Thursday, December 3, 2009

Embattled House Speaker Richardson losing support among Cobb delegation

MARIETTA - Support for Glenn Richardson to remain Speaker of the Georgia House is faltering among Cobb lawmakers.

State Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta) said it's time for the Republican leader to resign.

"For Glenn's best interest, I think he probably needs to step down and get some help," Manning said Wednesday.

Last month Richardson attempted suicide, attributing the act to his depression. Last week, his former wife, Susan Richardson, accused him of having an affair with a lobbyist, threatening her with physical violence and threatening to use the Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation to track her.

As chair of the Children and Youth Committee, Manning said she's worked closely on the subject of mental illness and suicide prevention.

Mental illness, Manning said, is caused by a chemical imbalance that prompts a person to have erratic behavior, make threats and have a negative self-perception.

"There are warning signs and unfortunately, I personally have seen that he has some of those symptoms, although I'm not a doctor," Manning said.

Manning said given the kind of pressure the job entails, it's "a recipe for disaster" for anyone with such an illness to serve as speaker.

"It's not good for anybody concerned inside or outside. More particularly, it's not good for Glenn," Manning said.

State Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna), a candidate for Georgia attorney general, also believes Richardson should step down. Teilhet said if Richardson is removed as speaker but the General Assembly does not address "the underlying culture of corruption that has allowed this to happen, we'll do the people of Georgia a grave disservice. It's time for meaningful and comprehensive ethics reform that will restore the public's trust in government, which is badly broken."

Manning said Richardson's done a good job as speaker and he shouldn't be blamed for resigning because of his depression, just as cancer survivors aren't blamed for having surgery.

"I really think his family needs to put their arms around him and get him some help. He's a sick man," Manning said.

Other Cobb lawmakers were less candid when asked whether Richardson should resign.

State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), responded: "In the wake of new facts that have come to light recently, I have faith that the speaker will do what is in the best interest of the institution of the House."

State Reps. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) and Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb), and State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) also wouldn't say whether Richardson should stay or go.

The Beacon, a North Fulton County newspaper, reported Wednesday that House Speaker Pro-Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) was poised to become speaker in the next few days.

Manning said Burkhalter has the brains and experience to make an excellent Speaker.

Georgia Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart of east Cobb predicted that whatever is decided will take place in the next week. Everhart said she wasn't ready to take a position on Richardson continuing to serve, saying she would let him and the House leadership make that decision.

However, she did question why Susan Richardson waited until now to reveal her allegations.

"I didn't see any reason for her to bring it out now. That was two years ago. That was the time if she had a story to tell," Everhart said.

Susan Richardson said in her interview with Fox 5 that she was being blamed by her ex-husband for his suicide attempt and she wasn't going to accept that blame.

But Everhart said for the sake of the children, divorces should be kept private. Everhart said no one in the state has worked harder to help her elect Republicans than Richardson has.

"No one can fault the leadership he's given Georgia," she said.

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