Political Insider

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Nathan Deal to skip this weekend's Georgia GOP convention in Augusta

The Republican activists seeking to rebuke Gov. Nathan Deal at this weekend’s GOP convention in Augusta won’t be able to do it in person.

The governor’s office said Deal will be at the Governor’s Mansion hosting elite high school students on Friday and Saturday at an event planned about a year ago.

The scheduling conflict means Deal will sidestep what was shaping to be an awkward meeting of the party’s faithful.

Republican activists at meetings in nine of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts passed resolutions in April expressing their disappointment with his veto of “religious liberty” legislation. The Third District’s delegates went a step further by endorsing a resolution to “censure” him. And the unrest among his critics has only intensified since he rejected “campus carry” legislation that would have legalized firearms on most parts of public college campuses.

That means several resolutions to codify the anger toward the governor – and send a message to Deal and lawmakers looking to replay the battle over the measures next year – are likely to reach a statewide vote during the two-day event.

It’s uncertain, though, whether each resolution will be aired out separately before the gathering of hundreds of delegates or whether they’ll be voted on en masse and without discussion. Republican leaders took the latter route last year at the convention in Athens, avoiding a potentially sharp debate over the party’s direction.

Deal, who has attended previous state GOP gatherings, steered clear of another recent high-profile Republican meeting in Georgia. He cited a scheduling conflict to pull out of a speaking slot at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta that featured a slew of Republican presidential candidates.

Update: Deal spokeswoman Jen Ryan sent us a lengthier explanation for her boss' absence this weekend:

Unfortunately, the state GOP convention and the annual Valedictorian Day (which is really two days) fell on the same weekend this year. The governor and Mrs. Deal are hosting Valedictorian Day have hosted this event at the Governor’s Mansion since he took office, and its a very special tradition. This year, we expect more than 1200 students and families to attend over the course of the weekend (every school is invited to send its valedictorian). Gov. Miller began this tradition in 1993 (in fact, he conceived the idea of the HOPE scholarship after one of these weekends).

There are three valedictorian sessions—Metro Atlanta on Friday night, North Georgia students on Saturday morning and South Georgia valedictorians will come on Saturday afternoon. Throughout the weekend, students will hear speakers including Gov. and Mrs. Deal, Superintendent Woods, Chancellor Huckaby, Commissioner Corbin and others. The Georgia Student Finance Commission co-host this event. Along with hearing from these elected officials and agency heads, students have the opportunity to meet with the Gov and Mrs. Deal, pose for photos with them (and their families) and visit exhibitions/displays set up by post-secondary institutions throughout the state.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.