Politics, n: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.
Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary”
Back in 1945, the office of the Georgia Lieutenant Governor was created so there would be a president of the Georgia Senate and someone to assume the role of governor in the event Georgia’s top elected official should die.
So, let’s consider the following scenario.
Let’s say the winner of the 2018 election dies during the Christmas holidays before the election is certified and before taking the oath of office.
Let’s also say that Sarah Amico Riggs defeats Geoff Duncan to become the lieutenant governor-elect.
That means Amico becomes governor, right? Maybe not.
Until the election is certified and she takes the oath of office, Amico’s just the lieutenant governor-elect.
Casey Cagle would still be the lieutenant governor, so let’s say Cagle and his supporters claim he’s the governor and will fill the rest of dead governor-elect’s term which hasn’t even started yet.
So, Cagle and Amico show up in Atlanta and head for big office at the capitol.
When Cagle and Amico arrive, Nathan Deal is sitting behind the big desk in the big chair.
At first all three are cordial, but when Amico tells Cagle he needs to leave because she has a lot to do, he informs her that her office is the little one down the hall, the lieutenant governor’s office.
“Since the candidate died, I am now the governor,” Cagle says.
“Bull!” Amico says. “According to the law, the lieutenant governor takes over in the event of the governor’s death and I’m the lieutenant governor.”
“But I’m not dead,” Deal barks.
Cagle turns to Deal and asks: “Who is your lieutenant governor?”
“Well, I guess you are,” Deal says.
“But I just won the election,” Amico says. “I’m the lieutenant governor.”
“Of course, you are,” Cagle says. “At least you will be when I administer the oath of office, so run along until I call you.”
Deal then has both removed by security and vows to remain in office until the dispute is settled.
Fights break out in the Georgia legislature as Democrats and Republicans completely freak out over what to do.
President Trump appoints Kanye West governor of Georgia, but the Georgia Supreme Court blocks the appointment and convenes to settle the matter.
This scenario may sound ridiculous to you, but three-score and 12 years ago, Georgia did in fact wind up wtih three governors for a few days.
Before the ink dried on documents creating the new office of lieutenant governor in 1945, Georgia politics were plunged into chaos when governor-elect Eugene Talmadge died in December of 1946.
But since Talmadge, who had been governor from 1934 to 1942 before losing to Ellis Arnall, wasn’t yet the actual governor, classic political hijinks ensued.
Melvin Thompson was elected lieutenant governor in the 1946 election and claimed the governorship, but the new state constitution wasn’t clear about whether or not the lieutenant governor-elect could succeed the governor-elect if the governor-elect died before he actually took office.
After all, he wasn’t yet the governor and the lieutenant governor wasn’t yet the lieutenant governor either.
Wily supporters of Talmadge knew the man was in poor health and feared he might die before the election or before taking office in January.
Since they weren’t fond of Thompson, these folks found “dubious constitutional and statutory precedence” for allowing the state legislature to elect a new governor if the governor-elect died before taking office, according to the georgiaencylopedia.org . They reasoned that the legislature could choose between the second and third place candidates on the ballot and “chose to run Talmadge’s son Herman as a secret write-in candidate.”
Be advised these were all Democrats. The Republicans had no viable candidate for office in those days.
When the Georgia General Assembly convened, Talmadge supporters delayed certification of the election and convinced the legislators to elect Herman Talmadge as the new governor.
Thompson cried foul and threatened a court battle.
The sitting governor, Ellis Arnall, then refused to relinquish the office until the matter was settled.
Talmadge asked Arnall to honor the General Assembly’s wishes, but Arnall refused.
Finally, Talmadge ordered the state patrol to remove Arnall and take him home. He then had the locks changed.
No kidding. He actually had the locks changed.
Meanwhile, Arnall set up a governor’s office in exile, kind of like what Chiang Kai-shek did in Taiwan.
Fights broke out between supporters of Talmadge, Thompson and Arnall.
Eventually, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Thompson was the governor, but who’s to say Cagle’s claim wouldn’t have merit in the scenario I presented?
Lawyers have won cases with far less than that.
Herman Taldmadge emerged as the big winner. He won a special election for governor in 1948 remained in office until 1954. In 1956 he was elected to the U.S. Senate and stayed there for 24 years.
But that was then, and this is now.
Politicians don’t behave that way anymore.
Or do they?
Selah, knuckleheads. Run along and vote now.
Or watch these two videos instead. The Popeye for President video is a classic.