Protesters picket Georgia Rep. Ferguson’s Newnan office, disappointed over House speaker vote

The outline of a Georgia map with the GOP red white and blue elephant in the center

by Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

October 21, 2023

If you drove past Congressman Drew Ferguson’s Newnan office Friday afternoon, you may have seen a couple dozen people waving signs and flags lamenting Ferguson’s changing votes for speaker of the House.

As the U.S. House was voting on a new speaker, Maxwell Britton was near the front of the pack in Newnan with a poster reading “Drew votes for himself.”

Britton, who said he was disappointed in Ferguson on a number of issues, including border security and the conditions facing Jan. 6 prisoners, compared Ferguson with former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, calling them both fake conservatives.

“McCarthy is the same exact situation, it’s the same dynamic where he had his feet to the fire and he had to promise that he would do certain things in order to get elected, those are the deals that were struck for him to get elected, he got in there and he didn’t do anything,” Britton said.

During the first vote, Ferguson supported Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, but in the second and third votes, he switched to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who withdrew his name from the race last week. Nobody has received enough votes to take up the mantle from McCarthy, and the House remains headless, at least through the weekend.

Ferguson, a Republican from The Rock, said he changed his vote after watching the hardball tactics Jordan supporters were reportedly employing on reluctant members.

“When the pressure campaigns and attacks on fellow members ramped up, it became clear to me that the House Republican Conference does not need a bully as the Speaker,” Ferguson said in a statement after the second vote.

Ferguson said he and his family started receiving death threats after that vote.

At least six uniformed police officers were stationed outside Ferguson’s office Friday, but the protesters were peaceful. They waved their signs and cheered at motorists who honked their horns or gave the thumbs up.

The only thing the group wanted to take from Ferguson was his job, said Jared Craig, President of the Georgia chapter of Veterans for Trump and National President of the conservative Legacy Political Action Committee.

“He has turned 180 degrees from his prior record,” Craig said. “When he first started running for office, he was who these people wanted to vote for, but he has changed into a self-helping favor game market participant, where he is shaking his own hand and trying to insulate his job in DC, and he’s not looking out of the interest of the people, the American people, and his constituents.”

Craig ran against Ferguson in 2022 in the Republican Primary, but only took 17% of the vote. He said he’s not interested in running again next year, but he’s keeping his options open for 2026 if Ferguson sticks around.

Whoever the Republican candidate is will be a near shoo-in in the conservative district – Ferguson took nearly 69% of the general election vote over Democrat Val Almonord.

Former police officer Jim Bennett hopes to topple Ferguson in next year’s primary. Bennett said Ferguson’s speaker vote is just the latest flub in a voting record he said is not sufficiently conservative.

“We’re currently passing (continuing resolutions) because we can’t get a speaker of the House, we haven’t been able to get the bills out of the committees so that we can vote on them individually,” Bennett said. “He inhibited that. He says he’s going to vote for Mr. Jordan so that we can help solve these problems, and then he turns around and doesn’t, and these people are angry about that, and rightfully so, because he’s not representing them.”

College student Preston Parra said he once interned for Ferguson and is considering primarying his former boss in 2026, once Parra will be over 25 and eligible to run for the House of Representatives.

Parra criticized Ferguson’s speaker vote and support for Ukraine aid and said officials in solid Republican districts should toe the line or expect to be ousted.

“They’re going to have their asses primaried if they don’t vote the way we want them to vote,” he said. “So, I mean, you can listen to your people or you can get ostracized and you can get voted out. That’s what it’s going to be from now on.”

But anyone running against Ferguson might be unwise to use the continuing House speaker follies as their exhibit A, said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

“Most voters are not thinking that much probably about this leadership selection process in congress,” he said. “Most of them, if you stopped and asked, would not know Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise or even Kevin McCarthy for that matter. So if you’re going to use that as a basis for your campaign against someone who has not voted for Jim Jordan, you’re going to have to do a lot of educating.”

Craig said Ferguson’s opponents know deposing him will not be easy and acknowledged the Congressman’s superior name recognition and funding, but Craig said people power and increased awareness will be on their side.

“I think what it’s really going to take is a very strong ground game,” he said. “The ground machine, more door knocking to get people interested. The media has gotten the people’s interest more than it was in 2022. Right now we have a heightened sense of focus and interest.”

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