Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer spoke to the University of Georgia College Republicans and discussed the future of the Republican Party at the organization’s Oct. 30 meeting.
A 1988 UGA graduate, Shafer was elected to the Senate in 2002 representing District 48, a suburban district north of Atlanta, and was elected president pro tempore in 2013. Shafer ran for secretary of state in 1996 and lieutenant governor in 2018, but was defeated in both elections.
Shafer began the talk with what he thought were the greatest challenges to the Republican Party in Georgia: complacency and demographics.
“Because we had enjoyed a Republican supermajority, there was a lot of complacency and some of the machinery of the Republican party has become rusty,” said Shafer. “The biggest challenge that we face is a demographic one. Republicans have historically done very well among white voters and white voters are dwindling as a percentage of the electorate.”
Shafer detailed the necessity to include minority voters in future Republican plans.
“I don’t think it requires us changing our views on any issues,” said Shafer. “We’ve got to culturally re-inculcate our candidates and elected officials to engage everyone everywhere.”
He also expressed the desire for Republicans to capture more of the immigrant vote.
“Frankly, every immigrant community ought to be a Republican voter,” said Shafer. “If you look at all of the cultural attributes of immigrants to this country, they are family-oriented, they are entrepreneurial, they are hardworking, they are thrifty, they are religious. They have every cultural attribute that a Republican voter would have, and I think it’s just a matter of engaging them.”
Shafer discussed the upcoming 2020 elections, including those for Congress, the White House and Johnny Isakson’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat. Shafer emphasized the need for Republican voter turnout, citing the closeness of the 2018 gubernatorial election between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams that almost resulted in a run-off. Kemp won the election with 50.2% of the vote to Abrams’ 48.8%. A run-off would have been required if neither candidate had reached over 50% of the vote.
With Sen. Johnny Isakson retiring at the end of this year due to health problems, Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint an interim representative until the seat goes up for a special election in 2020. Shafer said he will most likely support Kemp’s choice in this “jungle election,” a term used to describe an election in which all candidates run together regardless of political party.
Kemp’s choice for the seat will run against any other opponents, Democrat or Republican, that choose to run for the seat in 2020. If no one candidate receives a majority of votes, the election will go to a run-off.
Shafer said he hoped Kemp’s appointment will be “somebody that will not seek to separate himself from the president” and “somebody that the Republican Party broadly rallies around.”
The audience participated in the talk, responding to questions from Shafer such as the strength of their support for President Donald Trump and how long they have been members of the Republican party.
When asked about his perspective on the 6th and 7th Congressional district elections, Shafer said he hopes the Republican party can win back the 6th District, which flipped in 2018 to Democrat Lucy McBath and hold onto the 7th District, where incumbent Rob Woodall won by just 419 votes in 2018.
Shafer ended the talk with a final note about political polarization, saying politicians aren’t moving to the middle because there are no moderate voters left.
“The country has divided up [and] chosen sides,” said Shafer. “It’s going to be ugly as the two political parties do everything they can to excite their bases.”