GA GOP Sets Course For Future – But With A Warning

This Week’s Courier Herald Column:

What do you get the political party who has everything?  Figuring that out, in a sense, was really the purpose of the Republican state convention this weekend in Athens.

Sure, the official overriding reason was to elect a new Georgia GOP chairman and a slate of other officers.  John Padgett of Athens came out on top of the four way contest to succeed Cobb County’s Sue Everhart, a three term chairman who was term limited.  Michael McNeely, Chairman of Georgia’s Black Republican Council, was elected to the position of First Vice Chairman.

Gone are the days when the forces from the “Pat Robertson” crowd battled those of “the establishment”.  These days, everyone seems to be battling the establishment without any sense of irony that the 2,000+ delegates who traveled to Athens and donned stickers proclaiming to be “RINO hunting” were, by definition, the establishment themselves.

And yet, while coalitions of social conservatives, Tea Partiers, Ron Paul inspired liberty caucus revolutionaries, and members of various affiliated groups attempted to gain enough votes to elect their members to positions of authority, it was not lost on at least one highly influential member of the party where the real battle remains.

Governor Nathan Deal addressed the delegates during a break of self-congratulation as the outgoing officers had spent much of the morning awarding each other gifts for meritorious service.  They had, after all, presided over a time when Georgia’s transformation to a Republican state had become complete.  All statewide elected officials are now under the GOP banner.  Control of the Senate and House hover at super-majority numbers.  It seems the only elusive trophy left for Republicans to gain is that of Georgia’s 12th district, which John Barrow stubbornly refuses to cede.

The Governor acknowledged the accomplishments, but also urged Republicans to look at the 2012 election as they consider their future.  Georgia was, after all, one of the states where Mitt Romney won by one of the thinnest margins of victory he enjoyed.  This, despite virtually no effort from President Obama’s campaign team or national Democrats.

Georgia will not go unchallenged for much longer.  The Governor was keenly aware that the morning after this convention, Air Force One would be arriving at Hartsfield Jackson Airport, bringing a President to not only speak to graduates at Morehouse College, but also to stop by a fundraiser hosted by Arthur Blank for the 100 or so who could afford $10,000 or more per couple to attend.

Deal urged the delegates not to focus their anger and fight on other Republicans, but to remain vigilant.  He admonished the crowd “not to tackle our own player” when he has the ball and is about to score.  Instead, he encouraged those listening to look at the warning signs, noting Georgia’s changing demographics.  Despite the convention’s election having an inward focus, he urged the crowd to remember that it is independent voters that are the most need for attention.

A cynic could note that the Governor could be talking about his own re-election in 2014.  After all, Dalton Mayor David Pennington hasn’t been shy about his flirtation for a run.  But the reality is that the Governor has to know he is likely among the safest of Georgia’s incumbents.  The words were not likely about his own campaign or even the others in 2014, but those coming immediately after it.  2016 will be another Presidential election year, which tends to have a higher Democratic turnout.  In 2018, the Governor’s office will be open and will likely create a lot of open statewide seats as currently office holders look to move up a position or three.

As the Democrats begin a long term process of organizing Georgia using many more channels than their formal party structure, Georgia Republicans are threatening to further turn their focus inward.  One of the key issues debated in the Chairman’s race was to consider ending primaries and nominate candidates from the Convention, as Virginia did this weekend at theirs.  The result would be to empower the insider activists, but leave many Georgians – and those independent voters the Governor warned about – outside the process looking in.

The Georgia Republican Party currently has virtually everything it can hope for in this state.  It remains to be seen if new leadership is content to allow this to be a high water mark, or if it can lead the activist grass roots toward outreach and policy positions that ensure majorities in general elections as the demographics of this state continue to change.

43 comments

  1. Ken says:

    Well reasoned, Charlie.

    The Georgia GOP has a limited window of opportunity to make changes – not in our core beliefs, but in our relationships – in order to continue to do well. The demographic changes referred to by Governor Deal are real and soon will have an impact.

    Georgia Republicans must build real, substantial relationships with non-traditional Republican groups. There are commonalities among us and we must focus on those rather than differences,

    We have much to offer, but it is past time to really broaden our base while maintaining good relationships within the various groups currently within the GOP. We can do this, but first we must admit that we have done ill-considered things (or as I prefer to call them “stupid things”) in the past and then build bridges rather than burn them.

  2. Grandson of Flubber says:

    Charlie, I agree conservatives must avoid attacking one another and have a message independents can relate to. However, you say, “Georgia was, after all, one of the states where Mitt Romney won by one of the thinnest margins of victory he enjoyed. This, despite virtually no effort from President Obama’s campaign team or national Democrats.” Would you please elaborate on this point. According to the Federal Election Commission’s website, the 2008 Georgia vote was 2,048,759 for McCain and 1,844,123 for Obama, yielding 52.2 % of voters for McCain. According to Peach Pundit, in 2012, 2,078,688 Georgians voted for Romney and 1,773,827 for Obama, yielding 53.3% of voters for Romney. There was an increase of 29,929 in R votes and a decrease of 70,296 D votes as compared from 2008 to 2012 elections. Thanks, Flubber III

  3. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    I was at the convention but only briefly. Based on all that I saw and heard, my respect for elected leaders who can navigate the extremes of their respective parties (e.g.; their base) but govern from the center has increased exponentially. Regrettably this is much harder for Georgia Republicans to do.

  4. radix023 says:

    I actually had this discussion with a number of people on Friday evening. My opinion is that Republicans need to solicit some feedback. We adhere to a philosophy of special privilege for none, equal justice for all. However, we don’t always walk that walk. The first step is to reach out to the constituencies you wish to bring into the party and honestly ask them: where are we not living up to our principles, that is, ask them to make the case for Republican hypocrisy. Then we should look through those and see where we can honestly improve so that we can go back to those constituencies and say that we are listening and responding. Not in any way to compromises our principles, but upping our game where we don’t quite live up to our ideals. In terms of constituencies, I think that is primarily the Hispanic and African-American communities. As an example of where we’re not going well enough, education. As long as education is solely linked to property tax, children in poorer neighborhoods don’t get the same quality education. If we want to live up to the ideal that any American can become President and that all citizens should have the chance to develop their talents to the fullest, then this is a place we need to do some work.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Well, hypocrisy would be opposing NDAA 1021 when republicans at the 2011 convention thought it was all Obama’s idea and then 5 minutes later supporting it when they realized Romney liked it too. I don’t really know how to improve on that though because it requires heavily dissecting candidates’ positions and then well suddenly there’s a post on PeachPundit about how we’re really trying too hard to scrutinize our own.

      Go figure.

  5. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    A place to start would be to ditch the “Beware the RINO” stickers. If the constituencies sought are told they must adhere to some sort of test of ideological purity, then it’s game over for Georgia.

    • Absolutely. The idea that someone who subscribes to the majority of the party’s platform should be driven out is simply ridiculous. It’s like a game of political red rover: if people who agree on a majority of things refuse to hold hands, we’ll let another election slip right past us and the number of people in our line will diminish.

    • Three Jack says:

      You are correct Dekalb Wonkette. I wish I would have been there to ask one or more of the ‘RINO hunting’ sticker people to define ‘RINO’.

      The party chose an elder white guy as its chairman, has an elder lily white governor who is shocked by so many minority school children in Georgia (56 percent of the student population is now made up of non-white minorities…”This is a shocking statistic,” Deal said. “That is over half, folks.”) and annually introduces legislation that pisses off women and hispanics. It really is hard to see how this party will evolve before it is relegated to the back bench again.

      • DeKalb Wonkette says:

        Three Jack – Thanks for your comments but my perspective on our Governor is somewhat different. Deal himself has not introduced any bill that pisses off women or Latinos but has signed such legislation. Lucid arguments can be made on their merits but that’s not really the point here. Once bills like these are on the floor, it’s a game of “gotcha” for lawmakers with their base constituency. Ditto for the Governor.

        It hardly matters that the proposed resolutions were not voted upon at the convention. We are sure to see legislation for each of them in 2014, adopted by the state committee or not.

      • DeKalb Wonkette says:

        Forgot to add that I think the Governor cited the demographics of school aged children as a reminder of the real world that we live in and the real people that will have to be engaged going forward!

      • Dave Bearse says:

        “This is a shocking statistic,” Deal said.

        Definition of shocking
        1. emotionally distressing or horrifying
        2. provoking a deeply offended or outraged response
        3. very bad or unpleasant
        Synonyms: appalling, dreadful, scandalous, outrageous, awful, disgusting, deplorable, wicked

        Firing up the party faithful with the remark that it’s (take your pick) appalling, dreadful, scandalous, outrageous, awful, disgusting, deplorable, or wicked that 56% of the student population is non-white minorities is just the ticket to keep minorities firmly in the Democratic tent.

        • mpierce says:

          Also means startling

          Synonyms: amazing, astonishing, eye-opening, jarring, jaw-dropping, jolting, surprising, stunning.

          I guess those don’t fit your point as well since they are loaded with as much vitriol

          • Dave Bearse says:

            Not that the bing dictionary is the authoritative source. but its definition of shocking was verbatim and in its entirety in my comment.

            Bing dictionary definition of startling, which does include startling as a synonym:
            1.surprising or alarming: provoking surprise, fright, wonder, or alarm
            Synonyms: surprising, astonishing, amazing, astounding, staggering, shocking, upsetting, disquieting.

            Synonyms of synonyms is information once removed.

            Another consideration is that Deal most certainly prepared to make remarks, emphasizing the tone-deafness of shocking to those outside the tent.

            • mpierce says:

              Synonyms [not once removed]
              amazing, astonishing, astounding, blindsiding, dumbfounding (also dumfounding), eye-opening, flabbergasting, jarring, jaw-dropping, jolting, surprising, startling, stunning, stupefying

              merriam-webster

              I would find it shocking if you were to vote for a Republican of Libertarian in the next gubernatorial; however, I would not find it distressing, horrifying, appalling, dreadful, scandalous, outrageous, awful, disgusting, deplorable, or wicked.

              • Dave Bearse says:

                Webster is more reputable than bing, so the point taken on the synonyms and acknowledgement they’re not once removed—I assumed the synonyms you cited to be synonyms of startling.

                Your Webster definition defines shocking as “extremely startling, distressing, or offensive”. Extremely startling is neutral, but the others are decidedly negative.

                • mpierce says:

                  the others are decidedly negative

                  There is an “or” (not “and”) in the definition and plenty of neutral terms in the synonyms list.

                  • Dave Bearse says:

                    I’m reconsidering the on-line Webster as more definitive than Bing given a the Webster definition being two-thirds negative, yet there being perhaps only one negative synonym among 14 synonyms.

    • Harry says:

      Hopefully they will give the legacy constituencies some consideration also. What the GOP doesn’t need is to become top-down with little base input – which is what seems to be happening.

      • Harry says:

        Could someone provide a link to the resolutions which were supposed to be addressed by the convention before they so very unfortunately ran out of time and lost the quorum?

            • Harry says:

              So you’re not a Republican? Fine. But, please don’t audit us when we voice support for our policies.

              • Baker says:

                So Harry what you’re saying is conservatism really has nothing to do with being a Republican?

                I’m not necessarily saying those 3 items above aren’t conservative, but they dang sure shouldn’t be the priority of a govt platform. I definitely agree with the God part, mostly agree on the gun part, and disagree on the gay part, but regardless they are three issues that really have no impact on day to day governance and policy.

                • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

                  I am uninspired by the rule of law these priorities may end up having on the lives of ordinary citizens, our commercial, and academic institutions.

                  Why just last week Mr. Konop brilliantly discussed some adverse consequences surrounding Personhood Bills. 2nd Amendment, always a crowd pleaser, never fails to brings ’em in by the dozens. It is immutable, as it should be. And then, when a Church must be told how to marry it’s Congregants . . oh, y’all get the picture, do I need to connect more dots?

                  Sadly, Baker, each one of these priorities ends up a litmus test in our Primary system. And that where things get sticky because the process virtually guarantees extreme views become fodder for our neighbors on the Blue side of the aisle.

                  Circle back to how we grow the Grand Ol’ Party and you can see how I might remain uninspired? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Corrigan)

                  Harry, I do consistently VOTE Red, but my auditing skills are limited…

  6. Baker says:

    If the party has everything, why can’t they actually do something big like tax reform? The ethics thing absolutely needed to be done and I’ll give them some credit for at least starting down the road. The road has many loopholes and shortcuts but it’s a process.

    Did anything else that got done this past session represent some real conservatism and reform of govt?

    • jeff says:

      Why should credit be given for “starting down the road” of ethics? You are either ethical or you are not. There is no gray. It is black and white. Anyone with half a brain can tell that the ethics bill was a sham. The problem is that most people are uninformed and don’t look deep into bills such as the ethics bill.

    • jeff says:

      And no….nothing got done this past session that represents true conservatism. Further erosion of local control and centralizing power in Atlanta is what actually happened. When will people see that Georgia republicans are going against their own conservative principles here in Georgia?

  7. slyram says:

    The best thing for your party would be to listen to those who say ditch the RINO talk. You could create a comfortable place at the table for Huntsman type or welcome dialog with independents. Georiga could lead the way in securing the sensible center than you will need against Hillary. For me, it could start with Kingston or Handel cultivating rural non-gop rather than loving on the far right. That move would keep Michelle Nunn out of the race. And yes, she could beat Broun if you’ll nominate him.

    • Ken says:

      I think it’s about building relationships – and it’s hard for us to build relationships with people we shun or label or approach the day before an election.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Huntsman? Wake up and smell the coffee. There are 260+ GOP state office holders, and there aren’t but a handful anywhere near a Huntsman.

      The first rule for the GaGOP statewide office nominees in General Elections is must be present to win. And since 96% of Dome districts are one party affairs, that means bow to the base or face a primary challenge. What the Dems can get going for themselves is that they’re so decimated at the state level that they ought to be much more able to deal with primary challenges internally.

    • Baker says:

      Kind of going along with what Dave said, I wish that those rural non-gop would turn out to vote in a primary but it just won’t happen.

      • Ken says:

        Hi Baker,

        It’s a function of local races. If Republicans field candidates to run for local constitutional offices then we’ll have excellent turnout in GOP primaries below the gnat line. The good news is that we are trending strongly in that direction.

  8. cheapseats says:

    Just 2 thoughts:
    1) drop the “unofficial” slogan of “well, the Democrats did it too” (maybe this should have been a resolution

    2) echoing a lot of others here that all this “purity” and “RINO” stuff is keeping me and a lot of others away from the Republican party. I can’t be a Democrat any more but I sure can’t pass the litmus tests for Republican. All the other parties are just inconsequential to bother with so, I am firmly independent and equally disgusted with running to the extremes by both parties.

    side note: I know enough about Padgett to know that any group that would even consider electing him to a leadership position is clearly headed towards a cliff. I don’t even know those other guys but if this is the best you’ve got, you ain’t got much. (To be fair, I feel the same about Nathan Deal.)

    • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

      ‘Roun heah, we call ourselves Double R’s – Reluctant Republicans.

      It’s broke – Fix it.

  9. JeffHaffley says:

    The grassroots are far more likely to be excited about their nominees if they have a stronger voice in picking them (i.e. caucus/convention process).

    With the cost of running for office reduced their will be more choices for the electorate. Virginia’s nominee for Lieutenant Governor spent less than $300K on his race. In 2006, Ralph Reed spent $2.5M to and lost by 10 points to Casey Cagle.

    • George Chidi says:

      I’m not sure this is crazy. I’m also not sure that this doesn’t substitute ideological purity for competence.

      Democrats have a recruiting problem, as it happens. I’m looking at the analogy between the nomination process of the DeKalb school board appointments — which drew a stellar team together — and the typical nomination process in an election for the same job … which, charitably, does not.

      The political process pushes out some fine people who are highly qualified and would like to serve, but aren’t interested in navigating the fundraising and campaign-building process of the modern election. But I’m not convinced that an appeal to the “grassroots” is in fact no more than an appeal to insider party activists who may have an agenda that little resembles the interests of the electorate at large — exactly the same problem that a closed nomination process is trying to avoid.

  10. bkeahl says:

    First, Georgia outperformed in the presidential race in every way over 2008 during 2012. We produced more net votes, more gross votes, and (of course) a net increase in margin of victory in 2012 than in 2008.

    If you look at voter registration information for the 2011-2012 cycle you’ll see there appears to be something of an effort to register demographic groups that were Democrat friendly – I’m thinking an intentional effort to fly under the RADAR by the Obama campaign. This is an area we really need to work on, starting now.

    Also, there was virtually no effort on the part of the Romney campaign in Georgia, other than to raise money like crazy and spend it in losing states. So while the Democrats like to point out Obama wasn’t really fighting for Georgia, neither was Romney.

    The only real ground game for Romney was the GAGOP sign and bumper sticker effort, supported by the counties, districts, and auxiliary organizations.

    That being said, there were warnings coming from the GAGOP that we needed to be working here in Georgia and not exporting manpower and money to other states.

    We face challenges not just at the state level, but from above (the RNC viewing us as a donor state) and below (grassroots campaigning in other states rather than here at home).

    We need to take care of the home front before we worry about other states. Luckily, 2014 will not have the distraction of a national campaign. It’ll be a great opportunity for us to focus on our home turf.

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