COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987

Blog Topic: Oconee Observations

  • 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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  • In the Loop: Oconee Republicans Rescind Media Restrictions

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Tammy Gilland, chairwoman of the Oconee County Republican Party.

    The Oconee County Republican Party Executive Committee has placed severe restrictions on media coverage of its meetings, starting with the one on Thursday and running through the election in November.

    Tammy Gilland, chair of the local party organization, said that media representatives are allowed to attend the next three party meetings but that they are not allowed to record the meetings in any way and not allowed to take any notes.

    Gilland said the recording and note-taking prohibition “will apply to all media.”

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  • In the Loop: Work Starts on Retirement Homes as Oconee County Waits on Documents

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Oconee County officials are still waiting on Presbyterian Homes to indicate how much money it wants the county to borrow through bond sales to help finance construction of its Presbyterian Village Athens on U.S. 441 at Hog Mountain Road.

    In the last two weeks the company began land clearance and construction of a chain-link fence along U.S. Highway 441 for its complex. The county issued a land disturbance permit for the 79-acre property nearly a year ago.

    The fence is covered with signage promoting the continuing care retirement community, but county code enforcement officials say those signs will have to be removed because they are in violation of county code.

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  • In the Loop: Bishop Mayor Opposes 441 Bypass Plan

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    GDOT used this roundabout in Colquitt County as an example of what a roundabout on 441 near Bishop could look like.

    Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett has written to the Georgia Transportation Board criticizing the proposed close-in U.S. Highway 441 truck bypass of Bishop and saying the state should resurrect the 2007 plan that called for a bypass further east of the city.

    Pritchett told state Transportation Board Chairman Jamie Boswell that the current plan, which the state revealed in March, does not address his concerns about traffic inside Bishop reaching the bypass, the use of roundabouts on each side of the city and the safety of the road south of Bishop.

    In the letter, Pritchett also said he is concerned that the proposed route might lead the University of Georgia to move its equestrian facility from its current location near the proposed highway, and that such a loss would adversely affect the economy and reputation of Bishop.

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  • In the Loop: Secretary of State's Office Doesn't Know How Many People Voted in the Primaries

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    Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office told a reporter it would cost over $1,000 and take 30 days to say how many people voted in the May 22 and July 24 elections.

    The Georgia Secretary of State's office, which is responsible for elections in the state, does not know how many people voted in either the May 22 primary elections or the July 24 runoffs.

    The 159 counties in the state filed that information with the Secretary of State's office shortly after each of the two elections as part of the certification process for elections.

    Fran Davis, director of the Oconee County Office of Elections and Registration, for example, told the Secretary of State’s Elections Division that 7,815 ballots were cast in the county in the May primary and 5,973 were cast in the July runoff.

    Robin Herron, an executive assistant in the Secretary of State's office, said it would take about 38 hours for staff to gather and review those records for the 159 counties and that the work would have to be spread across 30 business days.

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  • In the Loop: High Turnout for Runoff in Oconee County

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    More Oconee County voters cast Republican ballots in early voting for the runoff elections than cast Republican ballots during early voting for the party primaries in May.

    That was true even though there was one fewer days of early voting in the runoff because of the July 4 holiday and no Saturday voting.

    In the 14 days of early voting that ended Friday, 2,103 voters cast Republican Party ballots, compared with the 1,967 voters who cast Republican ballots in the 16 days of early voting before the May 22 primary.

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  • In the Loop: Oconee IDA Approves Bonds for Senior Living Center

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    Last month the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority approved unanimously the spending of up to $375,115 on a contract to beautify Mars Hill Road and preliminarily approved up to $115 million in bond funding to Presbyterian Homes for construction of its Oconee campus.

    Jerry Peterson, representing Presybyterian Homes, told the IDA he was asking for preliminary approval for the Authority to issue up to $115 million in revenue bonds for Presbyterian Village Athens, to be located on U.S. 441 at Hog Mountain Road.

    He said the bonds would be repaid through funds potential tenants pay as entrance fees, through a U.S. Department of Agricultural loan for heath centers, and bonds sold to institutional investors and banks.

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  • In the Loop: Gaines Slams Gonzalez at Oconee GOP Meeting

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    Houston Gaines.

    Steven Strickland and Marcus Wiedower are competitors in the Republican primary on May 22, but they made it clear in comments to the Oconee County Republic Party late last month that they share the goal of taking back Georgia House District 119 from the Democrats in November.

    Both blamed “complacency” for their and the party’s defeat in the four-person special election held last November to fill the unexpired term of Republican Chuck Williams. The election was won by Democrat Jonathan Wallace.

    Houston Gaines, who has no competition in the Republican primary for Georgia House District 117, formerly held by Republican Regina Quick, was harsh in his criticism of incumbent Democrat Deborah Gonzalez, who defeated Gaines in another special election last November for the 117th Georgia House District.

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