SJR 127 Is Up, Robin Smith Is OutToday is the day that pro-life activists in Tennessee have been waiting for, and many have been doing so for some years. SJR 127, the Constitutional amendment that makes it clear that there is no such thing as a "right" to abortion in the Tennessee Constitution, will finally get its hearing and first vote on the floor of the State House of Representatives. It is such an important milestone because the measure has now passed the Senate twice, and with broad bipartisan support, but never so much as made it out of committee in the House until today.
In a twist of irony, the woman who is at least partly responsible for this announced over the weekend that she is resigning her position. Tennessee Republican Chairman Robin Smith has announced that she is resigning as of May 30, triggering an immediate election for Chairman among the Tennessee Republican Executive Committee. I think the world of Robin and her abilities, and I believe that the reason that Tennessee enjoys Republican control of the General Assembly for the first time ever is due in no small part to the fact that Robin Smith and her colleagues made capturing the Tennessee General Assembly the Republican Party's number one priority in 2008.
Not only did John McCain carry Tennessee, but the Republicans ended the night on November 4th here with more political power than we have ever previously enjoyed in Tennessee history. The Volunteer State turned blood red while the rest of the country went in another direction. Barack Obama carried six counties in Tennessee out of 95, and the very mention of his name was made a political poison. Candidates for the General Assembly were literally beaten by commercials which said "this candidate supports Obama." So frightened were Tennessee Democrats of Barack Obama that I did not see a single Obama bumper sticker on Capitol Hill in Nashville last year-but they sure came out in January 2009.
Robin's name became a curse word among Nashville Democrats. When a Republican legislator angers a Democrat, the worst (best?) thing that the angry Dem might call that person is "Robin Smith."
Robin Smith helped make all of that possible by standing firm on principles that she believes in and simply not wavering. Even when I have disagreed with her approach on certain things, I have deeply admired the fact that when Robin tells you she believes something, you can take it to the bank. Robin Smith has also been the most accessable Chairman in the history of the Tennessee Republican Party, and perhaps the entire Republican Party. Robin met with the grassroots on our level and encouraged our efforts to drum up support for candidates, use the internet as a campaign and organizing tool, and strategize for the 21st Century. She wanted to make use of grassroots activists not just at election time, but all the time, and she treated all of us little people in the trenches like we were important to the party, and that it wasn't just about the folks who could write big checks.
Party officials always call me Mister. Robin called me by my first name, and after awhile I quit calling her Madam Chairman and just called her Robin.
I am sorry to see her go, and I think her departure is a loss for the party. The reason that she is leaving is a good one-to run for Congress in the 3rd District-and it will bring her home to East Tennessee. However, I do agree with Rob Huddleston that she could have given the party a bit more notice to give us time to vet the different candidates for Chairman who have emerged in the wake of her announcement. As it is, I am afraid that the Executive Committee may make a less-than-desirable choice for no other reason than the lack of time needed to make the right one.