ATLANTA -- An independent lawmaker in the Georgia House of Representatives said Wednesday that he is considering becoming a Republican, a decision that could give the GOP a supermajority in the General Assembly.
Rep. E. Culver "Rusty" Kidd of Milledgeville told The Associated Press he will request meetings with senior Republicans and is considering joining the party. His decision matters because Republicans ended Tuesday's election one seat shy of a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives. If Kidd changes parties, the GOP would secure the majority they need to overturn gubernatorial vetoes or send proposed constitutional amendments to voters without support from Democrats.
The Republicans effectively won a supermajority in the state Senate on Tuesday night. One of the elections was a special primary for a vacant seat that arose when former Sen. William Hamrick stepped down to become a judge. In that race, the Republican candidates who finished in first and second place in Tuesday's primary will compete in a Dec. 4 primary runoff. The eventual Republican nominee is heavily favored to beat a Libertarian candidate in the Jan. 8 special election.
Kidd said in an interview that he saw little difference between centrists in both parties.
"We all have the same philosophy," he said. "We've got our weirdos on the left, our weirdos on the right, but the mainstream thinks alike."
Kidd appeared irritated that state Democrats assisted challengers running against him.
"I don't owe the Democratic Party a damn thing," he said.
Winning a two-thirds majority, often called a supermajority, in the House and Senate would prove a Republican accomplishment. It was only a decade ago that Sonny Perdue became the first Republican to become governor since Reconstruction following the Civil War. Republican control of the state Senate came that same year, followed by the House of Representatives two years later.
Rep. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic majority leader, said her party did help candidates running against Kidd because the party viewed his district as an opportunity to pick up another seat.
"If he decides to change his allegiance to the GOP, that sends a significantly different signal to the constituents who elected him as an independent," Abrams said.
If the Republicans ultimately get a supermajority, the extent to which they could use it remains unclear. GOP lawmakers have peeled away from their party when local interests or personal ideology trumped party politics. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has few quarrels with the GOP-dominated Legislature, meaning lawmakers rarely see vetoes from the governor. Deal said in an interview that he did not think a Republican-led supermajority would fundamentally change Statehouse politics.
"Simply saying that you have a supermajority who call themselves Republicans doesn't mean that they all agree with each other," Deal said. "And you see that regardless of whether it's the Democrats or the Republicans."