As a former state high school wrestling champ and coach of 11 state wrestling championship teams at Gilmer High, Sam Snider realizes he’s now in for the fight of his life. He’s announced he’ll run for the District 7 seat of the Georgia House of Representatives, currently occupied by Speaker David Ralston of Blue Ridge.
“Yeah, he’s a little bigger than some of the opponents I’ve faced,” said Snider with a laugh. Snider has also coached football and track at his alma mater, and describes himself as a “conservative Republican.”
Snider, 50, was asked as an educator what led him to make a decision not just to jump into politics, but also to square off against a fellow Republican — and a powerful one at that.
“I’ve done about most of what I can in wrestling,” he replied. “I’ve been looking for a new way to serve and lead, a new challenge … (and) it seemed like there’s a lot of people who would like for there to be a choice as representative, so I chose to run against David. There’s not a lot of choices statewide, and we’re in the same district … I want to serve, and I want to lead in a way that will help not just my school.”
‘For the people’
Not having ventured into politics before now, Snider was asked about campaigning and fundraising.
“I think the (U.S.) Constitution says, ‘By the people’ and ‘For the people,’ and the original design was for a person to work, make a living, and then for a part of their year to represent the place they live,” he said. “So it wasn’t really designed to be professional politicians, so I feel confident I can work and make a living for my family and coach. Then if I get elected, of course, I would have to take some time away from work to fulfill that role.”
Snider believes some politicians have gotten removed from the people they represent.
“The biggest thing is I want to represent these three counties,” he said of Gilmer, Fannin and part of Dawson County. “I’ve lived here most of my life — I’ve grown up here, I’ve worked here — I believe I’ve got a good feel for the issues of these counties. Sometimes when you’re in Atlanta a long time, or Washington a long time, you’re not representing your area as much, you get tied up in bigger things. So I’m hoping to represent this area and be available as a guy who goes to work every day, just like everybody else.”
Snider will have his brother-in-law, Van Williams of Blue Ridge, directing his campaign.
“It will be a grassroots campaign,” Williams said. “I think he will have a good chance because he’s offering a real alternative, sort of an ‘everyman’ (appeal). I think he’ll offer a legitimate choice to the voters.”
Williams was asked if he had sensed any discontent in the district about Ralston.
“Yes, I have,” he replied. “I think there are some opportunities for more conservative action that have been overlooked or ignored — actually blocked by Mr. Ralston. There is a perception — at least my perception — that he is part of a very establishment Republican party, and I certainly think there’s more room for a grassroots conservative.”
Williams was asked about specific action or legislation that may have been “ignored” or “blocked.”
“We are very much pro-life, and we want to do what we can to protect innocent, unborn life,” he said. “There was an opportunity for a bill that never got to come to a vote that would have given Georgia a much stronger standing in supporting innocent life, and it wasn’t voted down, it just wasn’t allowed to come to a vote by (Ralston).”
Williams said the Snider campaign is also concerned about Georgia’s unemployment rate.
“We feel like there are ways for lower taxation and more business-friendly policies to attract businesses to our area, but also to Georgia generally,” he said. “We feel like there’s things like ‘enterprise zones’ that have not been tried, because we haven’t taken a lot of chances or tried something different.”
‘Proud of my record’
Ralston issued a statement on his own re-election efforts.
“I intend to seek re-election to the 7th House District serving all of the people of Fannin, Gilmer and Dawson counties,” he said in response to an emailed request. “I am proud of my record of service and the accomplishments of this Republican majority like cutting the size of state government, balancing the state budget, passing tax reform and leading a historic GOP majority in the Georgia House of Representatives. I will continue to build on these past successes as long as the citizens of the 7th House District choose to send me back to represent their interests in Atlanta.
“Every two years, the people get to decide who their representative will be and the opportunity to seek election is one of the blessings of liberty in our great country.”
Snider is optimistic about his chances.
“As far as the campaign, I have several people who are going to help me, and are helping me, and I feel good about that,” he said.