Political Insider

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Stacey Evans: Casey Cagle couldn’t find a woman lawmaker for a sexual harassment panel?

Democrat Stacey Evans was the first candidate for governor to exceed room temperature this frigid Saturday, blistering Republican rival Casey Cagle for failing to appoint a woman to a select state House-Senate committee on sexual harassment.

Said Evans, one of women vying for the Democratic nomination, via press release:

“Sexual harassment is a problem. It has been a problem for women for a long time. It’s apparently just recently become a problem for the men who harass, too. It is disappointing that Casey Cagle chose to circle the wagons, rather than have an inclusive conversation that could actually fix the problem and make a better and more fair Georgia for everyone.”

The six-member joint committee was populated by House Speaker David Ralston and Cagle, who presides over the Senate as lieutenant governor. From Friday’s AJC article:

An outside attorney specializing in employment law will review and recommend potential improvements to sexual harassment policies, according to a statement Friday from Cagle and Ralston. That attorney, Tashwanda Pinchback Dixon of the Balch & Bingham law firm, will suggest potential changes to House and Senate rules that could be implemented through the bipartisan Legislative Services Committee.

Ralston appointed Speaker pro tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, the highest-ranking woman in the Legislature, to the committee, along with Reps. Terry England, R-Auburn, and Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville. Trammell is the House minority leader.

The state Senate has 56 members. Eleven are women, but only two are Republicans: Renee Unterman of Buford and newcomer Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta.

Cagle appointed state Sens. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville; Steve Henson, D-Tucker; and Bill Cowsert, R-Athens. Henson is the Senate minority leader.

The most interesting appointment among the male trio is Cowsert, who is currently the Senate majority leader, seeking to become Senate president pro tem next week.

Cowsert is also the brother-in-law of the man who, at this point, is Cagle’s chief rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination: Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

We have reached out to Cagle’s office for a comment. While we wait for an answer, here’s a guess: If sexual harassment becomes the volatile issue that it is in D.C., the lieutenant governor may have wanted to make sure that at least one competitor won’t be able to throw rocks without hitting a family member.

Updated at 6:15 p.m.: Scott Binkley, spokesman for the Cagle camp, says the make-up of the panel is determined by statute -- but which one we do not know. From Binkley:

“Casey Cagle has led to protect employees of the General Assembly and others who work at our Capitol from sexual harassment. Stacey Evans has sent out a news release to get attention for her underdog candidacy. We appreciate her giving us the chance the point out the difference in leadership.”

There is some symmetry to the House and Senate appointments. Jones and Cowsert might seem to be rough equivalents, though the House has a majority leader who is not a member of the panel. And both England and Hill are chairs of each chambers' appropriations committee.

We suspect Evans would argue that any statutory justification for the make-up of the panel would be her point.


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Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.