Chattooga County Dems Try To Purge Sole Commissioner From Their Own Ranks

The Democratic Party in Chattooga County has been waiting since spring to tell Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Jason Winters that he is no longer a Democrat. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Shiflett said campaigning for “the opposition” breaks county Democratic Party bylaws, and the executive board for the party voted Winters out for any future elections.

Shiflett said the board will vote at its next meeting whether to expel him from the Democratic Party.

“If you violate the rules where you work to an egregious degree, you’re going to get fired,” Shiflett said. “[Winters] is the highest-ranking Democratic elected official in this county. When they come and qualify to run with us and sign the papers, they are signifying that they are a Democrat, and Democrats do not do what he did.”

The big kerfuffle transpired when photos of Commissioner Winters posting signs for Senator Jeff Mullis (R-GA-53) and Governor Nathan Deal came to light during the spring.

I know that there are folks who want to ban “RINOs” from the Republican Party from ever running from elected office, and I suppose similar calls from the opposing side for “DINOs” with the CCDP trying to ban Commissioner Winters. Although, I don’t believe either party can really prevent a person from running if they say they are qualified, sign an affidavit to that effect, and pony up the money for qualifying fees.

Chattooga County is the sole Democrat stronghold in northern Georgia, but they routinely vote Republican in national and statewide election contests, but also elect Democrats at the local level. I have been told by plenty of folks that consider themselves conservative and vote Republican that they pull a Democrat ballot because “they won’t be able to elect anyone since everyone around here votes Democrat”…or something.

I’m sure there are a lot of folks who vote Democrat who are also very conservative. The county Democratic Party may have done themselves a disservice by ceremonially booting out one of the top Democrats in their county. I know that Republicans are exploring the possibility of Commissioner Winters becoming one of the first Republican elected officials in Chattooga County and leading the way for other “Democratic” county officials in Chattooga to switch parties.

If he does, I suppose we should send Chairman Tim Shiflett a thank you card.


    • Lawton Sack says:

      He is in political party limbo at the moment: “As for what Winters is going to do now, he guessed his only two options are to become a Republican or run as an independent.”

      He would probably be called a RINO by some in the GOP if he switched over. I can hear some GOPers and potential primary opponent(s) calling out “he voted in a Democratic primary.”

      He seems to have a logical reason for his actions, but I am not sure how appealing it sounds to the Republicans either:

      “Whether they’re Democrat or Republican, these people have been very good for Chattooga County and have done a lot of things to support us. I looked at it as we should support the people who support our county. I guess that was too common-sense of an approach.”

      Is it really that wrong to do what is best sometimes?

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Well, you could technically govern like a democrat on the local level and support republicans for higher office. In theory, all you’d be doing is telling higher government that you don’t want them butting in if you want to run your town your own way.

      Allegedly, if we had a republic things would run smoother. If San Fran wants to be run like a pinko liberal socialist heck-hole, that’s fine with me. Just don’t try to take your ideas to D.C. and force them on the rest of us.

      But most Dems want a national-level democracy where everyone does it the same way or no one gets to do anything.

      On second thought, the GOP wants that at times too. I can see why this commissioner is in limbo. Maybe he agrees with the conservative principle of self-governance but wants to govern like a democrat at the county level. That’s not necessarily a contradiction.

      I’m just hypothesizing.

  1. First, I want to clarify that Tim Shiflett is a VERY DISTANT cousin.

    Chattooga County is probably the most corrupt county in north Georgia. Over the years there have been countless arrests, lawsuits, etc. involving judges and other elected officials in that county.

    While Chattooga in recent years has become a solid GOP county for statewide, legislative, and congressional races… there is also an old school “Boss Hogg” Democrat machine there that dominates local elections. Last week all three local county school board seats were won by Democrats along with a special election for Clerk of Court.

    Would love to see the state GOP put some effort into flipping the county on a local level. The votes are there, just have to break the local Dem machine.

    Also, as to whether the local Democrat Party can keep a sitting sole county commissioner off the ballot next time is doubtful. In Georgia you can pretty much run for any office under the banner of either party whether the party wants you or not.

    • “there is also an old school “Boss Hogg” Democrat machine there that dominates local elections.”

      Walker County has it too (Nathan is a part of that machine) but in 2000 they changed its name from Democrat to Republican. Same people, same tactics, different party.

      — LU

      • NorthGeorgiaGirl says:

        It’s pretty much the same thing in Bartow. I think the sole commissioner system has run its course and needs to go.

        When you have cities with 5-7 commissioners within a county of over 100,000 that is ruled by a sole commissioner, something is out of whack.

        It’s time for representative government and no more Boss Hoggs…

      • Nathan says:

        “Nathan is a part of that machine”

        You/y’all think I have more power than I really do. I’m flattered. 🙂

        In spite of what your/y’all’s opinion of me is, I did do my best to conduct the business of the Walker GOP in a fair and equitable manner as chairman. Neither party has control over the elections process. People moaned and complained about the candidates this year proclaiming that “the party” has anointed one candidate and that the primary is a farce. It just isn’t true. If it were true, I don’t believe we would be saying “Senator-elect David Perdue”. The voters who declare a party during the primaries select our candidates for the general election contest.

        Allow me to put on my amateur political analyst hat*. 2016 is 2 years away (God save us), and I’m sure most folks are suffering from campaign fatigue, but there is a bit of anti-incumbency syndrome in north Georgia. If there is a strong candidate who is willing to run a hard race as a Republican against Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, then there is a good chance she could lose in the Republican primary in ’16. I have heard rumors (this is a political blog, after all) that there may be a few folks running against her in ’16. My advice (and I’ve given it to every person who asked me my opinion of running for office in our county in a contested race): start raising money now. Money is a resource and doesn’t guarantee a win, but it buys mail pieces, TV/radio/Facebook/Google ads, yard signs, etc. that will help get a candidate’s name in front of the eyeballs of voters.

        Will Bebe win another term? I don’t know. It depends on the quality of the candidate(s) who challenge her in 2016. She came close to losing in the 2012 Republican primary, so I would say she’s vulnerable.

        No incumbent is truly unbeatable. Just ask Roy Barnes or John Barrow.

        *not a professional political prognosticator, so YMMV.

        • Party leaders don’t determine who the candidates are, but they can (and do) recruit certain candidates to leave one party for another. Nearly every elected leader in Walker County was serving or running as a Democrat in the 1990’s. The current sole commissioner, who ran as a D in 1996 and lost in the primary then switched parties and won in 2000; the current Sheriff who was elected as a D in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 before changing parties in 2012; the county coroner; the tax commissioner.. Some of those figures were recruited by party leaders to strengthen the party, not because they fit with the party’s ideals or goals (if it ever had any.)

          The county party is also responsible for keeping the issue of sole commissioner government off the ballot. 2,000+ Walker County citizens have signed a petition asking for a vote on that issue, but it’s been denied for years. The party’s official position in Walker County is pro-sole commissioner government. Nathan absolutely can carry some responsibility for that one.

          — LU

          • Nathan says:

            And Sheriff Steve Wilson could have been reelected as a Democrat. He won with close to 80% in 2008. People in the party have been trying to get him to switch for years. It just so happened that I was chairman when I did. I made him and Carolyn Walker feel welcome. Such a novel concept, right? Isn’t the GOP accused of being unwelcoming to a variety of people?

            Also, stop bending the truth to fit your needs. A petition was started this year (2014). A petition wasn’t submitted to me or the party to put a question on the ballot pertaining to the sole commissioner in 2012. Heck, no one even bothered to submit a question during the 2012 election (which we did send around to our email list…and I know that all of our candidates were on there, so they or someone in their camp could have easily submitted a question). I would have certainly submitted that and any other questions to the executive committee for debate and approval/disapproval (since the executive committee makes the ultimate decision). I do not know if the current chairman received any ballot questions for the 2014 GOP primary. Perhaps you should make an inquiry to him.

            Anyway, the county party platform is decided every 2 years. Feel free to come on out with your friends and put it (and other planks) back in the platform. Or not. No one is preventing you/y’all from participating. I’d be glad to see you/y’all out from behind the computer screen.

      • Ridgerunner says:

        So Nathan is a now a bona fide Walker County Political Power Broker? WOW! I am impressed that he has so much clout! Thanks for clearing that up, and sharing it with us. I’m sure he’s very appreciative that you read his articles so religiously!

        By the way I happen to know that Nathan was still in high school in 2000, just for the record, and that he is not, and never has been a democrat.

        Hey Nathan! What kind of oil are they using in the county machine, now? Do they still park it where they used to?

Comments are closed.