In 2002, Republicans took over the Georgia State Senate and Governor’s Mansion for the first time since the Civil War.
In 2004, the GOP took over the State House of Representatives.
In 2006, the GOP completed its take over of the State of Georgia, capturing the Lt. Governor’s seat, the Secretary of State’s Office, and solidifying its hold on the legislature.
In 2008, when the GOP was crumbling everywhere, it was a banner Republican year in Georgia.
In 2010, the Republicans might be annihilated from the State of Georgia. They would deserve it.
A Lt. Governor caught with his pants down, a Speaker of the House who tried to commit suicide, and a host of potential leaders waiting in the wings all with adultery problems — the GOP deserves destruction in Georgia if it does not clean its own house immediately.
Put simply, while breaking out the guillotine to chop off Speaker Glenn Richardson’s head, the Georgia Republican Party needs to line up Mark Burkhalter, Ben Harbin, Casey Cagle, and a few others behind him. Do it all at one time.
Cleaning up all the blood at once will be far cheaper in the long run.
Georgia Speaker Glenn Richardson two weeks ago announced he had tried to commit suicide. The Speaker went through a very messy divorce. His best friends were all killed in one day in a plane crash together. He had undertaken an affair with a lobbyist that did not work out well. He admitted to suffering severe depression. People were willing to give him a second chance.
But then his ex-wife spoke out. She had the text messages and voicemails of a belligerent Speaker threatening to use his power to destroy her. What’s more, additional revelations into the Speaker’s affair showed that he might have used his power to help his mistress’s company — Atlanta Gas Light — get some sweet legislation passed.
While many had wanted to give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt, his ex-wife’s television interview and the new revelations sealed the deal. He had to go.
Under Georgia law, when the Speaker prematurely leaves office, the Speaker Pro Tempore automatically becomes Speaker until an election can be called within the House of Representatives. That election must happen in around 100 days.
Meeting in back rooms, late into the night, and with the Governor, a deal was hammered out. Speaker Richardson will resign. No, not now. That would make too much sense. The Speaker will hang on until the first of the year, be replaced by Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter, who would then call an election and throw his support to House Majority Leader Jerry Keen. In exchange, the Speaker Pro Tempore will get appointed by Governor Perdue to lead the Georgia World Congress Center — a cushy job.
There is just one problem — the Speaker Pro Tempore has his own sex scandal.
A few years ago, Mark Burkhalter, took a lobbyist funded trip to Daufuskie Island, SC with a group of strippers. He claimed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he sure enjoyed himself.
Burkhalter, who agreed to the deal to step aside in favor of Rep. Jerry Keen is now having second thoughts and is considering staying on as Speaker, image problems be damned.
Georgia House Republicans would be wise to throw him out. He is no friend of social conservatives and truly is no real friend to fiscal conservatives — he’s from the school of Republican thought that believes he represents the highest bidder.
And strippers. Lots of strippers.
Jerry Keen, the House Majority Leader, might actually be a good Speaker. He is not scandal plagued. He keeps his pants on. But he has also been part of the team that caused all the problems. He also entered into this backroom deal that, while it might assure him the Speaker’s chair if Burkhalter keeps his word (a nebulous hope), it does so at the expense of clean up.
Then there is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Ben Harbin of Augusta. Representative Harbin was arrested a while back, charged with DUI, and found to be in the company of a certain young lady who is not his wife. Allegedly, there are still issues.
The House GOP has been perfectly willing to keep Harbin in his Chairmanship. In fact, pretty much every philanderer, tax cheat, con artist, and crook has remained undisciplined by both the House and Senate Republicans. They are behaving more like the national Democrats in their support of Charlie Rangel and Jack Murtha than as Republicans.
If the Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives do not find someone who is willing to keep his pants on to be their Speaker, they might as well hand the reins over to the Democrats. No one is looking for a Saint Speaker, but one without a propensity for philandering with lobbyists would be nice.
If that is not bad enough, let us turn our attention to the Georgia State Senate. In the Lieutenant Governor’s Chair sits Casey Cagle, the man who destroyed Ralph Reed’s chances of ever getting into elected office. Cagle intended to run for Governor of Georgia this year, but due to “back surgery” he felt would make running for statewide office too burdensome, he decided to seek re-election as Lt. Governor — also a statewide office.
Rumors have long circulated that Cagle has a philandering problem too. This is the point where we get into wink-wink-nod-nod territory as there have been long, assorted, and firm denials (puns kind of intended), but pretty much anyone you talk to treats the stories as fact.
Basically, the main story goes (and this story is not new), after Cagle got elected Lt. Governor and before he actually took the office, a secretary whose name many of us know walked into his office looking for him and found him standing receiving . . . well . . . let’s call it a Lewinsky . . . from a lady not his wife who shortly thereafter allegedly parted ways with Cagle’s campaign wherein she had been employed.
And that’s not the only rumor about the Lt. Governor and not the only woman allegedly connected to the Lt. Governor. The latest story, recounted nearly identically to me by a couple of people, circulating about the Lt. Governor involves earrings that went missing in his vehicle — he wanted someone’s head for the supposed theft until it was politely pointed out that the incident would create a record and Mrs. Cagle might wonder exactly which pair of her earrings had gone missing.
Sadly, unlike the Speaker, the Lt. Governor is an elected office by the voters, and there is not much anyone can do except marginalize him in office. That is precisely what the GOP must do.
Cagle, not a very effective leader anyway, should be treated as the Republicans treated Mark Taylor, the former Democratic Lt. Governor, once the GOP had taken over the Senate. Taylor became a figure head with virtually no power.
If the Georgia Republican Party will not clean up its own house, the voters will. We saw that happen to the Republicans at the national level in 2006 and 2008. Georgia Republicans need someone with the fortitude to clean up the culture of scotch and strippers that now permeates the Georgia General Assembly.
There are signs the Georgia GOP is learning its lessons and will clean house. I hope it will. And I hope it does so quickly and thoroughly. It is unpleasant to write about this, but sunshine is terrific disinfectant. Allegations, innuendo, and rumor are never the stuff that should bring down a person or party, but let’s be honest — everyone is using the words “rumor,” “allegation,” and “innuendo” knowing that there have been no admissions except from the Speaker, but plenty of loose lips, quiet nods, and hushed laughter.
Let the sunshine in. Off with all their heads. Quickly please.
EXIT QUESTION: For those of you, particularly the men who are named herein and their employees, crying foul about me daring to actually talk about the rumors and say precisely what those rumors are, answer this question. Why is it that the people most concerned about these stories and pushing them hardest are not political enemies of these men, but their political friends?