Category: Election

Catoosa RAs & Liberty Watchdogs Defeat Redevelopment Powers in Ringgold, GA

Catoosa RAs & Liberty Watchdogs Defeat Redevelopment Powers in Ringgold, GA

Northwest GA—On Tuesday, voters in Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe, and Catoosa County all overwhelmingly rejected a controversial Redevelopment Powers proposal on the ballot that would have given the local municipalities the authority to create “Tax Allocation Districts” (TADs) and provide Tax Increment Financing for redevelopment.

These redevelopment powers operate on the premise that “blight makes right”! That is, any part of the community which the local government agency deems to be “blighted” can become a “project area” and be artificially stimulated by tax dollars through corporate welfare to developers. A similar measure was defeated earlier this year in Whitfield County.

One of the concerns expressed by voters was the permanence of this proposal, if adopted. Like many additional or emergency powers, when once surrendered by the people and seized by the civil government, they have no expiration date and power thus surrendered is not easily restored.

Joanna Hildreth
Joanna Hildreth

Joanna Hildreth wears many hats as an activist in the area. In addition to serving on the GRA Executive Committee, Joanna was elected this year as the Catoosa County GOP Chair, and she serves as the Vice President of the Northwest GA Republican Assembly chapter. She was very pleased with the outcome of the vote on Tuesday: “I opposed the referendum because at the root it increases the government’s power. I believe in small government, and this was a step in the other direction. We can’t trust that every county board in the future will wield these additional powers wisely. If the referendum had passed, the people would never be able to vote to end it. Only the governor has that authority.”

The Catoosa GOP voted to publicly oppose the Redevelopment Powers—in opposition to their state legislator and fellow Republicans State Rep. Dewayne Hill (R-Ringgold) [who has an “F” on his GRA Voting Scorecard, by the way] and Rep. Steve Tarvin (R-Chickamauga) who together co-authored HB 778, HB 764, and HB 766, the legislation that put the Redevelopment Powers question on the ballots in the first place. “The GOP precinct chairs were instrumental in calling voters, door-knocking, and sign-waving,” Hildreth explained. “Mitchell Horner, Ringgold precinct chairman of the Catoosa GOP and chair of our policy committee, started the Committee on Catoosa Taxation to raise money and purchase signs.”

The Catoosa GOP partnered with other groups like the Northwest GA Republican Assembly and also utilized social media, radio and television interviews.

Liberty activist Nick Ware attended the October 4th Town Hall meeting about Redevelopment Powers that was held at the Colonnade. “After I heard that presentation I knew I had to push forward,” he said. “I wan’t going to let the ‘powers that be’ have power forever and not stand up!” With that inspiration, Nick decided to put his liberty convictions in action and prepared a presentation about the potential danger of this measure and began spreading the word in the County. Ware and many Catoosa voters believed this measure was problematic for various reasons: it’s interference with the free market, the indebtedness it would create, the lack of accountability, and the special favors and deals it would allow to be given to the political elite and their friends.

“I utilized as many tools as I could to educate the voters,” said Ware.

Threat of Eminent Domain Prompts Emotional Response

Catoosa homeowners were also concerned about the threat of property seizure through eminent domain under this proposal.

“Supporters say if you keep your property looking tidy, you have nothing to worry about. But what about the elderly and disabled who can’t keep their house tidy?” said Nick Ware.

Nick expressed concern for people like the elderly couple who live and operate a small fruit stand on Boynton Road against whom a complaint had recently been filed or the woman overcome with worry and brought nigh to tears because her property borders an area intended to be developed. “I advised her to just hold out and see how the vote goes”, he said, “and she was very happy to hear about the outcome.”

Originally, eminent domain required proof that a property was being taken for “public use” such as the widening of a road, but in 2017 Georgia law was amended to allow local governments to use eminent domain to condemn blighted property and transfer it to a private developer for purposes of economic development. Of course, the original property owner is still entitled to receive what the civil government officials deem “just compensation,” but what is that to the owner of his childhood home or the property that has been passed down through family generations?

Not all Catoosa citizens share these concerns, however. John Pless, the Public Information Officer for Catoosa County told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “What this would have done is essentially leverage the power of government to redevelop blighted areas. This was not a tax increase, and it was absolutely not a land grab.”

The referendum question was only narrowly defeated in the City of Fort Oglethorpe with only 51.05% voting “No” to Redevelopment Powers, and in the City of Ringgold 60.29% voted “No.” However, in Catoosa County voters rejected it by a staggering 82.55 percent! The fact that the measure failed in all three districts, to the local GRA and liberty activists, is a triumph worth celebrating. Voter turnout was remarkably low with only 4,927 ballots cast for the entire County, a mere fraction of the 32,099 votes cast in Catoosa in the 2020 Presidential election. Some voters have suspicions that controversial measures like these are intentionally put forward in election years where voter participation is expected to be low in order to increase their chances. But the vigilance and community organization of grass roots activists were able to win the day in spite of the low turnout.

George Bettersby protested the TAD in the public comments portion of the October 21 Catoosa Board of Commissioners Meeting. He said, “The county has a horrible reputation for conflicts of interest… The County has had so much problems trying to explain the TAD to taxpayers, they even brought in an expert from Atlanta to try and explain it to us old rednecks. Certainly the devil is in the details. However, one thing you can bank on: the local builders, developers will get richer on the aching backs of our taxpayers young and old.”

While some voters may not fully understand Redevelopment Powers, Tuesdays polling showed they were nonetheless skeptical and may have reasoned intuitively that, if government officials were not asking for more money and more power, they wouldn’t have to get voters permission with a new ballot referendum.

An Ideological Ballot Question

The proposal was very broad and generic in nature and did not specify a certain area or a private developer that would benefit from it. This means the underlying question put to the voters was ideological:

Should local government have the power to artificially stimulate or develop an area that the free market has rejected and is therefore not developing organically?

Should the government provide enhancements that were not merited in the free market?

Should local government have the power to seize private property, against the will of the property owners in order to accomplish the community enhancements that elected officials deem beneficial?

The triple rejection of this proposal by the Cities of Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe and Catoosa County is likely an indication of voters core worldview and fundamental beliefs about the role of government in the lives of the citizenry. A belief that would appear to differ from their elected representatives Dewayne Hill (R-Ringgold) and Steve Tarvin (R-Chickamauga) who sponsored the legislation.

GRA President Alex Johnson Elected President of the NFRA

GRA President Alex Johnson Elected President of the NFRA

Scottsdale, Arizona—Over the weekend, Republican Assembly leaders and delegates from all over the country met for the National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA) Convention. Attendees heard from elected officials such as House Freedom Caucus Chairman Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), candidates such as Mark Finchem for Arizona Secretary of State, and spokesmen and educators such as Charlie Kirk with Turning Point USA.

A portion of the GRA delegation attending the 2021 NFRA Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona

On the final day of the convention, participating members of the NFRA Board voted to elect a new President for the national organization. Mr. Willes Lee (originally from Hawaii, but more recently moved to Virgina) has served as the NFRA President for the last four years, and has been a noted board member as well of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

When the tally of the ballots was reported, the Georgia Republican Assembly’s President Alex Johnson was announced to have won the election. GRA NFRA Directors Debra Williams and Nathaniel Darnell were both present to vote for Alex, who won by three votes. In addition to working as an attorney from DeKalb, Alex has helped to revitalize and rebuild the GRA over the last six years.

Watch Alex Johnson’s speech for his candidacy at the 2021 NFRA Convention.

In addition, GRA member James Jordan, CPA was elected as the NFRA Treasurer when his opponent decided to drop out of the race at the last moment.

“The NFRA will now become the organization it is meant to be,” said GRA NFRA Director Debra Williams. “Look forward to see great things happen!”

“Alex has built a great team, set a fine example, and spear-headed relentlessly over the last several years to build the GRA,” said GRA NFRA Director Nathaniel Darnell. “We know he’ll do a great job taking that same success to the national Republican Assembly organization.”

The NFRA announces Alex Johnson as the winner of the election.
GRA endorsees Brant Frost & David Shafer Win Re-Election to GA GOP Leadership

GRA endorsees Brant Frost & David Shafer Win Re-Election to GA GOP Leadership

Jekyll Island, GA—Congratulations to all of the GRA members participating in the GAGOP elections today, as candidates and delegates! We are excited to report that two of our leading endorsed candidates for state-wide party office have once again won election: David Shafer and Brant Frost V were both overwhelmingly re-elected for GA GOP Chairman and 2nd Vice Chairman, respectively. Each of them received a more than super-majority of the standing vote at the state convention in Jekyll Island.

GRA Table at the Vending Hall

Last Monday, the GRA membership met online via Zoom for an live electronic endorsement convention with members from across the state. Participants were able to pose questions to each of the candidates online. Using the online system Runkeeper, GRA members were able to cast ballots in favor of endorsing each of the contested GA GOP officer candidates, the Over 80,000 Chair candidates, and the Under 80,000 Chair candidates. The system enables users to pre-cast their initial ballot as well as any secondary or tertiary ballots in the case of a runoff between multiple candidates. As usual under the rules of the GRA, a candidate can only be endorsed if he or she receives at least a two-thirds majority vote of the participating GRA membership.

Brant Frost V cheering his victory

Brant Frost V (who also serves as the 1st Vice President of the GRA) was the only candidate endorsed on the first ballot. Pamela Rearden earned the endorsement for 1st Vice Chair of the GA GOP in her race on the third ballot; Shafer received the endorsement for GA GOP Chairman on the third ballot as well.

In a three-way contest this Saturday, endorsee Pamela Reardon ran a strong campaign for 1st Vice Chair and received the second-highest number of votes, but ultimately lost to Establishment-candidate B.J. Van Gundy. GRA member Surrea Ivy received a standing ovation at the state convention during her exceptional speech in the GA GOP Chairman’s race, ultimately coming in second. Jason Shepherd was another GRA member who has in many ways made some strides for improvement in Cobb County as the former county Chairman, but he came in third place in the race for GA GOP Chairman.

David Shafer and Brant Frost V were also endorsed by the GRA two years ago when they each first won election for state party office. Over the last two years Brant Frost’s hard work substantially increased his margin of victory from his more narrow win in 2019.

Brant Frost V’s campaign speech at the 2021 GA GOP State Convention

David Shafer ran in 2019 under a pledge to raise funds and cut spending to get the GA GOP out of debt—something GRA leaders on the state committee had been pushing for over six years! Shafer made good on his promise, having the debt paid off by March of 2020. Shafer also promised to do something else the GRA has been pushing for years: allow the GA GOP to establish its first ever state party platform. Not only did Shafer accomplish that, but he appointed prominent GRA members such as former State Senator Mike Crane, Kay Godwin, and GRA 3rd Vice President Nathaniel Darnell to the committee to draft the platform, and he appointed Brant Frost V to Chair that Resolutions Committee. He also appointed GRA President Alex Johnson to the GA GOP’s standing Rules Committee. In addition to this, Shafer helped to setup party organizations in all of Georgia’s 159 counties for the first time ever. This track record of working with the GRA to promote its objectives, rather than against the GRA as the two previous GA GOP Chairs have done, had a lot to do with why he earned their endorsement once again.

GRA Members Alex Johnson & Salleigh Grubbs were among those appointed to the Nominating Committee

We appreciate all the GRA members who offered themselves as candidates at the state convention and were willing to serve. We look forward to continuing to elect the best candidates to positions of influence in the GA GOP who will prove themselves eager to work to help us promote Republican principles in Georgia.

GA GOP State Committee Fails to Resolve Fulton County GOP Election Dispute

GA GOP State Committee Fails to Resolve Fulton County GOP Election Dispute

Jekyll Island, GA — The newly elected body of GA GOP State Committee members from each of the 14 Georgia Congressional Districts met this afternoon, the day before the State Convention, for the first time. The highly anticipated item on their agenda was the appeal to resolve the dispute of the Fulton County GOP on their election of their county chair at their county convention. Both Susan Opraseuth and the incumbent Trey Kelly had representatives on the State Committee arguing on their behalf.

Susan Opraseuth (left), Trey Kelly (center), and Zach Hines (right)

The State Committee took up the question of whether to affirm the Fulton County GOP’s election of Susan Opraseuth as the new county chair. That vote by the State Committee was very close, and GRA members were very active in the discussion. As GA GOP Chairman David Shafer stated at the meeting, how each State Committee member voted should not have been based on a preference for one candidate over the other, but rather on the merits of whether one was procedurally elected properly under the rules.

Alex Johnson arguing before the State Committee

GRA President & attorney Alex Johnson from DeKalb was among the State Committee members who presented arguments on behalf of Susan Opraseuth’s rightful election, along with GRA Treasurer Nate Porter from Fulton (recently elected as the 6th District GOP Chair), and Caroline Jeffords from Fulton.

Lobbyist attorney Brad Carver (the 11th District GOP Chair) from Fulton was predictably one of the leading advocates on behalf of Trey Kelly.

The advocates against the affirmation of Susan claimed that such an affirmation would mean the State Committee would be “picking the Fulton Chairman” when in fact what it really would have done was affirm the choice that the Fulton GOP County delegation already made. (See more details below.)

Lisa Adkins from Cobb County made a motion to vote on the question by secret ballot. The body of the State Committee rejected her motion. Had it not been for the meeting going so long that it began to run into the beginning of the GA GOP’s hors d’oeuvres reception hosted for the State Committee, a roll-call vote on the controversy might have had support. Instead, GA GOP Chairman David Shafer called for the body of the State Committee to vote by standing.

On the question of whether to affirm the Fulton County GOP’s election of Susan Opraseuth as Chair, the final vote was 72 in favor to 76 against.

Virtually all GRA members on the State Committee voted in favor of affirming Susan Opraseuth’s election. Among those who voted in favor of her affirmation were:

• GRA President Alex Johnson of DeKalb County
• GRA NFRA Director Nathaniel Darnell of Cobb County
• GRA 1st Vice President Brant Frost V of Coweta County
• GRA Treasurer Nate Porter from Fulton County
• GRA Secretary Joanna Hildreth (newly elected Catoosa County Chair)
Denise Burns (recently elected 14th District GOP Chair)
Katie Frost, West GA GRA Chair from Coweta County
Salleigh Grubbs (recently elected Cobb GOP Chair)
Banks Wise from Cherokee County
Pamela Rearden from Cobb County
Jason Shepherd (former Cobb GOP Chair)
Kathleen Thorman (Gordon County GOP Chair)
Caroline Jeffords from Fulton County

Former GRA NFRA Director Ron Hooper (recently elected Banks County Chair) abstained from voting on this issue.

The State Committee meeting in Jekyll Island

Photos, videos, and notes were taken by eye-witnesses at the State Committee meeting who recorded those who stood up to vote against affirming Susan Opraseuth’s election. Among those who voted against her affirmation were:

Brad Carver (11th District GOP Chair) from Fulton County
Michael Williams from Cobb County
John Longshore from Cherokee County
Louis DeBroux (Bartow County Chair)
Brian Laurens from Cherokee County
Andrew Abbott from Henry County
Joseph Brannan (GA GOP Treasurer) from Muscogee County

State Committee members who deviate from the wishes of the delegates who elected them should be identified so that they can be held accountable (although some in the meeting protested having a photo of their vote being taken). In the 11th District GOP Convention, for example, had the delegates elected Boyd Parks rather than Michael Williams to the State Committee from Cobb, and elected Ellen Diehl rather than John Longshore from Cherokee, the outcome of Susan’s election affirmation would likely have been different.

It is worth mentioning that Michael Williams, John Longshore, Louis DeBroux, and Brian Laurens from the 11th District GOP are all people who are on record voting against holding Brad Carver accountable for giving public financial support to Democrats while he served as a Republican officer, and they have never expressed regret about that decision. Trey Kelly did the same thing. They have voted contrary to the GRA in virtually every issue of controversy at various levels over the last ten years in GA GOP committees. Their vote on this occasion is not a surprise. Past behavior is predictive of future conduct. This is why the GRA and its affiliated chapters often recommend certain activists who have a reputation for election to certain positions of influence within the GA GOP and does not recommend others.

As a result of this first vote by the State Committee regarding Fulton, the State Committee then voted to require the Fulton County GOP to hold a third election for the position of Chair next Saturday. This one would not be done using poker chips. That vote passed 74 in favor to 72 against.

While most State Committee members voted along the same lines as in the first vote, a few members did vote differently. Joseph Brannan and Brian Laurens, for example, voted with the GRA on this second proposal, while Jason Shepherd voted against it. Ron Hooper did not abstain on this vote but voted in favor of it with most of the rest of the GRA membership. However, Brad Carver, Michael Williams, John Longshore, Louis DeBroux, and Andrew Abbott were among those who again voted against this second proposal.

What Is the Controversy All About?

GRA President Alex Johnson has emailed several reports about this controversy previously and its ensuing appeals.

According to multiple witnesses to the Fulton County GOP Convention on both sides of the dispute, the controversy arose when the convention attempted to hold a vote with colored poker chips to represent each candidate. Votes for Trey Kelly were supposed to be submitted with a blue poker chip, and votes for Susan Opraseuth with a yellow chip. Incumbent Fulton Chair Trey Kelly was declared the winner of the first ballot by a three-vote margin, but a number of discrepancies with the vote were quickly pointed out, which led to a second ballot.

Among the discrepancies: Two of the poker chips counted for Trey were identified as actually being green chips rather than blue chips. In addition, the report said that one more person had voted than the number of eligible delegates who qualified.

The body voted to override the determination of the Convention Chair and voted to hold a second vote. Under Roberts Rules of Order, the body of delegates at the convention have the authority to make such an authoritative decision and for it to be binding.

On the second ballot, which took place about 45 minutes after the first vote, Susan Opraseuth won by more than a ten vote margin. The Fulton County GOP Convention concluded with the body holding to that result.

Trey Kelly appealed that decision. Because Fulton County resides in multiple congressional districts, he could chose to have the controversy brought up on appeal to the district most likely to be friendly and agreeable with his position. He chose the 5th Congressional District GOP, which did reverse the decision of the Fulton County GOP Convention and declared Trey the winner on the first ballot. Susan Opraseuth appealed that decision to the State Committee.

Fulton County has fallen under increased scrutiny over election fraud allegations from the general election last November, and how that potential fraud impacted the entire state of Georgia and nation. It is no wonder, then, that Republicans across the state would find an interest in Fulton getting itself properly in order.