Senator Ted Cruz, who appeared in Georgia over the weekend at the Republican state convention in Athens, sees his candidacy for President of the United States as Reaganesque. Comparing the 1980 and 2016 election cycles, he noted the similarity between incumbent Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. And in an interview late Friday afternoon, he told me how he hopes to win the presidency in 2016.

Jon Richards interviewing Senator Ted Cruz. Photo: Cruz campaign

Jon Richards interviewing Senator Ted Cruz. Photo: Cruz campaign

Cruz noted that since World War II, the GOP has only won the presidency when they ran on all three legs of the proverbial Republican Stool. The winning candidate has been a fiscal conservative, a social conservative, and a national security conservative. Bringing up a phrase Reagan used during a 1975 speech at CPAC, Cruz said that in order to win, a candidate must speak in bold colors, and not pale pastels. Republicans will win in 2016, Cruz said, if they nominate a strong conservative with a positive, optimistic, hopeful vision.

The Senator spoke of a need to bring in the old Reagan coalition of conservatives, libertarians, evangelicals, young people, Hispanics, African Americans, women and Reagan Democrats. In order to do that, Cruz said, the candidate must appeal to shared values. He noted his success in doing that when he was elected as Senator in Texas in 2012, saying he was able to get support from each of those groups, along with “hard working men and women who want to believe again in the miracle of America.”

The theme of Cruz’s campaign is “Reigniting the Promise of America.” It will be based on broad, unifying issues that resonate with a majority of Americans and fit within the three legs of the GOP stool. On fiscal issues, Cruz plans tax and regulatory reform to bring back jobs and economic opportunity. On social issues, Cruz emphasizes defending Constitutional rights, including the Bill of Rights. And he wants to restore America’s leadership in the world; an issue appealing to national security conservatives.

Cruz told me that all three of these principles are not narrow 51% wedge issues. Instead, they are based on the same path Ronald Reagan used to take the country back.

Our conversation turned from broad campaign themes to specific issues that could be important to Republicans who will decide next winter and spring who will represent them in November 2016. One issue, which had been expected to have been debated as part of a convention resolution was religious liberty. [click to continue…]

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Republicans are criticized, sometimes fairly, for not offering solutions to the problems they complain about. One Republican in Congress who has been offering alternatives to Obamacare since before there was an Obamacare is Georgia Congressman Tom Price. His latest plan was introduced with 46 co-sponsors and is gaining national attention as evidenced by this article in National Review this morning.

The new model of H.R. 2300 differs from the prior model in several key ways. Instead of a combination, in the individual market, of income-based tax credits and tax deductions, it now calls for simple age-based tax credits, which will let people quickly see what they’ll receive, reduce the I.R.S.’s role, and avoid work-disincentives. In addition to making it easier for people to have and use health savings accounts, it now offers a one-time tax credit of $1,000 per person for having or opening an HSA. Instead of an open-ended tax break for employer-based insurance, it now closes that tax loophole while continuing to give those with employer-based insurance their full tax break on insurance that costs up to $20,000 for a family or $8,000 for an individual. In other words, the tax treatment of the typical person’s employer-based plan wouldn’t change one bit (and anyone with, say, a $23,000 plan, would still get the full tax break on the first $20,000).

Price’s alternative, therefore, would deal with both costs and coverage while finally fixing a longstanding inequality in the tax code for millions of middle-class Americans who have to buy health insurance on their own. Since the 1940s, those with employer-based insurance have gotten a generous tax break, while those without employer-based insurance generally have not. Obamacare’s 2,400-plus pages managed to assault Americans’ liberty without correcting this unfairness in the tax code. Price’s 242-page bill achieves what Obama’s could not — at one-tenth the length.

Kudos to Congressman Price for continuing to offer sound policy on this important issue.

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This post needs to start off with a caveat: I like Mayor Reed. I think he’s doing great things for the city. I think his vision of where cities will be in the future is innovative and spot on. I think he might have a bright future ahead of himself but, he’s got to become friends with the local media.

To wit: Maria Saporta wrote two columns on the Fort McPherson deal. The now-closed army base was sold so that a new Tyler Perry Studios could be built on site. The first column from Saporta said the deal “may become known as one of the worst transactions in the city’s history. The second added to the criticism saying, not entirely incorrectly, that turning Fort Mac into something more than a movie studio was Atlanta’s “greatest missed opportunity.”

Both were fairly harsh but not harsh enough to warrant a mayor of major metropolitan area issuing a statement denouncing the columns. Which is exactly what Mayor Reed did.

In a 1,280-word statement, Reed blasted Saporta saying:  “Maria Saporta has chosen not only to disregard, but also to distort these facts and instead create a false narrative based on misguided assumptions and questionable sources.” And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Mayor Reed is entitled to a rebuttal but man… going to such great lengths to do so and personally calling out a reporter is beyond petty. Reed can say he doesn’t want to run for governor in 2018 but let’s be honest, he has higher aspirations. If he does want to go far, he’s going to have to warm up to the local media. The most frustrating thing about his communication “strategy” is that he can be the cuddliest person to the media, just watch his appearances on MSNBC, NBC or his successful attempts to cozy up to the national press. What will happen when the news outlets he’s wooed start taking a critical eye toward him? Will he coil up and strike them, too?

If the mayor or his aides are still reading this I would tell them to simply take a low-profile approach for his final two years as mayor. Apologize for being a bully, get the Atlanta press corps on his side and then Reed will be able to write his own ticket to the future.

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U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (GA-11) joined a Congressional delegation on a 10 day trip to Europe and the Middle-East. The delegation, consisting of members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, visited with with government leaders and counterterrorism officials in 8 countries including Israel, Iraq, Turkey, Germany, Belgium, and France. The purpose of this trip was to assess evolving security threats to the United States homeland.

Congressman Barry Loudermilk (Left) and the delegation visited NATO Headquarters.  Photo: Loudermilk Congressional Office

Congressman Barry Loudermilk (Left) and the delegation visited NATO Headquarters.
Photo: Loudermilk Congressional Office

The delegation analyzed current U.S. government and foreign partner efforts to shut down the influx of foreign fighters who return to their home countries in the West armed with combat training, extremist connections, and the desire to launch terror attacks. Additionally, the delegation also analyzed European counterterrorism programs, best practices to counter violent extremism, and the US/Coalition strategy to counter ISIS in Iraq.

Rep. Loudermilk is quoted in a press release sent out by his office earlier this Monday:

Visiting 8 countries in 10 days was exhausting, but the dialogue with heads of state, foreign ministers, and counterterrorism experts was critical in working with ally nations to stem the tide of foreign fighters returning to the U.S. While we are leading the world in tracking and stopping terrorists returning from the conflict zone, we must have greater information-sharing from our European and Middle Eastern allies. I believe this trip will go a long way in developing our internal policies, as well as assisting other nations, in stopping the flow of terrorists throughout Europe and the Middle East.

The other members of this Congressional delegation included Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Rep. William Hurd (R-Texas) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.).

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On this day in 1963, The New York Post  published Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from the Birmingham Jail.

  • Maria Saporta comes back over the top on Mayor Reed (SaportaReport)
  • An open letter to the General Assembly from a former member (NWGeorgia)
  • Slow pokes beware! GSP enforcing a law against you left lane lingerers (wdef)
  • The split between the GOP base and the legislature (ajc)
  • Matthew McConaughey’s graduation speech: 13 Lessons Learned  (Medium)
  • Obamacare making insurers more responsive, efficient (MarketWatch)
  • The Magic of Moss and What It Teaches Us About the Art of Attentiveness to Life at All Scales (Brain Pickings)
  • Why Can’t America Have Great Trains? A Washington Mystery. (National Journal)
  • Tomorrow’s Advance Man: Marc Andreessen’s plan to win the future. (New Yorker)
  • Part 1 of The Rise & Fall of Silk Road: How a 29-year-old idealist built a global drug bazaar and became a murderous kingpin (Wired) then see Part 2 (Wired)
  • Not a game: NBA All Star Allen Iverson Goes Broke, Despite Earning Over $154 million.  (Time)
  • Elon Musk’s Space Dream Almost Killed Tesla (Bloomberg)
  • That Was Then, This Is Now: How 72 Brands From ‘Mad Men’ Have Changed Since Don Draper Was In Charge (Consumerist)

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The Georgia Young Republicans convention was this past Saturday morning in Athens. As the outgoing Secretary of the organization, my history with the organization and relationship with the great people involved is integral to the way I experienced the event, and the election of new leadership.

First, congratulations to those elected. They’re a fine bunch of folks that will continue working hard and build credibility for an organization that has a tremendous influence in Georgia politics.

  • Robert Lee, Cobb – Chairman
  • James Hall, Savannah – Vice-Chairman
  • Prisca Villa, Gwinnett – Treasurer
  • Sam Heffner, Central Savannah River Area (or what I call Augusta) – Secretary
  • Joseph Brannan, Greater Columbus – National Committeeman
  • Angelyn Dionysatos, Atlanta – National Committeewoman

Congratulations! Y’all worked so hard!

Also, thank you to Chris Sanders (Atlanta, Chairman Candidate) and Charles Hoard (Henry, Vice Chairman Candidate) for all of your hard work and dedication. I appreciate y’all.

As Awards Committee Chairman, I had the honor of giving out the awards for the year. I’ll admit I didn’t make it to convention in time to be a delegate, but was thankful to be there at the end. I was honored to be the representative from our committee to thank those that have really worked hard to better our organization around the state.

  • Meagan Hanson, Atlanta (also GYR Chair) – Woman of the Year
  • Greg Williams, Buckhead (& Atlanta) – Man of the Year
  • Savannah Young Republicans – Club of the Year & Event of the Year

And special thank you to this elected official who has been such a great supporter of ours:

  • Senator David Shafer – Elected Official of the Year

As my friend Joe Pettit said after convention, “Iron sharpens iron.” Thank you all! [click to continue…]

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The Georgia Republican State Convention gaveled to an end Saturday afternoon with all its business completed (thank goodness). There were some tense moments during voting, but all in all, it was an enjoyable convention. I’ll take some time to share some of my observations were of what happened on the convention floor.

  • There was concern over the secret ballot vs. stand, rise, and be counted method of voting. Personally, I don’t care to show who I support. We represent Republicans from our respective counties, so I believe we should be public. I know there are those who disagree, and that’s fine. You can look at it this way, a number of people supporting a secret ballot and concerned about intimidation and retribution were wearing lapel stickers of officer candidates. I’d say around 60 to 70% of convention goers had lapel stickers on, so an overwhelming majority must not have been all that concerned about ramifications of their support.
  • There was a lot of talk of “fear of retribution” if one candidate won over another. I don’t believe I was ever “intimidated” or anything while i was Chairman in Walker County, and I don’t believe (since I’m on the state executive committee) I would have been if Alex had won for supporting John over him. We have to remember we’re on the same team working toward a similar goal: electing Republicans.
  • The AJC made a seemingly big ordeal to point out that one of our new state officers is gay. I talked to a few other fellow delegates and we had the same thought: big deal. I believe that’s a thought that is becoming more prominent among Republicans. What you do behind closed doors is your business. I don’t believe race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever will be or should be a deciding factor on whether someone can serve the public as an elected official or a party official.
  • On RFRA, there were a few Republicans that didn’t agree with passing a resolution in supporting it without an anti-discrimination clause in it. Well, if you think about it, if there is a business owner who wants to decrease his customer base by not serving people who are gay, a different religion, or whatever, then free market forces will probably ensure that he or she isn’t in business for very long. Just a thought though.
  • It disturbs me that there are delegates who are willing to publicly accuse us of using “Stalin-like” tactics, being like the Mafia, and other ridiculous charges. I believe Randy Evans did a fantastic job of granting ample time of people being heard while maintaining order to let those opinions and questions be heard. If we were being totalitarian as some people I know accuse us of being, then the vote would have been a lot closer secret ballot or not. These charges are baseless, but I’m sure they will continue to try to shout them in order for their faction to be relevant (in their own mind…or something).
  • I voted for the minority report from the credentials committee to not seat Newton County. I don’t know the specifics, but it seems to me that precincts who elect delegates to the county convention should not be put to a litmus test by the existing county committee. I believe it goes against the convention call of the Georgia Republican Party, and, in my opinion, I believe the Newton County GOP rules should be changed to allow folks who agree with our Republican Party principles to freely participate as delegates in county conventions without regard to service.

I know there were some friends who didn’t support the same people that I did, and that’s ok. I still like them and call them friends. Sometimes our emotions run high, and I know they were high yesterday as we conducted business on the floor. For those who didn’t win, rest for a bit, keep your chin up, and let’s work to continue to lay the groundwork to elect Republicans next year and for years to come.

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A quick observation on the proceedings at the Georgia Republican Convention on Saturday:

Once the business of the convention finally got underway on Saturday afternoon, there was considerable controversy over whether the candidates for party office as recommended by the Nominating Committee should be elected as a slate, or individually. Quite a few people took up time talking about why or why not that might be a good or bad idea. Talk of Democratic or Stalinist tactics echoed in the convention hall. In the end, the convention decided to elect candidates individually.

As a result, each candidate had the opportunity to make his or her own speech, there was additional debate about the merits of standing votes vs. secret ballot, one or two revotes to ensure the results were correct, and in the end, the convention elected the slate proposed by the nominating committee.

By that time, it was almost 4:30 PM, and the convention had yet to debate any of the outstanding resolutions, including one supporting religious liberty that, as presented, made no accommodations for an anti-discrimination provision. Other resolutions included changing the way AP US History was taught in schools, and supporting the election of the state school board. It appeared that no one wanted the same result as what happened in 2013, when officer elections ran late and delegates bolted for the doors, leaving the convention without a quorum and forcing the resolutions to be debated by the state committee at a later time.

In the end, the convention passed a single motion to approve every resolution — as a slate, you might say. And while one might argue that the resolutions had been vetted by the Resolutions Committee, the same thing could be said for the candidates the Nominating Committee recommended.

Especially at a convention where one of the candidates for chairman advocated that the state party should enforce Republican principles on its candidates and elected officials, it seems a bit ironic that when the time came to define those principles, at least at the state level, there was no time for delegates to discuss what those principles should be.

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Mike Berlon, the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, was sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison on Friday, and he will repay $2,009,542.81 in restitution. Berlon was convicted of wire fraud after pleading guilty on February 25. He was charged with bilking more than $2 million from former clients of his law firm.

In a statement J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office said: “While offering up his services as an attorney, Mr. Berlon outright stole from his clients. This sentence now holds him accountable for his senseless and greed based criminal conduct.”

Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn said: “The defendant was a respected member of the community and held an important position of trust. Where most lawyers conscientiously live up to this trust, Berlon instead violated it by stealing large sums from his clients for his personal gain with little regard for how it affected those who trusted him with their money.”

The rest of the Department of Justice’s statement is below the fold.  [click to continue…]

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This week’s Courier Herald column:

Georgia Republicans were focused on leadership changes last week. While much of the press coverage focused on the Georgia GOP Convention in Athens this past weekend, the slate led by current Chairman John Padgett remained in charge of the state’s majority party structure for the next two years.

Meanwhile, back at the capitol, House Republicans had a leadership election of their own. House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal is leaving for a judicial appointment, and thus there needed to be an election for a replacement. Representative Jon Burns of Newington was chosen to lead the Republicans in the House after a relatively friendly intra-party campaign against Representative Allen Peake of Macon.

There are other significant leadership changes coming within the Georgia House, courtesy of appointments, resignations, and shifting committee chairmanships. Headlining these is the appointment of Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts, who has been appointed Planning Director for the Georgia Department of Transportation by Governor Deal.

Representative Mark Hamilton of Cumming used the caucus meeting for elections to announce that he too would be resigning his seat in the House. Hamilton told his fellow members in detail that he began a journey with his wife of seeking what God had planned for him next over a year ago, and that has culminated with him accepting a position in Nashville Tennessee. He will be vacating a chairmanship of the Industry and Labor Committee.

The Governor has appointed Mike Jacobs of DeKalb County to a judicial position, and thus he too will be vacating the chairmanship of the committee that oversees MARTA. His chairmanship has marked a dramatic change between Republicans in the General Assembly and the transit agency, especially considering the frosty relationship his predecessor had in the position.

North Fulton Republicans will also soon be selecting a representative to fill the unexpired term of Representative Harry Geisinger, who passed away after a battle with leukemia. Geisinger received a heartfelt set of eulogies at the beginning of the Republicans’ caucus meeting, as he has been a fixture in Georgia Republican politics long enough that he was credited with driving a college aged Newt Gingrich back and forth to party meetings.

Meanwhile, on the Democrats side of the aisle, Representative Tyrone Brooks of Atlanta has also vacated his seat. Brooks had served in the legislature since 1981.

The mid-cycle departures from the House have become somewhat commonplace, as the allure of being a House member often doesn’t compete with the realities of a $17,000 part time salary for the essentially full time duties of the role. The loss of experience also highlights the role of the “citizen legislators” and the importance of the committee chairmen. [click to continue…]

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The second round of open enrollment in the “Obamacare” health insurance Marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act has closed, and roughly 71% more Georgians signed up than last time around. This means over 541,000 Georgians are now enrolled for insurance through the ACA, and approximately 90%, or 486,900 of them, qualify for tax credits. After these tax credits, the average monthly premium is just $73.

The AJC talked to health care experts about the skyrocketing enrollment, and major increases are being seen in many states who have not expanded Medicaid. Of course, not everyone that would be eligible for Medicaid can move to the Marketplace with federal tax credits. Instead, an estimated 300,000 Georgians are uninsured but don’t make enough money to qualify for Marketplace subsidies.

ACA Enrollment Percentage by County

I’ve pulled together some maps to show where these enrollees are coming from. McIntosh County leads the way with 11.44% of their population enrolled through the Marketplace, while only 1.04% of Chattahoochee County is using the ACA Marketplace (actual numbers could be higher, as zip codes with fewer than 50 enrollees aren’t included in this data).  Click through on the map to view multiple interactive versions.

You’ll see that while raw enrollments are concentrated in high-population metro areas, plenty of non-metro counties have seen a sizable percentage of their population enroll. Low-percentage enrollment counties are concentrated in South Georgia. Interestingly, this enrollment isn’t significantly related to counties’ Democratic voteshares – GOP lawmakers should note that this isn’t a case of only Democratic strongholds signing up for Obamacare.

Many lawmakers are holding the line and attempting to obstruct the ACA in any way possible, despite their constituents’ participation. When he talked to the AJC, Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) pledged to “fight Obamacare as long as I am in office.” Around 1 in 25 people in his home county have enrolled for health insurance through the ACA Marketplace.

These maps also give perspective to the potential impact of King v. Burwell, the court case to eliminate ACA subsidies in states that don’t operate their own health exchanges. If the Supreme Court sides with GA Attorney General Sam Olens, 90% of these 541,000 will suddenly face massively more expensive health insurance bills.

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Peach Pundit’s very own Jon Richards was recognized by the GOP State Convention on Saturday as the Georgia Republican Party’s Volunteer of the Year.

Members of any 0rganization can usually jon richards volunteer awardbe split into three categories:  Coffee Sippers who stand around and talk big but do little else; Whiners who complain about how the organization is run but do even less; and Workers who make up 10% of the group but do 90% of the heavy lifting.  Everyone who knows Jon knows what category he is in.  He is the first to arrive and the last to leave and is always there to do a little more if needed.

Well done and well deserved, Jon.  You are a class act and our party is lucky to have you!

Please join in on congrats to Jon.

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National
Is Stephanopoulos’ reputation ruined?
Loaded gesture gets California congresswoman in hot water
5 takeaways from the Iowa GOP Lincoln dinner
Starbucks employee’s epic rant caught on camera
Chuck Norris digs up dirt on Hillary

Local
How Savannah lost Volvo
Georgia GOP elects first gay leader
Cherry Blossum Festival ‘racial remarks’ controversy documents obtained
‘No Trespassing’ signs near PDK bring controversy
Doors finally open on Macon’s Tubman Museum
Toccoa lands major Turkish company

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As delegates to the Georgia Republican Convention gathered in Athens to re-elect John Padgett as Chairman and approve several resolutions dealing with issues important to social conservatives, including religious liberty and the curriculum used for courses in Advanced Placement US History, a new poll commissioned by Morris News Service shows that many of those attending the convention have views different from likely GOP primary voters.

The poll, which has a 4% margin of error, shows that over half of the voters surveyed feel that candidates shouldn’t be bound to the resolutions approved by the party at its convention. In addition, those polled favored those who were fiscally conservative over candidates who were socially conservative by a margin of 2-1.

From the Morris News story:

While making elected officials toe the party line may appeal to delegates, it’s not a goal of most ordinary Republicans. When asked if party support and campaign funding should be withheld for straying from party positions, half of those surveyed said no. Just one in three questioned favored enforcing party discipline.

That’s not to say the party has no role. Sixty-one percent rated the party as important in determining turnout and swaying votes in an election. Just 15 percent consider it unimportant.

That doesn’t mean Republican voters have no philosophical preference. A plurality of 45 percent want “current Republican leadership in Georgia, including the governor, the legislature, constitutional officers and representatives to Congress” to be more fiscally conservative. Just 20 percent pine for more social conservatism, and 15 percent say things are about right.

In his campaign for party chairman, Alex Johnson maintained that party leadership should hold candidates and elected officials responsible for adhering to Republican principles. Johnson lost to incumbent chairman John Padgett, with 807 delegates voting for Padgett and 612 voting for Johnson. With the hour getting late following the election of party officers, delegates voted to approve the entire list of resolutions in a single vote, without debating the merits of each one prior to voting.

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GAGOP Chairman John Padgett has issued an email this afternoon in response to Bob Mayzes’ endorsement of Alex Johnson, Padgett’s only announced opponent in the GAGOP Chair race.

Padgett’s response:

Friends,

Last night, long-time State Party Treasurer Bob Mayzes endorsed my opponent, Alex Johnson.

Bob and I have worked together in the Party for many years – growing the base, building coalitions, and electing Georgia Republicans to higher office.  While I am deeply hurt to not have Bob’s support, I appreciate his forthrightness and thank him for his years of service to the GAGOP.

I do feel it necessary to correct several of the statements made in Bob’s endorsement letter, especially those that unintentionally question the hard work of GAGOP staff, grassroots leaders, and volunteers during the 2014 election.

  • “Together we are undefeated” is more than just a slogan – it’s the truth.  Thanks to your hard work, we won every election up and down the ballot in a year that National Democrats were fixed on turning our “battleground state” blue.
  • We raised $6.5 million from various sources including the RNC, RGA, and NRSC.  These organizations provided our Party with resources because they trusted our ground game, our victory plan, and our leadership.
  • 17 field offices were opened – with money from the State Party and the RNC – around the state with two in Georgia’s 12th Congressional District.   Thanks to thousands of hard working grassroots volunteers, we used these offices to connect with 1.6 million targeted Georgia voters.
  • The Georgia Republican Party spent the money necessary to ensure victory with no run-offs and no losses.  The money left in the bank account from my predecessor, Chairwoman Sue Everhart, helped secure victory for all of our Republican nominees in 2014.
  • Like I do in my own business, I outsourced several functions of the State Party – such as communications and technology – to save money and ensure unmatched services and products. Rest assured, we are getting the “best bang for the buck” when it comes to how we spend your money at the State Party.
  • Unfortunately, former employees have targeted me in baseless lawsuits that must be answered.   We are working tirelessly to resolve these accusations without hindering Party operations.

As always, thank you for your strong support of the Georgia Republican Party.  I look forward to celebrating the many successes of the GAGOP with you this weekend in Athens!

Sincerely,

John Padgett

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