In an interview with The Georgia Star News on Friday, State Rep. David Clark (R-Buford), alleged that Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has no intention to follow through on a promise he made to President Trump in a phone call earlier this month.
Clark alleged that in that phone conversation, Ralston promised President Trump he would use his power and influence to convene a special session of the Georgia General Assembly, for the purpose of reviewing the qualifications of Electors in the aftermath of the November 3rd election, fraught with allegations of voter fraud.
Clark further alleged Speaker Ralston lied to the president, telling him that he would collect enough signatures to convene a special session.
“But Ralston lied to Trump. He is always playing games. That is who he is. If you had 15 minutes with him he’ll say whatever you want him to say,” Clark said.
“I guarantee if he said ‘Okay, 91 state representatives [please] step up it’s on the line’ then they would do it. We would be in session tomorrow morning.”
Speaker Ralston and President Trump apparently spoke in a 15 minute phone call on December 7th.
In a December 8th interview with Brian K. Pritchard on Fetch Your News TV, Speaker Ralston said that he spoke with the president the previous day.
“Obviously, he [Trump] would like a special session of the Georgia General Assembly. He was clear on that. I shared with him my belief that based on the understanding I have of Georgia law that that was going to very much be an uphill battle,” Ralston said.
But Ralston also said that he would “absolutely” have a special session if there was a Constitutional way to do it.
[Watch the full interview and read the full transcript here.]
In that interview, Ralston went on to say that there are two ways that members of the Georgia General Assembly could have a special session.
“One is if the governor issues a call. I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Ralston said, giving no indication that he would attempt to persuade Gov. Kemp to hold a special session.
“The other way is if three-fifths of each chamber, the Senate and the House, petition for a call. The problem with that is that we appear to be at least two votes short in the House. I’m not sure what the count is in the Senate,” Ralston told Pritchard.
Article 5, Section 3, Paragraph 7 of the Georgia Constitution states that a special session of the Georgia General Assembly may be called either by the Governor or by a three-fifths majority of the members of each state house.
Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, has refused to call a special session.
The Georgia State Senate has a total of 56 members, 35 of which are Republicans. The required three-fifths majority needed in the State Senate to join with the House Republicans to force the special session is 34.
The Georgia House of Representatives has a total of 180 members, 105 of which are Republicans. The required three-fifths majority in the House to force the special session is 108.
The Georgia Constitution states that “no laws shall be enacted at any such special session except those which relate to the purposes stated in the proclamation or in any amendment thereto.”
But more than two dozen state legislators believe that the Georgia Constitution requirement of the three-fifths majority of each house to call a special session is superseded by Article 2, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which they say authorizes the Georgia General Assembly to convene a special session solely for the purpose of reviewing the qualifications of Electors with a simple majority of 50 percent-plus-1.
That clause says the following:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The legislators who have prepared a petition argue that it authorizes each state to appoint Electors in such manner as the legislature — and not the governor — may direct. Essentially, legislators could appoint Electors in a self-convening special session called by 50 percent of the members in each chamber of the Georgia General Assembly plus one. That equals 91 State House members and 29 State Senate members.
The Chairman’s report of the Election Law Study Committee of the Standing Georgia State Senate Judiciary Committee Summary of Testimony from its December 3, 2020 hearing concluded:
For Rectifying the 2020 General Election Results The Legislature should carefully consider its obligations under the U.S. Constitution. If a majority of the General Assembly concurs with the findings of this report, the certification of the Election should be rescinded and the General Assembly should act to determine the proper Electors to be certified to the Electoral College in the 2020 presidential race. Since time is of the essence, the Chairman and Senators who concur with this report recommend that the leadership of the General Assembly and the Governor immediately convene to allow further consideration by the entire General Assembly.
Despite the vigorous support of many state lawmakers, this petition for a special session remains far short of the number needed – in either interpretation of what that number is – to convene a special session.
“We could not get but 30 house members and about a dozen senators to sign [a petition for the session],” State Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) told The Star News.
Jones added that the November 2020 presidential election in Georgia was not a secure one.
Clark said resolving this problem through a special session depends on Ralston.
“If you put the pressure on the Speaker then he will call a special session,” Clark said.
“He has the power.”
When asked what Georgians who want a special session of the Georgia General Assembly should do, Clark said to contact Speaker Ralston.
“I would put out every bit of pressure. Call the Speaker and demand that he call for a special session himself. Call his office. Kemp has shown he will not budge, but I think if Ralston comes on board that would be the avenue for him,” Clark said.
“Also, his district is in Blue Ridge. It’s very conservative. That is where you need to put the heat. If anyone would budge then the Speaker would. He is in a very red district.”
Clark blamed Speaker Ralston’s lack of support of this petition as the reason it has not yet secured a sufficient number of signatures to call a special session.
Jones said that Ralston is the most powerful politician in Georgia, even more so than Kemp, and can influence how House members vote.
“Ralston will talk to President Trump and then he’ll get off the phone and tell members not to sign it [a petition calling for a special session] and then it never comes out,” Clark told The Star News; adding, “There are only 30 of us to date who have taken a stand for Trump and for a special session, and it just shows you who he [Ralston] is.”
Jones said, “The reality is that legislation does not move through the House of Representatives or the General Assembly that Ralston does not bless. And that includes the state’s budget. Even though the governor is charged with submitting a budget for which the House then evaluates and the Senate evaluates. If Speaker Ralston does not want the budget to move or wants items stricken from that budget, then he has the power to make that happen.”
“The legislation that we see move through the House is based upon Ralston’s personal legislative agenda. Not necessarily the legislative agenda of the elected members or of the people of Georgia. He can block anything he wants to, including the budget or any measures. He just kills them in committee.”
Jones went on to say that he “cannot rationally explain why Ralston [a Republican] will not respond to people of state and call a special session.”
“It makes no sense,” Jones said.
The Star News contacted Speaker Ralston and his top staff members on Friday to provide their side of the story, but they did not return our repeated requests for comment Friday or Saturday.
But three of Ralston’s political allies did contact The Star News on Saturday to defend Ralston.
State Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth) told The Star News both State Rep. Clark and State Rep. Jones “are just trying to stir crap like always and that is their M.O.”
“It is to always look like they are trying to do something when they weren’t doing anything,” Ridley said Saturday.
Clark recently ran for the speaker position against Ralston — and lost.
Jones, meanwhile, described Ralston as someone who “exercises his authority over the Republican members of the Georgia General Assembly with an iron fist.”
“Ralston does so threatening the loss of committee chairmanships and other perks. The bottom line is a lot of the Republican House members are more interested in the brass ring than they are in doing the right thing for the citizens of the state of Georgia,” Jones said.
“Ralston and Lieutenant Governor [Geoff] Duncan attempted to and successfully intimidated both senators and representatives and said that they shall not and should not participate in the effort that we undertook to call a special session under the plenary powers of the U.S. Constitution. They said you will lose your positions of power if you don’t acquiesce to my wishes.”
State Rep. Jones has served in the Georgia General Assembly for six years. His biography on the Georgia General Assembly’s website describes him as a small businessman with prior corporate experience.
State Rep. Clark, a businessman and combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, took office in January 2015, according to Ballotpedia.
Speaker Ralston, according to the Georgia General Assembly’s website, has served as speaker since 2010. Voters in Fannin, Gilmore, and Dawson counties elected him to the Georgia House for the first time in 2002.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background Photo “Georgia Capital” by andre m. CC BY-SA 3.0.