Peach Pundit helping Republicans find a pragmatic voice in local politics

By Saba Long

Atlanta politicos sometimes forget Republicans live, work and play in the city and also vote in municipal elections.

During the 2009 City Council elections, Peach Pundit, a right-leaning political blog I had been following for a while, had a “meet and greet” in Midtown, and only one candidate attended. That candidate ended up making a solid impression on the group of Republicans present, including Charlie Harper, the blog’s editor.

In a sea of partisan pandering, Harper is often a lone voice of reason — ready to call either side out on their respective shenanigans. Recently, he’s admonished Better Georgia, a progressive organization, for calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to publicly support Wilcox County’s first integrated prom.

Conversely, Harper has rebuked the far right for pigeonholing Republican lawmakers seeking pragmatic solutions to our local and national issues.

Make no mistake, Harper is a die-hard Republican.

Charlie Harper

Charlie Harper

The Fayette County native and University of Georgia grad spent some time in Atlanta politics on the contentious 1997 mayoral campaign that pitted incumbent Mayor Bill Campbell against then Council President Marvin Arrington. He joined Peach Pundit after spending months casually commenting on the site under the Greek moniker “Icarus”.

In a recent sit-down interview, we discussed a number of items including the cities versus suburbs culture of the region, the proposed new Milton County and one item of particular concern — the difficulty of those in office not to toe the party line.

As we have often heard post T-SPLOST (the regional transportation sales tax referendum), Harper believes the Atlanta region should shrink from 10 to five counties to properly reflect the geographic and political ideology.

“We have allowed the word region to be a pejorative,” Harper said.

Undoubtedly, education and other issues in one county affect the rest of the region. The creation of Milton County is improbable, he thinks, due to the need to maintain basic services such as Grady Hospital — the region’s premier Level 1 trauma center — and public safety needs. Ultimately, our region can not afford to annex the wealthy and leave a core of poverty.

Surely, the recent proliferation of new local governments is an opaque mirror where both sides have difficulty in seeing where they are right or wrong.

In a column last week when addressing, among other issues, the gun debate, he quipped, “I don’t want us to be the party of ‘no’. I want us to be the party of ideas. But we won’t be that party unless we position ourselves to sell them to those who don’t currently align with us. It’s time more of us understood that.”

The above paragraph speaks to precisely what the state and national party is facing at the moment. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) ran through the Sunday political show circuit to promote his bipartisan immigration plan.

Considered by some to be an olive branch to Latino voters, others in the Republican party says it merely provides “amnesty” to the millions of illegal immigrants.

Allowing for the proper debate of unpopular issues, moving past sound bites, and voting without the next election in mind are all action items missing from Republican and Democratic elected leaders at both the state and national levels.

Harper reminds voters and politicians alike to practice pragmatic politics, lest we experience the Greek tragedy of Icarus and be burned by our overestimation of our own importance.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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