Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Like the respected Grandfather...

Prospective Tennessee State Senate candidate Mike Faulk had a tremendous entry on his blog the other day on the situation in the Tennessee Senate as it relates to the possibility of Senate Speaker and Lt. Governor John Wilder remaining in office for yet another term. Many folks may say that all the Republicans are interested in is a Republican Lieutenant Governor in Tennessee, but at this point it is well beyond partisanship, it is now to the point where we must be concerned about the well-being of the State.

When the Governor has to convene committees to look in to the line of succession, that is a real problem. Tennessee has a perfectly legitimate means of transferring power if a Governor is unable to perform the duties of his office, and it is a means that should work in any normal situation. The Speaker of the Senate is Lt. Governor also, and if something happens to the Governor, he or she takes the helm. The problem is not that we have had the same Speaker of the Senate since 1971, the problem lies in the reality that he no longer appears able to carry on his duties as Speaker effectively, let alone assume power in case something should happen to the Governor.

We now know that even Democrats are concerned, or else
Senator Joe Haynes would not be challenging Wilder himself, but with Wilder, Haynes, and Republican Majority Leader Ron Ramsey all in the running (and turncoat Mike Williams reportedly unwilling to vote for a Republican besides himself), the rules of the Senate say that the winner of the Speaker's race must have 17 votes. If no man does, the previous Speaker remains in office, and thus remains Lieutenant Governor. That means if Williams cannot be persuaded to do what is right for the State and give Ron Ramsey his 17th vote, Wilder will remain in office no matter how many votes Haynes gets, because he will almost certainly vote for himself.

Some folks may think that many of us in the GOP are only looking at the power implications of this. Yes, I believe the Republicans have the majority in the Tennessee Senate and should be allowed to exercise that majority. Beyond that, however, we must look to the well-being of Tennessee, and putting someone of questionable cognitive abilities a heartbeat away from the Governor's mansion is not good for Tennessee.

My feelings are not bourne out of disrespect for Lt. Governor Wilder.
John Wilder is presently the longest serving head of a democratic legislative body in the world. I have never met Wilder, but everything I have heard about him from those who have indicates to me that he is a good, decent, and very genuine human being. He has served Tennessee with distinction as our Lieutenant Governor and Senate Speaker for 35 years. I may not always agree with his voting record, but he has often bridged the partisan gap, it is true-and he is a Democrat of the old Southern mold in many ways. I respect men like Wilder of either party who have served their State and their country with the kind of dedication Wilder has done.

Faulk, however, is right. John Wilder is much like your aging father or grandfather who needs to give up the car keys. Car keys represent independence for many older people. For John Wilder, being Senate Speaker has been his whole life for 35 years. I understand Wilder's dilemma more than most. I have lived my entire life with a disability, and the older I get, the more strength I lose. Thirty years old seems young to some people, but at thirty I already have two arthritic knees and almost constant back pain. Yet, I have every desire to run for office. I hope to be in public service for a long time if that is the will of God. I'd love to be like
John C. Calhoun and have to be wheeled off the floor of the State House/Senate in a wheelchair for the last time. Like John Wilder, it would be my desire to serve until one day people showed up and I just wasn't there anymore. I would serve until I dropped dead if the people allowed me to. That would be my desire-I understand John, I really do.

Sometimes what we want is not what is best for us or those around us. Sometimes we must be realistic about what we are capable of, and what we can still do. Such is the case for John Wilder, he is in the valley of decision. Senator Wilder, thank you for your love for Tennessee and for your years of service-please do what is best for Tennessee's future and let a new person have that gavel.



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