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Richardson keeps role as House speaker

Area legislators vote for others for leadership

POSTED: November 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATLANTA — Fiery Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson has survived a challenge for his gavel.

The House Republican caucus voted on Monday to keep Richardson on as speaker, rejecting a challenge from state Rep. David Ralston of Blue Ridge.

Ralston said good leadership is not "grounded in fear or intimidation or threat of retribution." And he argued that without change, Georgia Republicans could suffer the same loss of power that the GOP did in the U.S. Congress.

Richardson pointed to his accomplishments over the last four years as speaker and said he’d learned from his mistakes.

Richardson’s temper has become legendary at the state Capitol.

Also surviving a challenge Monday was majority leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island.

The contested elections may have come at a price for three of the four members of the Hall County legislative delegation.

State Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, and state Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, were early supporters of Ralston.

Collins, who is on active duty with the U.S. Air Force in Iraq, was allowed to vote by proxy. State Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, cast Collins’ votes.

"I feel like I did the right thing," Benton said following the caucus. The lawmaker said Ralston had commitments of 45 votes Monday morning. While the vote was not officially announced, an observer placed the tally at 75-25 in favor of Richardson.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, made a surprise nomination of Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, for majority leader. Graves, a conservative Republican, was evicted from his office in the Capitol after he voted for former state Rep. Mike Evans, R-Cumming, in a hotly contested vote for the state Transportation Board.

"He’s young and he’s got new, fresh ideas," Rogers said in his nomination speech. "His leadership depth is crucial. His ability to listen is steady and he has a hard work ethic."

Rogers said Keen, a former state chairman of the Christian Coalition, had told him he was planning to announce a bid for governor.

Keen denied he already was campaigning or had accepted donations for governor. He has been mentioned as a likely GOP contender against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who already have announced their intentions to run.

Rogers threw his support behind Graves, who lost by a 70-30 vote Monday.

"We’ll see," Rogers said when asked about the possibility of political retribution. Rogers currently is vice chairman for economic development on the House Appropriations Committee.

Collins was stripped of the chairmanship of the Children’s Health Issues subcommittee following his vote in January for Evans.
Benton, who is completing his second term, is secretary of the House Education Committee.

State Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, made no secret of his support for the current leadership. He declined to speculate on any political fallout from his colleagues’ votes, however, he said their support of opposing candidates is likely to weaken the delegation’s overall political muscle.

Richardson and Ralston each made passionate speeches following their nominations.

After the results were announced, Richardson and Ralston embraced at the well of the House, then Richardson briefly took the well.

"Enough speeches for the day. I won’t disappoint you," Richardson said.

Richardson, who once served as floor leader for Gov. Sonny Perdue, has clashed with Perdue and Cagle.

"It’s time to get a new lieutenant governor," Richardson told the House in the final minutes of the 2008 session.

However, any political posturing likely is to be overshadowed by the state budget, which is facing a shortfall now estimated at $2 billion.


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