The Jolt: A newspaper’s call for House Speaker David Ralston’s resignation

A focus on the U.S. Senate race has caused us to overlook important developments in other quarters.

In its Sunday edition, the Gainesville Times called for David Ralston to step down as House speaker. For the last decade, the newspaper has been the best-positioned publication in the state, given that former Gov. Nathan Deal lives in Hall County, as does current state Senate president pro tem Butch Miller.

In its Sunday pages, the newspaper also cited a close personal connection to Ralston, who lives in nearby Blue Ridge: “As a young man just out of college, Ralston was briefly an employee of The Times newsroom. When he became speaker in 2010, we were able to report with some pride that he was a former member of our staff.”

Ralston, an attorney with a private practice, has been beset by reports that he has used his legislative position to delay court cases for defendants he represents. The delays, while not illegal, amount to "gaming the system," the newspaper notes. These are the final two paragraphs:

[Ralston] does not understand that the issue exists because he is speaker, not in spite of it. He does not understand that by intermingling his state position with his private personal practice, he has irretrievably woven the two together. He does not understand that it is his position as the speaker that allows him to take liberties with the courts that others could not take.

He does not understand that he has squandered the trust of those who selected him to fill the position many feel to be the second most powerful in state government. And because he does not understand, he should no longer be in that position.


Our AJC colleague Matt Kempner reports that Georgia Power's parent company, the only utility constructing nuclear power plants in the United States, doesn't plan to do it again anytime soon once those two reactors at Plant Vogtle are finished:

It probably will be in the 2030s or 2040s before Atlanta-based Southern Company attempts another nuclear construction project, Southern CEO Tom Fanning told analysts Wednesday.

One reason why this is something of a surprise: An argument for continuing the construction of the Vogtle units, which are very much over budget, has been the preservation of nuclear technology so that it might be used elsewhere.


Erick Erickson of WSB Radio has never made it a secret: He wants to be the next Rush Limbaugh. Now our AJC colleague Rodney Ho says Erickson is about to launch a daily, three-hour morning radio show focused on Georgia politics:

WSB Program Director Pete Spriggs said the show "is in the preliminary planning right now and our sister station in Athens WGAU [98.7 FM and 1340 AM] would be the flagship."

Erickson said given that Georgia is a swing state, he feels "conservatives are at a disadvantage. Local media has largely collapsed. National media tends to only cover Georgia when it can help the Democrats. Talk radio is either hyper-local from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. or nationally focused from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m."


You can scratch Jason Carter from the list of Democratic possibilities in next year's U.S. Senate race.

Via Twitter, the 2014 candidate for governor on Wednesday expressed his satisfaction with former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, shortly after she formally entered the race:

"Well, @teresatomlinson looks like a real #senate candidate. Deft rollout; raising $$. Accomplished exec from outside Atlanta. #lookout"

He later said that this was no endorsement -- just an expression of admiration for the first Democratic entrant in the race against Republican incumbent David Perdue.


Gov. Brian Kemp issued his first veto Wednesday. It wasn't a particularly big one, but the bill's sponsor was one of the more influential GOP members of the House: state Rep. Barry Fleming.

The governor nixed legislation that would incorporate portions of Columbia County into the tiny town of Harlem, where Fleming resides. The measure was opposed by both the county and the city.

Columbia County officials were particularly incensed. They said they didn’t learn of the measure until it had already passed the House.

More vetoes will surely come before the May 12 signing deadline.


On Wednesday, the governor also tapped former state Rep. Lynne Riley to serve as state treasurer, making her the first woman in state history to fill that role.

The Republican, a north Fulton resident, was Gov. Nathan Deal’s revenue department commissioner. She’ll start the new gig on May 16.

Riley succeeds Steve McCoy, who served as both state treasurer and chief investment officer. He’ll retain the latter role.

It wasn’t immediately clear who Kemp will tap as Riley’s successor at the revenue department.


Our AJC colleague Tyler Estep reported Wednesday that Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway, who has yet to decide whether to seek a seventh term in the rapidly changing county, will renew his agency's participation in the federal immigration program known as 287(g).

Democrats are more than riled up. After he posted his piece, Estep received a note from Curt Thompson, a former Democratic state senator now running for chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission. Wrote Thompson:

"I'm disappointed to hear that Sheriff Conway plans to continue Gwinnett's participation in this divisive and racist program. Our diversity and inclusivity are our strength. As Gwinnett's next county chair, I wouldn't give the sheriff a dime for 287(g)."


In Washington, after weeks of logjam, senators appear to be inching closer to a deal on Hurricane Michael and other disaster relief funding. A new offer from Senate Republicans is the source of the cautious optimism. The Washington Post reports that the proposal includes $300 million additional dollars for Puerto Rico, which has been the big sticking point in bipartisan negotiations, as well as language designed to safeguard against fraud and wasteful spending.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is on board. “If Democrats truly care about Puerto Rico, they will accept this deal,” a Perdue spokeswoman said.

We’re told Perdue huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and senators from other affected states about disaster relief on Wednesday.

Democrats were being tight lipped as they combed through the details on Wednesday, but U.S. Sen. Pat Leahy, the party’s top negotiator, said he was “pretty optimistic that something can happen” and that the two sides are “a lot closer.”


U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, is moving forward with his threat to force a vote on the Green New Deal. Hice began laying the groundwork on Wednesday by introducing a so-called discharge petition. The procedure allows the minority party to force a vote on the House floor if it receives 218 votes on a proposal, circumventing the majority party's leadership.

Hice will need to win over at least 20 Democratic signatures to secure a vote on the proposal, which was introduced by freshman Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ninety-two Democrats have co-sponsored the Green New Deal in the House. (None of Georgia's five Democrats have signed on.)

Hice, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is firmly against the bill, but he and other Republicans are looking to exploit divisions within the Democratic Party ahead of next year’s elections.

“I am also positive that their Democratic constituents want to know where their representative stands on this issue just as much as mine want to know where I stand, so let’s have a vote,” Hice said Wednesday. Senators shot down the bill last month after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought it up for a vote.