From Jail Threat to Republican National Convention: The Journey of the Catoosa GOP Secretary

From Jail Threat to Republican National Convention: The Journey of the Catoosa GOP Secretary

Ringgold, GA – When 77-year-old widow Sherre Bales asked what was involved in the open Catoosa GOP Secretary position, she had no clue that her involvement might eventually lead to crippling fines and prospective time in the County jail. She was told the duties would include taking minutes and keeping records, which sounded easy enough. 

Sherre grew up around politics knocking Chattanooga doors with her parents at the age of 14 and occasionally making phone calls to Republican voters. Now as a semi-retired real estate agent, struggling to make a commission in Biden’s economy, her volunteer service to her community may cost her dearly. 


Sherre is one of the Catoosa GOP officers that was ordered by a local judge to refrain from refusing to qualify four commission candidates after they were denied access to the Republican primary ballot for their lack of adherence to Republican policies. For refusing, she and her fellow GOP officers  faced $1,000 per hour fines and jail time. 

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Sherre’s political involvement has been occasional throughout her adult life and was almost never paid work. It was something she did as a volunteer at different stages of her life in between raising children and starting her business. 

“I’m pretty friendly and personable, so I’m good at door to door,” she said. 

Like many GOP volunteers who tirelessly put up campaign signs, make phone calls and wear out their tennis shoes door-knocking, Sherre had experienced the disappointment of having a candidate she volunteered for “turn RINO” after getting elected. 

“They would change from what they campaigned on,” said Sherre.

Regret. Betrayal. Disillusion. Exploitation. 

It is difficult to describe the intense feelings of a volunteer who believed in the policies that a candidate talked about, was motivated enough to put time and sweat behind that campaign, only to be double-crossed when the politician changed their tune after getting elected. This was a common theme among Sherre’s different volunteer experiences working for Republican candidates. 

Like most voters, Sherre had never personally attended a county commission meeting until she got elected Secretary in 2021. By 2023 the community was embroiled in a battle for the freedom to keep backyard chickens with 100 or more citizens showing up at Commission meetings to voice concerns about a new chicken ordinance. At these meetings families would beg their Commissioners to let them keep their chickens and give them a chance to experience the health, economic, and educational benefits for their children. 

“There was so much going on about the chickens and I thought, ‘I guess I had better go since I’m the Secretary of the party.’” Sherre was not prepared for what she saw at the Commission meeting that night.

“I was just floored by how the public was treated. It made me so mad. I felt like [the commissioners] were just overlording over us as minions. It was frustrating and humiliating.”

The Catoosa Commissioners have developed a reputation of not caring what the people think, not treating them with respect, and ignoring the hundreds of citizens that would show up to voice concerns about their actions. The commissioners changed the agenda of the meetings to put public comments at the end, after all the voting and decision making was finished. 

All of the Commissioners claim to be Republicans, and every election season there is an expectation that GOP volunteers like Sherre have a responsibility to help rally the vote for all Republican candidates.


The Catoosa GOP had been frustrated with the commissioners for years, and Sherre and the other officers felt hopeful about the new Accountability Rule and the process that was established to determine if a candidate really shared the values of the Republican Party. 

“Every GOP local party needs to be able to vet their candidates. I know we’ve got some non-Republicans running. You could have a socialist or communist, and if you don’t vet them, people could get in under wire,” she said.

The rule implemented a new practice for Catoosa county, but not a new concept. The state level Republican Party exercises the freedom of association in whom they allow on the Republican presidential preference primary ballot. 

 “It was kind of like a leap of faith that we could do it.”

Sherre’s signature was required on the official copy of the new party rules, and they were filed with the elections office in the same way as they had been filed for many years, and by many GOP Secretaries prior to Sherre. As an officer of the party, Sherre was one of the 16 members of the County Committee who had a vote on which candidates they believed met the minimum standard to be considered a Republican. Sherre was present during all the candidate interviews. 

“We were pretty somber. I was nervous about what was going to happen after we listened to all the candidates.”

“I did not have my mind made up on anybody when it came down to voting. People can say anything, but I went by what their voting record was [while in office]. It was not personalities, it was voting record. We knew this was a big thing and it was unprecedented. We took each candidate and we discussed them and then we voted. Everybody voted from their heart.”

Most of the candidates that interviewed with the party were qualified, and only four were denied – the notorious incumbent commissioners and a former commission chairman: Steven Henry, Vanita Hullender, Larry Black, and Jeff Long.

Less than a week later the Catoosa GOP volunteers were being sued by the four candidates and the judge ordered the Catoosa GOP to sign the qualifying papers approving the candidates as a Republican, or else. 

“I was really taken aback when we were threatened with 20 days in jail and thousands of dollars of fines.”

“To go against the court… that’s not how I was raised. I was raised to abide by the law – what was said in court was to be followed. But in this case, I couldn’t. I was Secretary of the Committee. The committee voted this way and that was the way it was going to be.”

She was driven by a sense of duty. Her commitment to her office, and her principles constrained Sherre to abide by the agreed upon rules of the party. 

She knew she wasn’t in it alone. The GOP leaders prayed together before they went into the courtroom. 

“Our faith is getting us through this.”

Sherre talked to her adult son and two daughters about the situation as well. They said it was ridiculous that the commissioners can throw their weight around. 

You just stand firm, Mom.”

The Catoosa GOP county committee was pretty tight-knit already but this experience really bonded them. Some shed tears, some were quietly resolute, fully prepared to suffer for what they knew was right.

 “It was difficult. We were crying. We’re gonna do it, but it’s hard and we’re scared. We had to stick together.”

Sherre had already given up a lot of her time away from her grandchildren, her real estate business, and her cats to serve the cause she believed in, but this was a real test of dedication. Now she was spending long hours in the courtroom anxiously waiting to see if she and her fellow officers would be put in jail like common criminals. 

The case is being appealed and Sherre is eager to hear the decision of Judge Billy Ray in the Rome-based federal court, as well as the other courts addressing different aspects of this controversy.

“If the judge imposes those fines, I’d be pretty mad and pretty scared. Where am I gonna get that?“ 

Sherre never envisioned herself being in a position like this at 77-years-old, but she doesn’t regret her actions. 

“I’m happy we did it. I will go to the Supreme Court with this if we have to. We have got to set a precedent that local parties can vet their candidates.”

Meanwhile, Sherre has been chosen to represent Northwest Georgia at the Republican National Convention this Summer. She was elected unanimously by the roughly 200 delegates at the 14th District GOP Convention as an alternate. These same delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting the freedom of association and the recent actions of the Catoosa GOP. Sherre has loved attending Trump rallies and it will be the experience of a lifetime for her to be able to see Donald J Trump nominated for President. 

What an adventure I’ve been on! Threatened with jail and a bunch of money and now going to the RNC,” she said.

This is going to be the icing on the cake of my Republican career!”

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