AllOnGeorgia has not conducted on-camera interviews with candidates in this race, but I do know all of the candidates personally and have known them all since well before they decided to seek statewide office.
The race itself is an anomaly and somewhat of a popularity contest. The office, which is charges with handling our state’s elections and state licensing, but most people don’t know that unless they’ve had some specific interaction with the office or have read some headline about some goings on. The office has been held by Brian Kemp since 2010, but he will be leaving office as he is running for Governor.
As Republicans, the candidates are – by and large – saying the same thing.They’ve all held various levels of political office before, but none long enough to classify as ‘career politicians.’ Three of the four candidates have served in the Georgia legislature. It is, by far, the most difficult race to distinguish platforms.
David Belle Isle
Attorney, Former Mayor of Alpharetta
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David Belle Isle served as a Alpharetta City Councilman before he decided to run for the State Senate in Georgia’s 56th district in 2010. I met him during that election, where he was defeated in a three-way primary and I worked on his mayoral election campaign when he ran successfully in 2011. He served as the Mayor of Alpharetta – my hometown – until April 2018, when he resigned his seat to officially run for Secretary of State. He and his wife, Candice, have a son and a daughter.
ISSUES: His platform, according to his website, focuses on ‘Defeating Voter Fraud and Championing Georgia Jobs.’ He says defeating voter fraud is the number one priority for the office and will require photo IDs be provided with absentee ballots. Additionally, Belle Isle says he’ll implement the Proof of Citizenship Act, which ensures only U.S. citizens vote in elections. For businesses, Belle Isle says he wants Georgia to be the easiest place to start and grow a business. He’s relying on the growth and job creating in the city of Alpharetta during his tenure as a template for the state in terms of a business-friendly environment.
FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31, 2018 filing deadline, Belle Isle had raised $459,715.00 and spent $265,659.14. His campaign donations are, understandably, heavy in the Alpharetta area and from developers in the region. The majority of his donations were over $1,000. His expenditures are mostly campaign consulting, advertising, mailers, and credit card processing fees.
PROS: I know David Belle Isle to be an honest man and I know the decisions he makes are rooted in what he believes. He has been the underdog in an election before (in both the Senate race and the mayoral race) and he prevailed through extremely hard work in the mayoral election with the support of grassroots folks in the community. He knows how to build a network.
CONS: Though he has run for more offices than anyone else in the state, the only record we can look to to learn who he is as an elected official is tailored in Alpharetta. I have concerns with his governance being exclusive to an area of the state that does no resemble most other places in Georgia. Additionally, the City of Alpharetta came under fire in the past 18 months for issues over transparency and whether or not the city was following its own ordinances.
State Representative (Gwinnett) & Small business owner
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Buzz was active in his local Republican Party for years before he ran for office in 2010 and won. He served the 102nd district, which encompasses much of Gwinnett county. He and his wife, Christa, have 3 daughters, Elizabeth Hope, Grace Kathryn and Emily Joy.
While he was in the legislature legislature in 2010, he has worked on legislation to fight human trafficking, reform election law, protect student data privacy, and allow college students to protect themselves with stun guns on campus. Of the candidates running, it is my opinion that he has the most conservative and limited government voting record. Even as a no-voter and someone who stood against the political game in the House, he was well-respected enough to earn the endorsement of more than 70 of his elected colleagues.
ISSUES: Brockway has committed to serve as SOS and says his decision to seek the office was rooted in service, not political expediency or a less crowded field, per his social media account. He plans to lead the effort to purchase new voting machines, move to an instant runoff system (eliminating the two month runoff period we have now), and to purge the database of Social Security numbers in the interest of securing data. With regard to licensing, Brockway has pledged to enforce the Georgia Occupational Regulation Review Council’s duty to periodically review licensing practices for occupations, a practice that has not been done in recent years.
FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31 deadline, Buzz had raised $124,305.79 and spent $87,599.60. His campaign donations have been from other lawmakers and those in his Gwinnett community. He has spent the majority of his money on consulting, yard signs, and grassroots campaign staffers.
PROS: Brockway sports an ‘Appeal to Heaven’ pin, which means he aligned himself with the ATH caucus under the Gold Dome – a group dedicated to principles over politics. During my own time working at the Capitol, I had in-depth conversations about the elections process, how it could be more efficient, ballot access, and so many other non-SOS related issues. There were times that we disagreed vehemently, but he was always more concerned about understanding why someone felt a certain way than he was with being ‘right.’
CONS: Buzz is the underfunded candidate and he has struggled to get his message out. To be blunt, my concern with Buzz is that he is actually too nice to everyone, even those who have burned him politically. Perhaps that isn’t a con, perhap it is. That’s a personal decision. He also supported SB 133 in 2015, to give the Governor the power to takeover failing school districts.
State Senator (Columbus) & Attorney
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McKoon, who has been a state Senator since 2011, knows people in every corner of the state. Whether he helped someone with a legal issue in his capacity as an attorney or if he spoke in front of a crowd on his religious freedom legislation, McKoon is a household name in many places. His stances, while they are his own, are divisive. His religious stances have angered, maybe enraged, those on the left side of the aisle. He is married to Jacqueline and they live in Columbus.
ISSUES: His campaign platform includes preventing illegal aliens from improperly voting, requiring Photo ID for every vote cast, reforming the licensure process to make it easier for Georgians to start and grow their own business, and implementing a database to track all state expenditures.
FUNDRAISING: According to the March 31 reporting paperwork, McKoon had raised $215,385.09 and spent $91,384.99. His funding is comprised of lawmakers, citizens, and organizations with a good blend of each. His money has been spent on consulting, staffers, advertising, and signs.
PROS: You know where Josh McKoon stands on every issue. He is vocal and explanatory in his stances. When I don’t agree with him, I can almost always count on understanding why he believes something. He also doesn’t have a track record of flipping back and forth on issues and he will stay the course (his course), even in heat of public blowback.
CONS: His last session in the General Assembly was a rough one. He voted for and co-sponsored some pretty abysmal legislation, including co-sponsoring SB 336 which allows the GBI to access information from electronic and communication service providers (like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, etc) and prohibits those companies from acknowledging to their customers that their information has been subpoenaed by law enforcement. He’s also co-sponsored legislation in the past to collect DNA for persons arrested, not convicted, of felony crimes.
Former State Representative (Johns Creek), Business Owner
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Brad is CEO and owner of Tendon Systems, LLC, a specialty contracting and engineering design firm. He also owns and operates specialty steel manufacturing plants based in Columbus, GA and Forsyth County, GA. He also served as State Representative in District 50, which encompasses Johns Creek. He touts his legislative record of never voting for a tax increase on his website, which offers very little information. His recent mailer distributed says he was A-rated by the NRA, earned a 100% rating with the Faith & Freedom Coalition, and an A-rating by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He and his wife, Tricia, live in Johns Creek.
ISSUES: His website has no information on his issue positions, but the mailer I received last week says he believes only American citizens should vote, he supports paper ballots for verification of votes, he would like to reduce regulation and eliminate unnecessary licensing, and he will ‘lead a statewide crackdown to stop sex trafficking in Georgia.’
FUNDRAISING: As of the March 31 campaign finance report, Raffensperger collected $343,845.00 in donations and spent $220,768.36 of that money on consulting, campaign staffers, legal fees, and advertising through his consultant team. On April 17, Raffensperger put $500,000 of his own money into the campaign as a ‘loan,’ meaning he expects to pay the money back to himself by campaign donations at a later time.
PROS: Raffensperger is very reasonable and open-minded. He is, by every definition of the word, conservative.
CONS: His campaign has a focus on sex trafficking. I received a mailer from his campaign just last week that says he will “lead to shut down corporations laundering money for sex trafficking and illegal drug operations that prey on our children.” This is a bit of inside baseball here, but our state has, in recent years, made some mega-strides to crack down on human trafficking, but in doing so, our lawmakers have sacrificed liberty, limited government, and quite frankly, the proper role of government in order to pass these measures. Raffensperger has supported all of those measures. And…sex trafficking is not an issue for the Secretary of State – it’s a law enforcement issue.
(A search was made on Facebook, the campaign website, and YouTube for a video of the ad running on TV right now by Raffensperger, but could not be located. The article will be updated should it appear on the interwebs)
All four of the candidates used their fundraising money to pay the $3,719.10 qualifying fee to the Georgia Republican Party in order to run for office. Brockway, McKoon, and Raffensperger are all pushing their endorsement by Georgia Right to Life, though the endorsement has nothing to do with the office.
A con across all four is that they all live in metro areas of the state and each have spent very little time in rural Georgia. While the Secretary of State’s office is operational and bureaucratic in nature, access is a huge thing. If the campaign trail is an indicator of their representation of the state south of Macon, they all have work to do as little time has been spent in our most southern counties. Kemp, as Secretary of State, has repeatedly visited all 159 counties in Georgia in his official capacity. The next SOS will have large shoes to fill in terms of visibility and accessibility.
The upside is that all four of the people running are actually good humans, which is something we don’t usually see across the board in a primary race.
All four will be on the Republican ballot on May 22. As promised, I won’t use this platform to sway your decision. I urge you to do further research if you have more questions and pick the person you feel is most qualified to serve, not the one you feel has the best chance at winning.