New ‘Freedom’ caucus aims to pull GOP lawmakers further to right

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

The House Freedom Caucus has pulled the GOP’s congressional agenda to the right since it was founded in 2015. Now the conservative group aims to have the same influence in Georgia.

The Georgia Freedom Caucus launched on Tuesday with support from a half-dozen Republican lawmakers who promised to be a powerful new voice for conservative legislation – and a thorn in the side of state GOP legislative leaders.

“We intend to make sure that accountability exists,” said state Rep. Philip Singleton, adding: “The grassroots have not been silent, but they have been ignored. We’re at the precipice now, and the grassroots is no longer going to be ignored.”

Singleton has had no issue sparring with fellow Republicans, and his criticism of House Speaker David Ralston and other GOP officials earned him a new south metro Atlanta district that’s drawn to favor a Democratic incumbent.

He was credited with orchestrating the new group, which included several other House members and a trio of state senators. The Georgians joined dozens of legislators from other states at a gathering at the state Capitol intended as a show of force for the network -- and a sign of its nationwide ambitions.

Among the other members is state Rep. Charlice Byrd of Woodstock, who is mounting a primary challenge against state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta. She said she would happily embrace labels that have been used to vilify conservatives.

“Well, I want you to know that I am right wing,” Byrd said. “I cling to my God. My Bible. And my guns.”

The most prominent Georgian in the group was state Sen. Burt Jones, a candidate for lieutenant governor who earned former President Donald Trump’s backing. Jones and several other GOP state senators were demoted this year for backing Trump’s effort to overturn Georgia’s election.

Jones spoke of an insidious “culture of cancellation” taking root at the Gold Dome.

“It’s a sad day when elected officials, the very people that are put here to represent constituents across the state, can’t freely voice their opinions in these hallowed hallways,” he said.

The group enters the fray at a fractious time, when divided Republicans are already expected to take up legislation that revives cultural clashes over guns, race and gender during an election-year legislative session.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The network, once chaired by former Trump aide Mark Meadows, will be supported by the Conservative Partnership Institute, a Washington-based non-profit where Meadows has been a senior partner since leaving the White House.

Also on the CPI staff with Meadows is Cleta Mitchell, a prominent Republican attorney who helped Trump in his failed efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Along with the event at the Capitol Tuesday, a gala is scheduled for Buckhead Tuesday night featuring Meadows, House Freedom Caucus chairman U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, and newly minted Freedom Caucus members from 25 states, all pledging to move the Freedom Caucus agenda in their legislatures in 2022.

The Georgia caucus members said they’d back a limited set of proposals during next year’s legislative session, including a long-stalled proposal that would let gun owners carry concealed handguns without a permit.

Just as important, said state Sen. Greg Dolezal, is the flip side of that equation.

“The question that never gets asked is what legislation gets stopped,” said Dolezal, adding: “We’re going to make sure we’re working with our colleagues to stop legislation that increases the size and the scope of government and infringes on personal liberties.”