I am a conservative. While many have taken that word and begun to apply it to fringe activities that advance their agenda using government power, I still believe in conservatism as it was originally intended. Limited Government. Individual Responsibility. Self Determination.
In order to implement these ideals, we must protect the ideal of keeping decisions that are necessary from government as close to the people as possible. As such, I believe the principle of local control is among the most essential to conservatism.
When I ran against an incumbent Republican for State Senate, I did it over votes that affected my home county adversely. Specifically, Roy Barnes HB 1187 was an anathema to Fayette County residents who had built the best public school system in the state, only to be told that we would have to cede authority over those schools to Atlanta bureaucrats. The bill also redirected funding from our county to those counties who weren’t willing to tax themselves in order to support their own public school system. I spent my own money and time to make the point clear: We needed a representative who understood that government is best closest to the people it serves.
As I began my decision of whom to support for Governor, I started with the basis of not wanting to return to the Atlanta power consolidation of Roy Barnes, which I have to admit, has continued in many forms under Republican rule. I also knew that there was no scenario in which I could support John Oxendine. That left me with Casey Cagle, whom I had previously supported, and Karen Handel, whom I voted for in the runoff for Secretary of State but did not know personally. At the time, I was not comfortable with either, but began to watch and learn.
When Cagle dropped out of the race, I saw an opportunity to move to Lynn Westmoreland. That never came to pass, but I was assured by my friends who also wanted Westmoreland that Nathan Deal was the next best thing. I continued to watch and learn. And then, we had an October of Ghetto Grandmothers, asking our elected President to prove his citizenship, and a Congressional ethics investigation. I moved on.
I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Austin Scott, but he ultimately decided to be the next Congressman from middle Georgia.
During this same time, I have gotten to know Karen and Steve Handel, and am now proud to call them friends. I wrote about seeing Karen speak to a group of Young Republicans the first time I saw her speak, and remain impressed at how she handled that crowd. I really hated every question that was asked. Each question presumed an answer, and was really a small speech from the questioner stating “Don’t you agree with me that….”. The thing is, Karen didn’t agree with most of the premises of each question. She was able to respond in such a way that left the person agreeing with her, while stating her position and giving detailed answers.
And most importantly, buried somewhere within each answer, was a component of local control.
As I’ve continued to watch and learn, Karen has remained constant. When she discusses “comprehensive tax reform”, she always adds that we need to make sure local governments aren’t adversely impacted and their revenues remain theirs. That’s a far cry from the attempt at passing a “Great Tax” where the House kept telling local governments “trust us”. “Trust us” is Atlanta speak for “screw you”.
I was able to take a few co-workers to see Karen at her bus tour in Fayetteville last week. At the end of which, Fayette’s former commission chairman spoke about how Karen served with him on the ARC, and was the only one who cared about the impacts of local governments, and other county governments, when she served there. She’s been in the shoes of local government, and understands how a possibly well-meaning but still overreaching state government can impact them. I want someone with a local government’s perspective in the Governor’s mansion.
So with the above in mind, I continued to watch and learn, but when I was first “officially” asked to support Karen, I politely declined. When asked why, I said that I was still not comfortable with a third term for Sonny Perdue.
I’ll take a moment here to say that while I tend to give the governor a hard time here, I do understand where he’s coming from. When Sonny was gearing up for re-election, I asked one of my friends who had his ear why he seemed so passive and indifferent to many of the state’s major issues. He responded that Sonny took over from a very activist Governor Barnes, and the people of Georgia were happy with the status quo. He viewed his role as more of a caretaker and manager, and didn’t think Georgian’s were ready for dramatic changes.
I need, and I believe Georgia needs, dramatic changes in the way we govern ourselves.
We can no longer tolerate ethics laws that allow legislators to trade sex for votes.
We can no longer tolerate ethics laws that allow legislators to sell access to themselves as quasi-lobbyists.
We can no longer tolerate a state ethics board that has no power to investigate documented claims or impropriety.
And we have proven that the legislature is not capable of policing themselves.
Karen took a major risk in declaring open war on this system with her “sex, lies, and lobbyists” speech before the general assembly began in January. She has little support and much open animosity among legislators who want/need to maintain the status quo. Many of the “money people” who have a vested interest in the status quo have shunned her campaign, putting her at a fundraising disadvantage.
Yet, she perseveres, and is thriving.
I watched, and I learned. I like what I see. Karen Handel has the perspective I want in the next Governor, and the desire and ability to bring about the changes to make Georgia’s government more conservative.
What started out as a potential and habitual vote for the “lesser of the evils” has turned into a vote I am proud to give.
Tomorrow, I’m proud to vote for Karen Handel. I hope you will be too.