Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Divisions We Do Not See

When future generations of Tennessee schoolchildren read of our public history in 2008, one thing that they will not likely be able to say is that our politics lack drama. Put more simply, no one many years from now will accuse our politicians of being boring. Up to now, Tennesseans were led to believe that House Democratic Leader Gary Odom was the primary personal force behind the elevation of Kent Williams to the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives amid great deception. Now we are hearing a different story via Colby Sledge:

The who's-the-real-kingmaker soap opera surrounding House Dems has taken
yet another turn as discontent grows over House Democratic Leader Rep. Gary
Odom's comments that he — and not former Speaker Jimmy Naifeh —
was the architect key Democrat in the Kent Williams Plan.

Rep. Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, and Rep. John
of Morristown sat down with reporters to give a new timeline, one that
leaves Odom almost completely out of the picture. In this version, Litz begins
asking around about a Republican candidate who could play the foil to Rep. Jason
Mumpower. By the second week of December, Williams comes to Litz to see if the
Democrats can deliver, but Litz only tells "Speaker Naifeh and one other
individual that day," according to a timeline he released.

According to the Sledge report, the primary movers and shakers behind the Williams coup d'etat were Democratic Caucus Chairman Turner, and John Litz, who is nothing if not a Jimmy Naifeh network man and who is continually re-elected to his seat for no other reason than that everyone thinks he is such a nice guy and a good ol' boy-which he is both (if you don't believe me, ask anyone who lives around these parts who resides in Litz's district-there are people who will vote straight Republican but vote for Litz because he is such a nice person). What makes this story believable is that the Kent Williams saga just sounds like something that John Litz would involve himself in to a very personal degree. At the end of the day, for all of the talk about how "bipartisan" Litz is, when he is on the Hill he is a party man through the bone to the core.

What is comical is the notion, carried on by The Tennessean and some in the Leftist blogosphere that Jason Mumpower somehow represents the so-called "hard right" of the party and the GOP Caucus. From the beginning, Mumpower was the initial choice of the "moderates" and the Naifeh Republicans, and it is believed by many conservatives that the Naifeh Republicans were the deciding votes in Mumpower's Leadership race against Bill Dunn.

Most East Tennessee newspapers were reporting that John Litz may have played some part in Kent Williams being nominated by the Democrats for Speaker. This is complicated by the fact that the pro-Naifeh elements of the House Democratic Caucus appear to be in open rebellion against the increasingly clueless Gary Odom. At this point, it seems that the struggle to take credit for what is increasingly becoming a debacle for both parties is emblematic of a larger battle for control inside Democratic ranks.

That might be something Republicans could take advantage of, but Colby Sledge reveals another tidbit not widely known by the public:

Turner said if House Republicans had selected Nashville Republican Rep. Beth
— and not Mumpower — as their Speaker candidate of choice, the plan to
elect Williams likely never would have happened.

Prior to the Speakership vote, I talked to a few conservatives in the House Republican Caucus who told me they personally would have preferred Beth Harwell as Speaker at this time. There is no way to know that the Democrats would not have done the same thing to Beth Harwell, since we know from January 13th that the House Democrats have no trouble engaging in open deception. However, if the Republicans do not pick up enough seats to insure Mumpower's election as Speaker in January 2011, his days as Leader may be numbered. Jason Mumpower needs to run candidates that will unite his own Caucus completely behind him in order to assure victory.

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