Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Tennessee Senate mess

With the addition of Joe Haynes to the race for Speaker and Lt. Governor to be decided in the Tennessee Senate, a new dynamic has been created in the entire contest that makes the entire affair a very different game indeed.

As I said yesterday both here and in my radio podcast, I sympathize with all of those who see the problem in allowing John Wilder to continue as Senate Speaker and Lieutenant Governor. When the Governor's office has to be concerned with the line of succession to power, even though we are blessed in law with what should be a perfectly legitimate line of succession, then it is time for the Senate to look at appointing a new Speaker.

A wrench is thrown in the entire mess by the split in the other side over who their candidate for Speaker should be. Lloyd Daugherty was right when he said on The Voice this morning that Joe Haynes has a record that is more liberal than Wilder, and this raises questions about Haynes' willingness to work with Senate Republicans. Terry Frank is right when she says that regardless of all of our concerns about Wilder's age, he is known to be "fairly conservative as far as Democrats go." Haynes is liberal enough that he opposed the marriage amendment when a majority of members in both parties supported it. It is what Haynes claims that he told Wilder in The Tennessean that I find either interesting or bizarre:

"I told (Wilder) I was not running against him. I was just running for speaker," Haynes said.

"He's made a huge contribution to the state over the years, but I didn't believe he could put 17 votes on the board."

Either Haynes knows something about Michael Williams' intentions that we do not, or this is a Democrat coup attempt designed to get rid of Wilder gracefully-I strongly suspect it is the latter. With Haynes' candidacy, Wilder does not need 17 votes to remain in his seat, but only one-his own, which he could use to prevent either Haynes or Ron Ramsey from getting the magic numbwer if 17. If no candidate gets 17 votes, Wilder remains Speaker and Lt. Governor by default.

What is unfortunate is that in a two man contest between Wilder and Haynes, Wilder is to be preferred because Haynes has a history of operating further to the left than Wilder. If Michael Williams votes for Joe Haynes, he might as well just cross the floor, because in spite of all of his talk of "I am still a conservative, I am as Republican as the rest of you, blah, blah, blah..." he might as well hang a big sign around his neck that says "I'm a Democrat, and I have an affinity for liberals."

What a mess!



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