GOP State Party Chair

On Saturday morning February 11, the 2017 cycle for the Georgia Republican party began with precinct caucuses in the counties with population over 80,000. Later that day four announced candidates for the State Party Chairman met at a forum in Dahlonega to present their vision and answer questions about their plans and priorities.

The announced candidates are Alex Johnson, Michael McNeely, John Watson, and Mike Welsh. Todd Rehm editor of moderated the event. It lasted a little over one hour.

The event was very informative and positive. Each candidate presented what he believes the state party needs and how he best meets that need. Between now and the state convention, there will be more opportunities to hear from each one. Delegates to the state convention will be elected at the County Conventions next month. The officers for the State Party are elected by the delegates to the state convention.

After listening to the candidates in the first forum I would rank them in this order based on what I heard there. John Watson, Michael McNeely, Alex Johnson, and Mike Welsh.

In my opinion, John Watson most clearly addressed the needs of the state party. There are two key components to an effective state party. One is fundraising and the other is grassroots. He has been involved in both at the state level for over two decades. John is a professional political fundraiser. He was the first finance director for the Georgia GOP and later for Sonny Perdue in the historical 2002 upset victory. He was also a leader in David Perdue’s election to US Senate in 2014. These races had the strongest statewide grassroots organization of any campaigns in Georgia.

Michael McNeely also clearly articulated his vision and, in my opinion, was a close second to John. Michael has also been extensively involved in state party politics. He has worked in the trenches and is well known across the state. He has been a faithful leader in the Georgia Republican Party.

Alex Johnson has run for party chairman two times before. He is the youngest candidate. Several times in the forum he spoke about his efforts to organize at the grassroots level. His organizational efforts were for a separate Republican group. I fully understand the frustration and even anger directed toward the Republican brand. I do not believe that he will be able to gain the trust and support of longtime Republicans because he has been working to build a separate organization.

Mike Welsh is the Chairman of the 12th District Republican Party. He notes that he is the only candidate who is not from the Atlanta metro area. I did not get any strong feelings about fundraising ability. Serving as a District Chair in a district made of 19 counties outside of metro Atlanta requires an understanding and support of grassroots.

A strong state party is made up of two basic groups. The larger group is the grassroots organization of individuals who get involved and are the boots on the ground. The other group are those who have the means and are willing to give the money to support the party. There must be both. In the first forum of all candidates, I give the best overall match for the job to John Watson.

Signature-Donald E. Cole

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