Updated at 12:45 p.m.: Gov. Sonny Perdue, whose last session of the Legislature could be derailed by an out-of-control fight to replace Speaker Glenn Richardson, made a surprise visit to a closed-door meeting of the House Republican caucus.
My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin has details at Gold Dome Live.
Perdue has left, and the GOP lawmakers remain behind closed doors. One thing we’ve picked up: Republicans just finished a vote that accelerates the election of a caucus candidate for speaker to next Thursday, Dec. 17.
(This post originally said the election had been moved to Tuesday, Dec. 15. And that was the plan going into the meeting.)
House Speaker pro tem Mark Burkhalter, who we did not see present in the assembly, had originally set a date of Dec. 21.
Candidates for speaker at this point include Larry O’Neal, David Ralston, and Bill Hembree.
The new date will make for a very busy weekend — but might settle the issue and allow preparations for the January session to continue apace.
As he exited the meeting, the governor was asked if he were backing O’Neal, a personal friend from Houston County, for the position of speaker. The governor said no — and almost said he wasn’t backing anyone in the contest, but interrupted himself.
O’Neal, who encountered a flu bug this week, was not present.
“They’ll get it right, because that’s what representative government does. They’re a little unsteady right now, but they’ll regain that confidence as they pick leadership going forward to work with the executive branch,” Perdue said.
The governor said he doesn’t think the Richardson resignation — driven by an affair with a lobbyist, an attempted suicide, and an ex-wife’s retribution — has hurt the Republican brand.
“Sometimes, we don’t understand the degree that other people are worried about their kids’ education, their job, their health care. These sort of internal battles — I think as long as they get their act together and go forward and get their feet under them, I don’t think there’s been any damage,” he said.
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