An effort to revive conservative Christian clout at the state Capitol

The bad cops have had their turn. It’s time to bring in the tall, lanky good cop.

For three years, the religious conservative movement has flailed at the state Capitol. Last year, it was rolled, ignominiously, on a measure to empower local communities to decide whether grocery and convenience stores could sell beer, wine and liquor on Sunday.

Jeff Chapman and future governor Nathan Deal at a 2010 Republican debate. Chapman finished a distant fifth in the primary. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Jeff Chapman and future governor Nathan Deal at a 2010 Republican debate. Chapman finished a distant fifth in the primary. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

No major anti-abortion measure has passed the Republican-controlled Legislature in three years. The House has specifically blocked passage of a “personhood” bill championed by Georgia Right to Life, which would bestow the legal title of human being on any fertilized egg.

Efforts to restrict in-vitro fertilization by physicians and embryonic stem cell research at institutions such as the University of Georgia have likewise stalled -– in part the result of quiet pressure from the business and medical communities.

Another reason for disarray has been the aggressive, confrontational tactics employed by Georgia Right to Life, which has assumed the leadership of religious conservative forces in the Capitol since the retirement of longtime activist Sadie Fields.

I once referred to GRTL’s approach as “bare-knuckled,” only to be corrected. “Brass-knuckled” was more accurate, I was recently informed by a GRTL leader.

Enter soft-spoken Jeff Chapman, the former state senator from Brunswick and one-time Republican candidate for governor. This week, Chapman drew the curtains on a new player at the Capitol -– the Peach Tea Party.

Yes, the tea party label is overused. But PTP, headed by Chapman, promises to be something different. It is a coalition of several groups, including GRTL, and several causes.

“The life issue is obviously the most important, and we’ve been very disappointed in the last three years over what’s happened,” Chapman said. Preservation of marriage as something between only a man and a woman is another priority.

But the group will also oppose the July referendums on a sales tax for transportation funding across the state –- “a bureaucratic nightmare,” Chapman said.

Peach Tea Party will also back a cap on lobbyists’ gifts to state lawmakers. Heck, Chapman said, he would think about putting all 236 state legislators on an annual salary, in exchange for cutting off the freebies. “At least we’d know who was paying them,” Chapman said.

He estimated the cost of a full-time Legislature at $11 million a year. That’s cheap, Chapman said, when you consider that this company or that one can offer the right legislator a $1,500 vacation to California, then walk out of the Capitol with a project that adds $50 million in bonded indebtedness to a taxpayer-funded budget.

Some might think there’s a risk in mixing hardcore social issues with a good-government agenda. Chapman does not. “I think it makes sense. We believe that a person who is not right on the life issue –- how can we expect them to be right on the other issues, consistently?” he said.

There are two ways to open a jar of jelly beans. One way is to smash it. Chapman says he prefers to unscrew the lid. He is a man of easy demeanor who understands the social order at the Capitol. But he also has a history of stubborn –- some would say quixotic –- opposition when he takes up a cause. Chapman was a major thorn in Gov. Sonny Perdue’s attempt to remake Jekyll Island – which fell apart, primarily as a result of the Great Recession.

The Peach Tea Party also claims a secret weapon -– the “sharp end of the spear” was one description — that state lawmakers might want to take note of. In the old days, election-season scorecards –- distributed in Georgia churches on Sundays – were the bane of many a lawmaker’s existence.
But the reports, issued by Fields under the name of the Georgia Christian Coalition, were the foundation for her clout at the Capitol.

The PTP intends to replicate the tactic -– with an Internet-based system using software developed during the Colorado “personhood” fight.

An interactive map immediately links a voter with his or her legislator, his challenger, and a voting score assigned to both by Peach Tea Party. A small cast of straying Republican lawmakers will be targeted for elimination in the July primaries as a kind of pilot project.

“They have played the game of getting the support of the coalitions that are conservative. Then they’ve taken it for granted. Before now, we’ve really not had a process where we could do anything about it,” Chapman said.

Extra points will be awarded to lawmakers who actually put their name to legislation backed by the Peach Tea Party -– rather than simply agreeing to vote in favor of a measure that’s never likely to make it to the floor.

“The power of co-sponsoring lets the leadership know that it’s going to be difficult for them to shove it off to the side,” Chapman said.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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163 comments Add your comment

Joe Mama

February 1st, 2012
6:27 pm

I thought that the Tea Party rank and file members were supposedly nonpartisan with respect to the whole left-right thing. This notion of pushing legislation favorable to conservative Christians and punishing legislators who don’t fall in line doesn’t sound very nonpartisan to me.

Ol' Timer

February 1st, 2012
6:51 pm

For a group of people who boast of their devotion to the Constitution, they certain take their liberties with it when it come to intruding in the personal decisions of a woman and her physician — and, other personal choices that I should be able to make as I pursue life, liberty and the happiness.

These same folks want to gain control of the education curriculum and then they’re off to the races with the anti-science creation ideas and a revisionist view of history as they have done in Texas and are trying to do on Rocky Top.

Dingalina

February 1st, 2012
6:55 pm

“Some might think there’s a risk in mixing hardcore social issues with a good-government agenda.”

And some might think the good-government agenda is just a Trojan horse to get the holy roller stuff through. Hopefully most of our legislators will see right through this new tactic.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
7:01 pm

Ya gotta admire the GRLT, They took the women’s rights out of the argument and put it in a test tube.

Makes me wonder though, if you could know from prenatal testing, if an embryo was going to develop into someone who was homosexual or inclined to be a liberal democrat, would the right to lifers remain steadfastly opposed to abortion?

Martin Williams

February 1st, 2012
7:16 pm

The right to life folks are just a bunch cave people and they still don’t get. Abortion is always going to be available to humans and they should try and fight for other great issues affectin us all. Right to life folks will vote 100% for other peoples kids to go to war and their kids stay home. What is the difference between being against abortion and voting for wars? The wars are seriously affecting the world’s economy and we keep blaming some world leaders like president Obama. Look at Syria, the people are just trying to get basic needs and not anything like a flat screen TV. Just too many wars and we all need to start talking instead of bombs.

td

February 1st, 2012
7:20 pm

Chapman is the right person to take on any cause as a lobbyist. He has that Teddy Roosevelt mentality.”Walk softly and carry a big stick”. These RINO’s in the legislature will wake up and tow the line now or be replaced in the primaries. I love this choice.

sheepdawg

February 1st, 2012
7:51 pm

seperation of church and state, totally. no more “in god we trust” tag decals or any other stupid religious generated legislation

catlady

February 1st, 2012
7:57 pm

God help us!

hl

February 1st, 2012
7:58 pm

Heck with Griswold. v CT. We would not have unemployment problems if women just stayed home pregnant and barefoot.

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
8:08 pm

Liberals like to smear TEA Party (Taxed Enough Already) politics with social issue politics. No where in the TEA Party platform* is there such a thing. There might be those who have such cross interests, and those opposed to one use the other as a battering ram. That is what we see in this blog.

* http://www.teaparty-platform.com/

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
8:41 pm

sorry Centrist:

The above referenced website aside, the Tea Party (and the acronym decedes the original definition) has absorbed some very right wing influences which are strictly socially issued oriented.

When the TP standard bearers bring in issues like abortion and gay marriage, they are addressing social issues, not economic issues.

When you have the likes Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck as your poster children and add in the likes of Dale Robertson, it gets very difficult to take the TP seriously.

I can get with some of the positions of the TP, but the message got polluted and convoluted almost at the outset with the the wing-nuts.

What’s even more of interest to me, Centrist, is since Ron Paul is the grandfather of the TP movement, why are you so obviously behind Romney and not Ron Paul?

The bottom line

February 1st, 2012
8:53 pm

@td. The average Americana and average Georgians are more than tired of the right wing, intolerant, self-proclaimed and self righteous holier than thou phony right wing “Christians.” There is very little of Jesus the Christ in these Constitution hating moronic militants and their hateful actions and words. These were the same people who were screaming, “Crucify Him!” I am assuming you are a narcissitix atheist. Of course they love the unborn fetus, but scream out at low class Republican debates, “Let them die,” about people with no health insurance. This is spiritual wickedness and corruption at the deepest levels of the inner circle of hell. It has obviously been a long time since you and your fellow hate mongrrs have read the New Testament. Repent You Workers of Iniquity, and Servants of Evil!

B. Thenet

February 1st, 2012
8:57 pm

In honor of Newt Gingrich they are willing to admit that marriage is something that can also be between a man and three to four women over a 40 year period.

Eli

February 1st, 2012
8:57 pm

Why do any of you think the Tea Party is not socially conservative?

The Tea party is not a group of previously non-republican individuals, they are simply republicans falling in line behind a fad. That fad is the Tea Party and it is simply a reaction to the incommensurable relationship that the Christian Coalition created, between the country-club elite republicans and the rest of you (between business interests and social interests), under the Reagan presidency.

I understand that the libertarian-lite element of the Tea Party does not like the social conservative elements that have hi-jacked the Tea Party “platform” (as if a platform actually exists). Get over it, you lost. Change the acronym to: Thoughtless Evangelical Advocate Party.

Of course, the most embarrassing part of the Tea Party movement is the racism, ignorance, and hypocrisy. So go on, dress up a few radicals in costumes and recite the words of constitution you do not understand, live in the mountains with a bunch of guns and blame stuff on the government, never has America’s image been more tarnished than by the Tea Party.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
8:59 pm

The bottom line

February 1st, 2012
8:53 pm

@td. The average Americana and average Georgians are more than tired of the right wing, intolerant, self-proclaimed and self righteous holier than thou phony right wing “Christians.”

I would really love to believe you are right, but you aren’t.

In the olden days, people voted for you if you believed in burning witches, prior tot hat they hanged, beheaded burned you at the stake for disagreeing.

For an “intelligent” species, we are an amazingly stupid people.

Shoshanna

February 1st, 2012
9:00 pm

With the untimely demise of the Christian Coalition politically active Christians have had no team in the game except the teaparty. The founders of the TeaParty Patriots admits that 65%-70% of their entire activist base is social conservatives . . . without a home.

GRTL is one of the most successful PACs in the state as evidenced by the fact that all 9 statewide constitutional officers (Gov, Lt Gov, etc) are GRTL endorsed. This means they have NO exceptions for abortion AND agree to a Personhood Amendment to the GA constitution.

With this fact, it is hard to call them anything other than just plain ole mainstream Georgians.

The legislators better put on their padding because a big stick is com’in their way.

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
9:06 pm

Look before I leap…posted “Tea Party has absorbed some very right wing influences which are strictly socially issued oriented.

When you have the likes Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck as your poster children and add in the likes of Dale Robertson, it gets very difficult to take the TP seriously. I can get with some of the positions of the TP, but the message got polluted and convoluted almost at the outset with the the wing-nuts.”

The TEA Party does not have standard bearers, and the ones you mention are certainly not mine. It is purposely not organized top down, but bottom up. Liberals purposely point to TP supporters who have other agendas in order to discredit it, and attempt to redefine it.

“What’s even more of interest to me, Centrist, is since Ron Paul is the grandfather of the TP movement, why are you so obviously behind Romney and not Ron Paul?”

I like some of Ron Paul’s stances – but he is an ideologue and TOO Libertarian for me – I am a centrist. Everything in moderation. He is also a too old perennial contender, not to be taken seriously as a potential world leader.

Finally, I only support Romney as the best of the current contenders – my support for him is not very deep.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
9:08 pm

“untimely demise of the Christian Coalition”

Untimely is an interesting adverb.

In my opinion “untimely” means too late as opposed to to too early.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
9:18 pm

@Centrist

We agree on more than we disagree here, but for the fact that the TP, whether by design or accident, does in fact have standard bearers which you and I both don’t care much for.

If the TP is in fact a down – up movement, then you and I and others as the “downers”, must find a way to replace the histrionic voices of the Palins, Robertsons and Bachmans.

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
9:28 pm

Look before I leap… posted “If the TP is in fact a down – up movement, then you and I and others as the “downers”, must find a way to replace the histrionic voices of the Palins, Robertsons and Bachmans.”

You might recall the first TP demonstrations. They did not have leaders – just supporters. Opportunists (like the ones you mention) have since attempted to co-opt it, and opponents to smaller government, spending and taxes have incorrectly pointed to those religious/social conservatives as representative of the membership. The TP is alive and well despite the opportunists and opponents.

td

February 1st, 2012
9:38 pm

The bottom line

February 1st, 2012
8:53 pm

Why is it that it is not the Christians that sound like they are the intolerant angry folks on these blogs and on the TV? It is you secular humanist that sound like the “evil” ones.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
9:41 pm

@ Centrist:

We are 99.9% in agreement but for the word “attempted” and I am not trying to to mince words here.
The opportunists did not attempt, they were successful in attaching a social agenda to what should be a purely economic decision. The opportunists are playing a time honored tradition of selling fear in the guise of realism. For some, this will not work, for many it will. Were that not true, Rush Limbaugh would not be a multi-millionaire.

cheapseats

February 1st, 2012
9:41 pm

I remember reading somewhere else about the Taliban coming back – is this the same story?

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
9:49 pm

Look before I leap… posted “The opportunists did not attempt, they were successful in attaching a social agenda to what should be a purely economic decision.”

Only if you believe them and TP opponents.

double

February 1st, 2012
10:08 pm

Trump to endorse Newt.Maybe life after death.

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
10:20 pm

Maybe the fellow egomaniac Trump will simply say “You’re fired!” instead of endorsing Gingrich hoping for a deadlocked convention which turns to Trump.

Nah. Birds of a feather ….

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
10:24 pm

Not sure who the “them” is.

Funny, we agree on so many things, obviously you are a bit to the right of the political spectrum and I am bit to the left.
It would be fun to converse face to face over coffee or a glass of wine.

But with that said, were I the Presidential nominee, I;d be happy to have you as my candidate for VP.

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
10:30 pm

@ Look before I leap… I drink beer and bourbon and would have to have top billing on any ticket. Since we don’t quite have a meeting of the minds, in the meantime you vote for the Blue Dog Democrats, and I’ll vote for the Rino’s.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
10:31 pm

Hmmmmm
Apologies for the graphic, but I just f#rted and it carried more weight than Donald Trump’s endorsement.

double

February 1st, 2012
10:31 pm

Yeah seems all the birds of a feather are the same.You never know what they will say.When they do say is it credible.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
10:39 pm

@Centrist
I LOVE bourbon. Basil Hayden or Woodford Reserve (Master’s Maple Collection)?
I have a few Cuban cigars smuggled in from Grand Cayman if u like.

You can have top billing and AF1, but I get the Oval.

double

February 1st, 2012
10:39 pm

Look before If it has weight,then you need check your pants,may be more than f@-t.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
10:45 pm

@double
Thanks for the heads up.

Pants: AOK
Parakeet in cage in my office: TBD

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
11:00 pm

Prefer Maker’s Mark, but do like Basil Hayden and Woodford Reserve. Also Tennessee sour mash (can’t call it bourbon) George Dickel No. 12 – Their motto is “If you only know Jack, you don’t know Dickel”. Wild Turkey is over-rated.

td

February 1st, 2012
11:06 pm

Look and Centrist,

You two need to get a room. JK LMFAO

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
11:09 pm

Like the Dickel over over Jack
But am liking the the 30 yr “angels roost” JD select reserve.

Woodford is selling a top rack double-cask 40 yr next month.
300 barrel max. I plan to buy a case.

Centrist

February 1st, 2012
11:24 pm

The WSJ says it best about whatever Trump has planned for tomorrow: “Perhaps the best question, if he’s not throwing his hat in the ring, is whether the candidate who receives his endorsement actually wants his backing.”

gt1984

February 1st, 2012
11:30 pm

Lest respected Senator when he served. Sure to isolate the Moral Majority more than ever.

honested

February 1st, 2012
11:40 pm

Poor religious overseers…

They believed that commercial the SBC ran several years ago that boldly intoned “Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion.”
To which I would say, speak for yourselves.

There is no need for and every need against codifying religious doctrine and pretend science into state law.

And it makes us look even more like backwards hillbillies to the civilized parts of the country.

Look before I leap...

February 1st, 2012
11:40 pm

“whether the candidate who receives his endorsement actually wants his backing.”

Same to be said about Palin, Cain, McCain, Nancy Reagan or even Betty White.

If you base your vote based on somebody’s opinion no matter much you/like or respect them, you are essentially assigning your vote to them or you are just too stupid to vote.

Just Thinking

February 2nd, 2012
1:20 am

TwoToo much Tea Party,maybe we need a Moonshine Party.

Kev

February 2nd, 2012
2:21 am

Jim, you wrote:

“Last year, it was rolled, ignominiously, on a measure to empower local communities to decide whether grocery and convenience stores could sell beer, wine and liquor on Sunday.”

Grocery and convenience stores can’t sell liquor any day of the week in Georgia.

Attack Dog

February 2nd, 2012
6:22 am

There is very little difference between Blue Dog Democrats and real RINO’s. For RINO’s are the lost classification called moderate Republicans like Lincoln, Eisenhower, Rockerfeller, Brooks, M.L. King, Sr., etc. A “conservative” republican is nothing more than a Dixiecrat.

Buckhead Boy

February 2nd, 2012
6:35 am

Frankly, I’d prefer a General Assembly that can be bought by the monied interests rather than one that may be intimidated by the intolerance of the ignorant.

catlady

February 2nd, 2012
6:52 am

Poor Newt. He lost badly. Time for 3 Big Macs and $100,000 for Callista to go to Tiffany’s. That will make em feel better.

zeke

February 2nd, 2012
6:53 am

amen Buckhead Boy, get real td, and if the donald endorses newt it is just one more huckster giving the kiss of death to a candidate.

Ol' Timer

February 2nd, 2012
6:55 am

I suggest we just go ahead and admit the inevitable by putting a steeple on the state capitol.

Married for Life

February 2nd, 2012
7:06 am

It’s tribal. Weed out the people who disagree with you so that the tribe continues in the way that is determined to be the “right” way by its leadership. For the tribe to survive, corrupt influences must be eliminated. And a majority tribe that fears it may become a minority will exert the most power it can to preserve its status, regardless of the status of others.

Tom

February 2nd, 2012
7:34 am

Better to be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.

Just a taxpayer

February 2nd, 2012
7:47 am

Trying to throw a huge lasso around diverse groups doesn’t work well unless there is a common enemy. While there are some similarities between the groups, there are stark contrasts as well. Chapman as a legislator never was a bridge builder so this may not be an effective role for him.