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Blog Topic: Oconee Observations

  • In the Loop: Meeting Between Oconee Commissioners and Legislators Focuses on Kemp

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    From left, state Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) and Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens).

    Brian Kemp, the governor-elect of Georgia, was not invited to and did not attend the pre-legislative session held late last year by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners for the county’s delegation to the Georgia General Assembly.

    But Kemp’s presence at the gathering was strong nonetheless.

    In closing the session, Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert said “the most interesting thing about this session” is going to be seeing how the personalities of Kemp, newly elected Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan,and House Speaker David Ralston “mesh” and how their goals “match.”

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  • In the Loop: Democrats Make Slight Gains in Oconee County

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    Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton.

    Republican Brad Raffensperger got 67.1 percent of the vote in Oconee County in the runoff for secretary of state on Tuesday, up just slightly from his 66.8 percent vote on Nov. 6.

    Democrat John Barrow received 32.9 percent of the vote in Oconee County on Tuesday, up from the 30.7 percent he received in the three-way contest on Nov. 6.

    In the Public Service Commission race, incumbent Republican Chuck Eaton received 68.1 percent of the vote in Oconee County on Tuesday, down from the 69.4 percent he received on Nov. 6.

    Democrat Lindy Miller received 31.9 percent, up from the 27.3 percent she received in the three-way race on Nov. 6.

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  • In the Loop: Oconee County Voters Cast Mostly Party-Line Ballots

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    Oconee County voting on Nov. 6 showed little variation by election contest, suggesting that most ballots were cast along party lines.

    No Republican got more than 74.6 percent of the vote or less than 66.8 percent in Oconee County, and no Democrat got more than 30.7 percent of the vote or less than 25.4 percent, an analysis of the certified results shows.

    Voting for the state as a whole showed that same pattern, with almost all contests being split, with about half of the vote going to Republicans and nearly half going to Democrats.

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  • In the Loop: Athens-Area Reservoir Named to Georgia's 'Dirty Dozen'

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    The Georgia Water Coalition has named the planned withdrawal of water from the Apalachee River for an expanded Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir on its 2018 Georgia’s Dirty Dozen list.

    The coalition labeled the proposed Apalachee River water intake “an exercise in overbuilding” and called on the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to turn down the current requests for the intake.

    The Georgia Water Coalition is an alliance of more than 200 organizations, including the Greater Apalachee River Community, a group of Oconee County and Morgan County residents that organized this year to represent the interests of the Apalachee River.

    “For the Apalachee, the aquatic wildlife it harbors and the people who live along and play in it, this proposed withdrawal creates other problems simply because it is super-sized for such a small river,” the report states.

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  • In the Loop: Over 40 Percent of Oconee Voters Voted Early

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    At the end of early voting on Friday, 11,709 Oconee County residents had cast a ballot, representing 42.5 percent of the county’s 27,530 active, registered voters.

    Four years ago at the end of early voting, only 24.4 percent of the county’s then 22,526 active registered voters had participated, indicating final turnout for Tuesday’s election almost certainly will exceed by a considerable amount turnout four years ago.

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  • In the Loop: Wiedower Raises Most Funds Among Athens Legislative Candidates

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    Marcus Wiedower, Republican candidate for the 119th House District seat, raised more than $80,000 from July 1–Sept. 30, topping all six candidates for Clarke and Oconee counties' seats in the General Assembly.

    Rep. Jonathan Wallace, the incumbent Democrat in House District 119, raised 
    $55,908.

    Rep. Deborah Gonzalez, the Democrat incumbent in House District 117, raised $68,381—more than $20,000 above the $47,987 raised by her Republican challenger, Houston Gaines.

    Incumbent Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert raised $61,575, while his Democratic challenger, Marisue Hilliard, raised $33,459.

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  • In the Loop: Houston Gaines Goes On Attack at Oconee Forum

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    Photo Credit: Savannah Cole/file

    Republican challenger Houston Gaines went on the attack against incumbent District 117 Rep. Deborah Gonzalez (D-Athens) as soon as he first got his hands on the microphone at a candidate forum in Oconee County on Thursday.

    He devoted much of his two-and-a-half minute introductory comments to criticism of Gonzalez, saying that “we deserve better” than what she has provided in her first 10 months as a legislator.

    Gonzalez largely ignored Gaines, who stayed in attack mode throughout the evening, saying in his concluding comments that the choice is between “somebody who is going to go and yell resistance at every turn” and “somebody who is going to work to make a difference.”

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  • In the Loop: Gaines, Cowsert Campaigns Are Flush With Cash

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    Photo Credit: Savannah Cole/file

    Houston Gaines.

    It seems unlikely Republican Houston Gaines will run out of money as he seeks to unseat Democratic Rep. Deborah Gonzalez in Georgia House District 117 in November.

    Gaines, in his second attempt to win a House seat, was sitting on $169,450 in unspent funds as the election entered its crucial stage this summer.

    That’s $145,951 more than the $23,499 that Gonzalez had on hand at the same time period.

    It’s also significantly more than the $36,310 that incumbent Democrat Jonathan Wallace had in unspent funds for his re-election campaign in the 119th House District and the $10,746 that Republican challenger Marcus Wiedower had.

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  • In the Loop: Oconee County Added Half an Elementary School Worth of Students This Year

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    Photo Credit: screencap via Lee Becker

    The Oconee County Board of Education.

    Enrollment in Oconee County schools increased by 246 students over the last year, marking the fourth straight year that enrollment in the county schools grew by more than 3 percentage points.

    Brook Whitmire, chief human resources officer for the school system, told the board of education on Monday that the growth in enrollments means that the county is adding enough students each year to represent about half of a K–5 school.

    The Oconee County School District opened Dove Creek Elementary School on Hog Mountain Road in the far western part of the county this year to accommodate school growth.

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  • In the Loop: UGA Prof: Abrams Can't Win Governor's Race, but Kemp Can Lose

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    Photo Credit: University of Georgia

    Charles Bullock.

    The Georgia governor’s race is Republican Brian Kemp’s to lose, political scientist Charles Bullock, an expert on Georgia elections, told Oconee County Republicans on Thursday night.

    “The Republicans should win this,” said Bullock, a distinguished University of Georgia professor. “This is still a Republican state.”

    Bullock said, however, that he could imagine a number of scenarios that would lead to a Democratic takeover of the governor’s mansion.

    Republicans have to be united, he said, and the disruption from Washington has to be minimal.

    “If Republicans in any way drop the ball, mess up, then a Democrat could win,” Bullock said. “I am telling reporters that Stacey Abrams can’t win, but Brian Kemp could lose.”

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