January 21, 2015
Georgia Republicans have much to celebrate.
Last year’s midterm elections solidified the Grand Old Party’s dominance in the Peach State. From re-electing Governor Nathan Deal to sending businessman David Perdue to the U.S. Senate, ousting longtime congressman John Barrow from his perch in Augusta, to holding majorities in the State House and Senate, the “clean sweep” quashed the national narrative that Georgia was going purple and gave conservatives the mandate to lead.
Similarly, the Georgia Republican Party’s Minority Engagement Department has cause for celebration following the November election. After a year of hard work, our efforts to engage, inspire, and turn out non-typical, like-minded voters, showed real impact at the ballot box. According to exit polls, 47% of Hispanics and 10% percent of African American voters backed Gov. Deal. Clearly, the “changing demographics” in Georgia are an opportunity to grow the conservative movement.
But all Georgians – regardless of political affiliation or affinity – have reason to be optimistic and excited about the New Year.
Rapid population growth has quickly transformed our state into a melting pot of cultures, creeds, and colors. And the desire to find qualified public servants with new perspectives has grown just as quickly.
The election of Cambodian refugee Meng Lim to serve as Superior Court Judge in the Tallapoosa Circuit (Polk and Haralson Counties) is clear evidence of the desire for diversity. As the first Asian-American Superior Court Judge in Georgia, Judge Lim is blazing a trail while offering new insight into the challenges facing families fleeing war zones and relocating to the United States.
Governor Deal’s pair of appointments – Dean Bucci to the Superior Court in Paulding County and Cassandra Kirk to Chief Magistrate in Fulton County – was an outward display of an inward desire to give all Georgians a voice on the bench. The governor made it clear during his re-election campaign that he would do everything in his power to instill confidence in all branches of state government. These appointments affirmed his seriousness.
As the first Hispanic-American on the Superior Court bench, Judge Bucci will serve with impartiality while giving a voice to a growing community that is all too often silent.
Longtime community activist Judge Cassandra Kirk continues to be a light for young African American women who are looking for role models in government. Judge Kirk’s appointment affirms that the American Dream is still alive for those who work hard enough.
Lim, Bucci, and Kirk have ascended the ranks because of competence – not color. These leaders all transcend the boxes of demographics while maintaining a personal and vibrant connection to their heritage. Their stories are inspirational. Their impact is limitless.
So, as we enter the New Year, we celebrate the growing number of minority lawmakers, judges, and department heads while re-committing ourselves to raising up the future leaders of tomorrow. We must understand that the governor’s pen only goes so far. The make-up of the bench and voices heard under the Gold Dome are decided at the ballot box.
It is ultimately our job to vet, back, and support minority candidates who share our Georgia values and vision for this state’s future. Consider this burdensome but pivotal task a New Year’s Resolution that auto-renews.
Leo Smith is the Minority Engagement Director for the Georgia Republican Party.