Commission recommends new names for Georgia forts Gordon and Benning

A commission has recommended renaming Fort Gordon for former President and World War II military commander Dwight Eisenhower.

ATLANTA – A commission created to rename military bases currently named for historical figures with ties to the Confederacy is recommending renaming Fort Gordon near Augusta for former President and World War II military leader Dwight Eisenhower.

The Naming Commission also suggested renaming Fort Benning near Columbus for Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife Julia. Moore’s 32 years of service in the Army from 1945 until 1977 included commanding combat troops in Vietnam.

Forts Gordon and Benning are among seven Army bases the commission chose for renaming.

“Our goal was to inspire today’s soldiers and the local communities with names and values that have meaning,”  retired Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, the chair of the Naming Commission, said Wednesday. “We wanted names and values that underpin the core responsibility of the military, to defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The commission visited the seven bases last year for listening sessions with military commanders and community leaders and to gain feedback including preferences for new names.

During the listening sessions and a public comment period, the panel received more than 34,000 submissions for renaming, including 3,670 unique names.

The push to rename military bases honoring Confederate military and political leaders has been part of an effort that has included removing statues from public places in cities across the South.

Other Army bases being renamed include Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Rucker in Alabama; Fort Polk in Louisiana, and forts A.P. Hill, Lee and Pickett in Virginia.

The new names the commission is recommending will be in its report to Congress, which is due by Oct. 1.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Burt Jones declares victory in tight Republican primary for lieutenant governor

State Senate President Pro Tempore Butch MIller isn’t conceding defeat in a tight Republican primary race for lieutenant governor.

ATLANTA – State Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, has declared victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary for lieutenant governor.

With 99.37% of the votes counted, Jones had received 50.06% of the vote in a four-way race, barely enough to avoid a runoff against Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville. Miller finished second with 31.14% of the vote.

“What a great and hard-fought win!” Jones said in a statement released Wednesday evening. “While we narrowly avoided a runoff, we won 153 of 159 counties and received over 210,000 more votes than our next closest competitor.

“Now is the time to unite as a party and stand together against whichever Democrat candidate emerges, and I look forward to working with my primary opponents to do that.”

But Miller isn’t throwing in the towel yet. Fewer than 30 minutes after Jones released his statement, Miller said he’s not ready to concede defeat.

“As of now, there are still outstanding votes that have not been counted,” Miller said in a statement. “When the final tally is in, we will know for sure if there is a runoff or not. Until then, any speculation or political posturing is just that.”

Unlike the Republican contest, the Democratic race is definitely headed for a June 21 runoff. Former Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall led the field Tuesday in a crowded primary, with 30.2% of the vote. Finishing second to make the runoff was Charlie Bailey at 17.6%.

Jones was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, whose Georgia candidates otherwise fared poorly. The only other Trump-backed Republican to win Tuesday was U.S. Senate Republican nominee Herschel Walker.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Max Cleland eulogized Wednesday as a ‘force of nature’

Max Cleland

ATLANTA – Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland was remembered Wednesday as a “force of nature” who overcame horrific wounds during the Vietnam War to selflessly serve his nation in Congress and the Veterans Administration.

Cleland, a Democrat, who died last November at the age of 79, lost both legs and his right arm in 1968 after a grenade exploded near his unit during the Battle of Khe Sanh.

“Who among us could overcome what Max did in his life?” former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes said during a memorial service for Cleland at Northside United Methodist Church in Atlanta.

“Mortal men who weren’t forces of nature would never have recovered from such an event. … He pushed himself to serve the people he had fought to defend.”

Cleland returned to Georgia and served as a state senator from 1971 to 1975. He was appointed administrator of the U.S. Veterans Administration by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

After leaving the VA with the election of Republican President Ronald Reagan, Cleland served 14 years as Georgia secretary of state.

When longtime Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn retired in 1996, Cleland ran for the seat, defeating Republican Guy Millner. He served one term in the Senate, losing his seat in 2002 to Republican Saxby Chambliss. 

Cleland put in one final stint of service for his country and its veterans from 2009 until 2017 as secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

During Wednesday’s service, Jason Carter, the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor in 2014 and grandson of Jimmy Carter, read five letters sent by Carter, President Joe Biden, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a fellow Vietnam veteran.

“Max left pieces of himself in Vietnam,” Kerry wrote. “But he came back with more – an unmatched will.”

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska also elected to the Senate in 1996, lent a spirit of bipartisanship to the service. Hagel, too, served in Vietnam.

“Even though we were from different parties, the one defining bond Max and I had … was service to our country,” Hagel said. “In our political world that is so divided and so polarized … he never let that division and polarization affect his personal relationships, his love for his country and his love for his friends.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Trump ticket flames out in most down-ballot races

State Sen. Burt Jones was leading the Republican primary for lieutenant governor late Tuesday night

ATLANTA – One of Georgia’s down-ballot candidates backed by former President Donald Trump was threatening to capture the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor without a runoff, while another lost his bid for secretary of state.

With about 95% of the vote counted, state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, was leading Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, 50.1% to 31.1%. Jones, boosted by Trump’s endorsement, would avoid a June 21 runoff if he remains above the 50%-plus-one margin needed under state law to win the GOP nomination outright.

The Democrats, however, were certainly headed for a runoff to decide their candidate for lieutenant governor. Former Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall was in the lead with 30.1% of the vote, to 17.7% for second-place Charlie Bailey.

In the race for secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, who drew Trump’s ire when he refused to cooperate with the then-president’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, avoided a runoff by winning 52.3% of the vote. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, Trump’s pick, finished second in a four-way race at 33.4%.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Bee Nguyen of Atlanta will be in a runoff for her party’s nomination for secretary of state. She was in the lead with 44.3% of the vote, far ahead of former state Rep. Dee Dawkins Haigler’s 18.7%, but not far enough to avoid a runoff.

Trump’s influence didn’t count for much in the Republican race for attorney general. Incumbent Chris Carr handily defeated John Gordon, who was endorsed by the former president.

Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan of Atlanta won her party’s nomination to challenge Carr in November, easily besting Christian Wise Smith.

Another Trump-backed candidate to come up short was Patrick Witt, who ran a distant second to incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner John King.

Another incumbent Republican, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, trounced former Superintendent John Barge in that GOP primary.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, bested former state Rep. Mike Coan in the Republican primary for commissioner of labor. Incumbent Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is not seeking reelection.

Realtor and cut-flower farmer Nakita Hemingway captured the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner with 56.2% of the vote to 28.6% for state Rep. Winfred Dukes of Albany.

Also, former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Searcy won the Democratic nod for state school superintendent with 57% of the vote in a four-way race.

The Democratic contests for insurance commissioner and labor commissioner were headed for runoffs.

Janice Laws Robinson, who is in the insurance business was leading the insurance commissioner’s race with 48.7% of the vote. Raphael Baker finished second to make the runoff with 33.1%.

In the crowded Democratic primary for labor commissioner, state Rep. William Boddie of East Point edged businesswoman Nicole Horn 27.6% to 25.1%. The two will square off again in the June 21 runoff.

While Democratic races were tight, several down-ballot Republicans won their party nominations without opposition, including state Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, who is running for Georgia agriculture commissioner.

The two Republicans seeking reelection to the state Public Service Commission also captured GOP nominations unopposed: Tim Echols in District 2 and Fitz Johnson in District 3.

Consumer advocate Patty Durand won the Democratic nomination in PSC District 2 despite an order to remove her from the ballot that was posted at some precincts. She has been waging a court battle to stay on the ballot because of questions over whether she meets the residency requirement. An emergency court ruling Tuesday allowed her to remain on the ballot.

Small business owner Sheila Edwards won the District 3 PSC primary on the Democratic side with 54.7% of the vote in a three-way contest.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Herschel Walker wins Republican nomination for U.S. Senate; will face Warnock in November  

Walker was former President Trump’s choice for Republican Senate nominee

Former University of Georgia football champion Herschel Walker added another victory to his win column Tuesday when he beat five other candidates for the Republican nomination for a Georgia U.S. Senate seat.

Walker earned 68.2% of the vote in Republican primary, with about 97% of votes counted as of 1:00 p.m. Wednesday. Walker will now face off against current U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock in November.

Walker soundly defeated his five opponents in the Republican primary. Current Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary Black, was the next highest vote-getter with 13.4% of the almost 1.2 million votes cast in the Republican race.

Latham Saddler, an Atlanta banking executive and former Navy SEAL, received 8.8% of the vote.

Josh Clark, a former state representative from Flowery Branch, earned 4% of votes cast.

Kelvin King, a small business owner and Air Force veteran from Atlanta who is, like Walker and Warnock, African American, pulled 3.2% of the vote.  

And retired Brig. Gen. Jonathan McColumn of Warner Robins finished with 2.4% of votes cast.

Though Walker is a newcomer to the state’s political playing field, his large fan following and former President Donald Trump’s endorsement propelled him to victory.  

The Heisman Trophy winner decided to run for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Raphael Warnock last August after Trump spent weeks touting Walker as a candidate.  

“Herschel is tough on crime and borders, and he will always stand in support of law enforcement, military and our vets,” the former president said at the start Walker’s campaign. “He will fight hard for our Second Amendment and voter integrity.”

Walker shied away from media questions until the very last moment, taking questions only in the last week before voting while rarely appearing at public rallies.

Walker refused to participate in a debate among the Republican Senate primary candidates, leaving his opponents to debate an empty podium

“If Herschel Walker can’t get up here, he certainly can’t beat Raphael Warnock in November,” Latham Saddler, said earlier this month.  

That concern apparently did not deter Republican voters from endorsing the former star, who also had the support of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.  

Walker will need to overcome a number of other liabilities in his upcoming race against incumbent Warnock 

Though Walker was born and raised in Georgia, he has lived in Texas for decades. He only registered to vote in Georgia last August.  

Walker may also face difficulties due to his struggles with mental illness, especially dissociative identity disorder, which he wrote about in a 2008 memoir, Breaking Free. 

And he has faced allegations of domestic violence.  

A recent investigation revealed problems with Walker’s work for Patriot Support, an organization that claimed to help veterans with mental health concern. Patriot Support is not a charity but a for-profit organization and Walker overstated his role, the Associated Press reported last week.  

On policy, Walker’s campaign website says he embraces a “compassionate conservative” agenda. He supports a total ban of abortion even in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.  

Walker wants to secure the southern border, make America energy independent, confirm judges who will protect the right to bear arms, and fight for “more free-market capitalism,” according to his website.

Warnock handily beat his sole Democratic primary opponent Tamara Johnson-Sealey with 96% of the approximately 715,000 votes cast in the race.

The results of Warnock and Walker’s contest in November could determine which party controls the Senate.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.