DOT board members overcome political heat, win re-election

ATLANTA - Georgia lawmakers re-elected two members of the State Transportation Board on Friday, handing a stinging defeat to House Speaker Glenn Richardson in a political struggle with Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Members of the House and Senate from the 9th Congressional District chose board Chairman Mike Evans of Cumming to serve another five-year term, while lawmakers from the 12th District returned Raybon Anderson of Statesboro to his post.

Both men voted last fall to hire Gena Abraham as Georgia's commissioner of transportation instead of Rep. Vance Smith.

Abraham was Perdue's choice for the job, while Richardson, R-Hiram, favored Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain.

While the speaker has praised the job the reform-minded Abraham has done since taking office in December, he has publicly criticized board members - particularly Evans - for slipshod management at the Department of Transportation on their watches and pressured House members to oust them.

"It's been a tough two months and probably a tough two days for a lot of folks," Evans told the 23 legislators who voted in the 9th District race after the balloting was done. "Thanks to each and every one of you for what you've been through."

Evans narrowly defeated former Rep. Stacey Reece of Gainesville in the 9th District balloting, 13-10.

A short time later, Anderson was re-elected in a three-way race with two former lawmakers, Floyd Griffin and Ben Allen. After Griffin fell out on the first ballot by finishing third, Anderson defeated Allen 15-12.

Before each of the two votes, lawmakers voted to make their ballots secret and to destroy them after they were counted.

Three other DOT board members also were chosen Friday. Lawmakers from the 5th and 13th congressional districts unanimously re-elected board members Emory McClinton of Atlanta and Dana Lemon of McDonough.

And in the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Johnny Floyd, R-Cordele, was the unanimous choice to succeed the retiring Billy Langdale of Valdosta.

But those elections lacked either the drama or controversy of the votes in the 9th and 12th districts.

McClinton and Lemon voted for Richardson's candidate for commissioner and, thus, didn't draw any opposition Friday.

But with the elections over, both the winning board members and their opponents committed to burying the hatchet.

Rep. James Mills, R-Gainesville, urged Evans not to be vindictive in carrying out his responsibilities to look out for the transportation needs of the entire 9th District.

"I hope this is water over the dam," Mills said.

"We're all part of the same team," Evans answered, as he went over and shook hands with Mills.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Anderson added. "It's good to get this behind us."