- Polls open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. across Georgia.
- Early voting reached historic levels.
- Slow turnout as primary day starts.
The 2022 primary elections are underway in Georgia on May 24. Voters have until 7 p.m. to cast ballots at their local polling place.
Key statewide primary elections are being held for Georgia's governor, secretary of state, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state school superintendent, the commissioners of labor, agriculture and insurance, and a U.S. Senate seat.
Follow our live coverage throughout the day with notes from polling places from our reporters Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Beau Evans:
This live blog has concluded.
Incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger declared himself outright winner of the Republican primary for his seat just before midnight on primary day. The AP has not called his race against challengers U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and others.
Raffensperger had captured 51.73% of the vote total with ballots counted in nearly 87% of precincts by midnight, according to state data. Holding a more-than 50% lead would allow him to avoid a runoff before the November 8 general election.
Click the image above for full results from the secretary of state's website.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is close to capturing the 50% vote margin needed for an outright winner over Republican primary challenger U.S. Rep. Jody Hice as we approach midnight on 2022 Primary Day:
Click the image above for full results from the secretary of state's website.
Gov. Brian Kemp delivered a victory speech Tuesday night after defeating former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and others in the Republican primary:
Click the image above to watch a portion of Gov. Brian Kemp's speech recorded by our reporter Alessandro on May 24, 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Kemp's speech contrasted to words delivered from his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams earlier on primary day in Atlanta:
Click the image above to watch a portion of Stacey Abrams speech recorded by our reporter Alessandro on May 24, 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
The AP has called the Republican state school superintendent primary for incumbent Richard Woods, who has led Georgia's public k-12 schools since 2019. He stormed to an early lead on primary day against challenger John Barge, a former state school superintendent.
Richard Woods, Republican incumbent for Georgia state school superintendent.
The AP has called the Democratic attorney general primary for state Sen. Jen Jordan, who is set to face Republican incumbent Attorney General Chris Carr in the November 8 general election.
State Sen. Jen Jordan, Democratic nominee for Georgia attorney general.
The AP has called the Republican attorney general primary for incumbent Chris Carr, who is set to face Democratic challenger state Sen. Jen Jordan in the November 8 general election.
Attorney General Chris Carr, Republican incumbent for Georgia attorney general.
Voters across the Peach State largely encountered few difficulties at the election polls today. Sporadic instances of polling place mixups, technical glitches and other obstacles were reported across the state, but nothing that elections observers and experts deemed out of the ordinary.
Read our reporter Alessandro's story on today's voting activities:
Click the photo above to read Alessandro's story on what happened during 2022 Primary Day in Georgia. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp is set for a rematch against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in the November 8 general election.
Kemp's main Republican primary opponent, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, conceded Tuesday night after Kemp surged to a strong early lead. Perdue fueled his campaign largely with former President Donald Trump's endorsement.
The November matchup between Kemp and Abrams is expected to be close. Kemp edged out a win in the 2018 gubernatorial election over Abrams by less than 55,000 votes.
Gov. Brian Kemp, Republican incumbent for Georgia governor.
The AP has called the Democratic U.S. Senate primary race for incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Atlanta reverend who rushed to a huge early lead in his primary against the lone Democratic challenger, Tamara Johnson-Shealey.
Warnock is set to defend his seat against Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the November 8 general election.
Rev. Raphael Warnock, Democratic incumbent for U.S. Senate.
The AP has called the Republican U.S. Senate primary for Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star who leapt out to a strong early lead against a large field of primary contenders including Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
Walker will face incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in the November 8 general election.
Herschel Walker, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.
Election officials in Fulton County, home to the most registered voters in the state, expect to wrap up ballot counting by "hopefully no later" than 10:30 p.m. tonight, said Interim Elections Director Nadine Williams.
Fulton County Elections Board Chairwoman Cathy Woolard credited "really robust" early voting with helping "mitigate some of the turnout" on primary day: "So we didn’t see a lot of the long lines.”
Fulton reeled in around 91,000 early ballots and 5,300 mail-in ballots. Vote tallies are posted live as they arrive from local precincts on the secretary of state's website.
Watch Fulton County's press conference by clicking the image above.
The Associated Press (AP) has called the Democratic gubernatorial primary for Stacey Abrams, who was uncontested. She heads to the general election on November 8 against the Republican primary winner.
Stacey Abrams, Democratic nominee for Georgia governor.
The AP also called the Republican state agriculture commissioner primary for Tyler Harper, a state senator and farmer who ran unopposed to replace outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, who is competing for a U.S. Senate seat.
Tyler Harper, Republican nominee for Georgia agriculture commissioner.
Polls have closed in Georgia's 2022 primary elections. Anyone already in line as of the 7 p.m. close will still be able to cast a ballot:
Two hours remain for voters to cast ballots in the 2022 primary elections. Polls close in nearly all counties at 7 p.m. Results will start arriving on the secretary of state's website around that time:
Click the image above to view the Georgia Secretary of State's election results page.
As voting neared the 7 p.m. close, our reporter Alessandro caught up with voters in Buckhead (Atlanta) including Joel Lobel, who said he voted in person on election day since he wasn't sure his absentee ballot – which he sent on May 18 – would be counted:
Click the image above to watch Alessandro's interview with Joel Loeb outside St. Philip Cathedral in Atlanta on May 24, 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Update from our reporter Alessandro, who has moved from a Democratic-leaning precinct to a Republican-leaning precinct as he continues covering today's primary elections in Georgia:
Click the image above to link to Alessandro's notes from the field on Twitter.
With Georgians heading to the polls, it's worth a reminder that one of the people they select will become the next secretary of state in charge of elections (or continue to be the secretary of state in incumbent Brad Raffensperg's case).
Catch up on where Republican and Democratic candidates for secretary of state stand on key issues:
Infographic by Brittney Phan for State Affairs.
Georgia's deputy secretary of state, Gabriel Sterling, expects record-setting turnout once all votes are counted in the 2022 primary elections:
Click the image above to view Gabriel Sterling's post on Twitter.
Our reporter Alessandro spoke with Marilyn Marks, executive director of Coalition for Good Governance, about mail-in ballot counting in Fulton County:
“The most interesting thing is that there are only 5,000 ballots that have been received so far," Marks said. "Compare that to November 2020 when this county had 120,000 mail ballots."
“What that tells us with this high turnout is people are voting in person. They’re voting in early-voting centers quite a lot. ... Law S.B. 202 that was passed last March 2021 has really discouraged mail-ballot voters. And I think we’re seeing it in the numbers.”
(Note: The Coalition for Good Governance has been suing the Georgia Secretary of State's office since 2017 over the state's ballot-marking machines provided by Dominion Voting Systems, and other election matters.)
Click the image above to watch Alessandro's interview with Marilyn Marks outside Fulton County's absentee ballot processing center on May 24, 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Backers of Georgia's election law last year point to expanded early-voting days and hours in many counties – as well as the high turnout of early voters in this year's primary elections – as proof the recent voting changes have not depressed turnout.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Twitter:
"The results speak for themselves. Georgia’s new election law has made it easy to vote and hard to cheat, leading to record turnout of early voters for the May primary."
Our reporter Alessandro has an update on mail-in ballot counting in Fulton County:
- About 5,100 mail-in ballots processed so far today, compared to compare to 121,000 during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
- Around 3,000 to 5,000 mail-in ballots is what's usually expected for a primary.
- New rules and settings mean more ballots are requiring hand duplication because the machines reject them.
- More than 1,600 ballots out of 5,100 so far have had to be duplicated for reasons including: invalid or blank ballots, ambiguous markings or damaged ballots.
- The duplication process involves: hand-marked mail-in ballots that scanners for whatever reason reject get copied onto a fresh ballot in order to count every vote.
- An election worker from each party is present to observe duplication in order to establish a paper audit trail.
A view from outside Fulton County's absentee ballot processing center on May 24, 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Amid reports of Georgia voters arriving at incorrect polling places due to redistricting, be sure to check where your polling place is located at the secretary of state's "My Voter Page": https://mvp.sos.ga.gov/s/.
Click the image above for a link to the "My Voter Page" and check the location of your polling place. (Credit: Georgia Secretary of State's office)
Our reporter Alessandro is out an absentee ballot processing center in Fulton County to watch how mail-in ballots are counted:
Click the image above to watch Alessandro's video.
Recent polling from the Trafalgar Group shows Gov. Brian Kemp with a comfortable lead (51.8%) over Republican challenger former U.S. Sen. David Perdue – possibly comfortable enough to avoid a primary runoff.
Catch up on the positions and campaign issues separating the incumbent and candidates in the Republican primary for Georgia governor:
Infographic by Brittney Phan for State Affairs.
Georgia's deputy secretary of state, Gabriel Sterling, reports officials are seeing "steady voting" on primary day so far: "Over 2500 polling places are processing voters," Sterling said on Twitter.
Some voters have reported being turned away from polling places where they are no longer registered after precinct lines were redrawn during the recent redistricting in Georgia.
State lawmakers also voted to restrict when voters can receive a "provisional ballot," which allows someone to vote in the wrong precinct pending ID verification by local poll workers. Now, voters can only cast provisional ballots if they show up to the wrong precinct after 5 p.m., instead of at any time on election day.
Read about key changes last year to Georgia's voting processes that many voters are experiencing for the first time in the 2022 primaries:
To read our story on recent voting changes, click the photo above of state lawmakers voting on last year's sweeping election bill S.B. 202. (Credit: Beau Evans for State Affairs)
Georgia candidates and incumbents are making their final appeals to voters before the polls close at 7 p.m.
Gov. Brian Kemp, who's fending off a Republican challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, hit the radio circuit early on Tuesday to state his case for reelection.
His potential Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, hit the street in Atlanta to rally support for challengers to Republican-held offices. (She is running unopposed in the primary.)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams rallies on the morning of primary day in Atlanta on May 24, 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Low primary-day turnout in many parts of Georgia so far has contrasted to strong participation in the three-week early voting phase, which drew record turnout.
More than 860,000 ballots were cast during early voting from May 2 to May 20. That's nearly triple the amount of early ballots cast in the 2018 midterm elections.
Large numbers of early voters has helped curb long waits and lines so far, said state Rep. Bee Nguyen, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state.
"The efforts to push people to early and in-person [voting] has really alleviated a lot of the stressors on election-day voting," Nguyen said. "I have not heard reports of extremely long lines like we have in the past."
Click the image above to watch Alessandro's interview with state Rep. Bee Nguyen about what she's seeing on primary day in Georgia. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Some reports cropped up this morning of temporary glitches with voting machines and voters being turned away from the casting ballots in the wrong precinct.
The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) has members on site at polling places checking to see how many wrong-precinct voters may be turned away.
The election nonprofit New Georgia Project reported voters being turned away from a polling place in College Park due to issues with check-in poll pads.
Meanwhile, at the FanPlex polling place in Southwest Atlanta, voter Annah Lyles said lines were "night and day" compared to 2020 when she had to wait in line for three hours to vote.
Atlanta voter Annah Lyles had an easier time of it casting her ballot on primary day this year compared to during the 2020 elections. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Voters in Southwest Atlanta largely report a smooth and easy process at their polling places.
48-year old attorney Yolanda Rush called the lack of a long line on Tuesday a "shocking" contrast to 2020 and 2018, when lines often stretched for blocks around polling places. "I always vote," she said. "I've never missed an election."
"I was expecting more people," said Latosha Beadles, a 53-year-old life insurance processor who has lived in the community for nearly a decade. Beadles, who said she pulled a Democratic ballot, said she mainly came out to vote for municipal races, but at the state level was most concerned with the Secretary of State race.
The quick line on the morning of election day at her Southwest Atlanta precinct was a welcome surprise for Latosha Beadles. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
Alessandro reports voting got off to a slow start in parts of Southwest Atlanta. Reports from around the state have shown similar low turnout during the morning rush on election day.
Polls opened Tuesday morning to no lines at the Jefferson Park Recreation Center in East Point, a Fulton County municipality South West of Atlanta.
Even after an hour of polls being open State Affairs counted a dozen voters at the precinct where over 2,400 residents are registered.
Atlanta voter David Grier said lines were shorter than in past primary days when he cast a ballot at the FanPlex polling place on May 24, 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon for State Affairs)
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From funeral homes to helicopters and the courtroom: The other side of Georgia legislators
Ever wonder what a politician does when they’re not … well … politicking? So did we.
Georgia’s 236-member General Assembly is a part-time citizen Legislature whose members are paid a salary of $22,342, plus a daily allowance of $247, to work during a 40-day legislative session that runs from January to March. (The salary is in the bottom quartile of legislator compensation in the U.S.)
We wondered what kind of jobs or financial situations Georgia legislators have that enable them to take three months off each year and fit in all of the other meetings, calls and work that the position demands throughout the year.
State Affairs looked at the mostly self-reported information of the 180 House and 56 Senate members.
Topping the list of occupations? Lawyers.
Doctors, medical practitioners and those who are retired (or semi-retired) from a wide range of professions and careers also top the list.
Some surprising findings: This year’s assembly includes a helicopter pilot, an auctioneer, a jewelry store owner and a pontoon boat maker.
— Jill Jordan Sieder
Have thoughts, tips or questions about the compensation or workload of state legislators? Contact Jill Jordan Sieder on Twitter @JOURNALISTAJILL or at [email protected].
Header image: Lawmakers ready to head home on Sine Die at the Georgia House of Representatives in Atlanta. (Credit: Georgia House of Representatives)
Judicial circuits get $15 million more to pare down big case backlogs
Georgia courts are getting a $15 million injection to help combat case backlogs accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be used to update courtrooms with new audio-visual equipment, cameras, recording devices and other technology.
Nearly half of Georgia’s 50 judicial circuits are getting the new round of money, the second and final round of federal American Rescue Act (ARPA) grants slated to be distributed this year. Two of the 24 circuits awarded grants – Flint and Pataula – are first-time recipients. The rest of the money is going to circuits that applied and were approved for more money.
“The bulk of this round of distributions is to modernize courtrooms and things like that,” Bruce Shaw, a spokesman for the Judicial Council of Georgia/Administrative Office of the Courts, told State Affairs.
For example, according to their backlog response plans, 21 circuits plan to use the money to add newer audio-visual equipment. Approved as a new eligible expenditure by the committee starting this award cycle, over $12 million was requested and awarded to update audio-visual equipment.
Requests also included money for temporary personnel such as senior judges, judges to serve by designation, court clerks, prosecutors, security, investigators, victim support staff and court reporters. There were also requests for supplies, personnel education and training as well as money to rent temporary space to hold court.
“We look forward to the support and efficiencies the audio-visual equipment modernization will provide to move cases faster and without technical delays,” said Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Michael Boggs, chairman of the Judicial Committee.
Why It Matters
Between March 2020 and June 2021, Georgia’s judiciary system operated under a statewide Judicial Emergency Order that placed limits on court operations to protect the health and safety of people working or coming into court during the pandemic. That led to a backlog of criminal and civil cases, especially those requiring jury trials to resolve.
In October 2021, Gov. Brian Kemp allocated $110 million in ARPA money to the state’s judicial branch to deal with the backlog, especially serious violent felonies.
The Judicial Council is administering $96 million of that money to eligible courts, prosecutors and related agencies. The remaining $14 million in ARPA money went to the Georgia Public Defender Council for grants to public defenders.
With this latest round of awards, 45 of Georgia’s 50 judicial circuits will have received grants since the program began on Jan. 1 , 2022.
Challenges still persist. In addition to the backlog of cases, Boggs said there’s a shortage of attorneys during his inaugural State of the Judiciary address in March. And some courts are in need of court reporters.
In addition to dealing with serious felony cases, COVID and court backlogs tied up many civil cases. For example, Atlantans Antonio Fleetwood’s and Lakiela Edwards’ wedding plans were on hold for nearly two years. The couple finally tied the knot in a special Valentine’s Day ceremony at the Fulton County Probate Court.
How successful has the ARPA program been in helping reduce the backlog in Georgia’s 50 judicial circuits? That’s hard to say. There is no statewide clearinghouse, Shaw said, that would give a clear picture of the progress. Or lack of it.
“It’s going to be different in each circuit,” he said. “So a statewide average would be difficult to come by right now.”
State Affairs checked in with Georgia’s 10th Judicial District, which handles civil and domestic cases for 21 counties in northeast Georgia. It has seven circuits and is the third-largest district in the state.
In the first few months of this year, the Augusta Judicial Circuit, the 10th District’s largest circuit, has seen its pending serious violent felonies drop by 37%, District Administrator Tracy J. BeMent told State Affairs.
Alcovy, another circuit in his district, “has done extremely well in prioritizing serious, violent felony trials this past year and has worked down their [cases] quite a bit,” BeMent said.
As of last August, the latest data available, “Alcovy had cleared out 54 serious felonies and was on track to complete almost 49 trial weeks for 2022 amongst their five judges,” Bement added.
In the Toombs circuit, clearance rates are low but they’re prioritizing backlog cases, BeMent said. The Western circuit in Athens continues to have a backlog “as they have a number of cases that have yet to be indicted,” he said.
More work remains to be done.
“The challenge continues to be making sure we have appropriate staff and that we’re fully staffed and that that staff is trained and ready to go,” BeMent said.
The ARPA money has helped add more personnel but it takes time for them to get up to speed, he noted.
So far, the district has received about $8 million in ARPA money, BeMent said, with another $3 million coming from this latest round of ARPA distributions.
Meanwhile, former President Jimmy Carter recognized The Judicial Council/AOC’s 50th anniversary this year in a Jan. 25 letter. The council was formed while Carter was Georgia governor. The ailing 39th president entered hospice on Feb. 17.
“Now the challenge is considering what is needed from all of you for the next 50 years,” Carter, 98, said in the letter. “What do future generations of judges, lawyers and citizenry need from their judicial branch? What does improving justice look like in the next decade? These are no small questions, but ones I know you will meet with the same spirit that has guided you through the past half-century.”
Have questions, comments or tips? Contact Tammy Joyner on Twitter @lvjoyner or at [email protected].
Top image: Inside the Nathan Deal Judicial Center in Atlanta (Credit: Judge Stephen Dillard)
$69.4 billion farm-to-table pipeline: ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu’
Tammy Joyner and photographer Brandon Franklin hit the road with the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) for the Black farms tour. There were so many great pictures, we decided to share the tour with you. Enjoy!
And check out our Q&A with Chairman Carl Gilliard and an agriculture perspective on Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget vetoes.
“Make the farm work and serve the community.” — Addis Bugg, Sr., Addis Farm
Joyner and Franklin traveled with the GLBC to several Black-owned farms, including Roberts Vineyard, Addis Bugg Farms, Paul Copeland Farms and Living Waters Farms. They concluded the tour with the “At the Table Roundtable” discussion event with Georgia farmers at Fort Valley State University.
Can you spot the bull?
Have questions, comments or tips? Contact Tammy Joyner on Twitter @lvjoyner or at [email protected].
Header image: John Deere combine at the state-of-the-art agricultural research facilities at Fort Valley State University. (Credit: Brandon Franklin)
All images and video by Brandon Franklin.
Read more on the ag industry by Tammy Joyner.
Q&A: Even the Energizer Bunny is no match for Carl Gilliard
State Rep. Carl Gilliard has been running at a fast clip for nearly four decades, juggling a ministry, making music and movies, writing books, feeding the hungry, hosting talk shows and performing community activism.
As a teenager, Gilliard founded a local rap group in Savannah to fight gun violence. By the time he was a student at Morris Brown College, the late civil rights activist the Rev. Hosea Williams was his mentor. His activism also put him in the sphere of other influential civil rights icons: the Revs. Joseph Lowery and Ralph Abernathy, and Coretta Scott King.
Gilliard later went on to become a minister himself as well as an author, radio show host and head of a multimedia group that produces documentaries on history. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed the state representative from Garden City to the Georgia Film Commission in 2019.
Gilliard sits on eight legislative committees, including appropriations, creative arts and entertainment, and transportation.
In January, Gilliard ascended to a critical leadership post in the Georgia General Assembly: chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC), the largest caucus of Black lawmakers in the nation.
In that role, Gilliard is determined to get Black farmers solidly entrenched in Georgia’s $69.4 billion farm-to-table pipeline. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” the 59-year-old is fond of saying.
Caucus member Sen. Gail Davenport, D-District 44, marveled at Gilliard’s energy. “I don’t know how he gets it all done. He’s busy,” she said. “He has led the caucus very well. He knows South Georgia very well and certainly here in the General Assembly, he has been an effective leader. He works to make sure the Senate understands the position of the House and the House understands the position of the Senate as far as the Democrats are concerned.”
As caucus chairman, Gilliard has made Black farmers and other Black businesses, access to credit, affordable housing and medicine top priorities.
But Black farmers are close to his heart. He recalled years ago when Georgia lawmakers gave millions of dollars to pecan farmers after tornado-ravaged storms damaged their pecan trees.
“We did a bill to give them money. Then we called a special session just to appropriate more money,” said Gilliard, who served on the Appropriations Committee at the time. “Unfortunately, Black farmers were not a part of [getting] that [money].”
State Affairs spoke to Gilliard about his role as chairman, what he intends to do to help Black farmers, and his other top priorities.
How do you see your role as chairman?
As chairman, I’m blessed to be able to walk in the leadership of 74 great senators and representatives from across the state. We represent the melting pot of Georgia.
What has been the biggest takeaway in your first five months as chairman?
Being able to hear from the members and their diverse communities. When we look at the big picture, we have more in common than not in common. That is the reason we did the GLBC rollout in reference to legislation because those are some of the things you hear in communities across the state.
You head the nation’s largest caucus of Black legislators. What are the economic and social issues impacting Black Georgians and how is the caucus poised to address those issues?
The needs of Black Georgians are just like what we went through when the recession hit. Everybody on Wall Street got bailed out while the people on Main Street got left out.
We are constantly playing catch-up. We’ve got to do more: continue education, start more businesses, be able to get a fair share of [state] contracts and be able to deliver services so that we can have generational wealth for future generations.
Black Georgians also have to be included in the top levels of [Georgia’s] $4.4 billion film industry. So the focus is to look at legislation that gives inclusion to levels of opportunity in film.
We must also try to get more Blacks into the business side of film, in reference to the creative opportunities of making and producing films and soundtracks.
Some people feel now that we’re in a post-racial era, there’s no need for a separate caucus for Black legislators. Thoughts?
There will always be a need for a Black caucus in Georgia. There’s always been a need since 1868 with “The Original 33” senators and state representatives who were [initially] not allowed to take office. Fourteen of them were lynched and killed. They had to go through unscrupulous challenges. We still face those challenges when we are in the minority, and we’re trying to get legislation passed for the people who are still facing obstacles. Across the nation, there will always be a need for Black caucuses because of the consensus of the people we represent. We represent over 3 million [Black] people in Georgia.
Who are Georgia’s Black farmers?
When people think about farmers, 99% of the time they just think about those who grow. But you have farmers who have land. You have farmers who have cattle. We even have farmers today [whose business ranges from] cattle to produce to hemp. They just don’t get an opportunity to [publicly] share all that they produce.
Having the resources to upgrade and getting the materials and equipment they need — that’s the biggest need.
They don’t have the workers to help with these farms. And they don’t have the money to hire. They’re just trying to survive. So there has to be a connection to workforce development to help them. The state has workforce development programs that may be able to help some of these farmers. Here again, it’s about us being innovative enough to use what we have to help them.
Have you talked to Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper about your concerns?
Well, we’re going to be talking with the new agriculture commissioner. We’ll give him a chance to get in the door [of his new job] first. We’re giving him the benefit of the doubt to say, ‘Let’s meet.’ This will better Georgia because agriculture is the No. 1 entity in Georgia.
What’s the caucus’ next step as it relates to Black farmers?
We’ll push for a bill that would create the Georgia Racial Equity in Agriculture Act. It would establish an Office of Equity in Agriculture, provide training for farmers of color and other historically-underserved farmers and ensure equal distribution of federal aid from the Inflation Reduction Act and Promoting Precision Agriculture Act. And we are gathering information to establish a Georgia Black farmers directory to list all of the farmers who are currently in the state to get them support from consumers as well.
Aside from Black farmers, what are the caucus’ other priorities?
Health care for all Georgians. Looking at the criminal justice system and people who are unfairly on probation for long periods of time when they have a misdemeanor. Some people are still on probation after 20 years. We’ve got to look at different elements of the criminal justice system to see what is fair and what needs to be updated.
We need to make sure we have a fair shake in the minority participation of state contracts. If we’re 30% of the population, then those contracts need to look like the representation of the 30% of minorities in Georgia.
What are some of the events the caucus has planned?
On June 7, we have the Young Leaders Conference at the Capitol for high school and college students. The caucus’ annual conference will be in Savannah July 21 to 23 and we have several for-the-people rallies coming up in Athens, Augusta, Macon and Valdosta. Lastly, we have a Black university tour the first week of September at several Black universities in Georgia.
The Carl Wayne Gilliard File
- Title: Chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus; Democratic state representative, District 162 (Savannah)
- Age: 59
- Hometown: Savannah
- Residence: Garden City
- Occupation: Pastor of Family Life Center in Garden City which operates the Empowerment Center, a program that “gets people on their feet and helps them with everything from housing to credit.” He also has a nonprofit, Feed the Hungry, that has distributed about 1.5 million servings of food in 10 cities in Georgia and four in South Carolina.
- Education: Graduate of Morris Brown College; Doctrine of Divinity from the New Generation School of Seminary.
- Career: While in college, worked as the national youth coordinator for then-presidential candidate the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Became a minister in 1995. Sworn in to the Georgia House of Representatives on May 5, 2016.
- Accomplishments: In the mid-1980s, he founded the Savannah-based rap group Candy Love to combat gun violence. Creator of four national gospel plays. Host of a radio talk show in Savannah as well as gospel TV shows. Founder of Feed the Hungry Inc. in 2009. In 2012, he launched a multimedia communication company called Urban Media and the Gilliard Foundation, which produce documentaries and television specials on history. Author of an upcoming book “Power of the Pen.”
- Family: Married father of four daughters
- What do you do to relax: Watch sports. I am a writer and a filmmaker who does documentaries.
- What’s your ultimate dream? Having a farm.
Have questions, comments or tips? Contact Tammy Joyner on Twitter @lvjoyner or at [email protected].
Header image: State Rep. Carl Gilliard touring Bugg Farm in Pine Mountain, GA. (Credit: Brandon Franklin)