Political Notes – Republicans gather to elect new chairman

[private]Republican Party activists are convening in Augusta to elect a new state chairman who they hope will be able to lift the party out of its financial morass.

Georgia Chairman John Padgett is stepping down after four years of leadership that saw the party embarrassed by a racial discrimination lawsuit that is still active in the court system and hindered by lackluster fundraising that now has the state GOP nearly $100,000 in debt.

Party delegates are also meeting in the shadow of a crucial congressional runoff election in the 6th Distict set for June 20, where Democrat Jon Ossoff is running neck-and-neck with Republican Karen Handel for a seat the GOP has held for nearly 40 years.

Four candidates are vying for the chairman’s job, including:

  • John Watson, a prominent lobbyist and the governor’s chief of staff during the Sonny Perdue administration (Perdue has endorsed Watson for the party’s top job). Watson is the candidate of the party’s business establishment wing, but has also picked up the support of tea partiers like Debbie Dooley.
  • Alex Johnson, an ultraconservative attorney from DeKalb County who has already run for chairman twice against Padgett, losing both races.
  • Michael McNeely, a party vice chairman who would be the first black to lead the state GOP if he wins the race for chairman. McNeely has the support of talk radio host Herman Cain, an unsuccessful candidate for president in 2012,
  • Party activist Mike Welsh, former chairman of the Republican Party’s 12th District organization.

Delegates will elect a new chairman Saturday afternoon after hearing speeches by Handel and a host of elected officials, followed by the usual wrangling over individual resolutions.

One in, one out in the governor’s race

State Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming) confirmed Thursday that he will run in the Republican primary for governor next year.

Williams’ announcement had been expected for several weeks, ever since he launched a twitter account that has taken many jabs at Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, one of the frontrunners in the governor’s race.

Williams, who operates several hair salons, made a name for himself by being the first Georgia lawmaker to endorse Donald Trump in last year’s presidential race.

He was first elected to the Senate in 2014 when he ousted longtime incumbent Jack Murphy in the Republican primary.

On the Democratic side, Jason Carter said he definitely will not make another run at governor this year.

Carter was the party nominee in 2014 and raised a ton of money, thanks in part to the fact that he’s the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter. He also is chairman of the board for the Carter Center.

That money did not translate into votes, however, as Carter lost to Nathan Deal by a margin of 8 percentage points.

Carter said he might run for statewide office in the future, but is ruling himself out for 2018.

‘Distracted Driving’ committee named

House Speaker David Ralston has appointed a 10-member House Study Committee on Distracted Driving.

The panel will be chaired by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) and includes Reps. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), Heath Clark (R-Warner Robins), Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), Brian Prince (D-Augusta), Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), Bob Trammell (D-Luthersville), and Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta).

The committee will take a look at whether changes are needed to state law to reduce instances of distracted driving.

Ralston also appointed a House Study Committee on Civics Education in Georgia to review what is currently being taught in civics classes and make recommendations for changing it.

The members are Reps. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), and Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson).

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: distracted driving study committee , Georgia Republican Party , Jason Carter , Michael Williams