State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, says his accomplishments and his standing among fellow Republicans in the state during his four terms in office were mischaracterized recently by a former Camden County Republican party chairman.
Spencer, who lost Tuesday in his bid for his fifth Republican nomination for the District 180 seat in the state House of Representatives, said former county party chairman Jim Stein never supported his candidacy and feels Stein’s comments prove his bias and that he “is an operative for the opposition.”
Stein told The News Wednesday that Spencer “stayed at odds with the folks in Atlanta” and said many other elected officials wanted Spencer out of office. Stein also said dislike for Spencer led to the delay of funding for a technical college campus in Camden County and ultimately its move into the nearby district of state Rep. John Corbett in Kingsland.
Spencer said if he rubbed anyone the wrong way, they represented special interests who seek to beat the “little guy.”
“My tactics won against them and that is one of the reasons why I stayed in office for eight years, because I effectively beat them at their own game,” Spencer said in a statement to The News Thursday. He added that many of legislative colleagues and those in leadership donated to his re-election campaign.
He said the opposition he faced in attempting to pass his Hidden Predator Act from the Catholic Church was less about him butting heads with church leadership and more about him trying to hold people and organizations accountable for endangering children.
“Taking on these organizations that have protected pedophiles was the right thing to do,” Spencer said. “But my detractors used my opposition to these strong special interests as ‘not getting along;’ therefore, they worked with them to defeat me.”
The act, House Bill 605, failed to pass this session.
Spencer said taking on the big money interests may have ultimately hurt his candidacy this time around.
“However, doing the right thing does have its political cost in the end,” he said. “I did not run for office to always take the safe political position.”
Spencer also said in his statement that he worked closely with state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, to secure funding and were able to get the process started in 2014. Any statements that Spencer took credit for something he was not a part of is “blatantly false.”
He said he helped secure funding and also to work through issues dealing with wetlands on the initial site as well as property tax delinquency and other baggage connected to the property.
“All of that was done by me to ensure the best interest of the people of Camden County, the technical school, and the state of Georgia,” Spencer said.
As for the repercussions from statements made to former state Rep. LaDawn Jones that she may “go missing in the Okefenokee” if she came to South Georgia seeking removal of Confederate monuments, Spencer admits his wording was less than ideal.
Stein said Wednesday that the statements made the people of Southeast Georgia look like “a bunch of rough-riding convicts who belonged in the Klan.”
“My choice of words could have been better, but there was hard truth in my plainly spoken warning to the left on this issue,” Spencer said. “Bad people will do bad things over this issue.”
District 180 encompasses most of Camden County and parts of Charlton and Ware counties.
In Tuesday’s primary, Spencer defeated 24-year-old political newcomer Steven Sainz by 13 votes in Charlton County and by 61 votes in Ware County.
But in Camden, his home county, Spencer lost by more than 700 votes. He got 1,241 votes, or 38 percent, in Camden County, while Sainz got 2,458 votes, or 62 percent.