Young Turks Republicans

While the national Republican Party steers a rudderless ship, can these young Alabamians craft a message for the GOP’s next chapter?
by Atticus Rominger
photos by Jason Wallis

With a fading voice in the House and the Senate and a White House out of reach for at least four years, the Republican Party is struggling to find a cohesive message, a messenger, and an interested audience. In Alabama, a state still strongly in the red column, the next generation of Republican leaders has not lost hope. They are taking on the old guard, challenging old ideas and crafting a strategy for taking a new message to a new generation. Can these young Republicans gain traction fast enough to save the Grand Old Party?

Name: Jeremy S. Walker
Age: 28
City: Montgomery
Profession: Attorney at Haskell, Slaughter, Young, LLC
Republican Creds: Chairman, Capital City Young Republicans; Executive Board, Montgomery County, Alabama Republican Party

His take: When this University of Alabama football player-turned-budding trial lawyer talks to other young Republicans, at a county meeting or a gathering in D.C., he says “It’s got to be about the money.” While he supports the party platform, Jeremy Walker says smaller government and economic responsibility in government are the only themes universal enough to interest a broad audience. “I think the message has to be adjusted. In times of economic uncertainty, the old wedge issues—God, guns ,and gays—struggle to reach the younger generation.”

Name: Holly Shepherd Lollar
Age: 30
City: Birmingham
Profession: Public Relations Executive, O2 Ideas
Republican Creds: President, Greater Birmingham Republican Women; Alabama Federation of Republican Women Board; Young Professional Republican Federation of Alabama Board; Serves on three commissions for Governor Bob Riley

Her take: This PR pro knows a strong message is worthless if no one hears it. That’s why she’s finding new ways to reach the next generation of would-be Republicans…a generation that shuns traditional media but still thirsts for information. “They’re not reading the paper; I think that’s the thing that is most shocking. So it is the dinnertime conversation, it’s at meetings where they’re going to get that information.” Lollar prefers to invite friends to downtown “power lunch” meetings where speakers can inform and inspire in 90 minutes or less. It’s also where her group of young Republican women is taking on the old guard, publicly criticizing Jefferson County Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins for siding with commission Democrats on a controversial sewer issue.

Name: Paul DeMarco
Age: 41
City: Homewood
Profession: Attorney at Parsons, Lee, and
Republican Creds: State Representative, Alabama House District 46 (Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook, and Vestavia Hills)

His take: “There is still such a thing as good government.” DeMarco says you only have to look at Birmingham’s over-the-mountain school systems to see the results of voters placing their faith, and large portions of their tax dollars, in the hands of politicians they trust will spend it wisely. DeMarco says consistent Republican wins in traditionally blue counties, like Marshall, St. Clair, and Blount, and strengthening in the state House and Senate are good signs of a strong GOP showing in 2010 state elections. Does DeMarco aspire to higher office? “Can I get back to you on that?”

Name: Philip Bryan
Age: 32
City: Birmingham
Profession: Communications
Director, Alabama GOP
Republican Creds:
Communicates party positions to media, public,
Executive Committee, and the party base

His take: With the relaunch of the state Republican Party Web site,, former ad man Philip Bryan is crafting a messaging strategy aimed at a 2010 Legislative takeover for the Republicans. It would be the first time since Reconstruction that Republicans have controlled Alabama’s House and Senate. In the online mix: a daily issue-oriented email and expanded presence on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. “We have to brand ourselves the same as any company, and I think we can break out of the box with a little more intrigue.” Still, while the media may change, the song remains the same. “It’s not about changing the message, it’s about getting the constituents re-energized and excited again.”

Name: Roger Richardson
Age: 30
City: Huntsvillle
Profession: Urban Economic Development
Specialist, Alabama A&M University
Republican Creds: Campaign volunteer for Bob Riley, Mike Rogers; Candidate in March 3rd Republican Primary for State Senate,
7th District (results posted March 3rd, 2009))

His take: Richardson calls his campaign staff the most diverse in the state. White and black, from Madison County’s most affluent areas and its public housing communities. So how is he able to draw folks from the projects to the GOP? “We all want good housing. We all want good schools. We all want job opportunities. Most people don’t want a hand out.” He’s banking on his contention there is no strong left or right in America, only a center-right the GOP can re-energize.” Note:Richardson came in 4th in the Madison County election March 4th. See for details.