Rick Jeffares, running for Georgia lieutenant governor, told Oconee County Republicans that he doesn’t expect the Republicans to loose any state offices in November and that the party is likely to control state politics for at least eight to 12 more years.
Jeffares, from Henry County, said he expects fewer people to vote in the May 22 Republican primary than voted in the primary four years ago.
Jeffares used the Feb. 22 meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party to state his positions on a variety of issues.
He said he wants to reduce regulations that restrict businesses, increase technical offerings in high schools, improve rural broadband service, invest more in roads and infrastructure, and reduce tuition at state universities.
He also said he was in favor of campus carry and favored restrictions on carrying guns only at big sporting events and in courtrooms.
Focus On Primary
Jeffares’s focus was on the May 22 Republican primary, when he will face former state Rep. Geoff Duncan from Forsyth County, Rick Knox from Union County, and State Sen. David Shafer of Duluth.
Duncan spoke to Oconee County Republicans in December.
Two candidates are expected to qualify next week for the Democratic primary, Sarah Riggs Amico from Kennesaw and Triana Arnold James from Smyrna.
Jeffares spoke for a little less than 12 minutes and then took questions for another 24 minutes.
His audience of 23 included Oconee County Commissioners Chuck Horton and William “Bubber” Wilkes, both of whom have announced their intent to run for re-election, and Houston Gaines, running to represent the 117th Georgia House District, which includes parts of Oconee County.
Two representatives of Joe Hunt, challenging incumbent Jody Hice in the 10th Congressional District Republican primary, were in the audience.
Steven Strickland, who has announced he plans to run for the 119th Georgia House District, also was present at the beginning of the session but did not stay for the meeting because of a scheduling conflict.
Jeffares is president of J & T Environmental Services in Locust Grove, an environmental consulting company.
Jeffares represented State Senate District 17, which includes most of Henry County, from 2010 until the end of 2017.
He also served as City Manager for Locust Grove and on the Henry County Board of Commissioners.
Jeffares told his audience he grew up on a cotton farm and wanted to be a farmer, but he said had to give up those plans because of the financial difficulty of farming.
He has spent his career in the water and sewer business.
Jeffares devoted much of his introductory comments to technical education.
“This is what I’ve heard everywhere I go around this state,” Jeffares said. “Unemployment is the lowest it has ever been. That’s a good thing, right?
“But they said kids that don’t go to college, kids that are coming out of high school, looking for a job, they’re not trained.”
Jeffares said a lot of high schools have stopped offering vocational classes and the students are taking history, science, math and English.
“They know no trade,” he said. “What are they going to do?”
“I want to go back to the way it was where, when I was in high school, I took electrical mechanics. I’m not an electrician but if I want to put a receptacle in that wall right there I know how to do it.”
Responses To Questions
One of the audience members said he saw in the news that Delaware is “working a bill through the Senate where children can choose their own sex, choose what race they want to be, and the parents are left in the dark.” (The Delaware proposal is a state Department of Education regulation, not a bill.)
“I mean really, is anything like that headed toward Georgia?” he asked.
“No. Not a chance,” Jeffares. “We are Republican controlled” with majorities in the state House and Senate.
“We’re probably not going to lose any state offices in this next elections,” Jeffares said. “So, not a problem.” All state elected officials at present are Republicans.
Turnout A Concern
Jeffares said in response to another question that his concern is with turnout in May.
“Everybody is wore out from the Ossoff/Handel thing,” Jeffares said in reference to the special election in June to fill the Sixth Congressional District seat formerly held by Tim Price.
Karen Handel won the race, besting Democrat John Ossoff, and keeping the seat in Republic hands.
“I think everybody is wore out from the presidential election,” Jeffares added.
Jeffares said people are not even closely following the Governor’s race, and “If people aren’t keeping up with the governor’s race, I can rest assured you they’re not keeping up with the lieutenant governor’s race.”
The Oconee County Republican Party adopted a policy at the end of last year that prohibits the audio or video recording of the comments made during the business meeting.
Tammy Gilland, party chair, asked me to turn off the camera after Jeffares finished taking questions but invited me to stay and to take notes.
Gilland reported that the party had held two strategy sessions for the 117th and 119th Georgia House elections in November of this year. Both seats are now held by Democrats, though they had been held by Democrats prior to special elections last November.
She said people don’t even know which district they are in and “people did not go vote” as a result.
The Republican-controlled legislature split Oconee County between the 117th and 119th in redistricting in 2011.
“It is going to take all of us working together,” Gilland said. “Please work for us, not against us. Some out there are doing that.”
The video below is of the part of the meeting I was allowed to record.
The beginning of the meeting is taken up with introductions, with each person present identifying herself or himself.
Jeffares began speaking at 3:38 in the video.
The meeting took place at a meeting room of the Piedmont medical complex at the corner of Jennings Mill Road and Virgil Langford Road.