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Friday, September 27, 2013 - 10:13am

State GOP Plans Major Voter Registration Drive

While the state Republican party holds all statewide offices, the GOP is expecting a grueling fund-raising year between now and the 2014 election. Chairman John Padgett says the Georgia GOP plans to get in touch with more than a million people during the next 12 months.

Padgett took over as state Republican party chair in May. He says he’s expecting a lot more fund-raisers this year because of all the candidates seeking office. The Republicans are facing a crowded primary.

There are five, possibly six candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Senate to take over the seat held by the retiring Saxby Chambliss. Congressmen Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston and Paul Broun have entered the race, as have former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and businessman David Perdue. Perdue is former Governor Sonny Perdue’s cousin. And Politico is reporting that Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman who co-owns the Atlanta Dream WNBA team, is also considering entering the race. Then there are three open congressional races, and of course the governor’s race. In addition to Governor Nathan Deal, Dalton Mayor David Pennington and State School Superintendent John Barge have announced they are seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Padgett says to ensure the party has enough money to fund all those races, a major effort is underway to boost membership.

“We haven’t had a major voter registration drive recently,” he says. “This year our goals are to get in touch with and have some kind of personal contact, or contact by mail or by telephone, with way over a million people between now and the election of 2014. And if we do that and if we do a good job with that, we’ll grow the party.”

Padgett says they will reach out to Latino voters, young voters, Jewish voters and African American voters. Many African-Americans have typically been more liberal. But Padgett says there are a lot of issues that appeal to African American voters that appeal to republicans.

“Many, many African-American voters are pro-life,” he said. “Many of them are pro-family. Many of them understand we have a need in this country for jobs. A lot of them are very interested in choice in education. So there’s a lot of issues that relate to the black voter that are part and parcel of the Republican agenda.”

But Padgett says this doesn’t mean the party will become less conservative. He says the base is very conservative, so any candidate running in a primary will need to appeal to that base. While there are differences in the candidates seeking the GOP nomination for Senate, Padgett stresses they are all fairly conservative. He says there isn’t one who is a moderate conservative.

Other states have seen a conservative win the Republican primary only to lose the general election because he or she was too far to the right. Padgett says he’s not worried that will happen in Georgia.

The National Democratic Party believes Democrat Michelle Nunn can win back the seat once held by her father, former Senator Sam Nunn.

Padgett says Nunn won’t be able to portray herself as a moderate liberal.

“She’s not going to be able to run anywhere close to being a conservative,” he says. “She just got through doing a major fundraiser in Washington with the support of the Obama people. And I think the people that were at that fundraiser are going to be the kind of people that will support her. And that’s not what we’ve got living here in the state of Georgia.”

And Padgett isn’t worried that the race among all the Senate GOP hopefuls will split the party. He doesn’t believe it will become contentious, despite the number of candidates.

“I think it’ll be great fun,” Padgett says, with a smile. “I think it’ll be great information for the voters in the state of Georgia to see these people in their debates and going about the process.”

He adds, “It may get a little contentious in the general election, but I don’t think we’ll see that in the primary.”