A Brian Kemp ally on the 'grandstanding clown show' behind a critic's promotion

There were a few raised eyebrows around the statehouse on Tuesday when state Sen. Bruce Thompson got a promotion after criticizing a rival to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

And one person was willing to draw a line directly between Thompson's new gig - chairman of the Senate Science and Technology Committee - and his letter blasting Secretary of State Brian Kemp's handling of a data breach that exposed more than 6 million voters’ personal information.

That would be Joel McElhannon, a Republican operative with close ties to the secretary of state:

"So Bruce Thompson decides to cheap shot fellow Republican Brian Kemp in the news media and the next day he's named the Chairman of a Senate committee by Casey Cagle.

But Bruce's grandstanding clown show had nothing to do with 2018 and Cagle had nothing to do with it either. 

Sure. Right. I've got some property to sell if anyone buys that baloney.

Our AJC colleague Kristina Torres got hold of a private letter Thompson penned that questioned how Kemp handled the gaffe.

Wrote Thompson:

“Many of us do not share your office’s confidence that this information has not been copied to another disk or computer, and that the risk has been mitigated.”

“Constituents are particularly concerned why the public was not made aware in a timelier manner. After all, it is their personal information that has been compromised.”

A Cagle contact assured us this morning that no link between Thompson's chairmanship and his letter existed. That Thompson was the only member of GOP senators in his seniority group without a chairmanship -- a situation that demanded addressing.

Nonetheless, Kemp and Cagle are both contenders for the 2018 governor's race, and the Senate could be home to a proxy fight between the two if legislation targeting Kemp's office emerges or hearings on the breach are scheduled. But Kemp wouldn't be completely defenseless. Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, is his brother-in-law.

Thompson is among five new chairmen or vice chairmen of Senate committees. Sen. Frank Ginn will now head the Natural Resources Committee and Sen. Brandon Beach takes charge of the Economic Development Committee.

Sen. Jack Hill is now vice chair of the (obligatory: powerful) Rules Committee and Sen. Lester Jackson, the lone Democrat to get a promotion, replaces former Sen. Ronald Ramsey as head of the Senate Urban Affairs Committee.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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