I sent out a questionnaire to the candidates for 2nd Vice Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. You can read their responses below the fold.
First off, let’s get a little background information on you. Tell us a little about yourself: how long you’ve lived in Georgia, what part(s) of the state that you live in, what your “real job” is (or was if you have retired), what sort of interests you have outside of politics:
Stephen Aaron: My name is Stephen Aaron, and I was born in 1990. I grew up in the small town of Ellijay, where I lived up until attending college. I currently reside in Tifton, GA, where I have lived for the past four years. As of right now, I am employed by Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, as the President of Student Government. Outside of politics I hike, read, camp, collect firearms, and study.
Doug Grammer: I was born in Chattanooga in 1965, and I have lived in Georgia since 1975. I spent a few years back in TN while going to UTC and I spent 6 months in Alabama for a job. Georgia is where my heart is. I’ve spent the last 20 years in the Auto and mortgage industries. I own a company that has rental property. I used to be the Chapter Leader of the Chattanooga Guardian Angels. I enjoy going to the movies, hiking, and white water rafting.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: I was born and raised in Cobb County. I graduated from Wheeler High School in Marietta in 1993, then from the University of Georgia in 1997 with a BA in Journalism. I own mortgage origination company in Decatur, where my wife, Cathy, and I live with our two dogs.
How long have you been involved with Republican politics?
Stephen Aaron: Many people talk about being “bit” by the political bug, and that first happened when I served as a Page for my State Senator Chip Pearson, at the age of 14, from then on, I was hooked. 8 Years of service to the Party, and Republicans in varying roles of leadership and coordination. For being involved for 8 years, I would say I thus far have a rather extensive record of service on campaigns, and in both the Teenage Republicans, and in the College Republicans.
Doug Grammer: I voted Republican in most races since I was able to vote at the age of 18. I have never missed a chance to vote. I became active in organized Republican Party politics in 1988 when I joined the College Republicans. Here’s a list of some offices/positions held and some of what I did with them:
- Dalton College Republicans – 1988 to 1990 – member, but organized and lead meetings.
- UTC College Republicans – 92 to 94 -held offices of Chairman and first Vice Chairman, held rally with TV exposure and U.S. Senate Candidate Fred Thompson, knocked of every door on Campus to identify GOP activists and voters, took group to DC for national CR convention.
- CRFT, College Republican Federation of Tennessee – Treasurer and Executive Director, traveled the state of Tennessee and chartered 6 new clubs and well as visiting 12 other campuses.
- Northwest Georgia Young Republicans, founded the club in 1993, supported various candidates going door to door, earned media for candidates, served asChairman and First Vice Chairman.
- Georgia Federation of Young Republican Clubs, Chairman, Co-Chairman, National Committeeman, hosted YRNF national convention in Atlanta in 1995, personally oversaw “YR fest”, Georgia awarded best newsletter and website while I was Chairman, hosted one of the first forums between Casey Cagle and Ralph Reed (fundraiser), hosted white water rafting trip, 0rganized group of volunteers going door to door for various statehouse candidates in swing districts when we took control of the house, trained new club chairmen, served on GAGOP Executive Committee, traveled the state and helped federate 5 new clubs, organized training for people running for county level offices in 06 and 08.
- YRNF, served as Parliamentarian at Atlanta 95, served on Social Security taskforce in 2004 NY national convention, helped federate West Virginia Young Republicans (Congresswoman Shelley Capito as speaker of W.V. Y.R. Convention) represented Georgia in many different states and several YRNC conventions and leadership conferences.
- 1992 Judy Grammer for Congress Treasurer, kept books, did speaking engagements, fundraising, filed FEC reports.
- 1994 Judy Grammer for Congress, manager all of the above plus organized volunteers, bought campaign materials, managed day to day activities, went to GOPAC campaign management college in DC.
- 1996 Walker County Commissioner GOP nominee, first since reconstruction, beat a longtime business owner from county seat with two purple hearts, family with 1.5 kids, and a dog in GOP primary, got a Dem candidate who lost in primary run off to endorse me in the general, she turned GOP in 2000 and has been my County Commissioner ever since, purchased 18 million dollars worth of fire trucks over ten year period (long story).
- 2012 candidate for Walker County Probate Judge, second in three person race, mail-outs, door knocking, robo calls, debates, the usual.
- Walker County GOP, served briefly as Chairman, First Vice Chairman, Treasurer… while serving as Treasurer, McCain-Feingold stated I had to pick between serving at the county level and the YR’s. I resigned because I play by the rules even if I don’t like them. Grew the party by using robo-calls to let people know about the meetings, organized election return events, recruited candidates, raised money with banquets, helped take us from zero Republicans in office to all offices but one school board member (took years).
- Bush Chairman for Walker County 2004, Went to Wisconsin for Bush for 1 week in addition to getting 72% of the vote in Walker County.
- McCain Chairman for Walker County 2008, Took a van of volunteers to North Carolina for McCain in addition to getting 73% of the vote in Walker County.
- Peavine Precinct Chairman – off and on, about 15 years – consistently brought the most people to county conventions even though it was the fifth largest precinct out of eighteen.
- Walker County MISC. I trained poll watchers for Walker County, got six different headquarters over the years donated, served as parliamentarian and convention Chairman, participated in many local elections over the years. Wrote Walker GOP rules.
- 2007 Coverdell Leadership Institute, campaign manager for mastodons, got 3 of 4 elected, it is impossible to highlight the value of this group in two or three sentences.
- 9th Congressional District: Served as Chairman of the 9th and First Vice Chairman. Held joint picnic with the 11th congressional district with Sen. Isakson, and about 20 other statewide and congressional candidates, 1500 in attendance, organized a different picnic with about another 20 candidates, held training for county party chairmen, Hosted Newt and Congressman Graves as keynote speakers at District Convention over 2000 in attendance, hosted joint fundraiser with 6thCongressional District featuring Herman Cain, over 600 in attendance. Created a speakers bureau. 9th averaged 74% for President, no Dem legislators, home of the Speaker, Gov. and Lt. Gov., and out-numbered Dems on a 9 to 1 ratio on a county level. Cook partisan voting index put us at number 3 most GOP in nation, but considering that only measured Presidential results, I state that we were number 1 in the nation. Served as Fundraising Chairman, helped implement the banquet before the convention tradition, and the annual picnics, and golf tournaments. Served as Northwest Regional Director working with 5 to 6 counties, attending 80% of all of their meetings.
- 10th Congressional District, served as Fundraising Chairman, helped implement the banquet before the convention tradition, and the annual picnics, and golf tournaments. Served as Northwest Regional Director working with 5 to 6 counties, attending 80% of all of their meetings. Chaired one convention and served as parliamentarian at others. Served on nominating, rules, credentials, platform andresolutions committees
- 14th Congressional District, Wrote the outline for the 14th rules. Hosted training for candidates for local office offices in 2012.
- GAGOP, as Chairman of Ninth served on GAGOP Executive Committee a second time. Helped rewrite the GA GOP rules. Served on state committee. Served on Credentials committee and resolutions committee. Took van of volunteers to Eighth CD for Austin Scott.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: I’ve been a Republican all my life. I became an “activist” in 2008 after becoming frustrated with the temper of our nation’s electorate and the tepid reception the Republican Party was getting from independent voters. I first became involved through the Young Republicans, and was elected Membership Chair of the Buckhead chapter in 2010, then President in 2011. I also co-chair one of the Fulton GOP’s monthly breakfasts and host a weekly conservative radio show.
What made you interested in running for this position?
Stephen Aaron: At times, I take a step back from Politics, to analyze things to see how things could be done differently, and what vulnerabilities there are. From the outside looking in, there is one glaringly obvious weakness that has the Left, and the Democrats licking their chops. We are a divided Party. We are at war with ourselves internally, which many people may not believe is visible outside the Party, but people take notice. Being a Senior in College, I interact with a variety of individuals on a daily basis, some politically minded, and some not. I have discussed with many people what drives them away from the Party, and this is one of the main things. The divisions within the Party must be healed if we are to continue forward and continue winning. Another item, is that even though Mitt Romney won the ballot in Georgia, there was only a 304,000 vote difference between the two. That may seem like a large margin of loss, especially being up from the 200,000 difference in 2008, but that number, could have shrunk severely if Obama had chosen to campaign heavily in Georgia during the 2012 election. The Democrats have targeted Georgia, to “turn” us by 2016. This means the DNC will be pouring money into the Georgia Democrats like water. We have to be able to combat them, and their strategies over the next 2-8 years.
Doug Grammer: I wanted someone with genuine grassroots experience and track record of getting things done and not just holding titles. I’ve been on the state GOP executive committee twice. The other candidates running may have good intentions, but I have the best record. If I thought that one of them would do a better job, I’d drop out and endorse them; (see 2011 state convention, hello Bert Guy.)
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: The 2012 Presidential election showed a disturbing trend in voter patterns as Obama won handily in many groups that should have voted Republican. For example, more than 50% of recent college graduates have been unable to find work during the Obama Administration, yet two thirds of young voters supported his reelection. This dangerous trend brightlines the need for new messaging and new messengers to attract voters in demographics Republicans are losing. I believe that the Republican Party principles create the most prosperous environment for success. As a chair of a young Republican organization and a county party activist, I understand how to bridge the gap between generations and believe that I can help the Georgia Republican Party make its message relevant to young voters across our state.
What sort of goals and objectives would you like to accomplish in your two-year term?
Stephen Aaron: First and foremost, the job of Second Vice-Chair is to help support the vision of the Chair and First Vice-Chair, no matter who is elected. That is my primary goal over my two year term. Other than that, my smaller goals are to help bring more young people into the party, partnering with the Teenage Republicans, The College Republicans, and the Young Republicans. On top of these coalitions, a targeted campaign to help remove the misnomer that the Republican Party is the party of “rich, old white folks” would be an excellent achievement outside of an election year. Finally, but certainly not least, I want to bring unity to the GAGOP. I have stated before that I believe Georgia can serve as an archetype for unity that can spread to the rest of the GOP. I believe this involves getting conflicting factions within the Party to sit down together, and not leave until we work out our differences. This will involve people with cool heads, and logical thoughts from each group. Once we agree to a set of terms or standards that we can ALL agree on, I believe that it will serve the Party well for years to come. This ties into another question asked, so I will finish my response there.
1.) We need to elect a Republican U.S. Senator and more Republicans in office.
2.) The state GOP needs to have working viable county parties in EVERY county in the state of Georgia. The strength of the Republican Party in a county is usually tied to the Republican Party of the County and how effective it is. We have done a great job with statewide offices, the state legislatures, and our congressional delegation. We need to focus more on sheriff’s races and the county courthouse. If we do better there, the rest will take care of itself.
3.) I am going to propose a series of events in Georgia that will be spread out geographically. I would like to hold an event, (training, fund raising, a speaker that will draw a crowd) close enough so that no grassroots volunteer would have to drive more than an hour and a half to be able to attend a Georgia GOP function at some point in the next two years. I am a fan of training candidates and party officers. We can’t have everything in Atlanta. Possible venues: Rome, Dalton, Dahlonega, Athens, LaGrange, Columbus, Augusta, Macon, Savannah, Valdosta, Albany, Waycross…I’m open to changes, but we need to keep the concept intact.
4.) I am in favor of a State Party Platform. I brought the idea up two years ago.
5.) We need a rule for streamlined appeals in convention and redistricting cycles.
6.) We need to revamp our best practices manual with more input from county party chairmen.
7.) I am always open to new ideas that will improve our party.
I can’t promise I can make any of these items happen. I can promise that I will propose and vote in favor of them.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
- Increase the number of counties with a formally organized Republican Party.
- Help new and existing county parties develop strong organizational structures that promote grassroots involvement and coalition building to win elections on every level.
- Provide support and training for website development and effective use of social media to every county party.
- Work with county parties and local Young Republican chapters to build relationships and encourage dialog to build stronger alliances.
- Establish an army of volunteers to support efforts to replace John Barrow with a Republican and keep Saxby Chambliss’ Senate seat “Republican Red”.
I, as well as others, have observed that my generation (those of us born in the ‘80s and ‘90s) are being turned-off by Republicans. Many do, unfortunately, vote Democrat, but there are a lot of those who lean libertarian looking to be included in our Party. What will you do as 2nd vice-chairman to reach out and make them feel welcome and included?
Stephen Aaron: As with a business, in politics, people need to feel useful and appreciated. My simple solution is to use groups already in existence within the Party to reach out to them. Even we as Conservatives, and Republicans are not going to agree on all things, but instead of butting heads over the small details, we need to unify between the points that the Party espouses. Sure, we can have spirited debates, and fight for and against a cause, but at the end of the day, we as Republicans believe in Limited Government, Personal Responsibility, lower taxes, and Fiscal Responsibility. As long as someone agrees with me on those points, I consider them a Republican and a Conservative. As a younger member of the Party, I can tell you that people my age concentrate on what affects them most right now, which is money. If we can help make a connection between higher taxes and policies passed by money grubbing Democrats, we are more likely to win younger people over to the Party, simply for the fact that people my age are strongly independent and don’t want the Government involved in their lives.
Doug Grammer: The truth is that most people attending a county party meeting will have no clue who the Second Vice Chairman is, let alone the GOP voters who don’t attend meetings. What I can do is foster more communication between the county chairs and the state party. I can stress the importance of following our own rules. I can help organize training for new county party chairmen. I lean libertarian on some issues. Less government in general is better government, but I know that government has a role to fulfill, so there can’t be no government. The way to grow our party, in my opinion, is to state what we believe in and elect people who agree with us. We can’t get perfect people, perfect votes, or perfect legislation, but Georgia is very conservative and I think we have plenty of conservatives able to run for office. If we have policies that help the average Georgian, we will have the support of the average Georgian.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: I believe the Republican Party needs to focus on fiscal issues and pro-growth policies. We are the Party of limited government, lower taxes, and individual freedom. These are points that bring us together—we need to utilize them to unify our Party.
We also have to connect with younger voters, who read news briefs in 140 characters. Obama’s campaign routed the RNC in effective use of social media in 2008 and again in 2012. We have to catch up, or we will continue to lose voters, and elections.
I’ll build upon my previous question a little bit. There are factions within the Republican Party: TEA Party, “Establishment”, varying flavors of conservatives ranging from very socially conservative to very fiscally conservative, libertarians, etc. How will you, as 2nd vice-chairman, work to bring those different pieces together to build a functional Republican Party?
Stephen Aaron: I feel a lot of these concerns have been addressed in pervious questions, but I will continue here. Once the leaders of each of these conflicting groups within the Party have sat down to work out their differences, I believe that we can all agree on the points that I mentioned above, Limited Government, Personal Responsibility, lower taxes, and Fiscal Responsibility. In which case, on some subjects we can agree to disagree, allowing candidates and individuals to make their own choices on situations where people may disagree. All though I voted for Mitt Romney, Campaigned for both Newt and Cain, I still think it is illogical and is stabbing ourselves in the neck to purposefully try and exclude certain groups in decision making processes, conventions, and events. As long as someone is a Conservative, and agrees with the four points I have listed, I do not see any reason to chastise them. In fact I encourage their involvement. If we take a look at history, some of the best things have come from a spirited debate, not from conflict, but from discussions. I think through civil discussions we can build a stronger and more functional Republican Party.
Doug Grammer: There have always been factions within the party and there always will be factions within the party. What we need to do is first acknowledge that we won’t agree on everything. We need to be respectful of other people’s opinions even when we disagree with them. If it comes down to a vote, everyone needs to follow the same rules and we need to conduct our business fairly. There will come a time when any average Republican will be on the losing end of a vote. That person needs to recognize that they hold a minority opinion and conduct themselves with honor while both winning and losing. Even if one loses on an issue, it’s not the end of the world because usually the issue can be brought up again. We need to think of people who agree with us 80% of the time as friends and not enemies.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: The Democratic Party has long been able to coalesce many single-issue voting blocs into a formidable coalition on Election Day. Party leaders have effectively instilled in their voters a “leave-it-all-on-the-field” attitude toward Primary elections. This is an area in which Republicans have historically struggled, and the onus falls on our Party leadership to unify voting interests. The message must be stronger than, “Vote for Candidate X, or the Democrats will win.” That is a tactic which appeals to Republican activists, but it misses many voters who may not find this argument a compelling reason to skip kickball, or go out in the rain to vote.
The Republican Party needs to stay on message about job growth, income tax reduction, spending cuts, and smaller government. Republicans across the spectrum find common ground on these issues. Primaries allow our Party to select the type of Republican we want to represent our platform, but often Primaries become divisive. When a nominee has been chosen, it is the job of the Republican Party to focus on unity, rather than fear, and bring the varied factions of our Party together in support of our nominee, and not in fear of his/her opponent.
Social networking, the blogosphere, and other “bleeding-edge” technology are the game-changers. How can you, in the position in which you seek, work to leverage those technologies to mobilize and disseminate our message to our supporters and voters?
Stephen Aaron: As someone that uses “bleeding edge technology” on a daily basis, I have the knowhow to operate it, and what needs to be done. Everyone now wants information as soon as it becomes available to the public, sometimes even faster. This would include someone updating statuses, tweets, etc.. upwards of 10 times a day, just to be sure people stay informed. I would tentatively submit that you could link news articles to the GAGOP Facebook or twitter followed with a “What Do you Think?” just to get people discussing and involved. As far as sending our message out to voters, we need an organized and aggressive marketing strategy showing up all over Facebook, Google, and other portions of the internet, even when it is not an election year. Our message should be as easy to find in 2013 as it was in 2012.
Doug Grammer: Some people are into linked in, others like to tweet, and I personally like facebook. We all need to look at what we are trying to accomplish in the cyber world and make sure we are pursuing those objectives in the best way possible. In an ideal world, I’d like to see every county party with a regular webpage and a facebook page. However, the decision to pursue that is left to the county party. As a concept, I’d like to see a mobile GA GOP app that could be downloaded to smart phones. It could send people reminders for conference calls, upcoming events in the area, and send out video messages. We’d have to look at the cost before we pursued it too far.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: As Chairman of the Buckhead Young Republicans for the past two years, I’ve led our club in leveraging social media to attain a 50% growth in membership, for which we were named the 2012 Georgia YR Club of the Year. We maintain an active Facebook page and encourage discussion from our members. This ability to connect on a daily basis with all members of the group is tantamount to our success.
The blogosphere is the new medium of “citizen journalists” that the late Andrew Breitbart was so fond of, and developing relationships with the more influential bloggers in Georgia can help promote the GAGOP’s message and build its membership. Developing relationships with traditional media outlets is critical as well. I will proactively seek to make connections with reporters and local news sources throughout the state. I believe that establishing rapport with the media will be a pivotal tool in promoting the Party’s activities and action plans throughout the state. I will work with the Chairman of the Party to develop a regular schedule for press releases, which should be emailed to local papers and pertinent blogs to notify the community of events and other newsworthy items.
I’ve thought to myself, and shared with others, that our state Republican Party should establish a statewide platform taking stands on state issues and making our rules to where we are allowed to enforce our platform and, thereby, protecting our Republican brand. What are your thoughts on the adoption of a state GOP platform?
Stephen Aaron: There is good and bad to adopting a state Platform, and here is why I say that, I feel that a state platform might be a hindrance when trying to relay the Conservative message. However, at the same time, if the platform is simplistic and broad, such as the four points I mentioned earlier, Limited Government, Personal Responsibility, lower taxes, and Fiscal Responsibility, then I believe it would be an excellent unifying force for the GAGOP. A State Party Platform has pros and cons, but in the end I believe the pros outweigh the cons. I would be in favor of a very simple and broad state platform. Splitting hairs, I feel would divide us further. We need to take more steps towards unity, not division.
Doug Grammer: As I mentioned before, I supported the idea of a platform two years ago. I like the idea of modeling it after the rules committee with at least one person from every congressional district. Personally, the first item I would like to see addressed is taxation. We need a fairer and simpler form of taxation in Georgia. I’m fine with Georgia setting the mark as for what the rest of the nation should follow.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: The State of Georgia has 159 counties, and therefore 159 spheres of influence. Folks in Dalton are concerned about the lack of jobs in the manufacturing industry while folks in Savannah are more concerned about the deepening the port. This is certainly a discussion we should be having, but a statewide platform would need to be broad in nature, sticking to our message of lower taxes and job growth.
Last one: I’ll be a delegate to the state convention, and I’m sure a lot of delegates and alternates read Peach Pundit too. Tell me why I, and other delegates, should vote for you.
Stephen Aaron: I am the youngest candidate in the running, at 22. I feel that I can provide a perspective that many others cannot see. I am connected to the youngest voters, I see and live their challenges, I know what they want to see in government, and how they want the government to not be involved in their lives. I am a young Conservative, a dedicated Republican, and a representative of the future of the country. If the Party is going to try and reach out to younger voters, we need someone in that age group to provide input and a logical discussion. I also cite my record of service to the Republican Party, having served in the grassroots, I want to continue to ensure that the grassroots in Georgia are able to serve, and are served by the GAGOP, as well as empowered to do what they do best. I am a Republican, I always have been, and I seek to make the party better by encouraging growth and new ideas from a different perspective. Having spent a decent amount of time in both the Atlanta Area, and in southern Georgia, I believe I can relate to the concerns of all Republicans within the GAGOP. While, I am young, I still converse and see many things through seasoned eyes. I believe that by working together, despite a title or leadership, that we can truly reform our government and expand our Party. If you have any questions please feel free to check me out on facebook.
Doug Grammer: I have the best record of getting Republican candidates elected. That is the real function of the party. All of the rest is either window dressing or supporting functions of getting Republicans elected. When it comes to doing a job, I won’t be outworked. If you want a show horse, I’m not your guy. If you want a work horse, I’m ready to go. I have the experience, I have the vision, and all I need is your vote.
Ron Johnson: n/a
Tim Wessinger: n/a
Greg Williams: I’ve traveled around the State for several months now and hear a constant refrain: “How do we get young people involved in the Party?” I’ve had great success building the Buckhead Young Republicans and am also active in the Fulton and Dekalb County GOPs as a volunteer and Co Chair one of Fulton’s monthly breakfasts. I have encouraged the members of my “YR” chapter to become active in their county GOPs, and many have done so, which has helped broaden the base for the counties I’ve worked in. I believe the GAGOP can help county parties throughout the state reach out to young voters, even in areas where there is not an established Young Republican chapter, and I would like to lead this initiative. Additionally, I’m well versed in the new media and have a background in journalism. I would be honored to serve the GAGOP, and I look forward to putting my experience and energy to work to build a better, stronger GOP for the future of Georgia.