Hamilton County Republicans on Thursday gathered at their party headquarters on Chestnut Street for a campaign rally for legislative candidates. Guests mingled with elected officials and candidates over appetizers and iced tea.
The host—a smiling, good-humored House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick—opened the proceedings by telling attendees he was glad for once to have an event “where we don’t have to ask you for money,” although he quickly added that those who wanted to could donate to the county party.
McCormick acknowledged several of the state-level candidates and elected officials present (Rep. Richard Floyd, Johnny Horne, Mike Carter, Sen. Bo Watson; but Rep. Vince Dean and Todd Gardenhire were absent), and also mentioned, but did not name, the candidates who have declared for the March 2013 Chattanooga election (Larry Grohn, Ryan King, and Roger Tuder, among others). Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry and Assessor of Property Bill Bennett also were in the room.
When introducing Beth Harwell, Tennessee’s first woman to be elected by her peers as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, McCormick said she was part of a group of women GOP leaders who put lie to the Democratic Party’s claims that the Republican Party is waging “a war on women.”
Harwell put the recent round of redistricting in perspective by sharing that her former students, when for a game she had her classes play were given the opportunity to modify the rules after winning a round, always made sure that the new rules protected their status as winners.
Looking ahead to the November elections, Harwell cast them as being of the utmost importance. As a former party chair, she acknowledged that she used to say “this is the most important election” every time, but emphasized that voters will be making “a philosophical choice” in the upcoming balloting.
Harwell praised Gov. Bill Haslam and said that he, together with the GOP-led General Assembly, will work to keep government out of the way of small business owners. She cited a recent rating by a business journal that named Tennessee as the fourth best state in which to do business.
Harwell closed by recounting her pride at being able to report to a gathering of 47 other statehouse Speakers that Tennessee had balanced its budget, reduced spending by two percent, eliminated the gift and estate taxes, reduced the sales tax on food, and was recognized by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a model for other states on education reform.
McCormick faces independent candidate W. Rodger Cooksey in the November election. Harwell is unopposed.