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ICYMI // Barrow County News // 10th District Race: Hice Became Well Known While at Barrow Church

"[Hice] said his experience in battling a large organization like the ACLU and a branch of government was hard for him and his wife, Dee Dee, but it also gave him the experience needed to be able to take on government in Washington."

10th District race: Hice became well known while at Barrow church

By Zac Taylor Staff Writer

ztaylor@barrowcountynews.com

770-867-7557, ext 234

POSTED: October 26, 2014 12:00 p.m.

10th District race: Hice became well known while at Barrow church

Monroe – Jody Hice said he never planned to enter politics.

He and his wife supported politicians and issues, he said, but only from a distance.

A couple of issues that came up while he was pastor at Bethlehem First Baptist Church changed that mindset, and eventually led him to where he is now, a general election away from possibly being a U.S. congressman for Georgia’s 10th district.

"It was there at Bethlehem, when the ACLU came after Barrow County, that’s what threw me in the front line," he said while at his campaign headquarters in downtown Monroe on a recent afternoon. "Barrow County has been the place of redefining my role in what I can bring to the table in terms of our country."

The first event threw Hice, then a still relatively-new pastor at Bethlehem First Baptist (he started in 1998) into the national spotlight.

In 2003 the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Barrow regarding the county having a copy of the Ten Commandments displayed at the courthouse.

Hice said the lawsuit quickly became personal.

"We had a number people at Bethlehem First Baptist who helped buy those commandments and put them in the courthouse," he said. "That lawsuit, at that point, literally marched into the doors of our church, so to speak."

Hice’s response to the lawsuit became a pivotal moment his career, one that ultimately led up to him sitting in an office plastered with campaign signs and favored to win his first political election against Democrat Ken Dious.

"As a pastor I stood up for our church family, and stood up for the Ten Commandments and stood up for the county, and approached the county commission and urged them to fight the ACLU, and goodness I think half the county was out there that evening, it was packed, the support was phenomenal," he said. "I basically just told the commissioners that if they’d fight the ACLU that I’d find a way to pay for it so that it wouldn’t cost the taxpayers and they agreed, and we spent the next two years fighting like crazy, trying to raise money and a lot of national individuals got involved.

"It overnight took on a national focus and I kind of became the face of it because of taking the position that I did."

Hice said his group managed to raise nearly $300,000, but the county lost the fight with the ACLU and the Commandments were removed.

He said at that point they focused on the general assembly to try and get legislation passed by the state.

Meanwhile, Hice once again entered the spotlight in 2008 when he took on the IRS, along with other pastors, over a tax code restricting pastors from addressing political issues and endorsing candidates from the pulpit, with the penalty being the potential loss of tax exempt status.

He said his experience in battling a large organization like the ACLU and a branch of government was hard for him and his wife, Dee Dee, but it also gave him the experience needed to be able to take on government in Washington.

He’s already had evidence of his work paying off.

"Two years ago I was honored to be in Governor’s office as he signed a new law saying that a historical display, including 10 commandments, was legal in any government building in the state," he remembered. "So they went back up in Barrow."

It was a defeat turned into a victory. Not unlike what he’s trying to do now, taking the lessons he learned from a 2010 primary loss to Rob Woodall in the 7th District (which formerly covered Barrow and Walton) to try and win a general election.

His strategies: Grass roots support and lots of devoted volunteers. He said that having a lot longer to campaign has helped as well.

"We’ve been campaigning for nearly a year and a half already," he said.

The strategy has already worked thus far, as he made it into Republican Primary runoff with Mike Collins and then won the runoff by a comfortable margin.

Hice credits his team of volunteers with making a big difference, as well as his huge base of support in Barrow and Walton counties, the latter of which he has been a long term resident of.

It’s also helped that he’s already well known in the area, both due to his 12 years as a pastor in Bethlehem and the issues he took on while there, and his work to found the Culture and Values Network and host The Jody Hice Show, a conservative talk radio program.

Hice won Barrow County 3,038 votes to 1,408 votes in the primary runoff and gained 54 percent overall in the district.

Clearly, Barrow residents haven’t forgotten his time in the county.