A Democratic show of support for a Trump official from Georgia

Ashley Bell of Gainesville, shortly after switching to the Republican party in 2010. AJC file/Bita Honarvar, bhonarvar@ajc.com

Ashley Bell of Gainesville, shortly after switching to the Republican party in 2010. AJC file/Bita Honarvar, bhonarvar@ajc.com

In a show of bipartisan support, six state Senate Democrats sponsored a resolution to commend Ashley Bell, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Georgia who now works for the Donald Trump administration. The measure was adopted on Tuesday without debate.

Senate Resolution 333 praises Bell’s “determination, intelligence and work ethic” in rising from Hall County commissioner, as a Democrat, to become the highest-ranking African-American official at the Republican National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. Bell, who joined the GOP in 2010, now has a post at the U.S. State Department.

The resolution honoring him was sponsored by state Sens. Lester Jackson of Savannah, Emanuel Jones of Decatur, Ed Harbison of Columbus, Freddie Powell Sims of Dawson, Harold Jones of Augusta and Gail Davenport of Jonesboro – a show of bipartisan support for a rising Washington star whose political transformation has been dizzying.

In 2004, he was the president of the College Democrats of America and was introduced as “one of the future leaders of our party” on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. He took the floor amid a clattering of applause to endorse Kerry and praise Democrats as the party “that earned my loyalty as a child and it keeps my loyalty today.”

His election to the Hall County Commission in 2008 at age 27 seemed another rung on the ladder toward an inevitable bid for higher office. But local activists grew suspicious in 2010 when Bell started showing up at campaign events around Gainesville for Republican Nathan Deal during his campaign for governor.

Shortly after Deal’s victory, Bell announced his flip to the GOP at a press conference that local Republicans billed as a “historic announcement.” He said at the time that he felt “more at home” with conservative Republican policies, and his decision made national news as a wave of conservative-leaning Democrats flipped after the midterm elections.

Back home, Republican leaders cast it as a watershed moment. He was dubbed the first known black elected official to switch to the GOP in Georgia, and Deal said it was a harbinger of “what is happening in our state.”

Gainesville voters, though, were far from convinced. Bell was trounced in the 2012 GOP primary by Jeffrey Stowe, a political novice who owned a local electronics store and reminded voters he was a “lifelong Republican” and that he planned to stay in Gainesville for the long haul.

Bell, meanwhile, never strayed far from politics and helped launch the bipartisan 20/20 Leaders of America, which last election cycle focused on criminal justice initiatives. He was tapped in August to head the Republican National Committee’s black political engagement efforts.

Trump’s victory launched him into a higher orbit. He landed a job on his transition team, and in February was sworn in as a special assistant to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Insider’s note: This item was ripped and expanded from the Morning Jolt.

 


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