Georgia GOP chair contenders clash over party’s top divides

The four candidates running for Georgia GOP chair had their first debate earlier this week, with each focusing on pledges to boost the cash-strapped party’s fundraising and flip Cobb and Gwinnett counties back to the red column.

You can watch the whole 67-minute debate between DeKalb attorney Alex Johnson, party vice-chair Michael McNeely, GOP operative John Watson and District 12 chair Mike Welsh below. But we were drawn to the lightning round at the end, a rapid-fire test of where each stood on the state’s top debates.

Starting at the 55-minute mark, the four are asked whether they support legalizing casino gambling. All but Watson, who is a lobbyist for a gambling firm, said they were against it.

“I advocate for casino gambling, and here’s why,” Watson said. “I believe the people of Georgia deserve the opportunity to take elected officials and politicians out of the decision making process and make the direct decision to put this to bed once and for all.”



All supported Donald Trump in November, all said they were pro-life, all backed “campus carry” legislation.”

They were split down the middle on Gov. Nathan Deal’s failing schools initiative: Johnson and McNeely opposed the constitutional amendment, which was rejected by voters, while Watson and Welsh supported it.

As for the top issue that the Georgia GOP has neglected to address, the answers ran the gamut:

Johnson: “Cultural issues of the entire leadership of the party.”

McNeely: “Financial stewardship.”

Watson: “The Georgia Republican Party has forgotten that it works for you.”

Welsh: “Embracing technology.”

They were then asked to give the Georgia GOP a letter grade for 2014, the year the party maintained control of all statewide offices and elected David Perdue to an open U.S. Senate seat.

Johnson: D

McNeely: C

Watson: D

Welsh: C-

And then a letter grade for 2016, when Trump notched a 5-point victory in Georgia and Sen. Johnny Isakson coasted to re-election:

Johnson: D-

McNeely: D-

Watson: “It’s called failing and going back a grade.”

Welsh: D

Yowza. Watch the debate here:



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