Georgia GOP Convention advance

Paula Baroff

3/26/2015

Though he may be young, Brennan Mancil has no short list of responsibilities. A delegate to the Georgia GOP Convention, an active member of Athens GOP, and the Vice President of the University of Georgia College Republicans, Mancil is working hard to prepare for the next election cycle.

Eager to speak about Republican politics, Mancil talked openly about the upcoming Georgia GOP Convention. “Everyone already has their delegates in,” he said, “and the Convention is in May.”

The Georgia Republican Convention is looking to be star-studded this year, with the list of invited speakers including several potential presidential candidates. Secretary of State Brian Kemp reportedly has invited a growing list of speakers, which include presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz as well Gov. Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and John Kasich; Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham; and former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush.

The focus so far has been on Cruz, with Kemp saying that he “will personally help coordinate all the details to ensure a smooth and successful visit,” if Sen. Cruz is able to attend.

With Ted Cruz’s announcement Monday that he was throwing in his name as a presidential candidate, pressure on local Republican activists to begin preparing for the elections has been progressively intensifying.

Mancil, as a local GOP delegate, said that there has been a scramble, especially for candidates, to begin campaigning earlier.

“I would say that organizations that support candidates are getting out earlier,” Mancil said, “And the local GOP—we’re always trying to fund raise. But if you start really campaigning now, people will forget about your candidate quicker.”

With 2016 fast approaching, Athens GOP members like Mancil are already feeling the campaign buzz. For the Athens branch of the GOP, state nominations are a direct reflection of future political circumstances, and the beginning of a two-year race towards a Republican presidency.

Georgia, Mancil says, is a fairly good indicator of the Republican Party’s atmosphere leading up to the presidential primaries next year. “I think that Georgia accurately represents the more conservative side of the Republican Party,” Mancil said. “We have the second most number of delegates. Nationally Georgia is to the right, but Georgia regionally, certainly, we meet it perfectly.”

Georgia’s large number of delegates is drawing both candidates and divisiveness, according to Mancil. The invitations to the Georgia State Convention from Secretary Kemp were extended to a wide range of ideological leanings, from right-of-center Ted Cruz to perceived establishment moderate Jeb Bush.

“There’s a lot of disagreement on who to back.” Mancil said of this, “In Athens, and out of state.”

According to Mancil, there are already people leaving Athens and Georgia to help with super PACs and work on Ted Cruz’s campaign. The Tea Party, Mancil said, is “strong in Georgia,” but he expressed some skepticism that Cruz would win in the primaries.

“In is announcement speech, Ted really tried to appeal to religious conservatives,” Mancil said, “because it’s the second biggest demographic in Georgia.”

The State Convention will include much divisive language, according to Mancil. “There’s a lot of internal party drama,” he said. Besides the disagreements regarding presidential candidates, this internal disunity can be seen on a more local scale, he said, in state politics, especially the Georgia Republican Convention.

The Georgia delegates will be voting for the next chairman; the incumbent chairman is John Padgett, with Alex Johnson running as a challenger. Mancil said he is looking forward to an intense convention, but doesn’t anticipate an intense election.

“It’ll be heated in the rhetoric, but not in the actual results, he said. “It won’t be a very close election.”

When pressed on this, Mancil smiled, shook his head, and said, “It’ll be an easy win for John because Alex really represents the libertarian wing. He won’t win.”

The Convention itself, a weekend-long event, will be held in Athens on May 15 and 16. Most of the big name Republican speakers, according to Mancil, will be speaking on May 15, while May 16 is mainly the actual voting.

While the Republican speakers will be of most interest to average voters, he said, the really heated rhetoric will take place the next day, when the Georgia representatives and senators speak, moving up to the chairman: “It gets more heated the higher the level.”

The Georgia GOP convention cycle is an important aspect of pre-election political groundwork. While there may be off-years for the average citizen, party members, Mancil says, are involved in a never-ending cycle of intense politicking. When not aggressively working towards elections, they are constantly preparing to do so.

While they are not yet actively campaigning, Mancil said, “everyone is talking about 2016.”

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