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Linder pays respect to former Georgia house speaker

John Linder was a thorn in Tom Murphy's side while the congressman was serving in the Georgia General Assembly.

But Linder had respect for the long-serving House speaker and wanted to show it as Murphy's body lay in state at the Capitol funeral Friday.

"I respected him and admired him an awful lot," Linder said of Murphy, who died last week at age 83.

"He was a giant in Georgia politics."

As one of the few Republicans to serve under the Gold Dome in the '70s, Linder often worked against Murphy, a staunch Democrat who served as speaker from 1973 to 2002.

"Some of the stories of our battles are legendary," Linder said with a laugh, recounting a 1977 bill of Murphy's that would have given legislators an automatic raise every year. Linder got enough support from Democrats to defeat the bill twice in one day.

"He took it in stride, but his driver never spoke to me again," Linder remembered. "He had a big heart."

Politics and taxes

Gwinnett's senior congressman wants to make one thing clear: He is not a flip-flopper.

While he isn't running for the White House, Linder had been accused of turning on his choice for the office after a recent endorsement of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

In the past, Linder was in the corner of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but Linder said he wasn't just switching to the new en vogue GOP candidate.

In fact, the Duluth congressman said he quietly withdrew his support for Romney more than six months ago, when Romney made it clear he does not support fundamental tax reform.

"I pick people I agree with," Linder said. "We were never going to pass the FairTax until we got it on the front burner. A presidential campaign is going to be the best way to do that."

Linder said he met Romney two years ago when the governor asked him to sign his FairTax Book, the best-seller in which Linder outlines his proposal to do away with the federal income tax and create a national sales tax.

For months after Romney said he simply wanted to lower the tax burden on the middle class instead of changing the entire system, Linder waited to see if anyone would take up his cause.

In the House of Representatives, Linder had found support in colleagues-turned-campaigners Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul, and Huckabee began to campaign on the idea, too.

Paul, Linder said, "wasn't in the picture," of a possible endorsement because of his war stance, but when Huckabee began to gain momentum, Linder said he believed he found his candidate.

"I've never seen anyone come to the head of the pack with so little money," he said of Huckabee. Linder said he will make a campaign contribution and will attend rallies in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, areas where he believes he can help the Huckabee campaign.