Cobb native becomes power player in D.C.
by Marcus E. Howard
August 16, 2010 12:00 AM | 4892 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUSTELL - With the governor's race now set between Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes, an Austell native turned Washington, D.C., political operative expects to help guide his candidate to the Governor's Mansion on Atlanta's West Paces Ferry Road.

But 27-year-old Nick Ayers isn't backing Democratic candidate Barnes, a fellow south Cobber. Instead, he's working to elect Deal, and 36 other Republican gubernatorial candidates across the U.S., as executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

In January 2007, Ayers became the youngest ever head of the RGA in Washington, after successfully managing Gov. Sonny Perdue's re-election in 2006. Today, Ayers - who dropped out of Kennesaw State University as a 19-year-old freshman to initially get Perdue elected - again has his sight set on Georgia's governor's race.

However, the smooth and politically savvy Ayers held his cards close to his vest when asked his strategy for accomplishing his goal.

"We are absolutely committed to getting Nathan Deal elected the next governor of Georgia and redefeating Roy Barnes," Ayers said. "How we will ensure that happens, we're never willing to discuss. Other than to say: Here are all the options we have. It will become very clear what we're doing, when we do them."

"Since I entered politics I never really thought it was a wise strategy to broadcast it and try to explain it to people upfront," he added.

Ayers has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest political players in the nation's capital, including President Barack Obama at the White House.

Dr. Kerwin Swint, a KSU political science professor, remembers his former pupil well from the time they first met. Ayers took several of Swint's courses, including one on campaigns and elections.

"When I first met him in the winter of 2001, he was 18. But the way he spoke and carried himself I thought he was 25 or 26," Swint recalled.

"When he took my classes, he also got involved in politics on campus, and together with another student, Derrick Dickey, built the College Republicans at KSU into an unstoppable force."

It was during a 2001 College Republicans campaign rally in Athens, that Ayers helped organize, when Perdue first met the energetic and politically active student. Impressed, Perdue invited Ayers to join his campaign, which he did after dropping out of college. His parents, Rick and Janice Ayers, weren't pleased.

"His dad and I were devastated. He again put his spin on it to the degree that he assured us that he would not only continue his education, but finish his education," Jo Ayers said of her only son.

Even as a child, the future politician was "opinionated," his mother said with a laugh. Janice Ayers, who now lives in the Vinings area, fondly remembers driving with her 10-year-old politically conscious son on her way to vote in 1992. The family supported Democrats, but Nick Ayers was a staunch Republican.

"I was getting ready to drop him off at the sitter and he was still counseling and encouraging me to vote Republican," Janice Ayers recalled. "I was quick to advise him that he would have his chance. But, that he was not momma's voice of reason."

Watching fellow Cobb County resident and House Speaker Newt Gingrich battle the president of the United States on the front pages of newspapers and on national TV enthralled Nick Ayers as an adolescent.

"I was diligent on reading books - whether it was on public policy, conservatism or politics - and realized by the time I went to college that I was a Republican," said Nick Ayers, a 2000 South Cobb High School graduate.

Though politics has driven Nick Ayers to great success within a short period, he has found time to start a family. He has been married for five years to the former Jamie Floyd. He was introduced to his wife by her second cousin, Perdue. In 2009, he also earned his college degree from KSU.

As head of the RGA - which is chaired by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour - Nick Ayers leads a staff whose mission is to help Republicans win governor's races by assisting their campaigns in strategy and with resources. One of his proudest accomplishments is helping to win the New Jersey and Virginia races in 2009.

He is also proud of placing the committee in great financial shape. The RGA began the year with $25 million in the bank. Since July, it has additionally raised more than $30 million, Ayers said. His trusted use by donors of the RGA's coffers, in comparison to embattled Michael Steele's struggling Republican National Committee, has caused some to suggest that Nick Ayers would be an ideal replacement to Steele.

"Prominent GOP officials have asked RGA executive director Nick Ayers to run for RNC chairman, according to sources on the national committee, as the underground campaign to replace current chair Michael Steele slowly ramps up," Reid Wilson, Hotline on Call editor, recently wrote.

"Ayers has shot down those overtures, says a source familiar with his thinking, insisting instead he must stay focused on the midterm elections, when GOPers are expected to pick up governorships across the country."

Ayers has, however, said that he intends to step down as RGA executive director after the 2010 election cycle. What his plans are after that are still up in the air, he said.

His former professor, who calls him a "phenom," believes the sky is the limit for Nick Ayers' career.

"I'm convinced he will someday manage a successful presidential campaign," Swint said.

"He is very talented and very driven. He is also very likable, which is also part of his secret. He's nice and well spoken, and people usually end up falling all over themselves trying to help him with whatever he's doing."

Wherever he ends up, Nick Ayers said he will not forget Cobb, the place where he first cut his political teeth successfully lobbing the Austell City Council for stop signs in the early 1990s on busy Perkerson Mill Road, where he and his sister Randa Ayers of Marietta, grew up.

"Even when I'm 700 miles north in Washington, D.C., it's always a place that's very close to my heart," he said.
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