Tim Golden and I always had something in common. ‘Way back in 1977, within a few months of each other, both of us interned for U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.
It was an academic internship, awarded by the University of Georgia, but Golden henceforth would always describe himself as a Sam Nunn Democrat. Until today.
On Monday, Golden became a Sam Nunn Republican.
Golden had served as chairman of the Senate Democratic caucus. Though unopposed in the November election, Golden dropped out of the caucus leadership two weeks ago. “I’m retiring,” the Valdosta lawmaker said at the time.
As a Democrat, it turns out. Not as a state senator.
“I am changing my party affiliation in order to better represent the views of the majority of my constituents and my own conservative, pro-business philosophy,” Golden announced this morning. “Our state continues to face great challenges. As a member of the majority caucus, I will be able to more effectively represent the people of the 8th District on important issues including the annual state budget, tax reform, reapportionment and helping our businesses put more Georgians back to work.”
Golden becomes the 36th Republican in a 56-member Senate. Republicans are now within two votes of the two-thirds majority necessary to control all constitutional questions.
In a phone call, Golden said, “It was a tough decision, but I’ve always been about policy and issues.”
Golden was seen as vulnerable in next year’s redistricting. One, possibly two, south Georgia senate seats will disappear. Golden is the first Democratic senator to defect since the Nov. 2 election – but five House members have done so, including state Reps. Ellis Black and Amy Carter, both of Valdosta.
Lowndes County now has no Democratic representation in the Legislature.
The press release from the Senate GOP announcing the Golden defection includes quotes from six of the eight members of the newly empowered Committee on Assignments: Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock; Tommie Williams, R-Lyons; Bill Cowswert, R-Athens; Greg Goggins, R-Douglas; Cecil Station, R-Macon; and David Shafer, R-Duluth.
“Tim has always been a reasonable voice for good public policy. He has done a great job representing the interests of South Georgia. I look forward to working with him as part of the majority party to help revitalize the economy in our region of the state.”
Nearly an hour later, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle caught up with his own greetings to Golden:
”Tim represents a district that is key to our state’s economic success and has always put the interests of his constituents above politics and partisanship. While his party label may be changing, I’m sure his commitment to those he serves will not.”
Cagle, we hear, will very quickly be making the two appointments to the ruling Committee on Assignments granted him by the Senate Republican caucus. He’s settled on Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and Jim Butterworth, R-Cornelia.