It’s Almost Time For the 2019 #GAGOP Convention Cycle

It’s almost that time once again when the Georgia Republican Party enters into a convention cycle to elect officers, adopt rules for the current term, and “for other purposes”. We’ve been through a few long (sometimes very long) state conventions where quorum was lost and remaining business had to be carried on by the state committee. Giving up Saturdays isn’t for everyone, but for those of us weirdos who enjoy seeing friends and taking part of the process, I created a little summary and list about things to expect. It would be good for folks who have never experienced a convention to take a look, and it’s always good for those of us who have been through it a few times to take a refreshing look.

The structure of the Georgia Republican Party (GAGOP) is organized from the precinct level to the county, congressional district, and the state party.  Folks tend to focus on counties and the state party, but there’s really more to the party than that.  The GAGOP has worked to focus on growing grassroots support versus having a top-down organizational structure.  We reorganize every two years—in the years that end with an odd number.

You may be saying: “well, so what?”  Here’s what’s important to remember–every two years, we elect new leadership from the precinct level all the way up to the state GOP chairman.  That means, we have an opportunity to affect the direction of the GAGOP in the next two years.  Rather than wax rhapsodic about the virtues of being involved, I’ll just say this: if you think to yourself “how can I get involved” or want to help contribute to making a difference in advancing the Republican Party and not quite sure how to go about it, then you should take part in the process. 

Like any other organization, this will require a time commitment from you.  I don’t want to discourage passion or desire to be involved, but I have seen way too many people who gripe and complain about processes taking too long and then leaving early before the convention has completed its business or failing to show up to business meetings during the two-year term.

This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it’s hits a number of points that I observed during my time as a county chairman (Walker County GOP from 2009 until 2013) and a district chairman (14th Congressional District GAGOP from 2015 until 2017).

So, without further ado, here are a few highlights:

1.) Be on-time.  In fact, do everything you can to be there early and pre-register if your county has pre-registration.  It makes registration and credentialing go a lot smoother.  Most metro-area counties will have their precinct mass meetings in February and their county conventions in March.  These meetings will come to order promptly at 10a.  That means you MUST BE IN LINE to register prior to 10a.  Usually, one of the sergeants-at-arms will stand behind the last person in line at 10a.  If you arrive at 10:00:01a and aren’t registered, then you will not be allowed to participate.  Don’t cut it close.  “To be early is to be on-time; to be on-time is to be late.”

2.) Be patient.  There are processes and procedures surrounding what occurs with the convention process.  At the precinct mass meetings, Republican voters will be electing delegates, alternates, and officers to the county convention.  There is paperwork involved to be used as a part of the credentialing process.  If you are elected as a precinct officer (especially precinct chairman or secretary), please make sure that all paperwork is filled out, dated, and signed.  Also, don’t leave until the chairman (or a designated person by the chairman) tells you that it’s okay to leave.  At the county/district/state convention, no business can be transacted until the final credentials report has been presented and adopted by the convention.  The credentials committee works hard to ensure that all delegates present are validated and determine the number of alternates (if any) should be moved up to determine the final voting strength of the committee.

3.) Be committed.  As I said earlier, these conventions will take time.  Plan on these conventions taking all day.  If you have outside commitments that may conflict, then think about your participation.  You control your own schedule—not the chairman, the executive committee, or other delegates.  You cannot expect the convention to speed up the transaction of business to accommodate your schedule.  If you know you’ll be planning a family vacation during the same time as the state convention, then you shouldn’t sign up to be a delegate.  Further, don’t have false illusions that the state convention will adjourn before dinner time.  It’s a large convention, so expect that the process will be slow and plan accordingly.

4.) Be respectful.  When the convention is called to order by the convention chairman, please cease conversations, take your seat, and pay attention.  Keep debates focused on the topic at hand rather than about the person (or group) making the motion or amendment.  If you wish to speak on a motion being considered, keep your comments concise and based on the subject being discussed at hand.  Expressing your thoughts in a timely manner respects the time of everyone in the convention hall.

5.) Learn and understand Robert’s Rules, but understand that the county/district/state rules, convention rules (if applicable), and the state call for conventions supersede Robert’s Rules.  Any convention goer should have a basic understanding of parliamentary process.  If you don’t, that’s okay.  This is your opportunity to learn!  Most county and district parties and the state party use the most recent edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.  You can pick up your own copy at your local bookstore, on Amazon, or even your local library.

6.) If you want to run for a position on the executive committee of the county/district/state, then you will need to submit your name to the nominations committee.  Some conventions, by standing or convention rules, prevent a person to be nominated from the floor without going before the nominations committee first.  The nominations committee at each level should have a schedule on when they will do interviews of candidates.  Don’t pester the nominations committee on whether or not your name will come out of nominations and on their report.  The nominations report is usually confidential until it’s presented to the convention.

7.) Resolutions give a snapshot of what is on the mind of the convention at that point-in-time, but it’s not the gospel.  Resolutions are important to inform our elected representatives and the public at-large, but they are just an opinion on what’s in the current news cycle.  Debates can be passionate, but we shouldn’t try to get too hung-up on resolutions.  If you want to submit a resolution to your county/district/state convention, then ask your county chairman about dates for submission.  Keep them short and to the point.

8.) Use “down time” to get to know people—especially those who have been active in the GOP for a long time.  The best thing about conventions is that you’ll see old friends and make new ones.  There will be times when the convention stands at-ease or goes into recess, so you’ll have time to chat with people.

9.) Terms like “The Establishment” and “Party Insiders” are labels that are thrown around to sow discontent and disunity, but most folks probably couldn’t identify a particular person or group of people that would be classified as such.  Politics is one of the few areas where industry knowledge is a liability more than an asset.  There is something to be said about the old adage “with age comes wisdom”.  That can be said within the GOP as well.  In spite of the calls for fresh blood and fresh ideas in our Party, that doesn’t mean members with numerous years of experience should be shown the door.  County committees should work to make new ideas welcome but temper them with wisdom from those who have been there for a while.  We once prided ourselves in being the “Party of a Big Tent”.  That label was eschewed in the late 2000s until now.  We should work towards

10.) Work doesn’t stop at adjournment.  The convention may end when the convention chairman bangs his (or her) gavel upon adjournment, but there’s still a lot of work to do…even if you’re not an officer.  Local parties participate in local events, so be willing to volunteer.  Leadership isn’t limited to chairing a county party—it can be something as simple as showing up early to put out chairs for a county meeting.

11.) Show gratitude towards the organizers.  Conventions are stressful affairs.  Officers aren’t usually going to be able to chat and will be pulled in 10,000 different directions during the course of the convention.  It took weeks (if not months) for a number of people to organize a successful convention.  Even after the convention and clean-up, there’s still the matter of filing paperwork with the appropriate committees.  Be polite and thank the folks who make the convention possible.

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