In the early 1990s there wasn’t a single Republican from northwest Georgia holding elective office at the state or local levels. The local Republican parties could meet in a phone booth.
Brian Joyce ran for what was then the District 1 seat in the Georgia General Assembly House of Representatives. He was the kind of candidate that personified and energized the Republican Party in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Committed to a Reaganesque vision of government, Brian and conservatives like him started grassroots movements that pulled the GOP away from the country club and dropped it squarely in the backyards of American families.
Brian’s campaign sign said “No more politics as usual,” and boy, did he mean it. Joyce’s guiding principles came in part from Sen. Barry Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative.”
Goldwater wrote, “I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.”
Rep. Joyce was an anomaly at first, just a fly buzzing around House Speaker Tom Murphy’s head. The local Democrats weren’t sure what to make of him, and the local Republicans were thrilled to have a voice in Atlanta for the first time. And what a voice.
Brian wore out the red “No” button at his seat. He galvanized the opposition. He was the flag bearer that other conservatives began to rally around. His no compromise, no-holds-barred approach was just what the Georgia House needed.
Rep. Joyce’s critics said that he wasn’t an effective legislator. Former House Minority Leader Bob Irvin disagrees.
“Brian’s a likeable fellow,” he said. “People listen to his point of view, and his arguments. When you measure somebody’s effectiveness, what you look for is whether members of the House listen to what they have to say. I think people listen to what Brian has to say.”
A local Republican Party official once told me Joyce didn’t “do enough for the party.” I guess by that, he meant Brian didn’t show up at every fundraiser and fish fry. His mug wasn’t in the paper every other day. But is that what an elected representative is supposed to do for his party?
In my opinion, a representative does the most for his party when he goes to LaFayette, Atlanta or Washington and votes the way he said he would vote. When he or she stands up for the principles of the party every time, they are fulfilling their responsibility to both their constituents and their party.
Some in local governments have complained Rep. Joyce did not work hard enough to “bring the bacon” back from Atlanta. What exactly does that mean?
Well, it doesn’t mean Brian never fought to help his constituents when it was time for education funds or road improvements. He made sure his district got its fair share. What those people mean is Rep. Joyce didn’t dive head-first into the Supplemental Budget pork-barrel. And they’re right.
Just how do you justify telling your constituents you’ll fight to the death to keep government and the tax burden small, while at the same time fighting over pork dollars like hyenas over a carcass?
No, Brian didn’t spend a lot of time lobbying for pork. He never saw great virtue in bringing the bacon back from Atlanta — he was too busy trying to keep it from going to Atlanta in the first place. Apparently the voters approved, as Joyce’s margins of victory kept growing each election.
The animosity the Democratic Party holds for Rep. Joyce these days borders on outright hatred. I guess that’s because he’s refused to compromise, and unlike many Republicans, hasn’t spent a lot of time trying to get Democrats to like him.
The GOP is indebted to Brian Joyce because he planted the Republican flag in this area. All of northwest Georgia should thank him for his conscientious and unselfish service, which was offered at great personal sacrifice for many years.
Brian has decided to move in a different direction, and will not ask the voters to send him to Atlanta for a seventh term. On the last day of the regular session, House Speaker Terry Coleman asked Rep. Joyce to address the House of Representatives a final time. As he concluded his remarks, Rep. Joyce was honored with a rousing standing ovation, an appreciative tribute to his open, aggressive, yet respectful approach to service in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Brian Joyce was a pioneer, though I’ve never seen him in a coonskin cap.
Mike North is a professional land surveyor, amateur historian and former member of the Walker County school board. Send comments to him at Mike@myhumbleopinion.net. To read his past columns or contact him by Internet, visit www.myhumbleopinion.net