Georgia State Senator Cecil Staton, president and CEO of Smyth & Helwys–the curriculum provider and book publisher of choice for theologically moderate southern Baptists–was host for a show of unity by Republican candidates running for office this fall Sept. 9 on the lawn of Smyth & Helwys offices in Macon, Ga.
“It’s a good day to be a Republican,” Staton said before introducing the first speaker, according to a report in the Jones County News, apparently the only media outlet to cover the event billed as a “press conference.”
“I’m proud of our ticket and honored the candidates would stop by here on a busy Saturday,” Staton said. “To win this race, it’s going to take everyone involved working hard to maintain our majority.”
“Not many years ago, most of these counties down here in Middle Georgia, you could hold a Republican Party meeting in the front seat of a pickup truck,” said State Senator Johnny Grant.
Collins, a former 10-year congressman who lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2004, highlighted “very serious issues” issues including “protecting our borders,” offshore drilling for U.S. oil and terrorist surveillance programs that he said aren’t supported by Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Marshall.
“We need to support our ally in the Middle East called Israel,” Collins said in a video portion of the rally posted on his campaign Web site. “They are fighting a war in the southern end of that nation today with Hamas. They just had a ceasefire with Hezbollah. I wish we’d not interfere to finish the job, but you don’t vote against them, a strong ally as they are.”
Casey Cagle, who defeated former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed as the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, said he had visited 30 counties in the previous four days.
Cagle supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. His education plan supports charter schools and opposes excessive regulation of homeschooling. He has a 100 percent rating from Georgia Right to Life. He supports school prayer and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. He has pledged to push for appointment of judges “who will enforce existing laws, not attempt to make new ones from the bench.”
If elected, Cagle would become the first Republican lieutenant governor in the state’s history. Staton endorsed Reed in the primary and defended Reed after his campaign became derailed over links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and legalized gambling.
“Like Cecil said, I think this is one of the best tickets for any party to put up,” Grant said.
Elected to the State Senate in 2004, Grant is represented by the Stoneridge Group, a political consulting firm whose clients include U.S. Senator Saxby Chamblis and Rep. Phil Gingrey. Gingrey defeated Staton in a three-way Republican primary race for Congress following district remapping in 2002.
Grant has sponsored resolutions declaring “Home School Day at the Capitol” to recognize contributions of home education and “Religious Freedom Day” to emphasize students’ rights to pray and read their Bibles in school; commending Gov. Sonny Perdue for using state funds to purchase $5 million in bonds from the State of Israel; and expressing dismay at success of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. He was a sponsor of a failed amendment that would have allowed state funding of social services provided by religious organizations.
Other politicians making comments at the event included:
–State School Superintendent Kathy Cox (not to be confused with Secretary of State Cathy Cox, a Democrat). Cox is best known for removing the word “evolution” from the state’s science teaching standards in 2004, only to restore it after public outcry. Cox is on record supporting efforts to allow the Bible to be used as a textbook in public schools.
— Fulton County Chairman Karen Handel, a former deputy chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, where she boasts on a Web site, “I was at the forefront of the beginning of the pro-family movement.” Handel supported the state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage. She also opposes creation of civil unions for same-sex couples, “believing this is a slippery slope that diminishes the importance of the traditional marriage.” She has spoken out against domestic-partner benefits and opposes gay adoption.
—Perry McGuire, former state senator and corporate counsel for Chick-fil-A and now the Republican candidate for Georgia Attorney General. McGuire criticized current Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker for failing to defend Georgia’s voter ID law, a controversial measure of which Staton was the Senate sponsor. McGuire has criticized forced acceptance of homosexual clubs in public schools and vocally supported the Marriage Amendment to the state constitution.
The Jones County News is a weekly newspaper out of Gray, Ga., the county seat of Jones County in central Georgia, with a circulation of about 4,300.
Staton, elected to the Georgia Senate in 2004 isn’t up for election. The paper did not refer to Smyth & Helwys by name, but only to “his publishing company,” with a reference to a location on Peake Road.
Staton owns two publishing companies, in addition to several radio stations. Smyth & Helwys was started in 1990 to provide an alternative religious press to the fundamentalist-controlled LifeWay Christian Resources. Staton started Stroud & Hall in 2003 to publish conservative political and historical books. Both list a business address of 6316 Peake Road in Macon, Ga.
Stroud & Hall’s first book, Zell Miller’s A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, was a New York Times bestseller. Recent titles include Diplomatic Divorce: Why America Should End Its Love Affair with the United Nations by Thomas P. Kilgannon, with foreword by Oliver North, and Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation & the Culture War by rejected appeals court nominee Judge Charles W. Pickering.
David Cassady, publisher and executive vice president of Smyth & Helwys, said Thursday he wasn’t aware of the event reported by the Jones County News, but Smyth & Helwys exists to serve Baptist churches of all sizes, styles and political persuasion.
“The president of Smyth & Helwys, Cecil Staton, serves Georgia as a state senator and runs as a Republican,” Cassady said in a statement. “Others in the leadership team at Smyth & Helwys are fervent Democrats. In spite of the diverse viewpoints in Baptist life we continue to minister together, because we serve a God that is larger than these issues.”
“While the leadership and editors of Smyth & Helwys have a wide range of viewpoints on many issues, our publications carry no agenda beyond a value in serious Bible study,” Cassady said. “And because our work is all published, anyone can read and see this truth for themselves.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.