You might not hear as much about it, but the campaign for the Tennessee House of Representatives is every bit as embattled as the one for its federal counterpart.
After the 2008 election, the Republican Party held an historic majority, with 50 members to the Democrats’ 49. But after Rep. Kent Williams usurped the gavel from Speaker-to-be Rep. Jason Mumpower by getting all 49 Democrats to vote with him, his party, led by former chair Robin Smith, voted to revoke Williams’ “bona fide” standing.
49 48 Democrats. 49 50 Republicans. One independent. In a world where every vote counts, and where titans clash to gain control of the mighty redistricting pen, one mistake could lead to devastating electoral ruin. Opens Wednesday, October 13, in political theaters from Memphis to Mountain City. (Apologies to the late Don LaFontaine.) But for gerrymandered districts that render most seats safe for incumbents, this could have been an epic political year. As it is, it still will be, as my 5-year-old likes to say these days, “kind of insane.”
Tom Humphrey noted that the Tennessee Journal rates five seats as toss-up:
The tossup-rated House races are in District 10, where Democrat Larry Mullins and Republican Don Miller fight for the seat vacated by Rep. John Litz, D-Morristown; District 36, where Dennis Powers (R) and Keith Clotfelter (D) face off for the seat formerly held by Rep. Chad Faulkner, R-Luttrell, who lost the primary;
District 48, where incumbent Republican Joe Carr of Lascassas faces Democrat David LaRoche; District 60, home to retiring Rep. Ben West, D-Nashville, where the Democrat is Sam Coleman and the Republican is Jim Gotto; and District 75, where Rep. Butch Borchert, D-Camden, faces a rematch with Republican Tim Wirgau.
Chas Sisk aimed his spotlight on the 48th House District, where David LaRoche hopes to embody one of the Democratic Party’s sought-after turnovers. LaRoche is fronting the charge against freshman Rep. Joe Carr.
David Oatney, a conservative blogger, says that the Republican Party should avoid letting the battle for Speaker distract them from the effort to regain the prerequisite majority.
There is little question that the edge in this election clearly goes to the GOP, but that also means that the majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives is the Republicans’ to lose as well.
Outgoing Republican Leader Jason Mumpower warned the members of his caucus against presuming victory in November. He watched, Mumpower told House Republicans in May, when the Democrats became more concerned in 2008 over who would be Speaker and less concerned over winning an election because they simply assumed they would win in November. Already we see a certain presumptive mentality beginning to sneak into Republican ranks as veteran members announce their candidacies for Speaker before the voters’ ballots have even been cast.
By the end of the week, poll results seemed to buoy Oatney’s and his fellow GOPers’ hopes. Seven districts, including two of those listed as “toss-up” by the Tennessee Journal, showed a Republican advantage—but on a generic ballot, as actual candidate names were not given to those polled.
The chairmen of both the Democratic and Republican parties seem to be fully engaged in this battle, so the next two months will be full of fun for us political geeks. And as Humphrey notes at the end of his piece: “And, of course, there’s the probable independent, Kent Williams.”