By LYDIA BERGLAR
At the end of September, State Senator Colton Moore was suspended from the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus. Recent letters to the editor in the Sentinel returned to the topic, (Gene Carter addressed Moore in the November 8th issue of the Sentinel, and Moore responded the following week), so the Sentinel spoke with Moore and State Representative Mike Cameron to learn more about how caucuses function.
The Sentinel asked Moore how his work is or isn’t limited by being suspended. He responded, “It’s given me a lot more freedom to advocate on behalf of people in northwest Georgia. I’m no longer subjected to the guardrails of the caucus. It’s going to be very nice going into session and not having to meet behind closed doors in order to do business anymore. Now, I can bring all of the business out front and open on the Senate floor.”
Explaining the caucus, he said, “That’s where the back room deals, if you will, are worked out. The idea is that a consensus is made before we go onto the Senate floor…It’s very evident, I have no intention of voting with the caucus when the caucus doesn’t want to go after Fani Willis.”
If in need of a refresher on the Fani Willis/indictment topic, see the interview with Moore in the September 6th issue of the Sentinel.
Moore continued, “The caucus is better off if you’re a part of it, as long as that caucus has the same agenda as you do. The problem is that I don’t have the same agenda as the majority caucus. The lieutenant governor, who oversees the chamber, has a similar perspective because he’s now recognizing two people who claim to be Republicans and another group that claims to be Democrats. He is acknowledging that there are three different parties, essentially, within the chamber.”
Noting that he still holds a chairmanship, Moore said, “I still have more power than a lot of other senators; it’s just that I don’t caucus with the majority caucus. It’s going to be very interesting when redistricting takes place as we go into special session. There’s a possibility that we lose state Senate seats. The caucus is going to have to get more aligned with true Republican conservative values if they want me to be a part of it.”
Moore reported that he is now focused on special session (beginning today, November 29th). “My focus now is going into special session and advocating for people to sign onto my Stop Political Persecution Act, which I think I will be much more successful at now that these members of the majority caucus have faced so much criticism from their constituents.”
The Sentinel asked about Moore’s response to those who feel that a necessary part of politics is “playing the game” and cooperating with others. He said, “If we don’t have basic constitutional freedoms, what good is a game? I don’t want to play games with my constitutional freedoms.”
The Sentinel inquired about Moore’s labeling of some of his fellow senators as RINOs – Republicans In Name Only. He said, “If you go to the Republican National Committee’s website, on the very front page, it highlights the principles of the Republican party. One of the principles is protecting constitutional rights. It is very evident that Trump and 18 others have had their constitutional rights violated, and if [senators are] unwilling to take a stand against that, then in my opinion, they are Republicans in name only.”
The Sentinel then spoke with Cameron because, although the House of Representatives and the Senate are separate bodies, Cameron has insight into how a caucus operates.
He said, “You have to build relationships to be able to work with people in Atlanta. [In the caucus], we have pretty frank discussions about things we like and don’t like in certain bills because our meetings are closed-door meetings. We’re kind of like a family unit, and even if we disagree, we keep it in the family. They’ll count the votes to make sure you have votes before you bring a bill up, because you don’t want to bring a bill up and then have 90 people disagree with you.”
As an example, he referenced a gambling bill several years ago. “There was no chance to amend it before it got in our caucus meeting, and we said no, we’re not voting for this bill. We don’t know what’s in it, and we’re not going to put this on the floor.”
Another example is last year’s truck weight bill, which Cameron voted for initially However, he explained that when it came back from the Senate, “I thought it was a horrid bill, and I voted against the final bill because I didn’t think it was a benefit up here.”
Referencing the sinkhole at Magby Gap, (see the August 23rd issue of the Sentinel), Cameron explained that he was able to quickly help address the issue because of his relationship with the Georgia Department of Transportation. “It’s important–in the house, in the Senate, everywhere– that you have relationships built up so if Dade County has an emergency, I pick up the phone and call somebody.”
Cameron said he also appreciates having people who he can bounce ideas off of.
Of his experience in the caucus, Cameron said, “I’ve never been told how to vote on a bill. I’ve never been told not to vote on a bill. Whenever possible, I try to support the bill. If I have a question, I go to the floor leader. I vote against bills sometimes, and I just tell them [why I can’t vote for the bill], and then move on. We may disagree on issues, but I try not to be disagreeable with people.”
As an example of voting for his beliefs, he said, “I got some heat last year over here with the school board because I voted for school choice, but I have to look at the whole state and what’s happening in Atlanta where the school system is bad.”
Of working across party lines, Cameron mentioned working with Senator Jon Ossoff’s office to replace water lines on Lookout Mountain. “We’re never going to agree on [issues], and we talk about that. We’re never going to support each other’s candidates, but we have the same constituents, and we need to try to work together to get things done for people.”
He concluded, “Colton’s bright and articulate, and he has his way of going about doing things, and I have mine.”