February 11, 2016 7:00 AM
With the announced retirement of State Representative Stephen Allison (HD-8, Blairsville) the mountain counties and the entire state of Georgia is losing one of the few real public servants. While it is understandable that he would want to spend more time with his wife and teen-aged sons, his announcement is also indicative of the tremendous pressure being exerted on our legislators.
I consider Stephen a friend and volunteered on his re-election campaigns in ’10, ’12 & ’14. We didn’t and don’t agree on everything but we are in sync on 80+% of the issues and that makes us allies. He is the most principled man I know and today’s political arena is a tough place for a person of principle.
In spite of being very clear on his positions during his four campaigns, numerous supporters derided his votes on various issues over the years. As the lone “NO” on legislation that encouraged Georgians to violate federal laws, he was seen as heartless, uncaring and an enemy of families. However, anytime you take a position you expect some resistance. It comes with the job and is simply a function of being a leader.
What is not expected, and perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back, is the pressure to strike a balance between the best interests of your constituents and the purported best interests of your colleagues, the party or the state depending on who is twisting your arm. There is a price to pay when you act in the best interests of your constituents. Sometimes the price is extracted in public but often it is behind the scenes and painful because it is inflicted by your friends. That begs the question – Is it worth it?
House District 8 is fortunate to have been ably and well- represented over the last 8 years. I am fortunate to count a man of principle among my friends. We will see a flurry of potential candidates step forward to attempt to fill the void. And the next time someone asks me why there are so few quality candidates for political office I will have an example or two to share.