Georgia will soon be losing one of its most entertaining political personalities in U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, the Republican from Athens.
Ever since his election to Congress in 2007, Broun has entertained voters and journalists alike with his zany, off-the-wall behavior.
You could count on him to say something outrageous, such as evolution being a lie “straight from the pits of hell,” or wait for him to hold a town hall meeting where constituents talked openly about shooting President Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, Broun will soon be departing the political scene. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate and will have to step down from his House seat at the end of the year.
Who could replace him? As it turns out, voters will have the opportunity to select some worthy successors.
In Broun’s own 10th Congressional District, one of the candidates in the GOP runoff is a talk show host named Jody Hice.
Hice is already drawing national attention for his controversial statement that Islam is not really a religion, which is going to come as a surprise to the 1.6 billion people who profess to be Muslims.
“Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology,” Hice said. “It is a complete geopolitical structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.”
Hice also says that if a woman wants to run for political office, that is permitted as long as she clears it with her spouse: “If the woman’s within the authority of her husband, I don’t see a problem.”
Hice provided one of the funniest moments of the primary campaign during a 10th District debate.
He calls himself an expert on the U.S. Constitution, but in the debate Hice was asked by retired military officer Stephen Simpson: "What’s your position on the 19th and 26th amendments?"
"Can you tell me what they are?" Hice said.
"You’re supposed to be the expert," said Simpson, waiting for Hice’s answer to the original question.
"Look, I’ve never claimed to be a constitutional scholar," Hice finally responded. "I am a constitutionalist."
Hice is competing with Mike Collins in the runoff, but if the 10th District voters pick him, he’ll be able to fill Broun’s shoes with no trouble.
There are candidates in other races who are just as endearing as Broun, such as the 11th District runoff between former congressman Bob Barr and former legislator Barry Loudermilk.
Barr is well known to the state’s voters from an earlier stint in Congress. One of my favorite memories of him dates back to the 2002 election when he ran against John Linder in the Republican primary.
During that campaign, Barr was attending a fundraiser at a lobbyist’s house when he accidentally discharged a 1908 model .38-caliber Colt pistol and shot out a glass door. The opposition promptly labeled Barr, a gun rights enthusiast, as a “loose cannon” with a “hair-trigger temper.”
Loudermilk has some problems with concepts like “facts” and “history.”
In one campaign appearance, Loudermilk said this about the 1969 moon landing: “What the amazing thing was, when President (John) Kennedy set out there and said, ‘we’re going to go to the moon in this decade,’ he didn’t create a government bureaucracy to do it, we created NASA to oversee it and turned it over to the private sector. We turned it over to the free market system and said ‘you guys figure out how to get there.’”
Nearly every word in Loudermilk’s statement is false. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is a government agency and always has been. It is not a private company. It was also not created by John F. Kennedy; President Dwight Eisenhower established NASA in 1958.
Then there’s Bob Johnson, a physician competing against state Sen. Buddy Carter in the 1st District’s GOP runoff. Johnson dislikes the security searches people have to undergo at the nation’s airports. He hates them so much that he made this comment: “Now this is going to sound outrageous, I’d rather see another terrorist attack, truly I would, than to give up my liberty as an American citizen.”
Broun is leaving Congress, but we don’t have to worry about finding a replacement for him. There are plenty of candidates out there who will be just as entertaining.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report. His column appears Wednesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.