From Aug. 6 to Aug. 9 this year, I am hosting the Republican presidential candidates in Atlanta. Seven years ago, I started my annual “RedState Gathering” because the political website I run had been around for a while and few of us had ever met in person. That first year, we did it in Atlanta. Now, seven years later, we are coming home. Govs. Bush, Huckabee, Jindal and Walker will be there. Sens. Rubio and Cruz will be there. Carly Fiorina will be there. All are running for president. Most of them have become personal friends of mine over the past decade.
In fact, at my first RedState Gathering, I invited some little-known friends to speak. One was a state senator from South Carolina named Nikki Haley. She went on to be governor. Another was the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Marco Rubio. Another was the Solicitor General of Texas, Ted Cruz. Another was a former Pennsylvania congressman, Pat Toomey, who is now a Pennsylvania senator. I guess I should tell you that if you want to come, go to www.redstategathering.com to sign up.
It may seem silly to say this, but in the seven years I have held this conference, I have gone to Atlanta, Austin, Charleston, Jacksonville, New Orleans and Fort Worth. I have always wanted to do something in Macon. For many, that may sound absurd, but Macon is home and I hate to travel. In my 10 years as editor of RedState, I have traveled 500,000 miles just for work. I would love to do something at home.
My wife and I took the kids downtown this weekend. We make frequent trips to Robinson Home, which may be the only kitchen and cooking store in Georgia where you can depart not feeling ripped off. It is wonderful. We went there and we went to the Rookery for lunch. Passing a crowd congregating on Third Street, I waited for the panhandlers to start harassing my kids, my wife and me. It did not happen. Everyone said hello. We had a great lunch. We walked around downtown.
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It is thriving and bustling, even on the weekend in a way it never was when I was in college. The smell of good food has replaced the old street smells that used to linger unpleasantly. There are plans for upscale hotel developments downtown. Mercer’s footprint keeps expanding and with every expansion brings something designed to attract not just students, but others as well.
I have long wondered why, given Middle Georgia’s musical history, we are not competing on PBS with Austin City Limits. Instead of a once a year event, the Bragg Jam could be the grand finale to a year of awesome music around the city. After my family left downtown on Saturday, we drove out to the Amerson Water Park. It is first class and would be a great venue for music and celebration.
But, there are the bigger issues. I can get almost all the Republican presidential candidates and some additional congressmen, senators and governors to Atlanta because the Peachtree-DeKalb Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport are world-class facilities, one for private aviation and the other for commercial air traffic. On top of those, I can get a crowd to Atlanta because the city has Uber, an independent taxi service, public transportation and upscale hotel facilities that can hold them all.
We don’t have much of that in Macon. Our airport needs real investment and improvement. We still have work to do. But I can dream.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.