On April 17th Georgia Republicans held their county conventions required by the state party. The results yielded massive victories for pro-Trump grassroots conservatives and a statewide upheaval of the Republican establishment. These newly energized groups captured key positions at mass precinct caucus meetings just a few weeks earlier. Two of their key concerns are election integrity and medical freedom, topics that the Republican establishment has disregarded and even “Pooh Poohed”.
In metro Atlanta, Republican establishment leaders survived only in Gwinnett County. In Cobb County, Salleigh Grubs won the Chair position in a landslide and received a congratulatory call from former President Donald Trump. In DeKalb County, Marci McCarthy was elected as Chair. She served as an adjudicator during recent elections and has pointed out deficiencies in the Georgia process in several national interviews. In Cherokee County, Grassroots for Trump organizer, Marcia Cox, helped engineer victories for Jordan Ridley as chair and Ellen Diehl as first vice chair. Counties like DeKalb, Fulton, Appling, Baldwin and Whitfield subsequently passed resolutions to censure Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who was sued by the state party for failure to ensure that voter signatures on returned ballot envelopes were validated against voter signatures on file.
But nowhere was the upheaval more dramatic than in Fulton County, Georgia’s largest and most populous county that covers large parts of the 5th and 6th Districts in both north and south metro Atlanta. Grassroots attendees challenged and replaced absentee establishment members who typically get courtesy delegate spots for the district convention. Former U.S. Congresswoman Karen Handel who did not keep her promise to do something about Georgia’s old, unverifiable voting system when she was elected Secretary of State in 2006, was challenged and replaced along with her husband Steve. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and his wife, state Representative Betty Price, were also challenged and replaced. Anti-election integrity legislators like State Senator John Albers and Rep. Chuck Martin were challenged and replaced too along with Albers’ wife Kari.
But the most dramatic moments for the Fulton County Grand Olde Party (GOP) convention at the Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta came during the prolonged battle for chair between incumbent Trey Kelly and challenger Susan Opraseuth. Kelly who, in his role as chairman, established general convention procedures and appointed individuals to run the convention but then discovered he could not live with the results. The complete inside story of the battle for chair appears for the first time in print here:
THE BATTLE FOR FULTON GOP CHAIR
The election for chairman was conducted with little colored chips similar to “tiddlywinks”. Kelly was assigned blue and Opraseuth yellow. The chips were collected from delegates in red SOLO cups carried through the room by collectors designated by the chairman. The cups were not verified as empty before the count began and the cups were not visible at all times as the collectors brought the chips to the counting area.
On the first vote, Trey Kelly was recorded as a 167-164 winner but there were multiple problems with the “official” vote count. First, the 331 chips cast represented one more than the 330 delegates in attendance. Secondly, two lime green chips that looked more yellow than blue were improperly awarded to Kelly’s totals by counters, thus artificially inflating the real margin which was 165-164. That action is in direct violation of the rules which should have found those two votes “illegal” since neither of the candidates were to receive votes for chips of that color. Thirdly, only 328 attendees were eligible to vote since two had left the premises without authorization and returned. So, there were still more chips cast than eligible voters even after taking away the votes that were improperly awarded to Kelly.
In spite of all these unresolved anomalies that compromised the integrity and transparency of the election, Convention Chairman Rusty Paul declared Trey Kelly the winner. Nate Porter then pointed out that the 331 awarded votes were more votes than 330 delegates in attendance. He made a motion to overrule the chair and hold a second vote. His motion was seconded by Karen Parrish and the convention body easily passed it.
On the second vote, the integrity and transparency of the election was improved. Each delegate showed their armband to qualify when voting. They then put their colored token into a large glass vase that was visible throughout the room. Kelly was assigned red and Opraseuth was assigned purple. Opraseuth won the second vote without controversy by 172-148, a 24-vote margin.
When the vote count was announced and Opraseuth was declared chair, Kelly stated he would object. Kelly made no such objection regarding the decision to take a second vote. He only objected after seeing the second vote results although no mention of his objection is recorded in the meeting minutes. Kelly subsequently made a written appeal claiming the first vote results should stand to the 5th District Executive Committee which has more voters (not Republican voters) than the 6th District.
Kelly contended there was a controversy that gave the executive committee the power to overturn convention results even if they were achieved under proper procedures. Although convention activities conformed to Roberts Rules of Order, the 12-person committee decided to back Kelly as a re-elected chairman by a vote of 8-0 with two abstentions and two not present. Those members who voted were:
Kelly then sent an Email from the Fulton County GOP indicating he had been re-elected chairman despite the 24-vote defeat at the convention. In reality, the matter now rests with the state Republican Party. Kelly’s Email conflicts with state chairman David Shafer’s direction that Susan Opraseuth will remain as the duly elected chair until a five-person committee he appoints can make a determination.
That determination should not be too difficult. After all, how can the state Republican party maintain any type of moral authority if they overturn a duly elected chairman and ignore the will of convention delegates from their largest county? Georgia Republicans need to clean up their own corruption before criticizing Democrats about theirs.
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