Hats off to the White County GOP, Hall County GOP and 9th District GOP for hosting a candidate forum in Gainesville last night. With a state structure as large as this one, combining groups for one of these forums is a big plus. And, if you haven’t been to White County High School, make a trip there and take a look at what they are doing with television production. It will make you proud.
Now to the meat of the event. The back and forth on the questioning was uneventful. Everyone has a plan and wants to do outreach and raise money. The funniest moment of the night was B. J. Van Gundy telling the crowd, “I’m a geek, ya’ll.”
The make up of the group of candidates are three from counties where being a Republican is not the easiest thing and one from a solid and large Republican stronghold, Gwinnett County. However, the case can be made Gwinnett is changing and the Republican Party will have a more difficult time there in the future.
Common Core came up in this forum, too. This issue comes up in every Republican meeting, but outside of a possible resolution at the convention, there’s not much a Republican Party Chairman can do about something like Common Core. (Programming note, on Sunday, May 12 at 6 am on Chuck FM 103.7 WXKT, I’ll talk to Will Schofield, Superintendent of Hall County Schools, he supports Common Core and gives a thorough explanation. I’ll post the audio on ZPolitics after it runs)
But the fireworks came in the section where candidates ask each other questions. The contributions B. J. Van Gundy gave to some DeKalb democrats came up and he was questioned on whether they effected business he does with DeKalb County. Van Gundy said they were races with no Republicans and the people were friends of his. This won’t be a big issue, but expect this to come up again. In essentially a “Republican primary” there aren’t many policy differences.
Van Gundy said he’s given less than $1000 to Democrats in his lifetime and the fact all his opponents mention this “money issue” means there was some sort of collusion between them beforehand.
No real damage was done to any of the candidates. From a policy perspective, Johnson and Padgett gave the most specifics on what they would do. Harp did the best job of highlighting his fundraising experience and Van Gundy did the best job of demonstrating his support from Young Republicans, with Alex Johnson lightening things up by pointing out he was a “Young Republican” as he’s 28 years old.
So it’s on to Savannah and then Cobb County for more of these forums. If you are a delegate, you ought to try to get to one of these. And once all these forums are over, Todd Rehm and I will be getting together to recap what we’ve seen.
Martha Zoller’s ZPolitics Takeaway: After watching or attending a few of these, I’m still not getting a clear picture on the fundraising side of what each of these candidates will do. Money is the lifeblood of this or any party. If fundraising only keeps pace on where it is today in the Georgia GOP, on December 31, the Georgia GOP will be broke. That’s not acceptable going into a “battered, bruised and expensive” U. S. Senate primary as well as all the congressional seats that are open. My number one issue for the Georgia GOP and the person who will get my vote as a delegate to this convention is the person who will convince me he can put the network together to raise money for the party.
Alex Johnson is getting stronger as he is getting in front of more people. Seth Harp has shown he has some very good ideas. There is still this alliance between Padgett, Harp and Johnson to put Van Gundy in the worst light possible. The controversy about Van Gundy’s contribution to Democrat candidates I think left a bruise but it isn’t fatal to his campaign. As I was walking out, a Van Gundy supporter showed me an article saying that Padgett had also given to Democrats, expect that to come up in Savannah. This is still a race between Padgett and Van Gundy because they are better known to the delegates. However, it all depends on who shows up. Alex Johnson indicated he has a ground game that gets his supporters in the convention as delegates. In a Georgia GOP convention, it’s all about who shows up and who stays until the end.
Top Tweets from Last Night’s Debate: