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Oglesby: The history of building a local Republican Party

POSTED: August 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Questions from several friends relatively new to Hall County about my dual role as journalist and political activist prompted the first part of this column. I seldom respond in this space to letters to the editor. But in keeping with my philosophy of full disclosure so readers will know where I’m coming from, I felt this was necessary.

My friend Sam Dayton put me undeservedly in some exclusive company when he wrote about the building of the present day Hall County Republican Party in properly rebuking its leadership as I did in this space. He mentioned me along with the likes of Gordon Sawyer and Martin Ellard in building the Hall County party. I never served as a Hall County chairman. They and effective county chairmen like Sawyer, Ellard, Jack Prince, C.V. Smith, Stacey Reece, Joe Cwik, Sandy Nix and others did the building of the local party. I never served as a county chairman.

They may have used the groundwork I spaded during my tenure during the 1970s as district chairman and longtime state committee member, but it was their work that built the local party. Georgia was a one-party (Democratic) state. Republican leaders as a whole were more interested in dispensing the patronage their positions allowed during GOP administrations than in developing effective local parties and preparing lines of succession. The rules ensured their monopoly on power.

I was the maverick who sponsored and succeeded in winning passage of state rule changes designed to build an effective party. Gwinnett County was the largest that opposed my election, so I asked that chairwoman to nominate someone to chair a committee to rewrite the district rules. I appointed her and the committee, which I gave a suggested rough draft, and they had the change ready for adoption at the next district convention. In 1980, Dick Mecum broke Hall County’s political barrier when he was elected sheriff. I later officially resigned from the party, though I still vote mostly for Republicans with party switching in some general elections.

Nonetheless, I appreciate Sam’s perhaps misplaced accolade. As for his suggestion that current Chairman Paul Stanley ought to resign, I’m not so sure. From what I’ve seen, Paul had been for the most part an effective chairman. As I’ve already written, I think he left his thinking cap home when he let the executive committee take punitive action against Bob Vass, an action proposed by a paid consultant for an opponent. I have, and most of you have, left our thinking caps home at times. I think he had another mental lapse when he announced on the Web site that he was the campaign manager for a candidate opposing state court Judge Charlie Wynn. Though the race is nonpartisan, Republicans openly supported Wynn when he was a candidate against an incumbent appointed by a Democrat governor. Wynn was, and as far as I know still is, a Republican. The candidate Stanley announced may be a Republican, as far as I know. It’s fine for Stanley to support or manage the campaign of a candidate, but announcing it on the party Web site was certain to invite questions.

Members of the executive committee as individuals are free to support whomever they want. The committee remains neutral until a nominee is selected.

In my view, an admission and apologies for the mental lapses from him should suffice.

Preparations already are under way for what Gainesville Kiwanians expect to be the largest pancake breakfast in its long history. A Hall County tradition, it attracts more than 2,000 people for a Saturday morning breakfast of pancakes, sausage and all the trimmings, entertainment, door prizes, etc. While political candidates can’t campaign inside, they can eat and socialize inside and are busy outside campaigning. It’s a great chance to meet them.

Breakfast is prepared, served and tables cleaned by club members and members of the sponsored high school Key Clubs. You can find your doctor, lawyer, insurance agent, banker, dentist, real estate agent, merchant, plumber, etc., cooking, serving or cleaning for you. Put Sept. 20 on your calendars now. All Kiwanis members will have tickets available in about a week. All proceeds go to fund the wide array of Kiwanis youth service projects.

A true community golfing institution left us last week when Don Williams died after a long illness. A quiet, deeply religious man who became a golf pro after a seven-year baseball career as a highly regarded catcher in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ chain, Williams also loved hunting and was a fellow Kiwanian.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com



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