Programming Note: Over this weekend and next, I plan on presenting a series of questionnaires I sent to each of the candidates for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. Today’s response is from Alex Johnson with tomorrow’s from Michael McNeely. These posts are for the benefit of informing delegates to the Georgia Republican Party state convention in June and do not represent an endorsement by GeorgiaPol.com.
Nathan Smith (GeorgiaPol.com): Tell me a little about yourself. (e.g., where you live, what you do outside of politics (professionally and hobbies, if you will), etc.)
Alex Johnson: My wife and I live in Dunwoody, GA. Most of my time outside of work and politics is spent with her. Both of us regularly attend All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody together. Otherwise, I run my own legal practice handling Civil Rights and Personal Injury cases, and I represent small businesses with formation, contract drafting, or litigation. I’m a member of the North Atlanta Rotary Club, and people joke that wearing a suit and tie has become my hobby, and I suppose I can’t argue with that.
NS: When did you get involved in politics and Republican Party?
AJ: My first political memory was happily watching Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying. Years later in 2003-2004, I helped re-found the Oglethorpe University College Republicans. In 2009, dismayed with the fact that Washington failed to serve the people, and watching Republicans vote for larger, more expansive government, I decided to make a difference and directly fight for Republican principles. I became involved in the DeKalb County GOP, followed by the DeKalb County Young Republicans(YRs). Since then I’ve served in numerous roles in the DeKalb GOP and YRs, as well as running for State Senate in 2010.
NS: What have you recently done for your local (either county or district) Republican Party? I’ll explain why I’m asking this question. Auxiliary Republican organizations are important conduits for people to get involved with their local party, but you are running for a position to serve at the top of the Georgia Republican Party. I believe it’s important to understand how involved you are with either your county and/or district Republican Party if you intend to lead the organization at the top.
AJ: While I’ve served as legal counsel, Senate District Chairman, Precinct Chairman, and Rules Committee Chairman for the DeKalb County GOP over past years, and while I have been to all County and District conventions since 2009, titles alone don’t mean a person has “done” any work to help the party. By becoming President of the Georgia Republican Assembly in late 2015 and leading its growth from about 6 paid members to over 170 with 4 local chapters (including DeKalb), I’m the only candidate that’s tangibly helped get new people involved in the GOP by showing them how they can make a difference in the party and in politics. It is through this and my years of newsletters that I have brought new faces into both the DeKalb and other county GOP parties all around Georgia. Not only have I encouraged growth in local GOP parties, but I’ve educated on grassroots Republican events all around the state, keeping us informed and active. Few have brought in as many people to the GOP, and few have helped retain as many people, as I have in the Republican party at the local level.
NS: Why are you running?
AJ: I’m running for Chairman because we need a strong statewide party to ensure Republicans get elected. We need a strong leader who isn’t afraid to stand up for both our principles and for the improvements needed to make this happen. I wouldn’t be running if the current GAGOP board members had simply kept people informed and publicly stood up for the changes that were necessary. That is why I filled in for them via the GRA (www.GeorgiaRA.com) and through sending 4 years of newsletters (www.AdvanceTheGOP.com).
For years, our party’s state organization has been going in the wrong direction. We have ignored the local activists. We are broke. We have lost ground to the Democrats. Since warnings on these things continue to go unheeded, it’s time to step in and turn things around for our party. I can’t be silent when my opponents have donated to Democrats or have sat by in a position of power and have done nothing. I’m running to put Republicans First, something our state-level party seems to have forgotten.
NS: What do you consider the role of the office in which you seek?
AJ: The Chairman sets the vision and internal culture of the party. The Chairman should focus on assisting county and district GOP parties using the resources and talent of the State Party. The Chairman must raise funds, manage staff, organize and inspire both volunteers and the public, and serve as a conduit between elected officials and voters. The Chairman is the face of the party, and as thus has a grave responsibility to protect the Republican brand in Georgia.
NS: What is your vision for the Georgia Republican Party?
AJ: To remain relevant, the Georgia Republican Party must become a one-stop shop for Republican political involvement. We should educate, inform, and inspire citizens to join the Republican party. We should again stand on principle to again have our party thrive. Most importantly, we should win more elections. The State GOP should serve all county and district parties through education, training, and providing technological and material resources. Finally, we must protect the Republican brand in Georgia so that we retain the moral ground to keep Georgia RED for decades to come.
NS: Tell me three things you hope to accomplish in the next two years.
AJ: To keep Georgia RED, we must:
- Increase GOP Party participation by over 100% statewide and use this engaged membership to help rebuild our financial war chest.
- Create and distribute technology, education, recruitment, and internal party leadership packages and begin in-person training for county and district parties.
- Establish a sustainable state party system that relies on merit based hiring, empowering party members to have their voice heard, advertising Republican successes, and educating how our principles help citizen’s lives.
NS: Throughout my tenure in Republican leadership, I’ve seen social media posts and heard discussions that seemingly advocate that the Georgia Republican Party shouldn’t allow “some candidates” to qualify as Republican candidates. Currently, state law doesn’t allow for political parties to prevent candidates from qualifying if they attest that they are legally qualified and pay their fee. Should the Georgia Republican Party advocate for a change to allow a litmus test by the GAGOP, or should we let our primary process be the litmus test?
AJ: Neither. The Georgia Republican Party shouldn’t have a litmus test, but also shouldn’t be complacent by not thinking about ways to improve our Republican brand. The GAGOP should listen to its members/delegates to help determine the best system to ensure that the Republican brand stands proud and those who are elected under our Republican brand proudly and competently stand behind it. It is the only way our party will continue to win elections.
NS: There are a lot of individual county Republican Parties. County chairmen can vary from being self-sufficient to needing a lot of help. What will you do to help ensure that counties are supported with resources and training to help grow party membership as well as to conduct functional aspects of local parties (like candidate qualifying, precinct mass meeting and convention procedures, etc.)?
AJ: This question fails to mention that some counties do not even have a county party, which must be addressed. For such counties and for our existing county parties, we shall provide information packets, staff support, training, and promote cross-pollination events throughout the state. GA GOP volunteers and staff will be directed to prioritize the county parties most in need of help. We will also assist with advertising events and involvement, and provide a functional useful website and newsletter to keep people involved. We will also encourage and support activities for county chairmen to share best practices and stay involved with each other. There is no reason we should have 159 islands in a single state – we should be sharing best practices and supporting each other as if we are 159 people in the same Republican boat.
NS: Organizations aren’t perfect because they’re run by imperfect people. If you had a magic wand to fix one issue that bugs you with the Georgia Republican Party, what would it be? I know that the top answer for most candidates will most likely be either “fundraising” or “money in the bank”, so give me an issue of something other than fundraising/money/etc.
AJ: The majority of the public has no idea that the state-level GOP even exists. State GOP leadership has failed to provide a vision to reach them. State GOP leadership has failed to provide a plan to increase public involvement with the GA GOP or a plan to reach out to convince new voters to vote Republican. Our state party must stop riding on the coattails of elected officials and the national party. Instead, we should start appreciating and supporting the very hard working local grassroots activists that help us reach new members. Therefore, we must transition from being a passive state party to an active state party if we expect Georgia to stay red.
NS: This is your opportunity to sell yourself. In 50 words or less, why should a delegate vote for you?
AJ: My past actions prove my qualifications. I’m not part of the current GOP Executive Committee that silently allowed us to go broke and lose market share, and I’m not a paid lobbyist. Instead, I’ve already done what the other candidates merely promise by having already raised funds and increased membership.