The table on the set of the state’s longest-running TV issues show, “The Georgia Gang,” now has a new occupant of the middle seat: Sandy Springs resident Janelle King.
As anyone who has watched the 37-year-old Sunday morning talk show on FOX 5 knows, the panel consists of two commentators from the political left, two from the right and a moderator.
King, 35, joined the show in August and, as the show’s youngest panelist, offers a youthful perspective. An avowed Republican political activist and President Trump supporter, she seems reasonable and thoughtful, perhaps because of how she became a Republican.
It began at North Carolina A&T State University, the top-ranked historically black college in the state.
“When I was a junior,” she said, “I saw a voter registration drive happening in 2006 and 2007. I was told it was nonpartisan, but I saw a lot of President Obama’s stuff being circulated. I didn’t understand. That didn’t really seem nonpartisan.”
Nevertheless, she was impressed by Obama and his ground game.
“I looked up to him and voted for him the first time, even though I didn’t agree with everything he stood for,” she said. “It was historical.”
But having been born in Connecticut and raised in North Carolina in “a totally non-political family,” she realized she didn’t know what either party stood for and decided to find out.
“I researched both parties based on the values I was raised with — school choice, personal responsibility, small government, pro-life. That’s when I said, ‘I’m a Republican.’”
She voted for Mitt Romney the next time. So new was she to politics that she didn’t realize how few minority voters nationwide agreed with her. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I thought everyone had a right to decide,” she said.
She moved to Atlanta jobless in 2007 to pursue her interest in politics and had a job within a month. A friend warned that her political views could make life difficult.
Her response was to be more “vocal,” not less. If she as a young black woman identified with conservative values, might other minority voters feel the same way when exposed to Republican policies?
“I went on a mission working with the state party as a volunteer educating our community,” she said.
Thus began her career as a volunteer event organizer bringing Republican leaders into minority communities in Georgia’s smaller towns. The event she’s proudest of was in 2015 at a community center in East Point for minority small-business owners, where she brought in then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp. “He was my first big-name person,” she said, “and I got a lot of pushback for inviting him.”
Formerly a paid staffer of the Georgia Republican Party, she now works as vice president of external affairs at Osprey Management, founded by her husband Kelvin, and as a contracted government relations officer for MARTA.
She was in the capacity-filled room at the World Congress Center when Trump launched “Black Voices for Trump” on Nov. 8. Trump invited Kelvin King to the dais to talk about growing a successful general contracting firm from his bedroom to its own 12,000-square-foot office building in just seven years.
On the dais with him, King said she was proud of her husband and grateful to Trump for helping to make it all possible. She told me her only regret was that “the room wasn’t big enough.”
With such conservative credentials, how does she get along with the other two African American commentators on “The Georgia Gang,” Alexis Scott and Tharon Johnson, who are both staunch liberals?
“It’s a respect factor,” she said. “I may disagree with Alexis and Tharon’s opinions, but I respect them.”
She has particular respect for Scott, a longtime respected journalist who for 17 years served as editor-in-chief and publisher of the Atlanta Daily World, the nation’s first successful black-owned daily newspaper, founded in 1928 by her grandfather, W. A. Scott II.
“Alexis endured a lot so that I don’t have to,” she said. “I appreciate that because of what she’s done, I can go my own way.”
King has no desire to run for office. Instead, her goal is to recruit and help minority candidates who want to run as Republicans.
“Demographics are shifting,” she said. “The Republican Party has to grow in diversity.”
“You may not agree with who represents the party at this time, but it doesn’t change the foundational values the party stands on,” she said. “It’s a value system no matter who’s in office.”
Correction: A previous version of this column incorrectly reported King’s current employment.