Colton Moore defends his aggressive stances after being called out by Dade County commissioner

Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Colton Moore, 24, looks back and forth between the three doors that serve as exits for the floor of the House of Representatives waiting for State Rep. John Deffenbaugh, R-Lookout Mountain, to exit during a dinner break Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Ga. Moore will be running against Deffenbaugh in the upcoming race for District 1 and was invited by Deffenbaugh to the Capitol to shadow for a couple of days to learn what the job entails.

After a Dade County, Georgia commissioner warned that some of his unorthodox decisions could indirectly hurt his constituents, state Rep. Colton Moore said he isn't going to change his ways.

Moore, R-Trenton, has made a name for himself in his freshman session by publicly bucking prominent Republicans - particularly House Speaker David Ralston. Moore's was one of two "no" votes against a resolution to name a new judicial complex after former Gov. Nathan Deal. Ralston sponsored the resolution. Last week, Moore was also one of 10 representatives who signed a resolution asking Ralston to step down.

In response, Dade County Commissioner Robert Goff told KWNTV in Trenton in an email that he worried Moore's actions could lead to less state funding for the community. In particular, Goff said county leaders could find themselves whiffing on grant applications.

"It wouldn't be the first time that's happened," Goff told the Times Free Press on Thursday. "That's for sure. It happens all the time when money is to be given out and you've got someone fighting the system and the powers. We tried to build a relationship [with state leaders]. And it seems like things he's done is not helping that relationship."

Goff, who has been a commissioner since 2009, did not point to any particular grant he thinks the county has received because of a good relationship with leaders in the capitol. He said he has never seen the county punished because of unpopular actions by a state lawmaker. But he would prefer the county's representative not take that kind of risk. He argued Moore should pick his spots, and said his attack on Ralston was "the straw to break the camel's back."

"Choose your fights," he said. "Choose your battles."

Moore told the Times Free Press he does not believe his actions will cost Northwest Georgia state money. In the counties of Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield in November, Gov. Brian Kemp earned 82,800 votes, about 80 percent of the electorate in the region.

Statewide, Kemp beat Democrat Stacey Abrams by about 54,000 votes.

"[Goff] needs to remember that there's a new governor in town," Moore said. "His name is Brian Kemp. I don't think the governor is going to leave District 1 or Dade County behind."

Goff said his criticism is not a personal attack, that he would critique any freshman lawmaker who picked fights with the speaker of the house. It's not clear whether Goff's feelings are the consensus among Dade County's local lawmakers. No other commissioner returned a call seeking comment Thursday. (No member of the county school board returned calls for comment Monday, after Moore announced he would not introduce a referendum to put a cap on homestead exemption for property taxes, despite a request from the board.)

When asked by KWNTV if Moore would cost the community state funding, County Executive Ted Rumley said, "We won't know for the next few months."

Responding to Goff's criticisms, Moore defended his latest attack on Ralston. The speaker was the subject of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News investigation two weeks ago that examined his use of a law that lets him delay court cases. Ralston, an attorney, has called on the law 57 times over two years to push back dates in his clients' cases - even when the state Legislature is not in session.

On Monday, Ralston defended his right to use that law. At the same time, he called for a bipartisan committee to study the legislation and recommend potential changes.

On Feb. 22, Moore and nine other Republicans signed a resolution calling for Ralston to resign. Moore also wrote a letter to Ralston, asking him to consider stepping back from his legal practice. He told the Times Free Press he felt Ralston caused pain to his clients' accusers, delaying their days in court for too long.

"I don't think [Goff] could imagine if he was the father of a rape victim," Moore said. "The only person that can elect the speaker are the House of Representatives. I hope, if he was a representative, he would have the same moral opposition. Morality and the law do not always equate."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.