September 20, 2022


Cue the watch parties

In what is expected to be a highlight of the 2022 midterm elections — not only in Georgia but nationwide — will take place in Coastal Georgia.

After their campaigns wrangled for months, Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker confirmed this week they would appear at one debate together on Oct. 14 in Savannah.

No less significant for Coastal Georgia: Republican Rep. Buddy Carter and his Democratic opponent for the First District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Wade Herring, have agreed to two debates, one on Oct. 18 at the Atlanta Press Club and a day later in the local studios of WTOC-TV.  

While formats for the debates apparently remain to be decided and could prove frustrating, the agreements to appear on the same stage represent a defeat for what has become more common than ever in American politics: debate-dodging. Pardon our effusiveness, but we at The Current, who prize transparency and accountability, both in our politics and our media, nevertheless couldn’t be happier.


’24 Hours in Martha’s Vineyard’

Headlining a Chatham County Republic Committee breakfast on Saturday, Rep. Buddy Carter prompted approving nods from the audience when he described Joe Biden as “essentially ruling as a dictator through executive order.”

There was a similarly affirming responses when Carter cast doubt on Biden’s performance and legitimacy (“President Biden, if you want to call him that . . .”) and when he joked about being the second happiest Carter in Georgia (“I’m the second happiest Carter in Georgia right now. The happiest Carter is Jimmy Carter because he’s no longer the worst president we’ve ever had. Joe Biden took that title from him.”)   

But nothing prompted a greater outpouring of enthusiasm from the three-dozen people in attendance than his praise for Ron DeSantis and the Florida governor’s use of state taxpayers’ money to charter two planes to fly about fifty undocumented migrants, mostly Venezuelan, to Martha’s Vineyard. “I loved what he did,” Carter said.

Apparently deciding that the best way to unify the fractured Republican Party ahead of midterm elections is to attack progressives, Carter took up the theme again a day later, in the latest installment of his weekly newsletter.

Entitled “24 Hours in Martha’s Vineyard,” Coastal Georgia’s congressman leads with, “It took one day for east coast progressives to change their tune on immigration and bus illegal immigrants out of their city.”


‘Visible and helpful’

Savannah’s south side was the scene last week of a gas giveaway by a pro-Herschel Walker super PAC. 34N22, which has raised more than $4.3 million from some of the nation’s wealthiest conservatives to unseat Warnock, handed out $25 gas vouchers at a combination Chevron station and convenience store on Thursday.

“We’re just trying to be as visible and helpful as possible,” said the giveaway’s organizer, Stephen Lawson, who served as former deputy campaign manager and communications director for Kelly Loeffler’s losing Senate campaign against Warnock in 2020.

The giveaway is technically legal, writes The Current’s Craig Nelson.

The notion of freebies carried out in Walker’s name is difficult to reconcile with his campaign’s pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, hate-on-Washington messaging on the campaign’s website: “As a small-town kid who has achieved the American Dream, Herschel knows the best way to help people succeed is not to give them a handout but to teach them how to fish.”

Nor does it easily square with the messaging of most Georgia Republicans. At a meeting of Chatham County Republicans two days later, Rep. Ron Stephens described current labor shortages as the result of “folks that have gotten used to the Democrat handout during COVID.”


‘We need state agencies to step in now’

District 126 state Rep. Ron Stephens says he has sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp requesting help to combat what he describes as the soaring rise in crime in Savannah, where he says Part 1 offenses (murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson) have increased 97%. “We need state agencies to step in now,” he texts.

Rep. Stephens is citing a very specific statistic and appears to be applying it to all of Savannah, writes The Current’s public safety reporter, Jake Shore:

“This is not accurate. He appears to be referring to the Savannah Police Department’s crime report from two weeks ago, which states that Part 1 crimes are up 97% since 2020 in Beat 26 of the North Precinct. 

“There are a few things problematic with this generalization:

“Beat 26 makes up the area near Johnson Square: Congress Street, Broughton Street, Bull Street, and some of River Street — all downtown Savannah. Meanwhile, Part 1 crimes across the entire city are only up 8% from 2019 and 21% from 2020, according to the same report.

“Part 1 crimes include everything from homicides to sexual assaults to shoplifting to stealing from cars. Just referring to ‘crime’ does not tell you much specifically about what is occurring. 

“So what is driving the 97% increase in Beat 26 of the North Precinct? It is reported ‘theft from vehicle’ crimes, which went from 22 in 2020, to 62 in 2021, to 76 in 2022 (year-to-date). The biggest percentage increase came from that crime. Violent crimes reported, however, increased only by 18%, compared to 2020.

“Reported ‘crime’ is up in the city, but not as much as Rep. Stephens seems to be indicating.”


ICYMI

‘Reclaiming the Soul’ The Savannah alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority of African American women founded in 1913 that emphasizes social service and programs that aid the African American community, held a rally in Savannah’s Forsyth Park on Saturday to “reclaim the soul of voting.” It first interred some ideas, symbolically at least. (See photo above)

Election skullduggery? The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has confirmed that it’s investigating the May primary and June runoff elections in McIntosh County, WTOC-TV reports.

A Democratic Party obsession? At a campaign rally at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds in Brunswick, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker chastised Democrats for lying about easing inflation because “they want your vote.” Invoking the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of Warnock’s predecessors in the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Walker accused his rival of always talking about the color of one’s skin, not the content of one’s character.


Pro-Walker super PAC holds gas giveaway in Savannah

Thursday’s gas giveaway was the work of a pro-Walker organization that has raised more than $4.3 million from some of the nation’s wealthiest conservatives to unseat Warnock. The group has distributed tens of thousands of dollars in free gas and groceries in at least half-dozen giveaways across Georgia since early June in support of Walker.

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Yes, expecting parents in Georgia can now claim their embryo as a dependent

The state Department of Revenue released initial guidance last month stating that a taxpayer who is pregnant between July 20 and Dec. 31 may claim their future child as a dependent. The department promised to provide additional information on the new policy later this year.

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Want to weigh in on Georgia Power’s proposed rate increase? Here’s how.

The Georgia Public Service Commission has adopted new procedures that allow each person to speak for up to three minutes during the first hour of each hearing day, but after the time runs out, people who wish to speak must return another day and anyone not directly involved in the case will be asked to leave the meeting room.

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Chatham parents, educators ask lawmakers for equitable school funding

Georgia’s school funding formula should be overhauled to steer more resources toward students from low-income families, educators, parents, and students from Chatham County told a state Senate study committee Friday.

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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...