Stories about Georgia

Special election runoff to be held in Georgia Senate district

A special election runoff is being held on August 11 for District 4 of the Georgia State Senate. Republicans Scott Bohlke and Billy Hickman are facing off in the runoff. Bohlke and Hickman advanced past the June 9 primary election with 32% and 33% of the vote, respectively. The two candidates are also running in a primary runoff in the regularly-scheduled election. The winner of the primary runoff will be unopposed in the general election.

The seat became vacant after Jack Hill (R) passed away on April 6. Hill had represented District 4 since 1991.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 34-21 majority in the Georgia Senate with one vacancy. Georgia has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of July, 52 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 25 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Filing deadline approaches in special election for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District have until July 31 to file. The special general election is scheduled for September 29, 2020.

If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the general election, the top two vote-getters will advance to a general runoff election. The runoff (if needed) is scheduled for December 1, 2020.

The special election was called after John Lewis (D) passed away on July 17, 2020. John Lewis served in the seat from 1987 until his death.

The seat is also up in a regular election scheduled for November 3, 2020. The Georgia Democratic Party nominated state Senator Nikema Williams to replace Lewis on the general election ballot. Williams will face Angela Stanton King (R) on November 3.

Georgia’s delegation to the U.S. House includes four Democrats, nine Republicans, and one vacancy.

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Georgia Democrats select Williams as nominee to replace late Rep. Lewis in the 5th District

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) passed away on Friday, July 17, 2020, after winning the June 9 primary in his bid for re-election to Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. The Georgia Democratic Party selected party chairwoman and state Sen. Nikema Williams (D) to replace him on the general election ballot. She faces Angela Stanton King (R) in the November 3 election. The winner of the general election will be up for re-election in 2022.

Because Lewis died between the primary and general election, Georgia law gave the Democratic Party one business day to decide whether to replace him on the general election ballot. The state party accepted applications to replace Lewis on the ballot Saturday and Sunday and chose Lewis’ replacement on Monday, July 20.

A nominating committee chose five finalists from the 131 applications they received. The finalists were Williams, state Rep. Park Cannon, Atlanta City Council member Andre Dickens, Robert Franklin, and James Woodall. Williams received 37 of the 41 votes cast.

A special election is also anticipated to choose Lewis’ replacement for the remainder of his term. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has 10 days following a vacancy to call the special election. As of July 23, the race had not been scheduled. The winner of that election would serve until January 2021.

Williams was seeking re-election to Georgia State Senate District 39. She was unopposed in the general election. Because Williams dropped out of the race, a special primary may be called to select her replacement.

Additional reading:

Four congressional races in Georgia move to runoffs on August 11

Four primary runoff elections are scheduled in three of Georgia’s congressional districts on August 11, 2020. Primary runoffs in Georgia were originally scheduled to be held on July 21 but were postponed to August 11 amid concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The statewide primary election was held on June 9, 2020.

To avoid a runoff, candidates for select federal and state offices in Georgia must receive a majority (50% +1) of the votes cast in the election. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a runoff between the top two candidates is required. The filing deadline to run in the primary election passed on March 6, 2020, and the general election is scheduled on November 3, 2020.

Candidates are in primary runoff elections in the following congressional districts:

U.S. House District 1

• Democrats Joyce Marie Griggs and Lisa Ring are facing off to determine who will challenge incumbent Earl Carter (R) in the general election.

U.S. House District 9
• The seat is open after incumbent Doug Collins (R), who was first elected in 2012, opted not to run for re-election this cycle. He has instead filed to run in a special election to the U.S. Senate to represent Georgia. Primary runoffs are being held for both the Democratic and Republican parties.
• Democratic primary runoff: Devin Pandy and Brooke Siskin are facing off to determine who will advance to the general election.

• Republican primary runoff: Andrew Clyde and Matt Gurtler are facing off for a spot in the general election.

U.S. House District 14
• The seat is open after incumbent Tom Graves (R), first elected in 2010, announced he would not seek re-election in 2020.

• Republicans John Cown and Marjorie Taylor Greene are running in the runoff to secure a spot in the general election where the winner will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal.

Ballotpedia is also covering Georgia elections in the following areas:
• U.S. Senate
• Public Service Commission
• State Senate
• State House
• State supreme court
• State court of appeals
• Local elections in DeKalb County and Fulton County
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Mississippi Supreme Court reaffirms end of state-level Chevron deference; Georgia legislation to end deference to state tax agency fails to pass

The Mississippi Supreme Court on May 28 unanimously held in a tax and gambling case that a state tax statute requiring judicial deference to a state agency’s interpretation of an unclear law—a doctrine known as Chevron deference at the federal level—was unconstitutional because it prohibited the court from exercising its constitutional duty to interpret the law.

The court reaffirmed its 2018 ruling in King v. Mississippi Military Department, which ended the state-level Chevron deference doctrine on the grounds that the practice violated the separation of powers prescribed by the state constitution. The King decision instituted a new standard of de novo review.

The court further clarified in the tax case that the King decision applied to any state statute requiring the Chevron deference doctrine.

In Georgia, legislation that would have ended judicial deference to the state Department of Revenue’s interpretations of constitutional provisions, state statutes, and agency regulations failed to pass the state Senate in the final days of the legislative session. The state House of Representatives approved the bill by a 158-8 vote on February 18.

Additional reading:
Read more about the Georgia legislation in the March 2020 edition of Checks and Balances

Georgians to vote in November on waiving state’s sovereign immunity

The Georgia State Legislature on Tuesday gave final approval to House Resolution 1023, sending it to the November 2020 ballot. The measure would allow residents to seek declaratory relief from state or local laws that are found to violate the U.S. Constitution, state Constitution, or state law. Under the amendment, a court could not award damages, attorney’s fees, or other costs of litigation unless authorized by the state legislature. After granting declaratory judgment, a court would be able to block the law or act in question. If approved, the amendment would waive the state’s sovereign immunity for any acts occurring on or after January 1, 2021.

This amendment was sponsored by Republican Representative Andrew Welch. On February 20, 2020, the state House passed HR 1023 unanimously. On June 15, 2020, the state Senate unanimously approved an amended version of the measure, which was then approved unanimously in the House on June 16, 2020.

One other constitutional amendment is also set to appear on the statewide ballot in Georgia this November. The amendment would authorize the Georgia State Legislature to pass legislation establishing special funds with dedicated revenue sources to fund statute specific projects. Statutes that impose such taxes and fees would need to reference the amendment and identify the government agency responsible for administering the revenue in its text.

The state legislature reconvened its session on June 15 after it had been suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislative session is limited to 40 legislative days and, as of Wednesday, there were eight days left of the legislative session.

From 1996 to 2018, 81 measures were on the ballot in Georgia. Of the total, 84% (68 of 81) were approved and 16% (13 of 81) were defeated.

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Ossoff wins Senate primary in Georgia outright

Jon Ossoff won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Georgia outright on June 9, having received more than 50% of the vote. The Associated Press called the race on June 10 as votes continued to be counted.

With 95% of precincts reporting, Ossoff received 51.1% of votes. Teresa Tomlinson was second with 15%, and Sarah Riggs Amico received 12.6%. Seven candidates ran in the primary.

Ossoff worked as an investigative journalist and ran in the 2017 special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District—the most expensive House race in history as of the 2020 primary. Ossoff says he has experience fighting corruption and that “we’re building a movement to mount an all-out attack on corruption in Washington.”

Tomlinson, former mayor of Columbus, Georgia, said she was the only candidate “who’s ever won an election, and I’m the only one who’s ever served in elected office,” saying that experience was needed to defeat incumbent David Perdue (R). Tomlinson said, “From the beginning, this battle has been Ossoff’s 2017 national fundraising network vs. our ‘For Georgians, by Georgians’ campaign.”

Perdue was elected in 2014 with 53% of the vote to Democrat Michelle Nunn’s 45%. Three election forecasters rate the general election Lean or Likely Republican.

Gurtler and Clyde advance to Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 9th Congressional District

State Rep. Matt Gurtler and Andrew Clyde defeated seven other candidates to advance to an August 11 Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 9th Congressional District. Incumbent Rep. Doug Collins (R) is not seeking re-election, leaving the seat open. As of 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, Gurtler had received 22% of the vote followed by Clyde with 19%. A candidate needed to receive more than 50% of the vote to advance directly to the general election.

Gurtler was endorsed and supported by the Club for Growth and Protect Freedom PAC. The two groups spent a combined $598,966 on mailers and ads supporting Gurtler.

Clyde is a U.S. Navy veteran and the owner of Clyde Armory, a firearms business. He led in campaign receipts with $438,895, self-financing $412,935 of that total.

Three election forecasters rate the general election as safely Republican. President Donald Trump (R) won 78 percent of the vote in the 9th District in the 2016 presidential election.

Atlanta voters approve measure to reauthorize 1% sales tax to fund water and sewer projects

Voters in Atlanta, Georgia, approved a measure Tuesday reauthorizing the city to levy the 1% Municipal Option Sales Tax (MOST). With 89 precincts reporting, the vote was 71% in favor to 29% against.

Going into the election, the city levied a 1% sales tax that was set to expire on September 30, 2020. This measure was designed to allow the city of Atlanta to renew the 1% sales tax for four years in order to raise $750 million to fund water and sewer projects. The measure was put on the ballot through a vote of the Atlanta City Council.

The city of Atlanta said the MOST tax is “a 1-cent tax that applies to most goods purchased in the City of Atlanta. These funds allow visitors and business people who use the city’s water and sewer infrastructure but do not pay city water/sewer bills to help pay for upgrading and maintenance of the infrastructure. … The city estimates that Atlanta’s already high water/sewer rates would have to increase by 25 to 30 percent without the MOST.”

The original 1% sales tax was in place from October 1, 2004, through September 30, 2008, and was used to partially fund Atlanta water and sewer projects. Voters approved measures to renew the tax for additional four-year periods in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

Georgia Supreme Court upholds canceled election, appointment of Blackwell’s successor

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell’s seat was expected to be up for nonpartisan election on June 9, 2020. Blackwell announced in February that he is retiring on November 18. At that time, the state supreme court announced that Governor Brian Kemp (R) would appoint Blackwell’s replacement. The appointment was challenged in court, and the state supreme court ruled in a 6-2 opinion on May 14 that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) could not be compelled to hold the election.
Former Congressman John Barrow (D) and former state Representative Beth Beskin (R), who had both planned on running for Blackwell’s seat, filed separate lawsuits in Fulton County Superior Court in March. They asked the court to order Secretary of State Raffensperger to put the election back on the calendar. On March 16, Judge Emily Richardson denied Barrow’s and Beskin’s petitions, holding the secretary of state was not “under a statutory legal duty to hold qualifications for Justice Blackwell’s seat.”
Barrow and Beskin appealed Judge Richardson’s ruling. The appeal was transferred to the Georgia Supreme Court and granted an expedited review. Five of the eight sitting justices recused themselves and were replaced by substitute justices. Chief Justice Harold Melton, Presiding Justice David Nahmias, and Justice Sarah Warren did not recuse themselves.
On May 14, the court ruled in a 6-2 opinion that the governor may appoint a successor and that the secretary of state could not be compelled to hold an election. Presiding Justice Nahmias wrote for the majority, “Even if Justice Blackwell’s office is not vacant yet, if his accepted resignation will undoubtedly create a vacancy in his office on November 18, his term of office will go with him, and the next six-year term of his office that would begin on January 1, 2021, will never exist.”
Two of the substitute justices—Ocmulgee Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Holbert Trammell and Fayette Circuit Superior Court Judge Scott Ballard—dissented. In her dissent, Trammell wrote “an appointment is unlawful in this circumstance.”
Blackwell’s seat will be filled using assisted appointment, where the governor chooses an appointee from a list of candidates compiled by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC). Blackwell’s replacement will be Gov. Kemp’s second nominee to the nine-member supreme court.
The terms of Justices Charlie Bethel and Sarah Warren will expire on December 31, 2020. The two seats are up for nonpartisan election on June 9.