Michael Williams told the gathering of Oconee Area Republicans that the state legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, is dominated by lobbyists, special interests and big corporations.
Joe Hunt said that the Republic Party at the national level is struggling to make clear that it is not controlled by dark money, is not racist, and is not dominated by big business.
Williams, a candidate for governor in the May 22 Georgia Republican primary, and Hunt, challenging incumbent Jody Hice in the 10th Congressional District Republican primary, were speaking to a group of Republicans at least somewhat sympathetic to critical assessments of their party.
The group used an informal format for the meeting with Williams and Hunt that allowed the two candidates to elaborate on their reasons for running for office and on the issues they are championing.
Williams spoke against “corporate welfare and crony capitalism,” in support of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and for constitutional carry–the legal carrying of a handgun, either openly or concealed, without a license or permit.
Hunt advocated for increased emphasis on vocational training, for tighter border controls, and for the establishment of procedures to make it easier for immigrant labor to become documented and be hired by businesses experiencing labor shortages.
Oconee Area Republicans
The Oconee Area Republicans emerged last year and then saw its leaders bypassed in the county convention when a more establishment slate took control of the local party leadership.
Adam Spence, who was one of the founders of Oconee Area Republicans, opened the meeting of the group, held March 24 at the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville, and then turned the program over to Pam Hendrix.
Following brief comments by Spence, who is a candidate in the local Republican primary for a Board of Education Post, and by Steven Strickland and Marcus Wiedower, competing in the Republican primary for Georgia House District 119, Hendrix asked Williams to come to the front of the circle of guests.
Williams, is one of seven Republican candidates in the May 22 gubernatorial primary. The list includes Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and State Sen. Hunter Hill of Buckhead.
Williams, from Cumming in Forsyth County, represents the 27th Senate District in the Georgia General Assembly. He is a certified public accountant.
Hunt followed Williams in the program.
Hunt is vice president of Franchise Relations at Zaxby’s and lives in Oconee County.
Incumbent Hice, a pastor from Monroe, also will have opposition in the Republican primary from Bradley Griffin, CEO of Optimized, a digital marketing services company. Griffin is from Jasper County.
Williams’ Critical Assessment
Williams spent much of his time explaining his frustration with the functioning of the Senate, saying it difficult to get bills passed or even given full consideration because of the control of outside interests.
“We need somebody that is going to be different,” Williams said. “Somebody that is going to be bold. Somebody that is not bought and paid for by lobbyists, special interests and big corporate...”
Hendrix interrupted before Williams could finish the sentence, and such give-and-take was common throughout the evening.
“It is incredibly important to get somebody, to elect somebody as our governor, who knows who they are, knows what they want to do, and knows how they are going to go about doing it,” Williams said.
“And that’s who I am,” he added.
Williams On Issues
Williams said he wants to eliminate the state income tax and promote offshore drilling for oil and gas.
“Instead of us spending billions of dollars to bring in corporations,” he said. “ Let’s create an environment where we can organically grow new companies, new businesses, where businesses to come to Georgia because they want to be a part of what Georgia...”
Someone cut Williams off again.
“I am 100 percent against corporate welfare and crony capitalism,” Williams said.
“I believe incredibly strongly that the government needs to get out of our way.”
Williams said he favors allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to work in the country legally but “Because they came into our country illegally, they can never have the right to vote, never have the rights we have as citizens.”
Hunt On Economic Opportunity
Hunt, who grew up in Elberton, focused many of his comments on the importance of economic development in small towns around the district.
“Economic prosperity is a way for the district to provide opportunities for young men and women across the district who grew up in towns or are growing up in towns just like I did,” he said.
Hunt said the district can attract businesses by “having a labor force that is attractive.”
Through vocational training, Hunt said, “We have an opportunity to remove a stigma off blue collar jobs starting in the eighth grade and show our kids a path to prosperity.”
Hunt noted that President Donald Trump also is promoting vocational education, and said “I was actually quite surprised to find out that he and I are so closely aligned on policy.”
Hunt On Immigration
Hunt said he wants tighter border controls and does not want to grant citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally.
“We need to put the immigrant labor that we are not going to deport to work to make it easier for them to become legally documented,” he said.
“The only people who benefit by keeping a social economic ceiling in place are Democrats because they are buying votes,” he said “And it does not benefit the party at all to break through that ceiling and empower everyone economically.
“I want to see us empower everyone economically,” he said. “You know what that does for us? It reduces the burden on the tax dollar you already pay for entitlement programs.”
Hunt On Freedom Caucus
Hunt was asked to give his opinion on the Freedom Caucus, of which incumbent Hice is a member.
“I do not like the Freedom Caucus,” Hunt said. “I’m not a fan.”
“If you sat down face-to-face with Jody Hice and shake his hand and have a conversation with him,” Hunt said, “he is a fine human being. He is a good man. You would have a fine time with that conversation.”
“My problem with the Freedom Caucus is that they always stick together, and there is one or two voices that run the show for that whole group. And they agree in huddle.”
“They have forgotten how to think on their own,” he said.
Hunt said he wants Republicans to develop a message that appeals to young voters that “makes them understand that this is not the party of dark money. It is not the party of racism. And it is not the party of big business rules the world.”
The video below is of the entire meeting of the Oconee Area Republicans.
I was not able to attend the meeting because of a family commitment. Sarah Bell did attend and made the video.
The meeting began with an introduction of the three local candidates, Spence, Strickland and Wiedower, in that order.
Hendrix introduced Williams at 14:25 in the video.
Hunt began speaking at 53:30 in the video.