Shepherd aspires to provide ‘a new vision’ to Cobb Republicans
MARIETTA — Jason Shepherd said the Cobb County Republican Party needs “a new vision,” and he thinks he is just the person to provide it.
Shepherd is running against Rose Wing, the current first vice chair of the Cobb GOP, for the position of chair. The election is Saturday.
“I think Joe Dendy has done an admirable job keeping it going,” Shepherd said. “Cobb County, from what I understand, is the fifth largest Republican county in the country, and we could really be a leader — not just in Georgia, but nationally.”
Shepherd said he has been involved in politics most of his adult life in some form or fashion. He volunteered for campaigns in college, worked for former U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich during his last year in office and has worked as a political consultant.
“In 2001, I became the youngest vice chairman ever elected to the Georgia Republican Party — I was 25 at the time — and I served two terms,” he added.
Shepherd has created a 10-point plan he calls the Contract With Cobb, which is modeled off of Gingrich’s Contract With America.
“In 2015, I want to renew our county with those 10 points and how we’re really going to focus on building the party in this county and really showing that the Republican Party stands for strong, bold colors, not pale pastels,” Shepherd said.
His opponent, Wing, has recently been accused of financial misconduct in the form of a secret bank account, and a bounced check by Bill Simon on Political Vine. Shepherd said while the accusations are troubling, he had nothing to do with them.
“I think she needs to really answer them. Had she been completely honest with who she is, that’s really up to her to answer. I can’t do that for her,” he said. “I think she needs to really deal with that.”
Shepherd said the main thing he would like to bring back to the party is more political activity.
“Just things to get people in the party active and involved in a way that matters and a way that’s open to everyone,” he said.
He said he would like to see the monthly breakfast meetings become more widely attended and become a center for the Republican Party in Cobb, which he said isn’t currently the case.
He also said, if elected chair, the Cobb GOP would begin filing contribution disclosures again.
“Since 2008, Cobb County Republican Party has not filed disclosures with the state ethics commission. The Republican Party of Georgia does that and Cobb County used to do it,” he said. “We don’t have to do it, and I think that needs to be made clear.”
He said any donations to a political candidate at or above $25,000 is required to be disclosed. Anything under that, Shepherd said, is a matter of public trust.
“I want people to know that if they give $1 to Cobb County Republican Party, we’re being good stewards of that (and) we’re spending it wisely,” Shepherd said.
He said he has served as a treasurer for political campaigns before and knows how to file disclosures, as does Tim Stultz, a former Cobb school board member who is running with Shepherd as his treasurer.
Shepherd said he thinks one of his biggest strengths is the fact he has political contacts not just throughout the state, but also nationally and internationally.
“One of the things I’ve been doing recently as part of the International Youth Committee with the Young Republican National Federation is I’ve been traveling overseas to speak to young members of right-of-center political parties,” he said. “Basically, those nations’ version of the Young Republicans.”
Shepherd said he has been speaking to those groups about how they can grow their involvement and how they can make a difference in their country’s political process.
“A lot of people, from what I hear, get very, very frustrated,” Shepherd said. “They don’t understand what the role of the Republican Party is. They say things to me like, ‘Oh, there’s no difference between the parties.’ And then we wonder why our elected representatives do not vote the way that we would think Republicans would vote.”
He said the problem for conservatives is there’s not a strong home base to rally the support around.
“But we can make a difference here in Cobb County by really strengthening the grassroots and showing people that what happens in Atlanta under the Gold Dome and what happens even in Washington, D.C., really starts at the precinct level if we come in with a plan and grow the party in that way,” Shepherd said.
He said he hasn’t seen much of that happen in recent years.
“I think there’s been a great fear of new people coming into the party, and I’ve seen the party close itself out,” Shepherd said. “And that’s one of the main things I want to change.”
Shepherd said he thinks the party needs to have more voter contact — and not just in Cobb.
“If we are big in Cobb, if we are strong in Cobb County, then where else near Cobb County can we make a difference?” he asked.
He said during his time with the Young Republicans, he helped with deployment campaigns to decide where to send volunteers and members in various parts of the country that needed help with campaigning.
“In the 2004 re-election for George W. Bush, I was sent down to the Interstate 4 corridor in (middle) Florida to go door-to-door,” Shepherd said. “Bush lost the I-4 corridor in 2000. He won it in 2004.”
Shepherd said he wants to emphasize the “big tent” aspect of the Republican Party and include Libertarians, even if he doesn’t always agree with them.
“I may not agree with Libertarians 100 percent. I may not agree with them 80 percent,” Shepherd said. “But (Ronald) Reagan said, ‘An 80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy.’”
He said many Libertarians tend to be younger and people change the older they get.
“I’ve told several people that maybe what needs to happen, rather than pushing people out without basically getting to know them, is to say, ‘Well, we were all young once. We all believed a little bit differently when we were 20 than we do when we’re 40 or when we’re 60.’ Which is a good thing. (Winston) Churchill said, ‘If you’re not liberal at 20, you don’t have a heart. If you’re not conservative at 40, you don’t have a head.’ Which I guess means I never had a heart, but even at 20, I was more liberal than I (am) now.”
Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential race, Shepherd said his top three potential candidates are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
“Maybe Jeb Bush, but as much as I don’t want to see another Clinton — I’d hate to discredit someone simply because of who their family is — but three presidents named Bush in my lifetime is just a little too much,” he added.
Shepherd said he does not support the controversial transportation bill — House Bill 170 — which seeks to increase funding for transportation infrastructure by $1 billion.
“I think Ed Setzler had a viable plan that should have been given more consideration,” he said.
Shepherd said he would provide a breath of fresh air to the party, compared to his opponent who has been a part of the party’s leadership for years.
“I’ve laid out a plan; (Wing) hasn’t,” Shepherd said. “She just wants to continue what Joe Dendy has been doing, and I think we can do a lot better than that. I think that’s the key difference.”
Shepherd said one of the things he would do differently than Dendy is eliminate what he calls the “breakfast tax” at the monthly breakfast meetings, which he said would go a long way in boosting membership.
“I think one of the main things that deters membership is the $10 we charge at the Republican breakfast,” Shepherd said. “That has taken the place of a lot of fundraising.”
He said the party used to have more fundraising efforts, such as an annual gala dinner that was the main fundraising mechanism and boosted morale by giving out awards to volunteers.
“We don’t do that anymore because now we have a steady income coming in and it allowed us to get soft,” he added.
He also said the “breakfast tax” may be one of the reasons there aren’t many young people at the meetings.
“You’re also not going to get a college Republican to come in. It’s hard enough to get them to wake up and be there at 8 (a.m.), let alone pay up the $10 even not to eat,” Shepherd said. “So we need to get back to the good, solid fundamentals of fundraising and allow that $10 breakfast tax to fall by the wayside.”
Wing, however, refuted the claim it is a “tax” and said it is simply a way to raise money and pay for the cost of the breakfast.
“You have to fundraise for the party and we also have to cover our expenses when we have an event like that,” she said. “It costs to have headquarters. There is the gas, there is the power. … It’s everyone’s party and it takes everyone to raise those funds.”
THE JASON SHEPHERD FILE
RESIDENCE: west Cobb
FAMILY: Wife — Manuela; two children — 3 ½-year-old Alexander and 2 ½-year-old Natalie
EDUCATION: Undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Georgia; law degree from John Marshall University; currently in part-time graduate program in global business from Oxford University
RUNNING MATES: Neva Lent for first vice chair; Michael Davis for second vice chair; Tim Stultz for treasurer; Chad Teague for assistant treasurer; and Shelby Blakely for assistant secretary
Wing aims to continue legacy; talks financial mishandling claims
MARIETTA — Rose Wing, the first vice chair for the Cobb GOP, is gunning for the top slot and wants to build upon the legacy of outgoing Chairman Joe Dendy and all the chairs that have gone before him.
“Cobb has a wonderful legacy that I want to continue while building for our future,” Wing said. “All of the past chairs have laid the foundation on which you build upon.”
Wing is running against Jason Shepherd, former general counsel of the Young Republican National Federation, Inc. The election is Saturday.
Wing said she has been involved with the Republican Party since the early- to mid-1980s. Her resume includes being past president of the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club, immediate past president of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women and sitting on the board of the National Federation of Republican Women.
Wing also chaired the pro-SPLOST group Citizens for Cobb’s Future, which spearheaded the successful campaign of a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax for the county in 2011.
Wing recently came under fire after Bill Simon, writing on Political Vine, accused Wing of bouncing a check and setting up a secret bank account on behalf of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women when she was chair of the organization.
Regarding the bounced check, Wing said she did not know what Simon was referring to.
“I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that,” Wing said. “It’s $20. I don’t remember it. I will pay it. I mean, it’s $20, I just don’t remember it.”
She said the bank account wasn’t secret and was created to handle funds for United We Stand — an event the GFRW cosponsored with other organizations — to prevent money getting mixed up with the organization’s general fund.
“I don’t know what more to say other than there was no secret account. It was for an event,” she said. “It was in the same bank as the other (account) was. It had to be kept separate because we had different clubs sponsoring it.”
She declined to comment on allegations that Shepherd was behind the accusations against her, stating she does not believe in negative campaigning.
“I have strongly said that from the beginning, because I don’t feel that a negative campaign is good for the party,” she added.
Shepherd said he had nothing to do with the accusations, noting he has been attacked by Simon as well.
“Bill Simon has blocked me on Facebook,” Shepherd said. “We had our falling out … and really haven’t been able to rectify it ever since.”
POWER OF COBB
Wing said the Cobb GOP is important because the county is one of the largest Republican counties in the U.S. and she aims to keep it that way.
Said Wing: “2014 was a great year. Everyone needs to keep this energy up and keep the motivation up. Cobb is the leading county on door-knocking and phone calls in the state during 2014, so I want to keep this momentum up and going.”
Wing said with presidential primaries coming up in about a year, now is the time to start campaigning.
“We’ve got to be able to hit the ground running,” she noted.
She said presidential candidates will be coming to Georgia during their campaign stops.
“And as they come to Georgia, they’re going to come to Cobb because Cobb is the largest Republican county in the state and one of the largest ones in the Southeast,” Wing said. “So we’re going to be playing a major role, and we have to be ready to be here and welcome them.”
As for who she would like to see get the Republican nomination for president, Wing said she would not be allowed to endorse anyone as chair and prefers not to make any endorsements with the election of Cobb GOP chair looming.
“I would like to say whoever our nominee is, we will be working out there in full force for them just like we did in 2014,” Wing said. “Whoever the nominee was for the Republican Party, we got out there and got behind them,” she said, adding the party supported Gov. Nathan Deal, U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Attorney General Sam Olens in their recent elections.
She also said, as a candidate for chair, she didn’t want to publicize her personal opinion on a controversial transportation bill — House Bill 170 — that passed the Georgia House and seeks to increase funding for transportation infrastructure by $1 billion.
“Yes, I do have a personal opinion as to the transportation (bill). I don’t feel it is my position as the chairman of the Republican Party to state what my personal (opinion is),” Wing said. “I am not the entire voice of the Republican Party on issues. My job is to promote the Republican Party and get the Republicans elected.”
Wing said her goals as chair would include more community engagement and more diversity. She referred to an Easter event in Tumlin Park at Hickory Hills the Cobb GOP is planning she hopes will bring more diversity into the party.
“That is a very diverse community out there,” Wing said. “It has a very large Hispanic and Asian community, black community and a white community and they all come in and interact in that park. We’re going to have our Easter egg hunt there.”
She said she feels strongly that Republican principles resonate within minority communities.
“They believe in strong family values, individual responsibility and limited government, and it resonates within those communities,” Wing said. “We just need to make sure we are reaching them with the right messenger, too, with our message.”
Wing also said she wants the Cobb GOP to work with its local affiliates, specifically the Cobb Young Republicans and the Cobb Republican Women’s Club.
“The (Young Republicans), I truly do hear from time to time the comment that they’re the future of our party,” she said. “No. They’re our party right now.”
She said younger members can help engage other young people, as well as help with technology, noting it is also important for members of all ages to work together and be able to relate to each other.
“Our older Republicans are experienced and have a lot of knowledge,” Wing said. “They’re working longer, they’re involved longer in the community and they have a lot knowledge that needs to be shared. So, we need to learn to listen to each other and share ideas with each other.”
Another key point Wing said she wants to address as chair is voter registration.
“People no longer have that time to go to the library to register,” she said. “So, we need to take the technology and educate people that they now can register online and buy an app on their smartphone.”
She said educating people about the ease of registering to vote would have a domino effect because they would then spread the word themselves.
Some have criticized the way Dendy has run the monthly breakfast meetings, claiming he suppresses the audience from being overly critical of guest speakers during question and answer sessions of the program. Wing said she doesn’t agree with that criticism; however, she does believe the meeting should be a place for respectful debate.
“We’re all Republicans — or we should be (at the meetings) — and we believe in the Republican principles,” she said. “If you believe in the Republican principles, you can differ on the issues. As Ronald Reagan said, ‘You can be 80 percent my friend, (it) doesn’t make you 20 percent my enemy.’”
She said she believes when everyone comes together at an event such as the breakfast meetings, they should treat everyone with courtesy, dignity and respect.
“(They should) respect their fellow Republicans and acknowledge the fact that we may differ as to issues, but we are not each other’s enemy,” she added.
She also said while there are differences between Republicans and Libertarians, there is also common ground and some who identify as Libertarians have worked and volunteered with the Cobb GOP.
“My feeling is as long as you are involved and actively involved with the Republican principles, as long as you’re not 20 percent the enemy and you’re not fighting up against the wall, we all have a goal to reach and if everyone’s working together — all Republicans working together — that goal will be a success,” Wing said. “So, as long as everyone is on board and on board with the Republican principles, we can get through issues.”
She said the main differences between herself and Shepherd is that she is a “very positive person.”
“I believe in working toward the future, not dwelling on anything in the past,” Wing said. “I’m very positive. I don’t deal with negative aspects. I don’t attack anything in the past and I believe I’m a more forward-thinking, future-oriented, building-the-party person.”
THE ROSE WING FILE
RESIDENCE: west Marietta
EDUCATION: B.A. in History from Maryville College; law degree from Woodrow Wilson College of Law in Atlanta
RUNNING MATES: Justin Tomzcak for first vice chair; Johnell Woody for second vice chair; Robert Potts for secretary; Kim Sherk for assistant secretary; Vince Clanton for treasurer; and Inger Eberhart for assistant treasurer