Georgia Rep. Nathan Deal Moves to GOP

<i> from Times Wire Services</i>

Rep. Nathan Deal, a conservative Democrat who often voted with the Republicans, switched to the GOP on Monday, three months after pledging to resign if he changed parties in midterm.

Deal becomes the third Democrat in Congress to switch since the Republicans seized control of both chambers in the Nov. 8 election.

The others were Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado.


“During the last 100 days, I have observed my party at the national level simply not be willing to admit that they are out of touch with mainstream America,” said Deal, a former state senator elected to a second House term in November. He is from Lula, Ga.

“I think it is important that at some point you get away from the schizophrenia that I have had to deal with.”

Deal, 52, represents a northern Georgia district that is 95% white and heavily Republican. It also abuts the district of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, architect of the Republican takeover.

“There’s no question we strongly endorse him and are delighted . . . to encourage him to represent his views in a party that actually agrees with him instead of trying to spend his whole lifetime arguing with left-wingers who don’t have a clue,” Gingrich said at a luncheon in Atlanta on Monday.

The switch comes three months after Deal told WSB radio, “If I choose to switch during the term, I think the honest thing to do is to resign and have a special election.”

Deal did not return a call seeking comment on that statement.

Deal’s move increases the Republicans’ House majority to 231-203, with one independent.

The switch leaves Georgia with three Democrats and eight Republicans in the House.

A year ago, there were seven Democrats and four Republicans representing the state.

“I hope this is the last of the Newtniks in the party. Without them, we can be strong, lean, committed and dedicated and most importantly, we will be able to count on each other in a way that we couldn’t with them around,” said Rep. Cynthia McKinney, one of Georgia’s three Democratic representatives.

Other Georgia Democrats were more sympathetic.

Gov. Zell Miller, who has embraced a more conservative agenda in the last few years, said: “Nathan Deal is a very good congressman and a very good friend, and will continue to be so regardless of his party affiliation.”

Texas Rep. Martin Frost, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, promised to field a tough candidate against Deal next year.

Gingrich used the news to invite Sen. Sam Nunn, an old-line Georgia Democrat, to join the GOP as well.

A spokeswoman for Nunn, the former head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in Washington that the senator had no immediate comment on Gingrich’s remarks.