We now have a contest to replace House Speaker Glenn Richardson.
Four days ago, Speaker pro tem Mark Burkhalter of Johns Creek was the presumed successor to Richardson, who resigned amid depression and scandal.
But at 6 p.m., with only the vaguest of explanations, Burkhalter sent an e-mail out to members of the House Republican Caucus, informing them that he will not pursue the speakership, and will call for an election when the General Assembly convenes in January.
A 10 a.m. Friday meeting of the GOP caucus will be held somewhere in Atlanta to discuss the details. David Ralston of Blue Ridge, Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, and Larry O’Neal of Warner Robins all have been mentioned as candidates.
Another name heretofore unmentioned: Rich Golick of Smyrna said he’s considering a run for a House leadership post — but needs to do more talking to colleagues before he decides which one. Golick is Gov. Sonny Perdue’s former floor leader, and so has stood between Perdue and Richardson on many a matter.
“What we need now is stability, maturity and experience,” Golick said, and then added something that must be going through the post-Gingrich minds of many legislator. “What we need is a Denny Hastert at every slot.”
Burkhalter, by the way, declined all interviews and questions about his decision. Here’s the message he sent:
Last week’s events have changed so much for us individually and collectively in the House Republican Caucus. I ask that each of you continue to find the compassion to pray for the Speaker and his family.
As I have repeatedly said, I remain committed to getting us through this critical transition. I fully understand my Constitutional duties to call for an election for a new Speaker of the House.
However, as has been reported, I have personally been pursuing other career opportunities for several months. Out of respect and fairness for our Caucus and the House of Representatives, I want to be transparent about my career interests and let a process commence for the election of a new Speaker.
Given my earlier decision to pursue these opportunities, it is only just that I inform you that I will not offer my name as a candidate for Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.
Given my responsibilities as Speaker Pro Tem, upon the official resignation of Speaker Richardson, I will call for an election the week we reconvene for the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Then you may elect a new Speaker who can take this job and be fully committed to it into the next decade.
If my career pursuits somehow permit me to remain in the General Assembly, I would be glad to serve in whatever capacity the caucus desires.
Now that the dust has settled, it’s time for a Caucus meeting to discuss any issues that might be on your mind including an agreeable timetable for internal elections and the necessary process ahead. Therefore, we will meet this Friday, Dec. 11, 2009 at 10 a.m. in Atlanta at a specific location which our Caucus chair will relate to you shortly. I want to make it clear this meeting will not be a meeting to hold elections of any kind.
I have more respect and admiration for each and every one of you than you can imagine. I look forward to seeing you soon.
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