A senior at Georgia Southern University, where he is majoring in both mechanical engineering and political science, Aron Randall has made inroads to the Grand Old Party on more than one level. He currently serves as treasurer of the Georgia Association of College Republicans and vice chair of the Bulloch County Republican Party.
“Do not underestimate who he knows, because he has a lot of connections throughout the state,” said Jim Benton, who recently succeeded Randall as county party chairman.
Bulloch County Republicans chose the 22-year-old student as their vice chair early in 2011, and after the previous chairman’s resignation last summer, Randall held the top post for about two months. But he declined to seek an elected term as chairman. He reasoned that Benton, who owns Benton Metal Depot, is older, a local businessperson and has more time for the role. Benton was previously the local party treasurer.
“To me, it’s not about titles. It’s about getting the job done,” Randall said.
Having been elected vice chair of the GSU College Republicans while a sophomore, he became their chairman as a junior. He stepped down from the GSU post last spring after a state College Republicans convention elected him treasurer of the Georgia association.
Randall hails from the new city of Milton, Ga., incorporated adjacent Alpharetta in 2006. He attended Milton High School but graduated from Oak Ridge Military Academy in North Carolina.
His parents, Barry and Debbie Randall, saw the military school as a place for him to “build some character” after he wasn’t always so well behaved and studious when younger, he said.
But as a teenager, Randall also started his own business in consumer electronics and auto parts distribution. Between graduation from Oak Ridge and his arrival at GSU, he said, he took more than a year off to work on the business, which he continues with help from family members.
He doesn’t come from a political family but from a one with business credentials. In particular, he mentions the influence of his grandfather, Jim Waldron, who as the company’s senior vice president helped build The Limited Inc. — now Limited Brands — which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works and previously owned Abercrombie & Fitch.
“My grandfather instilled in me the fact that if you’ve got something to say, you stand up when you say it, and if you say it well, people won’t tell you to shut up,” Randall said. “They’ll actually listen to you, and if they like what you say, they’ll join you, and you can change anything you want to.”
After growth last year under Randall as chair and Chris Kelleher as vice chair, the GSU College Republicans chapter includes about 60 dues-paying members and “110 on paper,” meaning all who signed up as having some interest, Randall said. Kelleher has gone on to be media director for the Georgia Republican Party.
GSU College Republicans took part in campaign efforts for Republican nominees for Georgia’s 12th District seat in Congress in 2008, with candidate John Stone, and 2010, with Ray McKinney. Instead of hiring a robocall company, the McKinney campaign offered a similar amount of cash to the GSU chapter, which passed the money on to the students who made campaign calls on McKinney’s behalf, Randall said.
“We were able to make 14,987 phone calls in about three days,” he said.
The GSU College Republicans also planned the 2010 event that brought then GOP National Chairman Steele to the Statesboro Holiday Inn. The students obtained help from the Bulloch County Republican Party for that event. These efforts helped bring the two organizations together, Randall said.
They also brought his leadership to the attention of the county party.
“With his abilities and his connections and what he’s done at the college level, we definitely wanted to tap into his resources and make sure he was a part of it, and he wanted to be a part of it,” Benton said. “So it was a good fit, and it’s great to have him working with us.”
Going for youth
Benton acknowledged that, looking to November 2012, there are other reasons for Republicans to cultivate young leaders.
“When you look at the last presidential election and see how many young people went away from the Republican Party and went the other way, there’s been a concerted effort by the Republican Party nationally and state level to make sure we don’t miss out on those potential voters,” he said.
Georgia has one of the nation’s most active College Republican organizations, according to its leaders.
“Last year we were the largest, most active in the federation from the national level,” said Randall. “We put in over 8,000 volunteer hours.”
In 2011, he noted with pride, the Georgia College Republicans sent 30 members to Wisconsin to campaign in the recall elections there.
Back in Statesboro, Randall’s efforts took on a more bipartisan feeling. The College Republicans and GSU Young Democrats cooperated in a drive that he credits with registering more than 500 students as voters for the city election and Sunday alcoholic beverage sales referendum.
He and Bill Herring, Bulloch County Democratic Party treasurer, also worked together on a plan that recruited the bus service Blue Goose to donate rides to the polls.
“I don’t care who you vote for. I have my own beliefs, and you can have your own beliefs,” Randall said. “I just care that you vote.”
However, he sounds thoroughly GOP when thinking ahead to November. He asserts that Republicans have a good chance of unseating U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the 12th District Democrat, and that both the College Republicans and Bulloch County GOP should work hard to do it.
Randall, meanwhile, looks toward graduating from Georgia Southern in December. While here, he also attended Ogeechee Tech and certified as an emergency medical technician. And he volunteers with the Georgia State Defense Force and state Department of Defense.
He mentions law school and medical school as possibilities after GSU and plans to remain politically involved regardless of his career.
“I think senator has a good ring to it as an end game,” Randall said.