The Forsyth County Republican Party will hold its mass precinct meeting this weekend, starting the process for future meetings, including the Georgia Republican Convention, for the next two years and the Republican National Convention in 2020.
The meeting will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Otwell Middle School. Those who are not in the registration line by 10 a.m. will not be able to participate, and showing up early is encouraged.
“It’s basically where any registered voter can come to the meeting and we organize our precincts,” said Patrick Bell, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party. “We have everybody sign in. We make sure that they’re a registered voter. They do have to certify that they believe in the Republican principles. They will then go to their precinct where they elect a precinct chairman, a vice chairman and a secretary.”
Forsyth County has 16 precincts. They are Big Creek, Brandywine, Browns Bridge, Chestatee, Coal Mountain, Crossroads, Cumming, Mashburn, Midway, Heardsville, Otwell, Old Atlanta, South Forsyth, Windermere, Concord and Polo.
“The precinct is really the foundation of the Republican Party for us,” Bell said. “It’s where most of the grassroots activities occur. When I say grassroots, that’s the neighborhood meetings, the walking neighborhoods, writing letters, making phone calls to your neighbor, having a meet-and-greet for candidates.”
Joel Natt, a member of the Forsyth County Republican Party and District 7 chairman, said Saturday’s mass meeting is only required for counties with more than 80,000 residents, though others also have the option.
Once the precincts have selected a chair, they will select delegates for the Forsyth County Republican Convention on Saturday, March 9 at 10 a.m. at Forsyth Central High School.
“That is where officers for the party are elected, any rule changes are considered and voted on, any resolutions are considered and voted upon and people are elected as delegates to the district and state conventions,” Bell said.
The number of delegates is decided by the number of voters who supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and Bell said Forsyth County had space for up to 480 delegates and the same number of alternates for the county convention, of which 29 will go to the 9th Congressional District convention and 71 will go to the 7th District convention.
After the districts’ conventions, delegates will be chosen for the state convention, which will be held in Savannah on May 16-18.
At that meeting, the state party will elect new officials, including a new chair as John Watson, who currently holds the seat, will not seek it again.
While the precinct, county, district and state meetings will be held again in 2020, the precinct chairs elected this Saturday will serve in their roles for both years.
“What’s interesting is we’re going to do this all over in 2020 again, with a few exceptions. We’re not going to elect any officers,” Natt said. “In 2020 [at the precinct meetings], we’re only electing delegates, maybe making some rules changes or resolutions. No officers are being elected. But at the district convention in 2020, three people are being elected to be delegates and three will be alternates to the Republican National Convention.”
The remainder of the state’s delegation to the RNC will be chosen at the 2020 Georgia Republican Convention.
Bell described the county as a “game changer” for politics, which he said both had its benefits and drawbacks, like being a bigger target for opposition.
“Forsyth County is very important to state Republican candidates,” Bell said. “We had great voter turnout. We were a key player in getting [Gov.] Brian Kemp elected, [Lt. Gov.] Geoff Duncan and, of course, [Rep.] Rob Woodall. Had we not had such a heavy turnout, we may not have those folks in office right now.”