The Governor, The Speaker, And The Big Guns

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Last Wednesday was an especially beautiful day for a drive up to Ellijay Georgia.  There, on the banks of the Coosawattee River, Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 60 – the “gun bill” – into law.  Despite the location well off the beaten path – even well off the main road – the Governor wasn’t exactly alone for the bill signing.

The event attracted a couple of hundred people as witnesses.  The members of Georgia Carry – Georgia’s most prominent grass roots group that promotes protection of the 2nd Amendment – were on hand for a barbecue to celebrate the passage.  Members of the press were also plentiful, with satellite trucks from Georgia and national media filling one of the overflow parking lots nearby.  The Governor was flanked by many members of the Georgia House.  Chief among them was their chief, Speaker David Ralston.

The pageantry and the location surrounding the event were no accident.  Ellijay is in Speaker Ralston’s house district.  Ralston faces a primary challenge from Sam Snider who is, not coincidentally, from Ellijay.  The bill signing was a direct demonstration of power – and results – in the ultra-conservative area north of Atlanta. 

Speakers included bill co-sponsor Rick Jasperse from just down Highway 5 in Jasper, adding a neighborly endorsement of Ralston’s and the Governor’s efforts.  Public Safety Committee Chair Alan Powell took a good natured swipe at New Yorkers in his remarks. Rules Chairman and Co-Sponsor John Meadows welcomed everyone adding “I’ll even welcome the press”.

The Speaker broke from his prepared remarks to mention a “thank you” he received from a lady in the crowd as he arrived at the event.  She was a self-described 60 year old who had just received her concealed carry permit.  She told him that she likes to hike, and the murder of Meridith Emerson was always in her memory.  Ralston told the crowd that as long as he was speaker, no law abiding Georgian “would have to run and hide from a bad guy.”

While protests were announced, it seemed that the closest the speakers could find in attendance were some members of the press corps itself.  Privately, some elected officials were enjoying the tortured maneuvers that some were having calling the bill an example of right wing extremism while explaining why the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor also voted for the bill.

And yet, the focus for the campaign event was as much about documenting results to a Republican voter base as it was to playing defense ahead of a November general election.  Protesters from the right had also rumbled about making an appearance.  An upstart gun group that bills itself as a “no compromise” organization believes that HB 60 doesn’t go far enough.  Though their presence was not clearly visible, their public statements mean we can now add gun rights to the list of wedge issues that will evoke an “all or nothing” following among parts of the GOP base.

The Governor, of course, is not without his own primary challenge from the far right.  Former Dalton Mayor David Pennington seems to share many of the same detractors that are also supporting Snider over Ralston.  It’s causing some within the GOP to question if that means Georgia’s leaders are “too establishment”, or if some people just can’t be pleased.

Those who would say the GOP has it “just right” point to a record of not only the gun bill becoming law, but Georgia’s resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention, successful passage not only of this year’s bill that restricts abortion coverage in state health plans but of the “fetal pain” bill a couple of years ago.  Add to those a bill that prohibits state cooperation in executing the Affordable Care Act and restricts the Governor’s ability to expand Medicaid coverage and you have to wonder how much room remains to the right of these issues that has a few less than pleased.

Georgia is a state that Democrats have vowed to turn dark purple if not fully blue within four years.  They’re putting up a decent run this year.  A presidential election cycle in 2016 and presumptively most statewide offices lacking incumbents in 2018 means their mission will just get easier going forward.

And yet, there are those who believe the GOP isn’t governing from a conservative enough posture. They believe the party isn’t pure enough.

There’s a problem with trying to please those who can’t be pleased.  It’s obvious, and it’s that you can’t. The only real question is why one would continue trying.


  1. Harry says:

    Why is the glass always half empty with you? For the GAGOP overall things are looking fine. The Dems keep trying to implode, not us. You’re trying to make trouble out of nothing.

    • Nathan says:

      Are you tuning up your fiddle, Nero?

      The Georgia Democratic Party has been in shambles, but they are coming back, and they’re looking to win a fight. The DNC is helping to see to that. They have nothing to lose since they’re out of power. They really are putting up a formidable team at the top of the ticket. A changing demographic and a segment of the base that is screaming “YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!!!!” is fracturing the Republican Party in this state (and across the nation).

      The Democrats are aiming to turn this state purple by 2016 and blue beyond 2016. Assuming that all is ok is a bad, bad mistake. Fellow Republicans who are “challenging” #TheEstablishment by shouting that they are nothing more than liberal Democrat RINOs does not help advance our cause.

      2018, 2020, and beyond could spell trouble for our Party if we can’t find some sort of common ground (yes, compromise) and common message to promote.

      • Harry says:

        What’s wrong with diversity of opinion and dialogue within the party? The idea that any litmus test is required is intellectual stagnation. It’s artificial. The Democrats will eventually come around on this matter also. We should be perfectly willing to discuss our various points of view openly. If I (for example) call you an establishment RINO, and you call me a tea party nutcase, then what does it matter anyway? So long as we usually come back under the tent for the general election then it’s all good – and more often than not that’s what ends up happening. If we don’t approve the exact positions of the candidates here in Georgia then we can go and contribute our time and money elsewhere. All this navel gazing is a waste of time.

        • Nathan says:

          There is nothing wrong with opinion and dialogue within the party. I don’t want a litmus test, but it seems like we’re getting more and more towards a tacit litmus test with every Republican primary. Advocate for an education standard, and you’re labeled as someone who wants to give the keys over to the federal government to indoctrinate children. Advocate for municipalities and counties to think about growth in the coming years and plan infrastructure that will support sustainable future growth, and you’re labeled as someone who loves Agenda 21. Advocate for municipalities and counties to collaborate and work together to benefit the community, and you’re advocating regionalism. If folks believe one way or the other, that’s fine, but sensationalism doesn’t make for good policy.

          I am sure that there are folks on both sides of the Party who want to establish litmus test. I’m sure #TheEstablishment folks want a litmus test of “you have to know at least 30 people already in the Party to even think about coming to a meeting”, and I’m sure the #LIBERTY folks would like a litmus test of how many Ron Paul posters do you have in your #LIBERTY shrine. I’m sure the minimum is at least 2 per room.

          We are Republicans. We need to stop trying to slice ourselves up into categories just to out-conservative our fellow conservatives. Name-calling, regardless of us coming back together at the end, doesn’t contribute to the conversation. In fact, it may drive folks, who would normally be allied with you, away to contribute their time, energy, and talent to other ventures.

          • Harry says:

            Well, we agree. And let’s also agree that all these dire predictions of catastrophe if we don’t be more politically correct one way or the other may not happen after all. It’s amazing ain’t it…if we go left we lose the right and if we go right we lose the left. Gee.

            • objective says:

              there are more ppl in the middle (your “left”), so by the numbers and probabilities- if you want more votes- it makes sense to be more moderate. isn’t moderation part of the Georgia motto or something anyways?

              • Harry says:

                We’ll have to agree to disagree. Keep in mind that many “minorities” and Millennials will go right, based on their own experience and values. It happens every generation. Plus, there are many legacy right-thinkers who are not real motivated by a move to the mushy “middle”. This is why primaries are important in helping establish a consensus, and at least on the GOP side we continue to have real primaries.

      • Matt Stout says:

        The Republican Platform is the written down common ground that Nathan is talking about. The GOP had always been the less government, less tax and spend, completely pro-life, 2nd amendment defending party. It’s these distinctives written into our body that make us who we are. You want common ground to agree on? Look at the Republican Platform, not Republican politicians.

  2. radix023 says:

    I’m with Harry here, you go to such gymnastics to not mention GGO, you’re making yourself the story.

  3. objective says:

    do you remember what Alan Powell said abt New Yorkers.
    Curious if rural areas see migration from the North as a new immigrant problem.

    • Charlie says:

      Don’t remember the line but I believe it was a veiled mocking of Bloomberg and/or the national press’ histrionics, not yankees in general.

  4. Three Jack says:

    When the highlight of your term is taking credit for being named ‘#1 place to do business’ by Site Selection magazine, you must resort to red meat events like the HB60 signing.

  5. Will Durant says:

    If you load up those smokers with heaps of red meat you get a smoke screen sufficient to mask a legislative session that didn’t accomplish a damn thing worth mentioning.

  6. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Good column, Charlie as I was hoping that Peach Pundit would touch a little more in depth on the monumental event that was the passage of the gun rights expansion bill.

    The signing into law of the gun rights expansion bill was a historic expansion of Second Amendment rights and was a victory for freedom, human rights and Democratic rule.

    With the passage of this historic expansion of Second Amendment rights, Nathan Deal has officially earned my endorsement for a second term as Governor, and David Ralston has officially earned my endorsement for another term as Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.

    And Second Amendment rights advocates WILL be back next year to push for the further expansion of Second Amendment rights with Campus Carry and we WILL get it, because the God-given right to protect oneself from harm by murderous criminals does not stop when one steps on campus.

    During their 12 years in power, the Georgia GOP has done a lot of things wrong in what at times seems to be a continuing quest to completely undermine and sabotage their own overwhelming electoral success. But THIS TIME, the Georgia GOP hit the nail right on the head and got it right.

    Make no mistake, the Georgia GOP still has a lot of work to do to protect the future of their ultra-dominant supermajority and unquestioned superiority in Georgia politics, but this affirmation of basic human liberties, God-given rights and freedoms reaffirms that the GOP is the political party that should lead the way forward for the great state of Georgia.

    It is times like these that I’m proud to a Georgian and I’m proud to be an American!

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