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Georgia Republicans will heed wake-up call
Rep. Jon Burns - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

I think we all can agree the 2018 election will go down in history as the most over-analyzed, over-talked and over-litigated election cycled in our state’s history. 

Up and down the ballot, our Republican team faced challenges not seen in over a decade and, while I will be thrilled to see Brian Kemp inaugurated as our 83rd governor next month, I think the Georgia Republican Party and our elected Republican leaders, including myself, should see some of the results of Nov. 6 as a wake-up call.

The broader statewide political trends that will define our state’s future are best summarized by the losses suffered by our Georgia House Republican Caucus on election night. After mobilizing more than $2 million in financial resources, undertaking an aggressive mail and digital program, and wearing the rubber thin on our shoes going door-to-door, we saw 14 Republican-controlled seats flip and three Democratic seats return to our control. Every seat we lost was located in either Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, or Henry county. In short, election night was proof that Georgia Republicans have a problem connecting with voters in and around Atlanta.

While House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, Stacey Abrams and others have celebrated these wins as evidence that Georgia is finally turning Blue, our data points to something different: this year, voters across metro Atlanta were motivated by their attitude toward national politics. President Trump brought out some voters who didn’t care about the records of an arguably moderate group of metro Republicans. They were out to send a message to the president and, as a result, created a blue wave that swept away some great members. Across the districts we lost, we saw turnout exceed even the most liberal expectations – enthusiasm driven not by dissatisfaction with us so much as it was by dissatisfaction with the national Republican brand.

In my opinion, election night left Georgia Republicans facing two diverging roads for our future – to borrow from Robert Frost. One road has us relying on the campaign methodologies of the past where a mostly rural, male coalition of voters ensures our limited success. The second road is forward-looking and requires our Republican leaders to use both their power and their pulpit to proclaim a message that speaks to all Georgians – rich and poor, young and old, rural and urban – no matter their race, creed, gender or religion. Our continued future success requires that we take the second road and that, while we continue to work on behalf of rural Georgia, we make sure our message and policies match the needs of an increasingly diverse state.

Republican leadership has made Georgia the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family, and, yet, we struggle to bring that message to voters. So, over the next two years, you will see our caucus partnering with Gov. Kemp, our Senate colleagues  and the Georgia Republican Party to drive home a simple message: if you stand for opportunity for anyone willing to work for it, if you stand for giving the least fortunate a "hand up" rather than a "hand out," if you stand for protecting our children from kindergarten through college, if you stand for conserving our state’s natural resources, and if you stand for accountable, responsible government that keeps more money in your pockets…then stand with us.

If there is any doubt about where my caucus stands after election night, let me be clear: we may have stumbled, but we’re already up…and we’re ready for a rematch