Georgia GOP’s financial problems complicate race for next leader

Georgia GOP vice chairman Michael McNeely outside the state Capitol shortly after Donald Trump’s election as president in November. McNeely is one of 16 GOP electors. Branden Camp/Special

Georgia GOP vice chairman Michael McNeely. Branden Camp/Special

The following report is from our AJC colleague Michelle Baruchman:

Athens – The four top contenders to lead the Georgia GOP all aim to lift the cash-strapped state party out of debt. But the organization’s precarious financial position puts one candidate in particular in a bind.

As the party’s vice-chair since 2015, Michael McNeely was part of the group’s executive committee as it struggled to raise cash amid lawsuits and reports of internal turmoil.

And in a visit to the University of Georgia’s College Republicans on Wednesday, McNeely said he was also willing to make sharp cuts to get the party back on track after it finished the month with only $38,000 in the bank – and more than $300,000 in debt.

“Obviously that’s not where we need to be,” said McNeely. “We’ve got some areas of the party that are broken.”

No one in the audience in Athens were state GOP delegates – which means nary a soul there could help McNeely get elected chair in June. But he used to opportunity to highlight a campaign pledge to grow the party’s conservative base if he is elected to succeed chair John Padgett.

As the first potential black leader of the state Republican party, McNeely also said he would bring more minorities and young people into the GOP fold.

“You can’t go to a black church, wave, shake a few hands and smile and expect someone to vote for you,” he said, adding that county parties at the local level need to be engaged.

A deputy commissioner with the state Department of Juvenile Justice, McNeely said he’s not concerned his state role could interfere with his political work.

“I know how to manage my time between my responsibilities and my obligations with the party,” he said.

He faces at least three other opponents in a June vote, and a big test looms this weekend. That’s when he squares off against DeKalb attorney Alex Johnson, lobbyist John Watson and 12th District GOP chair Mike Welsh in the first debate.

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Ms Baruchmann doesn't offer any information about the First Debate as to time, place, etc.   It will be live streamed for those who can't attend and it is in Dahlonega, Lumpkin County.  They haven't publicized it.  It can be found on the Lumpkin County Republican Party FaceBook page.   For those that can not attend in person you can watch by livestream at