Athens gun store owner Andrew Clyde made a splash in Congress long before he pondered running for a seat in Washington.
Now, the Republican plans to get busy in a first term as the 9th District House representative.
“We’re going to get this underway in just a few weeks,” the Jackson County resident said in an interview with The Times before the holidays.
Current members of Congress may already be familiar with Clyde, as a 2013 battle with the IRS ended in his favor and led to passage of the federal Taxpayer First Act, which aims to prevent abuse of civil asset forfeiture policies. He testified before Congress as part of the fight.
That ordeal pushed him to become a candidate to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and the congressman-elect after the Nov. 3 general election.
Clyde, who gets sworn in on the House floor Sunday, Jan. 3, has spent later weeks getting ready for his new role, including orientation in Washington.
He said he attended sessions on drafting legislation, ethics, compensation, hiring staff, research and COVID-19.
Also, Clyde has worked hiring a staff and setting up offices in Washington and the 9th District. He will keep the same district office that Collins occupied at 210 Washington St. NW, Gainesville.
“We should have the staff up and running with major positions filled by the time we get the keys to our office,” or on Jan. 4, he said.
A main goal for Clyde is staying in touch with constituents.
“I’ll be sending out emails on a regular basis that give updates to folks about what’s going on, where I’ve been in the district and what I’ve been doing in D.C.,” he said. “It’s very important we keep our district apprised as to what I’m doing and where I’ll be.”
Clyde also said he’s exploring “telephone town halls,” an approach Collins took in connecting with residents of the mostly Republican Northeast Georgia district, and “coffee with a congressman” events.
It’s all about “the opportunity just to stay in touch with the district,” he said.
Clyde’s journey to the office was hardly an easy one.
The Clyde Armory owner was one of nine GOP candidates seeking to replace Collins, who unsuccessfully ran to replace U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, now caught up in a high-profile Jan. 5 run-off with Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.
Clyde finished second in the GOP primary on June 9, but won a hard-fought runoff against Rep. Matt Gurtler in the Aug. 11 runoff.
He easily won the general election against Democratic challenger Devin Pandy.
“I’m very humbled by the voters of the 9th District and their strong support of our campaign and the platform on which I stand,” he said at the time. “I’m very honored by it and look forward to representing the entire 9th District in Washington, D.C.”
Although he represents a strongly Republican district, the House has a Democratic majority despite GOP gains.
“It will be much less enjoyable for him being part of a minority rather than the majority,” said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock, on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
“And as a freshman on a committee, he’s not going to be able to play much of a role. If you’re a junior member of the minority party, you’re going to be mainly watching and observing — which isn’t bad, as you get to learn the ropes and expectations.”
Freshman legislators “can find some bills that relate to (their) platform and sign on as a co-sponsor,” Bullock said.
One of Clyde’s biggest issues should come as no surprise given his occupation — gun rights, or the Second Amendment. Also, he has said rural broadband improvement and opposing abortion are other main concerns.
“This campaign is not about me,” he said after his Nov. 3 election. “It’s about saving the unborn, it’s about protecting and restoring our constitutional rights under the Second Amendment. It’s about securing our country’s borders, and it’s about defending and protecting our law enforcement and giving them the support they need in order to uphold our laws.”