Gilmer County Republicans are gearing up for next week’s State Convention in Athens on May seventeenth.During last Tuesday’s Gilmer County Republican Party Meeting candidates for first and second vice chairs for the state party campaigned to Gilmer’s GOP group. Catherine Bernard, a public defender from Laurens County, campaigned for first vice chairman, while Ellijay’s own Stephen Aaron and Ron Johnson from Jackson County competed for second vice chairman.
Speaking first, Bernard focused on party reform, urging a return to core, first principles.
“We are at a crossroads,”
“and things are not going in the right direction.”
The answer, she said, is a return to the core principles of personal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, and abiding by The Constitution. To do this, she urged to get Big Government ideas out of the party.
“It hurts our recruiting,”
“We’re seen as hypocrites. How do we bring our Independent and Democratic friends into the Republican Party when they say, ‘But you’re not even standing up for those small government principles that you say your party supports?’”
She went on to say it hurts policy and recruiting when politicians who call themselves Republicans vote for higher taxes, more regulation and more intrusion into the lives of private citizens. Bernard also said the party needs to stand up to special interest groups.
“We’ve got to stand up to the influence from Washington who are trying to make the Republican Party into a top-down organization where the RNC observes more and more control over the state parties. We’ve got to reverse that,”
she said. Other components of her approach consist of building the party’s infrastructure through out the state, by offering resources. Here, she noted that in November Laurens County unseated a 20-year Democratic incumbent and never received a ‘Congratulations’ from the state Republican Party or any help from it.
“As first vice chair,”
“I will prioritize support for county parties that work to get Republicans elected at the local level.”
Second Vice Chair Candidate 22-year old Stephen Aaron said he would focus on unity.
“Republicans are doing a better job dividing the party than Democrats are,”
he said. He explained that he would solve these divisions between the Establishment Republicans, Tea Party, and other subdivisions by sitting down with leaders of these groups, unifying them through communication. Aaron also said he would focus on bringing the youth vote under the GOP Tent.
“One of the areas where the Democrats and the Obama Campaign defeated us,”
“was in the realm of technology.”
He advocated courting young voters through a broader use of technology, recommending advertising on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, which he said could be done for as little as $30 a day.
Challenging Aaron for the second vice chair seat, Ron Johnson from Jackson County campaigned on experience. Although he said he respected Aaron for his involvement, he said the position requires experience, saying Aaron does not have the required experience, never having held a similar position before.
“How do you build a party if you’ve never been a county chairman, where you had to build a party? How do you raise money?”
He went on to explain the main function of the Georgia Republican Party is fund raising for candidates. Giving an example of his accomplishments in this regard, Johnson said when he was first elected to district chairman, four years ago, there were only ten members. “We now have 20 delegates to the state convention and 27 to the district conventions.” He advocated building the party one member at a time. Since 2008 election, the GOP has sought to win the Hispanic vote, which overwhelmingly voted for Obama in the last two elections. On the national level, the work of Senators Marco Rubio (FL) and Ted Cruz (TX) show the efforts to recruit this voting block in the Republican Party. Johnson, though, stressed this needs to be done on a local level as well. Demonstrating how this is done, he said he’s already bought a booth for voter registration with his own money at the Tri-State Latino Festival in September.
“I have 16 volunteers to go with us; most of them are Spanish speakers…I speak Spanish. That’s how we get ‘em. We do a voter registration; we put out information cards… we tell them where their local precincts are and they can show up at a meeting,” he said. “I ask you to vote for me, because I ask you to vote for experience,”
The state convention will be held May 17th and 18th in Athens.