When Going After Another Candidate In A Primary Harms The Party

Before I get started let me say I’m supporting Sharyl Dawes in the GOP School Superintendent race. She’s a close friend and has been for a number of years. This post is not meant to advocate for Ashley Bell but to use my small bully pulpit to advocate for a larger issue I think is important.

It’s no secret the GOP isn’t attracting many votes from the African-American community. It’s also no secret that many in the GOP have been saying we need to do better and we must figure out a way to attract more African-American and minority voters to the Republican party. Something is going on in the GOP race for School Superintendent that I believe is harmful to our party’s efforts to attract more minority support.

Ashley Bell switched parties a couple of years ago. At the time he was a County Commissioner in Hall County and considered by some to be an “up and comer” in the Georgia Democratic Party. It was news when he switched. Since then he lost re-election in Hall but earlier this year he joined the cast of thousands in the race for Georgia’s School Superintendent. Does he have a chance? Who knows, but he has a much right to run as anyone else in the race.

Being a former Democrat, a former Democratic elected official, and a former rising star in Democratic politics, it should not come as a surprise to learn that Ashley Bell voted for, said nice things about, and probably even campaigned for Democrats. Apparently this has shocked some people and they are out there trying to spread the word about his past.

It’s easy to get caught up in “who’s the most Republican” in the Republican primary. Republicans these days love to toss out that this or that person is a “RINO” but did Republicans disqualify Reagan, Perdue, Deal, and a host of others who switched parties at some point in their careers?

Is it fair to expect African-Americans to be held to a higher standard than others who switched parties? Can we really expect African-Americans to join the GOP if they think how they voted in the past will be held over their heads if they ever try to run for office as a Republican? We can’t say “we want more African-Americans to join the GOP” out of one side of our mouths and “We’ll never support someone for office who used to vote for Democrats” out of the other.

A candidate’s voting record and public statements are not off limits in a campaign and I’m not advocating anyone be given a pass. If Bell is going to win the GOP School Superintendent nomination he’s going to have to convince enough of his fellow Republicans he’s the right person for the job – just like every other candidate in the race. However, I want to urge my fellow Republicans to tread lightly when it comes to hammering African-American Republicans about their voting history.

Someone out there has set up a Facebook page accusing Ashley Bell of “pretending” to be a Republican. In my view that’s unfair and harmful to the Republican Party. Whoever is behind that line of attack ought to knock it off.

That’s my opinion and I welcome yours.


  1. PegM says:

    Well said Buzz. I hold the same views. Sometimes Republicans think they are anointed, and only those with the same creds can join the club. I’m for the big tent.

  2. Doctor Strangelove says:

    I’m a Democrat that knows many Democrats, and I’d say I’m pretty attuned to what we as a party believe, so I want to make a few things a little more clear:

    Most Democrats never considered Ashley Bell an “up and comer.” To the contrary- we gravely disliked him and always saw him as an opportunist. I still believe he is pretending to be a Republican, though I do not know if he is in actuality a Democrat. In the mind of nearly everyone who knew him, he would have done basically anything for power, so when he changed parties (because Republicans had the power), nobody was shocked. We wanted to be rid of him, anyway.

  3. Doug Deal says:

    The only way to grow the Republican party is to admit people who were not Republicans. Some people seem to think we won the last statewide Presidential election by overwhelming numbers.

    From my experience the people pushing this meme are clearly behind a certain other candidate in the race, and their clowning around is only going to hurt the party.

    • TheSituation says:

      Anyone looked at Nancy’s voting record? Pretty sure she voted democrat in 2006 and 2008. Those living in glass houses and all.

      • billofgainesville says:

        It’s one thing to pretend to be a Republican as the Forsyth County Solicitor General Donna Gopaul has done. Before Gov. Nathan Deal appointed her last March, she worked for left-wing, radidal Cynthia McKinney donated money to McKinney and voted for Barack Obama twice. She only joined the Republican Party last summer in order to campaign for office this year in the most Republican county in Georgia. She has never worked for Republicans or donated to Republicans . Ever!

        Ashley Bell is quite a different person. He converted to the right side of the political spectrum in both word and deed. As a county commissioner, he helped reduce the county budget by 15%. He helped to pass one of the strongest county ethics’ ordinances in the state. The Republican Party made him a precinct captain and then elected him as an alternate to the 2012 Republican National Convention. He served as an advisor to Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and then Mitt Romney’s campaign.

        The Democrats loss is our gain as Republicans. The man is a constitutional conservative, a born leader and the right person to lead Georgia out of 49th or 50th place in education to new heights.

  4. James Fannin says:

    Doctor Strangelove convinced me Ashley was a real Republican with his suggestion that he looks for opportunities and pursues them (pretty Republican) and that the Democrats were glad to see him go (very Republican). If they were sorry to see him go, I wouldn’t be all that interested. I heard Ashley speak at the Georgia GOP convention when he introduced another Democrat who recently saw the light, former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis. Ashley persuaded me that he understands and is committed to Republican principals. Not sure if I’m voting for him but I agree with Buzz on the harmful effects of the ugly opposition to him.

    • xdog says:

      “he understands and is committed to Republican principals”

      Isn’t that a big part of the problem?

      Too easy. Or come up with your own punchline.

  5. Mensa Dropout says:

    Here’s my problem with Bell, Dawes, Jester, and Johnson (alphabetized to show no larger problem with one over the other): not one of them has any educational experience. Sorry, but it is impossible to be successful in something that you know nothing about.
    Baccawhathaveya, god love her, Buck, Fort, Willis, and Woods have education experience at least. Bacca….is a college professor; Buck is at the DOE; Fort is a superintendent; Willis is actually still in the schools; and Woods was in education recently. Those are the folks who need to be on the ballot, not the ones who have never taught before or who taught before NCLB came into effect.

      • Mensa Dropout says:

        Funny…well, not really…all the specialty offices require that the office holder have experience in the field…except the superintendent.
        Maybe I should run for Attorney General? I took a couple of law classes in college. I could do that job. Right? RIGHT?!?!
        Sorry, but it’s insulting to the profession to assume that because you went to school, you are an expert on education. I have a first aid kit and have removed rocks from my kids’ noses with tweezers, but I’m no doctor.

        • Will Durant says:

          As evidenced by the current superintendent it matters not if you were previously an educator or goatherd if you buck the will of the Governor.

        • analogkid says:

          For the record, I’m inclined to agree with you on the qualifications. I would hope that voters would take these sort of things into consideration without having to resort to a specific requirement in Georgia law, but I know better.

    • ryanhawk says:

      Surely serving on a school board counts as edu experience? I’d prefer a dynamic leader with a passion for education and a track record of service in this position. Great if you have teaching experience but really not that important as the job requires leadership and management. As they say those who can, do; those who can’t…

  6. Mensa Dropout says:

    Will, our current superintendent shouldn’t have done that; it was beyond the purview of his post. The superintendent should give sound education advice to the governor, but not take over education. The job is not to run the state’s schools. The job is to be an emissary to the local school boards and superintendents.

  7. Salmo says:

    One could just vote for Fitz Johnson and avoid the “potential Democrat in sheep’s clothing” problem while also addressing the “lack of elected black Republicans” problem.

    • billofgainesville says:

      Not really. You see, ol’ Fitz’s company Georgetown Capital donated $3700 to Obama in 2012 and he voted for Democrat James Martin in 2008 when he ran against Republican Senator Saxby Chamblis. So, how does he avoid the “potential Democrat in sheep’s clothing” label?

  8. PegM says:

    Dear Mensa Dropout- Re: the need for educational creds. One candidate, Dawes, has raised two children and was diligent if not overprotective of their education. She volunteered at all the schools her children attended, went to all parent teacher conferences, was a leader on the PTAs associated with her kids education and did this for 12 years for each of her kids….She knows the schools inside and out, curriculems, teachers, racial makeup etc etc. Ms Dawes personally retired from a high executive position herself, to raise said children. Between her proven managment skills and intimate knowledge of the schools, I’ll take that over any PHD.

    • Mensa Dropout says:

      I didn’t say anything about having a PhD. I said that being a teacher in a classroom and having educational experience is needed. It is insulting to the education profession for anyone to think that he or she can simply run for State School Superintendent without having spent a significant amount of time in the field of…wait for it…education!

      For the record, I think that the position should be appointed, and if it is not, it should at least be non-partisan, so I am not casting aspersions at any candidate in particular: just the ones who have the hubris to think that because they were in school, they can run a state of schools.

  9. Jane says:

    Dawes gave me money when she was a leader of the GOP even though I was in a less than winnable race in 2004. She has my vote.

  10. debbie0040 says:

    I have met with Ashley Bell and talk to him numerous times and feel secure that he is a Republican and I like Ashley. I am appalled at the attacks. They are many African Americans looking at disdain at the way Ashley is being treated.

    I also have an issue with the way Nancy Jester has been treated.

    I am not taking sides in this race.

    Ronald Reagan was a former Democrat.

    • Charlie says:

      The problem with the above comment is that the attacks on Ashley that have been attempted to be dumped on me/us have come from Jester’s supporters. This is also what I’ve observed on social media.

      So you would think if one person has this problem in her voting background, her and/or her supporters wouldn’t be going so far out of the way to make sure we know Ashley was once a Democrat.

      I’ve blocked Jester from consideration not because of her Democratic voting past, but because of the tactics of her campaign team in the present.

      • John Konop says:

        I agree…BTW I heard a call from Sharyl Dawes , which was really out of line……..I actually support Language immersion teaching style…..But this was an English only culture war call against Mexicans….It was really bad…..Have you heard it?

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