MDJ: AROUND TOWN: Notes from the Cobb GOP breakfast

Republican Party Chairman Jason Shepherd recognized elected officials in the audience during Saturday’s Cobb GOP breakfast, as is the custom, referring to Commissioner JoAnn Birrell as one of two dissenting votes on the commission’s tax hike, which prompted applause from the crowd.

“I tried,” responded Birrell, to which Shepherd said, “Thank you for the effort. Maybe there will be a little help in a couple months,” a reference to Keli Gambrill ousting Commissioner Bob Weatherford in the July 24 runoff.

“Right now it looks like starting next year we’ll have a majority female county commission. What we need to do is work on possibly getting a majority conservative female commission,” Shepherd said.

Birrell congratulated Gambrill on her win.

“Welcome aboard,” Birrell said, adding that if Birrell lost in November to Democratic challenger Caroline Holko, “We’ll have a female majority, but not conservative.”

In his remarks to the audience, Republican Travis Klavohn, who is challenging state Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, this fall, said his district, which includes South Cobb and Fulton County, doesn’t get the kind of economic development that it should.

“And the scary thing is that economic development is now happening in our part of the state, and it’s not good economic development,” he said. “If you live in a neighborhood, you do not want to live next to a 24-hour truck depot, let me tell you. That wrecks your quality of life.”

Klavohn also decried what he believes is a lack of interaction between the different ethnicities living in the district.

“We have a 1,000 homes in our neighborhood. We have black families, Hispanic families, Asian families, white families that all live next to each other, but we don’t necessarily have friendships. We don’t have trust. And let me tell you folks, we are one nation under God. And if we don’t fix that problem, we are not going to have a successful nation for very long,” Klavohn said.

It was from Democrats that Klavohn said he first heard of his opponent’s nickname “Horacena Haven’t Seen Ya,” a nickname he’s borrowed.

“In reality, every person in this world has two names, one they’re given at birth and that is always a good name. Every child is born a good soul, I believe that. But a second name is earned through deeds and through the choices you make in life, and she has earned her name ‘Horacena Haven’t Seen Ya.’”

Yet while Tate is his opponent in the race, she is not his enemy, Klavohn said.

“My enemy in this race is a different ideology, and we’re seeing it in the Democrat Party. Intersectionalism is what it’s called. They are subdividing the human race into different categories that petition the government for rights and benefits really, special privileges that are paid for by other people and this can only end badly. The successful outcome of my campaign must be to reinforce the values that have always made our nation very strong, that individual rights come from God, and we must be able to see each other as children of God.”

Also speaking was Republican attorney Matt Bentley, who is running against Democrat Erick Allen to fill retiring state Rep. Rich Golick’s seat.

“This seat has been Republican for 20 years, and over the course of that 20 years it’s gotten more and more difficult to keep it Republican,” Bentley said. “With that being said, with your help, we have a legitimate chance to make sure we keep this in Republican hands for a long time.”

One of the reasons it’s crucial to win is that redistricting comes up in 2020, he said.

Bentley said he thought about how he could prove to the audience how he was in fact a conservative Republican. Examples he used were campaign t-shirts and signs he had recycled from his failed bid in the 2017 special election to fill the seat vacated by former state Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna.

Another example was his first day at Emory Law School where his constitutional law professor gave a talk about how more gun restrictions would help reduce gun violence, inquiring if anyone disagreed. Bentley rose to the challenge, mentioning that when Kennesaw’s gun law went into effect, requiring the head of every household to own a gun, gun violence in that city plummeted.

“Of course she disagreed and told me whoever wrote that law was a crazy redneck,” Bentley said. “To make sure that I didn’t fail the class on Day 1, I decided to sit down and not tell her that my grandfather wrote that law and my dad over here made sure that it stayed constitutional,” Bentley said.

Cobb school board member Scott Sweeney warned of his Democratic opposition, Charisse Davis. Neither were challenged in the primary, where Sweeney received 4,844 votes and Davis received 4,562.

“Most people consider Cobb County, east Cobb County particularly as a very, very conservative area, probably about a 60-40 split on the conservative side,” Sweeney said. “Would it surprise you to know that my Democrat opponent and I were separated by a mere 300 votes in the primary? The importance of getting out the vote as Jason so clearly articulated … cannot be underestimated.”

Sweeney said he would endorse any Republican on the ballot and asked them to return the favor.

Republican Leah Aldridge, who is challenging state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Buckhead, this November, was another breakfast speaker, pointing out her endorsement by Commissioner Bob Ott, who joined Birrell in voting against the county tax hike. Aldridge launched into criticism of Jordan, saying, “She thinks that it takes government to achieve dreams, to educate our children, take a loan, to start a business. She voted to make it easier for teens to achieve abortions in Georgia. She voted against free speech on college campuses. She voted to raise your taxes last session. She has spent her position of power ridiculing our Republican leaders.”

Republican DeAnna Harris, who is challenging state Rep. Michael Smith, D-Marietta, was another speaker, telling the crowd, “We cannot let these Democrats and Stacey Abrams win with their liberal views. My family has instilled in me the values that we all share, which is God, faith, hard work, honesty and leadership. …

Harris said her district will have about 15,000 voters in the general election.

“And contrary to the belief there are not as many Democrats as expected. I have a large population of swing voters. And really it’s about getting out our message, showing what we really stand for.”

In June, the Cobb GOP held a special committee meeting where it officially passed a resolution in honor of Barbara Hickey. Part of that resolution says it will be permanently displayed in the front of the GOP headquarters, which will henceforth be known as the Barbara Hickey Hospitality Area, Shepherd said, presenting Mrs. Hickey with the resolution as the crowd rose to give her a standing ovation.

Speaking of former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s September 18 visit to Cobb County, a man Shepherd described as “an old friend of mine from my days when I was a Young Republican,” Shepherd observed that President Donald Trump had tweeted out his endorsement of Spicer’s new book, entitled, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President.”

“We all know how powerful an endorsement from Donald Trump is,” Shepherd said.

“Casey knows,” quipped state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, referring to Trump’s endorsement of Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the runoff election for the GOP nomination for governor against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, which Kemp won.

The Spicer event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Cobb Galleria Center. For information, call 770-265-5268.

AROUND TOWN: Cobb GOP to County Government: keep taxes low

THE COBB GOP on Tuesday passed a resolution prompted by Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce’s plan to increase the county’s tax rate that not only encourages the commission to keep taxes low, but to lower them further.

The resolution points out that the majority of commissioners identify as Republican, “a party whose platform endorses fiscal restraint and free market competition in the marketplace, and discourages increasing taxes.”

It also notes “there have been several examples identified of waste in Cobb County Government spending, and no operational audit of the county government has been performed, nor have any reductions in spending been proposed at the town hall meetings hosted by the Chairman, but many increases in spending have been proposed, including new spending on a ‘tent city’ concept, and a tax increase would be an undue burden on the community.”


AROUND TOWN: Cobb Sheriff to Congress: stand up to ICE criticism; GOP float flap

FLOAT FLAP: A few years ago, Cobb GOP Chair Jason Shepherd came across the Liberty Square area at Disney World, sporting an attractive red brick wall with tea chests. He thought it would make a good design for this year’s Fourth of July float, and the Cobb GOP modeled their float in the Marietta Fourth of July parade after it.

To prevent children from falling off, he grabbed a couple of black iron sectional fences from his garage that he uses during his Halloween yard display and attached them to the float. The float was topped off with patriotic bunting and a liberty bell for the 1776 theme.

Left wingers are less than pleased. For instance, the anti-Trump activist group Indivisible GA-11, posting a cropped picture of the float on its Facebook page, wrote: “Truly deplorable! The Cobb County Republican Party put their own children in cages on their float on July 4th to try to rationalize their so-called President.”

Shepherd said the border wall or immigration debate never occurred to him while designing the float.

“I don’t think a reasonable person would think of it like that,” he said. “It was a decorative fence not some kind of cage. They intentionally went up to the float and zoomed in so you couldn’t see the whole float.”

If you want to find double meanings in things, the same can be said of the Cobb Democratic Party’s blizzard-themed float, he said.

“What does a blizzard do to the city of Atlanta? It shuts it down completely. Is that the Democrat policy that we’re going to shut Atlanta and Georgia to a grinding halt? Elect us and the city will never move again. Come on. If you want to start finding offense and second meanings in everything, two can play at that game. Blizzards in Georgia are deadly. People die. Why do the Democrats want to kill people in a blizzard? No, that’s silly,” Shepherd said.

Certainly the parade judges didn’t have a problem with the GOP float, awarding it first prize in the parade.

“Cropping a picture of my son and saying he is in a cage is beyond even normal Democrat lows. I guess they would rather he fall off the float,” Shepherd said.

Chairman’s Corner – Code Red (Hen)

  • This week, according to the owner of the Red Hen Restaurant, in Lexington, VA, she refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and her family on “moral grounds.” Co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson cited the fact a number of her employees were gay and did not approve of Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military. To her, that was morally repugnant. Former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer opined as to whether we are moving toward Democrats and Republicans only restaurants.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was forced to apologize just for eating at Chick-fil-a as June is “Pride Month.” One Tweet back to the Twitter head admonished him stating, “You must love the taste of bigotry!”
  • Speaking of Twitter, actor Peter Fonda, brother of “Hanoi” Jane Fonda, Tweeted, “WE SHOULD RIP BARRON TRUMP FROM HIS MOTHER’S ARMS AND PUT HIM IN A CAGE WITH PEDOPHILES…” To his credit, after a couple of days of backlash and the Secret Service launching an investigation, Fonda apologized.
  • The Republican Attorney General of Florida, Pam Bondi, was heckled and yelled at while leaving a documentary about the late Fred Rogers. That seems especially ironic as Fred Rogers’s whole work was about teaching respect and kindness. To him, we were all neighbors. Not to the progressive left though. Bondi said three men stood an inch from her screaming in her face…one even spit on her head.
  • The Secretary of  Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, was also heckled and shouted down as she tried to enjoy a meal at a DC restaurant and now protesters are showing up outside their home. The group proudly claiming responsibility is the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America.
  • It’s been barely a year since a gunman, a 66 year old left-winged activist and Bernie Sanders supporter, who posted on his Facebook page in the weeks before the attack, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”, fired more than 70 rounds at the GOP practice for the annual Congressional baseball game. Majority Whip Steve Scalise was hit in the hip and underwent months in the hospital and numerous surgeries. Our own Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk was also on the field, but escaped injury.
  • This past March, the Cobb GOP received numerous threats, including a Facebook message and voicemail I received suggesting someone should shoot up our HQ.
  • Rather than trying to calm the rhetoric, Democratic leaders are fanning the flames. In a speech to supporters, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) poured more fuel on the fire when she told the crowd, “They’re not going to be able to go to a restaurant, they’re not going to be able to stop at a gas station, they’re not going to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them, they’re going to protest, they’re going to absolutely harass them.”
It seems like the nation has gone crazy. The left and their accomplices in the media find a new outrage daily for the progressive mobs to use to justify to block streets, harass people at their homes, confront and intimidate anyone they decide to target.
It’s probably to keep the damning IG Report, detailing corruption and political bias in the FBI, off the the front pages.
Yesterday, it was announced that a division of the American Library Association was dropping Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from an award. The award was first presented to the “Little House on the Prairie” author in 1954, but now, according to the America Library Association, as  her works “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values” and  her “legacy is complex” and “not universally embraced,” her accomplishments must be erased from history. Maybe so people will be less inclined to read her books and the honest, self-reliant, American values they promote.
As we prepare to celebrate the 242nd year of our republic’s independence, the cause of freedom is under threat from within, not from without, more than any time in the past century.
At the turn of the 20th Century, our nation was filled with civil unrest and violence from the same left-winged socialist/Marxist groups like the one which confronted Secretary Nielsen.
History seems to forget the left-winged socialists who blew up the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times in 1910. 21 were killed and 100 others were injured. Following WWI, in 1919, left-winged anarchists mailed 36 dynamite bombs to politicians and other leaders. Luckily, no one was killed, but the maid of Georgia U.S. Senator Thomas Hardwick had her hand blown off and Hardwick’s wife was seriously injured. They also detonated bombs in eight cities which did kill.
While we are thankfully not yet at that point, with political leaders like Waters and celebrities like Robert DeNiro and Peter Fonda (among others) fanning the flames, there is cause for concern.
For those of us who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” we must be on guard against those who will actively work to deny conservatives and anyone who challenges their progressive dogma, not only their rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but, like the gunman in D.C., deprive them of their very lives.
We have gone from a nation where people would say, “I respectfully disagree,” to the progressives using words like “evil” to describe those who refuse to think like they do.
Google the phrase “Trump is evil” and you get 205,000 hits. “Trump is Hitler” gets fewer results, but still nearly 69,000 hits, almost 9,000 more hits than the entire population of Marietta.
When I was a kid, my parents told me to never start a fight, but to always stand up to bullies. We are a nation that stands up to bullies, and we need to stand up to the ones who would intimidate and use fear to silence their opponents.
Trump is not a bully. He is the one finally standing up to those who have bullied the majority of Americans for far too long…the deplorables who don’t think like or agree with the media and intelligentsia in New York, Washington, or Los Angeles .
So the question you may ask is what can you do?
First, renew your commitment to the Cobb County Republican Party (or your local Republican organization). We have to work together to elect candidates who will also stand-up to those who would use fear and intimidation to silence conservatives. You can do that by:
This is a CODE RED situation, but like with most bullies, if we stand up to the progressives and win in November, then we will see how chicken they really are. We just can’t be afraid to stand up for what we believe. The men who started this nation certainly were not.
They will call us “evil,” and “racist” and “Nazis” and all manner of tired words that they have rendered meaningless because it is all they can say in the face of any opposition as their arguments are based on nothing else but hot air and failed dogma. Conservative policies work nearly every time. Socialism and left-winged ideas fail every time they are tried.
Why should we have any fear of that?
They may choose fear and intimidation.
As for us, we CHOOSE FREEDOM.
Rather than saying there is a CODE RED situation in America, maybe in honor of the  Red Hen Restaurant where the cowardly act of kicking out Sarah Sanders occurred(note how they seem to target women), maybe we should call it “CODE RED HEN.”

Left-winged Conspiracies and Skulduggery Targets Cobb GOP

Kevin Foley in his March 16 op-ed is correct when he says, “Conspiracy theorists see skulduggery under every bed and black government helicopters overhead.”  

 Given the conspiracy theory he pushed in that op-ed, “Cobb GOP official pushes ‘fake shooting’ conspiracy”, he’s probably searching under beds and looking up in the sky a lot more than anyone at the Cobb County Republican Party.

 Anyone peddling the idea that the leadership of the Cobb GOP thinks Parkland (or any other school shooting for that matter) is fake, deserves an award as the conspiracy “Kook of the Year.” If you don’t believe that, you have to look no further than the pages of the Marietta Daily Journal.

Multiple times I have talked to this paper about ways our Cobb students can honor the victims of Parkland without disrupting class, just like the students at Walton High School did. The Cobb GOP has also honored the Parkland victims with memorials to the victims in moments of silence and in prayer at Party functions.

Sure, Mr. Foley may get his news from left-winged blogs like DailyKos which push insane theories suggesting 9-11 was an “inside job,” the Russians actually stole the 2016 election (not just meddled), and the Cobb GOP doesn’t believe school shootings happen, but one would think he wouldn’t actually repeat such rubbish. Would he? Sadly, the same person who wrote in the MDJ that the GOP tax cuts, which have provided much needed tax relief to millions of Americans, are “the biggest tax scam in history” (Nov. 30, 2017) has chosen to do just that and, in the process, defame an officer of the Cobb GOP by falsely stating he was pushing a vile and repugnant conspiracy theory. The only thing more unbelievable was that it was actually printed.

Republicans believe America needs sensible solutions, actions, and reforms that will actually keep our children safe, not knee-jerked, emotional overreactions like Mr. Foley and his ilk push which will not work and will only further endanger our children. The Columbine massacre happened when federal law prohibited the sale of so-called “assault weapons.” And if bans do not work to keep illegal drugs out of our schools, what makes them think that a ban will somehow keep illegal guns out of our schools?

 As said in the MDJ on March 12 (“Student walkouts planned Wednesday”), we should see HIPAA laws reformed so would-be gun owners with mental health issues are flagged, and also doing away with sealing juveniles’ criminal records when it comes to the FBI background checks so teens with histories of violence as juveniles aren’t able to purchase weapons as soon as they turn 18. Rather than debating these and other sensible solutions, leftists like Mr. Foley weave fantastic tales of conspiracy theories then launch them against anyone who can speak common sense to their nonsense in order to achieve their true goal; repealing the 2nd Amendment and de-arming law-abiding Americans.

 They say you only get flak when you’re over the target. Apparently, the Cobb GOP and the voice we are giving to tens of thousands of Cobb voters who cherish their Constitutional rights hits a little too close to home for leftists like Mr. Foley. Otherwise, why else would he shoot flak while raising a “false flag” against his political opponents? Must just be his brand of skulduggery. 

 Jason Shepherd

Chairman, Cobb County Republican Party

Student walkouts planned Wednesday

Marietta Daily Journal

by Shaddi Abusaid, Mar 12, 2018

Thousands of students from across the county are planning to walk out of class Wednesday on the one month anniversary of the mass shooting that left 17 people dead at a Parkland, Florida high school.

While Marietta City Schools will permit its students to leave class, the Cobb County School District says anyone who walks out will be subject to disciplinary repercussions laid out in the student code of conduct.

But 17-year-old Hannah Andress, who is organizing the walkout at Lassiter High to commemorate those killed and call for stricter gun laws, said her class will be on the right side of history. She said her classmates believe the planned protest is far too important to let a few hours of detention silence their voices.

Andress, who will study Arabic and international affairs at Washington, D.C.’s American University in the fall, said when first period ends at 9:56 a.m., students participating in the walkouts will head down to Lassiter’s football field.

“As far as punishment goes, the most our principal said he’ll give us is four hours of time — whether that be Saturday school or community service,” Andress said, adding Lassiter students who participate will not be suspended.


Natalie Carlomagno, a 15-year-old sophomore at Walton High, said Cobb’s stance has actually inspired more students to sign up.

“When the county posted its statement, we were just under 1,000 signatures,” she said. As of Friday, the number of participants had grown to 2,400.

“We’re doing this because we need stronger gun legislation in this country,” she said. “We’re not saying ban all guns, but there needs to be a point where people stop calling this a mental health issue because it’s not. This is a gun issue.”

But some say Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera’s decision to allow students to leave class opens a can of worms for any future group who wishes to protest.

Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd said the decision could pose an Equal Protection issue for other students who want to follow suit.

“If the school system allows a protest on one issue, it now has no ability to deny that right to others,” he said. “It could really become a disruption.”

Shepherd said conservative Marietta students looking to host pro-life rallies at school or march in support of the Second Amendment, now have solid ground to stand on.

Rivera said he will cross that bridge when he gets there.

“Every situation is different. I’m certainly willing to work with the student body, as the principal will be, and as situations come up in the future we will handle them on a case-by-case basis,” Rivera said. “This is the first time in my experience that we have a national school walkout.”


Marietta students organized quickly after last month’s shooting, reaching classmates via texting apps and creating posters to encourage other students to join in.

The superintendent said the district wanted to “honor and respect” the voice of its student body.

For them, Rivera said, this is about school safety.

Mary Eldridge, an 18-year-old Marietta senior, said students will tie balloons to 17 empty seats set up at the school’s practice fields, one for each of the Parkland shooting victims.

On each chair will be written the name of one person killed in last month’s attack. Each minute, Eldridge said, students will say the name and age of a victim before cutting the balloon loose.

“I think this really hit home for Marietta students because one of the alumna’s daughters was injured in the shooting,” said Eldridge, the student body’s co-president. “We’re not walking out for political reasons, we’re doing it to honor the victims and to support school safety … I would like to see schools become safer so people don’t have to be afraid when they walk into their buildings.”

But Shepherd said whether or not students will walk out of class has already become a divisive political issue among Cobb’s students, referencing a friend who said her daughter has been bullied because she will not participate Wednesday morning.

He suggested that school districts across the country look at other ways to honor the victims of the Florida school shooting, such as moments of silence or after school vigils. Such events have been planned, and a group of Walton students will meet up before school Wednesday morning to pay tribute to those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Across the nation, however, students are planning to simultaneously leave class when the clock strikes 10.

Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb and Fulton’s school districts will allow the walkouts, while Cobb, Gwinnett, and Decatur’s districts have said students who leave class could be disciplined.

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said while students have First Amendment rights, schools need to abide by their attendance and disciplinary policies.

“The way I see it if you waive those policies for one issue, any time a student group wants to have a walkout about anything you have set a precedent,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone who isn’t upset about the incident that happened in Florida, but I think the precedent this sets is a bad (one).”

Tippins, a self-described gun rights advocate, said he believes if someone is “mentally unbalanced and bent on mayhem,” they could find other means of harming people.

Shepherd said he believes if 18-year-olds can sign up for the military and die for their country, they should be able to purchase weapons.

In the case of last month’s shooting, he said safeguards in place aimed at keeping people with ill-intent from purchasing firearms failed.

One possible solution, Shepherd said, is to reform laws aimed at safeguarding medical information so would-be gun owners with mental health issues are flagged. Shepherd also suggested doing away with sealing juveniles’ criminal records so teens with histories of violence aren’t able to purchase weapons as soon as they turn 18.

But Andress said students should never have to worry about getting shot on campus.

“We need sensible gun laws,” she said. “In six months, when I turn 18, I should not be able to go out and buy a military-grade weapon.”

The walkouts will begin at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes, one minute for each person killed in the Florida shooting.

District officials say no visitors will be allowed on Cobb’s campuses Wednesday with the exception of those who are picking up or dropping off students.

AJC: With qualifying set to begin, Georgia can expect more contested races

By Greg Bluestein – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The room of chattering Democrats quieted when Valerie Habif strode to the podium with an announcement. After ticking off the names of politicians and political contenders in the room, she had an admonition for the crowd.

“Let me tell you who’s not here tonight: a Democratic candidate for this House seat,” said Habif, a psychologist deeply involved in Democratic causes. “This is keeping me up at night. Those days need to end.”

The hunt for a Democratic candidate for Habif’s Sandy Springs-based district was something of an anomaly. While Democrats won’t recruit challengers for every legislative seat during this week’s qualifying period, they are poised to contest a slew of now competitive seats that went ignored in the past.

That’s an improvement from 2016, when many Republicans in the Legislature faced little – or no – opposition. That meant potentially vulnerable incumbents, including a Dunwoody Republican who pleaded guilty to charges of drunken driving in the middle of the day, easily coasted to another term.

Now, a wave of retirements — particularly in the suburbs — is set to reshape the Legislature. About a dozen Republicans are leaving the Legislature, some who would have faced potentially tight races, others seeking higher office. More seats could become vacant as politicians have until noon Friday to decide whether to run for office.

At the top of the ticket, changes to state government are already assured. Crowded fields of candidates have already formed to run in open races for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner.

Democrats are hoping to capitalize on outrage over President Donald Trump and upset victories in last year’s special elections to chip away at GOP control of the state Legislature and every statewide office.

The GOP is fast trying to fortify vulnerable seats — Vice President Mike Pence is raising cash for the state party this month in Atlanta — though even party stalwarts concede that won’t come easy.

“When you win a race like you did in Alabama, it makes candidate recruitment really easy for Democrats,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist, referring to Doug Jones’ U.S. Senate victory last year. “When you have momentum and you feel like you can benefit from a wave, a lot more people are going to run.”

He added: “They’re going to make us earn everything we get this election.”

Suburban battlegrounds

Democrats don’t have to look far for signs of encouragement. The party put up candidates in all nine legislative districts up for grabs during special elections in November — including several that had rarely drawn Democratic challengers — and flipped three of them.

Republicans have their own reason to be confident. Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff last year in the most expensive U.S. House contest ever, and the GOP held a competitive Stockbridge-based state House seat in a special election in January.

Still, the map is daunting for Republicans — particularly in suburban areas where conservatives have long thrived.

In Cobb County, which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, Democrats are targeting diverse districts around Smyrna and Marietta. One of the highest-profile contests pits Democrat Lucy McBath, a gun control activist whose son was shot to death in 2012, against state Rep. Sam Teasley, a Republican with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.

Across town in Gwinnett County, which like Cobb also flipped blue in the presidential race for the first time in decades, at least five Republican-held legislative seats will be open this year.

Retiring incumbents include state Rep. Joyce Chandler of Grayson, who narrowly kept her seat in 2016, and state Rep. David Casas of Lilburn, the state’s first Republican Hispanic legislator. State Sen. David Shafer’s bid for lieutenant governor leaves Democrats another pickup opportunity for a Duluth-based seat.

“Gwinnett may be a battleground,” said Gabe Okoye, the county’s Democratic chairman, “and we are ready for it.”

Republicans plan to go on the offensive, too, starting with the three legislative seats they lost last year.

Houston Gaines, a few months removed from his stint as the University of Georgia’s student body president, was defeated by Democrat Deborah Gonzalez in a conservative-leaning Athens-based House district in 2017. He’s making another bid this year, hoping that heavier turnout will help.

“Special elections are — as evidenced by their name — unique,” Gaines said. “The dynamics in 2018 will be inherently different, as will our campaign.”

And Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, who won a 2017 race to represent an Atlanta-based swing district, will have to fend off a challenge by Republican Leah Aldridge, who was the top GOP vote-getter in that special election.

“The more I hear the Democrats who are challenging our Republican incumbents talk and spout rhetoric that is extremely far to the left of most Cobb County voters,” said Jason Shepherd, the county’s GOP chairman, “the more confident I am that we will easily be able to defend those seats.”

A rush to qualify

The parade of candidates qualifying for office this week at the Georgia Capitol will be headlined by the seven leading candidates for governor.

The Republican race was jolted last week by the state GOP’s feud with Delta Air Lines after the air carrier ended its marketing ties with the National Rifle Association. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the GOP front-runner, catapulted into the national spotlight after he maneuvered to strip a lucrative exemption on sales taxes for jet fuel from a measure to cut the state’s top income tax rate.

Each of his GOP opponents — former state Sen. Hunter Hill, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, businessman Clay Tippins and state Sen. Michael Williams — has a seven-figure war chest and is racing for what could be a second spot in a potential July runoff.

A pair of Democrats — former state legislators Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans — aim to retake party control of the governor’s office for the first time since 2002, and the Democrats are also fielding viable contenders for every statewide post down the rest of the ballot.

There are already crowded competitions from both sides of the aisle for many of those posts. At least six candidates are in the race for lieutenant governor, seven are running for insurance commissioner and nine have filed paperwork to run for secretary of state. Some could drop out, and more could rush in: The week of qualifying always holds potential for surprises.

As for the Sandy Springs district without a Democratic candidate, it appears Habif got her wish.

A few days after she pleaded for a contender to stand up, attorney Shea Roberts filed paperwork to challenge the incumbent Republican.

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Chairman Shepherd’s Letter to the Editor Regarding March 24 School Walk-outs

[LETTERS] Chairman Jason Shepherd has submitted the following Letter to the Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal:

Dear Editor:

Regarding your Feb 28 article, “Cobb schools to curb student protests”, I was surprised to see the Superintendent of Marietta City Schools, Dr. Grant Rivera, give a hall pass to the students who plan a walk-out and protest against the 2nd Amendment on March 14. As he has set a precedent, I assume that he also plans to give the same right to students who want to stage a walk-out in support of the 2nd Amendment. Or next month, maybe a walk-out in remembrance of the millions of unborn children who have died in our nation’s abortion facilities. I suppose then the pro-abortion students will get their chance. As enterprising as high school students are, I’m sure they can find a way to have a walk-out nearly daily. After all, now that Dr. Rivera has set the precedent and opened the door to school-system sanctioned protest on controversial issues, how can he deny any group the same right without running the risk of Marietta City Schools ending up in court on Section 1983 violations of the Civil Rights Act for denying Equal Protection and the students’ right to freedom of speech?

Jason Shepherd
Chairman, Cobb County Republican Party
Licensed attorney

Protecting the Four Freedoms with the Fifth

75 years ago last Tuesday, on February 20, 1943, during the height of World War II, Norman Rockwell’s first of his four painting representing the Four Freedoms debuted on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. That first painting, “Freedom of Speech” is one of the most iconic images of the first of our First Amendment rights. It, along with the freedoms of religion, press, assembly, and petitioning of the government make up the cornerstone of the rights on which America is built. And to protect those freedoms, which are not given by man, but by the Creator, James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, pinned the the fifth freedom, the 2nd Amendment:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Since the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the left has relentlessly attacked the National Rifle Association and its members. Never mind the NRA nor its members, of which I am one, had anything to do with the attack. But rather than attack the incompetence of the Democratic Sheriff and his deputies who waited patiently outside while kids were being shot, or local and federal law enforcement which received, by some counts, nearly two dozen credible warnings about the shooter that were simply ignored, or their backers in Hollywood that put on regular television violence so graphic that a generation ago would require an “R” rating in theaters, the left has focused the blame squarely on the NRA. 
The NRA doesn’t control the Republican Party. The reason it has so much influence is based on the fact that so many of its members tend to also vote Republican. As any large membership organization (more than 100,000 in Georgia alone) Republican leaders listen to the NRA because, not only do many of them align with the freedoms championed by the NRA, but many of their voters are members as well. While to some the NRA’s opposition to any weapons ban might seem unreasonable, the leadership knows whenever a little freedom is surrendered, those to whom it is surrendered to are rarely satisfied, and most of the left won’t be satisfied until law-abiding Americans are left with little more than spit balls and water pistols to defend themselves. 
On Thursday, Delta Airlines joined the fray by sending out a press release severing ties with the NRA (really, severing ties with its individual members who would have taken advantage of the NRA group discount). Delta’s stated reason was “to remain neutral.”
Delta’s decision reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings. Out of respect for our customers and employees on both sides, Delta has taken this action to refrain from entering this debate and focus on its business.
Despite Delta’s statement that this was a move towards neutrality, given the timing and the overtly public way it chose to make its announcement, it seems to be anything but neutral, especially when Delta still freely associates with a number of left-winged organizations actively engaged in controversial national debates. In fact, Delta goes on to justify its action by giving another example of where it ended support for an organization:
Last year, Delta withdrew its sponsorship of a theater that staged a graphic interpretation of “Julius Caesar” depicting the assassination of President Trump. 
Did Delta Airlines actually compare the NRA and its 5 million patriotic and law-abiding members to a theater that depicted the assassination of the President? How many Delta pilots, many of whom are former military, are members of the NRA? How many Delta employees? How many of them will feel comfortable with senior management finding out they are NRA members now that their employer has compared their membership with a theater troupe that advocates for political assassination?
What’s more, Delta decided to make this announcement while, at the same time, asking for a special tax break from the Georgia General Assembly. I joined the media discussion after what I thought was quiet comment in a Facebook discussion where I simply asked, “If Delta can’t respect the right of the people to keep and bear arms, then why in the heck are the people of this state subsidizing their jet fuel?” landed in Greg Bluestein’s article in the AJC. That was followed by a request to come down to the studios of WXIA and speak on air with a reporter covering the story. And since then, the hate emails have been coming in. 
Still, I firmly believe blaming the NRA, the 2nd Amendment, Republican Party, or anyone else who wasn’t in Parkland and couldn’t have stopped the shooting misses the target (pun intended) on why we are having so many mass shootings. Rifles like the AR-15 were banned in 1999 when 13 students were killed and 24 injured at Columbine High School. Other mass killings would occur before the ban ended in 2004. If weapons bans stopped violence, then Chicago and Washington, D.C. would be two of America’s safest cities. 
But it’s only left-winged logic that says we need to decriminalize drugs because bans don’t work while advocating for the criminalization of weapons because bans do work. 

View Chairman Shepherd’s Interview on WXIA Regarding Delta and the NRA

No discount, no tax break: Former Ga. senator upset over Delta’s NRA decision

A decision by Delta to end discounted rates for the National Rifle Association comes at a critical time when the airline giant is up for a big jet fuel tax break in Georgia. Could it change the minds of legislators?

GRIFFIN, Ga. — Since Thursday, more than a dozen brands have severed ties with the National Rifle Association.

Much of this is in response to the most recent high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Delta Air Lines is one of those companies.

Saturday, the company tweeted they would be “ending their contract for discounted rates” with the NRA. Now some local politicians are pushing to hit the airline back in their pocket.

It’s turned into a battle and the timing could not be worse for Delta when they are close to getting what would be a huge tax break that could save the company millions of dollars.

Within about two hours of Delta reaching out to the NRA, former Georgia Senator Rick Jeffares tweeted “if Delta is so flush that they don’t need NRA members’ hard-earned dollars, they can certainly do without the $40 million tax break they are asking Georgia taxpayers for.”

He’s talking about the proposed jet fuel tax break that would save Delta $40 million if it passes. 11Alive spoke to a representative for Jeffares who sent us a statement on his behalf.

“I have supported this tax break for Delta in the past but not this time,” it read. “If Delta can afford to write off the travel business of all those folks, they clearly don’t need a special tax break from Georgians.”

In Delta’s full statement, the company said they are trying to stay neutral during the national debate over gun control. They want to focus on business, but the company continues to support the second amendment.

Cobb County Republican Party Chairman Jason Shepherd isn’t buying it.

“By making the statement at the time that they did, when there is a controversy, it sends the message that they are taking sides in this debate,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd said he’s not interested in helping Delta as a company anymore. He’s even thinking twice about booking his next flight with the carrier.

“It’s giving a subsidy to a company at the same time that they’re basically saying to the people in the state of Georgia, all those who believe in the second amendment, we really don’t respect that right,” he said.

Shepherd said that if Delta would have privately told the NRA rather than releasing information publicly, the response could have been different.

The proposed tax exemption could be introduced on the Georgia Senate floor in the coming week. It remains to be seen if this push by Republicans to get it thrown out will make an impact.

Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle tweeted Monday morning saying he would kill legislation that benefits Delta unless they change their position on the NRA.