As parties swing right and left, the middle gets less comfortable

Gun Rights

Georgia’s political parties continue to drift in opposite directions, making the middle an increasingly uncomfortable place for both Republicans and Democrats.

At its annual convention in Columbus earlier this month, the Georgia Republican Party continued its warm embrace of Donald Trump. Conservative activist Amy Kremer defeated Ginger Howard for one of the national committee spots, charging that Howard didn’t do enough to help Trump in the 2020 election. Incumbent committeeman Jason Thompson hung on to his seat in a runoff. He was attacked because his wife and daughter work for — are you ready? — Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

The Republicans in Columbus cheered the news that Janelle King, the co-chair of a conservative political action committee, will replace former Republican legislator Ed Lindsey, who is resigning from his seat on the Georgia State Election Board.

At a banquet in Columbus, state GOP chairman Josh McCoon said the party had pushed for the election board change in order to get a more Trump-friendly board for the next election.

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“I believe when we look back on November 5th, 2024, we’re going to say getting to that 3-2 election integrity-minded majority on the State Election Board made sure that we had the level playing field to win this election,” McKoon said.

How seriously does the party take election integrity? Enough, McKoon later declared, to vote overwhelmingly to remove Brian K. Pritchard from his post as first vice chair of the party after he was found guilty of voting illegally nine times while serving probation for check forgery. Considering how much the party has defined itself around the idea that the other party flagrantly does what one of their own got caught red-handed doing, that seems like the least the party could have done.

A significant portion of what used to be the Georgia Republican Party, notably including Gov. Brian Kemp, has long since left the building, and the outcomes this year could make the next convention even less conventional.

There was more evidence of the GOP’s rightward drift in the primary defeat of incumbent Rep. Lauren Daniel by Henry County paralegal Noelle Kahaine. Daniel has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, but another group, Georgia Gun Owners, attacked her for not doing more to expand gun rights. Daniel said in the past that she and her family had been “slandered, lied about, harassed and threatened” during the campaign.

But it was a leftward drift in the Democratic Party that was the headline of last week’s primaries. State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, the House deputy whip, was upset by Gabriel Sanchez, a waiter active in the Stop Cop City movement and member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

The 27-year-old candidate’s campaign left a lot of bruises, but by all accounts it also generated a huge volunteer effort. The question for House Democrats is what they’re going to do with their new colleague. He could become a valuable link to the young progressive voters Democrats are so worried about these days. Or he could become the Democrats’ Colton Moore, the state senator who has been booted from the Senate Republican Caucus and banished from the House floor.

It’s worth noting also that while they both live in districts normally slam dunks for their party, Sanchez has a Republican opponent, Diane Jackson, and Kahaine has a Democratic opponent, Mishael White.

There was enough ideological difference between Democratic House incumbents Saira Draper and Becky Evans to describe it as a leftward movement. Evans has been in the House longer, but most of the newly drawn district was represented by the first-termer Draper, and that’s why she won.

But it’s at least worth noting that Draper is the director of the state Democratic Party’s voter protection unit and, in a short time in the legislature, has acquired a reputation as an expert on voting issues.

It seems that protecting the vote is very much on both parties’ minds.

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