Saturday, November 8, 2008

Who will be Tennessee's next Speaker; six Republicans hold power; Naifeh's not dead yet

The big political question in Tennessee is whom will possess the power of the Speaker in the state House of Representatives.

On Nov. 4, the state Republican Party and former Gov. Don Sundquist successfully captured control of the House by one seat and put the Senate in firm GOP control with a four-seat margin.

Tennessee's Democratic Party leadership -- led by the Dweedle Dumb and Dweedle Dee combo of Gray Sasser and Phil Bredesen -- sent the Dems down in flames legislatively and in the presidential race.

Bredesen, supposedly a Democratic governor, barely mentioned Obama's name during the campaign except to tell him to go to Walmart and learn how to meet regular folks. Tennessee's mega-millionaire-dollar governor -- whose's wife spent $11 million in taxpayer money to build an entertainment center for other elitists under the governor's mansion -- only thumbed his nose at Obama to get notice in the national press.

Meanwhile, that $11 million the governor's wife spent sure could be used now with Tennessee's facing a $600 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year.

Like Sundquist, Bredesen could have used the left over millions in his campaign war chest to funnel money to the campaigns on Democratic legislative candidates and even the Obama campaign here. Instead, he is paying himself back millions of dollars he loaned his campaign from his fortune to run for governor twice. What a profile in courage!

The most honest politician I've ever covered from city councils to the White House -- retiring state Rep. Frank Buck -- said the McCain sweep of Tennessee was worth up to 10 percentage points in legislative races in rural areas.

"The public was tired of Naifeh and his heavy-handedness and his cronies," said Buck, a Dowelltown Democrat, country attorney in the style and integrity of the late Sen. Sam Ervin and a grandfather.

Buck -- who served three decades in the General Assembly as committee chairman and crusader for the people -- had to constantly fight Naifeh over ethics and reducing the power of lobbyists at the Tennessee Statehouse. And he suffered politically for it.

But ol' Naifeh, like a cat with nine lives, may not have to worry about losing his post and his $28,000 a year state trooper bodyguard.

"There have always been six Republicans who have promised to vote for Naifeh if he needed the votes," Buck said. "But they also promised the GOP (House legislative) caucus that they'd support its nominee if Republicans ever got 50 votes. They just never thought that day would come."

Now it has in shock and awe effect. But whether these six Republican legislators will desert Naifeh in his hour of political need is another question, Buck said.

Look for a lot of behind-the-scenes dealmaking up to the second Tuesday in January, when the vote on House Speaker is taken. Naifeh could pull a "Wilder" deal and give half of the House committee chairmanships to the Republicans if the six keep him as speaker, Buck said.

In my opinion, Naifeh also could offer a lot of perks and pork barrel spending, which mean we the people lose -- again.

No comments: