Note: In the 9th Installment of our Georgia Election Integrity series we explained how a handful of 5th District Fulton County establishment Republicans attempted to keep former chairman Trey Kelly in power after he lost the election for county chair by 172-148. Once the installment was published, we were told immediately that trickery in Fulton was nothing compared to what the establishment did to grassroots members in Chatham County. We investigated and found that is true. Here is the inside story:
For the second time in weeks Chatham County GOP establishment inappropriately aborted a convention to prevent an inevitable takeover by grassroots Republicans. On April 17th, Chairman Don Hodges abruptly adjourned the county convention at Coaches Corner when it became obvious that grassroots Republicans had the votes to ensure that nominations for their slate of candidates could be made from the floor just like in other county conventions. On last Saturday May 15th, chairman Carl Smith of Chatham County cancelled the 1st District convention in Jesup after delegates arrived. He admitted telling the venue that unknown attendees may commit “violence”. Here is how it all went down:
As in many Georgia counties, pro-Trump grassroots conservatives took over key positions in Chatham mass precinct meetings held on March 20th. Also, like other counties, these newly energized leaders, attended their county convention held on April 17th as required by the state Republican party. These grassroots representatives known as the Chatham County Patriots prepared a slate of nominees to run at the convention knowing they had the votes to get the entire slate elected.
But Chatham County Republicans require candidates to be “vetted” by a nomination committee. Most counties use nominating committees to present a recommended slate of delegates to the convention. However, Chatham attempts to use the committee as a screening vehicle to prevent non-establishment candidates from running for key office positions. While such exclusivity appears to be in violation of Republican Party state rule 5.9, Republican outreach efforts and basic American election principles, that Chatham Grand Olde Party (GOP) establishment can argue there is no explicit state rule to prevent it.
The Chatham Patriots believed it would be fruitless to attempt to get their slate of candidates accepted by the committee that consisted of their own election opponents so they opted for nominating them from the floor. One of their candidates, Sara Lain Moneymaker, who ran for Secretary, attempted to endure the vetting process. A recorded audio call showed she was pressured by Carl Smith to take the lesser position of Assistant Secretary or not run at all. Smith promised her that she would get the opportunity to be nominated from the floor and run for office but it never happened.
The Chatham County Republican Convention began with Chairman Don Hodges and Parliamentarian Carl Smith failing to provide Standing Rules to the Delegate Assembly members in violation of RRO 67. The members then passed with a Voice vote what convention chair Don Hodges later told them was the agenda but he never asked for a “No” vote as required by RRO 46. Once the agenda and the nominating committee presented their recommended slate the Patriots moved to Vote to open nominations from the floor in accordance with RRO 66. Hodges falsely claimed that the motion was out of order. When the Patriots objected to the ruling of the chair in accordance with RRO 21, Hodges ignored the objection in violation of that rule and continued. He then pronounced that the officers are elected by acclamation even though the position of Secretary was contested. Of course, the Patriots objected again to the ruling of the Chair and Hodges again ruled that they were out of order in direct violation of RRO 21. When the patriots continued to attempt to get Hodges to understand parliamentary procedures, Hodges adjourned the meeting without electing county officers, district delegates or state delegates in violation of RRO 17. Parliamentarian Carl Smith helped Hodges throughout this process.
In the epitome of irony, Hodges later blamed the Patriots claiming: “They didn’t follow the rules”. He told the Savannah Morning News:“Our job today was to elect new county leaders, and we weren’t able to do that…” But Parliamentarian Carl Smith later contradicted the chairman claiming that “Seven of the eight officers were elected at the convention.” Smith who had a conflict of interest as a candidate for 1st Vice Chair basically pronounced himself and his fellow establishment candidates as the winners without a vote. 1st District
The GOP State Executive Committee issued a statement supporting Smith’s position: “After reviewing audio tapes and interviewing witnesses, the committee found that all officers except the secretary had been elected but that no delegates or alternates had been elected”. The proclaimed Chatham Co. establishment officers then secretly picked delegates for the state and county conventions. Although there were enough delegate positions for all convention attendees to attend at least one convention, Chatham GOP officials blacklisted all Patriot attendees and double-booked establishment members to attend both district and state conventions.
The 1st District convention on last Saturday May 15th, set for the Pine Forest Country Club in Jesup, Georgia, was no better than the county convention. Carl Smith, who served as First District Chairman, cancelled the meeting once again after delegates had already arrived to lodge in the town. He admitted to Savannah Morning News that he told the club there were unknown people attending and there may be “disruptions and protests.” This is a blatantly false representation of the group who had told the Sergeant at Arms the previous week, in a one-hour conversation, that they planned coffee, donuts, and campaign fliers, to distribute at an outside networking event.
Smith knew through his nominating committee that 1st District delegates were prepared to run many Chatham Patriots from the floor. The District Nominating Committee had interviewed them and most were the individuals cancelled at the county convention. By cancelling the event, Smith helped save his own position and those of other 1st District establishment leaders.
Additionally, Smith’s 1st District leadership did not release non-establishment candidate names until the day AFTER the cancelled convention. This points to an attempt to conceal options and deter research from the Assembly. Smith is a former lifelong Democrat, who first switched to Republican along with many other Democrats in 2002. He promptly lost his bid for District 3 County Commissioner. In 2007, he was fired from the Savannah Fire Dept. for insubordination and in 2011, the Mayor and City Council of Thunderbolt quietly forced him to resign as Fire Chief. Reasons for his resignation are still unspoken.
After ignoring all of the rules violations at the Chatham County convention, the GOP State Executive Committee is once again meeting, this time to determine the fate of what 1st District delegates will get to represent Chatham County if any. Will they allow the long-standing Republicans who happen to be members of the Chatham Patriots to have the delegate positions they would have received in an honest county convention? Or, will they continue their cover-up by accepting unqualified delegates who were secretly nominated by Chatham Co. members who were never actually elected?
So far, the GOP State Executive Committee has proven to be an elite social club instead of a principled governing body. It is time that the Georgia Republican Party stop telling us that Democrats are the problem in Georgia and instead, clean up the filth and corruption in their own party. They can start today with Carl Smith, Don Hodges and the remaining Chatham County officers who should be forced to hold a legitimately run county and district conventions.