TAMPA — Blue skies hang over Tampa this morning, for the first time since Isaac threatened. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will arrive sometime today.
But at least until the 2 p.m. start of today’s first real session of the Republican National Convention, talk in the Georgia delegation has been directed homeward, where former House speaker Glenn Richardson has declared that, nearly two years after an attempted suicide followed by scandal and resignation, he intends to run for a west Georgia state Senate seat.
In an interview this morning at the delegation hotel, Gov. Nathan Deal said that Richardson came to speak with him at the state Capitol to discuss his possible return to politics. Said Deal:
”First of all, it was not my decision to make. That’s certainly something that every candidate has to decide on their own. I expressed my concern to him about his health, whether he was still fragile, and my concern about the impact on his family.”
Here’s the AP version from Monday’s development:
Richardson, 52, a Republican, is attempting to re-launch his political career by running for the west Georgia seat held by state Sen. Bill Hamrick, a fellow Republican who is resigning to become a Superior Court judge. A special primary election in the district will be held during the statewide vote on Nov. 6. Local GOP officials expect multiple candidates to run in the Republican primary.
It remains to be seen whether Richardson can make a clean start with voters. Richardson said in an interview that he discussed whether to run for office again with his mother, children and siblings.
“The consensus was that if I felt I was strong enough to withstand the level of criticism then I had something to give,” he said. “No one ever challenged me on my decisions on policy. I made some poor choices in my personal life.”
…Richardson’s personal life turned into a political crisis. On Nov. 8, 2009, sheriff’s deputies summoned to his home found Richardson semiconscious on the edge of his bathtub after he had called his mother to say he had swallowed pills. A suicide note and a .357 magnum handgun were on a nearby counter. Afterward, Richardson said that he had suffered from depression for 2 ½ years. He later said that he attempted suicide after realizing he could not repair his marriage.
A few weeks later, Susan Richardson, the politician’s ex-wife, gave a TV interview in which she accused the lawmaker of sleeping with a lobbyist working for Atlanta Gas Light who backed a $300 million pipeline bill that Richardson had co-sponsored.
The ex-wife provided the TV station with emails in which the lobbyist told Richardson that she feared being fired if the affair became public. Richardson responded by saying he would “bring all hell down” on Atlanta Gas Light if the lobbyist lost her job.
Richardson resigned his House seat shortly afterwards.
The timing of Deal’s appointment of Hamrick to the judgeship is the subject of much talk among Georgia Republicans here in Tampa. By delaying Hamrick’s resignation until Sept. 10, a special election is required.
Were Hamrick to resign only a few days earlier, the state GOP’s executive committee would be able to select a candidate – without the cost of an election. Another possible candidate, state Rep. Bill Hembree, R-Winston, had been lobbying the executive committee heavily for the appointment.
But an election is exactly what the governor wanted to happen. Deal said:
”I think if at all possible, you should give people an opportunity to express their opinion at the ballot box. Yes, that was the purpose of the timing on it.
“Obviously, there are complications anytime you have special elections. Nevertheless, the people of that district will now have the choice as to who they want in that Senate seat.”
For those who think Deal’s decision was meant to deprive state GOP chairman Sue Everhart of a decision, we were told that the governor had discussed the matter with Everhart, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and GOP legal counsel Ann Lewis at a meeting. They agreed with the governor’s action, chief of staff Chris Riley said.
We’ve got a call into Everhart.
Deal was also questioned about convention matters, and whether Hurricane Isaac’s near swipe of Tampa and imminent landing on the northern Gulf Coast had hurt Republicans.
On the contrary, the governor said. Shortening the event probably has made it more watchable:
”There’s always a lot of filler that you have in a convention because of the nature of it. That that filler is now going to be eliminated. It’s going to be more compact and probably go from major speech to major speech a lot quicker than a normal convention would.
“It makes it a little more difficult for delegates to leave the floor and not miss something.”
The governor also acknowledged that Mitt Romney, who will accept his nomination on Thursday, lacks something in the personality department:
”Certainly, he is a politician who has to work on that. But he brings so many qualifications from his business background, his understanding of government – having served as governor of a very difficult state.
“It’s very nice for people to like you. That’s why I have the First Lady [Sandra Deal] leading the charge for me. They love her. I just want them to like me. I think this convention is going to give an opportunity to the wider American public to see who Mitt Romney is. When they do, they’re going to probably like him.”
For the first time, the governor also said that he doesn’t intend to take up the federal offer of paying for the expansion of Medicaid in Georgia, which would give more of the poor and near-poor access to health care. Said Deal:
”I do not have any intention of expanding Medicaid. I think that is something that our state cannot afford. Even though the federal government process to pay 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, I think it is probably unrealistic to expect that promise to be fulfilled in the long-term – simply because of the financial status that the federal government is in.
“I am told that that expansion will be in somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion a year. I don’t think Congress can find an extra $100 billion a year.”
This summer, Deal had said he would wait until after the presidential election in November to make the call. The governor agreed that he’d said that – because of legislative changes that might occur afterwards.
But when asked what changes might cause him to rethink his decision, Deal said:
”I can’t think of any right now that would induce me to say that we’re going to expand our Medicaid population up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.”
That could cost the state $4 billion a year, he said. “We obviously do not have that kind of money.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider