Georgia House parties elect leaders

ATLANTA —The Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives met separately Monday with their newly elected colleagues. The Republicans kept their leadership team in place, but the Democrats replaced their caucus chairman.

When the General Assembly convenes in January, Republicans will hold more seats than at any time since the Civil War and are just one shy of commanding a two-thirds majority, which would allow them to pass constitutional amendments and override vetoes without a Democratic vote.

Observers were watching as the meeting began to see whether they would pick up that last vote with the House’s only independent, Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville, who has said he’s considering joining the party after Democrats tried to get him defeated last week. He didn’t appear, though, and he’s still making up his mind.

The GOP voted to keep its leaders, although Rep. Delvis Dutton, of Glennville, tried to unseat Caucus Chairwoman Donna Shelton, of Dacula. He said he wanted more vigorous policy debates during the closed-door caucus meetings the party holds during the session.

“People are concerned with what we’re going to face in January,” he said.

Shelton said she believes debate is healthy out of the public eye “in the right location. That is amongst family.”

Democrats met at the same time in the smaller Senate chamber. They did replace their caucus chairman, Rep. Brian Thomas of Lilburn, with Rep. Virgil Fludd, of Tyrone.

Fludd said there was no philosophical disagreement but that he believed his business experience would better equip him to improve the functioning of the party organization. Thomas is a geologist.

“This caucus is headed in the right direction. We just need to tinker to get there faster,” Fludd said.

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