Four months after a Hillary Clinton win, Cobb GOP ousts chairman

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A newly elected Cobb County GOP chairman Jason Shepherd stands with fellow officers on Saturday -- photo via Shepherd's Facebook page.

Frustrated Cobb Republicans ousted chairman Rose Wing over the weekend and replaced her with an avowed Donald Trump supporter, months after the county voted for a Democrat in the presidential race for the first time since 1976.

Jason Shepherd, running on a “Make Cobb Red Again” platform, beat Wing by a 173-114 vote. We’re told his support came from a mix of Trump partisans and Libertarians from the party’s Ron Paul flank.

“We must come together now,” he said after the vote. “We came together for one goal. ‘Make Cobb Red Again’ is not a slogan – it’s a mission statement. Get ready.”

Trump won a 5-point victory over Hillary Clinton in Georgia by running up huge margins in rural and exurban parts of the state. But he lost every core metro Atlanta county to Clinton, giving Democrats a silver lining in an otherwise rough night.

The rising minority populations in Gwinnett and Henry counties made them ripe targets for a Democratic takeover. But even the most optimistic Democrat didn’t expect Cobb County, long the crimson-red lifeblood of the Georgia Republican Party, to flip that cycle.

Shepherd, a longtime GOP operative who once worked for Newt Gingrich, ran for county Republican chairman in 2015 and lost by a 169-108 margin. This year, he campaigned against what he called the local GOP chapter’s “bunker mentality” that’s averse to newcomers and too willing to rest on its laurels.

In an interview Monday morning, Shepherd agreed that Clinton’s victory in Cobb was the main theme of his campaign. But beneath that argument, he said, was six years of ineffective use of data that showed a Cobb County voting environment in flux.

Voter registration lists, if they were developed, were withheld from party activists who needed them, Shepherd said.  “We had all these precinct chairmen and house district chairs sitting around, basically doing nothing,” the new chairman said. “When I ran two years ago, I mentioned that there were about 18,000 new registered voters in Cobb County, but a Republican vote gain of a little under 800. So the writing was kind of on the wall.”

Shepherd and Wing also argued over Joe Dendy, whom Wing replaced as Cobb GOP chair. Dendy now sits in the county jail, awaiting trial on child molestation charges. Dendy still has some associations with the party, and Shepherd argued for his formal expulsion. Said Shepherd:

“There are a lot of folks who don’t think that we should do anything to him – he’s innocent until proven guilty. I look at it a little bit differently, in the sense that we are the Republican Party of Cobb County, Inc.

 

“We are a business. And I’ve talked to business leaders in Cobb County…They’re saying, ‘I run my business and something like that happens to one of my employees, and they’re out. I’m not waiting ‘til they’re found guilty.’ If he’s found not guilty, he can come back with a simple vote.”

However, a resolution introduced on Saturday, to suspend the party membership of anyone charged with a felony involving “moral turpitude,” was defeated on a voice vote. From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Several delegates spoke against the resolution.

 

“We all know what this is a veiled reference to. If you get charged with anything these days, you are in trouble. That’s true of the culture generally, and it’s true in our Republican family,” said Roger Hines, a retired high school English teacher and former state legislator. Hines had testified at Dendy’s bond hearings in June and January, saying he had known the man for 21 years. Dendy also served as Hines’ campaign manager in two races.

 

“I wish we would defeat this thing and drop this — there is a hurting family, and I wish we would not do that and make them hurt more,” Hines added.

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But the Cobb GOP chapter did adopt several  resolutions that could resurface in bigger party meetings down the road. The most intriguing was a resolution urging state lawmakers to pass a measure creating an “education savings account” that has gone nowhere this legislative session.

The vote was a rebuke to state Sen. Lindsey Tippins — a Marietta resident and chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Tippins has cast doubt about school voucher programs, saying they aren’t a long-term solution.

“The Education Committee in the Georgia Senate refuses to listen to the expressed will of the people and has consistently failed to allow advances in parental choice in education public policy,” the resolution read.

In a statement, exiting Cobb vice-chair Justin Tomczak said county Republicans were frustratedthat  their demands continue “to fall on deaf ears in the State Senate, despite the valiant efforts of Cobb County’s own Sen. Hunter Hill, Rep. John Carson and Rep. Sam Teasley.”

Another resolution was introduced by Jim Jess, Georgia Tea Party organizer who said he brought his proposal to the full convention after it was refused by a committee. The resolution opposed the abolition of the Electoral College and a move toward the national popular vote. It was approved without opposition.

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The race for the chairmanship of the Georgia GOP, which won’t be settled until June, has become yet another venue for criticism of party leadership.

Sunday’s edition of the Forsyth County News featured an appearance at a local GOP meeting by John Watson, a candidate for chairman – and a lobbyist and former chief of staff to Gov. Sonny Perdue. From the newspaper:

“Here’s the cold hard reality; after 15 years of Republican dominance, we are broke,” [Watson] said. “After 130 years in power and them being in the wilderness for 15 years, the Democratic Party of Georgia has more money than we do, and that is a travesty. It is inexcusable and without a massive directional change in our leadership, and I would argue without the skills and experiences of our new leader, we will not get this right.”

At the same meeting was Mansell McCord, the state GOP treasurer running for re-election:

“We as a party have lost the confidence of all of our donor bases from grassroots to the mid-level donors to the big donors,” McCord said. “It’s going to be a tough job to train that confidence back, that they’re not throwing money away when they give to the party. It’s going to be a tough road for the next state chairman, quite honestly.”

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We have it on good authority that SB 153, a bill aimed at hearing aids and authored by newcomer state Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, has been hijacked and turned into a vehicle for what was once SB 221, a bill to allow optometrists to administer drugs by injection into the eye. The latter bill, sponsored by state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, has passed the Senate but has not moved in the House. But SB 153 is moving.

We understand that the newly refashioned bill will get a hearing before the House Regulated Industries Committee on Tuesday

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Politico.com reports that former Gov. Sonny Perdue, still waiting on his first U.S. Senate hearing as President Donald Trump’s nominee as secretary of agriculture, is already making staffing decisions:

And though Perdue has yet to face a confirmation hearing, he’s already lined up an associate with a job in the Trump administration. Heidi Green, a partner of Perdue’s shipping business who also worked for him in Georgia state government, landed a political appointment as senior adviser at USDA in January. She’s now being mentioned as a likely candidate to serve as his chief of staff.


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