Today we witness the first Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News in Cleveland. Then most of the candidates will descend on Atlanta for the RedState Gathering. With those two events, the presidential race will be in full swing. And then attention will focus toward the so-called March 1 “SEC Primary.”

Voters in Georgia, along with Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, will cast their votes along with several other states. Georgia is well positioned to gather enormous attention by having 76 delegate votes (making Georgia the 5th largest total among Republican national convention delegates). And, finally, it is well positioned because of the clever decision of the State Republican Committee a couple of weeks ago.

As a Congressional District Chairman, I had the privilege of attending our State GOP Executive Committee meeting where we discussed how we would apportion our presidential delegates. We are a “Proportional Primary” state (states that set their Primary on March 15th or later can be “Winner Take All.”) There is no exact science as to how a state allocates its delegates proportionally, but the procedure must be approved by the national party.

In this context, the GOP State Committee adopted a plan identical to how we apportioned delegates in 2012 except that now the threshold for a presidential candidate to be able to get statewide delegates has been lowered if no one reaches the required 20%.

It would be lowered first to 15% then to 10% if no one reaches 15%. This has become necessary because of the record 17 announced Republican candidates. Besides that, the rule is the same as 2012. Georgia’s 76 delegates are selected as follows (14 congressional districts, 3 delegates per district equals 42 delegates; 31 at-large, statewide delegates, then the 3 leaders, State GOP Chair, National Committeeman and National Committeewoman which are automatically awarded to the winner of the state at-large.) The congressional districts will award 2 to the winner in the district’s vote and 1 to second place unless a candidate gets 50% plus 1 in which case that candidate gets all 3 delegates. The statewide, at-large delegates will be proportionally distributed with no fractions. Any remaining delegates will go to the overall winner with the state leadership delegates.

Incidentally, my opponent for the 11th District Chairmanship, Nathaniel Darnell, has been critical of our State Committee decision on how we will apportion our delegates. He advocated a 5% threshold for candidates to be eligible to win at-large delegates and for congressional delegates to be split among the top 3 in each Congressional district. He and I disagree on what the allocation system will mean for Georgia.

In my opinion, the allocation system the Georgia GOP set for our presidential delegates will greatly enhance our attractiveness to the presidential candidates. Knowing that they must hit the 20%, 15% or 10% threshold will encourage them to campaign here to get an opportunity to win our treasure trove of 76 delegates. If we set the threshold much lower as suggested by Nathaniel, then we reduce the incentive for candidates to campaign in Georgia. In addition, because the majority of our delegates are elected by Congressional district, just hitting the Atlanta media market will not be enough. The other-media markets around the state will, therefore, attract the attention of the candidates.

Finally, setting the thresholds as we have will speed the process of uniting around our nominee and shorten the time period of damaging intra-party fights which definitely hurt nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. The state GOP goal is two-fold: 1) to make Georgia as attractive as possible to the presidential candidates and 2) encourage a process that leads to our eventual unity around our nominee.


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