Two weeks ago at Barnsley Gardens, the state House Republicans gathered for their annual meeting. By multiple accounts, attendance was down. Multiple members of the House took that as a sign that morale is low.
Republicans hold their House majority by 15 seats and Democrats are raising money at a rapid pace to take that majority. The Democrats are being helped by the Republicans own House leader, Speaker David Ralston.
At the meeting, the scandal currently plaguing the speaker came up. Ten members of the Republican conference in the House have filed a resolution calling for Ralston’s ouster from the speaker chair. It comes after the news media reported Ralston had sat on a committee that made a curious change to the law. While members of the legislature who are lawyers can delay legal proceeding they are involved in during the general assembly and for a short time thereafter, Ralston helped change the law to allow the House speaker delays in perpetuity.
At least one criminal defendant admitted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he paid Ralston money knowing Ralston could keep his case from going to trial. A now 21-year-old lady waits for her day in court in another case. She alleges a pastor raped her when she was 13. Ralston has kept the case from going to trial.
For his part, Ralston had the law changed back after he was exposed, but he refuses to acknowledge doing anything wrong. Ten members of the House want him gone. At this meeting two weeks ago, when the subject came up, Ralston offered a quote from Zell Miller that “when you see a snake in your house you kill it.”
If Ralston thinks he can hang on to the Georgia House while also destroying the careers of 10 of his Republican colleagues, he may need a refresher course in politics. As for the Democrats, they swear, crossing their hearts and hoping to die, that they would never, ever, you can believe them, absolutely they would never turn this into a campaign issue. They want you to trust them that this is not on their radar, they want nothing to do with it, and no one will raise this issue.
I am sure you believe them. Like a certain rabbit, behind the scenes the Democrats are giddy at the thought of being thrown into the briar patch. The House Speaker is threatening to kill off the careers of 10 of his own Republicans for doing the right thing and Democrats want to run a “war on women” offense against the GOP in 2020. It doesn’t get more war on women than having a rape victim who cannot get justice because the House Republicans are protecting the Speaker of the House. Wait for the ads.
You should know that every single House Republican in Middle Georgia is standing in lock step behind the speaker. Some of them are just plain scared of Ralston. Some of them are foolish sycophants sucking up to power. Some of them could lose and deservedly so for continuing to back Ralston’s power.
This will be a campaign issue unless Republicans do one thing. Ten of them have already stood up. If six more stand, too, and refuse to support any legislation at all until the Speaker goes, Ralston will have to rely on Democrats. That then would put the burden on Democrats to either finally stand up to or stand with Ralston. The latter would neutralize the issue in 2020.
Erick Erickson is host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB Radio.