ATLANTA - A state representative from south Georgia says he was not threatening a former colleague when he hinted she might “go missing” if she visited his part of the state. Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) says he regrets the words he used in a Facebook exchange he had with his former seat mate in the legislature, Democrat LaDawn Jones, who is also an 11Alive political analyst.
When Spencer posted a picture of himself at a Jefferson Davis site in south Georgia, he concluded the post by telling viewers “this is Georgia’s history.” #Dealwithit.
With controversy over Georgia’s confederate monuments unabated, it was a provocative post – and former state Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-Atlanta) responded. “Put your hoods and tiki torches away,” she wrote. “We will not let you hide hate behind heritage.”
Spencer responded with: “you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive. People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama...” adding that visitors from Atlanta “will go missing in the Okefenokee. Too many necks they are red around here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ‘em.”
"I believe that he thought it was a genuine expression of concern," said Jones. She and Spencer were assigned side-by-side seats for four years in the House of Representatives. "We battled and talked about very intense and deep issues in ways that a lot of people did not get a chance to. Sometimes we had to walk away from each other. Other times we changed each others minds. And changed our votes," Jones said Wednesday.
Jones said she didn’t take it as a threat to her. "But I also think the big picture that he missed is that he should not be that comfortable with the fact that he knows people from his side of Georgia that would cause injury or death to someone based on a political position," Jones said.
In a statement, Spencer wrote “I regret my choice of words… I was trying to warn her that there really are people who would harm others over the issue. In light of the recent tragic murder of a woman in Charlottesville, I believe that a certain degree of caution is necessary. I still do.
Mike Hassinger is a friend of Jones, and a Republican strategist for Spencer. He believes the warning was genuine, not threatening. "I think the analogy is that if you tell someone not to put their hand on a hot stove, it doesn’t mean you're in favor of the hot stove. I think it’s a genuine warning," Hassinger said.
Jones says she hopes the social media post evolves into a thoughtful debate on Confederate symbols and race in Georgia.