Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance didn’t run for re-election. Neither did Majority Whip Cecil Staton.
The two were part of a leadership team that brought relative calm to the Senate after a failed coup led to a couple of years of infighting between some Senate Republicans and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. Chip Rogers left the Senate courtesy of Georgia Public Broadcasting as part of the healing process. Former President Pro Tem Tommie Williams chose to take a lower profile. For the most part, the Senate has worked as designed for the past two years. And now, again, we have leadership elections.
The long standing rumors of this race are bubbling to the surface. Jim Galloway has written about it twice today, with a blurb in this morning’s jolt about a “Draft Josh McKoon for Majority Leader” facebook page, and now a standalone feature about Senator Butch Miller suggesting he may be the immediate front runner. But the open seats are not the only ones likely to see competition.
Word around the water cooler is that Senator Renee Unterman, once looking at the Majority Leader’s position, is now looking at making a run for the President Pro Tem’s chair, a seat currently occupied by fellow Gwinnettian David Shafer. Others with their names floating about for unspecified positions include Judson Hill, Steve Gooch, Charlie Bethel, Ross Tolleson, Bill Cowsert, and…aw hell, just assume everyone that’s found the chamber.
Why the entropy?
Two reasons. Chance and Staton were seen as “coolers” in a room of of…how to say this charitably…egos commensurate with the titles. There’s now fewer folks willing and able to play the role of buffering between members within the Chamber.
More importantly, a look at the seniority of the GOP caucus shows that those that will elect the new round of leaders have little to no experience with the old guard.
7 GOP Senators will be new this year. 5 from retirements/Open seats, and two from the defeat of Don Balfour and Jack Murphy. Then there’s that rumor of a pending judgeship in the Augusta area that could make this number 8.
9 GOP Senators have served one full term or less. 14 GOP Senators have served between one and two terms. That’s 30 of a caucus of 38 members that will have four years or less experience in the Senate choosing leaders (Presuming no seats change hands courtesy of the November general election). Expect the current Sophomore class to weigh heavy in the choices, with the 7 or 8 newcomers playing the role of wild card – and perhaps spoiler.
These are not insignificant titles. Many that hang around the third floor of the Capitol have been looking at the 2015 session as the GOP’s “time to govern”. Yet most of the Senate is from the Tea Party election of 2010 or newer, and is trending more and more to the anti-establishment wing of the party. (ironic, isn’t it, that you can have the title of “Senator” and still pride yourself in being anti-establishment?).
Thus, with the leadership roles in question, and ongoing competitive campaigns for statewide offices, what legislation can be crafted to pass both chambers and get a governor’s signature remains an open question. Senate elections won’t happen until mid-November at the earliest. By then, (hopefully) the question of who will be Governor will be settled. Settling a new power structure in the Georgia Senate should not be overlooked for importance as to how Georgia will be governed for the next 2 years either.
Updated: Senator McKoon has sent over the following statement:
“While I am appreciative of the support from friends around Georgia to take up greater responsibility in the State Senate, now is not the time to campaign for positions in the 2015-16 legislative leadership. I am 100% focused on victory for the Republican ticket in November, including my own race for re-election. We all need to keep our attention on the Democrats.”