Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Senator Mike Williams: Give some love to East Tennessee

Tennessee State Senator Mike Williams is now in the crosshairs of Statewide political attention as political buffs on Rocky Top await with baited breath his decision on whether he will vote for Democrat John Wilder, who might as well have been Speaker and Lieutenant Governor during the Union occupation of Nashville, and Republican Ron Ramsey. Yesterday, I was unequivocal in saying that I would not support Williams for re-election if he votes for Wilder, and that I believe Williams' constituents at-large would want him to support Ron Ramsey. Williams himself has acknowledged being pressured by his constituents.

I want to speak directly to Mike Williams and I can give him a good reason to vote for Ramsey that makes sense well beyond the usual partisan reasons: Senator Williams, you are an East Tennessean-why won't you give East Tennessee her due?

In saying this, I am not like some who would always pit one Grand Division against another-I think that is a rather silly way to play politics, since I believe we are all Tennesseans no matter what part of the State we are from. However, there is a very good reason why our great State is divided by law into three Grand Divisions-each Division has very unique and different interests, politics, and even culture. Our Constitution and laws are written in such a way as to try to insure that each Grand Division has an equal stake in our government-even the Tennessee Supreme Court must have justices from each of the Grand Divisions, and it has a building in which to meet in each Grand Division in Knoxville (East), Nashville (Middle), and Jackson (West). The concept of equality among the Grand Divisions was important to Tennessee's Constitutional framers (and it is also represented on Tennessee's flag), so why shouldn't there be a shift in the legislative center of gravity once in a while?

West Tennessee has much, if not all of the heavy power in the General Assembly. Jimmy Naifeh is from Covington in Tipton County (that's north of Memphis for those not in-the-know), and he is the longest-sitting Speaker of the House in Tennessee history. Wilder has been Speaker and Lt. Governor since 1971, ans he is from Fayette County to the east of Memphis. Since 1973, both Houses of the General Assembly have been run by West Tennesseans. I'm not saying that West Tennesseans shouldn't run the legislature, I'm saying that Tennesseans from other parts of the State should have the same opportunities that West Tennesseans have had, because when you are Speaker of the House or Speaker of the Senate (Lt. Governor) then you have some serious pull for both your district and your region, and that is just an obvious reality.

I've said in this space before that although I enjoy federal politics, State and local politics are far more important to our daily life, a reality that most people do not seem to understand. The situation in the Tennessee General Assembly simply underscores that reality.

Mike Williams: Do something good for your Grand Division and give East Tennessee a share in the legislative pie. It is better for the people of the 4th Senate District, of which I am one, and it gives a few more Tennesseans a say in how things in Nashville are done. If you can't see that as obvious, maybe you don't need to be a Senator.



At Tuesday, November 14, 2006 2:36:00 PM, Blogger Rob Huddleston said...

Dave -

Mike Williams: Do something good for your Grand Division and resign.



At Tuesday, November 14, 2006 11:06:00 PM, Blogger Steve Mule said...

I think the whole "Grand Division" argument is rather weak and bordering on syrupy sentimentalism. Williams will do whatever he decides is best. It looks like he might be reading different tea leaves than the witches brew of ideological purity that you and Rob are trying to sell.


At Wednesday, November 15, 2006 6:41:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

I don't think it is syrupy at all, especially when you look at the Constitution and Laws of this State. Our framers intended balance and we do not have balance.

I'll tell you what tea leaves Williams may be reading: Personal power. After he went with Wilder last time, Wilder made him Speaker pro Tem. I can't help but wonder what other enticements are being promised to his person.

At Wednesday, November 15, 2006 6:45:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

At this point, I would agree that resignation would be the honorable course, but since I am a realist and I do not expect that to happen. I think the best his constituents can do is put pressure on him that if he votes with the majority, we will support him, and if he doesn't, "Senator Faulk" sounds very nice...rolls off the toungue real well, I think.


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