Deal to name O’Neal to judgeship, setting up battle for GOP post

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed.

Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday he will name House Majority Leader Larry O'Neal to a judgeship, setting up a battle for the number three spot in the state House.

Deal said he will appoint O’Neal to be the sole judge for the Georgia Tax Tribunal, a two-year-old court program aimed at resolving disputes between taxpayers and the Georgia Department of Revenue. O’Neal will replace Judge Charles Beaudrot, who was paid $142,272.26 in fiscal year 2014, according to state records.

“He was vetted by the Judicial Nominating Commission,” Deal said. “He indicated an interest, and I asked the Commission to review him.”

O’Neal is a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax law, and is a long-time tax attorney in Middle Georgia.

In a letter to fellow House Republicans this week, O’Neal said, “I am excited about this incredible opportunity yet it is with a very heavy heart that, if this offer occurs, I will be resigning as Majority Leader and as the House member from District 146, effective midnight April 30th, 2015.”

His resignation has set off a scramble to replace him as majority leader, the number three position in the House. Several candidates have already emerged, including Game, Fish & Parks Committee Chairman Jon Burns, R-Newington, and current Republican caucus secretary-treasurer Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.