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Backlash from DOT election hits home
Collins stripped of chairmanship by House speaker
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Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle talks about the courage of Rep. Doug Collins to vote his conscience in the DOT election.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Monday hailed state Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, for his actions in voting for State Transportation Board Chairman Mike Evans and pledged to help him politically.

"Doug Collins is a man of principle, and I know he wrestled with the decision of what was the right thing to do," Cagle said. "He had enormous political pressure from the speaker and others."

On Saturday, a day after the vote, Collins was stripped of the chairmanship of the Children’s Health Issues subcommittee.

"This is something I knew could possibly happen if I voted for Mike Evans," said Collins, who publicly confirmed his vote for the first time. "It’s very frustrating, but I felt the need to vote my conscience and my constituency. I made those decisions based on what I felt was best for this community."

Collins, who was one of seven House members voting for Evans, said he received hundreds of e-mails, letters and phone calls seeking support for the incumbent chairman.

On Friday, House Speaker Glenn Richardson removed state Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, from his post as a "hawk," a member who can vote on any of the standing House committees. Graves was also evicted from his office in the Capitol building for his vote in favor of Evans.

Cagle said he will go to bat for Collins in an effort to rebuff any further retaliation by the House leaders.

"I will do everything I can to help Doug through the budget, through legislation or helping him be re-elected. He stands for everything that we in Hall County espouse to."

Cagle said Richardson has ruled by use of fear and intimidation, which sends a bad message to the public.

"It took an enormous amount of courage for Doug to follow his convictions, because he knew what could happen. Not only being stripped from committees by the speaker, but also having opposition in a Republican primary," Cagle said. "In the face of all this turmoil and threats, he followed his convictions, and that’s what we want out of elected officials."

Collins was not alone in the backlash.

State Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, was not aware of the action against him until told by a reporter.

"I guess it doesn’t come
unexpected," Meadows said. "You knew something would happen based on what
happened to Mr. Graves."

Meadows was removed as vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and as secretary of the House Insurance Committee. A former mayor and councilman in Calhoun, Meadows said this was the most pressure he had received as a public official.

"When I saw the condition of the DOT, I thought what was best for Georgia and best for the DOT was to put back the man who had been in there digging around," Meadows said. "My conscience makes up my mind on 99 percent of what I do."

Another lawmaker, Martin Scott, a Republican from Rossville, was removed as secretary of the House Ways and Means Committee and from an income tax subcommittee he chaired.

The only other lawmaker who has publicly admitted voting for Evans is state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, who told officials as early as November he would be supporting Evans. Hamilton, a freshman, is not an officer on any of his assigned committees.