Opinion Columns & Blogs

ERICKSON: Georgia Republicans in denial

The state of Georgia has just had a series of special elections. Reading the newspapers or listening to the radio and television news, you would not know a significant detail. Republican leaders lost every single special election for the state Legislature in the past two months -- every single one.

All but one of the races were Republican against Republican. But there was a defining division between the candidates. Those candidates backed by Republican leaders lost. Those candidates who ran against Republican leaders -- particular House Republican Speaker David Ralston -- won. They won by opposing the billion dollar tax increased foisted on the state by David Ralston.

In South Georgia, Jay Roberts, the chairman of the transportation committee in the House stepped down after shepherding the billion dollar tax increase through the House of Representatives. He now works for the Department of Transportation. House leaders rallied for Roberts’ replacement, but Clay Pirkle won. Pirkle vocally supported the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and vocally opposed the tax increase.

Here in Middle Georgia, Shaw Blackmon likewise opposed the billion dollar tax increase. He campaigned against Larry Walker III, the son of the former state Rep. of the same name. Both competed to replace Larry O’Neal, who tried and failed to get the tax increase reduced in size. Blackmon took 57 percent of the vote.

In North Georgia, state Rep. Mark Hamilton stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and told his colleagues how much he supported the tax increase. He said he was proud to support it and come next November he would stand before the voters of his district and he was sure they would handily re-elect him.

The moment the session ended, Hamilton fled to the private sector. His hand-picked replacement, touting Hamilton’s endorsement, failed to even make the runoff. The two candidates in the runoff had made their opposition to the billion dollar tax increase the central part of both their campaigns.

In the metro-Atlanta area, Taylor Bennett, a Democrat, beat J. Max Davis, the Republican. In that race, both men opposed RFRA. It was the only race where both people in the race opposed the law. But Bennett made the tax increase a part of his campaign. He and outside left-leaning groups attacked the GOP for using the hotel-motel tax as a vehicle for the transportation tax. They called it irresponsible. Davis defended it.

Of course, Davis was also accused of sexual harassment. As mayor of Brookhaven, Davis was accused of spraying the rear end of a female employee with Lysol. It is an ongoing issue. Davis had a lot of baggage.

Nonetheless, in every single race, the candidates who opposed the tax increase won. The losers all had something in common. They were supporters of the billion dollar tax increase or they were backed by supporters of the increase. Humorously, though, Speaker Ralston and the state Republican leaders cannot bring themselves to admit the tax increase had anything to do with anything.

Instead, they have decided to look to the runoff in House District 80 between Taylor Bennett and the Lysol spraying Max Davis. In that race, both candidates opposed RFRA. But Republican leaders have interpreted all these elections to mean they should not touch RFRA with a 10-foot pole.

It is worth noting that in every single other race, every candidate, even the losers, supported RFRA. But instead of recognizing RFRA had nothing to do with their drubbing, Speaker Ralston would rather blame that law than concede his billion dollar tax increase is hurting the GOP.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta