Newcomers oust old guard remnants at Fayette GOP convention

When it comes to local politics, nothing in memory can compare to the action March 9 at the Fayette County Republican Party convention held at Peachtree Christian Church.

The convention produced a sea-change in leadership as the longtime local Republican establishment was replaced by the relative newcomers who began to take an active role in local politics in 2009 with the birth of the Tea Party movement.

Division and in-fighting have been no stranger to the local Republican Party in recent years. But all that ended Saturday when the slate submitted by the newcomers won hands-down in a secret ballot vote.

That slate included retired attorney Scott Fabricius as chairman, veteran and former educator Tyrone Jones as vice chairman, business owner Bonnie Willis as secretary and physician John Potts as treasurer.

“It is a new dawn for the Republican Party,” Fabricius said.

Running on the establishment slate were longtime party members Paul Ploener for chairman, Gordon Shenkle for vice chairman, Mike Byrd for secretary and Duane Richards for treasurer.

The announcement of the establishment slate Saturday afternoon came with the request of several on the list asking that they be removed from consideration since they had not been contacted and were not aware that their names had been included.

When the secret ballot was counted the newcomers won handily 139 votes to 27. Four other votes were either illegible or were left blank.

The passing of the torch brings a total of 17 new officers to the local Republican group. Many of those have been active since around the time of the nationwide Tea Party movement. The convention also signaled the fall from power of former Chairman Lane Watts and Fayette County Board of Elections member Marilyn Watts, both of whom have been prominent for years in local Republican politics.