When Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's powers were stripped by Republican state senators in 2010 in what's been described as a "coup," Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, stuck by Cagle's side.
"He was probably one of the lieutenant governor's closest allies during that period," said Nathan Smith, chairman of the Walker County, Ga., Republican Party and a writer for the political blog PeachPundit.com.
Mullis campaigned against the creation of an eight-person committee that took away many of the lieutenant governor's powers -- including the ability to appoint committee members and committee chairmen.
Cagle, who is elected statewide to preside over the Senate, had his powers restored Monday by senators when they began their session. He essentially controls the powerful five-member committee on assignments. He sits on the committee and appoints two other committee members.
That assignments committee late Monday appointed Mullis as chairman of the powerful Rules Committee that decides which bills come up for vote.
Mullis could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Smith said Mullis' new post is good news for North Georgia.
"It's amazing to see somebody from Chickamauga -- a place most people can't even pronounce -- became probably the third-most powerful person in the Senate," Smith said. "The folks in our area should be thrilled to hear that."
It makes sense that Cagle would pick Mullis, according to University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.
"You want to have a person you trust, who you're close to, who you can rely on," Bullock said. "Certainly Mullis demonstrated his loyalty to Cagle at the time of the coup two years ago."
Smith expects that officials from Walker, Catoosa, Dade and Chattooga counties in District 53, which Mullis represents, will try to make the most of Mullis' influence.
"They'll probably be trying to get a lot more ... transportation dollars and things like that," Smith said.
As chairman of the Rules Committee, Mullis replaces Don Balfour, R-Snellville, who fell out of favor after having to pay a $5,000 fine for allegedly fudging travel expense reports.
Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...