ATLANTA — State Rep. Shaw Blackmon may have jumped in the middle of a growing power struggle between Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.
Blackmon, a Bonaire Republican, chairs the House Government Affairs Committee. This week, the committee was discussing whether to push legislation that would eliminate the so-called "jungle primary."
The jungle primary would lump candidates running to fill Johnny Isakson's set into a single primary race -- whether they're.Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and anyone else.
Isakson left office Dec. 31 for health reasons, with two years left in his six-year term. Under current law, the governor appoints a replacement until the next general elections, which is Nov. 3.
Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy Atlanta Republican to the position., even though President Donald Trump made it clear he preferred U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
Collins holds Georgia’s 9th District congressional seat. He has been a staunch Trump supporter during the ongoing impeachment proceedings against the president. Collins made it known last year that he wanted Kemp to appoint him to the Senate seat. He also hinted that he might run for the job in November if he didn’t get the appointment.
A few years ago, Collins served in the Georgia House of Representatives when Ralston made his first attempt at becoming speaker. Collins supported Ralston then and later was a key component of the Ralston for speaker movement when Ralston won the position.
In addition to being a military veteran and politician, Collins is a minister. Earlier this week, Collins served as the guest minster for the Georgia House, where he delivered the morning spiritual comments and prayer. Collins also made it known that he’s a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat, and he got Ralston’s endorsement.
Before the Loeffler appointment, Ralston was disgruntled with Kemp’s budget reduction proposals, which the governor insists must be made to keep Georgia financially solvent. Kemp isn’t pleased with Ralston’s senatorial endorsement. Adding the elimination of the jungle primary to the discord and an old-fashioned political slugfest appears certain under the Gold Dome.
With the jungle primary in place, Loeffler and all the other candidates would meet in a November special election for the right to serve the remainder of the Isakson term. If a candidate didn’t receive more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff would be held Jan. 5, 2021.
That brings the situation back to Blackmon and his Government Affairs Committee. The committee was discussing eliminating the jungle primary and having party primaries on May 19.
That way Democratic, Republican and Libertarian voters would choose their own representatives instead getting tossed into a single field The party representatives would meet in the Nov. 3 general election.
During discussions, Blackmon threw his unwavering support behind party primaries.
“If you trust the primary process and if you trust the voters and want to give them the max opportunity to weigh in as members of parties that are integral part of our process, I would ask you to vote in favor of this bill,” Blackmon said.
After Blackmon’s comments, both Democrats and Republicans supported the measure. There was one dissenting vote. House Bill 757 now heads to the House Rules Committee for consideration. If approved there, it would go to the full House for consideration. Ralston is expected to support the measure.
If approved by the full House, it would go the Senate for consideration. If approved there it would go to the governor who would either sign the measure into law or veto it.
Kemp said he’ll veto it. Kemp and others believe that the jungle-primary format would help Loeffler and hurt Collins, compared to a party primary.
It would take two-thirds votes in the House and Senate to override a veto. We’ll see how this political slugfest shakes out.
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