|In a big story that has gotten little local coverage,
republicans have taken control of both the Tennessee House and Senate
for the first time since 1871. Many republicans give credit for the take
over to the opposition of
Barack Hussein Obama which helped turn out
record numbers of republican voters.
On a local
level, most of us might never notice any big differences to the change
of power on the state level save one issue. The State Election
Commission. The state election commission is controlled by which ever
party controls the state house which means that the commission has been
controlled by the democrats for many years. This in turns means that
local election commissions have been staffed by majority of democrats
who in turn most often will appoint a democrat as the local election
commissioner. This may all change now that republicans have taken
In Loudon County, the five member election commission
is comprised of three democrats and two republicans. The democrats are
Betty Brown, J. C. Almond and Sue Jane Hartsook. Republican members are
Kay Brooks and Ken Brewster. The balance of power in Loudon County will
change which could in turn bring a change of the election commissioner,
Zehner who was at the time chairman of the Loudon
County Democratic Party, was appointed to the post after long time
election commissioner Pat Ingram retired. Ingram had held the position
for 27 years. Zehner took office April 1st 2004. It is not yet known if
Zehner will be replaced.
TN GOP ready for political shake-up
Party appears united; power shift opens door for many law
By Tom Humphrey knoxnews.com
NASHVILLE - Despite past differences, the Legislature's
Republicans now appear united to assure that last week's historic
election victories translate into a wholesale shake-up of Tennessee's
political power base.
The shift in control of the state House to Republicans and solidifying
of the GOP's Senate strength also will open the door to multiple changes
in state law, ranging from greater rights for gun owners to stronger
restrictions on abortion.
There also may be ramifications on such policy matters as selection of
judges and school superintendents, expansion of charter schools and
damages awarded in lawsuits.
But first the Republicans have to stand together and avoid party
defections such as occurred in 2005, when the GOP had a majority in the
Senate after the 2004 elections but still saw Democrat John Wilder
re-elected as Senate speaker and lieutenant governor.
The election gave Republicans a narrow 50-49 advantage in the House,
where Democrats previously had a 53-46 lead. In the Senate, Republicans
and Democrats each had 16 seats before the election, with one
Independent senator. Now the GOP has a 19-14 majority.
Not since 1869 have Republicans had control of both the House and Senate
in Tennessee. The National Conference of State Legislatures said the GOP
seizure of control in Tennessee's House was "the biggest surprise of
this election cycle."
Two years ago, seven Republicans voted to re-elect Democratic House
Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, and six of them are still members of the House.
With a shaky 50-49 advantage, even one defection could allow the
re-election of Naifeh as speaker, and he reportedly has sought
Republican votes with help from some fellow Democrats.
It appears the efforts have been unsuccessful.
Rep. Kent Williams, R-Elizabethton, was one of the past Naifeh
supporters and perhaps had more reason to break ranks with fellow
Republicans than anyone. Some Republican colleagues openly backed his
opponent in the August primary and sharply criticized him.
But Williams said Friday that, while differences remain, he will back
the election of Republican Jason Mumpower of Bristol as House speaker
"I love Speaker Naifeh. He's been a wonderful friend," said Williams.
"But times have changed. At a time like this, we (Republicans) need to
Naifeh did not respond to requests for an interview last week. He did
issue a statement saying, "House Democrats will continue to lead the
way, and I intend to lead."
Mumpower, who currently serves as House Republican leader and was highly
active in offering campaign help to GOP candidates, apparently will have
no opposition within party ranks to being elected House speaker.
At one point last week, Rep. Beth Harwell, a former state GOP
chairwoman, indicated an interest in opposing Mumpower's election as
She later abandoned the idea, and Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parker's
Crossroads, a former Republican leader who was mentioned as a
prospective Mumpower opponent, said through a spokeswoman that he is not
With Mumpower as House speaker and Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker, there
would also be a major geographic shift of state political power to upper
East Tennessee from West Tennessee, home of Naifeh, Wilder and previous
Democratic legislative leaders.
Once the leadership is decided by legislators at the outset of the
legislative session on Jan. 13, election of constitutional officers will
be the next order of business. Both Mumpower and Ramsey say they will
push to have Republicans replace the Democrats who now serve as state
comptroller, secretary of state and state treasurer.
Several candidates are mentioned as potential successors to Comptroller
John Morgan, Treasurer Dale Sims and Secretary of State Riley Darnell.
The officials have multiple responsibilities in running state
They also serve, by virtue of holding the office, on multiple state
boards and commissions. The State Building Commission, which has
authority over all state property and oversees all construction, has six
members - the three constitutional officers, the speaker of the House,
the speaker of the Senate and the state finance commissioner.
Currently, Ramsey is the only Republican on the Building Commission. In
January, Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz, appointed by Gov. Phil
Bredesen, will be the only Democrat.
Mumpower and Ramsey acknowledge that Morgan and Sims have shown
considerable skill in handling the complexities of their jobs but say
they have shown unacceptable overt partisanship by helping Democratic
"That crossed the line," Ramsey said.
Another change in power is automatic under state law when control of the
Legislature changes. The State Election Commission and all 95 county
election commissions have five members with three seats held by the
majority party in the Legislature and two by the minority party.
There are now 69 Republican legislators - 19 senators and 50
representatives - versus 63 Democrats; all election commissions will
shift to having a 3-2 Republican majority instead of a 3-2 Democratic
The House and Senate speakers have great influence on legislation,
because they appoint committees and name their chairs, then decide which
committee will deal with a given bill. In the Senate, Ramsey has give
Republicans control over all committees but has named Democratic chairs.
Naifeh has been roundly and regularly criticized by Republicans for
refusing to name any Republicans as key committee officers.
Mumpower declined to say last week whether he will turn the tables and
refuse to name any Democrats to committee chairs, but many expect him to
follow Ramsey's example - allow Democrats to hold a few prestigious
positions but assure that Republicans have the numbers to control the
Once the committee assignments are settled, the Legislature will turn to
lawmaking under the new structure.
That will mean obvious changes on some social issues that have been
pushed by Republicans successfully in the Senate but killed in
Democrat-dominated House subcommittees.
A looming state revenue shortfall of perhaps $600 million in the current
year will almost certainly block any significant new spending
initiatives or tax cuts promoted by the GOP. But that may mean more
attention to issues that do not involve money.
In the last legislative session, major examples were efforts to restrict
abortion rights, including a proposed amendment to the state
constitution, and to let handgun permit holders take their weapons into
more places - bars and state parks, for example. With some exceptions,
Republicans backed the bills and Democrats opposed.
Ramsey has led a Republican push for major changes in the state system
of selecting judges, and the partisan power shift, combined with other
factors, may increase the prospects of that happening - perhaps even the
election of Supreme Court judges in contested elections.
School superintendents are currently chosen by school boards. Bills to
allow them to be popularly elected have won bipartisan support but
generally were killed in House committees with Democratic majorities.
Similarly, the path now could be clear for:
n More charter schools in Tennessee. Senate Education Committee
Chairwoman Jamie Woodson, R-Knoxville, notes that the state now has the
most stringent standards in the nation for opening a charter school.
n Limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded in lawsuits
against doctors, nursing homes, hospitals and others. Republicans
generally have supported "tort reform," while Democrats have opposed the
proposals and killed them in the House.
n Requiring a driver's license or other government-issued photo
identification to vote, a proposal previously passed in the
Republican-controlled Senate but failing in the Democrat-controlled