Republicans push $10M ‘mojo’ plan to defend Georgia House

As Democrats step up plans to flip the Georgia House, state Republicans unveiled their own initiative Monday to keep the chamber in GOP hands.

The GOP Majority Outreach – known as GOPMojo – has a goal of spending $10 million on roughly 30 of the state’s most competitive House seats to help Republicans defend a narrowing 105-75 advantage in the chamber.

The program also aims to boost base turnout by registering 200,000 new Republican voters ahead of next year’s election, helped by advice from GOP strategist Karl Rove. The group’s organizers say it’s the first time a voter registration project of this scale has been attempted by Republicans in Georgia.

“The effort will point out the clear choice Georgians have between moving forward in the right direction with strong leadership or making the sharp leftward lurch today’s Democratic Party represents,” said House Speaker David Ralston.

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Republicans face intense competition from Democrats who have steadily chipped away at GOP control of the chamber. Last year, Democrats picked up 11 seats in the Georgia House, mostly in suburban Atlanta districts long represented by Republicans.

In 2020, Democrats are targeting the 16 seats where a Republican won with less than 58% of the vote last year. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis showed Democrats would need to erase significant gaps with Republicans in a sweep of conservative-leaning seats to take control of the chamber.

Democrats will also have their own high-dollar effort: The Democratic Party of Georgia said last week it teamed with an offshoot of the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams to create the Legislative Victory Fund, which aims to flip 16 GOP-held seats.

High stakes

The stakes are high. The party that controls the House in 2020 will have great influence in redrawing district lines the following year, and will help set the agenda on Georgia's most divisive and pivotal political issues.

(The Democratic program also will target Republican-held seats in the Georgia Senate, though that’s safer territory for the GOP. Republicans hold a 35-21 majority and Democrats would have to pull off multiple upsets to flip seven Senate districts.)

The GOPMojo program was quietly launched in May by the Georgia House Republican Trust, a Ralston-backed fund. It is spearheaded by veteran Republican operative Jay Walker, who helped orchestrate the party’s takeover of the House and Senate after Gov. Sonny Perdue’s upset 2002 victory.

Aside from energizing conservatives, organizers say the program will also try to win back suburban women who ditched Republicans last year. Democrats plan to target the same bloc of voters who are alienated by President Donald Trump and new anti-abortion restrictions.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett, the House Republican caucus chair who helped organize the initiative, called it the Republican party’s “way of fighting for good, conservative candidates.”

“If every citizen in Georgia votes, we win,” said Hatchett, R-Dublin. “We will register almost a quarter-million new GOP voters and get them to the polls in 2020 – which is great for us and for democracy in Georgia.”