NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) -- Georgia Democrats have chosen former House Minority Leader DuBose Porter as their next state chairman during a special election, as the state party looks to rebuild itself after recent fundraising challenges and ahead of major elections next year.
Porter defeated former state Sen. Doug Stoner of Cobb County and Rockdale County Tax Commissioner R.J. Hadley on a second ballot Saturday in a special election. About 250 members of the party's state committee voted after hearing similar messages from the three candidates.
The difference, perhaps, was in tone as Porter gave an impassioned speech that focused on his experience and his plan for raising money by seeking regular contributions from the party faithful and hosting more big-ticket fundraisers.
"We have a big challenge ahead of us, and I know you and you know me," said Porter, who also is co-owner and editor of The Courier Herald newspaper in Dublin, Ga. "We've been shoulder to shoulder for years and now we have to look at our party and how we can move it forward."
The special election was called after Mike Berlon stepped down as chair in June, citing personal issues. The attorney had been reprimanded by the State Bar of Georgia, sued by a client and was on the defensive after the party reported weak fundraising ahead of the 2014 statewide and congressional elections.
Specifically, financial reports showed the Democratic Party of Georgia had just $30,734 in cash on hand at the end of April, compared to $631,960 for the Georgia Republican Party.
The crowd of Democrats from around the state heard from party treasurer, state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, who said the party has started to turn around its finances and now had total assets of $152, 791. He noted that party leaders had taken action in recent months to cut the budget and reduce expenses.
"We were bleeding," Jackson said. "This was not easy. We had to cut our budget and frankly hurt a lot of people."
The dearth of fundraising has been a major cause for concern from party leaders.
"A lot of the money follows who controls the political process because they are the ones who get things done," said Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker.
He said he was confident that as demographics shift and create more opportunities for Democrats to bring in more voters, momentum will build.
"There is a benefit to us, as people see we may be possibly leading the state in the future, more and more people will be willing to donate and sacrifice," Henson said.
Candidate recruitment was also a major topic during the meeting, and Democrats received some good news with former state Sen. Connie Stokes announcing plans to run for governor in 2014.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had stirred some controversy among the party faithful in June when he said he thought Republican Gov. Nathan Deal had done a good job and that Democrats should focus on the 2014 U.S. Senate and the 2016 presidential races.
Among those not attending was Michelle Nunn, considered the top Democratic contender in the U.S. Senate race. Two of the other Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate - former state Sen. Steen Miles and physician Branko Radulovacki - addressed the crowd.