GOP con­ven­tion brings di­vi­sion

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE -

Satur­day morn­ing, the New­ton County Repub­li­can Party was di­vided by yel­low cau­tion tape, but by evening, they had formed two sep­a­rate, ri­val groups, both claim­ing to rep­re­sent the GOP.

The tape usu­ally re­served for crime scenes and ac­ci­dents was erected to sep­a­rate vot­ing del­e­gates from mem­bers of the party who had not qual­i­fied to par­tic­i­pate in the county con­ven­tion un­der lo­cal by­laws.

Those by­laws are now be­ing chal­lenged by mem­bers who paid their dues but were in­formed by let­ter that they had not ac­cu­mu­lated enough points to be con­sid­ered a “mem­ber in good stand­ing,” and thus were in­el­i­gi­ble to vote for the new ex­ec­u­tive board.

Those ex­cluded from the process in­cluded the cur­rent mayor of Cov­ing­ton and two for­mer party chairs, said those in at­ten­dance.

Newly elected New­ton County GOP Chair­man Bill Perug­ino said the county’s point sys­tem has been in the by­laws for years, and has been re­viewed at the dis­trict and state level.

“There is a lot of noise right now that the New­ton County by­laws are in con­flict with the state rules,” Perug­ino said. “That is not true. Our rules have bene vet­ted with the state party.”

Shortly af­ter pro­ceed­ings be­gan Satur­day, party mem­ber Aaron Brooks made a mo­tion chal­leng­ing the cre­den­tials of the vot­ing del­e­gates. Af­ter a heated ex­change be­tween then-chair Delia Flem­ing and the op­pos­ing fac­tion, who main­tain she ig­nored the mo­tion, some 60 del­e­gates and mem­bers walked out.

They con­vened at the Hamp­ton Inn, where they held a sep­a­rate meet­ing. Brooks char­ac­ter­ized the point sys­tem as de­lib­er­ately ex­clu­sion­ary and con­trary to the Call, a fun­da­men­tal Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can Party prin­ci­ple of in­clu­sion. His group was pre­par­ing to ap- peal it with the party’s dis­trict lead­er­ship.

He and oth­ers an­tic­i­pate the mat­ter will ad­vance to the state level, be­cause the newly elected county chair, Bill Perug­ino, is also the dis­trict leader. The Hamp­ton Inn con­tin­gent main­tains this rep­re­sents a con­flict of in­ter­est.

Perug­ino was elected to chair the com­mit­tee with Todd Bowen as first vice chair, Ester Flem­ing sec­ond vice chair, and Linda Park third vice chair. Vicki Henry was elected sec­re­tary trea­surer.

Perug­ino said the party had con­sid­ered re­duc­ing the num­ber of points nec­es­sary to vote be­fore the elec­tion cy­cle, but were told they had to re­main con­sis­tent.

“We’re just go­ing to fol­low nor­mal course of busi­ness go­ing for­ward with fol­low­ing the prin­ci­ples of the Repub­li­can party and work­ing out the best way to in­clude as much of the cit­i­zenry of the county as pos­si­ble,” said Perug­ino. “In ac­cor­dance with the rules, there were cer­tain peo­ple qual­i­fied as del­e­gates to­day and cer­tain were not.”

“We would like to mo­ti­vate the base so that we ac­ti­vate our vot­ers to par­tic­i­pate in the demo­cratic process and vote,” he added.

But some new mem­bers say they have been pre­vented from par­tic­i­pat­ing, al­leg­ing that the lo­cal party is run by a closed cir­cle in­tend on con­sol­i­dat­ing power.

“They don’t want to lis­ten to any­one else’s in­put,” said Marvin Maner, who was mo­ti­vated to be­come ac­tive in the party af­ter wit­ness­ing the county go blue in the last three fed­eral elec­tions. “They have their own lit­tle clique.”

Maner said that when he first showed up for a meet­ing, he was greeted with sus­pi­cion and asked who had “sent” him.

“I think that was to­tally out of line,” he said of the in­ci­dent.

Ja­son Pye, an­other dis­sent­ing repub­li­can, in­sisted the dis­agree­ment was “not a pol­icy rift,” but added that the younger gen­er­a­tions “do have dif­fer­ent views.” He also crit­i­cized the party for fail­ing to ap­peal to mi­nori­ties and mil­len­ni­als.

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