Georgia's Top Lawmakers
Gov. Sonny Perdue: Though a lame duck (in his second term), he still sets the agenda and the spending priorities. He's a careful decision-maker who files his budget proposals and bills but generally does not get heavily involved in the legislative process until the end of the session. Last year he was criticized for being particularly absent, so expect him to be more involved in 2008. He's not afraid to use the power of the governor's office. Even though he can't run for re-election, he has been raising a lot of campaign money, leading some to speculate he'll try to play a major role in the 2008 and 2010 legislative elections.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle: The president of the Senate and the first Republican to run the chamber. A deliberate conservative who tends to think things through before speaking or acting. Has a good relationship with the media and is considered a likely candidate for governor in 2010 if U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson doesn't run. As a longtime Gainesville senator, he was pro-development and pro-business, but not strictly a "yes man" for Perdue.
Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah): The No. 2 leader of the Senate, he is one of the shrewdest and most powerful players at the Capitol. He's among the most quoted officials at the Statehouse because of his ability to turn a smart phrase. An architect by profession, he has spent years building the state GOP. First elected to the Senate in 1994, Johnson has been a strong Perdue supporter.
Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons): A savvy politician who chaired the Senate Transportation Committee before becoming majority leader in 2006, Williams is charged with holding the Senate GOP caucus together. This South Georgia pine straw millionaire speaks Hebrew, Italian and Spanish, has served as a missionary in China, Israel and Belize, and is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Vidalia. Digs into issues he's interested in, and his interests are varied.
Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth): A former state Republican Party head who ran GOP political campaigns in the 1990s, Shafer is a relatively new power player, thanks in part to the election of Cagle in 2006. Was an early backer of Cagle over GOP strategist Ralph Reed and, like the lieutenant governor, opposed Perdue on the tax increase in 2003. Prefers to work behind the scenes and generally avoids the spotlight, although he has been out front in efforts to reform Grady Hospital.
Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown (D-Macon): First elected in 1991, Brown has emerged as a sharp critic of the GOP since becoming the Senate's leading Democrat two years ago. Previously had built a reputation as a moderate. Brown was a senior campaign adviser to U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, a conservative Democrat who won re-election in 2004 with the help of an endorsement by Zell Miller.
House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram): Runs the House with an iron fist the way Democratic Speaker Tom Murphy once did. Has shown a passion for big issues, from tax reform to transportation. Led a revolt against Perdue during the 2007 session that led to the House overriding the governor's veto of a $142 million tax cut. Has feuded with the governor during the interim while pushing his plan to eliminate property taxes. He doesn't hide his emotions: When he's upset with a House member, or the media, they know it. However, he was open in 2007 about his proposals, and received recognition for promoting bold ideas.
House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Alpharetta): Second-in-command in the House, he is on good terms with Richardson even though the two competed for the speaker's job in 2004. Burkhalter is a champion of metro Atlanta companies and pushed legislation to help ailing Delta Air Lines. Like Johnson in the Senate, he does a good job conveying the party's position to the media. Has promoted eliminating property taxes on cars, a proposal now included in Richardson's plan.
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island): Former leader of the Georgia Christian Coalition, Keen has long been rumored to be contemplating a run for higher office. He has championed eliminating "onerous taxes," including property taxes and the state income tax, and pushed crackdowns on the most serious sex offenders. Advocates for fiscally conservative and socially conservative policies equally well, making him a good pick to express the leadership's views. If Isakson doesn't run for governor in 2010, Keen might.
Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs): One of Richardson's closest allies, Ehrhart runs the powerful House Rules Committee, which decides what legislation gets debated. He is a no-nonsense chairman who doesn't encourage a lot of debate. He also is a single father of two who chaired a commission that is developing guidelines setting child support payments. Like Richardson, Ehrhart can be volatile. But he also is a master at providing sound-bite-like context on big issues and explaining the chamber's stance.
House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin): An attorney and newspaper editor who came into the Legislature challenging the old-guard Democrats. Over time, he became part of the House leadership. Took on the role as lead critic of the new GOP leadership in the House in 2005. An articulate spokesman for the party, he is one of the few rural white men in a House Democratic caucus in which black, urban legislators now dominate. Might be the Democrats' top candidate for governor in 2010.