Friday, July 06, 2007

Filling the Chair

In the last few days, Republicans around the Volunteer State have learned that State Party Chairman Bob Davis will step down and that has led to a flurry of speculation about who will replace him. Up to this point, I have avoided the topic not for lack of knowing what was happening, but because of a desire to avoid being caught up in the speculation as to whose "agent" the new Chairman will be, what faction of the party they will come from, and who they will represent.

I have had occasion in the last couple of days to talk to my friend Mike Faulk (himself a former candidate for State Chairman) about all of this, and Mike and I are in agreement that we do not need an agent for this one or an agent for that one. Neither of us wants a Chairman that people can point to and say "he is a Lamar Alexander surrogate" or "she is a Bill Frist person." A Chairman should not be someone who can be labelled as representing one wing of the party over another-not in the circumstances in which the Tennessee Republican Party presently finds itself.

We need a Chairman who will make it his or her goal for the Republican Party to finally take control of the Tennessee General Assembly, something we are painfully close to accomplishing but still haven't pulled off. This needs to be the public obsession of the next Tennessee Republican Chairman. The Fred Thompson campaign will get volunteers from around the State, but Fred is a big boy and can take care of himself in that sense. Yes, the GOP in Tennessee needs to help Thompson, but the movement for Fred is popular enough in Tennessee that on a Statewide level it will take care of itself to a point.

"Oatney, are you proposing a Chairman who is inward-looking?" Yes, to a point I am. We need a Chairman who can capitalize on the unique Tennessee political dynamic that we have-a Democratic Party that is old, tired, out of ideas, and has been in power so long that it no longer looks to the needs of everyday people. Tennessee and Tennesseans have a set of needs that can be addressed by government in Nashville if Nashville will pay attention-something that will not happen as long as (to quote Congressman David Davis) "Jimmy Naifeh runs the State." Control of the General Assembly needs to be the next Chairman's first and primary objective.

As of this morning the candidate getting the most attention is Party Vice Chair Robin Smith. I don't have any problems with Smith as Chairman, but I was really hoping that Paul Stanley might take a stab at it (after flirting with the idea, he has now thrown his support behind Smith). Like Stacey Campfield, I think we really need someone who understands the State Legislature, it doesn't have to be a current legislator-perhaps someone who has been there before. (Note: As much as I would personally love the thought of Ed Bryant as Chairman, that would rule him out in my mind.)

We are just a couple of days into this process, and I hope that a few more serious candidates make their way forward.



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