Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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Good morning. Storm clouds are gathering over Coastal Georgia, but it’s rocky political and legal weather we take up in this week’s Soundings, starting with efforts to head off Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, then last week’s GOP presidential candidate debates. Finally, some reflections on yesterday’s 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.  

Booking photos from the Fulton County conspiracy case charging Donald Trump and allies with trying to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. Top row, from left Jeffrey Clark, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Michael Roman, Ray Smith, David Shafer, Sen. Shawn Still. Center row, from left, Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro. Bottom row from left, Robert Cheeley, Harrison Floyd, Stephen Lee, Scott Hall, Misty Hampton, Cathleen Latham, Trevian Kutti. Credit: Photos from Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

All eyes on Georgia

With former President Donald Trump and 18 other defendants now scheduled to enter pleas next week in Atlanta on charges they participated in a wide-ranging scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election, their supporters are scrambling to stop Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis.

In Washington, House Judiciary chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wants documents from Willis related to her prosecution of Trump. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, state lawmakers are hoping to rein her in by using a newly established panel to investigate and punish wayward prosecutors.

Also, the Georgia Freedom Caucus has scheduled a news conference in Atlanta on Thursday to announce its plans for challenge Willis.  

It’s unclear how viable any of these challenges are. For instance, the call by state Sen. Colton Moore (R-Trenton) for a special session of the Georgia General Assembly to remove Willis from office isn’t going anywhere.

Before Willis announced the indictments, U.S. First District Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter announced on X, the social media website formerly known as Twitter, that he was calling for a congressional investigation into what he described as her “witch hunt against the former president.”

On Thursday, the day of Trump’s appearance at the Fulton County jail, Carter was asked by WTOC’s Shea Schrader if he believed that any Republican — including himself — interfered or sought to interfere in the 2020 election. Replied Carter:

“I do not believe that any Republican that I know would’ve done that, that serves in Congress. I don’t believe that any Republican would’ve done that. But just because we didn’t vote to certify the election, that doesn’t mean that we were going against the Constitution. In fact, in my mind, it means we were upholding the Constitution.”

When the House reconvened on Jan. 6, 2021, hours after protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol, Carter stood on the floor with a delegation of Georgia lawmakers who announced they were objecting to the election results on the grounds they were faulty and fraudulent.

Later, in two separate votes, Carter joined with 137 other Republican members of the House of Representatives in voting to decertify the election results in Pennsylvania and with 120 other House members to decertify the results in Arizona.

Prior to the 2020 election, Carter had said Georgia’s voters could trust the state’s voting system and praised the state government for doing a “good job in running elections.”

GOP candidates debate climate change, education

Earlier this year, before the state legislature convened for its 40-day session, The Current conducted an informal survey, asking its readers what issues they most wanted lawmakers to address. “Climate resilience” was the top priority, followed by “education funding,” “rural health care access,” and “mental health beds, staffing.”

Here’s a small sample of some responses to those concerns among the eight candidates in the first Republican presidential candidate debate last week in Milwaukee. (Many other subjects were addressed during debate, of course, including immigration, the economy and public security. For the complete transcript of the debate, click here.)

“Let us be honest as Republicans. I’m the only person on the stage who isn’t bought and paid for, so I can say this — the climate change agenda is a hoax. . . . The reality is more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.” (Vivek Ramaswamy on climate change)

“Is climate change real? Yes, it is. But if you go want to go and really change the environment, then we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions.” (Nikki Haley on climate change)

“If we want the environment to be better and we all do, the best thing to do is to bring our jobs home from China.” (Tim Scott on the environment)

“When I’m president of the United States . . . we’re going to close the federal Department of Education, block grant all that funding back to the states with a growing economy and educational choice and law enforcement.” (Mike Pence on education)

“The decline in education is one of the major reasons why our country is in decline. We need education in this country, not indoctrination in this country. . . . In Florida, we eliminated Critical Race Theory from our K through 12 schools. We eliminated gender ideology from our K through 12 schools.” (Ron DeSantis on education)

“The idea that every school district and state and every teacher is somehow indoctrinating people is just false. . . . With innovation, not regulation, I would get rid of the Department of Education. I would give block grants to schools, but I’d give them on merit.” (Doug Burgum on education)

“As president of the United States, I will make sure we go from 51 percent of our schools offering computer science to every school in rural areas and urban areas offering computer science for the benefit of our kids, and we can compete with China in terms of technology.” (Asa Hutchinson on education)

And we also have a mental health epidemic in this country. Just over the same period that we have closed mental health institutions, we have seen a spike in violent crime. Do we have the spine to bring them back? I think we should. . . . I think faith-based approaches can play a role here, too. (Ramaswamy on mental health)

Gov. Brian Kemp Credit: GPB News

Factional lines

Reactions to the debate fell along factional lines that divide the state GOP: Pro-Trump v. anti-Trump, grassroots v. Establishment.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp traveled to Milwaukee, apparently to remind everyone — in case they needed reminding — that he’s a force to be reckoned in the GOP. He also took some shots at the guy who skipped the event.

“I think the Trump campaigns making a big mistake by not being here. They are my loser tonight,” Kemp told the Ruthless Podcast, who invited the governor before the debate to pick a winner a la ESPN’s College GameDay.

Not putting too fine a point on it, the governor added: “If you’re as good as you say you are, get your ass on there, answer the questions, fight it out. Let’s get it done.”

Rep. Buddy Carter said before the debate that any Republican would be preferable to Joe Biden (“Any of these candidates and especially former President Trump would do a better job than Joe Biden is doing. I don’t think any of them would embarrass us internationally like he’s embarrassing us,” he told OAN’s Alison Steinberg).

The next day Carter gushed on X: “Last night made clear that Republicans have a vision for a SAFE, FREE, & PROSPEROUS country. We are on the road to restoring sanity in Washington, D.C.!”

Kandiss Taylor, chair of the First Congressional District Republican Party, wanted no part of anyone on the stage in Milwaukee, saying on X that they all “represented the establishment.”

Brittany Brown, chair of the Chatham County Republican Party, described the debate as “decent” but criticized Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel for excluding Larry Elder from the debate. (“She’s not friend of the grassroots in the Republican Party.”)

Speaking on her Get Real America podcast along with co-host Bill Edwards, Brown also praised Ramaswamy.

“He’s young, he’s vibrant” and “addresses things head-on,” she said. “The Republicans last night on that stage did not like the things he had to say.”

From a spaceport marketing presentation Credit: Camden County


  • Who benefited from doomed Spaceport Camden?” (The Current, August 22, 2023) “The county’s latest summary shows that total spending reached about $12 million. It has yet to post invoices for vendors like law firm Holland & Knight, which has been paid about $1.2 million, or any details about the roughly $1.6 million that went to consulting firm NelsonCFO.” 
  • Georgia Election Board Chairman Bill Duffey resigns” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 28, 2023) “Duffey wrote in his resignation letter to Kemp that it was time for new leadership in preparation for next year’s elections.”
  • Labor Groups Target Hyundai, and Biden, Over Transition to Electric” (New York Times, August 27, 2023) “A coalition of labor unions and civic groups in Georgia and Alabama will launch a pressure campaign on Monday targeting Hyundai’s electric vehicle plants and its clean energy suppliers, an effort that could also push the Biden administration to make good on its oft-repeated pledge to create not just jobs but good union jobs.”
  • The Forgotten Part of MLK’s Dream: Good Jobs and Higher Wages” (Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2023) “King insisted that his dream was “deeply rooted in the American Dream,” which meant a good education, decent housing, quality healthcare, and a realistic chance of getting a job that paid a living wage. Most of those promises were a long way from the daily experience of Black families in 1963.”
  • An oral history of the March on Washington, 60 years after MLK’s dream” (Washington Post, August 25, 2023) “An estimated 250,000 Americans in all arrived by bus, by train and on foot to participate in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Together, they forged a cornerstone moment in American history and in the struggle for African American equality that enslavement and Jim Crow had long denied.”
  • The science that’s missing from ‘science of reading’ laws” (Chalkbeat, August 26, 2023) “Building background knowledge is an idea supported by science that has not fully caught on to the science of reading movement. That suggests that while new reading laws might have real benefits, they may fall short of their potential to improve how children are taught to read.”

Check here: Tropical weather resources for Coastal Georgia

Bookmark these resources to keep up-to-date on expected storm impacts in your county.

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State senators to take on commercial trucker shortage

Many drivers have been lured away from the long-haul segment of the industry by the growth in e-commerce that accompanied the pandemic and has continued as Georgians become accustomed to the convenience.

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State lawmakers renew debate over Georgia version of ‘Don’t Say Gay law’ at Capitol

Bill would require anyone acting in place of a parent, including teachers at public and private schools, church leaders or camp counselors, to get parental permission before offering “any curriculum or instruction addressing issues of gender identity, queer theory, gender ideology, or gender transition.”

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‘Tidal wave’ of new warehouses pushes residents out, changes coastal landscape

Hundreds of new warehouses are changing large swaths of Coastal Georgia’s landscape.  At least 100 million square feet of warehouse space has been built in Chatham, Bryan, Effingham, Liberty and Jasper counties to support the Port of Savannah’s booming business.

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The science that’s missing from ‘science of reading’ laws

Much less attention is paid to another critical component of reading: background knowledge. A significant body of research suggests students are better able to comprehend what they read when they start with some understanding of the topic they’re reading about.

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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...