More Than A Year Away It’s Already Ugly in Georgia

In the battle to become Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor, the Ralph Reed vs. Casey Cagle fight is going to be one to watch nationally. Already money is flowing in among the Reed haters and Reed followers. With a year to go, Cagle is out charging hard raising his profile while Reed stays under the radar.

Ralph Reed is the former Chairman of the Christian Coalition and Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. Reed gets a lot of credit for organizing the party effectively in 2002, which led to the GOP’s take over of the Governor’s Mansion, State Senate, and, two years later, the State House. Reed also was dumped as Chairman shortly after the first elected GOP Governor in Georgia’s history was sworn in — it remains unresolved how much of it was voluntary and how much of it was pressure from the Governor. Since then, Reed coordinated the President’s GOTV efforts in the Southeast quite successfully.

Senator Casey Cagle represents Georgia’s 49th Senate District, which includes Hall, Jackson, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Madison, Pickens, and Dawson Counties. The area is one of the prettiest, fastest growing, and richest in the state. As a senator, Cagle chairs the Senate Finance Committee and sits on its Appropriations Committee. Not well known outside the Senate or his district, Cagle does not have the name recognition of Ralph Reed in the state, but is working hard to overcome that.

In raising his profile, Cagle has thus far made the race about Reed. Cagle already has on the payroll several people who either worked for Reed or with him. They have done more to attack Reed than promote Cagle, except for their handy work at the State Convention (we’ll get to that). Joel McElhannon, Cagle’s strategic consultant, is a master at earned media and has so far been able to directly and indirectly draw attention to Reed’s flaws. Sources at several national media outlets tell me that a lot of national press coverage of Reed lately has come from unnamed Georgia Republicans. The fingerprints, at first glance, appear to be those of Cagle staffers.

While Cagle has a master of earned media on his payroll and one of the best mail designers in the Southeast, Jay Williams, on call, Reed is a reputed master of grassroots activism. While the newspapers have been filled with stories of Reed’s excesses, with more to come, Reed has rather quietly begun building a formidable organization through Georgia. Sources close to Reed and independent confirmations indicate that Reed already has more than 110 county chairmen in place for a grassroots organization being built in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. With more than 500 active campaign participants and only one paid staffer, Reed is hoarding money rumored to already be in excess of $1million given and more pledged.

The campaign, more than a year away, will feature a group of people who hate Reed against Reed and those who like him. The Cagle camp already has several staffers to Reed’s one staffer and has already spent a good deal of money. At Georgia’s Republican Convention, Cagle had a well stocked and prepared hospitality area, large vertical banners, and a professionally produced introductory video. Even more noticeable, Cagle had his logo on all the room keycards at the hotel. Even critics were impressed with the way McElhannon was able to garner attention for Cagle, but one ardent Cagle supporter told me, “There was a lot of bang and a lot of buck, but it seems too early to be spending that much cash. I’m not sure what the strategy is besides making Reed unpalatable.” Reed, like the tortoise, is continuing to build a war chest one friend of his says “grows regularly and has not dropped off despite all the attacks. If anything, the grassroots folks who helped Reed in 2002 are pissed that some people are beating him up.” Says one Reed diehard, “He got us into the majority and its our turn to help him.”

With a year to go, both sides are in it to win. Early projections of a clear Reed victory have been dampened by all the stories on Reed. The latest salvo is that Ralph Reed is lobbying on behalf of the cable and television industries’ opposition to decency standards. Those prone to betting, however, are still putting their money on Reed getting through the primary based on name recognition and grassroots. If Cagle can build his name recognition statewide, however, he has a real shot — assuming his money holds.

In the words of one outside observer, “It’s too soon to tell, but my money is on Ralph for the primary and the Democrat for the general.”

About the author

Erick Erickson

View all posts

5 Comments

  • Cagle is a genuine conservative, and he is proving himself a credible candidate.

    Reed long ago forfeited any claim to being a conservative. He has spent the last decade renting out his once well deserved reputation as a leading Christian conservative to anyone with a checkbook.

    Reed ran Mitch Skandalakis’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor in 1988 against another genuine conservative, Clint Day. It was one of the nastiest campaigns in Georgia history, with Reed accusing Day of “desecrating Indian graves” days before the primary. Reed’s candidate Skandalakis, now a convicted felon, imploded in the general election and ended up costing us the Governor’s race.

    Reed apologizes at every opportunity for his work against Clint Day, but he has yet to change his ways. He has taken over $4 million in fees from Indian gaming lobbyists who are now under FBI investigation. Now he has been hired by the cable industry to fight the federal decency standards. He will do anything for money.

  • It is telling that so many of Mr. Reed’s former employees are so actively working against him. It could be that Mr. Cagle is unusually charismatic, but my guess is that the up-close-and-personal view of Mr. Reed is pretty ugly. Also, I do not think there is any question that Mr. Reed’s departure as party chairman was involuntary. Mr. Reed is a “Post Office Republican” who was of virtually no help to the Governor in his campaign.

  • Love him or hate him, he knows his business. At this point it is all about organization for him.

    For Cagle, he had to get his name out there and the appearance that he can win. Thus the excesses at the convention. Before the convention my only knowledge of Cagle was his 12 years in the statehouse. Cagle’s marketing approach is absolutely novel. The use of the NASCAR theme easily helps shed the preconceived notion that he is affiliated with the chicken processor. At the convention I would give him an A+ on style.

    Cagle is a nice fellow and frankly his marketing drew me to his suite. Well, actually it was the need for some coffee. What surprised me was that his parents were far more aggressive at meeting people than he was. If wants to win this election he is going to have to be more aggressive at meeting folks.

    My money is on Reed. My experiences with him have not been negative, quite the contrary. As Chairman Reed was proactive at getting outside of Atlanta and building the Party. He conducted numerous training meetings and rally’s and educated the Party activists. Now, contrast that with the current chairman. Both are likeable fellows, but name one thing other than the beggin letters he has done to build the local activists?

    His work ethic alone is why I am supporting Reed.

  • Ralph Reed was elected state chairman of the Georgia Republican Party in 2001 by promising to support a Resolution restoring the Cross of Saint Andrew to the Georgia Flag. He made this promise the morning of the vote in a speech to 400 delegates belonging to the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. It took him less than five minutes after his election to break that promise.

    Supporters of Southern Heritage are just one in a long line of those SHAFTED by Ralph Reed, including the members of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. See Dr. Robertson’s comments in the New York Times and read up on Ralph Reed at http://www.georgiaheritagecouncil.org. Ralph Reed is a liar and hypocrite.

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/news/crawford-ralph-reed-republican s.phtml

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/scroggins-ralph-reed-obv ious-liar.phtml

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/highsmith-ralph-reed.pht ml

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/dean-ralph-reed-sells-ou t-kids.phtml

  • Ralph Reed was elected state chairman of the Georgia Republican Party in 2001 by promising to support a Resolution restoring the Cross of Saint Andrew to the Georgia Flag. He made this promise the morning of the vote in a speech to 400 delegates belonging to the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. It took him less than five minutes after his election to break that promise.

    Supporters of Southern Heritage are just one in a long line of those SHAFTED by Ralph Reed, including the members of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. See Dr. Robertson’s comments in the New York Times and read up on Ralph Reed at http://www.georgiaheritagecouncil.org. Ralph Reed is a liar and hypocrite

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/news/crawford-ralph-reed-republican s.phtml

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/scroggins-ralph-reed-obv ious-liar.phtml

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/highsmith-ralph-reed.phtml

    http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/dean-ralph-reed-sells-out-kids.phtml