Not one month ago, state Rep. Doug McKillip of Athens was elected the No. 2 Democrat in the House, as caucus chair behind House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams.
Today, he became the latest Democrat – sixth in the House – to become a Republican after a devastating Nov. 2 election for his party.
The office of House Speaker David Ralston assures us that this is no early April Fool’s Day prank. Devastating to the already fragile morale of Democrats, yes. But not a prank.
In an interview just completed, Abrams said she learned of McKillip’s switch when he called her, just before 2 p.m. “He’s been making fund-raising calls for the caucus over the last few weeks. He’s been helping freshmen House members raise money,” the Democratic leader said.
While other Democrats who have switched in the last few weeks have a basically conservative philosophy, Abrams said McKillip does not. “By and large, Doug McKillip has been a fairly liberal Democrat. Certainly one wonders how he’s going to represent his district,” she said.
McKillip’s recruitment plays into a working theory that I’ve got — that House GOP leaders are seeking ballast to balance out new, ideologically based lawmakers who might be more inclined toward social conservatism.
Blake Aued of the Athens Banner-Herald provides McKillip’s side and the basic details:
McKillip said he is switching to protect Athens’ interests like funding for the University of Georgia and the HOPE scholarship, and to have a seat at the table when lawmakers discuss important issues like tax reform and water.
“As an independent-minded Republican, I can accomplish a great deal for my constituents and my city,” he said.
McKillip said he spoke Monday night to House Speaker David Ralston, who welcomed him to the GOP. He officially resigned from the Democratic caucus this afternoon, joining a half-dozen other former Democrats who switched parties since the Nov. 2 Republican landslide, including state Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell. Republicans now hold 114 of 180 House seats, six away from the two-thirds majority needed to pass constitutional amendments.
House Democrats elected McKillip chairman of their dwindling caucus just a month ago, but he said he has been weighing a party switch for a while.
“This is an uneasiness that I have been wrestling with for some time,” he said.
Democrats have not been able to get anything done since Republicans took over in 2004, he said. For example, he said he was unable to pass a simple, noncontroversial bill last year allowing local governments to let people ride bicycles on the sidewalk. He said he is tired of watching on the sidelines and sees no point in fighting Republicans when Democrats cannot retake power in the forseeable future.
Yet Abrams called McKillip’s speech to Democrats on Nov. 10, as he was elected as caucus chairman, an “eloquent” assessment of the party’s post-Nov. 2 situation. Which makes his switch “seem more politically calculated to me than a matter of philosophy,” she said.
“For Doug to stand for a leadership role….I think that calls into question more than your political beliefs,” she said.
House District 115 was formerly held by Jane Kidd — who on Monday announced she was ending her tenure as chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Here’s her statement on McKillip’s decision:
“I’m extremely disappointed in Doug’s betrayal. Doug has turned his back on the voters that elected him. I’ve received multiple calls from his outraged constituents who have worked and voted for a progressive voice to represent them in Atlanta.
“It is dishonest to say that he can’t get anything done within the minority party. For Doug to assume that he can best serve the University of Georgia as a Republican is disingenuous. Leaders of both parties have faithfully advanced this flagship institution since its inception.
“His donors deserve a refund; his voters deserve a recall.”
Some handy performance stats on the 115th:
– 2000 Presidential: Gore 50%, Bush 47%;
– 2002 Governor: Barnes 55%, Perdue 42%;
– 2004 Presidential: Kerry 54%, Bush 45%;
– 2004 US Senate: Majette 49%, Isakson 47%;
– 2006 Governor: Taylor 51%, Perdue 42%;
– 2008 Presidential primary: Democratic 64%, Republican 36%;
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider