While former state Sen. Josh McKoon may be delaying his work at the Faith and Freedom Coalition to get things running for new state Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, McKoon’s address Saturday morning to the Glynn County Republican Party indicates his plans as executive director of the FFC are not far from his mind.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, introduced McKoon — the two were known to be close friends in the Senate. Since McKoon left the Senate, first for a secretary of state run that ended in the primary, Ligon’s carried the banner for religious conservatives in the chamber.

“He served in the state Senate for eight years, and he was a fearless, passionate conservative,” Ligon said. “He is someone that stood firm on his principle, without compromise. He was very effective — he served as our chairman of the Judiciary Committee for many years.”

McKoon spoke on several issues on his mind regarding the upcoming session, like legislation in the works on marijuana and gambling legalization, both of which he opposes. He also reflected on another attempt to get a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act through the General Assembly.

“This will be the fifth year since I originally introduced that bill in 2014,” McKoon said. “Just for those of you who are not familiar with this, all we are talking about with this legislation, is a bill that tells Georgia courts if somebody comes into your courtroom saying that the government is trampling on their religious freedom, you treat them the same way that you treat someone who comes into your courtroom to complain about free speech, or free association, or free press.

“All we want is for the right of free exercise to be treated the same way in court that every other 1st Amendment right is currently treated. And we want to make sure the treatment’s uniform. right now in Georgia, federal government claims get a higher standard of protection than state claims.”

With the FFC — which Ralph Reed started in 2009 with an eye toward increasing the political power of religious conservatives — McKoon and others in the group are preparing for an intense 2020 campaign cycle. McKoon said 2018, in state legislative and statewide elections, was a canary in the coal mine for 2020.

“There are a lot of state House and state Senate members who lost their seats who have shared our values, people who have voted on these issues, or reflected our values, in the past,” McKoon said “And it was a very narrow election. Gov. Kemp is Gov. Kemp and did not go into a runoff because he got 17,000 more votes.

“If he had 17,000 fewer votes, that election would have gone into December. So, that’s how close this was.”

He said the FFC board approved a strategic plan to spend the next 22 months “registering voters that share our values.” He added they’re preparing to engage with leadership at churches throughout the state to talk with parishioners educate them about the system and register new voters.

The group intends to keep track of those new voters, so that close to the 2020 general election they can reach out and remind them to vote, and distribute voter guides. McKoon said the goal is 50,000 new voters. He also noted the FFC plans on holding advocate training sessions.

McKoon said, “We’re going to stand in the gap and do what is necessary to make sure that in 2020, that we are not facing a President Elizabeth Warren or a President Kamala Harris, because it is a very real possibility that that is what we’re going to be facing.”

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