Rep. Jason Mumpower said Tuesday he probably will run for speaker of the House again if Republicans add to their majority in the November elections.
Mumpower, the House Republican leader, made the comments to Nashville radio personality Steve Gill on his morning show. There had been speculation that the Bristol lawmaker might bow out of House leadership.
“If Republicans come back with a bigger majority than you had last time, would you make another bid for the House speakership?” Gill asked Mumpower.
“I would say so,” he replied. “As the Republican leader, it’s one of my biggest responsibilities to make sure that we have enough Republicans elected to even worry about that. So if we’re fortunate to be in that position, I would say that I probably would.”
A year ago, Mumpower thought he would make history as the first Republican House speaker in 40 years. Instead, he watched as Democrats elected Rep. Kent Williams, an obscure Republican backbencher from Elizabethton with whom they'd cut a secret deal.
For his betrayal, Williams was kicked out of the Republican Party and, at Mumpower’s direction, denied entry to the House GOP caucus. But in defiance of Mumpower, House Republicans voted in March to admit Williams to their meetings. Some observers viewed that as the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in Mumpower.
Williams, meanwhile, has been demanding reinstatement in the party. But the GOP executive committee has refused to take up the issue, and this week party chairman Chris Devaney sent a letter to the Carter County election administrator warning her against placing the speaker’s name on the 2010 ballot as a Republican.
In response, Williams complained: “I have hoped for some time that my party would work to build a bigger tent, a more inclusive tent. People who believe in, support and move forward core Republican principles should not be excluded from the tent of the Republican Party. Yet, my hopes may have been in vain. The tent some group of the Republican Party wants is a small tent. A narrow-minded tent. A tent with no room for alternative ideas.”
Carter County Election Commission Chairman Buddy Whitehead said Tuesday if it were up to him, “most definitely” he would let Williams run as a Republican. But he said he will follow the law in the matter, and he thinks Williams will win an overwhelming re-election anyway. He said he doubts any Republican will challenge Williams.
“It’s not our business to judge whether it’s right or wrong,” Whitehead told The City Paper. “We just have to follow the law. I’m a personal friend of Kent Williams. I don’t let politics pick my friends. I’m not going to run under the rug and hide from it. But we’ll have to list him as an independent. We don’t have any say-so in that. We’re just doing our jobs.”