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Nick Ayers meteoric ascent in Republican political circles may not be over yet   When the…

Georgia (Jun 10, 2010)

Nick Ayers meteoric ascent in Republican political circles may not be over yet
 
When the Republican establishment told then-gubernatorial candidate Gov. Sonny Perdue he couldn’t beat an incumbent Democrat in Georgia, a handful of college Republicans believed he could.
 
    At the time, Kennesaw State University alum Nick Ayers was a 19-year-old freshman serving as chair of the College Republicans – a post that would serve as the beginning of Ayers’ rapid rise in the world of Republican politics, culminating eight years later in his current position as executive director of the Republican Governors Association (RGA).
 
    “I always felt somewhat responsible for interrupting Nick’s academic career by calling him into political service,” Perdue said. “But, as accomplished and respected as he has become nationally, Nick persevered and sacrificed to make his academic degree a priority. I am confident that KSU will be as proud as I am of this young alumnus in the years ahead.”
 
    Ayers was the second person Perdue hired during his first campaign for governor. He only had two semesters of classes under his belt when he resigned his position at a Mableton bank ironically owned by Roy Barnes, the incumbent governor and Perdue’s opponent
    “The campaign resembled the ‘Bad News Bears’ more than a group of professional consultants,” Ayers recalled. “But, we won, so there you go.”
 
    Although he was always interested in politics, Ayers had never actively engaged in a political campaign before the Barnes – Perdue race.
 
    “I had always followed politics,” Ayers said. “From the time I was five, I would rather watch the news than cartoons.”
 
    In 2001, Ayers and his fellow College Republicans set out to boost their numbers on campuses across Georgia. That year, Ayers attended a Perdue campaign event in Athens where 600 supporters gathered, challenging the conventional wisdom of the time that a Republican couldn’t win the governor’s mansion.
 
    “Back then, Democrats controlled almost everything in Georgia,” Ayers said. “Georgia was the last state in the country to elect a Republican governor.”
 
    After the rally, Ayers met privately with Perdue in an empty hangar at a private airport where Perdue shared with him his vision for Georgia.
 
    “For me, it was a no-brainer,” Ayers said. “The next day, I withdrew from my classes, left my job at the bank and called Sonny. I told him I’m changing everything for you – a guy I just met yesterday!”
 
    By the time Perdue’s re-election campaign rolled around, Ayers was tapped as the campaign manager overseeing a $30-million re-election apparatus.
 
    “Nick seems to have been born with an ability to think strategically and manage details,” Ayers’ former political science professor Kerwin Swint said. “I knew he would do something special, probably in the world of politics and I fully expect him to manage a successful presidential campaign someday.”
 
    After Perdue’s re-election, the governor became chairman of the Republican Governors Association, naming Ayers the association’s executive director. Traditionally, the executive director’s post was a one-year appointment, rotating in and out with the chairman.
 
    During his first year as executive director of the RGA, Ayers authored a four-year plan for the organization, including a budget and fundraising goals. Wanting to see Ayers plan come to fruition and hoping to bring some continuity to the group, as well as win back the majority of governor’s mansions, the next two chairmen asked Ayers to stay on as executive director.
 
“When I took over the RGA, it was not considered a serious political committee,” Ayers said. “It was viewed more like a trade group. Today we have more cash on hand than the Republican National Committee, and I’m really proud of that.”
 
After successfully orchestrating crucial GOP wins in gubernatorial contests in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009 – and spending more than $13 million – the RGA ended the year with $25 million in the bank.
 
    “I did not believe we would win back control of Congress before regaining control of the governorships,” Ayers said. “Last year we boosted the number of Republican governors from 22 to 24, so the four-year plan is already working.”
 
As for whether Ayers himself would ever run for public office, the Austell native simply keeps his options open.
 
    “It’s not that I’m against running for public office, it’s just that if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” he said. “The main thing for me right now is to do what I’ve been asked to do, which is win races, and what I’ve learned is, if you do the job you’re asked to do, there will be plenty of opportunities on the horizon.”
 
- Jennifer Hafer


 

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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