Saturday night, the candidates for GOP Chair met in Duluth. Seth Harp, Alex Johnson, John Padgett and B. J. Van Gundy were questioned in front of a packed house. The Gwinnett County Republican Party and the Georgia Republican Assembly coordinated the event. Next week, in Savannah, Georgia Republican Assembly takes the show on the road for another debate.
The focus was on the grassroots throughout the debate and until the “Rapid Fire” questions between candidates, there wasn’t too much disagreement. A candidate could ask a question of one other candidate and there were two rounds. Most of the questions were pretty softball and implied an alliance between Padgett, Harp and Johnson. We’ll get to the strategy of that later.
B. J. Van Gundy was asked by former State Senator Seth Harp about his involvement in a business with Steve Handel, the husband of Karen Handel, a likely U. S. Senate candidate. The implication was, “how can you remain on the sidelines in the U. S. Senate primary if you are in business with a candidate’s husband?” Van Gundy answered that the business with Steve Handel had nothing to do with the party.
Then it was Van Gundy’s turn to ask a question and he asked John Padgett about his involvement in the Clarke County GOP Convention and if he would do anything differently. Padgett was a delegate to the convention last year where Matt Brewster, the Clarke County GOP Chair lost control of the convention and ultimately, this led to the Clarke County delegates not being seated at the State Convention. Padgett shot back that Van Gundy’s question reflected a desire to deflect from the fact Van Gundy is “losing this race”and speaks “volumes on how you would chair this party.”
Other than that, the exchanges were what you would expect from 4 Republicans getting together to talk about how to lead the party and what the priorities are in leading the party. Johnson and Harp did well, but the tension was between Padgett and Van Gundy.
There could be an alliance forming between Johnson, Harp and Padgett. Most people expect there to be three or 4 ballots to elect this chairman. In addition, many expect Van Gundy to finish first or second in the first ballot. If you add up all the straw polls to this date, Van Gundy and Padgett are close, Johnson is gaining and Harp is staying pretty steady. Of course, straw polls are not science and anything can happen on the floor of a state convention depending on who shows up and how long they stay.
The strategy could be, to align behind whomever is on the next ballot with Van Gundy and beat him that way. I think Van Gundy was the one to beat 2 months ago, but that has become more fluid in the past three weeks. Van Gundy “going negative” in the questioning indicated, he’s concerned, too.
Of course, everyone in the race will tell you they are leading and are sure they will finish 1st or 2nd. But the math doesn’t work for that. After the first ballot, at least one of these guys will be out and they will have to decide who to align with. I think there’s been some discussion of that already.
The next debate is in Hall County on May 2.
And to you GOP faithful who want to call or text me to tell me my analysis is all wet, post your comment right here ZPolitics and you can text and call me, too!
Picture of the candidates courtesy of Todd Rehm at GaPundit.com
Todd was one of the other panelists last night. Here’s what he had to say about the evening.