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Georgia Republican who made threatening swamp comments faces calls to apologize, resign

A growing number of civil rights groups and Democratic officials are calling for a Georgia Republican who made threatening comments to a former state legislator to apologize or resign from office.

The calls intensified after state Rep. Jason Spencer said his sharp-edged comments on Facebook to LaDawn Jones, a Democrat who was once his seat-mate in the Georgia Legislature, were “misrepresented as a threat against her.”

Spencer warned Jones she won’t be “met with torches but something a lot more definitive” if she continues to call for the removal of Confederate statues in south Georgia. He wrote that people who don’t understand that sentiment “will go missing in the Okefenokee.”

“Too many necks they are red around here,” he wrote in a post since taken down from public view. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ’em.”

More: Georgia gears up for fraught legislative debate on Civil War monuments

A coalition that includes the ACLU’s Georgia chapter and the Georgia NAACP issued a statement Thursday calling Spencer’s comments “dangerous” and called on House Speaker David Ralston to remove him from the Game, Fish & Parks committee.

“If Rep. Spencer keeps refusing to retract and apologize for his remarks,” the coalition said in a statement, “Georgia lawmakers should demand his resignation from the Georgia General Assembly.”

(Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen said that the parks committee focuses on hunting, fishing and conservation legislation – and not the placement or removal of statues and monuments.)

Both Democratic candidates for governor – state Rep. Stacey Evans and former state Rep. Stacey Abrams – have condemned Spencer. Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said Spencer's remarks were “worthy of censure.”

Some have also urged police involvement. Nita Chaudhary of UltraViolet, a women’s rights group, called on state law enforcement officials to investigate Spencer. And Vincent Fort, a former state senator who is running for Atlanta mayor, said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should probe the comments.

“When I got a threat like that, I called the GBI,” he said. “That kind of threat warrants it.”

Jones, who sat next to Spencer during her four years in the Georgia House, said in an interview she didn't feel threatened by Spencer's comments but that she was "concerned" by his reaction.

"Because if that's representative of what people in south Georgia think," she said, "then yikes."

Spencer, who represents a southeast Georgia district, cast his words as a “warning to her of how people can behave about this issue.”

“Just trying to keep her safe if she decided to come down and raise hell about the memorial in the back yards of folks who will see this as an unwelcome aggression from the left," he said in a text message.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.