“What time is it?” Tricia Pridemore asked a full room at Dave Poe’s BBQ on Monday.
“It's Miller time!” shouted the crowd.
Attendees had arrived to hear Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who hopes to be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.
“This race is so critical for so many reasons,” said Pridemore, who chairs Georgia's Public Service Commission. “But I’m going to be real blunt. We need an adult in charge of the state Senate. We need an adult to be second in command in the state of Georgia. And there is nobody better suited than Butch Miller.”
Outside on the sidewalk, a handful of people waved signs in support of Miller’s main obstacle to the nomination, Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, endorsed by former President Donald Trump. But Miller said the sign-wavers spelled good news, as it meant he was in Jones’ head.
Miller ticked off a list of wins under the Gold Dome, saying when outgoing Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan refused to call forth Georgia's new elections law for a vote, Senate Bill 202, Miller, as the second in command of Senate, made sure it was the first bill he called. The new law, derided by Democrats as “Jim Crow 2.0” makes it “harder to cheat and easier to vote in Georgia,” Miller said to applause.
But it costs money to run a campaign.
“$500,000 a week for media in metro Atlanta, and believe me, we’re going through it like water through a — never mind," he said with a laugh. Miller said he's outraised his "principal opponent" (Jones) by a 2-1 margin.
“We raised $3.4 million and he raised $1.7 million. That’s the good news. The bad news is his family gave him a check for $2 million. That makes it hard to compete, but listen, we’re going toe to toe and we are winning. He has out spent us almost 3 to 1 in the media, and we are still ahead in the polls, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s all about."
What's the No. 1 thing people are asking on the campaign trail, one questioner asked. Miller said for the first few months, it was how to get people to come back to work.
What about the abortion issue, asked another, saying that topic is supposed to motivate Democrats to turn out at the polls.
“You know, I’m not hearing it that much frankly,” Miller said. “No. 1 thing we keep hearing is the economy. You got to ask yourself, what do you like? You like $11-a-pound bacon? Or do you like $5-a-pound bacon? You like $5 gallon gasoline or $2.50 gallon gasoline? That’s the key right there. We hear more things about inflation, getting people to come back to work, bringing manufacturing back into the state that's overseas now, that’s offshore, bringing that back, that’s what we hear about a lot.”
One Buckhead resident raised concerns over personal safety in her community. What can be done?
It's about allocating resources, Miller responded, adding that judges and prosecutors must back the blue rather than turning criminals loose.
“They’re getting out of jail before the police can finish the paperwork.”
Miller blamed Duncan, who is not seeking reelection, for killing a referendum that would have given Buckhead residents a vote on seceding from Atlanta.
“Your current lieutenant governor took the bill that would have given them a vote and put it in a committee that he knew it would never get out of. It was a Democratically-controlled committee, and he knew it would never get out."
The people of Buckhead – and other communities – deserve a vote, Miller said.
“Now whether they pass it or not — that’s on them. But they deserve a vote.”
So what does he need to win, asked DeAnna Harris, chair of the Cobb Young Republicans.
“We need the masses. We got to have votes. We need the masses. How do you get the masses? Through the media. How do you get the media? I’m sorry, it’s the money. That’s it right there. It’s the three Ms of campaigning. That’s exactly what we need.”
And, as no Georgia GOP event is complete without mention of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams, Miller said he had a great “anti-endorsement” from Abrams last week, asking his wife to put Abrams on the “Pecan Pie list” as a thank you.
“Cause when Stacey Abrams is coming out against me, I know I’m doing something right. I didn’t know Stacey Abrams knew who I was, to be very candid with you. But when she came out last week and blasted us on national television, my friend from South Dakota called me. He said ‘What did you do to make Stacey Abrams so mad?'"
AMONG THOSE in attendance was Shawn Davis of west Cobb, who owns Breakpoint Consulting, a government affairs firm. Davis predicts Charlie Bailey and former U.S. Rep. Kwanza Hall are the leading contenders among the nine candidates vying for Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Bailey is the odds-on favorite with the Democratic establishment as he's raised the most and has statewide name recognition from running for attorney general before. Hall will do well because the Democratic primary leans heavily toward the voting strength of Atlanta and Atlanta has a T-SPLOST on the ballot to drive turnout.
While state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, is a leader in Cobb County, Davis isn't sure of his name recognition outside of the county, and doesn't reckon Allen makes the runoff.
"Whomever the Republican nominee is, and I think he will be Butch Miller, they will benefit from a hemorrhaging Democrat Party," Davis said. "Not only has there been record early vote turnout compared to even 2020, but soft Democrats are coming back to the Republican Party. Data is out there that shows a surge in voters who chose Democrat ballots in the last two primaries are coming over in droves to our Republican Primary. And that shouldn’t be a surprise given they are the party who wants illegal immigrants to vote, biological males to compete in girl sports, and to forgive bona fide student loans, which however appealing to some of our youth, would cause chaos and more inflation, not to mention continued degradation of personal responsibility in our country."