Today’s the day in Georgia – here’s the latest

Today is Election Day in Georgia, where voters will decide whether Republicans or Democrats will control the U.S. Senate for the next two years. Both President Trump and President-elect Biden campaigned on Monday in the peach state. To raise the stakes even higher and add to the tension, President Trump took the outrageous step over the weekend of pleading with and threatening the state’s secretary of state Brad Raffensberger to “find” more than 11,000 votes to help reverse the already certified results of the state’s presidential contest. The following pair of news stories from the Georgia Recorder do an excellent job of setting the scene:

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, refutes claims from President Donald Trump that illegal votes and other alleged election misconduct caused him to lose the presidential election. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Georgia election officials again defend result against presidential do-over

By Stanley Dunlap

The fallout of President Donald Trump’s released recording with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger continued Monday with calls for investigations and tensions flaring heading into today’s intense U.S. Senate election runoffs.

Raffensperger said Monday that the hour-long phone conversation with the president over the weekend shines more light on the persistent false allegations that rampant  fraud caused Trump to lose the Nov. 3 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes.

During the recording, Trump pressed Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn the election results or run the risk of damaging future political aspirations and potential criminal charges. 

The call led many Georgia Democrats and political law experts to question whether Trump broke any laws by pressuring the secretary of state to change the certified results. And state election officials said they worry that Trump and his allies’ frequent unfounded fraud accusations continue to cast a shadow over today’s Senate runoffs by discouraging people from voting.

“There are people who fought and died and marched and prayed to get the right to vote,” Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, said during a Monday afternoon press conference at the state Capitol. “Throwing it away because you have some feeling that it may not matter is self-destructive ultimately and a self-fulfilling prophecy at the end. So everyone who cares about the future of the nation should come out and vote. It’s vitally important.”

Raffensperger also called out Trump on Monday for the debunked conspiracy theories. The audio did not become public until after Trump tweeted Sunday morning that Raffensperger did not have the answers to the president’s questions about thousands of alleged illegal votes and other alleged election misconduct.

“We believe that truth matters, and we continue to fight to get our message out, but it’s fighting the rumor mill whack-a-mole daily,” Raffensperger said on ABC’s Good Morning America.  [Read more…]

And this is from a runoff preview that Recorder editor John McCosh posted Monday:

Clockwise from upper left: Loeffler, Warnock, Perdue and Ossoff. (Georgia Recorder staff photos)

Georgia’s costly U.S. Senate showdowns roil ahead of rally finales

By John McCosh

Soon after the Nov. 3 general election it was clear Georgia voters set up two U.S. Senate contests for this week and it seemed unlikely the presidential result would threaten to overshadow the high stakes battle at the ballot for control of the federal government.

But when President Donald Trump campaigns for fellow Republicans and Georgia U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue at a Dalton campaign rally Monday, the GOP’s hopes to keep control of the Senate could hang on the confidence party loyalists maintain in the state’s election apparatus.

Over the weekend the president berated Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a hour-long phone call for not overturning the state’s presidential election results and that could cause lower turnout for the GOP incumbents if voters think the election system is rigged. Trump has campaigned for the senators in recent weeks while claiming without evidence that he won an election certified for President-elect Joe Biden.

For his part, Biden is coming to Atlanta Monday in an eleventh-hour bid to get Democratic challengers John Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock across the finish line.

Polling consistently shows the two contests neck-and-neck, which isn’t surprising since the two races were pushed to a runoff after none of the four candidates got more than 50% of the vote on Election Day in November.

The stakes? Loeffler and Perdue pledge if they both win they will serve as a firewall in the Senate if Democrats fail to secure a majority, preventing a sweeping shift to Biden’s priorities to expand access to health care and increase efforts to control climate change. Ossoff and Warnock say they will back Biden’s agenda with two reliable votes. The runoffs have drawn unprecedented attention to Georgia with the rare prize of two difference-making U.S. Senate seats on the same ballot.

Both sides have teamed up on the campaign trail with messages that echo their party’s teammate. [Read more…]

Trump threatens Americans with yet another lump of coal

President Donald Trump (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The news was, at once, totally unbelievable and totally predictable. I speak , of course, of word that arrived last night that President Donald Trump is, in yet another irresponsible and immature fit of pique, throwing a last minute monkey wrench into painfully negotiated pandemic relief legislation.

This is from the New York Times:

President Trump on Tuesday evening threatened to derail months of bipartisan work in Congress to deliver $900 billion in coronavirus relief to a country battered by the pandemic, demanding checks to Americans that are more than three times as much as those in the bill, which he called a “disgrace.”

The president, who has been preoccupied with the baseless claim that the election was stolen from him, seized on congressional leaders’ decision to pass the relief bill by combining it with a broader spending plan to fund government operations and the military. That spending plan includes routine provisions like foreign aid and support for Washington institutions like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian.

But Mr. Trump portrayed such spending items as “wasteful and unnecessary” additions to the coronavirus legislation.

Trump’s action is, as his his wont, utterly destructive and irresponsible.

Of course, the bill is flawed. Unfortunately, that’s what frequently happens in an imperfect, complex and diverse country of 300 million people at a time like the present.

But the bill is also an absolutely essential piece of legislation that will provide critical, if far from adequate, relief to millions of people at a moment of dire emergency. Indeed, the fact that our normally dysfunctional Congress was able to produce any semi-useful legislation in this moment can only be seen as an extremely hopeful sign.

Unfortunately, as is always the case with Trump, his latest action is not about the country or helping its citizenry; it’s about an utterly corrupt and incompetent man extracting revenge in response to the personal affront he took at being rejected by the voters.

The bottom line: One hopes Trump will come to his senses and let the bill advance in order to avoid the pain and suffering that further delay would bring about, but we’re not holding our breath. January 20 cannot come soon enough.

What you need to know about the four Georgia U.S. Senate candidates

The Jan. 5 runoff elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats have grabbed the nation’s attention in recent weeks. If Democrats manage to somehow replicate President-elect Joe Biden’s narrow win in the once reliably Republican state two weeks from today, they would take control of the U.S. Senate. If the GOP holds one or both seats, they will retain a narrow majority and be well-positioned to block much of Biden’s policy agenda.

In recent days, our sister publication — the Georgia Recorder — has published the following profiles of all four candidates: Democrats Ralph Warnock and Jon Ossoff and Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Georgia Blue, a high school student in Americus, came with a friend to see Democrat Jon Ossoff speak during a campaign stop in her hometown. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Ossoff aims to connect John Lewis legacy with a new generation

By Jill Nolin

AMERICUS, GA. — When 15-year-old Georgia Blue found out Democrat Jon Ossoff would be in Americus, she and a friend decided to shiver together at an outside campaign event to see someone they have come to know through social media.

“I stalk his account,” Blue said, referring to Ossoff’s presence on the video-sharing network TikTok. She said she and her friend, 16-year-old Brooklyn Hinton, immediately started “fangirl-ing” when they learned the 33-year-old aspiring U.S. Senator would be in their hometown. Both said they are drawn to Ossoff’s views on climate change and other environmental issues.

Blue may be too young to vote in Georgia’s high-stakes Senate runoffs set for Jan. 5, but her slightly older peers are being closely watched as a voting demographic that could help shape the outcome of an election that will decide which party controls the chamber.

Democrats see Ossoff as someone who can drive up turnout among young voters as they try to build a multi-racial, multi-generational coalition that can prove President-elect Joe Biden’s win in once reliably conservative Georgia was more than a fluke. [Read more…]

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Sen. David Perdue and wife Bonnie Perdue make their pitch to supporters in Atlanta Dec. 14. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Trump loyalist Perdue fights for not just his seat but the future of the GOP

By Ariana Figueroa

WASHINGTON—Sen. David Perdue during his six years in Congress served as a close ally of President Donald Trump.

But with Trump in defeat, it now falls to the senior Georgia senator to preserve not just his own seat in January’s runoff election but also control of the U.S. Senate as the GOP’s last bastion in Washington. Perdue is paired with Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who’s running in a special election at the same time to retain her seat.

If just one of them wins, Republicans will keep their majority, a point that Perdue has hammered. “Our seats—Kelly’s and mine—will determine the direction of the country for the next 50 to 100 years, y’all,” Perdue said during a campaign rally in late November.

Republicans have a party stalwart in the well-to-do 71-year-old former CEO, a Macon native who now lives in exclusive Sea Island on St. Simons Island with his wife, Bonnie. The couple has two sons, Blake and David Perdue III, and a daughter who died in infancy. He also has two grandchildren, David VI and Hudson Perdue. [Read more…]

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Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters outside the Cobb County election headquarters Dec. 17. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder.

Warnock preachings reverberate in bid to leap from pulpit to Senate

By Ross Williams

A couple dozen supporters and volunteers lined the sidewalks outside the Cobb County Election Department headquarters in Marietta late last week as a bus bearing the likeness of the Rev. Raphael Warnock pulled in for a campaign stop.

The man aiming to be one of the next United States senators from Georgia stepped out to greet them and was met with prolonged cheers, hoots and hollers.

“I’ve got a preacher’s voice, but y’all have got to let me talk,” Warnock said with a smile before launching into a brief speech thanking his supporters.

Powder Springs mother and daughter Laurie and Hannah Vespers were among the cheering fans, each holding a Women for Warnock sign and wearing matching Warnock hats and face masks.

The two have been making phone calls and writing postcards to potential voters for Warnock. [Read more…]

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GOP U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler revs up a crowd at a November rally in Marietta soon after she was pushed into a Jan. 5 runoff against Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Conservative cred, Trump fealty Loeffler’s calling card in Senate runoff

By Laura Olson

WASHINGTON — Kelly Loeffler was appointed to the U.S. Senate one year ago by a Republican governor who picked her over a conservative congressman pushed by President Donald Trump.

The selection of Loeffler, a 50-year-old wealthy Atlanta businesswoman and political newcomer, for the vacancy created by longtime Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s retirement was seen as an attempt to shore up support among suburban Republican women.

But she quickly found herself in a primary contest against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, whom Trump had backed for the Senate opening. Instead of reaching out to wavering moderate Republicans, Loeffler focused her largely self-financed campaign on battling Collins for the GOP base, at one point describing herself as “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” 

Conservative bona fides and loyalty to Trump are how Loeffler has sought to define herself during her brief Senate tenure. Loeffler has voted with the president on nearly every proposal. [Read more…]

Cooper’s proposed alcoholic “drinks to go” order makes sense

Image: Adobe Stock

Reporters Matthew Burns and Paul Specht reported on WRAL.com this afternoon that Gov. Roy Cooper sent a draft order to other Council of State members today that “would allow restaurants and bars to sell mixed drinks for takeout and delivery to limit the spread of coronavirus.”

As the report explains:

“The proposal directs the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to waive any state regulations that would prevent people from obtaining a mixed drink in a sealed container as a takeout order or prevent employees and contractors, such as food delivery services, from transporting such alcoholic beverages in sealed containers to customers.”

To which all a caring and thinking person can say in response is “it’s about time.”

While it’s true that allowing alcoholic drinks to be transported offsite from restaurants and bars is a policy that’s not without risks, it’s also likely that — with careful attention to reasonable guidelines — such risks will be very minimal. This is especially true given that the proposed order includes several protections. Again, this is from the WRAL story:

The to-go drinks proposal would be limited to one drink per person per order, and everybody participating in the order must be present to accept delivery. No orders could be taken or delivered after the time at which the restaurant or bar would normally cut off sales under local laws. Also, no orders are allowed to university campus residence halls or in communities where alcohol sales are prohibited.

Delivery drivers must be at least 21 years old and have to undergo training before being allowed to deliver to-go drinks. They would be responsible for verifying the identity and age of everyone receiving a drink and determining if anyone is too intoxicated to get a drink, according to the proposal.

The drinks wouldn’t have to be part of a food takeout or delivery order.

The proposed order would be in effect through the end of January. A start date wasn’t included in the draft.

Of course, the biggest beneficiary of the order is likely to be the restaurant industry, which has been suffering mightily during the pandemic. One hopes the proposal will go into effect ASAP, that it is a success, and that it ultimately stays on the books indefinitely.

Editorial: Departing chief justice will be tough act to follow

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley

In case you missed it, be sure to check out a Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial that was first published Friday on WRAL.com. As the essay — “N.C. Chief Justice Beasley leaves legacy to emulate,” — explains, rarely has a North Carolina judge made such a large and positive impact on the state in such a brief tenure as the departing chief.

As the editorial explains:

“Beasley became the first African American woman to be chief justice in March 2019. She’d served on the state’s highest court since 2012. She was defeated by a mere 401 votes in her effort to keep her job — the closest statewide election in North Carolina history.

Less than a year later, that ground-breaking achievement has been overshadowed by her determined, concerned and compassionate administration of the state’s justice system since March of this year when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state and nation. She leaves a lofty legacy to which [newly-elected Chief Justice Paul] Newby should aspire.”

In addition to noting Beasley’s swift and competent attention to the pandemic, the editorial also lauds her work on a subject too long ignored by our courts: ending racial inequity in the criminal justice system.

The editorial might have also noted her important work to help close the school-to-prison pipeline.

The bottom line: the editorial is on the money when it notes in conclusion:

“There’s little glamour in making sure a job gets done – no matter how challenging the circumstances.

It is not the stuff of banner headlines and viral social media posts.

But it is the mark of competence that has nothing to do with partisanship or politics. Beasley displays the deep commitment to serving the public and upholding justice that we expect, but should not take for granted, from a chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

She’ll be leaving a tough act for Newby to follow. He’d be wise to emulate her example.”