‘A new low’: Georgia lawmaker vents after testing positive for COVID

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

State Rep. David Clark lashed out at GOP legislative leaders Thursday after he was denied access to the Georgia House floor following a positive coronavirus test.

The Gwinnett County Republican said he’s taken five other tests since his positive result and each has come back negative. He accused House Speaker David Ralston, whom he’s long criticized, of heavy-handed tactics.

“Why does Speaker Ralston want to run our chamber like he’s Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi?” he said, comparing him to the Democratic U.S. House speaker from California. “This is not the first time that Speaker Ralston has tried to silence conservatives like myself, but this is a new low, even for him.”

Ralston’s office declined to comment on Clark’s case, citing privacy rules, but said that members are required to test twice-weekly for coronavirus and follow guidelines from the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quarantine for five days if they contract the disease.

Georgia hospitals are grappling with a new wave of coronavirus fueled by the omicron variant, a highly contagious version that generally causes less severe illness among those who have been vaccinated. Since the pandemic began, more than 27,000 Georgians have died from COVID-19.

“We will continue to take every reasonable step, including a rigorous testing program, to protect the health of those who must come to the Capitol to conduct the people’s business,” said Kaleb McMichen, spokesman for Ralston.

It’s not the first time Clark has courted controversy involving coronavirus. He was booted from the state Capitol by a state trooper in January 2021 after refusing to comply with the chamber’s twice-weekly testing requirements. At the time, he called Ralston a “dictator” and vented at the health precautions.

He also has a long history of defiance of leadership since he was elected in 2015. He has called for Ralston’s resignation and waged a failed bid for speaker. He announced last year that he won’t seek another term to the state House.

Clark, who said he’s fully vaccinated and experiencing no symptoms, is a founding member of the newly formed state chapter of the House Freedom Caucus, which aims to pull the Georgia GOP agenda further to the right.

It’s unclear whether Clark will attempt to show up at the Capitol, though he noted that he would be forcibly removed by the Georgia State Patrol if tries to set foot on the House floor before the five-day period is over.