Democrats choose Beverly as Georgia House minority leader

Rep. James Beverly (Georgia Legislature)

A Macon Democrat will be the new minority leader of the Georgia state House of Representatives, after the party’s former leader was defeated by a Republican.

Democrats meeting Tuesday at the state Capitol chose Rep. James Beverly, who was elected last week to his sixth term in the House. He defeated Rep. William Boddie of East Point in the race for party leader.

Beverly had been the minority caucus chair the last two years. He will take the place of minority leader Bob Trammell, a Luthersville Democrat who lost in the general election last week to Republican David Jenkins. The GOP had committed to spend more than $1 million to target Trammell, the last white Democrat representing a predominantly rural district.

Despite Trammell’s loss, Democrats are likely to gain two seats overall, leaving them with 77 compared to 103 for Republicans. Democrat Rebecca Mitchell unseated Republican House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Brett Harrell in Gwinnett County, while Democrat Regina Lewis-Ward beat four-term incumbent Rep. Dale Rutledge in a district that covers parts of Henry and Rockdale counties. Democrat Shea Roberts narrowly leads Republican Deborah Silcox in a Fulton County district where The Associated Press hasn’t declared a winner.

Democrats had voiced hopes to gain the 16 seats needed for a majority.

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Republicans, meeting Monday, renominated David Ralston for a sixth two-year term as House speaker. That means Ralston is almost certain to be chosen to lead the House when the new General Assembly convenes in January.

Beverly, an African American man representing a strongly Democratic district in Macon, is likely to be less vulnerable to personal challenge than Trammell, although all 180 House members could face big changes with lawmakers expected to redraw district lines before the 2022 election.

Beverly said he’s preparing for redistricting.

Democrats also chose David Wilkerson of Powder Springs as their whip and Billy Mitchell of Stone Mountain as their caucus chair.

“Republicans have the money right now because they’re in the majority. But that’s not where this state is,” Trammell said Tuesday, according to WABE-FM. “The presidential election showed that this state is blue, and it will continue to trend blue.”

Senate Democrats and Republicans will choose leaders later.