AJC: Ga. Republicans see Kavanaugh’s confirmation as rallying force

What took you so long?

That was the sentiment broadcast by many metro Atlanta Republicans on Saturday as the Senate prepared to cast a final vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

At a pair of county GOP meetings in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, the party faithful cheered the news that the D.C. circuit court judge appeared on the cusp of confirmation, and they vowed to use that hard-fought win to galvanize Republican voters ahead of a midterm election that’s viewed as favorable to Democrats.

Democrats have “lost another battle, but that is not getting them down and out,” said Jason Shepherd, chairman of the Cobb County GOP. “Which means we have to fight double hard in order to get out the vote in 31 days.”

Shepherd was urging the more than 120 people assembled for a party breakfast in Marietta to get involved on behalf of a slate of Republican candidates assembled that morning, which included U.S. Rep. Karen Handel to lieutenant gov. nominee Geoff Duncan.

Roughly 30 miles to the Northeast, at a canvass launch for U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in Cumming, Paul Stykitus didn’t need any help getting motivated.

“I think the Kavanaugh nonsense has just turned any fair-minded individual to say, ‘enough’s enough,’” said the 69-year-old sales director. “I think he should have been confirmed earlier.”

As dozens of protesters assembled in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park to voice their opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, many local Republicans blamed Democrats for smearing the judge’s reputation even before California professor Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault.

“It’s just a witch hunt,” said Paul Frank, a Cumming retiree, adopting the refrain President Trump has used to describe the ongoing Russia investigation. “It’s another Democratic ploy to try and get their people in.”

Kelli Warren, president of the Republican Women of Forsyth County, said she was pleased about Kavanaugh’s nomination advancing.

“To me, the most important thing is the presumption of innocence,” she said. “With Dr. Ford, where were her witnesses? … And I say that being the mother of a daughter who recently, I found out, is a victim of domestic violence. I’m totally empathetic to that situation, but we can’t persecute or blame someone if we don’t have proof behind it.”

Local GOP officials expressed confidence that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would drive GOP voters to the polls in November.

Patrick Bell, chairman of the Forsyth County GOP, said many voters have come up to him upset with the “lack of decorum” surrounding the confirmation process, and especially the way anti-Kavanaugh protesters have swarmed Republican senators on Capitol Hill, at the airport and at a D.C. restaurant in the case of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. He predicted the tactics will “backfire” on Democrats in November.

Many GOP voters who had not been paying much attention to politics until recently, he said, “are fed up with everything, and I think that the mob rule is bringing them out,” Bell said. “They’re tired of it.”

Georgia’s U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who had a contentious run-in with protesters in a northern Virginia airport on Monday, similarly criticized such protesters in a fiery Senate floor speech on Wednesday in which he accused his Democratic colleagues of inciting overzealous activism.

“When the paid activists who support you attack my wife, you have gone too far,” the first-term Republican said. “You are inciting this disrespect of our law.”

Perdue and his Georgia GOP colleague Johnny Isakson both recently announced their intent to support Kavanaugh.

Democrats similarly vowed to use Kavanaugh’s promotion to drive their voters to the polls next month.

“We are going to get so damn engaged in the political process in this country they’re not going to know what hit them,” state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said at the Woodruff Park rally. “We will win.”

Staff writer Meris Lutz contributed to this article.