A first call for an elected speaker

State Rep. Michael Harden (R-Toccoa) has penned what we think is the first op-ed piece generated by a member of the GOP caucus, calling for an election to anoint a successor to House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

We know of others in the works. Here’s what Harden wrote:

By now, every Georgian knows that Speaker Glenn Richardson has resigned due to a truckload of personal problems. While I am glad he resigned, I also sincerely hope that he obtains the help he needs and finds peace in the years to come.

Now that this chapter is almost closed, it is time for the Georgia House of Representatives to move on and get back to the business of this state. Unemployment has surged across the state, especially in rural areas, impacting countless Georgia families. State revenues continue to decline damaging everything from public safety to public education. It is long past time we got back to doing what the people elected us to do.

However, we cannot truly move on and begin a fresh start until a new Speaker is fully and fairly elected by the entire House. We must have an election to truly close this chapter and move forward as a legislative body, and that election should happen before the General Assembly Session begins.

The process has worked as the Constitution intends. The Speaker Pro-Tempore will assume the duties of the office temporarily and has 120 days to call an election. However, the calendar undermines what the House needs to do to move past this episode.

Because Speaker Richardson is not officially resigning until January 1, the temporary Speaker could serve through the Session without calling for an election. The House would only have a temporary leader, not a fully respected one. This situation is not acceptable to me or to a significant number of my colleagues.

The longer we wait to hold a real election, the longer this drama will continue and the more damage it will do to the House and to our state.

With all the budget and policy challenges in these difficult times, Georgia needs a Speaker of the House with the full, unquestioned support of the House of Representatives.

Waiting until the end of the Session, or worse, having an election in the middle of a Session, only hinders the House’s ability to pass meaningful legislation and from an “inside baseball” perspective makes the House weaker in its negotiations with the other branches of state government.

We have nothing to fear from open, transparent, and honest government. Let us clear the air and start fresh by electing a Speaker with a clear mandate to lead.

Please do not misunderstand my purpose here. I am not opposed to our current leadership. If fact, I personally like them and voted for them. I would very seriously consider Mark Burkhalter or Jerry Keen if they offered themselves for Speaker. They are strong and capable leaders.

However, a temporary Speaker hurts the House and hurts our ability to govern effectively. There is not a legitimate reason to delay an election. The House can hold an election the first week in January or on the first day of the Session very easily. Then, and only then, will this chapter finally be closed and the House and the state it serves can finally move forward.

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28 comments Add your comment

South Fulton Guy

December 5th, 2009
9:49 am

As Speaker one question is how much political capital will Mark Burkhalter waste with his obsession to split North Fulton off into a resurrected Milton County?

Road Scholar

December 5th, 2009
9:55 am

Any candidate that wants to run for the post should call for abolishing taking of gifts in any form. While they contend that the gifts do not affect their decision making, the history shows that they do.


December 5th, 2009
10:00 am

Considering the rumors I have had regarding Mr. Burkhalter is he truly appropriate to be selected as speaker? I think a clean slate is necessary that removes the current power structure from the house and move on to more appropriate progressive members of the GOP, because I think everybody in town is truly disgusted at how this process has been. If the ethics investigation took the right track, the GOP would not have this mess. It’s a big train wreck and the current leadership we have absolutely no trust in. I think Ralston or or someone such as Austin Scott might provide a better alternative. Also it would appear that Eric Johnson’s credentials are certainly muddied over the ethics complaint boondoggle.

Capital Insider

December 5th, 2009
10:11 am

When I hear Mark Burkhalter’s name, 3 words come to mind, and I cannot explain why:


Rhonda Atlanta

December 5th, 2009
10:13 am

Wonder why the AJC isn’t questioning why a candidate for governor ( Eric Johnson) and the majority leader ( Jerry Keen ) obviously ran interference for Richardson ?

Capital Insider

December 5th, 2009
10:42 am

Good point Rhonda…Richardson supporters, many of whom knew what was going on should be disqualified for their unconditional support…

There should be consequences for looking the other way!

Clean Slate

December 5th, 2009
11:23 am

My Georgia GOP needs a clean slate in House leadership. I watched Burkhalter in an interview with Lori Geary this morning. When asked if he had any affairs or skeletons out there he could not answer a flat NO. He said that he slept fine at night, could not just answer without evading.

He also said he knew nothing of the AGL/lobbyist issue with Richardson. He needs to explain why then he hired Susan Myers on HIS staff from AGL right after that. If he was unaware of any of this, he is TOO STUPID to be Speaker.

The Caucus needs to force this issue January 1st and bring in a leadership team that has experience but have proven themselves to be forthright and were not intimidated by the bullying of Richardson or the turning of a blind eye by Burkhalter. The names that come to mind, and some of them are running for other office but should consider staying, are:

Austin Scott
Tom Graves
David Ralston
Wendell Willard

There are big issues to tackle and Burkhalter hung up on being the Prince of Milton and with him clearly showing no testicular fortitude even with any easy interview today…is CLEARLY NOT what we need..

GA. Capitol

December 5th, 2009
12:01 pm

Burkhalter is not about to let an election take place until he has all his votes in place.
And – Clean Slate – “I watched Burkhalter in an interview with Lori Geary this morning. When asked if he had any affairs or skeletons out there he could not answer a flat NO. He said that he slept fine at night,” What did Richardson say when asked???

Ken in Eastman

December 5th, 2009
12:02 pm

It concerns me that Burkhalter is going to wait the maximum amount of time before holding the election for speaker. For one thing, we will continue to hear about the Richardson scandal well into an election year and that’s not a good thing for the GOP.

This is not good planning for anyone but Mark Burkhalter personally. This is the same kind of me-first selfish crap that gave us Glenn Richardson’s scandal to begin with.

If Burkhalter believes it’s necessary to consolidate his base, then he’s probably the wrong person to be elected speaker. He’s been in the Georgia House and in a leadership position and should be well known. He’s not going to be better known after stretching out the election for as long as possible – except that it makes one question his motives.


December 5th, 2009
1:25 pm

Wendell Willard or David Ralston could provide mature, common sense leadership for a House that badly needs adult supervision.


December 5th, 2009
1:26 pm

Edward Lindsay would be a brilliant choice for Speaker.

Capital Insider

December 5th, 2009
1:40 pm

Ditto on Ed Linsay

Diana Ross

December 5th, 2009
2:52 pm

The next Speaker must be pure as the driven snow. There are just too many rumors about Burkhalter for my comfort, in addition to the bad judgment shown at Daufuskie. Other names mentioned (Williard, Graves, etc) are fine choices, but they have already announced their runs for other offices. Leaving those races now opens charges of opportunism. David Ralston is a wonderful man, but his history of tax problems would give folks another reason to attack the Republicans. There are members who are without scandal, but have at least been Chairmen or have some experience who we can turn to right now… it is time to think outside the box and start to look forward. Burkhalter and Ralston have had their chances to lead. Let’s find someone with the proper mix of experience and fresh ideas.

Clean Slate

December 5th, 2009
3:17 pm

I don’t know that any of the ones that might leave a race to do this would be doing it for opportunistic reasons. I can think of 3 that are running for other office BECAUSE of the leadership team under Richardson. Tom Graves, Austin Scott and Wendell Willard would make a great part of a new leadership team. All are conservative, sharp, experienced, and most of all…have integrity and spine.


December 5th, 2009
3:40 pm

Diana Ross, I can appreciate your perspective but lumping in Burkhalter with Ralston I believe is a mistake. From what I remember in the news, Ralston had tax problems but that was from back taxes owed due to the result of an employee’s embezzlement from his firm. That employee was later prosecuted. He rectified that as quickly as he could. Keep in mind David Ralston was aware of the problems in the Gold Dome and he did something about it. He challenged the Speaker and lost. He was subsequently paid the price by having his chairmanship stripped from him. Most of the remaining house members remained silent with the exception of a few-England, Benton, Graves, Collins and some others. Ralston had the courage to stand up. I hope he still has that courage and will stand up once more. Georgia needs him.

Ken in Eastman

December 5th, 2009
4:10 pm

Why would anyone, Diana Ross, lump David Ralston in with Mark Burkhalter? David Ralston stood AGAINST Glenn Richardson and his excesses when Mark Burkhalter was snuggled up closer to the former speaker than a couple of teenagers in the back seat of a parked car.

A problem employee embezzling from his firm is not a personal problem for David Ralston nor a “scandal.” In fact, Ralston’s firm’s tax problem was not a “scandal” in any honest person’s imagination.

I want the best Georgia House Speaker available. Attempting to eliminate David Ralston from consideration with sly innuendo, is not in the best interests of this state.

Georgia needs good leadership. Let’s do this right; hold elections for the speakership as soon as is practical and go forward.


December 5th, 2009
4:15 pm

How about a woman speaker???


December 5th, 2009
4:16 pm

Enter your comments here

riddle me this

December 5th, 2009
9:33 pm

Why did Burkhalter take money from Fulton County through Mitch Skandalakis for his pet art project? Now Burky hates Fulton. His org took plenty of money, though.

James Harris

December 5th, 2009
10:34 pm

Unfortunately, most of the women in the Republican caucus voted for Glenn Richardson last fall to remain Speaker, knowing exactly what they know today…Charlice Bird being one of the rare exceptions.


December 5th, 2009
11:03 pm

Man, woman, or party affiliation. Makes no difference. A leader who was not complicit with the debachery of Richardson, Burkhalter, Keen, et al is mandated.


December 5th, 2009
11:46 pm

David Ralston had an employee at his law office that stole from him. That issue has been resolved by the Courts.

David Ralston has a passion for the people of the State of Georgia and the Republican Party. He stood up to Glenn Richardson last time, and he is the right man for the job at the right time. We need a grounded leader now more than ever.

Keith Cheek

December 6th, 2009
11:14 am

We need to get someone to Step up and help the Rural Counties to begin recovery. Why is it Kennesaw Got thousands of dollars of free Excess equipment when Stephens county can’t get a command post ( even a used one) for the Sheriffs department. My request to state and Washington Leaders for Ga. fell on Clogged ears.

Keith Cheek Toccoa Ga.


December 6th, 2009
4:01 pm

I predict Burkhalter will not call for an election for Speaker and we will vote in a Democrat as our next Governor.

GOP Tertium Quid

December 6th, 2009
5:47 pm

Mark Burkhalter should call an election for speaker without delay, and the GOP House members should elect someone besides Burkhalter, Jerry Keen, or anyone else in the senior leadership associated with Glenn Richardson, who proclaimed in 2007 that “having wine and dinner is what business is made of because people want time with me.” What a sorry bunch of corrupt losers in the GOP House leadership who have failed the people of Georgia and who have betrayed the principles they so eagerly gave lip service to in public. GOP Representatives, Here’s some really first-rate advice: elect someone other than Mark Burkhalter or Jerry Keen Speaker or get hosed in 2010. If you think voters will forget and let this one pass, you’ve lost any grip you may have once had on reality. I’m one of your own giving you sage advice. Ignore it at your own peril.


December 6th, 2009
6:08 pm

The Senate also has it’s own nest of vipers. A major purge needed there also.

Macon Maniac

December 6th, 2009
8:02 pm

Anyone know Rep. Harden? It appears he was just elected in ‘08 and I’m hopeful that this freshman class is a sign of things to come. An open letter to House leadership is interesting. An open letter from a new guy, priceless.


December 7th, 2009
3:49 pm

Harden or Harbin??