For the past several presidential election cycles, Chattooga County has leaned toward the Republican Party. However, since its creation from portions of Walker and Floyd counties in 1838, Chattooga has never seen fit to elect a Republican to a local office. That changed with Chief Solicitor, Buddy Hill, but was held to just a sliver until the Trump Train rolled into town.
For Chattooga, the Trump revolt was preceded with a minor revolt from within the Democrat Party two years ago. While campaigning for incumbent State Senator, Jeff Mullis, and incumbent Governor Nathan Deal, the sitting sole commissioner, Jason Winters, garnered the ire of his own democrat party. In a rare move, they began a process to kick Winters out of the party and suddenly Winters found himself as the incumbent but without a party. As the election season neared, Winters found himself on the doorstep of the Republican party just as they elected 18 year old Spencer Hogg as their chairman in a bold move to inject new energy into the party. Membership began to swell and the commissioner came knocking. The party opened their doors and, within a few months, another former democrat party official, Rickey Hughes, joined their ranks as well.
The next 18 months of the election season got underway with primary runoffs and activity the party had never experienced before. Winters won a primary against newcomer John Brady and joined Hughes, running for Tax Commissioner, and John Agnew, running for School Board, on the Republican ballot along with Solicitor Hill.
As the national election vitriol heated up, the intensity was magnified in the rural county of Chattooga as its 27,000 citizens were faced with their own version of civil war. Households were divided and friendships tested as past elections were pulled into the fray and things got down right personal and, at times, quite dirty.
As the dust settled, the biggest winner on the day was the local GOP. Winters retained his seat as sole Commissioner, Agnew won handily against a sitting democrat School Board member, and Hughes lost my less than two dozen votes. But Spencer Hogg oversaw a changing of the guard and a break through in the vice like grip on the county long held by juggernaut democrats like Bobby Lee Cook, Carlton Vines, and Albert Palmour.
All On Georgia reached out to Hogg to find out more about this roller coaster ride and the just what the future holds for the Chattooga GOP, and for Mr. Hogg himself.
AOG: How exciting have the past two years been for you?
SH: Since I became the chairman of the Chattooga County Republican Party last March, I have experienced so much excitement and action that I wasn’t expecting beforehand. I’ve met so many people across the state and formed so many new friendships. I’ve enjoyed working with party members and executive officers to move the party forward and create a movement here in the county. When I was elected, my main focus was the youth vote. It’s been so much fun reaching out to young voters and getting them involved in what many would call “a party for old white men”, which simply isn’t an accurate description. I love sharing my passion for politics with millennials like myself because we are the future and they need to get involved now.
AOG: Tell us a little about the growth in the Republican Party.
SH: I have seen tremendous growth in the Republican party here in the county. Our membership has grown, we had more candidates qualify on our ticket than ever before, meeting turnout has been much higher than in past years, we’ve had more elected officials visiting and showing attention to our county, we’ve branched out onto social media and gained interest through that, we’ve hosted more events and fundraisers, grown our party’s bank account exponentially and most importantly we’ve turned out voters for our guys and clinched seats we’ve never held before. We’ve proven that you don’t have to run as a Democrat to win locally anymore.
AOG: You are currently at University of Georgia. Tell us about the degree you’re pursuing and some of your future plans.
SH: If everything goes as planned I will graduate with a political science degree with a minor in history in July of 2017. After that is done I plan on moving back to Chattooga County full time and using what I have learned over the past 3 years to move Chattooga County forward in whatever capacity I can help. Everything I have tried to accomplish is an effort to make our homes a better place to live. Northwest Georgia is my home and my family and I plan on committing ourselves to improving the lives of Georgians in any way we can
AOG: You have had a career turning summer with an internship in Washington DC. Tell us about that experience.
SH: This past summer, Taylor, Branson, and I lived in Washington DC for about a month and half while I interned with our US Congressman, Tom Graves. I spent every day, Monday through Friday, working in his office and giving tours at the capitol to his constituents. I got to see a lot of the interworking’s of capitol hill and actually sit in on some committee hearings. I got to experience things that a lot of people don’t get to experience so I am extremely thankful to Congressman Graves and his staff for the opportunity. It was a great learning experience and I made a lot of connections while I was there. Being a member of #TeamGraves was an absolute honor.
AOG: What are your thoughts about why Donald Trump won so big in Chattooga County?
SH: Quite frankly Donald Trump speaks the language of everyday Americans while politicians such as Barack Obama have utterly failed. People perceived him to be a change agent while Hillary Clinton was more of the same. Also, this election proved that rural America still matters. Trumps coalition was also more diverse than the media would like to admit. The bottom line is people are tired of politicians and empty promises, they want progress and upward mobility.
AOG: Considering the success of the GOP here in Chattooga on Tuesday, what are your new goals for the party in the next four years?
SH: Within the next 1 to 4 years our goal as a party is to continue growing our membership and our presence within the county. We wish to open our arms to candidates and elected officials who wish to join our movement and we hope to continue turning Chattooga County Red. We hope to host more events, have more speakers and guests here in the county, and just continue reaching out to voters and getting our names and our party out there. Our movement was not about one election. Since I took over the helm as chairman I have had a long term plan for turning this county reliably Republican but more importantly a plan that unifies our county and makes it better for all citizens, regardless of party affiliation. The message I wish to send to current officeholders is simple: come home. Multiple officeholders that are Democrats are just as conservative as me, so I simply say its okay to be a Republican in Chattooga County. This election proved that much. In the immediate future I plan on running for reelection as Chairman of the Chattooga County GOP and I hope they will have me back. It’s been an honor to serve and help the Citizens of Chattooga County.