Incoming House speaker criticized as too moderate

Monday, November 22, 2010 at 3:14pm

State House speaker-to-be Beth Harwell is coming under new attacks from the right wing of her party as too moderate, but she insisted again Monday that voters expect legislators to focus on jobs and the economy and not social issues.

“Gov.-elect Haslam’s agenda, his job creation program, will be at the top,” Harwell said when asked at a news conference to name her top priorities.

Conservative talk radio host Steve Gill predicted Republicans might lose half of the 14 House seats they gained in November’s elections because of Harwell’s nomination last week as her party’s choice as speaker.

Harwell, who represents Green Hills, defeated the more conservative House Republican political caucus chairman Glen Casada in the election, which was decided by secret ballot. Tea party activists and the state’s gun lobby supported Casada.

“When you’ve got a huge conservative political year, when you have candidates who run as conservatives, as tea party candidates, and then they vote for the more moderate RINO [Republican in name only] instead of the more conservative, I think that is a bit of a shock,” Gill said on Channel 2’s Sunday political talk show This Week with Bob Mueller.

“Frankly, I guess we shouldn’t be shocked. Politicians lie. They lied to their constituents in this case. And they lied to Glen Casada. He had people look him in the eye and say they were voting for him with enough numbers to win.”

After her nomination, Harwell said of her tea party critics, “We welcome their input … but certainly our party is united and ready to move forward.” Gill claimed she was “thumbing her nose” at the tea party by saying that.

“I think you’re going to see over the next 18 months, a lot of these Republican freshmen and others get challenged in primaries because they’ve proved by this election that they’re not as conservative as they said on the campaign trail,” Gill said. “They’re going to have votes that are going to further expose that.”

Talking to reporters Monday, Harwell played down conservative social issues as topics of debate for the next legislature, which begins in January.

She was asked specifically about the possibility that lawmakers might repeal the state’s handgun permit law to allow the unregulated carrying of firearms. Haslam drew criticism in the final days of the gubernatorial campaign for telling the Tennessee Firearms Association that he would sign such a bill into law. He later insisted he would encourage the legislature not to change the law.

“I don’t see that coming forth this General Assembly,” Harwell said.

“We addressed a good number of gun bills last session, and I feel that clearly we received a mandate from the public that we need to be focused on jobs and education and the economy this session.” 

14 Comments on this post:

By: not-steve on 11/22/10 at 3:17

Why is Steve Gill quoted again?

He first became bitter when he lost the house race a few years ago. I guess that he blames the Republicans for the fact that the public didn't support him.

During this campaign he became angry when Beth would not appear on his program.

Why should any Republican appear with him? He makes statement that he know are false. He will not change his mind even when shown the facts! Just ask any of the Republicans that could have beaten Cooper. He trashed them all.

Forget Gill!!

By: tdterry1999 on 11/22/10 at 3:54

I have to agree with Steve.

By: dogmrb on 11/23/10 at 7:33

Beth Harwell is a seasoned and intelligent representative who knows how to move legislation. She will work with the new Governor to govern our state. Seems Gill and other "reactionary conservatives" only know how to act like spoiled boys when they don't get their way. Oh, Representative Harwell is also the mother of boys so she has to deal with this behavior all the time ;-)

By: jvh2b on 11/23/10 at 7:47

Yeah it's just SOOOOO awful to have a moderate who will possibly bridge gaps and focus on actual issues like jobs and the budget instead of guns anywhere you please, and keeping those pesky gays from adopting.

Steve Gill has his head so far up his own hind end he can likely see his tonsils.

By: tim4wsp on 11/23/10 at 7:57

God forbid we have reasonable, logical, SANE leaders who can reach across the aisle and negotiate.

By: 87UTVOL on 11/23/10 at 8:49

When will folks like Steve Gill realize that Tennessee is a moderate Republican state? And, frankly, who cares what he thinks? He's one opinion.

Yes, most Tennesseans are to the right of center and, hence, Republican, but the election of Bill Haslam (defeated a very strong, very right wing Zach Wamp by a landslide margin) and Phil Bredesen (defeated an admittedly weak, but definitely right wing, Van Hillary) make it obvious that the far right wing isn't where most Tennesseans find themselves.

Tennessee's Republican history is with Baker, Alexander, Dunn, among many other more moderates. Beth Harwell will do a fabulous job as Speaker. She has the right experience. I wish her well.

By: pswindle on 11/23/10 at 9:36

Most Tennesseans are not Bible hugging out of touch with the rest of the world people. I am so tired of the Bible bunch trying to tell me how to live. The obortion issue is old and tried. There are a lot of people in TN that are liberal and we should not be pushed under the rug. We will come back. This backward life forced on us will not last long enough to destroy our state. I hope that Beth will work for all of us and not just the church folk. I am a christian and was rasied in the church, but you have to have a litle common sense.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/23/10 at 9:44

If Steve Gill is against her, then she must be the right person.

By: xhexx on 11/23/10 at 10:22

You're right Swindle, you liberals shouldn't be pushed under the rug. You should be pushed under a truck.

She said we won't see gun legislation this year because she's just Jimmy Naifeh with a vagina. She has no business being a Republican if she's going to vote her Dem constituents feelings.

By: bruingeek on 11/23/10 at 10:40

Just to make sure we're clear. Before the last legislative session began, the Democrats elected a Republican as speaker of the House....and the Republican whined about it for months. So now, yet another Republican has been elected speaker...and the Republicans are whining again.

As for Mr Gill...as soon as he gains as much success as Beth Harwell, perhaps his opinion will be more credible. In the meantime, how many new jobs will all of this whining create?

By: TN4th on 11/23/10 at 11:11

If we want jobs and economic growth in this state, we have to present rational problem-solvers, not whacked-out extremist ideologues, as our leadership. No one is going to bring jobs into a state governed by those who are ignorant retrogressives by choice.

Tennessee has done a great job of positioning itself as a sane and sensible place to do business. We need to keep that going.

The nasty and threatening comments by xhexx above typify the extreme right's opposition to sensibility and civility.

By: billyraydallas on 11/23/10 at 11:14

Beth is right on... it's jobs, stupid. There is no threat to social issues in Tennessee, but there is a threat to the viability of government if our elected officials don't start addressing the critical issues first. If they don't Gill's prediction of losing gained seats in 2012 may be correct, but not for the same reason. Come on, we elected them now let them do their job.

By: Captain Nemo on 11/23/10 at 12:44

xhexx is what gives the Republican Party a bad name. Nothing can possibility please the far right.

By: localboy on 11/29/10 at 2:58

so, in the republican conservative's dictionary harwell = commie?