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Who is Ralph Reed?

By Jeff Emanuel

May 10, 2006

Editor's Note: is previewing the Lieutenant Governor's race in Georgia, as it is one that has garnered national attention. A feature on Casey Cagle, Mr. Reed's Republican primary opponent, will run Friday.

Ralph Reed, former Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and first Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, is running against Georgia state Senator Casey Cagle in the state’s most heated primary, for the office of Lieutenant Governor.

Reed was born in Virginia, and moved from Miami to Toccoa, Georgia, at the age of 15. He attended college at the University of Georgia and went on to earn a Ph.D. in American History from Atlanta’s prestigious Emory University. A self-described "mainstream, balanced-budget, tax-cutting conservative" who is "running unapologetically on his values," Reed presents himself as a visionary in his first attempt at public office, promoting a "sound public policy that includes every one of our citizens." He compares himself to the late President Reagan, like whom he wants to "unfurl a banner not of pale pastels, but of bold colors," and says that being the son of a Vietnam veteran taught him "that there are certain values and principles, like freedom, worth fighting and dying for."

A veteran of in-the-trenches electoral politics who refers to himself as a "grassroots candidate," Reed continuously reiterates the party’s goals for the year: reelecting Governor Sonny Perdue (the first Republican in that office since Reconstruction) and adding to the Republican majorities in both houses of Georgia’s General Assembly. He also addresses his personal goal of "establishing the position of the Lt. Governor as the philosophical ally of Gov. Perdue, rather than an opponent" (for the duration of Perdue’s term, the Lt. Governor has been Democrat Mark Taylor), and to "restore that office to effectiveness," so that it can "be a leadership slot for conservative values."

Both educated and articulate, the man Time magazine once called “The Right Hand of God” is an extremely gifted public speaker who exudes knowledge and is conversant on almost any issue. Reed backs up his talk with what he calls "the most comprehensive agenda of any Lt. Governor candidate." He has over 40 pages of issues-related material on his website, which covers every foreseeable topic he could possibly have a chance to impact during his prospective term as Lt. Governor, and he repeatedly reiterates his status as the "first candidate in this race" to address many of them.

His "Grow Georgia" plan includes lowering the state income tax (which, he loves to point out, is "higher than 'Taxachusetts'"), “eliminating the capital gains tax," and "promoting a "Taxpayer Dividend Act" which, after allowing for annual population growth and inflation, [would] dedicate ¼ of any budget surplus to education and ¼ to bonds (to maintain Georgia's AAA bond rating), and [would] return the rest to the taxpayers," as "money belongs to the citizens" and, as shown in the 1980s and the 2000s, "economic growth is spurred by lower tax rates."

Reed also supports a constitutional amendment to protect private property rights, maintaining that it is "very important to oppose eminent domain abuse," as the three "foundational human freedoms are life, liberty, and the right to own property," and "true freedom includes the right to control and own property." On the topic of immigration, Reed is strongly opposed "amnesty in all forms," and cites the need to "protect the borders." He supports the state’s recently enacted Voter ID law, and is in favor of a “comprehensive audit of the current voting rolls.” On family-values issues, he continues to reiterate his strong pro-life stance.

Reed favors a HOPE scholarship amendment to “protect funding” for Georgia’s unique merit-based college scholarship program, and to “make home-schoolers eligible for immediate benefit." He has also proposed a program called "Charters for Choice", which would determine failing schools (low test scores for three straight years, a graduation rate of under 50%, and other determinants), and would provide scholarships for students from these schools to go to private or religious schools, be home schooled, or transfer to a public school of their choice.

A proponent of joint-enrollment and vocational training, Reed calls a good education a "basic civil right," and cites a Harvard study which showed that school choice and competition is "more effective in raising test scores and improving schools" than the fixes instituted by Ted Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind Act. “When two professors from Harvard agree on the effectiveness of school competition,” he loves to say, “That’s what I call consensus.”

Unfortunately for both candidates, consensus among Georgia’s Republicans is hard to come by in this race. Supporters are quick to flaunt their opponent’s weaknesses, and Reed’s background, though providing him with a network of national contacts whose aid he could potentially enlist to help enact his agenda as Lt. Governor, makes him a polarizing figure. Cagle harps on Reed’s lack of legislative experience (though Reed generally refrains from personally attacking Cagle), and anti-Reed bloggers have jumped all over his decision to make his first run for office “in the same cycle that he is a figure in the biggest scandal to hit Washington in the past decade,” saying that it “hurts the party.” This is backed by a recent Matt Towery poll, which shows Reed 7 points ahead of Cagle, but also has him as an 8 point drag on the GOP ticket this fall.

A Reed campaign worker pointed out that the Abramoff casino gaming situation, which Reed calls “an attempt by the liberal media and others to engage in guilt by association,” was “nothing to worry about,” as Abramoff has already been tried and sentenced, so “if there were any truth to the allegations, something would have happened by now, and Georgia’s voters know that.” Still, the campaign is worried enough about the situation that Reed feels the need to address it at the end of almost every speech, saying “if I had known then what I know now, I never would have” worked with Abramoff, but always pointing out that his part in the affair “helped protect countless families from the dangers of online gambling.”

Regardless of the lack of anything more substantial than spoken allegations against Reed, the situation has provided fodder for Democrat and pro-Cagle bloggers, who repeatedly point out that he is “the only candidate [in this race] who has a criminal defense attorney.” This has not stopped big-name Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich from helping him in this election, though, as both have appeared at Reed fundraisers this year. Several other national figures are also solidly behind Reed’s candidacy.

This contest, which pits two very different candidates with impressive resumes against each other for their party’s nomination, is inarguably the most contentious battle in Georgia this year, dividing the GOP across the state. Appearing at a March fundraising event for the Georgia GOP and the Perdue campaign, President Bush refused to inject himself into the race, saying only that there are “two candidates running for lieutenant governor, Casey Cagle and Ralph Reed, [and] we appreciate them both being here tonight.”

The race is a statistical dead heat, and who will emerge from the July 18 primary as the party’s nominee is anybody’s guess. Both campaigns tout polls which show their candidate in the lead, and the tone of the race will most likely grow more negative over the next two months. What is inarguable, though, is that both of these candidates have a clearly articulated vision for a better Georgia, and for their role in making that happen. The greatest worry among Georgia’s Republicans must be that the primary will take such a toll on the winner that he will be irreparably damaged heading into what promises to be an extremely tough general election.

Jeff Emanuel, a Special Operations military veteran, studies Classics at the University of Georgia. He is also a contributing editor for conservative web log, and is a columnist for the Athens, GA Banner-Herald newspaper.

Copyright © 2006

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At 9:11 PM, Blogger Flower Child said...

Appreciate the article concerning Ralph Reed. You are absolutely correct. Mr. Reed is a polished speaker and can relate well to anyone on most any topic.


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