State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) needed only to read statements Gingrey and state Rep.-elect Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) made this week directly out of the Marietta Daily Journal in order to draw laughs at Saturday’s Cobb Democratic breakfast.
The audience took particular interest when Wilkerson read Friday’s story, which described Gingrey’s speech before a Cobb Chamber breakfast in Smyrna in which the Congressman said former Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri was “partly right” when he said last year that women’s bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” The loudest laughter and applause came after Wilkerson read the part in which Gingrey pointed out that he had been an OB-GYN since 1975.
“1875!” one audience member said.
Wilkerson interjected his own observations as he read Gingrey’s words. “‘If you’re having trouble conceiving because a woman is not ovulating’ — it’s never the guy’s fault by the way — ‘Just relax, drink a glass of wine,’ — make sure you’re 21 — ‘and don’t be so uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate. So he was partly right, wasn’t he?’” Wilkerson read. “‘But the fact that a woman may have ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a woman’s pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart.’ Dude, then they tore apart yours too. A lot of my colleagues downtown equated women to horses, too. I don’t get this horse infatuation.”
Wilkerson said Gingrey’s comments don’t make sense.
“I do know through history … during wars, sometimes during wars, troops will rape the women, they will attack them, so are they basically saying that once the war starts, 12 hours later you’re good to go, you don’t have to worry about all these babies?” Wilkerson said. “During slavery, you’re saying that these women were OK with it? Just common sense tells you that. You’re still practicing? You might want to tell people about that.”
Wilkerson said the Democratic minority in the Georgia General Assembly does a much better job of working with the other side than Republicans in Washington do.
Don Wilson of west Cobb, who is currently the chairman to the state Democratic Party from Gingrey’s 11th Congressional District, said he plans to challenge Gingrey in the 2014 election. He said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting Gingrey in the upcoming race, and infusing money in an effort to defeat him.
“There continues to be an outcry that there’s not representation that is mirroring what the constituency is asking for,” Wilson said. “So at some point in time, you have to take a more active role, which is what I am doing, not only from a local (level), as well as issues that are affecting us from national standards. So we are aggressively taking that initiative.”
A message left with the campaign committee wasn’t immediately returned Saturday, but the last five postings on the DCCC’s Twitter account all referred to Gingrey’s recent comments.
While gun issues should be one of the main issues the legislature discusses this year, Wilkerson said Democrats want to discuss mental health issues along with gun control. But Republicans aren’t likely to listen, he said.
“Let’s talk about it all,” he said. “Their thing is, let’s talk about it all except for guns … You cannot have an honest dialogue about preventing tragedies without putting everything on the table … Gingrey didn’t get in trouble necessarily because of what he said about women. He got in trouble because he said he was willing to consider any type of gun control. So he backpedaled on that.”
Wilkerson and state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna also questioned bills Rep. Charles Gregory is introducing that would allow any eligible voter to carry a concealed weapon and permit concealed handguns at churches and college campuses. Gregory has also discussed having Georgia use its own currency.
“Are you just smiling this morning, when you read the paper, they’re already shooting themselves in the foot?” Evans asked. “When they’re talking about crazy ideas that are absolutely out of touch with the mainstream, even here in Georgia, a very conservative state. They’re out of touch with the conservatives here. They got what they asked for when they went too far in the redistricting process. This is the year when we will continue on the path to taking back the majority, taking back the legislature and taking back the state for the reasonable people.”
Along with gun issues, Wilkerson said ethics reform, which would limit the amount lobbyists could give to legislators; a hospital bed tax and deciding whether to use $300 million in hotel/motel tax to fund a $1 billion Atlanta Falcons stadium to replace the 21-year-old Georgia Dome would be the main issues the legislature would face in the upcoming 40-day session, which starts Monday.
Ethics reform should be combined with discussion on campaign contribution limits, Wilkerson said.
“If someone gives you a steak or a $2,500 check, the $2,500 check might carry a little more weight,” he said.
Wilkerson said the bed tax must be part of a larger conversation to fund expansion of Medicaid in the state.
“There are 600,000 Georgians that could potentially have health care that do not have it now,” he said. “Make that part of the bigger conversation. Don’t just come to us for a couple hundred million dollar tax for the bed tax expansion. Let’s talk about it overall.”
Wilkerson said he is undecided about the retractable roof downtown Atlanta stadium, which has seen strong opposition in polls.
“The majority of my caucus is still listening to it to see what the offer is going to look like, what the bill is going to look like,” he said. “It’s a matter of economics and will it bring in all the other events like the Chick-fil-A Bowl and college football championships, those types of things. You’ve got to look at it that way, as well.”
When Evans was asked if she expected to see Republicans try to put a personhood amendment, which states that life begins at fertilization, on the November ballot this year, she said that was unlikely. Critics say such amendments, which have failed in states like Mississippi and Colorado, would ban some forms of birth control.
“If they were going to so an amendment like a personhood amendment that rallies their base, they would do that in an election year,” she said.
State Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna), who leaves office when Republican Hunter Hill of Vinings is sworn in Monday, told the audience of 80 people that he expects Georgia Regional Transportation Authority express bus service into Atlanta to get the funding that will allow it to continue.
“They’re not going to let that system shut down,” Stoner said. “They probably won’t say anything. They’ll just quietly stick it in the budget and move on.”
New southwest Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid said her board will be looking at ordinance changes that would allow for a permitting process to keep backyard chickens on properties smaller than two acres, as well as expanding the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers to include contractors who do business with county government. Last May, the Cobb became Georgia’s first IMAGE-certified county, which opened employment records of county workers to an audit to make sure they are legally permitted to work in the United States.
“I’ve heard some mixed opinions from small-business owners on whether or not this is good policy or not good policy,” Cupid said of IMAGE. “Particularly if you’re a small-business owner, I’d really like to hear from you and get your opinion about whether or not this will be onerous for your business or whether or not it will be beneficial for you so that we can use that data to help us make a decision.”