Key sponsor of Georgia election law loses bid for GOP House leadership

03/25/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia —Rep. Barry Fleming, Chairman of the Special Committee on Election Integrity, speaks in defense of SB 202 during a debate in the House Chambers on day 38 of the legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021. SB 202 passed the House Chambers. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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03/25/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia —Rep. Barry Fleming, Chairman of the Special Committee on Election Integrity, speaks in defense of SB 202 during a debate in the House Chambers on day 38 of the legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021. SB 202 passed the House Chambers. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Jekyll Island, Ga. – A chief architect of the state’s new election law lost his bid Friday for a key Georgia House Republican leadership position in a vote that was widely seen as a test of Speaker David Ralston’s clout.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett, a close ally of the speaker, defeated state Rep. Barry Fleming, a potential rival to Ralston, in a closed-door GOP retreat in Jekyll Island. The vote was by secret ballot, but several Republican legislators with knowledge of the tally said Hatchett won by an overwhelming margin.

The vote was to replace state Rep. Trey Kelley as the chamber’s majority whip, the fourth-ranking GOP leadership position, as he fights charges stemming from a 2019 fatal accident.

Fleming chaired the special House committee that shepherded Senate Bill 202, the election overhaul that includes new voting restrictions, through the Legislature.

And he’s assiduously courted allies who want to push the chamber in a more combative direction than Ralston. A victory could have potentially set him up to challenge Ralston. Fleming didn’t immediately comment.

It was the most serious challenge to Ralston’s leadership since a small band of Republicans tried to oust him from leadership in 2019. That effort only attracted 10 GOP names, and many of those dissenters are no longer in office.

Read more about the vote here.

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Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, left, talks with House Majority Leader Rep. Larry O'Neal, R-Bonaire, as they celebrate the passing of Senate Bill 24.

Credit: JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, left, talks with House Majority Leader Rep. Larry O'Neal, R-Bonaire, as they celebrate the passing of Senate Bill 24.

Credit: JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

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Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, left, talks with House Majority Leader Rep. Larry O'Neal, R-Bonaire, as they celebrate the passing of Senate Bill 24.

Credit: JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Credit: JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM