Georgia Young Republicans to Hold New Convention

A series of Facebook posts from the official pages of various Young Republican (YR) chapters caught our attention over the holiday weekend. Each were decrying the fact that the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF), which serves as the national governing body for all state YRs, had invalidated the officer elections of the Georgia Young Republicans (GYR) and ordered a new convention be held. The net effect will be new elections for officers of the GYR’s.

The post that caught my attention came from the Cherokee YR’s, of which I was a founding member, former chairman, and lifetime member, although I admit I do not remember the last time I attended a meeting. Plus I am old now. I digress… The Cherokee YR’s were just one of several chapters to issue similar statements. This one from the Cobb YR’s, which is more succinct than the Cherokee Chapter’s, captures the essence of each of them.

Now a moment to explain my biases here so that you can read the rest of this through that lens. The person who won the now invalidated chair’s race for the GYR is Jacquelyn Harn, who works for Americans for Prosperity. (AFP). AFP is a sponsor of Peach Pundit the Podcast™. I also think highly of Kelly Cash and Brittany Ellison, both of whom I have met through Republican Leadership for Georgia.

Peach Pundit has received an email purported to be written by the chair of the YRNF explaining the situation in more detail.

From YRNF Chair Hayden Padgett

To: GYR Chapters & Members

There is some confusion about the details of the recent dispute and the process followed by the Dispute Committee. I’d like to clear up that confusion. Please forgive the length of this email but it’s best to be thorough.

Before I do, I’d like to announce a date change for the new convention. Based on feedback from you, we will move the convention to Sat, September 7th. Additionally, as we lock in the specific venue, we are considering cities inside Cobb, Dekalb, or Fulton Counties. These counties [were] chosen for [their] relative centrality, making it easier for us to execute a convention on short notice and with out-of-state management.

Now to the dispute, beginning with process. Any YR member has the right to file a dispute with the YRNF. To do so, they must 1) cite an injury that needs redress (in this case, that elections did not follow state bylaws), 2) include evidence that supports their claim (this is used in determining if {there} are plausible grounds for the dispute), and 3) provide documentation that the individual unsuccessfully attempted to get relief at the state level.

This complaint came from Winslow Jones and Carly Hockenberry (the claimants), who claimed that Jacquelyn Harn, Shane McGonigal, Brittany Ellison, and Cooper Whitmire (the respondents) violated the state governing documents during the management of the May 5, 2024 convention. They filed the complaint on May 10, 2024, and after reviewing it, I found found that all 3 of the above criteria were met, giving sufficient grounds for a national Dispute Resolution Committee to be formed.

The role of the Dispute Committee was then to gather more evidence (from testimony and documentation) such that they could determine the truth of the claims, and use that truth to render a verdict and remedy (if necessary). The Committee was comprised of SC Chair Joe Bowers and AR Chair Rusty Jackson (appointed by the complainants), NY Chair Peter Giunta and VT Chair Sam Douglass (appointed by the respondents), and Auditor Thomas Turner (appointed by me to chair the committee).

Both parties (those who filed the dispute, and those responding) were provided the claim documents and given details of the process to come. Over the course of 5 weeks, the committee heard testimony from the parties involved (both claimants and accused), as well as other leaders in the Georgia YRs. In the end, they found that the May elections did not comply with the constitution of the Georgia Young Republicans. Specifically, they cited 5 major issues:

They found no evidence that the location and dates of the convention were set by the Board (a requirement in the state constitution and bylaws).

Testimony from both the claimants and the accused found that the convention committees were not formed within the required 8-weeks prior to convention (a requirement in the state constitution).

They found no evidence that the convention rules were ever approved by the Board (a requirement in the state constitution).

Testimony from both the claimants and the accused found that the nominations process conflicted with the requirements of the state constitution.

They found that new bylaw amendments passed in April 2024 (which altered the governance of the convention) directly contradicted the state constitution, and were therefore invalid.

Finally, when the accused were asked why they had ignored 5 provisions of the state constitution, they acknowledged they had not followed the state constitution but only because they did not know it existed. While the committee sympathized, ignorance of a 14 year old state governing document is not an excuse for state leaders violating it’s requirements.

Consequently, the Dispute Committee ordered a new convention be held to redo the elections, which will be planned and run by leaders from YRNF. All candidates who ran during the original convention (even those responding to the dispute) are able and welcome to run this time. Until the conclusion of this new convention, leadership of the Georgia Young Republicans has reverted to the prior administration of Chairman Shane McGonigal.

You can find copies of the Georgia YR constitution & bylaws, and the Dispute Committee findings, in this folder.

The Dispute Committee acted because they found clear evidence that the state governing documents were violated. They did not do so because any individual candidate won an election. Their intent is to ensure proper governance, regardless of who wins.

For my part, I will eagerly welcome whomever wins this new convention, and help them fight to win Georgia this year and in the years to come. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions.

Respectfully,

Hayden Padgett

Chairman

Email obtained by Peach Pundit to GYR chapters and members.

Wowzer.

Okay, so I have spoken to a lot of people about this situation, some who are trying to be neutral, and others who have very strong opinions on both sides about what happened. I also heard a couple of repeated accusations that are not included in the communication from YRNF, so I am not including them here. But a common refrain I heard from several folks was to ask me why I am writing this post. It’s a fair question.

First, several chapters made this a newsworthy item by issuing a press release. Second, I do not trust the media to tell this story without intentionally making all parties involved look bad. We are talking about low hanging fruit for someone on a deadline and needs to submit an article who also has no love for Republicans. Third, in a way, I see history repeating itself and now I have gray hairs in my beard so I feel like a little historical perspective could be valuable. Lastly, there is an opportunity to point out the dangers in booting out the RINO’s, who are not actually RINO’s at all.

A long time ago a group of pro-life activists, led by Dan Becker, took over the Cherokee County Republican Party, kicking out the establishment hacks that they thought were RINO’s. Only Mr. Becker would admit a decade or so later that they had no idea what they were doing when they took over and ran out all of the old guard Republicans who used to run the show. He would admit this in an address to the Cherokee County Republican Party Convention, offering his insight into how he should have handled things differently back when they raided the organization.

I do not remember every word he said, but I do remember the sentiment very clearly. Those he ran out were not the enemy. He should have looked for ways to build bridges with people as opposed to burning them. Institutional knowledge is important and life is tougher when you don’t have it.

At the time he spoke those sentiments a new crop of Ron-Paul-Liberty-Revolutionaries were attempting to do the same thing. His story was a cautionary tale to the new crop of activists that were attempting to follow his path toward a weaker and smaller party that wielded less influence.

And it is through Dan Becker’s speech that I see this development with the GYRs. History is repeating itself as new crop of activists chase out the old. What is left is a smaller org with less influence.

Speaking with various people who are familiar with the events that led up to this weekend’s dueling narratives, I heard a whole bunch of us vs them when all of these people should be on the same side. The YRNF’s decision to hold and administer a new convention is still fresh and therefore the emotions of this decision are still raw. So a certain level of that is understandable, although we should strive to be better than that.

Those who were elected to leadership positions in May have an opportunity to show how they can lead through a rough patch if they see this as an opportunity to show how they are bridge builders instead of flame throwers. My advice here is completely free, and likely worth what I am paid for it, but it’s what I would be doing right now.

Regardless of whether anyone agrees with YRNF or whether there are relevant facts that should have led them to a different decision, we know that a new convention is definitely going to happen. Issuing statements about the fairness of YRNF’s decision really doesn’t serve anyone here. They had a process and followed it and now the GYR’s are going to have to handle business.

There is just one small delicious nugget in this that I cannot help but point out and I hope it is a lesson to everyone on both sides. Someone didn’t like the result so they questioned the legitimacy of the process. Who would do something like that? Now the results are tossed and whoever wins next is going to have a cloud hanging over them no matter who it is. It will make it harder for the next chair, whether it is Miss Harn or someone else, to lead the organization.

Oh the irony of all of it!

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