Inside the sudden GOP bonhomie under the Gold Dome

House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle embrace on Sine Die. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Credit: Jason Getz

caption arrowCaption
House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle embrace on Sine Die. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz


You could be excused for thinking that the leaders of the Senate and the House had been abducted last night and replaced by impostors.

A year after the legislative session ended in a bitter stalemate between the heads of both chambers, a strange spirit of bonhomie ruled the evening. Whatever the motivation - a show of pre-election GOP unity? - it was out of the norm.  

Example 1: About two hours before the session's final gavel, the Georgia Senate welcomed an unusual guest.

House Speaker David Ralston made the short trek across the hall to honor his “good friend,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, in his last day of the legislative session as the state Senate’s leader.

“He has been a pleasure to work with,” said Ralston, adding that “hopefully since I’ve been in this position we’ve had better relations between the chambers.”

We were assured this morning that Ralston's visit was planned well before state Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, took to the well to rail against state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, and the lieutenant governor in very specific terms for failing to act on his medical marijuana expansion proposal.

“Those are two of the most corrupt individuals I’ve met,” Clark said. His emotional outburst was unusual, the naming of names and could have derailed the evening.

If Ralston’s smoothing visit wasn’t spurred by Clark’s tirade, it was at least serendipitous. Afterwards, in its closing minutes, the House took Cagle’s legislation to establish a study commission on medicinal marijuana, added Clark’s two new categories, and sent it back to the Senate. They approved it.

Ralston and Cagle have had an occasionally stormy relationship, including the stalemate over adoption legislation that ended last year’s legislative session.

But Ralston will soon be the only remaining cornerstone of a triumvirate that has ruled Georgia politics for much of the last decade. Gov. Nathan Deal is term-limited and Cagle is running for his job.

"I don't know what the future holds, but I know Casey Cagle is my friend. And I want to wish him well and y'all well."

As he walked out the door, your Insider remarked to Ralston what a strange sight that made. Ralston seemed to agree.

“That’s a little history,” he said.

Example 2: Cagle and Ralston both banged the final gavel about 10 minutes into Friday, breaking an agreed-upon resolution that called for a midnight end to the session.

Shortly before they did, the Senate approved a measure that allows more automated security cameras to crack down on speeders in school zones.

It’s exactly the type of proposal the Senate may have held back on if there were a feud. Why? Ralston’s son was among the lobbyists pushing the bill.

Example 3: Around 12:45 a.m. today, the leaders sent out a joint press release, praising their united accomplishments this session - including a compromise over the very adoption bill that so divided them last year.

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