Sen. Butch Miller, president pro tempore of the Georgia Senate, was elected to that role by Georgia’s state senators of both parties. But campaigning to step up to lieutenant governor, the Republican takes credit for the controversial “election integrity” law enacted after Democrats carried Georgia in key federal races.
His role in the passage of that law, as Senate Bill 202, amounted to getting the final version “across the finish line” after ideas from a separate bill he had introduced were rolled into it. But it was also Miller who, joined by other Republican legislators, first called for an ongoing “performance audit” of Fulton County’s election practices under provisions of the new law.
Miller had been scheduled to speak Monday to the Rotary Club of Statesboro. But after the Rotary meeting was cancelled, he spoke to an informal group of two dozen or more people over box lunches at the Bulloch Fertilizer headquarters. In a brief interview preceding the luncheon, his stance on elections was not the first issue he mentioned, but it followed soon after economic development and “law and order.”
“We want to make sure that we have economic development. We want to make sure that we have quality jobs,” Miller said. “I want Georgia to continue to be the state that young people can raise a family in and thrive, not to come home to at Christmas and Thanksgiving to see their grandparents and parents. I want Georgia to be the state that leads.”
Miller mentioned his role in passing “the largest tax cut … in the history of Georgia,” as well as Senate Bill 202, among his credentials.
He touted Georgia’s being “for eight consecutive years … the number-one place to do business in the United States.” This annual “Business Climate Ranking” of states, often cited by Gov. Brian Kemp and previous Gov. Nathan Deal, is from an online magazine called Site Selection. Actually, the publication’s surveys and point system placed Georgia, after seven years alone in the top spot, in a tie with North Carolina for first place in 2020. See https://siteselection.com.
“I want it to also be the number-one place to raise a family, and that’s what it is today, and I want to make sure that we have order, and then from there, when you have order in your society, then you can enact your laws and enforce and have law and order,” Miller said. “The lawlessness that you’re seeing in your cities these past couple of years, you’re going to see it in your small towns in the future, if we don’t stand and fight.”
He did not name any particular cities in the interview, which was time-limited by a campaign aide, but Miller referred to Atlanta in this context during his remarks to the luncheon group.
“One of the big issues across the country, across the state that I’ve been hearing, is the elections integrity bill,” he said during the interview. “Again, I was the person who got that across the finish line, I was the person that initiated the performance audit of Fulton County; 26 of my colleagues signed onto that; I initiated that letter, so I’m the one that’s driving that investigation.”
The Statesboro Herald asked him if this step doesn’t amount to the Georgia General Assembly interfering with the local administration of elections.
“That’s a great question, and the answer to that is no,” Miller said. “The reason is this: We have counties, we have jurisdictions that are habitually failing. Just like a school board that habitually fails their students, we have elections boards that are habitually failing the voters.
“That’s why we asked for the performance audit of Fulton County first,” he continued. “It is the largest and most egregious offender. How can Florida count the entire state of Florida before Fulton County can count Fulton County? That’s ridiculous. We should have a higher bar. We should have better performance, and that’s what we’re after with this performance audit.”
Who he is
Miller, 64, from Gainesville, was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 2010 and represents the 49th District, comprising most of Hall County. He became chairman of the majority party caucus his third year and later served as Governor Deal’s floor leader. Then Miller was elected
by his Senate colleagues as president pro tem in January 2018 and re-elected two years later, both times by a unanimous vote of all the other senators, Republican and Democrat, he said.
Previously chair of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association board, Miller owns Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville. He purchased it in 1997 after going to work for Martin in 1993.
Miller and his wife, Teresa, had three sons, Cole, Cary and Charlie. The firstborn, Cole, who suffered from cerebral palsy, died in 2001. Cary and Charlie are now adults.
“When I found out how profoundly disabled my oldest child was, I was a broken man spiritually, emotionally and mentally and truly didn’t know how I was going to go on, and the people of Georgia picked me up, dusted me off and put me back on my feet, and that’s why I’m running for lieutenant governor,” Butch Miller said. “I want to do the same thing for people all over this state, help people all over this state.”
The Millers attend Lakewood Baptist Church, where he has served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.