Senate District 53 incumbent Colton Moore draws criticism, challengers in his re-election bid

May 14, 2024

Senate District 53 is in the far northwest corner of Georgia, home of Lookout Mountain, Civil War reenactments and conservative firebrand U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. It’s a mostly white and Republican working-class pocket of the state where some people identify more Tennessean than Georgian. 

Like Taylor Greene, state Sen. Colton Moore gained national attention and made a name for himself in the district through the same type of incendiary politics. 

Moore’s antics have drawn Republican challenger Angela Pence for the May 21 primary election. Democrat Bart Bryant will be on the primary ballot next week and will face the Republican primary winner in November’s general election.

Pence, in March, told State Affairs: “While Moore grandstands for retweets and shares, real crises in his district, like toxic water contamination in our schools and skyrocketing property taxes — due to an outdated education funding formula — have gone unaddressed.”

Moore’s predecessor, Jeff Mullis, is supporting Pence.

“He doesn’t represent his district very well,” Jeff Mullis, who represented Senate District 53 for 22 years before retiring in 2022, told State Affairs. “He has been in the House for two years and now in the Senate, and he has never passed a bill of any kind that is his. He can’t influence a bill. He can’t even pass gas.”

The Senate Republican Caucus kicked Moore out last September after he launched verbal attacks against fellow Republicans for refusing to go along with him in his call for a special session to take action against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. 

Willis is prosecuting former President Donald Trump for election interference. Moore predicted a civil war if Trump doesn’t win in November.

Then, in March, the state House of Representatives banned Moore from the chamber after a tirade against the late Speaker of the House David Ralston.

Moore and Ralston crossed swords numerous times during Moore’s time in the House, where in 2018 he became the youngest elected official in Georgia history at 24, representing District 1. He was elected to the Senate in 2022.

Moore repeatedly voted against dozens of key bills in this year’s session, including ones involving child trafficking and law enforcement. He was the only senator to vote no on the state’s fiscal year 2025 budget, which included tax cuts. 

“He’s refused to help his local communities, cities and counties when they’ve had a request,” Mullis said. “He’s stopped grants for the area because of his actions.” 

State Affairs repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to reach Moore for a response and to learn of his legislative priorities if he were to win a second term in the Senate. He said in March that criminal justice reform was a priority.

Moore has said previously that he and his staff spend hours, sometimes days, reviewing legislation coming up for votes. He said he follows “a strict standard of principles.” 

“When it comes to a piece of legislation, and in my opinion, any piece of legislation that misuses taxpayer money, it’s not the proper role of government. I typically vote against that,” Moore told State Affairs in March. “Bills that subdue individuals’ freedoms that shouldn’t be subdued, legislation that I think grants government power that it shouldn’t have, anything like that.”

Moore’s politics have been heavily influenced by the Georgia Freedom Caucus, for which he is the vice chair. It favors social conservatism and small government and opposes immigration reform. 

Moore’s challengers say his behavior is keeping things from getting done in their district, which includes Chattooga, Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties. The district also includes northwest Floyd County and the unincorporated Floyd County community of Armuchee. 

Democratic challenger Bart Bryant said Moore’s Ralston rant prompted him to run against the incumbent. Bryant planned to run against Taylor Greene but ceded the race to fellow Democrat Shawn Harris, a retired Army brigadier general.

“Mr. Colton Moore has zero respect,” said Bryant, an electrician living in Menlo. “That doesn’t represent me. We need to respect one another. I’m running on respect to start with.”

Bryant said issues in the district are going unaddressed, such as mental health and overcrowded jails. As a former sheriff’s deputy, he’d work to get better pay for law enforcement personnel.

Pence also did not respond to State Affairs for comment but in the March interview zeroed in on Moore’s performative representation.

“The people don’t need any more unhinged sideshows — they need someone who will roll up their sleeves, put in the real work and score concrete wins that positively impact their daily lives,” she said.

Pence is a former Libertarian who tried unsuccessfully to get on the Georgia ballot to run against Taylor Greene in 2022. The small-business owner believes in limited government as well as economic and individual freedom. She is a lifelong North Georgia mountain resident who homeschools her children. 

Incumbent Colton Moore

Age: 30

Residence: Trenton

Occupation: auctioneer and truck driver

Party affiliation: Republican 

Key platform issues: Criminal justice reform

Previous public service experience: Georgia House of Representatives from 2019 – 2021; Georgia Senate, January 2023-present.

Campaign cash on hand: $24,410.33**

Family: Information not available

**Data as of May 8. Information is from the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission

challenger angela pence

Age: Early 30s

Residence: Chickamauga

Occupation: Small-business owner 

Party affiliation: Republican

Why I’m running: “I’m running to be the voice for ordinary citizens who want real results,” she told The Mountain-Valley Independent

Key platform issues: She is anti-abortion.. She is against government funding of gender-affirming care for minors. She is an advocate for “true school choice” and will work to “remove government tape and ridiculous requirements so that we can get the power back into the hands of the educators.”

What is your advantage over the other candidates?: She plans to bring principled, effective leadership to a district that has gone unheard. 

Previous public or community service experience: She has coached youth sports and is active in the local chamber of commerce as well as various civic and grassroots initiatives.

Campaign cash on hand: $1,701.65***

Family: Military wife and mother who homeschools her nine children.

***Data as of May 7. Information is from the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission

Challenger Bart Alexander Bryant

Age: 58

Residence: Menlo

Occupation: Electrician

Party affiliation: Democrat

Why I’m running: He says the incumbent’s behavior in the Legislature is disrespectful.

Key platform issues: Mental health issues: They’re “a problem statewide.” Second Amendment: “If you haven’t committed crimes and you want to own a firearm, you can own it.” Abortion rights: “I hate abortion but there’s a place for it in our society.” Better pay for law enforcement.

What is your advantage over the other candidates?: “I’ve worked a real job all my life. I kind of have my finger on the pulse of what the public talks about. [Being a senator is] not a real hard job. All you have to do is listen and vote appropriately. I’ll be able to communicate across the [political] aisle.”

Previous public or community service experience: He has been a longtime member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where he served as a shop steward, a liaison between union leaders and members. He is a former Chattooga County deputy sheriff. “Being a peace officer, you have to make some hard decisions.”

Campaign cash on hand: Bryant said he is financing his campaign with about $500 of his own money. 

Family: Married to wife April for 36 years.

Have questions? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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