Even Tricia Stearns, Marty Harbin’s Republican challenger in the primary, won’t come out now and endorse the senator. While the conventional thing to do in a race is for a former opponent of the same party to then endorse you for the general (think Bernie supporting Hillary, or the very anti-Trump Lindsey Graham version 1.0 vs. the new Don-fawning Lindsey 2.0), Stearns knows that Harbin is bad enough for the district that she just can’t do it. You’ve got to hand it to her for sticking to her principles.
Harbin is too extreme to represent Fayette County in the Legislature. From his support of ridiculous and harmful policies to his sense of entitlement in his position as senator, he has proven over the last years that Insurance Sales is where he belongs, and not deciding how the rest of us should run our lives.
He doesn’t seem to have much regard for those he purports to represent. I’m sure most of you remember the incident caught on film in May of last year when Harbin was pulled over by a Tyrone patrolman for driving on expired tags and then proceeded to pitch a hissy-fit about how he was going to call the mayor and those in power to get this taken care of, clearly trying to intimidate the unflappable officer.
He actually did introduce legislation to try to change the expired tags law, but only because it had affected him directly, not out of any concern of how it might affect his constituents. I have a suspicion if a person had come to see Marty Harbin and complained about getting a ticket for driving on expired tags he’d probably have told them to make sure to keep your tags up-to-date next time.
Because he pretends to be all about the value of personal responsibility. Except, you know, in certain cases.
He apparently feels that way about the people he employs at the Harbin Agency. A reliable source (one who wishes to remain unnamed for obvious reasons) who runs in the same circles as the senator, heard Harbin make a remark at a gathering to the effect of making sure his workers remain underpaid because “it keeps them hungry and they work harder.” Now, perhaps this was said in jest or some sort of weird bravado, but the fact that such a sentiment could be considered funny tells us something about the man who uttered it.
Harbin also seems to have little concern about families in need of safe, legal access to medical marijuana. Take the case of Jennifer Conforti’s family. Jennifer’s daughter, Abby, has a severe form of autism that leads to self-harming behavior, including the biting of herself until she bleeds. Jennifer tried therapy after therapy, medicine after medicine to try to curb this, all to no avail.
She finally discovered that cannabis oil helped to an amazing degree to quell Abby’s anguish and the biting stopped. Jennifer had acquired the oil illegally and so wanted help in trying to change the draconian, unfeeling laws that prohibited its use.
So she met with State Senator Marty Harbin. She was not impressed.
“You know how you get these impressions of someone initially? You don’t want to believe them because you just met this person, you know? He’s lived up to my initial impressions.”
She describes being made to feel as if she were wasting the Senator’s time with her trivial, unimportant matter. Harbin had a look on his face that said “I really don’t have time for you, but I gotta do this,” says Conforti. He gave her the usual spiel about pot being a gateway drug and other outdated arguments. She came away from the meeting feeling that Harbin was a “haughty, self-serving, condescending, doesn’t-have-time-for-his-little-people state senator.”
What really disturbed her about the meeting was one particular thing that Harbin said. He indicated that he was glad the cannabis oil was helping her daughter and that if he had a child that needed it, he’d break the law himself as well. Conforti was stunned and could only scream out in her head “Why would you break the law when you have the ability to change the law!?” Apparently, the senator is only willing to change a law that affects him personally. The very definition of self-serving.
Harbin has recently decided that medical marijuana might be okay as a treatment for certain conditions, but he’s got an out. He still won’t support the production or acquisition of the medicine. So basically his position is: Yes, you can use it for Abby, Ms.Conforti, but we’re not going to let you get it legally. You’ll still have to break the law to allow your daughter some modicum of peace and health.
All this aside, the way in which Marty Harbin is most detrimental to our county and our state is his introduction, support, and zealous crusade to implement RFRA, which is the so-called “Religious Freedom” bill. It’s not about religious freedom. It’s about the right of anti-gay folks to show our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters how unwelcoming they can be. It should be called “The Religious Freedom to Discriminate” bill. Not only is it immoral and regressive, it’s very bad for business and industry.
It’s similar to bills passed in Indiana and North Carolina that have cost those respective states hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue when numerous corporations, conventions, sporting events, and even film projects refuse to do business with an entity they see as bigoted.
Governor Nathan Deal, realizing this, vetoed Harbin’s bill. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce issued this statement: “Governor Deal clearly stated in his veto statement last year why this type of legislation was already a constitutional right, unnecessary and would distract from our strong performance in creating new jobs in our state.”
That is of little concern to Marty. And believe me, if Brian Kemp becomes the next Governor of Georgia, Harbin will see it as an opportunity to re-animate his monster, and send it on its destructive, self-serving road to Atlanta, expired tags or not.
Christopher Fairchild is the editor of Panacea magazine and Welcome to Fayette magazine, and works as a photographer and graphic designer for Fayette Newspapers.