Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Some candidates for Savannah City Council seats in November’s election are already bemoaning the lack of media attention to their candidacies. And the first Republican presidential primary debate is but three weeks away. This week, Soundings looks at 2026 and the political scramble already under way in the upper echelons of the state GOP.

We also look at what two hot-button legislative measures by Georgia’s U.S. senators and Coastal Georgia Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter’s enlistment in those odd entities known as congressional member organizations, more popularly known as caucuses.  

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr

2026: Closer than it appears

Ever since last year’s mid-term elections, the rumor mill has been rife with speculation over the shape of 2026 political landscape in Georgia. Specifically, who in the Republican Party will run to fill the governor’s post that term-limited Brian Kemp will vacate and who will square off against Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is expected to seek another six-year term in office.

Well, the rumor mill went up a gear this week, with word that Attorney General Chris Carr is telling “friends and prospective supporters that he’s working now to line up donors and grassroots advocates” for a run to succeed Kemp. Typically, such speculation doesn’t get floated in the media unless the subject approves it, so we assign a lot of credence to it.

With a not insignificant political event next year — i.e., a presidential election — speculation about 2026 seems ludicrous, if not frivolous. But Kemp’s creation of a parallel campaign and fundraising apparatus, as well as the massive amounts of cash required to run for political office, are putting pressure on wannabes for higher office in Georgia to declare their political intentions earlier than ever.

There’s also the Trump Factor. With a criminal indictment of the former president by Fulton District Attorney imminent, the lines between the pro- and anti-Trump wings of the state GOP are going to be drawn more sharply than ever, with Carr and other political aspirants keen to position themselves ahead of that party-defining moment.  

So, who might be paying more than passing attention to Carr’s trial balloon?

Certainly, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who in his role as president of the state Senate is carving out a legislative agenda attractive to the most conservative factions of the state GOP, as he contemplates a gubernatorial run.

There’s also Kemp. His carefully calibrated statements and those of his aides suggest he has far higher aspirations for political office than the Ossoff-held Senate seat, but a run against the one-term senator can’t be ruled out.

Then there’s Coastal Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, who contemplated a run last year for the U.S. Senate seat held by Raphael Warnock but deferred to Herschel Walker, Donald Trump’s handpicked candidate. Republican officials along the coast say Carter’s also considered a bid for the governor’s office.

The five-term congressman’s failed bid for chairman of the House Budget Committee, along with his forays into statewide issues, fundraising, and appearances outside the First District suggest both possibilities are on the table.

composite ossoff warnock

Junk fees, child sex abuse

Historically, the U.S. Senate has been called — not least by senators themselves — the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” In recent years, hobbled by partisanship and absences, it has been accused of being, well, too deliberative to get anything done.

Ahead of Congress’s summer recess, however, Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock sought to address two issues that loom large for Coastal Georgia voters: junk fees and child sex abuse.

Warnock, chair of the Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, oversaw a hearing on junk fees in financial services. In his opening statement, Warnock condemned “excessively high fees,” some of which, he said, “exist solely so that large corporations can pad their bottom lines on the backs of hardworking families.”

By a vote of 95-2, the Senate later approved an amendment to the Senate’s version of the annual defense authorization bill, barring debt collectors from “making threats of rank reduction, revocation of security clearance, or military prosecution,” a news release said.

When Congressional business resumes in September, the House and Senate versions of the authorization will go to a conference committee for reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Ossoff, together with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice to “increase resources needed to prosecute cases involving the creation of child sex abuse material (CSAM) through artificial intelligence technology,” a news release said.

“Given the proliferation of AI-generated CSAM, the absence of charges or successful prosecutions raises concerns about the effectiveness of our current legal framework in combating this heinous crime,” Ossoff and Blackburn wrote in a letter to Garland.

Buddy Carter
U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter during an interview at the Capitol. Credit: buddycarter.house.gov

Let’s talk amongst ourselves

The U.S. House of Representatives has more than 370 caucuses, ranging from the Congressional Cigar Caucus and the Congressional Anti-Woke Caucus to the Albanian Issues Caucus and the Congressional Advanced Nuclear Caucus.

Oh yes, and there are House caucuses for bikes, cement, golf, pickleball — yes, pickleball — and something called “counter-kleptocracy,” not to mention separate alcohol-related caucuses for rum, bourbon, wine, and small brewers.

Now comes word that Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA), has launched the Congressional Popular Arts Caucus. Joining him in the caucus is a bipartisan group of 28 representatives that includes Georgia’s First District Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter.

Garcia told San Diego Comic Con last week that the caucus will focus on piracy, copyright, rights for creators and for artists, workforce issues, and labor issues in the popular arts, including not only television, movies, and comics but games, as well.

Carter’s congressional website has no listing of the caucuses to which he belongs. But according to a 79-page list of caucuses compiled by the House Administration Committee, Carter’s the chair or co-chair of seven caucuses, or congressional member organizations, as they are formally known. They include the Arthritis Caucus, the Vehicle Data Access Caucus, the Congressional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Caucus, and the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus.

Strictly speaking, caucuses are voluntary associations consisting of representatives and senators who share specific policy goals or interests. James Wallner of legislativeprocedure.com has a more tart view: “Their existence is best understood as a response to the failure of committees and parties to help lawmakers achieve their goals in the House and Senate.”

Old Effingham Courthouse
Historical marker in front of the Old Effingham Courthouse. Credit: Jeffery M. Glover/ The Current


  • Effingham County manager talks continued growth in the county” (WTOC, July 28, 2023) “The county manager said the area has been steadily growing over the last decade, bringing in around 3,000 new residents each year.”
  • DA Fani Willis gives more insight into decision over Trump Georgia election investigation” (WXIA-TV, July 29, 2023) “[Fulton County District Attorney Fani] Willis said she’s holding true to her commitment to giving the American people an answer by Sep. 1. This could be Trump’s third indictment case of the year. . . . ‘The work is accomplished,’ Willis said, ‘We’ve been working for two-and-a-half years. We’re ready to go.’”
  • County bridges fail state weight limit” (Brunswick News, July 31, 2023) Twenty bridges in Glynn County and in the four counties bordering it are among the more than 700 statewide that fail to meet Georgia’s higher weight limit. Passed by the state General Assembly this year, House Bill 189 raises the weight limit for trucks carrying agricultural and forest products on Georgia roads and highways to 88,000 pounds (40,000 kilograms).”
  • Local residents react to affordable housing approval” (WSAV, July 27, 2023) “According to GM Shay Architecture and Urban Design, the apartments will range from 775 to 925 square feet. Most will cost no more than the fair market rent for Savannah which is currently $1,256 a month.”
  • Tide to Town Trail System Gets $10 Million from City of Savannah” (Effingham Herald, July 26, 2023) The trail project – which upon completion will link 75% of Savannah’s neighborhoods to safe walking and biking infrastructure – also will benefit from the $37 million allocated to restore the Historic Waterworks Building in west Savannah, since that project includes trails and sidewalks for the westside neighborhoods and links them into Tide to Town.
  • ‘Exciting times.’ Georgia Ports Authority adds market share as well as future capacity” (Savannah Morning News, July 26, 2023) “Savannah’s success reflects an ongoing trend that shows East Coast and Gulf Coast ports clawing away market share from West Coast terminals. The sister ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles remain far and away the nation’s busiest but approximately 70% of their trade is with ports in China.”
  • Savannah property tax millage rate approved with commitment to addressing flooding issues” (Savannah Morning News, July 28, 2023) “The controversy surrounding the millage rate involves the city’s need to address stormwater drainage issues. According to city staff, Savannah needs to invest an estimated $400 million to control flooding in city neighborhoods, especially those near tidal canals and tidal creeks prone to flooding during heavy rains, tropical storms and hurricanes.”
  • The Kindness Club: Going beyond summer reading” (Statesboro Herald, July 30, 2023) “Cindy Hatchell, assistant library manager and manager of Youth & Family for the Statesboro-Bulloch County Library, had a vision. She wanted to teach local children about kindness, and to help them put into action what they learned.”

Camden County looks to move voting precinct boundaries

Discussions were prompted by uneven voter turnout throughout polling locations in the county. Easing voting traffic at busy locations and increasing traffic at others makes the voting experience smoother, and also more economically sustainable.

Fake events could influence 2024 election – a cybersecurity researcher explains situation deepfakes

Our own background knowledge could be mistaken or patchy. Never be afraid to learn more from reliable sources, like fact-checked news reports, peer-reviewed academic articles or interviews with credentialed experts.

Lawmakers want less gendered language in the law

Sponsors say bill sends an important message about the role that language plays in governance and the law, especially in a climate where state lawmakers have been increasingly restricting rights for various groups.

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Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...