A couple of weeks ago, Remy, our rumor mill, told us that we should expect a retirement announcement from House Appropriations Chair, Terry England. But it seemed too far fetched so we ignored it. And that, folks, is how scoops are lost, because Remy was right and we were wrong to ignore it.
So it came to pass on the morning of February 17th that Chairman England took the well of the House to announce that, after serving since 2005, he would not seek reelection. It is no understatement that many found the announcement shocking for many reasons, not the least of these being that Chairman England has been widely regarded as pillar of political strength and wisdom in the House. He is going to be missed by many, especially by Speaker David Ralston.
Terry England was part of the small group of upstarts who decided to stand on their principles and support David Ralston when the latter challenged then Speaker Glenn Richardson for the right to wield the gavel. Through the fight and subsequent punishment Richardson doled out onto Ralston and those who supported him, England and Ralston forged their brotherhood in fire. The unbreakable bond the two men shared would become evident to any who walked the halls of the gold dome.
A hallmark of Ralston’s tenure as Speaker is that those who stood with him during the Richardson years remained his closest friends and confidants. As the years have passed since the dark days of Richardson’s demise and Ralston’s ascension, the latter’s circle of confidants has shrunk. Jay Powell, Mickey Channell, and John Meadows have passed away. Tom Dickson was defeated several years ago. We hear that Richard Smith, the current Rules Chairman, has told several people he is not going to seek reelection this year. And now the news of Terry England. The circle, who once called themselves, “The Posse,” has all but disappeared.
After redistricting and the coming elections, the Republicans in The House will have roughly a 7 seat majority. And with organizations like the Georgia Freedom Caucus, which is made up of legislators who feel the same type of retribution from Ralston that caused Ralston to stand up to Richardson, It will be difficult for the Speaker to lead in the same style that he has and maintain any semblance of unity.
So for a lot of reasons, Terry England’s retirement is causing a lot of people to ask a lot of questions. Especially, “What’s next?” What’s next for the appropriations committee? Who will run to replace England? What will England do after he leaves the House (Run for Ag Commish, maybe)? But also, what effect will this have on Ralston’s desire to continue?
It seems like every year we hear rumors that Ralston is looking to retire. Once we heard he was looking at become a judge in the North Georgia Mountains. Another time we heard that he may take an opening as a university president. My favorite was that he wanted to be appointed to the US Senate seat to replace Johnny Isakson without going through the application process laid out by Governor Kemp. And every time we hear one of these rumors they seem so far fetched that we ignore it. Just like we did with Terry England.