Saturday I spent some time in Elijay Jasper at the 9th District GOP picnic. Among the speakers were Rep. David Ralston, who as you know is challenging Speaker Glenn Richardson. Ralston spoke along the lines described in Jim Galloway’s article here. Ralston is a soft spoken man with a reputation of being very smart politically. His comments Saturday tapped into the frustration many Republicans feel about how things have been going lately. I realize on paper Ralston’s campaign seems Quixotic, but I think it’s way to early to count Ralston out. His grassroots campaign for Speaker just might work.
Last week, Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs, Richardson’s closest ally, suggested that the House Republican caucus shift from its tradition of secret ballots and conduct the election for speaker in public — which would have the advantage of exposing any dissidents.
Ask Ralston why he thinks he has a chance, and the north Georgia lawmaker will tell you that the last two attempts to dethrone a House speaker (both aimed at the venerable Tom Murphy) were the result of intra-party squabbles about which voters neither knew nor cared.
But Richardson’s feuds with Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle have been very public. The broken relationships — unlikely to be repaired, says Ralston — have thwarted action on important issues ranging from transportation to tax relief.
The north Georgia lawmaker also gave voice to frustration privately expressed by many House Republicans — that they had little input into Richardson’s failed campaign to eliminate property taxes in Georgia, which pitted state lawmakers against county, city and school board officials across the state.
That courthouse crowd is his targeted constituency, Ralston implied. Over the next three months, he’ll attempt to stir bottom-up sentiment for regime change in the Capitol that — he hopes — will equal pressure that Richardson will place on 100 or so House Republicans from above.