Senate Republicans headed for another knock-down leadership fight

For the third post-election cycle in a row, Republican members of the Georgia Senate are heading into a heated fight within their own caucus over who will be running the Senate.

The latest battle was previewed Monday with reports that Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) will run against Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) for pro tem, the second-highest officer in the Senate after the lieutenant governor.

Miller, a two-term senator from Hall County, currently is chairman of the Senate Republican caucus. He initially said in August that he would run for Senate majority leader, a job that became open when Sen. Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone), the current leader, decided not to run for another term.

Shortly after Miller announced he was running for majority leader, Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) disclosed she would challenge Shafer for the pro tem’s job and had been campaigning for votes within the caucus.

Sources close to the Senate, however, are now saying that Unterman may decide to drop out of the competition for pro tem, which would leave it a fight between Shafer and Miller.

Senate Republicans are scheduled to hold their party caucus next Monday to elect their leaders, and there could be several spirited contests before the dust settles.

These internal caucus battles have become a familiar sight among Senate Republicans.

When Republicans caucused shortly after the 2010 general election, a faction headed by President Pro Tem Tommie Williams and Majority Leader Chip Rogers staged a bloodless coup against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

The Williams-Rogers crew stripped Cagle of much of his authority as lieutenant governor, including the important power to appoint committee members and chairmen. That power instead was transferred to a “committee on assignments.”

Cagle and his supporters staged a counter-revolution after the 2012 general election, changing the rules to return to Cagle most of his powers to run the Senate. Cagle has remained in the driver’s seat ever since.

Miller, who holds the Senate seat that Cagle occupied before being elected lieutenant governor in 2006, was a staunch ally of Cagle during the two-year cold war between Cagle and the Williams-Rogers faction. Miller was a key player in the caucus maneuverings in 2012 that returned power to Cagle.

Retirements and election defeats have opened up slots up and down the leadership chain in the Senate.

In addition to Chance not running again, Majority Whip Cecil Staton (R-Macon) also quit the Senate and left that job open. Miller’s decision to run first for majority leader and now for president pro tem leaves his position as caucus chairman up for grabs.

Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, was defeated in his GOP primary, so his plum chairmanship is there to be awarded to another senator.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

Tags: Butch Miller , David Shafer , party caucus , president pro tem , Renee Unterman , Senate Republicans