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ATLANTA — Moments after Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, was seated in the Georgia Capitol for Tuesday’s legislative session, Speaker of the House David Ralston publicly called on “a member” who had refused to submit to COVID testing to exit the Chamber, then called on Capitol police to escort Clark out. Clark walked out voluntarily without incident and was later denied access to his legislative office. 

Clark, who has served North Gwinnett’s legislative District 98 at the state level since 2015, privately discussed his concerns with state leaders about the new requirement for all members and House staff to be tested twice weekly during the 2021 session. In a statement to a local news outlet posted on Twitter, Clark indicated his being called out publicly came as a surprise after his prior conversation with House leaders.

“I’m all about following the CDC guidelines,” Clark, an Army Ranger and combat veteran, said. “We do masks, temperature checks, six-feet social distancing, and have followed their protocol this entire time, but that’s not (what) we’re doing in the House now; we’re making up our own guidelines.” 

Amidst the growing tumult of concern regarding a daily stream of ever-changing mixed data swirling around the topic of COVID-19, citizens are increasingly searching for answers on COVID safety. On Jan. 20, the World Health Organization released an updated guide on PCR testing, relieving some of the stringency of testing criteria, which will lead to a decrease in positive cases. Within a matter of days after the presidential inauguration, multiple locked-down states, including California and Michigan, have announced their reopening. Combined with the rising distrust of Georgia’s top elected officials, Georgia residents are speaking out for honesty and integrity.

“It makes no sense to do this twice a week; if we’re really trying to protect people, then we need to be doing it every day — and we shouldn’t be doing the rapid tests,” Clark said, citing the inaccuracy of the rapid antigen tests versus the PCR tests, which provide more accurate results but come with a longer wait time.

Clark’s assertions are not without background or merit. In November 2020, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made headlines after taking four sequential rapid antigen COVID tests in the same day, two of which were positive and two negative, as reported by CNN and ABC News Los Angeles. 

The November article released by CNN Business writer Jackie Wattles stated, “ … medical professionals are well aware that rapid antigen tests can be inaccurate and generate false negative or, more rarely, false positive results.”

“One of my constituents who’s a nurse told me she’d sent in five clean, unused tests,” Clark said in an interview with The North Gwinnett Voice on Tuesday, Jan. 26. “All five of those clean tests she submitted were returned with a positive result.” 

Clark has been vocal in his criticism of Speaker David Ralston, a criminal defense attorney, having challenged him for the speakership in November 2020 and publicly citing a number of ethics violations of which Ralston has been accused. 

Ralston has faced numerous allegations of abuses of power in his 10 years as Georgia Speaker of the House, including a reprimand settlement reached with the Georgia Bar Association in 2016 for co-mingling funds in a 2014 complaint. A joint investigation by the AJC and Channel 2 Action News outlined continued misuses of power by Ralston, who repeatedly used his legislative privilege to delay and ultimately deny justice for victims of violent crimes. The investigation stated that Ralston claimed to be unavailable for court due to legislative duties. In a February 19, 2019, article in the AJC, writer Johnny Edwards wrote, “In case after case reviewed by the newspaper and Channel 2, Ralston utilized the provision repeatedly. One man’s DUI case has been pending for more than a decade, delayed at least 17 times by Ralston. A man charged with enticing a child for indecent purposes has been awaiting trial since 2009, with Ralston filing for 14 delays.”

The 2014 rape and molestation of a 14-year-old Towns County girl awaited trial for over five years, only to end in a 10-year probation deal. The case was repeatedly stalled by Ralston’s legislative duty claims. The victim’s mother said, “I think Mr. Ralston knows exactly what he’s doing.” 

In 2019, a former FBI agent said that, since becoming Speaker of the House, Ralston had delayed 226 cases approximately 966 times, according to The Associated Press.

Clark said his name was just one on a list of 19 out of 20 representatives who had also not tested for COVID. However, none of the other representatives were called out in the session and removed from the Chamber.

“I don’t want to make this political, but that’s what it is. And someone is paying for this; I guarantee you it’s not free,” Clark said. “Nothing in politics is free.”

— Joy W. Fowler 

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