Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, announced on the Senate floor Monday that he will not seek re-election to the District 29 seat next year.
McKoon, who has been at odds with the leadership of the Georgia Republican Party since he was elected to the Senate in 2010, was just elected to his fourth term last year.
When the current term started three weeks ago, McKoon was stripped of his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee on a vote of the Republican caucus.
The text of McKoon’s remarks were reported by ajc.com. In his remarks McKoon, a Columbus attorney, explained the timing of his announcement
“I feel it is important to make this announcement now for several reasons,” he told his colleagues. “An early announcement gives time to potential candidates to weigh their decision and make the necessary preparation to mount a campaign. We need to make sure our district continues to be represented by a well-qualified person who continues the tradition of being a strong, independent conservative voice and giving this notice helps ensure that. Also, I want to be honest with the voters as I always have. As most of you know, from the time I started with ethics reform, I have fought for open and transparent decision making for our citizens. By announcing now, I avoid even the appearance of attempting to time this announcement to advantage any particular potential candidate.”
McKoon won the seat when Sen. Seth Harp, also a Columbus attorney, stepped aside after three terms.
McKoon has been a lightning rod in the Senate. Bills with his name on them have not moved in the House. He has had a running feud with Speaker David Ralston. He has also been at odds with Gov. Nathan Deal. For the last three years, McKoon has been a champion of religious freedom legislation. Last year, a version passed the General Assembly but was vetoed by Deal.
Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, said last March that Columbus State University lost $8 million in state construction funding and the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center lost $2 million because of issues the speaker and governor have with McKoon.
McKoon addressed his critics on Monday.
“Secondly, taking on tough issues such as ethics reform, immigration reform and religious liberty has made my time here worthwhile, but it has come at a cost,” he said. “As someone that came here to fight for the citizens I represent, not special interests, I have accumulated many enemies. As Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Speculation is McKoon will mount a statewide campaign in 2018, but he was not specific about his political future.