Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons informed his Senate colleagues this morning via email that he will not seek another term as President Pro Tem of the Senate.
While there are not a significant number of primary challenges facing the Senate as a whole, Senate leadership is facing quite a few, including Majority Leader Rogers, Rules Chairman Balfour, Whip Cecil Staton, and Banking Chairman Jack Murphy. Balfour also faces the ethics complaints filed against him where the Senate Ethics Committee found “substantial cause” to advance the claim.
The challenges with leadership combined with a near majority of new Senators within the past 4 years indicates that regardless of the outcome of the primary challenges, the leadership structure will be very different for the Georgia Senate when it convenes in January.
The vacancy created by Williams will generate speculation as to his replacement, but with so many other moving parts within the Senate Republican caucus, a clear leadership structure will likely not emerge until after the primaries are complete.
Williams email is here in full:
It is a very difficult decision for one to give up a position of political power. Often it takes a lost election or scandalous event for one to part with the notoriety of a higher position. While I’ve been affected by neither loss nor scandal, I can say that conceding a place of leadership over such a fine group of men and women is not easy.
I mentioned to several of you last session that I would not run for PPT again. I believe that leadership positions as well as major chairmanships should be rotated or term limited in order to gain from the talents of many and allow other members the opportunity to serve in higher positions. History proves that corruption can occur when one is too closely connected to lobbyists and has forgotten that the people, not lobbying groups, are who we represent. I have had many opportunities to take on lobbyists and special interest groups when their requests were not in the best interest of the people, and I can tell you it helps one to be a better leader if he or she is not overly concerned about re-election. Additionally, members that have consolidated powers as leaders or major chairmen over time find themselves tempted to look to their powerful positions as a way to create income for themselves or to protect their corporate contributors. This temptation is especially acute in Georgia, where the general assembly has the lowest salaries in the country.
I feel strongly that the powers that reside with the Senate should remain with the Senate as the legislative branch. I believe that the majority of you support this, yet agree that the LG, as the presiding officer, should be included and engaged in day-to-day operations of the Senate. Hopefully, going forward, we can agree on rules that will allow the Senate to remain autonomous while still engaging the LG directly in the daily workings and decisions of the Senate.
For the last 14 years, I have served the people of 21 different counties across south Georgia. As one of the first rural republicans, I had to endure ridiculous democrat-drawn maps that drew my district in Cobb County forcing me to run in an incumbent democrat district. I began serving as Vice-Chairman of the caucus at the beginning of my second term. My job was to recruit republican candidates, which was not easy back then in rural Georgia. We worked hard, raised lots of money for our candidates, and, in 2002, with the help of Sonny Perdue and some switchers like Jack Hill, we won the majority. What a happy day that was.
I would like to remind you that we were only able to take the majority when we won the rural parts of the State. Our caucus needs to keep a balance between rural and metro areas as we choose our leadership team and as we make policy decisions. We have based too many of our decisions on policies that were good politically for metro Georgia but not so good for the rural parts of the state. We can’t be a majority without our rural Senators.
In my years serving on the leadership team our numbers grew from 22 to 36. Hopefully, we will reach the goal of a constitutional majority this year. We have never retreated in our numbers, even when the democrats drew the maps.
My decision not to seek re-election for the PPT position was prayerfully considered. In addition to my beliefs about service limits in leadership, Stephanie and I have three children, and I need and want to spend more time with them. The movie Courageous has helped me refocus my position on fatherhood as the higher priority. I am spending time in Atlanta that should be spent at home or in my district working with constituents.
I would like to say how grateful I am for the privilege of serving you. It has been a wonderful experience for me. Over the last two years, the struggle over who would govern the Senate has been stressful, but liberty almost always requires a struggle. I have fought for giving the Senate the liberty to govern itself. This has never been a personal battle. It is what I believe the Constitution declares, and we have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. Now the liberty to govern is ours to protect or surrender.
As we move forward, I would like to make some suggestions that should be considered when electing the next PPT: 1. He or she should be humble, upright, trustworthy and of good character. 2. He or she should be free of any conflict of interest and should not use the office as a means of promoting his or her livelihood. If this is not the case, the PPT will embarrass the Senate at some point. What is done in secret will be shouted from the mountaintop. Nothing remains hidden in this business. Look to members that are not overly burdened by their private jobs. This position takes an immense amount of time. In the future, we should look at making the PPT job a salaried position at a “living” wage. 3. He or she should be faithful to his or her spouse and family. The PPT in many ways is a reflection of the Senate as a whole. If we elect a leader with wavering morals, we can all be put to shame. We’ve all seen what happens in our own General Assembly when leaders cannot control themselves. 4. He or she needs to be intelligent, patient and capable of building a consensus.
It is my hope that we can find a consensus candidate without having a fight over the position. Ideally, one should not seek the job. The job should seek the person. I served in this position because members asked me to serve, and I was never opposed. I believe that we can come together as a team and choose from our caucus a person that has the above listed qualities to be our next PPT without a campaign splitting the caucus. Our current Governor is a great example of one having the qualities it takes to lead at this level. Is there anyone in our caucus that would have these qualities?
Take time to think about who would be a good PPT for Senate. Forget for a moment who might be running and think about who has the virtue to lead our body. Remember, POWER IS SEDUCTIVE. Those who are certain they can handle it, are often the first to fail.
As you look around don’t throw out the freshmen. Pete Robinson became PPT in his in his 3rd year. We have some very wise freshmen of sound character and constitution. Consider them for our team of leaders.
Talk with your other members and ask the question. Who is smart, humble, trustworthy, a good negotiator, not to closely tied to the lobbyist community and of excellent character? Remember the wisdom of Jesus who said, “Whosoever is chief among you let him be your servant.” Look toward someone with a servant’s heart. Consider your co-Senators and collectively encourage someone with these character qualities to run.
I will continue to serve the remainder of my term as PPT. When the new leaders are elected or re-elected, I will support the team. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting back to the nitty gritty of perfecting legislation, which is why I came to the Senate in the first place. If we work together we really can continue to make this state great.
Sincerely and friendly, Tommie
p.s. I am sending this notice to the media so that the long term member of the caucus that feels a need to leak this letter to the media, can redirect his time to concentrate on other virtues.