Georgia Politics, Elections, and Campaigns for October 30, 2023


Georgia Politics, Elections, and Campaigns for October 30, 2023

King Henry VII of England was crowned on October 30, 1485.

King Charles I of England granted a charter for a new colony called Carolana that included much of present-day Georgia, along with the current states of North and South Carolina, on October 30, 1629.

Stephen Douglas of Illinois campaigned in Atlanta for President of the United States on October 30, 1860. Douglas had defeated Abraham Lincoln for United States Senate in 1858, giving rise to the Lincoln-Douglas style of debate.

On October 30, 1871, Republican Benjamin Conley became acting Governor of Georgia after Republican Governor Rufus Bullock resigned; Conley served as President of the state Senate before taking office as Governor.

Conley took the oath of office on Oct. 30, 1871. Two days later, the new General Assembly convened and elected a new Democratic president of the Senate, but Conley refused to give up the office. The General Assembly then passed a law over Conley’s veto to hold a special election for governor on the third Tuesday in December. In that election, Democratic House speaker James M. Smith defeated Conley and assumed office Jan. 12, 1872.

On October 30, 1938, a science fiction drama called War of the Worlds was broadcast nationwide in the form of a series of simulated radio broadcasts.

Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 30, 1945, becoming the first African-American professional baseball player in the major leagues.

On October 30, 1970, a fastball from Nolan Ryan was timed at 100.9 miles per hour, putting him in the record books.

On the same day, Jim Morrison of the Doors was sentenced to six months in prison and a $500 fine for allegedly exposing himself during a Miami concert. Morrision died before the case was heard on appeal.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Floyd County voters continue casting early ballots in a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum and other local races, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Rome residents will also have city commission races on their ballots.

So far, fewer than 3% of eligible voters have cast yes or no votes on the proposed $110,003,289 SPLOST package.

It’s a 6-year extension of the existing special purpose local option sales tax. If approved, collections would start the day after the 2017 SPLOST collections end on March 31, 2024, and continue through March 31, 2030.

Early voting continues through Friday at the elections center, inside the health department building on East 12th Street. A second location opens Monday at the Anthony Recreation Center, 2901 Garden Lakes Blvd. Hours at both sites are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week.

Rome voters will fill six of the nine seats on the city commission — three in Ward 1 and three in Ward 3. The vote is citywide.

Voters can select up to three candidates in each ward, with the top three vote getters in each starting 4-year terms in January.

Cave Spring residents vote at City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave., downtown. Weekday hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Floyd County opens the Anthony Recreation Center for early voting this week, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Voters must go to their assigned precincts on election day, Tuesday, when the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Floyd County Elections Supervisor Akyn Beck noted that the 25 precincts of the past have been consolidated into 19, so people should check what precinct they go to and where it’s located before they go.

United States District Court Judge R. Stan Baker (SD-GA) ordered sanctions against Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones, according to the AJC.

A federal judge sanctioned Chatham County District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones on Thursday, issuing an order that called her attempts to evade an April deposition in a sexual discrimination lawsuit in which she is a defendant “utter nonsense built on fabrications.”

U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker of the Southern District of Georgia ruled Cook Jones in default in the case. The complaint, brought by a former assistant prosecutor in Cook Jones’ office, Skye Musson, alleges Cook Jones’ fostered a “bro culture” upon taking over the DA’s office in January 2021 and that Cook Jones denied Musson a promotion because of her gender.

Cook Jones is in her first term as Chatham’s district attorney and has been beset by challenges, including a mass exodus of more than 25 assistant district attorneys. She’s also drawn scrutiny for striking plea deals in 27 of 40 murder cases in 2021 and 2022. According to an investigative report published in April by The Savannah Morning News, her 32% conviction rate in murder cases was among the lowest in the state over that span.

For comparison, DeKalb and Fulton prosecutors recorded 87% conviction rates in murder cases in that period.

Cook Jones’ troubles have led to calls for probes of her office, including by one state lawmaker, Georgia Rep. Jesse Petrea, a Savannah Republican. Petrea was among the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 92, which created the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission with the power to investigate district attorneys for misconduct.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed its investigation of allegations against Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard, according to the Gainesville Times.

Last October, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia appointed Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to investigate Woodard for “allegations of theft by conversion and violation of oath by a public officer,” according to an order obtained by The Times.

The GBI confirmed Wednesday, Oct. 25 the file was turned over to the Attorney General’s office last week.

This case started after a TV investigation into spending by Woodard and her county purchasing card.

Woodard said in a statement provided to The Times that most of the items cited in the story were “legitimate items provided to victims that ranged from furniture and bedding for rehousing to work-related or personal family needs.”

“Unfortunately, some personal education expenses and other items submitted were confused as victim expenses by mistake and have since been reimbursed by me personally,” Woodard said in her earlier statement.

Former President Donald Trump is affecting local elections, according to the Associated Press via WRDW.

Going into the 2024 presidential election, the dynamics in Johns Creek and other nearby Atlanta suburbs reflect how partisan and cultural divisions that intensified since Trump’s 2016 run have trickled down to local campaigns. Some activists and voters now view these nominally nonpartisan contests as critical fronts in shaping the nation’s identity.

“People have a right to know who they’re voting for,” said Betsy Kramer, a Republican Party volunteer who is backing Skinner in Johns Creek, which is about 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta in Fulton County. “I’m not voting for a Democrat,” Kramer said. “I’m concerned that if Democrats start taking over north Fulton, the whole area is going to change dramatically.”

The suburbs of Georgia’s largest city once anchored the state’s Republican establishment. Today, they play a prime role in determining the outcomes of statewide races. In 2020, they were pivotal in Democrat Joe Biden’s close victory over Trump, the Republican incumbent, in the presidential election.

Additionally, some Republicans who still make up north Fulton County’s electoral majority have never marched in lockstep with Trump and the tea party, a movement that opposes the Washington political establishment and espouses conservative and libertarian philosophy. In 2020, Trump underperformed historical Republican advantages in the area on his way to losing Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast. And the region once elected Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state who bucked Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat, to the state Senate.

The national undercurrents do not mean that the usual list of hot topics at city halls has changed. It’s still mostly zoning and other development rules; sales tax and property millage rates; and how best to deliver services like public safety, fire protection and garbage collection. But candidates and voters talk about old, familiar debates in a different way as partisan influences rise.

“We are seeing this nationalization everywhere, especially in school board elections but also extending to cities,” said Michigan State University professor Sarah Reckhow, who tracks American campaign trends.

Reckhow pointed to several variables: the gutting of local journalism that means voters hear mostly about national politics; voter demands revolving more around cultural hot buttons rather than traditional local policy; and low voter turnout that increases the power of the most engaged and partisan citizens.

“I don’t want our city to become a hellhole. I don’t want to become Atlanta,” said Kramer, the Johns Creek Republican. She associated Georgia’s capital city with “crime” and “riffraff,” similar to how Trump once disparaged Atlanta as “crime infested” and “falling apart.”

I note that Brad Raffensperger was elected to the State House, not the Senate.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is closing its three Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Valdosta, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The State of Georgia and FEMA will begin a phased approach to closing Hurricane Idalia’s three Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) over the next two weeks. But FEMA said it is not leaving Georgia, as the agency continues working with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) to help survivors and communities in their recovery from Hurricane Idalia.

From WALB:

“No, FEMA is not going away,” FEMA Media Specialist Jack Pagano said. “But it’s always best to apply at these centers because if you think about it, when you go and election, you go to the round tables. With these DRCs, you have people that will help you fill out the forms. If not, that’s OK.”

“The key is people are not filling out the forms and you have ‘til Nov. 6 to fill out the forms at these various DRC’s,” he said.

“In fact, right now, as of today, FEMA has given out more than $11 million, $11 million, to those people who applied for assistance. Now, you could have been put in a hotel, FEMA would reimburse you for that. Your car got hit by a tree. Anything that your insurance can cover, FEMA would cover,” he said.

Pagano said $11 million is quite a bit for five counties. That’s what taxpayer dollars are paying for. In the last appropriation by the government, FEMA received $45 billion more. That money will go towards helping people in who need help.

“And that’s why we’re here. FEMA is only about one thing. Help those that need help. And of course, you have to have damage. That’s the name of the game. If you have damage, apply,” he said.

United States Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth toured the newly-renamed Fort Eisenhower (fka Fort Gordon), according to WJBF.

“I’m happy to see progress and certainly I saw a big difference between the before how if you will and the after house that specialist Sprinkeroff lives in he pointed out some things I think we still need to fix he had a couple of things in his flooring we needed to repair” said Christine Wormuth, US Secretary of the Army.

Fort Eisenhower is working to improve family housing, with some homes seeing issues with mold. Wormuth says it’s going to take a lot of funding to fix things.

“I think what we’re going to need eventually is what I call a generational investment in housing the army has the largest inventory of barracks and housing of any of the services we have a $6.5 million back lawn for barracks for example”

Wormuth says getting lawmakers involved will help improve the housing on Fort Eisenhower.

“and we can’t do all of that as quickly as I would like inside the army’s budget so I think partnering with members of congress who want to see housing improve overtime is really important”

United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Atlanta) said nearly 1800 children in Georgia DFCS custody were reported missing from 2018 through 2022, according to the Albany Herald.

Ossoff, D-Ga., obtained those numbers from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as part of an investigation a Senate subcommittee he chairs launched eight months ago.

“These numbers are deeply troubling because these are more than numbers; these are children,” he said. “And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services … children who go missing from care are left more vulnerable to human trafficking, to sexual exploitation, and to other threats to their health and safety.”

Ossoff’s remarks Friday came two days after the Senate Human Rights Subcommittee heard testimony from a Georgia mother whose 2-year-old daughter was murdered after the Georgia Division of Family & Children Services placed her in the care of her father’s live-in girlfriend. Another young woman described her ordeal of abuse and neglect while essentially held captive in Georgia’s foster care system.

“This investigation is ongoing,” Ossoff said Friday. “The subcommittee is working actively to analyze data and produce additional findings. … This is about vulnerable children who deserve protection from abuse, who deserve sanctuary from neglect. And that is why I will continue relentlessly to investigate failures to protect the most vulnerable children in our state.”

From WRDW:

“These numbers are deeply troubling because these are more than numbers. These are children,” said Ossoff, D-Ga. “And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — and I think the leadership here at Covenant House has a lot of experience with issues like this — children who go missing from care are left more vulnerable to human trafficking, to sexual exploitation and to other threats to their health and safety.”

“This is about vulnerable children who deserve protection from abuse, who deserve sanctuary from neglect,” he said. “And that is why I will continue relentlessly to investigate failures to protect the most vulnerable children in our state.”

The Federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, signed into law in 2014, requires State agencies to report a missing child to both law enforcement and NCMEC within 24 hours of receiving information about a missing child under their care.

Malinda Hodge was sworn in to the Chatham County Commission District 2 seat she won in last week’s runoff election, according to WTOC.

Columbus City Council will likely hear a report on the audit of the finance department’s revenue division, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

With constituents complaining about problems with city business license renewals, Columbus Council has demanded the city manager give them a report on the matter Monday, the day before councilors get a private briefing on an audit of that division.

The issues in the finance department’s revenue division over business licensing are under investigation by the Atlanta law firm Troutman Pepper, which will have representatives at council’s Tuesday’s meeting, councilors said.

Council at its 9 a.m. meeting is expected to go right into an executive session for an update on that, with the city attorney and city clerk the only staff permitted at the private briefing. City Manager Isaiah Hugley and his deputies have been excluded from closed meetings on the subject.

“This is happening because councilors were getting phone calls from citizens before we were advised of the issue from the city manager, and we’re kind of wondering, ‘Why did that happen?’” said District 5 Councilor Charmaine Crabb.

Some business owners have been reluctant to discuss the issue openly, fearing more license trouble, said District 4 Councilor Toyia Tucker. “They were really afraid, so they would not talk,” she said.

The Savannah Morning News profiles the candidates in three city council races

District Two – Detric Leggett (incumbent), Tia Z. Brightwell, and Taylor Washington

District Three – Linda Wilder-Bryan (incumbent), Clinton Cowart, Todd Rhodes, and Tammy Stone

District Four – Nick Palumbo (incumbent), Sara Lucía Agüero Jahannes, and Calum Crampton

The Gwinnett Daily Post profiles local municipal elections.

Lilburn Mayor – Tim Dunn (incumbent), former Mayor Johnny Crist, and Mohammed Jahangir Hossain

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.

Norcross City Council – Councilman Josh Bare will face James K. Redding and Sonya Lopez while Councilwoman Arlene Beckles will face Marshall Cheeks. Councilman Andrew Hixson will face Chuck Kays.

Suwanee City Council – Post 1 Councilwoman Heather Hall is not seeking re-election so there is a three-person race to replace her. Both City Council races that were up for election in Suwanee will be contested, in fact, after Post 2 Councilman Larry Pettiford drew an opponent.

The field for the open race to replace Hall will include Karim Ladha, Julianna McConnell and Glenn Weyant. Meanwhile, Pettiford will face a re-election challenge from Bradley Golz.

A pilot program at Cumberland Island National Seashore will attempt to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, according to The Brunswick News.

Access will no longer be an issue thanks to a new National Park Service pilot program that will offer two electric vehicles for free to individuals with mobility impairments that may have discouraged them from visiting Cumberland Island in the past.

The vehicles, called all-terrain chairs, have tank-like treads capable of traversing on the sandy roads leading to some of the more popular destinations like the Dungeness mansion ruins and the beach. Along the way, people using the vehicles will be able to see the wild horses that visitors expect to see during their stay on the island.

“We are excited to partner with All Terrain Georgia and increase mobility access to visitors that have previously been limited,” said Steve Theus, acting superintendent at Cumberland Island National Seashore. “Improving accessibility helps us better serve the public, who all our parks belong to.”

The program is part of a partnership between the Park Service and All Terrain Georgia, an initiative of the Aimee Copeland Foundation, which is providing the service in 11 Georgia state parks and one at Newman Wetlands Center.

“Our goal is to enable people with mobility impairments to enjoy the nurturing and healing qualities of the vast natural resources in Georgia,” Copeland said. “We have a vision of an inclusive Georgia where everyone can live and play in their own community.”

The Tall Ship Denis Sullivan is docked in Brunswick, according to The Brunswick News.

The Denis Sullivan is docked at Brunswick Landing Marina for a few weeks to take care of necessary maintenance before heading St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where the ship spends the winter. Summers are spent in Boston.

The crew, which includes Americorps members, will be open for public tours on Nov. 5 from 1-4 p.m. at Brunswick Landing Marina.

The ship has 10 sails and 31 bunks, 10 of which are for crew and up to 21 for students on overnight and residential programs. Those programs give students an opportunity to learn about how schooner sails and operates and for them to be part of the crew.

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