One would think that a county Republican Party that has lost three consecutive federal elections to Democrats would embrace new people joining its ranks. It wouldn’t make sense for a party that has lost members at an alarming rate over the last four years due to a lack of any serious involvement by the local party in any local issue to turn away new members.
With that said, people who attended the mass precinct meeting in Newton County on February 7 came home on Wednesday to find a letter, with no return address and no contact number, from the sitting party chair, Delia Fleming, telling them that they aren’t welcome to be a part of the March 14 county convention.
Here’s some quick backstory. Two years ago, the Newton GOP’s executive committee passed a “merit points” system to give a quantitative measure to make sure that those who had done work in the previous election cycle were given priority when it came to selecting delegates to state and district. Seems harmless, right? Well, contrary to the intent of the points system, the Newton GOP chair is now using it to keep duly elected delegates from participating in the county convention.
Word is that at previous precinct meetings, the Newton GOP had some 30 people show up. Many active members saw this as a failure and thought that being involved in the convention process would be an excellent way to get people from our community involved. At the precinct meeting two weeks ago, more than 120 people attended with the expectation that, provided they joined the local party by March 1, as its by-laws plainly state, they would serve as delegates to the county convention.
The extraordinary showing on February 7 primarily revolves around local issues. Recent news coverage of the county attorney, whose law firm was paid more than $1 million in 2014, and some county commissioners’ incredibly dismissive attitudes has motivated many people to get involved in local politics.
This was not what the current leadership of the local party wanted, apparently. People who took time out of what was a beautiful Saturday to get involved later received a letter saying, basically, thanks for your interest and money, but you don’t have enough points to be a part of our party. Word is that even people who were elected to serve as precinct chairs, which are part of county committee, have been disqualified from participation, a move that is in direct violation of Article III, Section J of the county party bylaws.
Obviously, this is frustrating to those who want to be a part of the political process, but they just don’t know how. The actions of the Newton GOP leadership are incredibly tone-deaf and remarkably counterproductive.
The Georgia Republican Party made tremendous and long overdue strides in the 2014 midterm election to broaden its appeal. And yet, at least one county party, which has consistently been outworked by its Democratic counterpart, is determined to disenfranchise concerned citizens who desperately want to be involved and work for change their community.
One would hope that the Georgia Republican Party is watching this unfold and prepared to respond in a meaningful and inclusive way.
[UPDATE – 2/21] Here’s one of the letters. The estimate, to this point, is at least 30 people have received these. Again, the Fleming didn’t put a return address, phone number, or email address anywhere on the letter or envelope in which it was sent.