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OPINION: Two Georgians who are too cuckoo even for Congress

Georgia has long elected to Congress a lengthy list of firebrands, iconoclasts and those who mumble memorable mutterings.

From Newt Gingrich changing the face of the House of Representatives, to Bob Barr being a pitbull during the Bill Clinton impeachment, to Paul Broun saying evolution was a lie “straight from the pit of hell,” to Hank Johnson worrying about the Navy tipping over the island of Guam, this state has sent some eye-openers to Washington.

Well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

This year, Georgia may very well send some real cray-cray to D.C.

In the past, voters in North Georgia have elected two dutifully conservative reps — Tom Graves in the 14th District in the northwest part of the state, and Doug Collins in the 9th District in the northeast. In fact, Collins, who is trying to upgrade to the U.S. Senate, is this generation’s Bob Barr, although he played defense in the most recent impeachment, rather than offense.

But elected officials such as Graves and Collins are old-school pols who have trudged the traditional path to D.C., having gained state legislative experience and worked within that system to build coalitions before jumping to the Big Time.

That is so ten years ago.

Today, it looks like North Georgia voters are threatening to give a middle finger to the country and send two, ahem, "outsiders" to the Capitol.

Marjorie Greene (center) of Milton, the leading candidate for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, participates in a “Stop Impeachment Now” rally outside the office of U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath on October 9, 2019, in Sandy Springs. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Marjorie Greene (center) of Milton, the leading candidate for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, participates in a “Stop Impeachment Now” rally outside the office of U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath on October 9, 2019, in Sandy Springs. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the front-runner in the 14th, is a fan of QAnon, the kooky far-right conspiratorial community that lives online and feeds on outlandish theories about child sex rings, Deep State shenanigans and George Soros. It's where the aluminum foil cap crowd now socializes.

And state Rep. Matt Gurtler, the Georgia Capitol's current Dr. No, is the leading contender in the 9th District to replace Collins. Gurtler earned that nickname for his propensity to vote "no" on legislation, 40% of the time in 2017 and 2018. The average Republican voted "no" 6% of the time. It got to a point where the speaker of the House and some GOP lawmakers tried to vote him off the island, supporting an opponent in the Republican primary in 2018.

Gurtler, who was 29 at the time, survived.

Republican state Rep. Matt Gurtler speaks at the Georgia Capitol on March 7, 2019. Gurtler is the leading 2020 contender for Congress in Georgia’s 9th District. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)
Republican state Rep. Matt Gurtler speaks at the Georgia Capitol on March 7, 2019. Gurtler is the leading 2020 contender for Congress in Georgia’s 9th District. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Tired of voting no at the state level, Gurtler this year decided to take his obstructionism to a new level and bring his N-O to D.C. He ran against eight other candidates, including a couple of experienced legislators (one who was endorsed by former Gov. Nathan Deal) and even the aforementioned Broun, the former congressman.

Broun took the internet with his AR-15 and demonstrated what he might do if the "looting hordes from Atlanta" ended up in his neighborhood. But by now, firing an AR-15 in a political ad is old hat.

Gurtler, naturally a gun guy himself, came in first in the nine-candidate field with 21 percent of the vote. Fittingly, No. 2 was Andrew Clyde, a gun store owner. They will meet in a primary runoff next month. The winner will almost certainly head to Washington, unless they join Antifa before November.

Gurtler, in an email, said of himself, “The fight between the establishment and The People is as old as history itself. Much like President Trump, I’m the most attacked legislator in Georgia because we threaten the deep state. As Churchill said, having enemies means you stood for something in your life.”

So, let's go to the west, in the neighboring 14th District, a place that is equally as conservative and well-armed. Greene, who owns Taylor Commercial, a big-time construction outfit in metro Atlanta, figured her brand of politicking would do better in Northwest Georgia than in Atlanta's northern suburbs. 

She was right. She outdistanced the nine-candidate field with 40% of the vote. Coming in second was neurosurgeon and businessman John Cowan, who got 21%. There were at least three former pols in the field, including John Barge, the ex-state school superintendent.

But neither experience nor incumbency is cool in this era, nor is rational discourse — or even being tethered to reality or lucidity.

After it became clear that Greene, who funded her campaign with a $700,00 loan, was the front-runner, a pack of GOP officials started running from her candidacy like the toxic waste dump that it is. She has a way of spewing racially insensitive stuff, bashing Islam and getting photographed with Chester Doles, a longtime leader of white supremacist organizations. (So did Gurtler.)

But what really shows the sinister depths to which Greene will stoop came in 2017 just a few days after Stephen Paddock, from his perch in a Las Vegas hotel room, shot and killed 58 people attending a country music concert.

In her video, Greene said she didn’t believe Paddock was a “lone wolf” and asked, “How do you get avid gun owners and people who support the 2nd Amendment to give up their guns and go along with anti-gun legislation. … Maybe you accomplish that by performing a mass shooting into a crowd that is very likely to be conservative, very likely to vote Republican, very likely to be Trump supporters and pro-2nd Amendment.

“You make them scared, you make them victims and change their mindset. Then possibly you can pass anti-gun legislation. Is that what happened in Las Vegas?”

Well, no. An investigation determined Paddock acted by himself. But Greene’s reckless utterances in the form of questions come across as fantastic, conspiratorial and flat-out insane.

ajc.com

Here’s how Greene’s campaign responded to my questions: “You are part of the Socialist Fake News media attempting to smear Marjorie because she, like millions of Americans, understands there is a Deep State in this country …” blah, blah, blah.

That someone would think there might be a conspiracy to kill 58 people to make gun owners look bad and take away their guns shows either a chemical imbalance or malevolent opportunism.

That Greene would actually ask those questions aloud and on tape — almost in the form of statements — shows that she should be on the Alex Jones show, not representing Americans in Congress.

Voters in the 14th District, ask yourselves a question: Is this who we want?

Dr. No has an answer for you.