Georgia Republicans prepare to renominate Trump

Rufus Montgomery will take in the Republican National Convention in his living room, ready to fire off texts to political pals. Marci McCarthy will gather with a few other GOP delegates to watch the proceedings. And Josh McKoon is among six Georgians headed to a ballroom in North Carolina for some procedural votes.

A few months ago, they and other members of the state’s 76-strong delegation were poised for a raucous celebration in Charlotte — then, briefly, Jacksonville — to celebrate the nomination of President Donald Trump. The pandemic has scuttled those plans, leaving each to search for silver linings.

“The good news is that people are getting more accustomed to virtual gatherings — I see this as glass as half full, so let’s turn it into a plus,” said Montgomery. “I’ll be texting with my GOP group. And I know I’ll be hearing from my Democrat friends, since I’ve been providing them my critiques all week.”

ExploreMeet the Georgia delegates to the 2020 RNC

The four-day Republican convention that kicks off Monday will aim to top the virtual Democratic meetup, which featured a range of high-profile Georgia speakers, a tribute to the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis and ended with a forceful speech by Joe Biden that cast the GOP as beset by chaos and corruption.

The full convention lineup is shrouded in mystery, but the optics-obsessed president’s campaign is sure to have some surprises in store to try to one-up Biden.

It’s not yet clear which Georgians will take center stage aside from state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat who endorsed the president and will speak Monday. But U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, as well as U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, are among the state Republicans who recorded videos that could be featured.

A first-time delegate, McCarthy never expected to serve from her couch.

“At least I’ve got nice TVs,” quipped McCarthy, chair of a DeKalb GOP group. “We’re all disappointed we aren’t able to travel in person — there’s no balloons, no people, no euphoria. But we’ve got to put our health and safety first.”

To capture a sliver of the excitement, McCarthy plans to watch at least a part of the convention with a small group of other delegates. She holds out hope she’ll get another shot at being a delegate in 2024.

“It’ll be a do-over,” she said with a chuckle.

‘An important lesson’

Only a handful of Georgia delegates will get a taste of the in-person part of the convention. Georgia’s group of six delegates began arriving in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday, among 336 proxies from around the U.S. who will gather on Monday for a formal roll call vote.

Combined ShapeCaption
2/1/18 - Atlanta - Senator David Shafer, R-Duluth, speaks from the well in the Senate about his own adoption experience. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

2/1/18 - Atlanta - Senator David Shafer, R-Duluth, speaks from the well in the Senate about his own adoption experience. BOB ANDRES  /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Combined ShapeCaption
2/1/18 - Atlanta - Senator David Shafer, R-Duluth, speaks from the well in the Senate about his own adoption experience. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Aside from McKoon, they include state party chair David Shafer, GOP finance chair Shawn Still, National Committeeman Jason Thompson, National Committeewoman Ginger Howard and former National Committeeman Alec Poitevint.

Each received the coronavirus self-tests by mail about a week ago, and were required to check in daily with an app that asked them to log any symptoms and potential exposure to the disease. Safety guidelines will be strictly enforced, GOP officials said.

“It’s a sign of the resilience of our political process. Yes, we’re going through times that none of us have experienced. Yet we continue to observe the legalities,” said McKoon, a forme

ExploreA Georgian’s guide to watching the Republican National Convention

r state senator.

“We didn’t say there’s too much going on for us to follow the rules. And that’s an important lesson as this moves from current events to the history books.”

‘Rested up'

The Georgia GOP is also pushing for a flavor of in-person excitement. The party sent word to delegates a few days ago about a Thursday evening shindig at an Atlanta hotel to celebrate Trump’s acceptance speech.

“I’m looking forward to seeing friends I haven’t been with in a while to celebrate the president,” said Joseph Brannan, a Columbus-area activist. “Honestly, I slept through most of the Democratic convention, so I’m rested up.”

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Betsy Shaw Kramer, left, of Johns Creek, a Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity member, tries to get the union supporters' attention.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Betsy Shaw Kramer, left, of Johns Creek, a Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity member, tries to get the union supporters' attention.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Combined ShapeCaption
Betsy Shaw Kramer, left, of Johns Creek, a Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity member, tries to get the union supporters' attention.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Betsy Kramer and Kathy Statham originally planned to spend convention week commuting from a condo in Fernandina Beach, Florida — just outside of Jacksonville — owned by Statham’s family. Even when the in-person event was canceled, they still planned to watch the nightly speeches from Florida.

That was until hurricanes began forming in the Atlanta and threatening Florida; now they aren’t sure what they will do. Kramer, who lives in Johns Creek, is considering staying home with her husband, Steven, who is also involved in party politics.

It won’t be the same as their experience four years ago when Steven was an alternate delegate and they trekked to Cleveland’s arena each night. “Political Disneyland,” Kramer described it.

“I really think each party does a great job in presenting what’s going on, and it’s too bad” the conventions have gone virtual, she said. “2020 might go down as the year we would like to forget.”