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Club at Deaton Creek provides receptive audience for candidates
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This is a political conservative’s gold mine.

On Thursday, as a meeting begins in the Club at Deaton Creek, the community center for the massive South Hall development, Village at Deaton Creek, the speaker is often asked to speak louder or use the microphone.

The crowd gathered here is a group of some 150 mostly silver-haired adults, all crammed into a room for a meeting of their “active adult” community’s Republican Club.

The group is merely 6 months old, but candidates — especially conservative ones — are paying attention to its growing membership.

On Thursday alone, more than 10 political candidates, or at least their representatives, were present as the group gathered for its July meeting.

Some, like gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal, were there to give a stump speech. Others, just to shake hands and schmooze.

Republican candidates for political office — be it statewide, local or congressional — are situated on all sides, doing what they could to woo the voters.

Recently elected state Sen. Butch Miller greeted the crowd as his sister stood outside offering baseball caps and coupons for free oil changes at Milton Martin Honda, the Gainesville dealership where Miller is the general manager.

State Rep. Bobby Reese, a Republican in the race for Georgia’s 9th District seat in the U.S. House, presented the group with a Georgia flag. His opponent in the primary, former state Sen. Lee Hawkins, shook hands with residents until the meeting started promptly at 7:30 p.m.

Sam Olens was there to speak. He and Deal, along with Republican Secretary of State candidate Doug MacGinnitie and Ralph Hudgens, a candidate for insurance commissioner, were the only candidates present at the beginning of the meeting who had been invited to speak.

And as more than 100 people filed into the meeting room, Olens, the Republican candidate for attorney general said the meeting at Deaton Creek offered a concentrated number of potential supporters.

Normally, Olens said, he’s invited to events with maybe 25 attendees.

“This seems to be a much better use of time where you really have a greater turnout and folks that vote,” said Olens, 52.

What started as a small group gathered in a home on a rainy January night today is a club with 64 paid members.

Club president Cindy Scott says the group has “just taken off” as the retired residents it targets grow more concerned about the economy and how they will survive on Social Security payments.

“People are very worried, especially those on a fixed income,” Scott said. “We’ve lost an awful lot of money in the stock market. Older people vote and care... We are seeing our money go down the tubes very quickly.”

When Scott’s husband started paying attention to the couple’s stocks, they were losing $3,000 a day, Scott said.

“We’re scared about what’s going on and want to see if we can do something,” Scott said. “It starts with us here and we have friends in other states. We’ve got to take over Congress in November. That’s one thing we said on that rainy day in January. It’s not funny anymore.”

Candidates, likewise, are seeking to take advantage of the group’s voting potential.

Richard Higgins, the chairman of the Hall County Board of Education, attended the Deaton Creek meeting for the first time Thursday. Higgins is opposed in his bid for re-election.

“They vote for what they believe in, and they’re active,” said Higgins. “They realize the importance of being an informed voter.”

Each of the three times Hall County Commissioner Bobby Banks spoke at the club, he said he addressed a packed house. Banks, a Republican, is seeking re-election this year. His two opponents in the primary, Craig Lutz and Kimbo Senter, were also present at the Republican Club meeting Thursday.

“The residents here... take their politics seriously,” Banks said. “...They vote, and let me tell you, they vote. If they like you, they like you, and if they don’t, you can hit the door.”

Staff writer Carolyn Crist contributed to this report.