Harwell keeps job as House speaker

NASHVILLE - Beth Harwell staved off another challenge on Thursday as House Republicans voted to keep her in her leadership post.

The Nashville Republican, who has been speaker since 2011, defeated Rep. Jimmy Matlock by a 40-30 margin.

While the caucus vote essentially assures Harwell will be speaker for the 110th General Assembly she will still need to be voted in when the Legislature officially convenes in January.

The chamber will also need to choose between Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, for majority leader. The post was previously held by Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.

Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, will face Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, for the caucus chairmanship.

A three-way race for speaker pro tempore, a largely ceremonial title, will be between Reps. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, who currently has the position, John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, and David Alexander, R-Winchester.

The caucus will choose between Reps. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, and Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, for the assistant leader position.

Reps. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough; Dennis Power, R-Jacksboro; Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, are not being challenged in their bids for floor leader, caucus vice-chairman and majority whip, respectively.

Nearly every member of the 74-member Republican caucus is expected to gather for the vote at the Nashville City Club at 3 p.m. Caucus elections are typically held outside the legislature.

Reps. Dale Carr, Sevierville, Art Swann, R-Maryville, and Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, did not attend the meeting. An effort to allow Swann and Keisling's votes to be counted by absentee ballot failed.