Senate Resolution 333 praises Bell’s “determination, intelligence and work ethic” in rising from Hall County commissioner, as a Democrat, to become the highest-ranking African-American official at the Republican National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. Bell, who joined the GOP in 2010, now has a post at the U.S. State Department.
The resolution honoring him was sponsored by state Sens. Lester Jackson of Savannah, Emanuel Jones of Decatur, Ed Harbison of Columbus, Freddie Powell Sims of Dawson, Harold Jones of Augusta and Gail Davenport of Jonesboro – a show of bipartisan support for a rising Washington star whose political transformation has been dizzying.
In 2004, he was the president of the College Democrats of America and was introduced as “one of the future leaders of our party” on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. He took the floor amid a clattering of applause to endorse Kerry and praise Democrats as the party “that earned my loyalty as a child and it keeps my loyalty today.”
Shortly after Deal’s victory, Bell announced his flip to the GOP at a press conference that local Republicans billed as a “historic announcement.” He said at the time that he felt “more at home” with conservative Republican policies, and his decision made national news as a wave of conservative-leaning Democrats flipped after the midterm elections.
Gainesville voters, though, were far from convinced. Bell was trounced in the 2012 GOP primary by Jeffrey Stowe, a political novice who owned a local electronics store and reminded voters he was a “lifelong Republican” and that he planned to stay in Gainesville for the long haul.
Bell, meanwhile, never strayed far from politics and helped launch the bipartisan 20/20 Leaders of America, which last election cycle focused on criminal justice initiatives. He was tapped in August to head the Republican National Committee’s black political engagement efforts.