Archive for December, 2009

See you in 2010

Yes, this is like walking out on the last reel of a Hitchcock film. But House speakership race or not, vacation calls.

Have a peaceful Christmas, a festive Hanukkah, a meaningful Kwanzaa – and most definitely a Happy New Year.

My colleagues and I at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution thank you for the many times – more than 3 million – that you chose to read and trust the Insider this year.

See you in 2010.

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John Lunsford says he’ll bury petition that might have ousted Majority Leader Jerry Keen

Updated at 8:09 p.m.:

We caught up with state Rep. John Lunsford of McDonough on Tuesday as he was taking his kids out for pizza and a trip to the library.

Lunsford, you’ll recall, is the Republican who on Friday – at that three-hour House Republican caucus meeting — held out a petition by which his colleagues could sweep their leadership clean.

The two House leadership positions – speaker and speaker pro tem – had already been declared vacant. Lunsford’s petition was a vehicle by which House Majority Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island could have been forced to run for re-election as well.

Rumors swirled today, saying that dozens of House Republicans had signed on. That may or may not be true. “Nobody’s seen it, because I’ve had it with me every since I left that room,” said Lunsford, a candidate for majority whip.

But the lawmaker also says he won’t bother to add up the names. Because he has no intention of submitting the petition on Thursday, when the GOP caucus gathers …

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Your morning jolt: Ralph Reed says to expect more contested GOP primaries

Religion writer and blogger Dan Gilgoff snagged some quotes from Ralph Reed on the topic of the building tea party-driven split within the Republican party:

Energized in part by their experience in New York, conservative faith-based activists are now poised to support challengers over establishment Republicans in perhaps a dozen or more GOP primaries next year, in races stretching from Florida to California. “You’re going to see the largest number of competitive Republican primaries since the 1992-to-1994 period,” says Reed, the former Christian Coalition chief. “It’s a sign of a healthy movement.”

But some GOP leaders worry that the growing number of contests between party-backed figures and conservative challengers will create fissures at a time when Republicans are trying to unify and rebuild. That, they fear, could pave the way for more Democratic wins. Last week, the National Republican Congressional Committee called a meeting with activists on the right, including …

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Tom Graves declares himself out of Republican race for House speaker

Many social conservatives in the House Republican caucus have expressed a hope that state Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger would drop his 9th District congressional campaign and become a white-knight candidate for House speaker.

Alas, it will not happen. Graves has included the following in a note to supporters:

While it was humbling last week to read where some political observers mentioned my name as a potential candidate for Speaker, I want each of you know that I am committed to winning this election and representing you in Congress.

GA-9 Freedom Fighters from all across the 9th District have joined this campaign and we’ve put too much time and energy into preserving our conservative values to change course.

Graves is one of several thousand Republicans in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville.

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Election for speaker to be held in state Capitol

A message went out this morning informing Republicans that the election to select a GOP candidate for speaker will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday in the House chambers.

Neither the time nor the day had been in dispute. But when the House GOP caucus assembled on Friday, the location of the election had been left open – prompting worry among some that the contests for leadership would be held off-campus and in private.

The Capitol venue is an indication that the tradition noted last week by House Majority Jerry Keen (St. Simons Island) will remain intact.

“We do our elections in public. Every caucus election since I’ve been in the Republican caucus has been done in the open and public,” Keen said. “We’ll continue to do that.”

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Your morning jolt: Abortion and stem cell research as the unspoken issues in the race for House speaker

One of the quiet issues that hasn’t been addressed – yet – during this one-week campaign for House speaker and other leadership positions is the role of abortion and stem cell research.

Despite Glenn Richardson’s shortcomings in the marital department, the Georgia business community silently applauded the soon-to-be-former speaker’s approach to transportation and science, and thus economic development.

For the last several sessions, it has been Richardson’s House – not Casey Cagle’s Senate — that sat on legislation to ban or even criminalize embryonic stem cell research in Georgia, provoking a great deal of criticism from the Republican party’s right-to-life base.

None of the candidates for House speaker have addressed the issue, at least in public. So far, the urgency of the state budget situation has been enough to deflect inquries.

The major religious conservative organizations – Georgia Right to Life, the Georgia Christian Alliance and the Christian Coalition – …

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Bill Hembree’s pitch for speaker to House Republicans

State Rep. Bill Hembree of Winston, one of several candidates for House speaker, sent the letter below to the Republican membership on Friday.

Hembree’s communication isn’t as detailed as the platform sent out by state Rep. Larry O’Neal sent to House members – no promises to do away with the hawk system or dissolve the speaker’s political action committee.

However, it’s fair to say that Hembree puts a larger emphasis on the moral issues raised by the Glenn Richardson situation. And like O’Neal, Hembree promises not to embarrass his colleagues:

In less than one week we will come together again to choose a new Speaker. This is an opportunity for each member of this caucus to vote their conscience and to put this week’s rhetoric into action. We cannot afford to continue down the path of talking about family values and ethics reform on the campaign trail but turn a blind eye at the State Capitol. It must end now and it must start in the Speaker’s office.

The 2010 …

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Larry O’Neal’s campaign platform for House speaker

Several Capitol types have pointed us to an e-mail that state Rep. Larry O’Neal of Houston County sent to members of the House Republican caucus on Friday.

With the unspoken backing of Gov. Sonny Perdue, O’Neal must be considered the front-runner in the quick contest to replace House Speaker Glenn Richardson. A vote to pick a caucus candidate comes Thursday.

O’Neal missed the Friday gathering of the caucus due to a bout with pneumonia, but you may consider the letter below to be the platform of his candidacy.

Among its important points:

  • An end to the “hawk system” that allowed House leaders to pack committee meetings;
  • A promise not to sponsor any legislation other than the budget. He’ll ask members of his leadership circle to do the same.
  • An end to the speaker’s political action committee, which allowed the top leader of the House to gather up hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars, in competition with the House caucus’ own fund. The speaker’s PAC was yet another method of …

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Tom DeLay, the winds of change, and our state Legislature

When Republicans won the House in 2004, one of the first acts of the presumptive new speaker, Glenn Richardson, was to import a set of tutors to give GOP lawmakers some closed-door lessons in the art of government.

Their guides were associates of Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, then the no-holds-barred majority leader of the U.S. House.

We know this because a fresh-faced staffer hit the wrong switch and allowed one of the sessions to be broadcast across the state Capitol.

DeLay was gone by the next election cycle, doomed by his association with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is now doing time for his bribery of public officials.

Richardson is now gone, too, done in by an ex-wife who, on the six o’clock news, declared herself tired of keeping his secrets. As a matter of fact, she declared, the speaker did have a full-blown affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist while legislation was in play.

The House crown was to have devolved upon the head of Speaker Pro Tem Mark …

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Fran Millar joins race for House speaker pro tem

Speaker pro tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) did indeed attend today’s meeting of the House Republican caucus.

The leader of chamber arrived and left via a route that allowed him to remain unseen by members of the press. We’re told that he said little, except to confirm that he would not run for re-election to his current post.

Burkhalter announced Monday that he would not run for speaker, throwing the leadership of the chamber open to all comers.

State Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) said it was Burkhalter’s Friday announcement – his first official statement that he would be removing himself completely from leadership — that caused him to push for a Thursday, Dec. 17, election of House officers – rather than next Tuesday.

Millar quickly followed up with this e-mail to House members, declaring that he would join the race for speaker pro tem. State Reps. Jan Jones of Alpharetta, Rich Golick of Smyrna and Clay Cox of Lilburn have already announced.

Wrote Millar:

Now that …

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