Tag Archives: Beth Harwell

Speaker: mouthpiece or bullhorn?

The Republican-dominated Tennessee General Assembly today effectively chose its leaders for the next session. Though they won’t be official until voted on by the full House and Senate in January, House Speaker Beth Harwell, and Senate Speaker and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey each cruised to another term at the helm via their party’s legislative caucuses.

Ramsey’s re-election was unanimous, but Harwell faced a minor challenge from Rep. Rick Womick, who found 14 other caucus members to stand with him. Womick’s ultimate target in the ill-fated takeover bid wasn’t Harwell, of course, but was instead Gov. Bill Haslam. Womick’s criticism of Harwell was that she served as a mouthpiece for the Haslam administration; whereas, he contended, a House under his speakership would amplify the voice of the electorate who sent conservative members to Nashville, and who oppose the governor’s moderate positions on items like Common Core.

Another increasingly loud critic of Haslam is Rep. Joe Carr, who on Saturday mounted his own conservative-backed challenge, in this case for the chairman spot in the Tennessee Republican Party—with similar results. Carr has taken to Facebook in attacking Haslam. This comes mere days after running for the TNGOP chair as a “unity candidate.”

The style employed by each legislative chamber’s leadership is something to ponder. It can be debated whether Harwell shows enough independence from the governor; but she is often described as fair, intelligent, and deliberate by members of both parties. She does not come across as a firebrand.

Ramsey, an auctioneer by trade, embodies a bolder voice—particularly in online communications and press releases, thanks to his talented and sharp-tongued spokesperson. Given that Ramsey challenged Haslam for the 2010 GOP nomination for governor, it’s unlikely that he’d functionally appear anywhere close to the “puppet” moniker critics have attempted ascribe to Harwell. But even Ramsey stops short of appearing to openly defy Haslam…most of the time.

What would a Womick speakership have looked (and sounded) like? I suppose, for now, the answer is moot.

Harwell headlines Republican rally

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.

Top Tales for Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gentle reader, here are some of the latest stories in Tennessee politics.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party holds its annual Kefauver Dinner fundraiser tonight at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Imperial Ballroom. The keynote speaker will be U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, who represents Tennessee’s 9th District. Some party members, including at least one local elected official, are boycotting the event following party chair Paul Smith’s refusal to apologize for a joke he printed on a party board agenda that was seen by some to denigrate women. Admission to the dinner is $60 ($35 for students).

House Speaker Beth Harwell is among the dignitaries expected at a Republican Party campaign rally for area GOP legislative candidates. The event is scheduled from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 11. Candidates and elected representatives from districts in Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, Roane, and Sequatchie Counties will be there. Admission is free.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is once again the target of some years-old oppo research involving his apparently very messy divorce and surrounding issues. This time, it’s about a phone conversation he taped with a pregnant former mistress (who first had been his patient), and his urging her to proceed with an abortion so that he could mend his broken family. State Sen. Eric Stewart is DesJarlais’s Democratic Party opponent in the November 6 election. DesJarlais was elected in 2010 despite similar efforts by former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis’ campaign to expose unsavory details from DesJarlais’s personal life.

Yes, I know. The voter guide pages on this site are woefully out-of-date, as they still pertain to the August primary elections. Rest assured that changes are underway, hopefully to be launched by October 17, which is the start of early voting. (And, gulp, just one scant week from now.) For the Chattanooga audience, I’m excited to announce that Tennessee Ticket is once again partnering with Nooga.com to produce voter guides in a similar format that you saw this past summer.

There’s no debate that these were forums. Bradley County citizens on Monday had to choose between attending what will probably be the only joint appearance in the entire Third District by incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and his Democratic opponent, Dr. Mary Headrick, or a meeting of 10th Senate District candidates Todd Gardenhire and Chattanooga City Councilman Andraé McGary. From where I sat at the latter, it looked like more chose the former. You can scroll down my Twitter page to see updates posted during the event, or read Joy Lukachick’s TFP coverage. Chris Carroll and James Harrison chronicled the TN-03 event.

How overwhelming will the Republican majority in the General Assembly be? Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has some thoughts. (HT: NPP)

Vital signs

Chattanooga businessman Greg Vital has made it known that he intends to seek the 10th District Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Andy Berke—the same seat that Rep. Vince Dean was thoroughly expected to seek. However, as the Chattanooga Times Free Press also reports, Dean is being encouraged by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Majority Leader Gerald McCormick to stay put.

This would mean a shake-up in the developing GOP primary for House District 30, which would be an open seat if Dean were to run for the Senate. East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert and Larry Grohn have picked up petitions, and there has been talk of a couple more candidates. Not many Republican candidates would be likely to stay in it against the incumbent, though. Two Democrats have also picked up papers to run: Brock Bennington and Brian White.

Collegedale resident Ray Minner, who has also been considering a run in the 30th after redistricting placed him in that district, says there is something telling in the GOP leaders’ actions:

Doesn’t anyone besides me find it very, very curious that “the two top House Republicans,” who have surely known for quite a long time that Vince Dean was planning to run for the Senate, said nothing, and even allowed him to make his announcement and pick up papers. Then suddenly, when Greg Vital decides HE wants that seat, they start to lean on Vince to stay in the House. Coincidence? Only the most naive would think so.

Meanwhile, it looks like voters in the new 28th District will have a contested primary in both of the two major parties. Democratic Reps. Tommie Brown and JoAnne Favors were placed into the same minority-majority district, and each has said she will seek the nomination. Two Republicans have also pulled petitions: Johnny Horne, who has run unsuccessfully for local and state offices in years past; and Basil Marceaux Jr., who previously ran in the old 29th District against Favors.

That’s not, by the way, the Basil Marceaux (“dot com”) you may be thinking of. The elder Marceaux is running for the state House as well, but in the 27th District, where he will challenge incumbent Rep. Richard Floyd in the GOP primary. (Trivia time: can anyone name other instances in which a parent and child were running in neighboring legislative districts in the same election?) Marceaux will be on the ballot on Super Tuesday too, as a candidate for Hamilton County Mayor.

In the new 29th, which covers eastern and northern Hamilton County, former sessions judge Mike Carter has so far drawn no opponents for the open seat. If this stays true, he will have pulled off quite a feat, given the rich swath of Republican votes it holds. The qualifying deadline is noon on April 5th.

The primary elections will be held on August 2nd.