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Lawmaker speaks in House about DOT vote
Rep. Tom Graves: 'This is a low point in the House'
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0206LegisGraves

Hear Rep. Tom Graves remark to members of the Georgia House of Representatives on Tuesday.
A state representative who was stripped of his leadership role and evicted from his Capitol office took the well of the House to offer his first public comment on the actions of House Speaker Glenn Richardson over the transportation board election.

While he never mentioned Richardson by name, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, was clear as to the direction of his remarks.

"This is a low point in the House, and this is a dark day," Graves said. "This is the time and this is the place to put principles over politics. This is the time and this is the place to produce sound public policy over political posturing. This is the time and this is the day to make Georgia proud. In other words, it’s time to lead."

Graves was one of five lawmakers who have been identified as voting for State Transportation Board Chairman Mike Evans against the wishes of Richardson.

The others, Doug Collins of Gainesville, John Meadows of Calhoun, Martin Scott of Rossville and Mark Hamilton of Cumming, have been stripped of offices held on committees and subcommittees.

"I voted principle over politics and will continue to do so," Scott said in an interview with The Times. "I think what we were asked to do by the speaker of the house was to engage in a campaign of vengeance."

Graves is known as a rising conservative leader at the capitol.

He chairs the 216 Policy Group, a conservative caucus that started in 2005, the same year the House’s Republicans gained control of the chamber for the first time in generations.

Since then, the group’s membership had grown to several dozen lawmakers and so has its scope.

It now holds regular meetings in a cramped capitol room and has launched a Web site devoted to the cause.

Richardson was not in the chamber when Graves delivered his speech, but his spokeswoman Clelia Davis said the "House leadership fully supports" the speaker’s decisions.

Senate leaders, meanwhile, have openly questioned Richardson’s response.

"If a senator was punished for voting their conscience, the rest of the Senate would be in a very rebellious mood because if it happens to one it can happen to them," Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson told reporters Monday. "I think House members are going to have the same feelings that senators would."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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