The Republican state lawmaker who has lobbied, fought and cajoled in support of anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation at the State Capitol announced on Monday that he won't seek re-election.
That could make it easier for state Sen. Josh McKoon – a four-term lawmaker from Columbus – to seek higher office. Political pundits have said McKoon is eyeing a run for attorney general in 2018.
“After a great deal of thought and prayer, I have decided not to stand as a candidate for reelection to the state Senate in 2018,” McKoon said from the Senate floor.
“I believe in the wisdom of a citizen legislature, and that means recognizing that my tenure here should be measured in years, not decades,” he added.
McKoon said that announcing now – little more than two months after he easily won re-election to a fourth term – allows potential candidates to prepare a campaign.
But McKoon has tackled controversial issues, including “religious freedom” and ethics and immigration reform. That work has alienated him from Republican lawmakers, GOP leadership and cost him the chair of a Senate judicial committee. It's led to lonely walks under the Gold Dome for McKoon.
“Taking on tough issues such as ethics reform, immigration reform and religious liberty has made my time here worthwhile, but it has come at a cost. As someone that came here to fight for the citizens I represent, not special interests, I have accumulated many enemies,” McKoon said.
Despite being sidelined in the “religious freedom” fight, McKoon has promised that the controversial legislation would return. He renewed his fight for the legislation – the fourth consecutive year McKoon has lobbied for it – earlier this month. A bill has not yet been introduced and GOP leaders in the state have said they don't want to revisit the legislation this year.
McKoon has scoffed at being labeled “anti-gay.” But he's complained about aggressive LGBTs trying to blackmail him, used legislative tricks to push his legislation forward, misconstrued poll numbers to support his case and flatly denied that it's an anti-LGBT bill even though it threatens non-discrimination policies in cities across the state.
McKoon has also attacked LGBT groups, called the medical needs of transgender military members “absurd,” questioned whether anti-LGBT discrimination exists and refused to add LGBT protections to his “religious freedom” legislation. He also supported the lobbyist who compared lawmakers to Hitler for their failure to pass anti-LGBT legislation and tried to retaliate against LGBT-friendly businesses.
The text of McKoon's announcement on Monday, via the AJC's Political Insider:
Good morning. I wanted to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the people of the 29th District for placing your trust in me in four consecutive elections to represent you in Atlanta. I have enjoyed the privilege of serving you and look forward to the work ahead over the next two years. I also would like to thank God for the opportunity to serve such a wonderful district.
Given the nature of our terms of service, it is necessary to make a decision soon after an election as to whether you will run again. I have come to a decision about the next election and that is my purpose in speaking to you today. After a great deal of thought and prayer, I have decided not to stand as a candidate for reelection to the state Senate in 2018.
I feel it is important to make this announcement now for several reasons. An early announcement gives time to potential candidates to weigh their decision and make the necessary preparation to mount a campaign. We need to make sure our district continues to be represented by a well-qualified person who continues the tradition of being a strong, independent conservative voice and giving this notice helps ensure that. Also, I want to be honest with the voters as I always have. As most of you know, from the time I started with ethics reform, I have fought for open and transparent decision making for our citizens. By announcing now, I avoid even the appearance of attempting to time this announcement to advantage any particular potential candidate.
I came to this decision for a few reasons.
First, I believe in the wisdom of a citizen legislature, and that means recognizing that my tenure here should be measured in years, not decades.
Secondly, taking on tough issues such as ethics reform, immigration reform and religious liberty has made my time here worthwhile, but it has come at a cost. As someone that came here to fight for the citizens I represent, not special interests, I have accumulated many enemies. As Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Third, my experience with my opponents has not deterred my will to fight but instead have opened my eyes to new ways in which I might serve my fellow citizens.
So what’s next? Jacqueline and I will be prayerfully considering how best to continue to serve others. Whether that means a future in politics or some other path remains to be seen. What is clear is the amazing work that has been done here at the Capitol by grassroots advocates and citizens who want to change their government for the better. I thank you all.
In closing, let me say how humbling it has been to be elected and reelected as your senator.
Every senator defines success differently. Some define success by the leadership positions they hold. Others by what they bring to their district. Others by the number of their bills signed into law.
My service has always been about ideas. Some of my ideas have caused discomfort. I make no apologies for any of my ideas or the role I have played in forcing them to be considered and discussed. But I do want to thank the entire body, particularly our leadership, for their patience with me. I salute the lieutenant governor for the private encouragement and support he has given me. And the majority leader for the role he played in helping me understanding the nature of politics. And the president pro tem who has demonstrated fairness and humor in the most difficult of circumstances. Most of all I would like to once again thank the voters of the 29th District for giving me the honor of serving you.
May God Bless the Georgia Senate and God Bless America.