County GOP’s Continue to Target Other Republicans

Over the weekend many county level Republican Parties hosted their conventions as part of the cycle that will eventually see delegates sent to the Republican National Convention where Donald Trump will officially be named the GOP’s nominee for President. For the first time in two decades I did not attend my own, as the local party leadership these days seem more interested in fighting other Republicans than supporting those who are actually electable and stand for smaller government. Reading through several social media posts of folks I have long known to support and work for those electable Republicans, I found I was not alone.

As an example of the type of behavior I am writing about I present the case of State Representative Kasey Carpenter of Dalton. In one of the social media posts I refer to above, Rep Carpenter posted a photo of a resolution passed by the Whitfield County Republican Party censuring him for supporting a tax allocation district (TAD) in his hometown of Dalton.

A nerdy Interlude: Tax Allocation Districts or TAD’s, are areas designated by a local governing authority for the purpose of a property tax abatement that incentivizes revitalization and development of a blighted area. Because they have the word, “tax” in them they are often misunderstood even by folks who work in the local government world. I just so happen to have created one through local legislation for the City of Holly Springs, so I have a little bit of working knowledge about them.

They are not some liberal ploy and the word tax in their title is a bit misleading if one has a healthy mistrust for government. It would be easy to make the mistake to attack them if one was not up to speed on what they actually accomplished.

But this is how they work: The local government must designate an area to become a TAD. After local legislation is passed and signed into law under the Gold Dome, in this case, the city announces a public referendum. The public then votes on whether or not to give their blessing on the TAD’s creation and should the referendum fail no TAD is created. The City of Dalton’s voters approved their TAD about 10 years ago.

In this example, a blighted property in the city of Dalton is paying roughly $2,000 per year in property taxes. So the local government then decides to approve a project that would revitalize that part of town. In this case, an $8 million dollar hotel that will generate over $100,000 annually in sales and hotel motel taxes for the city. To entice a private investor to build that $8 million hotel, the local government foregoes collecting property taxes for 15 years, and the property goes from generating $2,000 in annual tax revenue to over $100,000 for those 15 years.

Because in this instance it is hotel there is little to no impact on additional government services. No additional residents, no additional students in the local schools, etc. And the taxes are paid by patrons visiting from out of town instead of from local property owners. Without the TAD, the hotel would not exist and the property would continue to generate $2,000 per year.

I reached out to Rep Carpenter to ask him about the resolution and get more details about why the party would take the step of censuring one of their own.

“They are free to do whatever they like,” he told me. “But they think because they have 100 people in the room that they are speaking for everybody when the truth is that they are the only ones who have time available on a Saturday morning to attend these types of meetings. There’s a disconnect from the 100,000 people in my district from what they think.”

I asked him if they had reached out to him to let him know the resolution would be considered at the county convention and he told me they did not. “But they have censured me three or four times before so I can’t say that I am surprised by them anymore.”

At this point it may be good to note that Representative Carpenter does not have an opponent in either the primary or the general election. He is guaranteed to serve as a Republican in the State House for another two year term in spite of the local party’s, promise to, “work to remove Kasey Carpenter from office and oppose his present and future candidacy for public office.”

Carpenter freely admits that he has an ownership interest in the hotel project, but points out without the TAD it would not have been feasible.

In Georgia, State Legislators make a salary of roughly $22,000 per year plus per diems of about $250 per day when they are in session. For those who live and represent districts far from Atlanta, the per diems are used for their housing and other expenses associated with being away from home for three months per year. They are citizen legislators, which is to say they must earn their living in some other fashion as $22k per year ain’t going to pay the bills. For many of them they are active in business and live under the same laws they create. And it would be easy to think there is something fishy going on when an elected official is the one willing to make an $8 million dollar investment in his hometown, but that assumption would be as equally lazy as misrepresenting what a TAD is because it has the word, “tax,” in it.

Representative Carpenter has a right to earn a living and so long as he is following the law and the same opportunities are available to any other citizen he should be free to both represent his district and do business at home. I’d be willing to bet that they would allow a pass, and they should, for this same type of arrangement for Donald Trump without even a second thought. And because Trump is a property developer, you know he has made similar arrangements.

The party is supposed to operate in a manner that is in cooperation with their elected officials and candidates, but many around the state, like in Catoosa County, have decided it is their role to play ideological puritan. Even if in this case their opposition to the TAD flies in the face of a referendum passed by the voters in Dalton and is apparently founded in a misunderstanding of the benefits of a TAD. And like Catoosa, the Whitfield County GOP tried and was denied from engaging in electioneering by placing a question on the ballot attacking Carpenter’s support of the TAD.

I have been rooting for State GOP Chairman Josh McKoon as he tries to walk the razor’s edge between a party taken over by activists hell bent on fighting Republicans on one side and trying to support Republicans in office on the other. I reached out to him to ask for an on the record response to the Whitfield County GOP’s actions this past Saturday, but he hasn’t yet responded. McKoon has a day job, so I do not expect him to drop what he is doing to respond to my questions, but if he does I will update this post with what he has to say. If there is no update here at all, it is because he has chosen not to engage yet.

The types of actions the Whitfield GOP have engaged in here further highlight just how contentious the waters are that McKoon must navigate. I am continuing to root for him, but cannot help but wonder how many long time conservative activists have decided to just stop participating in the party because of stuff just like this.

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