In November 2004, Georgia Republicans gained control of the State House to complete the trifecta of
holding the Governor’s Mansion, State Senate, and State House. Since then, the Peach State has held a
reputation as a solid red state. While Republicans have controlled Georgia for nearly two decades, it
would be naïve and disingenuous to assume that some seismic ideological shift occurred amongst
Georgians in the early 2000s. Georgians did not go to bed one night Democrats and wake up
Republicans the next morning. Rather, Georgia’s citizenry recognized how the parties had changed. As
former Gilmer County Commission Chair JC Sanford once told me, “Georgia didn’t leave the Democratic
Party. The Democratic Party left Georgia.”
Georgia is not just a state that has been solid red for 16 years. More specifically, whether controlled by
Democrats or Republicans, Georgia is a state that has been a solid conservative for centuries. Yes,
believe it or not, there used to be conservative Democrats. Democratic icon President John F. Kennedy
was pro-life, an NRA member, strengthened the military, cut spending, and cut taxes. Our former
Democrat U.S. Senator Sam Nunn chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted with Ronald
Reagan more than most Republicans, and regularly clashed with the liberal members of his party. When
the national Democratic Party shifted to liberalism in the mid-60s, Georgians quickly realized this. For
three straight presidential elections, the Peach State was won by conservatives not in the Democratic
Party – Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, American Independent George Wallace in 1968, and
Republican Richard Nixon in 1972. Even in more recent Republican Primaries, you can see Georgia’s
conservative roots on display. When the national Republican Party pushed moderates John McCain and
Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012, the Georgia Republican Primary was won by battle tested conservatives
Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich. Simply, Georgia has only briefly been a solid red state, but Georgia
has always been a solid conservative state.
For most of our history, Georgia has had one set of values. Parties changed, but Georgia did not. This is
no longer the case. The values of many places in Georgia are changing. We here in north Georgia must
recognize this and learn from this. Learning from this, we must decide that we are going to fight change.
Historically, the suburbs of Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, and Forsyth Counties were Republican strongholds.
This is no longer the case. These counties encompass the 6th and 7th Congressional Districts. In 2016,
Republican Tom Price won the 6th District by 23 points. That same year, Republican Rob Woodall won
the 7th District by 21 points. By 2018, many changes in these districts had occurred. Atlanta is one of the
fastest growing cities in the nation. As businesses move to our state, so do individuals. Individuals from
California, New York, and many other states, where liberal policies are pushing businesses out, are
moving here and bringing their liberal values with them. In the 2018 midterm election, a Democrat won
the 6th District by 1 point. Just next door, Rob Woodall only held onto his 7th District seat by 433 votes.
This is a shocking and rapid change of events.
Recent polling suggests that the Democrats have only gained ground in these districts since 2018.
Reasons cited are less than conservative. Many people in these districts are turned off by the GOP’s
defense of the Second Amendment. Many disapprove of the GOP’s pro-life policies. These points as well
as a disdain for President Trump have driven these districts into the hands of the Democrats. National
Democrats have capitalized on this opportunity. Liberal groups organized by Barack Obama and George
Soros are flooding metro-Atlanta Democratic campaigns with money aimed at shifting Georgia to the
left. Obama has gone as far as endorsing seven Democratic candidates for the Georgia State Legislature.
Sadly, the efforts of the left are bearing fruit. What we are witnessing is a seismic shift in the values of
the metro-Atlanta suburbs.
While the suburbs cite President Trump as a reason for moving left, rural north Georgia is more
energized than ever because of President Trump. President Trump understands the plight of our rural
communities over the past 25 to 30 years. After the Cold War, our nation began transitioning from a
national economy towards a global economy. We were told by the experts that we should do this
because there would be a net economic benefit. What they did not tell us is that the emphasis should
have been on net, not benefit. The term “net” means that there would be winners and losers of
globalization, but the gains would outweigh the losses. Here is the reality: globalization gave the suburbs
cheaper luxury cars, but it shut down our factories. Globalization destroyed the backbone of the rural
economy while the suburbs got richer. President Trump saw this and realized the need to make America
During the Great Recession, our economy in north Georgia was crushed. One commercial property in
Gilmer County was once a factory employing dozens. It sold for $920,000 in 1999. After 17 more years of
bi-partisan globalization, the property sat vacant and sold for $150,000 in 2016. While places like
Alpharetta were back to boom town days by 2012, places like Ellijay spent many more years mired in the
wake of the Great Recession. The reason President Trump is so popular in rural America is because he
understands what has happened to our communities and he did something about it. Since Trump was
inaugurated, the rural north Georgia economy has been booming. President Trump heard our voices,
and he went to bat for us. It is now time for us to go to bat for him.
Georgia did not experience a shift in values in the early 2000’s, but today is a different story. The
suburbs have abandoned conservative values and given themselves over to the Democrats. As Governor
Kemp proved in 2018, this does not mean all is lost for the Peach State. Stacey Abrams received 567,991
votes in Fulton and DeKalb Counties alone, but because of the rural north Georgia vote, Governor Kemp
still won by 54,723 votes. The path to keeping Georgia in conservative hands runs through north
Georgia. We still have a say and our say carries weight. If we turn out to the polls this year, we will offset
metro-Atlanta just like we did in 2018. President Trump will need us all to vote if he is to win Georgia
and ultimately win the White House.
The local north Georgia GOPs are challenging you to vote and to encourage your friends to vote. Georgia
is under siege by leftists who want to change Georgia for the worse. We need your help to stop this. Call
10 friends and ask them if they have voted for President Trump yet. If they have not, give them
instructions about voting early. If they have voted, challenge them to call 10 friends to ask the same
question. If everyone in north Georgia does this, we will overcome the liberal Atlanta vote. We must all
do our part to “Keep America Great.” Get out and vote!
Chairman of The Gilmer Trump Campaign, a subcommittee of the Gilmer County Republican Party
Reece Sanford, CFA is the Chairman of The Gilmer Trump Campaign, Assistant Secretary –
Communications of the Gilmer County Republican Party, and a native of Ellijay, GA. He holds a BBA in
Finance from The University of Georgia and an MBA from Kennesaw State University. Mr. Sanford also
holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. He is a career community banker currently
working in small business lending. He has served on the boards of several non-profits throughout north
Georgia. He has served as Youth Engagement Director of the Gilmer County Republican Party, holds an
advisory role with a trade association Political Action Committee, and has consulted on multiple political
campaigns. He and his wife, Kerri Ann, enjoy spending their free time exploring north Georgia, running,
traveling, and cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author. They do not necessarily
reflect the views of the Republican Party, its members, any other organization the author may be
associated with, nor his family members.