The Republicans Party’s decisive takeover of several state government strongholds may have Democrats feeling pretty down, but it’s not the end of the world, said Gov. Phil Bredesen.
While standing beside his Republican successor, Governor-elect Bill Haslam, the termed-out Democrat told reporters that the GOP will find itself in much the same spot, too, if it doesn’t deliver.
“To me the bottom line is real simple, the people are angry right now,” Bredesen said.
The Democratic Party promised “change” two years ago, he continued, but it hasn’t stepped up and now voters are holding them accountable.
“I suspect if the Republicans don’t deliver change of that sort, we’ll be back to the Democrats again. This is the way the process is supposed to work, and I think it has,” he added.
Bredesen made the remarks after meeting with Haslam Wednesday morning to discuss how best to implement the power shift to a new administration. Haslam said he plans to announce members of his transition team within coming days.
“Sure, as governor, you’d much rather have those healthy majorities, and I was very pleased to see that,” said Haslam. But what voters want in a governor is someone who can solve problems, he said, regardless which party controls each chamber.
Republicans picked up 14 seats in Tuesday’s election, giving them a 64-34 majority with one Independent. The GOP picked up one seat in the Senate for a 20-13 stronghold.
Democrats could have done little to stem the onslaught, maintained Rep. Mike Turner, the party’s House caucus chairman from Old Hickory. Turner himself squeaked by in his reelection bid by just over 700 hundred votes, according to unofficial tallies.
“It was mostly the national anger. They were mad at Washington and we got blamed for it,” Turner said.
Nashville Rep. Gary Odom, the party’s top leader in the chamber, told a similar story.
“It is clear that Tennessee voters are angry. While I believe that anger is primarily directed at our Federal Government and our nation’s economic problems, it is clear that our Democratic candidates for state legislative seats could not overcome the Republican momentum,” said Odom in a written statement.
Most of those defeats came in statehouse districts within the fourth, sixth and eighth Congressional Districts, he added, where Republican candidates for the U.S. House and Senate won by large margins.
Tennessee Republicans will officially take full control of the state legislative and executive branches in January. Once that happens, GOP lawmakers, backed by a Republican governor, will have the majority needed to approve new laws without needing Democratic approval, a political dynamic that’s never manifested itself in this century or the last.
“Every two years there’s an election. The people decide the agenda for the state,” said Rep. Glen Casada, House GOP caucus chairman and potential nominee for Speaker of the House. “The people of the state decided they wanted 64 Republicans running, making laws and setting the budget. I think you’ll find our Republicans very willing to do what the people of Tennessee want them to do.”