Following the nail-biting race between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams last year, the equally nerve-wracking race between Karen Handel and Jon Ossof in 2017, and the Democrats’ escalating plans to turn Georgia blue in 2020, my home state has found an increasingly significant place in American politics over the last few years.
Like many other states, however, a very small clique of entrenched Republicans have left conservatives feeling disgruntled and disenfranchised. Over the last five months, I have seen much of this firsthand. This is because in June I launched my candidacy for state representative in Georgia’s 71st House District, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta. Between a special election on Sept. 3 and a runoff on Oct. 1, this campaign season proved to be a painful illustration of exactly why so many good people avoid politics altogether.
My main opponent just so happened to be Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison, daughter of former U.S. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. To no surprise, Mrs. Sakrison’s candidacy quickly became the ruling class’ attempt to install their handpicked heiress apparent.
On Aug. 28, it was reported that the speaker of the Georgia State House, Rep. David Ralston, had contributed the maximum amount allowed ($2,800) to Mrs. Sakrison’s campaign and had gotten several other legislators and lobbyists to chip in another $20,000; these funds alone comprised over a quarter of Mrs. Sakrison’s campaign budget. Additionally, a whopping 75 percent of Mrs. Sakrison’s donations came from special interests, with only $700 coming from small-dollar donations from everyday people (the least of any candidate on the ballot).
But why would Republican leadership in Georgia spend so much money on a seat that was so safely red?
The answer is simple: President Trump has upset the order of things, and the establishment — all the way down to the local level — is terrified. After generations of going home disappointed, voters are sick of “politics as usual.”
Our race quickly became an example of this. Over the following months, I faced constant intimidation and threats of “bottom of the barrel politics” from Mr. Westmoreland, Mrs. Sakrison’s campaign team and over a dozen power-brokers elsewhere in Georgia. After all, who was I, an Army veteran who believes in the U.S. Constitution, to challenge the status quo?
Things got even dicier when I made it clear I would oppose corruption on both sides (including that in the GOP). Mrs. Sakrison’s campaign team told me that I could never win, but even if by some miracle I did, they would make sure to undermine everything I ever tried to accomplish in the state legislature. They promised to use their influence to kill every bill I proposed. They promised that my tenure would be notoriously short-lived. They even promised they would say and do anything to win (a claim it would seem most campaigns are smart enough to avoid stating openly).
And to no surprise, the media would have had the entire state believe Mrs. Sakrison was destined to win by a landslide. She had outspent every other campaign combined and enjoyed the endorsement of every single local official, as well as several U.S. congressmen and a sitting U.S. senator.
Someone forgot to tell them, however, that threatening a combat veteran with a tough fight would not go the way they expected. To the shock of the media and the establishment elites, my campaign won by 18 points. The voters made their voices heard loud and clear that night: The time of good ol’ boy politics in Georgia is over.
Now, it is my hope that our victory (even in a small, rural district like mine) will inspire strong, principled conservatives elsewhere to stand up to the greed, corruption and treachery that has plagued politics for too long. In many ways, the principled, grassroots conservatives who find success in the GOP in the coming years will be a bigger threat to the Republican establishment than the Democrats.
Do not be intimidated or fooled. Our government is changing because the people are taking it back. Together we are stronger than the system. The only way for us to defeat the ruling class (in both parties) is for good men and women to stand up against them, one campaign at a time.
• Philip Singleton is a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.
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