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Forsyth GOP hears from state party hopefuls
Candidate for chair says lobbying not interference with duties
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Several Republicans vying for positions in the state party made a stop in Forsyth County this week. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Several Republicans vying for positions in the state party made a stop in Forsyth County this week.

At a meeting of the Forsyth County Republican Party on Thursday, Chairwoman Carolyn Hall Fisher, who is running for first vice chair of the state party, welcomed John Watson, who is running for chair of the party, and Mansell McCord, the party’s current treasurer who is running for re-election.

Watson said the party’s finances should be a major factor in deciding the party’s next leader.

“Here’s the cold hard reality; after 15 years of Republican dominance, we are broke,” he said. “After 130 years in power and them being in the wilderness for 15 years, the Democratic Party of Georgia has more money than we do, and that is a travesty. It is inexcusable and without a massive directional change in our leadership, and I would argue without the skills and experiences of our new leader, we will not get this right.”

Thursday was the first of three meetings for residents to talk with candidates ahead of the state convention on June 2 and 3 in Augusta. The meeting was also the last for Fisher as chair, as rules prevent her from running for two seats at the same time — the next chair will be decided at the March 18 county convention.

Watson, who has served as finance director for several campaigns in the state, said it is time for someone with experience to help the party raise money.

He also said it is time for the party to look into new ways to get more small-amount donations and to build back the trust of voters.

Several members in the audience had questions for Watson, including District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams, who asked Watson how he would balance his career as a lobbyist and being chair of the state party.

“I have to make a living and do so as a lobbyist,” Watson said. “I have to demonstrate to the state exactly who it is that I work for, and I am prepared, whether it be good, bad or ugly, to tell anyone that asks, ‘What are you being paid to do?’ And it is my responsibility as an aspiring leader to have the guts to be candid with each and every person in this room and around this state as to what I’m doing.”

Watson said anyone can find who he has advocated for online at the Georgia Transparency and Campaign Finances Commission’s website. The website lists Watson as advocating for several groups, including casino group Boyd Gaming Corporation, banking company JPMorgan Chase and Co. and car service Uber Technologies.

After he spoke and answered questions, Williams praised Watson.

“You go down to the Capitol and you can spot really quickly the good lobbyists and the bad lobbyists,” Williams said. “To build back the trust of the party you’ve got to have someone who is trustworthy, and I’m willing to put my name on this guy right here.”

Like Watson, McCord spoke on the need for the party to regain trust of donors.

“We as a party have lost the confidence of all of our donor bases from grassroots to the mid-level donors to the big donors,” McCord said. “It’s going to be a tough job to train that confidence back, that they’re not throwing money away when they give to the party. It’s going to be a tough road for the next state chairman, quite honestly.”