Carrollton lawmaker on Nathan Deal: ‘And we’re going to be stuck with him for two more stinking years’

Rep. Kevin Cooke, R - Carrollton. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Rep. Kevin Cooke, R – Carrollton. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

In the last 48 hours, Gov. Nathan Deal has absorbed a great deal of right-flank criticism for his veto of a bill to permit concealed weaponry on public university campuses. But none of the barbs has been as sharp – or public – as that which left the mouth of Kevin Cooke, a Carrollton Republican, on Wednesday.

In an interview on WLBB (1330AM), Cooke began thusly:

“Given this governor’s ability to do the right or the wrong thing, he’s going to choose the latter every time.”

But that was the tame part. To continue:

“People want to know why Donald Trump is the nominee for president. Nathan Deal is the reason Donald Trump is the nominee for president. People are sick and tired of stinking politicians telling them what they’re going to do when they get in office, and then when they do that, they do the exact opposite.”

Cooke said Deal can’t claim to be a conservative Republican and “then get up there and veto a religious freedom bill that doesn’t discriminate whatsoever and protects people of faith in the state of Georgia.” Then the state lawmaker accused Deal of buckling to the “fourth branch of government — the Board of Regents” on the debate over legalizing firearms on public college campuses. More verbatim:

“So now the state of Georgia is either being led by these uber-corporations and-or the Board of Regents, which gets $2 billion a year from the Georgia General Assembly with no strings attached. That’s who is leading the state…

“What I want is the best for my state, long term. And all he’s doing systematically is tearing down anything good that we could have done. Heck, we’re building his legacy, trying to build it for him. And what’s he doing? He’s running the other way.

“If you want a liberal Republican, moderate Republican, whatever, a Democrat – if you believe something, say what you believe. Let’s have that open debate and dialogue. But don’t tell the people of Georgia, ‘I’m conservative Republican, this is what I do.’ And then you get in office and do something else.

“And we’re going to be stuck with him for two more stinking years.”

If you didn’t think Deal’s vetoes could jeopardize his second-term agenda, think again. Cooke, by the by, was first elected in 2010. He’s unopposed in this month’s GOP primary.

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House Speaker David Ralston took a markedly different approach in an interview with Bill Nigut’s “Political Rewind” show about the aftermath of the veto. He said he had no regrets about refusing Deal’s call for changes to the measure that would carve out new exceptions, but called for calm.

“I think that we will look for every opportunity to work with the governor and consider whatever measures he sends our way. It would be my hope that we can continue,” he said. “We’ve had a very, very positive and respectful working relationship and I’d hope that would continue. Much remains to be seen when the dust all settles from the veto period. We need to all catch our breath.”

Notably, Ralston made no mention of any attempt to reverse Deal’s veto when the Legislature reconvenes next year.

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Over at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Chuck Williams reminds us of the price tag that comes with crossing the governor – and the House speaker:

 Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal redirected $100,000 in state funding designated for a Global War on Terror memorial at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus earlier this week when he signed next year’s budget.

The governor’s actions come on the heels of nearly $8 million in Columbus State University construction funding being yanked out of the budget in the closing days of the most recent General Assembly session.

Republican state Rep. Richard Smith of Columbus said he has been told by the governor and the chief of staff for Speaker of the House David Ralston that the funding for Columbus’ projects is being withheld because of Republican Sen. Josh McKoon. The three-term Columbus state senator has been a leading and vocal proponent of ethics reform, “religious liberty” legislation and other matters that have put him at odds with leading Republicans.

McKoon says the museum ain’t in his district. The AJC’s James Salzer has a complete picture of the governor’s line-item vetoes here.

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We told you on Wednesday that Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, a member of the state Public Service Commission and Donald Trump’s top-ranking supporter in Georgia, was undergoing major back surgery. This morning, he’s up on his feet — with his favorite hat. That’s him on the right.

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Somehow, in this new era of Donald Trump, today’s Cinco de Mayo message from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Co-Chair Sharon Day seems a little forced:

“We celebrate Cinco de Mayo to honor the many ways Mexican-Americans have for generations enriched our country’s culture. With a commitment to faith, family, and the belief that hard work will help you achieve the American Dream, Mexican-Americans have strengthened our nation. And we express our deep gratitude to those who are proudly serving in our armed forces and defending our freedoms.”

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On a somewhat related topic: It’s behind a paywall, but according to the Daily Report, Norcross immigration attorney Bonnie Youn pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to illegally helping a client circumvent federal immigration laws. She says she feared a jury trial amid “the current anti-immigrant political climate in a presidential election year.” She was placed on probation.

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On his blog, Jamie Dupree of WSB Radio fame has this astute observation on changing GOP ground:

In every campaign for the White House that I have covered since 1988, social conservatives, more religious voters and evangelicals kept an intense focus for Republicans on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, religious liberty and more.

But those type of cultural issues played very little in Trump’s rise, a fascinating departure from the Republican politics of the last 35 years.

“He’s shown no capacity to understand the religious liberty issue,” complained Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who said Wednesday that he was not ready to jump on board with Trump, pointing at Trump’s attacks on Cruz.

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Elsewhere, we told you that many of the top Republicans in Georgia — Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Attorney General Sam Olens, House Speaker David Ralston, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp — are all lining up on the Donald Trump bandwagon with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The point is to avoid a split in the party — or to at least keep the crack as small as possible.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, national Democratic chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz explains why that’s possible:

The prospect of a Trump nomination, according to Wasserman Schultz, means Democrats enter a brave new world. The familiar red-blue split of the electoral map could change significantly, she suggested.

“If you look at Georgia, for example, Obama got 45% of the vote,” she said. “The demographics have changed in Georgia, and minority populations — both African-American and Hispanic — are growing there.”

 


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