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Screven County GOP reborn with familiar chairman

Evans to lead political party

Screven County GOP reborn with familiar chairman

Screven County GOP reborn with familiar chairman

After several years of inactivity, Screven County’s Republican Party has reorganized, with Osal J. Evans returning as its chairman.
A small group of party leaders met Monday evening at R&D’s Seafood restaurant in Sylvania to make the reorganization official.
Evans had served as chairman of the local party for at least six years when health problems forced him to step down about four years ago. Then another chairperson moved away, Evans said, and at some point the party stopped holding meetings. With his physical condition now improved, he answered a request from state and district GOP leaders to lead the party’s rebirth.
“We’re not in the same ballpark as Bulloch County, populationwise, so we don’t have as many people to draw from, but I did have lots of interest from people wanting the organization so that we would be identified as a two-party county, which I think every county should have,” Evans said.
Screven County, with 14,202 people by the most recent census estimate, does not toe either party line in elections. Last November, 53.9 percent of Screven voters chose Republican nominee Mitt Romney, while 45.5 percent agreed with the national trend in sticking with the Democrat, President Barack Obama. But 60.7 percent of Screven voters chose U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the 12th Congressional District Democrat, over Republican challenger Lee Anderson.
Most of Screven’s county-level officials are Democrats, although Evans asserts that many are Republicans at heart.
“You know the old rural opinion that if you’re going to be elected to county office you need to run on the Democratic ticket,” he said. “That’s what these people are still doing to a great degree.”
Evans, 77, who retired as commander of the Georgia State Patrol post in Sylvania after 32 years with the agency, has never held elected office. Instead a grassroots organizer and campaigner, he traces his Republican affiliation back almost 50 years.
Commercial radios had just been installed in State Patrol cars for the first time when, as a young trooper, he fiddled with the dial and heard someone giving a speech for a Republican presidential candidate. The speaker was Ronald Reagan and the candidate Barry Goldwater, so that was the 1964 campaign season.
“He got my attention not only in regards to his ability as a speaker but his philosophy of government,” Evans recalled.
When another candidate withdrew from the area’s 2002 congressional race, it was Evans who called Screven County resident Max Burns to ask him to run as a Republican. Burns won the election and served one term, losing to Barrow in 2004. Both the contest that year and Burns’ 2006 challenge to Barrow were among the closest races in the nation.
One person not in Screven County’s close partisan competition is Osal Evans’ wife, Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans. The city’s elected offices are nonpartisan.
“If anyone has a problem or anything needs to be done for the welfare of the people, you’ll find Margaret applying herself. Party doesn’t enter the picture,” her husband said.
The Monday meeting at R&D’s had been advertised, but just three Screven County residents – the Evanses and Pat Lord – participated, reported Republican Party 12th District Chairman Lawton Sack.
Others who attended were Sack, who is from Bulloch County, Georgia Republican Party Secretary Debbie McCord, Georgia Republican Political Director Brad Hughes, and Nancy Bobbitt, a senior field representative for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Already official
However, under state party rules, only one resident of a county is needed to petition the district executive committee to recognize a county party, Sack said. The committee met at R&D’s and accepted Screven County’s petition, he said, so now the process moves on to rebuilding an active membership in the county.
“Osal Evans was elected chair and the party adopted rules that it would operate under for the next two years, so at this point they’re officially reorganized,” Sack said. “We’ve got a lot of work going forward of locating people within the county to become a part of the party.”
A notice of a regular meeting time and place for the party will be published in the county’s official newspaper for legal ads, the Sylvania Telephone, he added.
Screven County was not alone in having no local Republican organization. The Georgia GOP website lists local chairpersons for 132 of Georgia’s 159 counties.
Five more of the 19 counties in the 12th District currently have no active GOP organization. Sack hopes to remedy that. A local organization is important for elections and getting people involved, he says. It gives elected officials or candidates visiting a county a ready group to meet.
“The biggest thing is just giving Republicans the opportunity to come together and just talk and share and work together,” Sack said. “Without the party structure there, everything is – if we can use the word – unorganized. There’s no central person to talk to if somebody’s coming to visit the county or coming through at elections.”
Without a party organization, elections are left to the county’s election board, without local party input, he added.
The 12th District counties without currently active Republican organizations are Candler, Jenkins, Jeff Davis, Tattnall and Wheeler.
A news release from the state Georgia Republican Party quoted newly elected state party Chairman John Padgett about Screven’s new start.
“I applaud the efforts of Osal Evans and Lawton Sack and truly appreciate their dedication to growing the party and promoting conservative principles,” Padgett said. “The state party is committed to securing an active and vibrant party structure in each county and will do everything in our power to ensure success and foster growth in Screven County.”

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