Brookhaven’s race for state representative is heating up. Democratic incumbent Taylor Bennett had three GOP challengers, with Alan Cole and Meagan Hanson headed to a run-off to determine the final Republican candidate.
Elected in a special election last year to replace Republican Mike Jacobs — who left the legislature to become a judge for the DeKalb County State Court — Bennett beat former Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis by a wide margin, garnering 55 percent of the vote to Davis’ 45 percent.
This year is expected to be another closely watched race, as House District 80 is one of the few districts that will have a competitive general election, and could swing conservative again.
Bennett has been a vocal opponent to Sen. Josh McKoon’s hateful “religious freedom” legislation, following in the footsteps of his predecessor.
He even fought for a basic civil rights bill to be expanded to include LGBTQ people as well provide protections based on, “religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or veteran’s status.” But, the Gold Dome’s conservative leadership played dirty and was able to gut, and ultimately kill, that legislation. Georgia is one of only a few states that have absolutely no civil rights protections.
Cole and Hanson both have tracked with Bennett’s anti-RFRA stance.
When asked by The Brookhaven Post about his position on the “religious freedom” legislation, Cole had only this to say: “I support Governor [Nathan] Deal’s decision and his reasoning,” presumably meaning he supports Deal’s decision to veto the legislation.
That is an enthusiastic champion if I ever heard one.
Hanson provided a longer response, telling The Post:
“There was more than one religious liberty bill proposed last session. While I strongly support Governor Deal’s veto of the final version of HB 757, I was in favor of the original Pastor Protection Act, non-discriminatory legislation that protected clergy from being forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. I did not and will not support any religious freedom legislation that can be used to discriminate against my fellow Georgians.”
“Religious freedom” bills are only one of the hot issues expected to drive voters this election cycle. Gov. Deal’s veto of the controversial Campus Carry legislation has also drawn the ire of his party and some conservative voters.
Again, Cole offered this response to The Post: “I support Governor Deal’s decision and his reasoning.”
Hanson, on the other hand, uses the favorite GOP question — ‘what would the founding fathers do?’ — to offer up her thoughts:
“I support the rights of lawful gun owners to bear arms under the Second Amendment; however, as Governor Deal noted in his decision to veto House Bill 859, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison prohibited students at the University of Virginia from “keep[ing] or us[ing] weapons or arms of any kind” while on campus. If our Founding Fathers did not believe that having guns at an institution of higher learning was a good idea, I have a hard time disagreeing.”
Taylor Bennett has $20,613.87 cash on hand, but with very little fundraising efforts since the end of legislative session (while in session, legislators cannot fundraise).
Alan Cole has $6,200.00 cash on hand, although $6,000 of that is a loan he made to his campaign. Former Brookhaven Mayor Davis, who lost to Bennett last round, appears to be a big supporter of Cole’s campaign, showing up to Cole’s election results watch party after primary voting.
Meagan Hanson has $35,900.10 cash on hand, pulling in $16,056.03 during the most recent reporting period. About one third of that money comes from other candidates, a common tactic to bolster party favorites.
It’s clear that Brookhaven is no easy conservative win. Bennett has a long (and expensive) fight against whoever the next GOP challenger is if he wants to keep his seat.