Two of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates will campaign in Forsyth County this weekend.
On Saturday, Newt Gingrich will headline the Forsyth County Republican Party’s mass precinct meeting, which is set for 10 a.m. at South Forsyth High School.
Sunday night, Rick Santorum will visit First Redeemer Church in south Forsyth.
Ethan Underwood, chairman of the local Republican Party, said the county’s voting record makes it a campaign must-stop for candidates in the March 6 presidential preference primary in Georgia.
“We’ve got a great record of voter turnout and folks that vote Republican,” he said. “I don’t see this as a coincidence. They have professionals who line up their calendars months ahead of time and they tell them where they need to be. And we’re obviously high up on that list.
“We’re a Republican stronghold, and so we’ve got Republican candidates coming here trying to secure those Republican votes.”
First Redeemer Pastor Richard Lee said the church often welcomes presidential candidates. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a 2008 presidential candidate, visited in 2007.
“We make it a practice at our church to open the doors to all of those who are running for public office so that we might be able to hear their stories and allow the people to ask them questions to be better informed as citizens and Christians,” Lee said. “[Santorum’s] office contacted us and we were glad to host him.”
Anne Hunter is looking forward to seeing Gingrich on Saturday morning at the high school, 585 Peachtree Pkwy.
A Republican Party member since 1976, Hunter said she’s heard the former speaker of the House of Representatives several times over the years, but it’s always good to see the “Georgia boy coming back to speak.”
“He’s one of the most dynamic speakers that I have ever heard,” she said. “He has solutions … he’s going to tell people what needs to be done with the mess in Washington.”
Joining Gingrich will be Herman Cain, a one-time presidential hopeful who has suspended his campaign and endorsed Gingrich.
Cain, former president and CEO of Godfather’s pizza, will introduce Gingrich at the event.
With Gingrich on the bill, Underwood expects attendance for Saturday’s gathering to swell into the hundreds.
While Gingrich will draw a crowd, Hunter said the event is more than just a campaign stop.
“I know quite a few people who are coming just because they like Newt Gingrich and they want to hear what he has to say,” she said. “But this is the [mass precinct] meeting.”
The sole purpose of the meeting is an election. Voters will convene to elect delegates to represent various precincts at the county convention next month.
Still, Gingrich has a strong following in Georgia and many supporters likely will attend the meeting just for him.
Peggy Green, chairwoman of the Republican Women of Forsyth County and a Gingrich backer, said she’s worked on his behalf in various campaigns for about 30 years.
“He was my 6th District representative back in the day when I lived in Sandy Springs,” she said. “Newt is a wonderful speaker and he gives a very patriotic and inspiring speech, so I’m looking forward to it.
“He should fire up our grassroots base and get them involved in our election year.”
The campaign for Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, urges supporters to come to the event at First Redeemer and “show Rick that we’re right behind him all the way to the White House.”
The event will not be part of a regular service, though Lee said “there will be music, of course.”
“It’s just a gathering … of Christians that want to hear his position,” he said. “Forsyth County is one of the most conservative counties in the United States and it also is a county that has a good number of the influence makers in the Republican Party nationally.”
Santorum is scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m. in First Redeemer, 2100 Peachtree Parkway.