Posted: 6:06 pm Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

A House speaker under siege by tea party forces 

By Jim Galloway

With House Speaker David Ralston at his left elbow, Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 60 at a noon ceremony in Ellijay, Ga. The gun law greatly expands where concealed weapons can be carried in Georgia. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

With House Speaker David Ralston at his left elbow, Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 60 at a noon ceremony in Ellijay, Ga. The gun law greatly expands where concealed weapons can be carried in Georgia. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Ellijay, Ga. — On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal and his extensive entourage could have trekked to any one of 180 House districts to sign HB 60, the gun bill – now law – that will greatly expand where concealed weaponry can be carried.

But as a favor to one of his most important allies in the state Capitol, Deal chose the picturesque banks of the Coosawattee River here in House District 7.

That’s because Speaker David Ralston of Blue Ridge, the second Republican to hold that position and the first from north Georgia, is under siege.

Among the high crimes and misdemeanors allegedly committed by the north Georgia lawmaker: “It is my understanding that he has a MARTA card, and [thinks] that what’s good for Atlanta is good for Georgia,” said Sam Snider, his GOP primary challenger.

Scoff if you must, but the Ralston-Snider contest is one of a handful of House GOP primaries that pit “liberty” adherents against fellow Republicans who prefer a more pragmatic brand of conservatism. The outcomes on May 20 could well determine the tone of next year’s session of the General Assembly.

Tea party forces, showing some evidence of financial backing, have lined up behind Snider, a Gilmer County high school wrestling coach with 13 state championships under his belt. The strength of the insurgency is difficult to measure, but Ralston is taking no chances.

The speaker has a TV ad out, featuring a woman saved by a helicopter ambulance service that Ralston brought to the area. Ralston signs are on virtually every corner.

Top-of-the-ticket figures like Deal or Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, may be skimping on debates with their challengers. Ralston can’t afford to. On Tuesday night, in Ellijay, the House speaker completed a trio of public confrontations with his rival.

“People should have the opportunity to hear both of us answer questions,” Ralston said afterwards in an interview at the Gilmer County courthouse.

The tea party bill of indictment against Ralston is extensive and somewhat contradictory.

While acknowledging the necessary link between roads and jobs, Snider is critical of the House speaker’s role in putting a transportation sales tax before voters – a series of regional referendums that failed in north Georgia and metro Atlanta, but succeeded elsewhere. (It was during this 2010 legislative debate that Ralston brandished a MARTA fare card as a prop.)

Snider disagrees with the use of public monies for the deepening of the Port of Savannah, which Ralston considers critical to economic development in the state.

On Tuesday night, the challenger pointed out that the state budget has grown from $18.3 billion to over $20 billion in the last four years. Ralston replied that much of the growth is the reversal of cuts to education made during the Great Recession. New spending includes raises for teachers, even wrestling coaches.

A favorite target of Snider has been the recent, legislative-approved funding for a $17 million parking garage requested by the Georgia World Congress Center, which will be used – at least in part — by attendees of a new Atlanta Falcons stadium. Ralston argued that other state-owned facilities need parking, too, including a new College Football Hall of Fame.

And then there are the social issues. Two years ago, the House spearheaded one of the toughest anti-abortion bills in the nation – prohibiting the procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy. Snider and supporters say it isn’t strict enough.

“Eighty-five percent of abortions are performed before 20 weeks. How does that protect the unborn?” argued Margaret Williamson, who said she was among those who invited tea party forces into the district to help Snider.

Debbie Dooley of Atlanta Tea Party Patriots has rented a cabin in the district through the May 20 primary to work against the speaker. Ray Boyd, a real estate millionaire believed to be funding much of the anti-Ralston effort, took out an ad in the local newspaper to declare Snider a “knight in shining armor.”

Ralston’s dilemma would be familiar to John Boehner of Ohio – call it the curse of all speakers, everywhere. A House speaker serves a broad political body, whether state or nation, but answers to a small, specific community.

The benefits to that community can be substantial. In his three debates, Ralston has talked of local citizens he’s appointed to powerful state authorities. A budget bill to be signed by the governor next week will show that a satellite campus of the University of North Georgia, which was headed elsewhere, will now be located in Ralston’s district – in Blue Ridge.

“I’m not a knight in shining armor. I am the other guy. And I’m kind of proud of being the other guy. I’m not perfect. I just get up every day and work hard,” Ralston said on Tuesday.

Overall, Snider argues that the speaker’s statewide responsibilities have caused him to lose touch. In three debates, the coach made clear that the interests of Gilmer, Fannin and Dawson counties – the three counties that comprise the 7th District – would be his sole concern.

“If the beliefs that we have are good for us, they’re good for down there,” Snider said Tuesday night.

Snider’s is a brand of isolationism that isn’t mountain-born, Ralston said later. “The mountain thinking I see now is people like the farmers here in Gilmer County,” the speaker said. “They’re not isolationists. Agri-tourism is a big deal here. They’re wanting people to come here.”

Ralston included Snider among those “who feel that government – in ways that we have never thought before – is the enemy. I don’t associate that with traditional mountain thinking at all. This is a new kind of thing.”

“It’s either a phase that we’re still going through, or a phase that’s about to end. And I think we’re about to find out, on the night of May 20, where we are,” the speaker said.

 

70 comments
Old Dawg
Old Dawg

Political slant be damned, I just wish we had a columnist this good covering the criminal syndicate that is the Florida legislature.

likeitis
likeitis

Ruled by the "MOB" of the great unwashed of humanity and look what we've got and where we are.

Pitiful.

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

Dooley is a terrorist.  Why does she hate America so much?

Charles50
Charles50

I wish PolitiFact would check out Ralston's answer about the increase in the budget.  I'm pretty sure that's a pants on fire.  

JohnBoy10
JohnBoy10

That picture is worth a thousand words - overweight, chicken hawk smirking white boys in suits - gloating over their most recent non-accomplishment!

We can only hope they keep attacking each other as they try to prove who is the most crazy amongst themselves.

And these bloated, overpaid golden parachuted boys represent who?...I guess it is poor white middle age gun toting Georgians who think the world is 4000 years old, vaccinations are bad, and that the good old days of glory in the civil war south will rise again!

Bad for the state, bad for the country, and an embarrassment to the once great state of Georgia, for sure!

honested
honested

What positive accomplishment for Civilization has any candidate or group self-identified with the absurd acronym 'tea party' is available for discussion?


The answer is NONE.


The mere existence of a group with the ridiculous contention that the United States is 'taxed enough already' fails all scrutiny.


Time and Civilization move forward, improve, dare I say 'progress'.


Few among us really wish to return to an imaginary past hiding in log cabins with our guns propped by the door.



hamiltonAZ
hamiltonAZ

The above picture sort of reminescent of Gov.O'Daniel's "Braintrust" in the movie "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?"

BuzzG
BuzzG

''House GOP primaries that pit “liberty” adherents against fellow Republicans who prefer a more pragmatic brand of conservatism.'"

Sorry, Mr. Galloway.  You are showing your own liberalism. 

What you call "pragmatic brand of conservatism", is nothing more than liberalism.  40 years of the uber-liberal AJC has turned your brain into mush.

The Tea Party has it right.  We need to get rid of these liberals disguised as conservatives.  Let's vote them out come May 20.

MichaelMealling
MichaelMealling

IMHO, the most important outcome from defeating Ralston is dismantling the Good Old Boy network that runs Georgia for the benefit of a few. Its Ralston's ilk that protect outdated auto dealerships from Tesla, crappy taxi services from Uber, and create transportation abominations like TSPLOST. We switched our government from Democrat to Republican but I swear it looks like Tom Murphy is still alive and running things.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I have long thought, and stated, that the hill country of north Georgia needs to be broken through by more progressive views.  If ever there was a "closed society," that is where it is in Georgia.


Those who hold to views that are anti-government believe that they hold the mainstream view because they rarely hear a counter argument from any source.  People there are afraid to speak out with different viewpoints, or they have become so indoctrinated by the thinking of their families and friends, that they will not vote for a Democrat even when their own livelihoods are at stake.


Recently, I visited at a state park in the north Georgia mountains.  The state funds to that resort have been so  stringently cut back that my trout (which I had to order a la carte) was spoiled. I sent it back and simply had a salad.  Biscuits were so stale and hard that you could not cut through them.  Waitresses, maids, and receptionists told me that since that state park has been privatized, as state workers, they no longer get benefits, only straight salary.  I told them all to vote Democratic if they wanted to receive benefits, again, as state workers.  They were cautious about saying they would support a Democrat.  I said to them, individually, that I know that this area of Georgia is Republican (conservative) country, but for your own financial security you should go into the ballot box and quietly pull the Democratic lever.  Another visitor said to me, even though his opinion was not solicited, "You've got that right.  This is Republican country."


The north Georgia hill country remains a closed society which MUST open itself to the 21st century.

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

By the way, Ralston's comment today was that in Ellijay, they cherish their religion and their guns.

i guess that whole 'turn the other cheek' thing is so first century....another part of the Bible that Tea Party Republicans just don't bother with.

(But those six Bible verses about the gays - oh boy, we have to pay attention to those...)

td1234
td1234

Well if there are any Democrats left in Fannin and Gilmer county you should vote in this primary primary on May 20th since there is no General election candidate in this race. Vote out Ralston and vote for Barge in the governor's race. 



The_Centrist
The_Centrist

Fun to watch Democrats here who aren't even in the district to vote making their standard opinions that mean nothing.

Jke
Jke

Some of y'all didn't read this closely, or read it through your rose colored glasses, tried to hard to force their world view in a square hole, and found themselves in a non sequitur. Or they just don't know as much as they think they do about history, culture or a whole lot of things.

Ms Dooley is from Gwinnett. Mr Boyd is from Madison GA. Ralston is from Ellijay and nothing is said about Snider's birthplace. Nothing is said about the folks from there disliking the government, or the benefits from government and tourism, to make a poor place in Appalachia just a little bit nicer. Rather the opposite is stated, e.g., agriculture. In fact I'm sure those yokel hillbillies are real nice to you metro-ATL Yankee transplants when y'all drive up there for apples in fall, or to rent a cabin in the summer. The article also stated there are Ralston signs on every corner.

Sounds like it's strictly outsiders funding and rabble rousing, who found some local puppet to do their bidding. Appalachians can give you nearly 150 years worth of examples of outsiders causing trouble. Snider will lose, Dooley and Boyd will move on and you progressives, liberals, Democrats, or whatever cute little handles you blog by, will still be just like the tea party you despise--ignorant, narrow-minded and self-righteous.

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

@honested  

In long enough spans of time, yes...we do progress.

There are other times, medieval and dark times, where the progress is reversed and we take a couple of steps back.  Bringing humanity back in time has been the stated purpose of many groups: the Tea Party is a prime example, so is the Taliban, the Spanish Inquisition was one, and there are many other predominantly hyper-capitalist interests that wish to do so.

What is unusual about the Tea Party, and you point this out, the time they want to bring us back to never really existed.  The corny towns of 50s and 60s mainstream television were never real.  And I for one can not fathom how anyone can refer to rural America in the 1950s and before are the good ole days.  They were horrible.

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

@BuzzG  

Also, this is the point where I tell you study. I can't help it. 20years as a college professor has made me rather intolerant of ignorance...or at least that ignorance that can be overcome with a little self-discipline and education.

You very clearly do not understand what you are talking about when you throw words like "liberalism" or "conservatism" around.  You are very good at parroting fox news commentary and talk radio, but that is all just poison...not knowledge.

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

@BuzzG  

Those non-tea party republicans are not liberal by any measure. They may seem relatively less-conservative, but they are not progressive.

The tea party has been wrong on every front.  It is really hard to even say they have a platform...because they don't. The tea-party is a group of extremists riding on the coattails of the GOP. Start your own party and stop free-loading off of the GOP if you disagree.

For the start the tea-party has had a negative-agenda. They don't really stand for anything. They stand in opposition to things...like science, the US Constitution, the American people, paying for services rendered, minorities of every kind, women, reason, etc.

 

Charles50
Charles50

@BuzzG  What's scary about your remarks is you probably really believe them.  With these tea party folks there is no negotiating, no reasoning or compromising.  It's the our way or the highway attitude that is causing the Rep. party to implode.  

JohnBoy10
JohnBoy10

@BuzzG

That's right...keep killing your own and put up the least electable, most crazy of the bunch in the general election! Then, maybe then, sanity will be restored as none of your boys can possible be electable...

honested
honested

@BuzzG  

What has that brand of ludditeism accomplished?

Charles50
Charles50

@MichaelMealling  I agree with you 100%.  the past few years have proven that it doesn't matter which party in in charge.  Either one will dominate and ignore the other.  However I believe that the Dems were more willing to work across the aisle than the Repubs have been.  Seems like their attitude is we have over 100 years of control to undo.  And, since we're in charge now, better make the most of it.  That means taking care of me and my friends.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaryElizabethSings  I have been here 40- years and there is little change. Unfortunately, many of the "new people" coming here are running away from "those people" and share the prevailing views.

DS
DS

@MaryElizabethSings  I've met plenty of people in rural Georgia who are very sharp, and I think they respond better to new ideas when they are presented with respect and decorum. And one has to begin the conversation by understanding and appreciating their current views and why they hold them. Then one can introduce new ideas and have a nice conversation.

But remember, they don't have to do anything. If you want to win someone over to a new way of thinking, you have to earn their trust and respect, while showing them respect in return.

td1234
td1234

@MaryElizabethSings  What is so wrong with less taxes, less spending and more self sufficient reliance? Why should the government take care of a person?  

td1234
td1234

@The-Centrist  Snider is the Tea Party candidate. Ralston is an establishment attorney Republican. 

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@td1234  In 2010 Roy Barnes drew 12% in Dawson County, 21% in Fannin County, and 19% in Gilmer County. There are a few Democrats left.

DannyX
DannyX

@The_Centrist, you have got to be kidding!!!!  You give your "standard opinion" on on things outside of your voting district numerous times every single day around here.  Atlanta and DeKalb school boards, and city of Atlanta politics for example.


This is a new whine for.  You get weirder everyday! 

TBS
TBS

@The_Centrist  

And you have never commented on someone in a district where you don't live?

Try not to lie for the first time in your life when you answer.

bwhahahhahaha

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Jke

 ...or whatever cute little handles you blog by...

Talk about self-righteous.

First day living in that glass house and throwing stones?

Just askin'.

NWGAL
NWGAL

Outside money is a problem across the board. And with the new Supreme Court ruling, expect it to get much worse. Messing with politics seems to be the hobby of the very rich. But you presume all liberals are from Atlanta and you are wrong.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady


Wascatlady, I have lived in the South for 71 years except for the 7 years I spent in NYC when I was in my 20s.  Much has changed in the South from the Jim Crow era of the 1940s and 1950s (and before that) when I was a child and an adolescent.  You may want to see the movie, "The Help," which depicts the Jim Crow era of those years very well. We must, however, evolve more, as a nation and as a region, toward practicing egalitarianism.


No doubt many of the "new people" coming to the South, of which you write, are "sharing prevailing views" of the present Southerners.  Most people of any region on Earth do not, daily, consider history as an operative part of their present lives, with a transcendent view.  Most people blend in with others and they will blend with others especially to insure their own economic survival in given regions.  However, I have never been content to blend with most people, wherever I have lived. I desire to live my life with a keen sense of history and speak truth, as I see it and have experienced, for the benefit of those who will, at least, value and attempt to be transcendent in their own consciousness.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@DS @MaryElizabethSings


I do not disrespect the people of north Georgia or any other rural area of Georgia.  Both of my parents grew up in small Southern towns in NC and SC.  I was raised in south Georgia where I graduated from high school.


However, I do believe in speaking or writing truth forthrightly, as did MLK.  Polite conservation that will not call truth, as it is, is of little value in changing social dynamics.  I know well this is true, because I grew up in the Jim Crow era and polite conversation never changed those inequitable social dynamics. Only speaking truth will do that. I criticized no one, individually, as each person is different. I criticized a region for not moving into the future.   MLK was seen as an "agitator" and was intensely disliked by many white Southerners of his day because he wanted to change the status quo of the nation to a more just one; thus, he wrote truth which offended many, as in his "Letters from a Birmingham Jail." MLK, as a result, did change the social landscape of the South and of the nation for the better for all races and all people.

BuckheadBoy
BuckheadBoy

@td1234 @MaryElizabethSingsWhy should the government take care of a person, you ask.

I assume that you refer only to a natural person, because with the Republicans doling-out more than $2 billion in corporate welfare here in the past four years, a true-believer Republican such as you cannot conceivably be including non-natural persons in your query.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@td1234


Your perceptions are off.  Government does not "take care of a person"; government pays workers for the services which they render to the general public. State workers deserve pensions and adequate health coverage, especially because their salaries are low.  


However, it appears that you are not focusing on the main point that I tried to make, i.e., that the people of the north Georgia hill country must move into the 21st century by not being afraid to voice opinions different from most of those in their locale. This self-imposed closed mindset was all too familiar to most Southerners during the Jim Crow years when even pastors would not speak out against segregation because most white Southerners would not do so.  Most of Georgia has moved on to embrace a newer South.  North Georgia should do the same, without fear. 

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

There's not a dimes worth of difference between the two, td1234.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady


I believe President Obama actually got about 46% of the vote in Georgia in the last two presidential elections.  Let's keep working for even more progressives in Georgia to change that percentage to a majority for Hillary in 2016 (and for Carter and Nunn in 2014). ;-)

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaryElizabethSings  I understood The Help.  I came home from the hospital at birth to a black woman who helped my mother for 4 years until she recovered from having me.  I saw the water fountains, and was in Tallahassee as a small child when the buses were boycotted.


The new people I was referring to are mostly refugees from Atlanta, with some Floridiots and S Ga residents also. They seem to share the "to heck with everybody else--I got mine and now you are stealing from me" ethos.


We have had a few progressives move in.  Obama got 25% of the vote here!

Charles50
Charles50

@tgentry97 @MaryElizabethSings  I hate it when people say dumb sh#t like this.  You act as though government workers don't pay taxes.  


Remember this, if  government employees purchase goods and services from wherever you work, they are paying YOUR salary.  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@BurroughstonBroch


Your words, above, speak for themselves, as do mine. I am content to let readers judge for themselves regarding the caliber of your thoughts and of mine. I stand by my opinions of your comments and of you, which I expressed earlier.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@MaryElizabethSings My comment contained no name calling or insults. Your original comment did not rise to the same standard.

You want to say anything negative that comes to mind while restricting what others of a contrary view may express. This is a direct parallel to the doublespeak term "academic freedom" in most universities today; that seeks to suppress those who do not agree with the ultraliberal dogma. If it seems hypocrisy, that's because it is.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@BurroughstonBroch


I must have struck a chord within you, for you to have to resort to name-calling and insults, for all to read.  When a person has to resort to those negative tactics as counter-arguments to another's point-of-view, then it is obvious that that person has been struck by truth, observed by another.  In all of the months in which I have read your comments, Burroughston Broch, I have never found you to be a gentleman in your comments or an egalitarian in your spirit.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@tgentry97


Imho, your perceptions are both radical and selfish.  Thomas Jefferson, 2 1/2 centuries ago, supported public education for the common good of all citizens through public taxes.  You, I, and every other American citizen live in communities - local, state, and national.  You do not exist on an island by yourself.  It is right that you pay for your fair share of services provided for the "public good" which you yourself receive, whether you are aware of those services, or not.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@BurroughstonBroch

I suggest that, in the future, you order your trout from a proper Atlanta restaurant that employs only Democratic food service workers and pays them more than $15 an hour.

Talk about "condescending".

First day living in that glass house and throwing stones?

Just askin'.

tgentry97
tgentry97

@MaryElizabethSings  How does "Government Pay Workers"???  With tax money stolen from me and the rest of the citizens of Georgia, that's how!!  Do not support legalized theft!

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@MaryElizabethSings  Hailing from North Georgia, I can assure you that your condescending attitude was appreciated with snickers and laughs outside your presence. You are a caricature of every joke about Atlanta people.

I suggest that, in the future, you order your trout from a proper Atlanta restaurant that employs only Democratic food service workers and pays them more than $15 an hour.