I see your state rep and raise you a tax commissioner

The Marietta Daily Journal reported today that Republican Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson will run for re-election next year as a Democrat. Jackson was appointed Tax Commissioner by Governor Nathan Deal in 2014 when incumbent Republican Tax Commissioner Gail Downing stepped down. Jackson had served as Downing’s Chief Deputy since 2012. Jackson was then re-elected without opposition in 2016 and 2020 and is, or at least was, one of three remaining Republicans elected countywide in Cobb County. She was the only black, female Republican elected official in Cobb. What all three Republicans had in common is they were unopposed by Democrats in 2020, a year in which Democrats won all countywide offices.

The Democrats continued their winning streak in 2022 handily, winning the open Solicitor General position and increasing their majority in the county legislative delegation from one to two over the GOP after redistricting. Jackson had already drawn Democratic opposition when she made her decision to switch.

While Jackson’s party switch will likely not make the media headlines that State Representative Mesha Mainor did when she switched to the GOP two weeks ago, the switch underscores the future of Republican fortunes in the Atlanta suburbs. While Mainor’s chances of being re-elected to a seat where Joe Biden won over 80% of the vote are slim, Jackson’s chances of re-election are far better as long as she survives a Democratic Primary.

Of course, the local paper sought the reaction of Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs. Grubbs’s admission was almost as stunning as Jackson’s switch as the MDJ notes, “Commenting on Jackson’s plan to change parties, Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs said she had never had the occasion to have a personal conversation with her.”

Say what?

So, one of the three remaining Republicans elected countywide in Cobb has announced she will run for reelection as a Democrat and the first thing the Chair of the Cobb GOP tells the paper is she has never had a conversation with her? It would be understandable if Grubbs was in her first term and had only been Chair for a couple of months, but she isn’t. She’s been Cobb GOP Chair since April 2021, which is 27 months.

I wish I could say I was shocked, but the current focus of much of the GOP across the state is a belief the elected officials serve the Republican Party, not that the Republican Party is there to support our elected officials. This is seen in not just the censure of GOP elected officials who do not toe the GRA GOP’s line, but in the push for so called “Accountability” rules, like the one proposed for the state GOP Convention and similar rules that are already being passed at the County Party level.

Is it any wonder that local elected officials might not see a future in running under the GOP banner, especially in places that once were, but no longer are, GOP strongholds? One thing is for certain and that is the Democratic Party is willing to accept candidates, even candidates who were once Republicans, when it comes time for qualifying. The GOP is sending messages that it will not even accept Republicans who want to qualify as Republican.

Grubb’s failure to reach out to locally elected Republicans is also symptomatic of a greater and systemic problem in the Georgia Republican Party, and that is a lack of attention to Republicans elected at the local level. There have been a few attempts in the GAGOP to organize locally elected officials. The most successful, though short lived, was the Republican Organization of County Commissioners which lasted as a caucus group from about 2002-2006.

In 2019, the Democratic Party’s playbook was leaked (and I’ve re-leaked at the link). For a few hours anyone could access an excel spreadsheet with nearly every elected official in Georgia, Republican, Democratic, and Non-Partisan, that could be targeted between 2019 and 2024. The response from the Georgia Republican Party and Chairman David Shafer was crickets.

It’s been an old adage of politics that to win the state house, you must first win the county courthouse, highlighting the local nature of political success. If all politics is, indeed, local, then a local party leader should make it a priority to reach out to locally elected officials, especially the ones who may be venerable and in the most need of help.

The solution to counties in political transition and county parties that want a veto over who is allowed to run for local office may simply to be making administrative positions like the Tax Commissioner and Clerk of Court non-partisan. Local parties get to keep half of the qualifying fee for candidates elected at the county level. For large counties like, Cobb, that can mean over $2,000 per candidate into party coffers. But with county GOP organizations wanting purity tests before giving their imprimatur to their chosen candidates, then those funds may be better focused on the county elections organizations that actually run the elections and where non-partisan candidates already qualify to run for office.

For my friend and Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson, we talked for over forty minutes today about her decision and other topics. What we said wasn’t for publication. She’s still my friend, even if she now has a “D” beside her name and I wish her the best.

One Reply to “I see your state rep and raise you a tax commissioner”

  1. Ahhh, yes. Rick Richardson played a very valuable role in working with the Georgia GOP back in the day, thru several GOP chair tenures. He worked on assembling and keeping a list up to date of all elected Republicans in the various county commissions, tax commissioners, etc. so the state GOP would have ready access to contacts in counties.

    I doubt we have such institutional knowledge or similar data bank like the Dems have assembled in that Google sheet.

    Shafer’s tenure was that of being a worthless schmuck at best.

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