Tea Party wants transparent House speaker vote

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 2:45pm

Tea Party activists are calling on Republican state representatives to publicly declare how they vote in their spirited fight to decide who bangs the gavel as House speaker in the GOP-dominated 107th General Assembly.

But House Republican Caucus chairman Glen Casada, the favorite to win his party’s nomination as speaker, says the caucus will stick with its plans to vote by secret ballot Thursday — albeit during a meeting that’s open to the public. Casada’s opponent in the contest is Rep. Beth Harwell of Green Hills, who would become the state’s first woman speaker of the House.

“I want to know who voted and who voted for whom and what their reasoning was,” said Mark Skoda, leader of the Memphis Tea Party, which is lobbying for Casada. “That’s an issue of transparency. This is not the time to go secret ballot. At the end of the day, I want to know how my representatives voted. We want to know what their rationale was. An anonymous secret vote is problematic.”

Casada said House GOP caucus bylaws call for a secret ballot and insisted his hands are tied in the matter.

“There may be a time that the caucus will look at changing that,” he said. “But our bylaws call for a secret ballot and it’s been that way — gosh — since I’ve been up here about 10 years now. So we will comply with our bylaws.”

In voting by secret ballot, House members are insulated from reprisals by either side. The full House will formally elect the new speaker in January. Republicans so outnumber Democrats — by a margin of 64-34 —that their nominee is a shoo-in.

Skoda said that should Harwell win her party’s nomination, the Tea Party will punish any representatives who vote for her for speaker.

“If she is elected, there will be House leaders who will pay the price in the next election cycle. It’s just that simple,” he said.

Tea Party activists and the state’s gun lobby have opposed Harwell chiefly because she voted against the guns-in-bars law in the last legislature. In addition, they point to her endorsement by Rep. Kent Williams, who was kicked out of the Republican Party for making a secret deal with the Democrats to win election as House speaker two years ago.

“Beth is definitely moderate,” Skoda said. “She’s got a foot in both camps. We now have a 64-vote majority. There’s really no reason to compromise now. We need a strong partner on the House side, someone who’s not going to compromise. It’s important that we get a strong conservative who will back those issues that are important to us.”

In interviews, Harwell has promised to push a conservative agenda: “Certainly in times past, we’ve had this mentality of a Democrat-Republican coalition, understandably so,” she told the Tennessee Report. “That day is over.” 

6 Comments on this post:

By: FLeFew on 11/16/10 at 3:31

I don't know who this Party late comer Skoda is, but, based on a single vote, he criticizes Harwell and calls her a moderate. If he had been paying attention for the last 15 or so years, he would know that she is the true conservative in this contest.

Harwell has said publically and in writing that she would have all Republican Chairmen and all committees with Republican majorities. Casada hasn't said as much.

Skoda must have been listening to Pope ... the Wilson County self-proclaimed Independent now telling Republicans how to vote ... who endorsed both Democrats and Republicans in the election and who proclames a person's conservatism based solely on whether or not they voted for Guns in Bars.

By: GuardianDevil01 on 11/17/10 at 6:10

The fact that Kent Williams support Harwell speaks volumes about who is more conservative. If the Republican caucus selects Harwell then they lose all credibility, not that objective and knowledgeable people believe they have any in the first place.

By: jCitizen on 11/17/10 at 7:31

1. Only Harwell & Casada have a shot. No one else is a contender.
2. Neither will appoint Democrats as committee chairs! If anyone says so, they are very disconnected or trying to use you.
3. Kent Williams is a dope. Nothing he does should make any difference.
4. I haven't agreed with Harwell 100%; but looking at her overall service, there is no reasonable way to label her a "RINO" and "moderate" is a stretch.


We now have only two choices.

The best choice, is the best person... The best leader.

The best choice is Beth Harwell.

Glen Casada has character problems that should embarrass him
and WILL EMBARRASS the new Republican majority:

*Known to tell one person one thing and someone else another.
*Committed to financial support of Republican Candidates and then welshed on it. He lied.
*Made deal to keep Durham -Naifeh's man- as Clerk!
(Naifeh choosing House Clerk and Chief of Staff needs to end)
*Serious skirt chaser even on the clock at work. Ask around.
(You haven't heard the half of it. The Dems have evidence they hope to use AFTER Casada is elected or to make deals with in the mean time.)

Thats not the kind of person Tennessee needs in leadership!

By: Ingleweird on 11/17/10 at 8:59

Please stop referring to the so-labeled "Tea Party" using capital letters. If you are referencing an ACTUAL organization, such as Memphis Tea Party or Tea Party Nation, caps would be proper, however, writing about "Tea Party activists" implies an organizational structure which, to my knowledge, is simply non-existent.

@Guardian + jCitizen:
Waaaaaah! Kent Williams! Waaaaaaah!
Face it, you guys can't stand Williams because he doesn't always vote with the herd. I had the same problem with Jim Cooper; that is, until I realized that he was elected to represent his district, not the party to which he belongs. Waaaaaaaaa!

By: Jay Johnson on 11/17/10 at 11:45

Beth Harwell is clearly the most qualified for the job and is overdue for promotion.

Back in 2002, Rep. Harwell was chief party engineer for the redistricting coup to prevent wholesale slaughter of Republican incumbents. When then Speaker Naifeh realized he had no Republican cover votes, the House Democrat Plan for redistricting lines was redrawn and unclustered Republicans back into districts where they had a fighting chance at reelection. That set up the 2010 tsunami.

A decade earlier in 1992, Republicans lost House seats from the redistricting cycle start with 12 Republicans drawn into 6 districts. After Republicans won the lawsuit, Democrats gleefully came back and drew 2 more Republicans into 1 district. "We can't afford to win any more lawsuits like that," Republican activists said at the time.

Beth will bring the fair and legal redistricting to Tennessee that Democrats deserve.

By: GUARDIAN on 11/17/10 at 4:25

GUARDIAN-Beth Harwell of Green Hills is the last person Tennessee needs as House Speaker.