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:
Several points of O’Neal’s letter speak to the lack of connection that rank-and-file members felt with Richardson.
But O’Neal does not address what many House Republicans have privately expressed as the one weakness of his candidacy – O’Neal’s role in obtaining after-the-fact tax relief for Perdue through a last minute amendment to some legislation.
Here’s the O’Neal letter in its entirety:
Fellow caucus members,
This is going only to you as a member of the caucus. I have not sent this to the media, will not be sending it to them, and will only discuss the content of this email with you. If I could escape these doctors and my beloved wife’s understandable concern, I would be there today to discuss these matters directly.
Let me begin by saying how much I regret that I could not be with you today during this difficult time. The serious flu I had developed into pneumonia, and required my hospitalization. I am home now and quickly on the mend, but my heart hurts that I was not able to share with you in today’s proceedings. Today’s meeting shows the stakes we face as we work to elect calm, competent leadership committed to needed change.
You know how I work to conduct myself at the Capitol. I believe in listening, respect, and leading by consensus.
I have been able to do a good deal of listening over the last few days in spite of my illness and Kathy’s insistence that I get off the phone. I have also had feedback from members through the team of people who are helping me make calls to the caucus.
I have also been observing and watching how our caucus has changed in the last few years, like you have.
On the basis of that listening and observation, I offer the following as my plan to give us the competent leadership we need in the Speaker’s Office and necessary changes we must have in the House of Representatives:
1. Independence and respect. The speaker has the ultimate client relationship as representative of members of the House. I completely understand the importance of the constitutional separation of powers doctrine. I have disagreed with our Governor on many occasions in the past and expect to do so in the future but I did so and will continue to do so without making a public spectacle. We need that balance between independence and respect more now during these troubled times than ever.
2. I will set aside 60-90 minutes a day to meet only with members, and a member will always go to the front of the line and never wait behind a lobbyist or anyone else other than a constituent directly from my district. In addition, a member communication staff member will also be designated to be a direct link between you and me.
3. I will return your calls/emails/pins. Always. You and your ideas are my first priority.
4. I will never intentionally embarrass you.
5. I will not push any legislation of my own and will sign no bills except the budget. I will not have any legislative agenda except an agenda approved by the caucus or local delegation, and I will expect the core leadership team to follow this principle as well.
6. I will eliminate the Hawk position. I trust our committee chairs to do their jobs.
7. A strong ethical standard will be enforced, starting with me and including all leadership positions. Allen Peake forwarded an email to you yesterday that was sent to the media to set some things straight. As I stated then, there will be no witch hunts but there will be consequences for failing to toe the line. I think the single biggest frustration for many of us is that the vast majority of members and chairs are doing things the right way and are being tarnished by the failings of a few.
8. Vice-chairs are but one last step to chairmanship. I intend to ask our chairs to allow the Vice-chairs to chair occasional meetings with the chair present. This way, Vice-chairs will get more hands-on experience so when they move up to Chairman, they will already be mature and seasoned for running a committee. It is my goal to move my Republican colleagues into leadership positions as quickly as possible and have them ready to lead in all technical respects.
9. Passage of meaningful ethics reform legislation that also protects honest citizen-legislators who are doing things right. As a conservative, I believe more law rarely solves anything, especially the failings of the human character. However, there are areas where changes must be made to our ethics laws. I will not dictate to you what changes should be made, nor will I allow anyone inside or outside the House to dictate to you as well, including the Governor or Senate. As your speaker I will allow you the members to decide those reforms while I protect you from those who will try to hijack the process and turn it into targeting of the innocent along with the guilty. I firmly believe though, that if we cannot police our own ethics rules, others will at the ballot box.
10. I will eliminate the speaker’s PAC. This created too much appearance of impropriety. I will keep the political team and have a top-notch political operation that is open and accountable, and I will focus my efforts on member campaigns and the House Trust and make sure you have all the political support you need. More on this in the days to come.
11. Excellence and competence in our duties. Hard work lies before us on the budget and other issues. I will lead by example in producing a quality work product for the citizens of our state and expecting each of you to do the same thing as we move through the difficult session to come. We cannot afford incompetence at a critical time like this.
12. Feedback and flexibility. Good leaders cannot do their job without both. I will always be listening, both during and after this election, and making adjustments where necessary rather than continuing to pursue a path that has clearly become counterproductive.
Again, I cannot tell you how much I wanted to be with you today. I look forward to discussing my plan in coming days as I prepare to lead you into the session, if you choose to honor me with that opportunity.
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