fear?  Does his work expose too many?” she asked on X.

Pritchard himself doubled down a day later: “Today, I had two conversations that reaffirmed my resolve. One with God, and the other with my beloved wife. And from those conversations, I’ve drawn one resounding conclusion: if they want me out, if my commitment to exposing their corruption threatens them so deeply, then they should buckle up. Because I’m just getting started.”

Following last week’s executive committee meeting, the state GOP formally notified Pritchard that he must resign from the executive committee by early next month. He was elected to the post at last summer’s state Republican convention in Columbus.

The chair of Chatham County Republican Party said she supported the state party’s move. Brittany Brown said Monday that if Pritchard cared about the Republican Party, he would step down.

“We can’t shout election integrity from the rooftops and then have someone that sits on the board that was just found guilty of the same thing.”

Jordan Giben, chair of the Bryan County Republican Party, said Monday he and the county GOP were deferring to the state GOP’s wishes on the matter.

But Carolyn Hall Fisher, a resident of Glynn County who held the office first vice chair on the state GOP executive committee during the tenure of chairman David Shafer, described as “outrageous” Pritchard’s illegal voting and his response to calls for his resignation.

“He is an embarrassment to the party, and he needs to go,” Fisher said.

Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 443 by State Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), intended to address unpermitted events by allowing government claims against organizers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

A bill that would hold event organizers financially responsible for public events thrown without a permit in the state of Georgia was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp Monday, throwing the future of the annual beach bash known as “Orange Crush” into jeopardy.

The bill, SB 443, was authored by state Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) in response to last year’s Spring Break festival, which is hailed as “the biggest HBCU beach bash to hit the East Coast.” Although the official trademarked Orange Crush festival moved to Jacksonville in 2021, Orange Crush originated on Tybee Island in 1988 and has been an annual event attended primarily by Black college students from throughout the South. It will be held this year from April 19-21.

“I appreciate Governor Kemp’s support in signing Senate Bill 443 into law,” said Watson in a press release following the signing of the bill. “Governor Kemp understands the importance of avoiding situations where promoters bypass local permitting processes and leave citizens with the costs of responding and cleaning up from unpermitted events.”

Tybee Mayor Brian West also applauded the signing of the bill, which came in time to go into effect by this year’s event. However, he noted that the owner of the Orange Crush’s official trademark is no longer affiliated with the event in Tybee, leading city officials to pursue other strategies for determining who organized the event, and thus who to hold liable.

“We actively scan social media to see promotions and track what the activities are going to be, where they are going to be held and who’s promoting them,” West said. “The promoters also initially come to us and try to work with us to gain permits for the events, and typically they are unable to meet the requirements of the permits because they don’t start planning far enough in advance for the types of activities they’d like to have. And so therefore, we’re unable to issue permits for what they want to do.”

Social media groups are pushing for a veto of Senate Bill 351 by State Sen. Jason Anavitarte, (R-Paulding County) which would require age verification for new accounts, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Senate Bill 351, which the Georgia House and Senate passed last week on the final day of this year’s legislative session, is aimed at protecting young people from cyberbullying and other negative effects of social media.

The “Protecting Georgia’s Children on Social Media Act” was a top priority of Lt. Gov. Burt Jones. It was sponsored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus.

“Social media can be a very useful tool, however there are instances in which we must rein in Big Tech in order to protect the health and safety of our children,” Jones said after the Senate passed the original version of the bill in February. “This legislation is a tremendous step forward in our effort to combat cyberbullying and protect Georgia’s children.”

But Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, argued such a mandated verification requirement for social media access is unconstitutional.

“While there are many good ideas in this legislation, if implemented, it will create serious vulnerabilities for Georgians and their families while violating the U.S. Constitution,” Szabo wrote Monday in a letter to Kemp. “Ultimately, Georgia would be better served by abandoning age-verification efforts for social media and instead pursuing legislative efforts to improve online literacy for minors and their parents.”

Senate Bill 351 would apply the age-verification requirement to minors, meaning Georgians under the age of 16.

Coastal legislators discussed the past Session with the Golden Isles Republican Women, according to The Brunswick News.

State Sen. Mike Hodges was joined by state Reps. Steven Sainz and Buddy DeLoach in what amounted to a sneak preview of Thursday’s Grits and Issues breakfast at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Hodges, R-St. Simons Island, said the state budget includes $3.7 billion in new spending, including more funding for pre-schools. A 4% cost of living allowance will be awarded to state employees and law enforcement officers will receive $3,000 in an effort to stop the high turnover rate.

A committee will be established to investigate the Fulton County district attorney and her use of state resources, he said. But the committee has no power to prosecute or to remove the district attorney from office.

The much criticized QR codes on election ballots will be removed, which should squelch much of the criticism regarding voting machines, he said.

The good news for state taxpayers is the state income tax has been reduced from 5.75% to 5.39%, he said.

Sainz, R-St. Marys, whose District 180 encompasses all of Camden County as well as the Exit 29 area of Glynn County, including Jekyll Island, said a goal during next year’s legislative session is to reduce the state income tax to less than 5%.

Georgia is creating a grant program to disburse opioid-settlement funds, according to Georgia Recorder.

A total of $638 million will flow into Georgia, with three-fourths of the funds being distributed through the grant process unveiled Monday. Another 25%, or $159 million, will be shared among the city of Atlanta and the state’s largest counties.

Starting next Monday, groups can begin applying for the first round of grant funding. More information can be found on the website for the Georgia Opioid Crisis Abatement Trust. A series of workshops are being held across the state to explain the grant criteria and process, with the first one drawing a crowd Monday in downtown Atlanta.

“We have one opportunity to get this right,” said Kevin Tanner, commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. “So, we want to be slow and methodical to make sure 18 years from now when the last dollar is received and spent by the state of Georgia, that we have truly turned the tide on developing a continuum of care that stops the opioid epidemic.”

The funding is part of a multistate $26 billion settlement agreement with the three largest pharmaceutical distributors, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, and manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its parent company Johnson & Johnson.

In Georgia, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths increased by 207% from 2010 to 2020. The federal government officially declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in 2017.

Of the money coming to Georgia, $479 million will be distributed through Georgia Opioid Crisis Abatement Trust using the grant process announced Monday. Groups can either apply for a regional grant or a state level grant if they can show the proposed project has broader impact.

An inventory of existing services was created to identify where the gaps are and will influence the grant-awarding process, Tanner said.

Each application will go through a multi-layered review process that will land before what’s called the Georgia Opioid Settlement Advisory Commission. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed four members and a non-voting chairperson, Evan Meyers, who is deputy executive council for the governor’s office. Four other members are chosen by local governments.

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk was one of the governor’s picks, which Sisk says likely has something to do with how outspoken he has been about the impact of drugs on his northwest Georgia community.

Tanner was appointed by the governor to serve as the trustee, meaning he has the final say on which projects are funded.

The commissioner pledged to keep the distribution process transparent partly by posting key documents on the trust’s website.

“Our goal is to try to cut down on the number of open records requests, because we’re going to be so transparent. Anything you want to know will be available on the website,” the commissioner said at Monday’s workshop.

Many of the people at Monday’s workshop were people in recovery who now work as peers in the behavioral health field. Jeff Breedlove, advocacy strategist at the Georgia Council for Recovery, was one of them.

Breedlove praised the state for including the recovery community in the process of developing the grant program before any money was spent. Each regional council set up to handle the local grants also includes a person in recovery, he said.

“By having the peer voice represented in this process, it legitimizes this process. The survivor voice is the voice that will bring reality to the discussions,” Breedlove said.

“We need all stakeholders. We need our clinicians, we need our law enforcement, we need our academics, we need our elected officials, but they need the voice of lived experience to tell them what is real and not real in the real world,” he said.

Oakwood swore-in Rhonda Wood to the City Council seat vacated by the death of her husband, according to AccessWDUN.

Wood, the wife of late Oakwood City Councilman Dwight Wood, whose death in September 2023 prompted the March 12 special election, now officially fills the Post 4 seat on the council.

She defeated Volley Collins by an 88-vote margin in the special election, however Hall County elections officials later said that 200 people who did not live in the city limits of Oakwood voted in the race. That prompted investigations at both the county and state level, and left Wood in limbo.

“I didn’t have any interaction with the (Oakwood) elected officials. They weren’t allowed to be in contact with Volley or myself,” Wood said. “I just couldn’t believe what was going on.”

Wood was originally scheduled to be sworn in on April 2, but the city cancelled that meeting as Oakwood officials waited to hear if the election results would be challenged. City Manager B.R. White said officials remained in contact with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, but has received limited information on the status of their investigation.

“Our attorney had contacted the Secretary of State’s Office (prior to the scheduled April 2 meeting), but we had not received back any comments,” White said. “In the process, our attorney did make contact with their attorney and write a letter, basically just stating that we planned on seating the winning candidate as stated by the elections office and we understood that if there’s an error and something has to be re-done, then she will no longer have the seat.”

“I just hope that we don’t have the same problem come the May election and the November election,” Wood said.

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