Tuesday, December 8, 2009

House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s resignation could spell peril for state GOP

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 4:01 PM

click to enlarge FALLEN IDOL: House Speaker Glenn Richardson is scheduled to step down and retire from politics Dec. 31.
  • FALLEN IDOL: House Speaker Glenn Richardson is scheduled to step down and retire from politics Dec. 31.

Within a few days after this article goes to print, state House Republicans will have either tidily resolved a temporary political crisis by anointing a new speaker of the House – or be embroiled in a fractious and embarrassing power struggle that could cripple the state GOP for years to come.

The present situation began, of course, in mid-November, when Speaker Glenn Richardson told House Republicans in a conference call that he'd tried to kill himself a few days earlier, in part because he was distraught over his divorce last year. Over the next couple of weeks, concerns over Richardson's mental state subsided and even House Democrats were expressing sympathy and support for the speaker.

Then came the interview. Talking to WAGA-TV/Channel 5 reporter Dale Russell in a long piece that aired Nov. 30, Richardson's ex-wife, Susan, said she was finally speaking out in an effort to set the record straight and get her former husband to leave her alone. She portrayed him as something of a possessive stalker bent on bullying and "guilting" her into reconciling with him. For instance, she said, Richardson had sent her 49 text messages while she was out of town with another man, accusing her of abandoning their children and threatening to use the Georgia State Patrol to find her. She even doubted the suicide attempt was anything more than his attempt at emotional manipulation.

And, oh yes, she said, her ex's much-rumored affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist had most certainly been real and that he had threatened to punish AGL if the lobbyist was fired – and Susan Richardson had an armload of e-mails and documents to prove it.

For his fellow Republicans, the problem with keeping Richardson on as speaker post-interview wasn't that he had a mistress. Objecting to that faux pas would, in many cases, be sheer hypocrisy. No, the problem was that the speaker's alleged (legally speaking, that is) mistress worked for a major utility that would've benefited from legislation that he co-sponsored. That accusation, brought forth in a hastily dismissed ethics complaint in early 2007, gets into the territory of conflict of interest and corruption.

So the speaker had to go.

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(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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