Barrow County State Representatives Terry England and Tommy Benton were just two out of 25 legislators who had the courage to stand up this week for a change in how Georgia is being led.
Both Rep. England and Rep. Benton voted in the Republican Caucus meeting Monday to oust Glenn Richardson as speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. The bid failed with only 25 legislators supporting the change.
Despite the defeat, the stand taken by England and Benton was the right thing to do. Speaker Richardson has become an embarrassment to the state’s political leadership with his autocratic style of governing and his pettiness in dealing with other state leaders. He does not deserve to hold one of the state’s most powerful positions.
It remains to be seen how Richardson will respond to the failed coup. It’s likely that England and Benton will be sent to a political “Siberia,” stripped from key committee positions and banished into a legislative wilderness. That is Richardson’s track record, to punish opponents who challenge his authority with harsh paybacks.
But doing that would be a mistake. By being petty and vengeful, Richardson would only reinforce his image as a second-rate leader with a Napoleonic-complex.
Tuesday morning, State Senator Ralph Hudgens, whose district includes Barrow and Jackson Counties, sent a strong message to Richardson at a Jackson County Chamber of Commerce meeting. Alluding to Benton’s vote on Monday against the speaker, Hudgens paused in his remarks to make what he called an “editorial” comment in which he challenged Richardson to “be a man” in his response to the uprising by not punishing his critics.
Translation for Richardson: Be big enough to accept criticism without being vindictive.