ATLANTA -- Houston County’s state representative-elect said Wednesday he plans to tackle bills that deal with taxes, religion, education and medical marijuana in the next legislative session.
A day after a summerlong campaign and two rounds of voting ended with some $100,000 spent, Shaw Blackmon also said he is still a little bit in shock.
Blackmon credited his win to his platform and his team’s ground game.
“I think primarily it was just going door to door. We knocked on thousands of doors, we made thousands of phone calls,” Blackmon said.
The small business owner campaigned on cutting red tape on business, supporting local control of education and backing the missions of Robins Air Force Base, among other topics.
“People just felt comfortable with it,” he said. “They liked what we were saying.”
Blackmon also wooed some high-profile support, counting former Gov. Sonny Perdue among his backers.
A total of 2,520 votes in Blackmon’s favor gave him a victory over fellow Republican and Perry insurance agency owner Larry Walker III, who snagged 1,905 votes. Former Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke was knocked out of the three-man race in an earlier round of voting.
Had he won, Walker, son of former House Majority Leader Larry Walker Jr., might not have profited from name recognition, said Chris Grant, an associate professor of political science at Mercer University.
“For folks new to the community who have a sense that the same people have been in power forever, the name may work against a future member of a family,” Grant said.
People tend to vote for people they see as “being like them,” Grant said. So in this case, maybe newer Houston County residents were voting for the person they considered new.
“It also seems to be the younger and more energetic voters were sporting Blackmon stickers on their cars,” Grant said.
Blackmon, a former member of the Technical College System of Georgia board of directors, said he will ask to join committees that handle education, taxes and bills that could affect Robins Air Force Base.
Some incumbent legislators already have started setting the agenda for January’s session.
Several bills will aim to assert the rights of religious people when their faith conflicts with law. For example, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, plans to file a bill stating that unwilling clergy need not perform gay marriages.
“As long as it doesn’t discriminate, I would like to very much get behind, support a religious freedom protection-type bill. My brother’s a pastor. I certainly appreciate what the speaker’s trying to do,” Blackmon said.
He’s also watching a push for in-state grow of medical cannabis, a bill that will be filed by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, later this year. It is now legal to possess some liquid medical cannabis, and Blackmon said he’s been a supporter of letting people use cannabis as medicine only. But there is no legal supply in Georgia.
“That’s something delicate, and I think we have to make sure we’re careful how we go about doing that,” Blackmon said
In the coming months, a summer study committee created by Gov. Nathan Deal will finish a series of hearings on education funding. It could recommend changes in how pre-K through 12th-grade teachers are evaluated and paid, among other things.
“We need to include education and experience as components in the way our teachers are compensated,” Blackmon said.
Blackmon will fill the roughly one year remaining in the term of former House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, who resigned this year to take a judgeship at the Georgia Tax Tribunal.
To contact writer Maggie Lee, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.