Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, during a GOP retreat, pressed Republicans in the chamber to halt efforts to remove him as speaker. And he talked about killing snakes. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Capitol Recap: A message for Georgia Republicans: Unity — or else

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston made a push for Republican unity during a closed-door party retreat in Adairsville.

Unity could mean not trying to oust him.

During the retreat, he asked the dozens of House Republicans in attendance to “turn the page” on efforts to reprimand him after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News investigation found that he had used his legislative privileges to delay hearings for his legal clients.

Whether that appeal is enough to close the door remains uncertain. Key absences at the retreat apparently included the chief backers of the push by 10 GOP lawmakers to remove Ralston as speaker.

Ralston indicated that if lawmakers continue to press for his resignation, he could get tough on them. He even paraphrased a quote from one of the state’s more notable Democrats, former Gov. Zell Miller, in making that point: “If there’s a snake in your house, kill it.”

The speaker also addressed the party’s losses in the 2018 legislative races, when Democrats picked up about a dozen seats, mostly in Atlanta’s suburbs.

The GOP still holds a 105-75 edge in the state House, but Democrats aim to close that gap in 2020 by targeting 15 legislative seats where Republican incumbents struggled. Meanwhile, the GOP has set sights on Democrats in districts that Donald Trump won in the 2016 presidential race.

Ralston said he is in discussions with Vice President Mike Pence’s team to participate in a fundraiser to boost the party’s incumbents in those competitive districts. Some in attendance, however, said that is unlikely.

All publicity is good publicity? Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus and now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, caught the attention of Mother Jones. Tomlinson may not be all that happy about it.

The magazine ran a lengthy profile of Tomlinson that included criticism some African American groups leveled at her, saying she excluded them from participating in her plans to revitalize the city.

The article cites an instance when city officials were looking to restore a historic black entertainment district and “didn’t take into account a redevelopment plan put forward by a group of black leaders.”

The magazine says that, in light of that dispute, the city pulled out of the project. No work has been done on the site.

“The initiatives she put forth to revitalize downtown Columbus were marvelous, but the same was needed for the black community,” Nathaniel Sanderson, the president of the Georgia branch of the NAACP while Tomlinson was mayor, told the magazine. “The only thing young black kids have to do here is play midnight basketball.”

Driving for lower speeds: By proposing a measure to limit the speed of tractor-trailers, Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson has opted for a road less traveled by Republicans — he’s going against the Trump administration.

The legislation Isakson introduced this past week, in partnership with Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, calls for the use of software that would cap truck speeds at 65 mph.

The Associated Press reports that the software is already built into most of the trucks that travel U.S. highways, “but it’s not always used.”

Isakson said in a statement, the AP reported, that most other countries already use the software.

Isakson and Coons’ proposal would take the place of a U.S. Department of Transportation regulation they say has “languished in the federal process” for more than a decade.

To be fair, that means the Transportation Department rule stalled on the regulation highway long before Trump moved into the White House. But under his watch, the department, in the words of the AP, “has delayed any action on the proposed rule indefinitely as part of a sweeping retreat from regulations that the president says slow the economy.”

In a press release, Isakson found fault with the delays and the Transportation Department rule in its current form. He noted that the “proposed speed limiter rule” has been delayed more than 20 times since it was first suggested in 2011. As it’s now written, he said, “the rule would only apply to new trucks, despite the fact that the majority of existing trucks already have the speed-limiting technology built into their systems.”

Isakson has pressed for action to control truck speeds since at least 2015, following a traumatic crash on I-16.

In May of that year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote: Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators urged the Secretary of Transportation today to move forward on a long-delayed regulation to require speed limiting technology on tractor trailers, in response to last month’s crash that killed five Georgia Southern University nursing students.

Seeking answers: Four Democrats in Georgia’s congressional delegation want to know more about how the state Department of Community Health temporarily cut off Medicaid benefits to thousands of elderly and disabled Georgians.

U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, Lucy McBath and David Scott wrote to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Frank Berry, the DCH commissioner, asking about the technology glitch that led to last month’s mass disenrollment.

“This was an egregious error with causes that have not yet been remedied,” the lawmakers wrote. “If they aren’t corrected, seniors, disabled folks, and the most vulnerable of my constituents will have their healthcare placed in jeopardy again, and face extremely high healthcare costs.”

The state eventually said it would reinstate the benefits for all 30,000 Georgians slated for cutoff, and that it would go back through the renewal process with them.

Don’t bring it here: Conservative Erick Erickson made it clear he won't be any part of an effort to pass on rumors about U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris that resemble the birther allegations that followed President Barack Obama.

“Some of the same nasty forces that tried to delegitimize President Obama’s birth and citizenship are at it again with Kamala Harris,” Erickson wrote on The Resurgent website.

Rumors about Harris’ race started circulating earlier this month after her strong performance in the Democratic presidential debate.

Erickson moved to quash them.

“Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, CA on October 20, 1964. Her mother is an immigrant from India and her father is an immigrant from Jamaica,” he wrote. “While we disagree on politics and policy across the board, her life is the life of an American and she is an American.”

He’ll fight the rumors with more than words, he said.

“If they show up here at The Resurgent, they will have their accounts immediately blocked,” Erickson wrote.

Don’t take that to mean Erickson is backing Harris. This is about tactics.

“Beat Kamala Harris at the ballot box,” he wrote. “But do not question her citizenship.”

A half-dozen in the 6th: Running for Congress seems to be the new favorite pastime in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

A fifth Republican, motivational speaker Donnie Bolena, just joined the 6th Congressional District race.

Bolena describes himself as “a true conservative, card-carrying Christian and tea party Republican.”

Listing his policy priorities, Bolena said he favors building a wall on the southern border, ending abortion and “supporting America as a Christian nation and protecting the teaching of creation and the Holy Trinity.”

This isn’t Bolena’s first campaign. In 2009, Eva Galambos beat him to win re-election as mayor of Sandy Springs.

Ultimately, Bolena hopes to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in the district, which stretches from north DeKalb County to east Cobb County.

Before that, though, he’ll be taking on the Republican field: state Sen. Brandon Beach, businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel and ex-Merchant Marine Nicole Rodden.

That means, in all, six are running in the 6th.

Evidence first: Stacey Abrams is lining up behind U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has tried to pump the brakes on a push to impeach President Donald Trump.

A British publication, Metro, asked Abrams, last year’s Democratic candidate for governor and a likely contender again in 2022, whether she supported starting impeachment proceedings.

Abrams said she thought it might be best to “actually gather the evidence necessary” first.

“I think the real issue is making certain that we have a record that is accurate and full and complete and can withstand what will come of an attempt at impeachment,” she said. “Because the reality is you … in the legal world, you do not prosecute until you have sufficient evidence. And while the Mueller report is damning, we need full information. So we understand not only what the questions are, but what the answers are.”

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