Now, after just one term in the House, Gregory finds himself in a heated battle to retain his seat in the 34th District, which entails most of North Cobb. He is being opposed by Bert Reeves, a Marietta attorney in the firm of GMHC360. (Note: One of the firm’s partners is Heath Garrett, whose wife, Lee B. Garrett, is general manager of the MDJ).
To call Gregory a “maverick” would be an understatement. To say that he is not popular with a number of legislators in the General Assembly would not be. Gregory recorded an extraordinary number of “no” votes during the recent legislative session — 249 by my calculation — and many times was the only dissenting vote or with one or two others. One well-respected Republican legislator calls him a “showboat.”
Nobody loves a contrarian more than I do. I am one myself and proud of it. However, you have to wonder that if you are perceived by fellow legislators as an iconoclast, how does this benefit those you represent? The same legislator says, “This job is not about me. It is not about you. It is about the greater good of the state and of your district. Rep. Gregory doesn’t seem to understand that.”
Gregory is unrepentant. He says, “There is nothing ‘quixotic’ or ‘radical’ about following through with campaign promises or actually voting and fighting for the exact conservative principles the people sent you there to fight for.” He adds, “If you want to brag about being an ‘effective’ legislator, all you have to do is be unprincipled, obedient and/or in the center of whatever assembly you are a member of. In the case of the Georgia House, you have to be a liberal Republican.”
Whoa! That should make him even more popular with his Republican colleagues in the House.
Gregory defends his legislative record and cites his efforts on the recently-passed guns bill and “anti-Obama” legislation and as a co-sponsor of legislation giving schools more latitude in the zero-tolerance issues that previously have tied their hands.
On the other hand, the freshman legislator was one of very few members who voted against measures regarding child abuse, elderly and disabled adult fraud, stronger criminal penalties for unlicensed personal care homes, prohibiting the transmission of sexually-explicit photography and a host of other pieces of legislation that seemed to have merit.
Gregory was one of four consistent votes against a number of pieces of local legislation that came up last session. Local legislation is generally requested by city or county officials back in the legislator’s home district. It is part of the nitty-gritty of the General Assembly and usually not earth-shaking stuff, i.e., a new charter for Fort Oglethorpe, a non-binding referendum for Pooler, a property annexation in Powder Springs, etc.
Legislators generally defer to the member seeking local legislation since they may have a request of their own forthcoming. You have to think Rep. Gregory’s colleagues will have a long memory should he come to them for local legislation regarding the 34th district. If his constituents are more concerned with “exact conservative principles” than legislative influence in the district, so be it.
Some are inclined to compare Charles Gregory to the late Rep. Bobby Franklin, of Cobb County, who was famous for his individualism and sometimes wacky legislation. “Not so,” one legislator told me, “Bobby would always come to House members and explain why he was not voting for something. This guy” — meaning Gregory — “does not. He doesn’t even have the courtesy to go to a bill’s sponsor and explain his actions.”
Rep. Gregory was a strong defender of Rep. Sam Moore’s (R-22) unpopular and poorly-handled bill that would have loosened restrictions on convicted sex offenders and would ban law enforcement from forcing the offenders to identify themselves under any circumstances. Both Moore and Gregory say the effort was to protect the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. Politically, they were spitting in the wind on that one.
Clearly, Gregory is trying to make a point. He cites Barry Goldwater, who once said, “My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.” A noble aim, but without the support of his colleagues in the Legislature, I surmise that he can’t pass or repeal anything of significance and won’t until he learns how to work more cooperatively with the Republican majority.
Whether he will be allowed to continue his ideological pursuits as a member of the Georgia General Assembly in the next session will be up to the voters on May 20. Theirs is the only ideology that matters.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb