The Speaker Pro TemporePerhaps the greatest test of whether the new majority Leadership in the Tennessee House is truly committed to changing the culture of the Plaza will be the people that are appointed to key Leadership positions. If anyone who is appointed to a critical position can be seen to waver on the fundamental message of conservatism, the Democrats in the General Assembly can and will use this inconsistency to their political advantage. The possibility of an inconsistent message coming from House Leadership is precisely what makes the idea that Rep. Steve McDaniel may be appointed Speaker Pro Tempore so troubling.
Representative McDaniel, it should be recalled, was a supporter of the income tax. We delude ourselves if we believe that the Democrats will be intellectually honest about their feelings regarding an income tax in this State. They collectively realize that the income tax was then and still remains the biggest political football in Tennessee, and it is one that the Democrats can try to use to defeat candidates. Their leaders remember all too well that it was the income tax fight during the Sundquist Administration and legislative candidates' support or opposition to an income tax that got many of them beaten. Nevermind that many Democrats secretly favor an income tax, but because of political considerations, they will never admit this. Had one passed during the Sundquist Administration, Democrats who like income taxes would be looking for ways to blame Republicans for it while cozying up to Tennesseans for "Fair Taxation," an organization many Democrats already patronize.
McDaniel may have changed his position on the income tax, but we can rest assured that this won't matter to the Democrats. If McDaniel becomes Speaker Pro Tempore, the Democrats will likely say "the Republicans promised change, but they have given you more of the same."
Further, Steve McDaniel has been a supporter in the past of current Democratic House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. While it is absolutely necessary for Jason Mumpower to negotiate with the Naifeh boys in order to insure that a Republican is elected Speaker (and most likely that the Republican in question is him), the key House Leadership positions should go to Republicans who have been loyal to the Leadership and to the Party in the House.
Two years ago, when Jason Mumpower became Leader, he asked his colleagues in the House as well as those of us in the party grassroots to give him united support despite the fact that a candidate that so many of the grassroots supported, Bill Dunn, was defeated. I can't speak for his House colleagues, but I certainly gave Mumpower the support he asked for. I am and have been a loyal Republican, and I have bitten the bullet on a number of occasions in order to foster a spirit of cooperation so that, in my own small way, by not writing here every time that Mumpower did something that got my goat, I might be helping bring a majority about. Many Republican members of the House who supported Rep. Dunn also have come together in unity to fight for a majority, and their reward could be to see a man as Speaker Pro Tempore who has not shared the same loyalty to Republican Leadership in the past that was asked of many members.
A good test of Steve McDaniel's loyalty would be for someone to run against McDaniel for Speaker Pro Tempore who is a more loyal Republican, and for that person to beat McDaniel in Caucus. Will McDaniel be willing to support that person as Speaker Pro Tempore under those circumstances? If not, it says that McDaniel's loyalty is conditional. If he were to support someone who defeated him in Caucus, we can safely re-examine McDaniel's "Naifeh Republican" status.