Update 2;28 p.m.: Rep. Jan Jones of Atlanta has been chosen as speaker pro tem.
Update 2:04 p.m.: OK, folks live blogging is gonna curtail considerably now. I’ll post the results of the elections but have to start focusing on the two stories for tomorrow’s paper. Thanks for reading along with me and don’t forget we’ll have the results of the vote for pro tem and whip soon.
Update 1:56 p.m.: A friend just wrote to remind me that today is the second anniversary of the death of legendary House Speaker Tom Murphy (D-Bremen). It’s quite a coincidence that the next speaker is all but elected today.
Update 1:51 p.m.: Rep. John Lunsford, who is running for majority whip, said in an interview moments ago that he intends to submit a petition to the caucus calling for all caucus officers to face election today, meaning there could still be votes for majority leader and caucus chair.
It’s a significant step if it happens because it would amount to votes of confidence on Majority Leader Jerry Keen and Caucus Chair Donna Sheldon.
Update 1:50 p.m.: They’re getting ready to vote on speaker pro tem. This could take a while as it still takes a majority to win and after each round of voting the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.
Update 1:25 p.m.: One lawmaker inside the chamber just texted to say Ralston won the speakership in a 55-48 vote.
Update 1:16 p.m.: Ralston told reporters that O’Neal will keep his job as Ways and Means chairman, if he wants it.
Update 1:10 p.m.: Ralston just finished his first press gaggle as speaker-nominee. I’ll have some quotes for you in a bit. Meanwhile, Fran Millar just took a big fat shot at the media in his speech.
Update: 12:50 p.m.: It’s easy to feel a little unfortunate for the people running for speaker pro tem, who are being nominated now. This is going to be feel so anti-climatic.
Jan Jones, Rich Golick, Fran Millar, Len Walker and Clay Cox are running.
Update 12:43 p.m.: “We’ve still got a long day here,” Ralston said from behind the speaker’s desk. “You made a country boy real happy and you honored me and I thank you very, very much for that. Secondly, I need your prayers. I wasn’t teasing when I said earlier we’ve got a big job ahead of us. I need Larry O’Neal, I need Bill Hembree.
“After today, let’s go enjoy Christmas.”
Update 12:39 p.m: David Ralston wins!
Update 12:34 p.m.: Richardson finished speaking, received a subdued, but full, standing ovation, and left the chamber. It was a moving speech, and Richardson several times stopped to gather his composure.
It was unclear from his remarks, however, whether he acknowledged responsibility for the position the caucus is now in.
Whatever “failures we may have made,” he said, “I take full responsibility for those failures. All of them. When you leave here today, you leave them behind, you leave them on my shoulders.”
Update 12:29 p.m.: Richardson: “I should have died.”
Update 12:26 p.m.: “I come here with a heavy heart. I stand here today form this podium this is probably the last time I will ever again have this opportunity and that makes me sad.”
Update 12:25 p.m.: Richardson speaking from behind the podium
Update 12:17 p.m.: While the second ballot is being cast, an interesting thought: There are two Georgia state patrolmen standing guard outside the door to the House chamber and another trooper outside the anteroom.
Considering this is a political function (i.e. the House Republican caucus is not an official body of government) it sure is interesting that state resources are being devoted to it.
Update 12:11 p.m.: Hembree eliminated, second ballot of Ralston v. O’Neal.
Update 12:04 p.m.: Votes are being counted!
Confused update 11:59 a.m.: Well, we know nothing. Richardson is back in the chamber.
Non-awesome update 11:57 a.m.: Nevermind. Richardson just cast his ballot and left the chamber and wouldn’t even look at the group of reporters waiting to ask him questions.
Awesome update 11:53 a.m.: Picking up word now that Richardson will speak at some point.
Update 11:51 a.m.: Aides are now passing out ballots. Looks like it’s going to be a secret ballot. It takes a majority vote to win, meaning it could take more than one ballot.
Update 11:49 a.m.: O’Neal said he will fight for his colleagues.
“I will not allow the indiscretions of a few tarnish the the re of this group of hard-working, committed Republicans,” O’Neal said.
Update 11:45 a.m. Hembree takes a seat and now O’Neal is going for it.
Update 11:44 a.m. Hembree might have won the votes of the press corps by promising to allow reporters back on the floor during House sessions, a practice Richardson ended when he got angry at the media.
Update 11:40 a.m.: Hembree makes it clear: “With a clean slate and new leadership, will also come a new way of doing business. No more ‘hawks.’ No more speaker’s PAC. No more heavy-handed tactics or retribution.”
Update: 11:36 a.m. Ralston wraps up and now Hembree is up.
Update 11:31 a.m.: “This House cannot afford business as usual anymore,” Ralston said.
Can’t help but wonder how Richardson felt about that.
Update 11:25 a.m.: Ralston is now speaking from the well.
Update 11:22 a.m.: Wow, whereas the other two nominating speeches were vanilla “why my guy is great” rhetoric, Knight just took a shot straight at Hembree. Knight said his own House district is more than 30 percent minority and it was tooth and nail to win re-election, and he spoke several times about how important that is to have a safe district for the speaker. Hembree, as we know, has a district that is trending Democratic and is considered anything but safe.
Update 11:21 a.m.: Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) speaking for Larry O’Neal.
Update 11:18 a.m.: Rep. Mike Coan (R-Lawrenceville) is now nominating Bill Hembree.
Update 11:15 a.m. Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) is offering a few words in nomination of Wendell Willard. “He’s a man of great honor.”
Update 11:12 a.m.: Nominations are being offered for speaker. Larry O’Neal was named first, then Bill Hembree and David Ralston. Nominations closed. Each person making a nomination are being given three minutes to speak and each candidate are going to get 10 minutes.
Update 11:09 a.m. Wow, Richardson is in the chamber. His name was called during the roll but he didn’t speak up. But there he is.
There are 103 members in the chamber, meaning 52 makes a majority
Update 11:05 .m. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) is now calling the roll of the caucus so they have a head count and know what a majority vote is. Richardson might in the building, but he is definitely not in the chamber right now.
Oh, but his staff is. Chief of staff Clelia Davis and Richardson’s legislative lawyer, Barry Fleming, are both in the chamber.
The House Republican caucus meeting begins in about six minutes. We’ll live blog the action here.