A tea-party group targets Republicans

By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA — One of the tea-party groups has targeted 16 Republicans and one independent for defeat, but those in the crosshairs said Monday they’re progressing with their re-election campaigns undeterred.

Last week, the Peach TEA PAC issued its list of members of the House of Representatives that it described as being not adhering to bedrock Republican values.

“These members have been flagged as Republicans in name only,” it was noted in the release, despite the fact that one of those listed doesn’t even claim to be a Republican in name or otherwise since he was elected as an independent.

Among those named are Reps. Tommy Benton of Jefferson, Mickey Channell of Greensboro, Chuck Sims of Ambrose and Ron Stephens of Savannah.

Most wound up on the list for not voting in favor of House Bill 954 by Rep. Doug McKillips, R-Athens, that will limit elective abortions to the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. The political action committee issued its list after the House voted on the bill originally but before the Senate amended it and sent it back.

All but four of the original GOP “no” votes switched to “yes” after the Senate changed the wording to allow abortions in the case of a fetus that doctors say has no chance of surviving after birth.

“When a couple of sentences were added to the bill, I voted for it,” Benton said.

Sims wasn’t present for the original or final vote because, he said, he was busy overseeing local legislation as chairman of the committee that 391 bills had to pass through to update election districts for county commissions and school boards.

“I felt like it was more important to get my reapportionment stuff done,” he said.

Fifteen representatives didn’t vote on the final version, five were excused, but not Sims. House rules require members to vote if they are present unless excused for a conflict of interest. He did participate in the next vote four minutes later on the final night and on one eight minutes earlier on a different bill.

Stephens also didn’t vote when the bill came up for final passage, but he said he opposes abortion on demand.

“I am, and have always been, prolife in every case where life is possible,” he said.

None of the politicians interviewed expected the list to have any impact on their re-elections because they say their overall record is very conservative.

“No factor at all,” Stephens said.

Peach TEA is headed by Jeff Chapman, a Brunswick Republican who gave up his seat in the state Senate for an unsuccessful attempt to gain the gubernatorial nomination in 2010, but he said the political action committee’s board decided which votes to examine.

“We look at the five principles that we have as Republicans,” he said.

Sims derided Chapman as someone just trying to get back into politics after a defeat.

“I’ve won elections for 16 years. You’re talking about a loser, and you’re talking to a winner,” Sims said.

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