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Greg Bluestein

Nathan Deal is ‘censured’ by west Georgia Republicans over religious liberty veto

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

The highlight of the Republican district conventions Saturday was the dizzying maneuvering to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention. But each also featured a beneath-the-surface fight over resolutions aimed at sending a message to elected officials in Georgia and the rest of the GOP.

And the Third District, which covers a sprawling swath of west Georgia, sent quite a signal.

The conservative activists at the district’s meeting voted to “censure” Gov. Nathan Deal after his veto of the controversial “religious liberty” legislation. Though it is purely symbolic, it’s a startling sign of the conservative backlash to Deal’s decision to reject the legislation – and another reminder that the debate over the measure never really ended.

Just as surprising, though, was the conservative politician who spoke in Deal’s favor at the meeting. State Sen. Josh McKoon is an outspoken supporter of the legislation – and a constant thorn in the side of Deal and other GOP leaders. But the Columbus Republican urged his fellow west Georgia partisans to oppose the censure.

“I said that it was not constructive for the GOP to lash out at the governor, and that if we want to pass conservatives initiatives next year, we need to make a positive case for their adoption,” he said after the vote.

It didn’t matter. The censure carried overwhelmingly.

Here’s what the measure said:

As leaders in the Republican Party, we are obligated to fully support our Party, platform, and its candidates. Only in times of great crisis or betrayal is it necessary to publicly censure our leaders. Today we are faced with both. For too long we have waited, hoping Governor Deal would return to our Party’s values on his own. That has not happened. So with sadness and humility we rise and declare:

WHEREAS Governor Deal has campaigned as a conservative and made promises during his campaigns only to quickly flip-flop on those promises; and

WHEREAS Governor has amassed a long and terrible record of governing in association with liberal Democrats and crony capitalists, on issues ranging from gun rights, religious liberty, T-SPLOST, tax increases, and Common Core; and

WHEREAS Governor Deal has abandoned our values and has been eerily silent against Liberals, yet publicly reprimands Conservatives in his own Party; and

WHEREAS this record has been disastrous and harmful to Georgians; and

WHEREAS Governor Deal, coming under pressure from Big Business and the Atlanta Chamber, has succumbed to their demands not out of principle, but rather out of fear of loss of income for the state of Georgia, and vetoed House Bill 757, there by selling the stroke of his pen to the highest bidder.

BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED that the Delegates of this Convention censures Governor Deal for his continued disservice to our State and calls upon the Governor to see the error of his ways and return to path of conservative servant leadership.

More: Inside the deepening rift in Georgia over the ‘religious liberty’ bill

And: ‘Religious liberty’ veto could be turning point for Georgia governor