December 6, 2022

composite Walker Warnock

Runoff day!

The finale of the U.S. Senate race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker — and the entire 2022 U.S. midterm elections — unfolds today.

With 12 hours of voting today, Republicans hope to defy expectations and overtake what election data suggests is Warnock’s advantage in early runoff voting.

It won’t be easy, The Current’s Craig Nelson writes.

Among the more than 1,868,000 ballots that were cast in seven days of record early voting, turnout was high in counties where Warnock performed well in the first round of voting last month, according to the data posted by Georgia’s secretary of state.

To surpass that bank of votes, Republicans who have become embittered with Donald Trump will have to go to the polls and cast votes for Walker, whom the former president recruited to run in the race. That group includes at least some of the more than 203,000 Republicans who voted for Gov. Brian Kemp in last month’s voting but didn’t do so for the former gridiron star.

Walker’s surrogates sought to muster Republicans to the polls. “I think the momentum is in Herschel Walker’s favor,” Coastal Georgia’s congressman, Republican Buddy Carter, told Newsmax on Saturday.

Trump held two rallies in Georgia in the state’s two Senate runoffs two years ago, but this time around, he stayed away, after both sides reportedly agreed that it might do more harm to Walker’s candidacy than help it.

Nevertheless, Trump held a “tele-rally” last evening, saying in remarks that lasted less than 10 minutes that Walker’s election would “make [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer’s life a little more difficult” and “slam the breaks on every left-wing judge,” CNN reported.

In his comments, Trump claimed that one difference between this year’s runoff and the one in 2021 that Warnock won is that he didn’t endorse then-Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. In fact, he not only endorsed Loeffler but campaigned for her.

Some Republicans remain unenthused. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Trump critic, said last week he couldn’t bring himself to vote for either candidate in the race.

Chester Ellis, chairman, Chatham County Board of Commissioners, Savannah, Ga., Nov. 28, 2022 Credit: Craig Nelson

Chatham Commission gives ground in revenue-sharing dispute

Faced with opposition from all eight mayors who head the municipalities that make up Chatham County, the Chatham County Commission on Friday gave ground in its fight for a larger share of the local option sales tax or LOST.

The commission now says it will accept a split of 31% for the county and 69% for the municipalities. The 10-year revenue sharing agreement will lapse unless it’s renewed by the end of this month. The panel had proposed a split of 49% for the county and 51% for the municipalities, a plan that Savannah Mayor Van Johnson had described as “ridiculous.”

The standoff between the commission and the mayors is by no means over. A scheduled mediation session between the two sides will go ahead as planned this week. The proposed revenue-sharing formula must also be approved by municipal governing boards, including the Savannah City Council.

An official who has been involved in the mediation effort blamed the commission’s chairman, Chester Ellis, for the impasse. “He tends to be rigid and unwavering,” said the official, who was granted anonymity to share internal deliberations. If the deal lapses, property taxes to compensate for the reduction in LOST revenue will skyrocket, the official warned.

Jon Hart, county attorney, rejected that portrayal.

“The chairman isn’t being rigid,” Hart said. “He is trying to make sure that everyone in the county is treated equally and gets the same tax break.”

petrea watson

Taxes, charter schools, growth, and a (local) new Georgia House speaker

At a meeting of Ladies on the Right at The Landings on Skidaway Island last wee , Georgia Sen. Ben Watson (R-District 1) and Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-District 166) last week previewed the Georgia General Assembly’s 2023 session, which will start Jan. 9. Our takeaways:

On reducing taxes: “We’ll pass the income tax rebate and accelerate the reduction of state income tax over the next few years. (Watson). “We’re going to keep cutting, we’re not going to burn the house down when we don’t know what comes in the future. I do believe we’re heading into some sort of recession. (Petrea)

On charter schools and school choice: “I feel sure that [legislation on charter schools] is one of the initiatives that we will see. The governor seems to be all in on that. (Watson) “I would love to see complete [school] choice [but] it’s tough to get there.” (Petrea)

Politics and managing growth: “Our challenge is going continue to be [that] the migration of Americans to this state, generally, is not Republican version. It tends to be urban, and it tends to be people who are more urban in nature and states [where] they’re accustomed to high taxes. They come from states that are anti-business.” (Petrea)

On Rep. Jon Burns (R-District 159), in all likelihood, the next speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives: “We haven’t had a speaker of the House from the southern part of the state in many, many generations. But it’s very important that our new speaker of the House, Jon Burns, is from Effingham County.” (Petrea)


The whispers grow louder: Calling Gov. Brian Kemp “the hot new name in in GOP politics,” USA Today reports that “many in the GOP orbit are saying Georgia’s governor has earned a spot in the 2024 conversation” over who should be the party’s presidential nominee.

‘Terminating’ the Constitution: There’s nothing new about Donald Trump and 2024 presidential candidate claiming he was cheated out of victory in the 2020 election. The former president went further on Saturday, however, writing on the social network Truth Social: “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

As of this writing, there’s been no comment from Gov. Kemp, or US Rep. Buddy Carter and any Republican member of the Georgia Congressional delegation in Washington, or any GOP member of Coastal Georgia’s delegation in the state legislature in Atlanta.

Guns & public health: Since 2004, gun-related deaths across the U.S. have risen by over 45% overall, with “increased rates moving from the West to the South over time,” according to a new study published by a journal from the American Medical Association.

Other findings: More than sickness or accidents, firearms are now the leading cause of death for children in America. Black men between the ages of 20 and 24 are dying at a rate of about 141 per 100,000, in contrast to young white men of the same age, where the rate about 6 per 100,000. That’s a 22-fold increase among Black men versus white men.

Primary shuffle: The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted Friday to recommend reordering the 2024 presidential primary schedule to give Georgia and several other states earlier primaries. The committee’s vote sends the proposal to the full Democratic National Committee, which will make a final decision on the schedule early next year. A logistical hurdle: The DNC must work with Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature to move up the state’s primaries. The legislature’s disincentive: Why do anything to help Democrats? Then again: An earlier primary means hundreds of dollars of campaign spending in the state.

Republicans face uphill climb as Walker-Warnock Senate race reaches end

To surpass the early bank of votes, Republicans who have become embittered with Donald Trump will have to go to the polls and cast votes for Walker, whom the former president recruited to run in the race.

Don’t vote for just one: Ranked choice voting is gaining ground

Proponents of the voting method argue it leads to better representation of voters’ viewpoints and more collegial campaigning while eliminating the need for costly runoff elections. Opponents say it’s too complicated for the average voter to understand.

Here’s when drug prices will start to decrease for Medicare recipients

Bill requires pharmaceutical companies to pay rebates for drugs where prices surpass inflation for Medicare Part D and mandates that the government negotiate drug prices on some prescription drugs for people who have Medicare — the first time Medicare has been given that power.

Federal coronavirus relief aid to deliver $250 million to help bridge Georgia’s digital divide

A sudden shift to digital learning at home early in the pandemic cast a glaring light on the uneven access to high-speed internet across the state. At the time, state officials identified nearly 136,000 unserved student households.

Georgia Power, environmental groups clash over coal ash

Georgia Power’s request to recover $400 million from ratepayers during the next three years for ash pond cleanup is part of a $9 billion multiyear plan. The utility intends to close all 29 of its ash ponds located at 11 coal plants across the state as it reduces its reliance on coal for power generation due to both tighter government regulation and market conditions.

Warnock, Walker rally with closers as Georgians vote in droves to build Senate muscle

Obama arrives for Warnock rally, while Lindsay Graham stumps for Walker in last push to election day.

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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...