Saturday May 25th, 2024 3:10AM

State GOP leaders hope to refocus message for 2022

After Democrats swept two U.S. Senate races in Georgia and the state voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 28 years, Georgia's Republican leadership wants to refocus the party's message as attention turns to 2022.

Both Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said this week in separate interviews they believe the Republican party has the correct positions on issues that matter to most Georgians, but they are worried that party infighting and over-the-top rhetoric may have hurt them.

For his part, Kemp rejected the notion that Democrats have taken control of Georgia.

"We're not a blue state, but we've got to run on issues that matter to people," Kemp said. 

For Republicans in Georgia, 2022 is a pivotal year. The senate seat held by Democrat Raphael Warnock is up for election next year, as are Kemp, Duncan and all statewide elected leaders. Neither Kemp nor Duncan has formally announced plans to run next year, but both are widely expected to.

A year ago, a combination of forces led to the Democratic victories. Unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and her Fair Fight voting rights group targeted Georgia specifically, registering voters, ensuring access to the polls and recruiting a stronger slate of Democratic candidates.

Meanwhile, the ugly tenor of national politics affected the elections in Georgia. President Donald Trump's unpopularity hurt the party, as some Republicans were turned off by his angry tweet and hateful rhetoric. Trump's comments that the election was stolen in November may also have played a factor in why Republican turnout was lower in the January runoffs. No evidence was ever presented that Georgia's elections had any fraud.

"I think if you go to any city in American, an overwhelming number of Americans are going tell you that a Republican is best in charge of our economy, that a Republican is best is charge of the safety in our neighborhoods, that a Republican is best in charge of our national security," Duncan said. "So let's go reinforce those facts over the next four years, over the next two years. Let's live in what we really do well. Let's stop trying to make enemies and start trying to make some friends."

The state leaders suggest a reinvention of the party, something Duncan calls GOP 2.0.

The party may also want to take lessons from what the Democrats did successfully. Although Abrams and Fair Fight have been roundly criticized by conservatives, Republicans have not stepped up with a group of their own.

Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost a January runoff to Warnock, has launched Greater Georgia, an organization that hope to promote conservative policies that will have wide appeal, as well as registering as many conservative voters as possible.

Loeffler said she hope to register roughly two million Georgians who are likely to vote Republican. She said Democrats are registering far more new voters than the GOP, something she hope the new initiative will change.

Meanwhile, Kemp said Georgia Republicans have a strong record to run on next year. It includes a strong economy despite the pandemic, passage of more than 50 health care bills, the largest pay raise in state history and a reform of unnecessary school testing.

"There's a big contrast (with the Democrats) but we've got to run on those issues and tell people what we are for and what we've done and what we want to continue to do," Kemp said. "For those who got distracted in the last election, it didn't turn out very well for them."

Duncan said the party's success nationwide rests on the leadership, something he said needs improvement.

"I don't necessarily believe we need election reform to win," Duncan said. "We need better leadership. There's a vacuum of leadership nationally. My comments are not any sort of attack on Donald Trump. Certainly not. I voted for him, I campaigned for him, I supported him."

But Kemp and Duncan agreed the nature of politics in recent years may have been a distraction to the greater message Republican needed to be spreading.

"I just feel like there a lot of things (Trump) did really well, that validated us as a Republican Party," Duncan said. "But the divisiveness obviously became unwinnable, and we watched that play out. The unfortunate part of that, the division played out in our runoff elections with two U.S. senators that we desperately needed to be up there in Washington, D.C., to support us here in Georgia, but nationally we then lost the majority."

As candidates start lining up for next year's elections, Kemp wants the party to stay focuses on its message, not on personalities and rhetoric.

"Other Republicans are not the enemy," Kemp said. "We are fighting for freedom, for fiscal responsibility, for individual responsibility. That's going to win at the end of the day if we stay focused on that message."

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: voter registration, Election 2020, Gov. Brian Kemp, Kelly Loeffler, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Election 2022
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