Speaking of Speakers

Now that Republicans have won firm control over the Tennessee House of Representatives, their first significant action as the clear-majority party will be to select someone to preside over the chamber’s daily legislative business.

The next leader of the House will replace Speaker Kent Williams, a former Republican who was kicked out of the party after striking the infamous deal with Democrats to vote himself into the post in 2008.

House Republicans expect to caucus on Dec. 8 to decide who they plan to support when the position goes for a vote before entire chamber in January.

Because the party picked up 14 seats in this week’s election, Republicans have a towering 64-34-1 majority. The next speaker will need a simple 50-member majority vote to win.

Several Republicans are interested in the job, including House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin and Rep. Beth Harwell of Nashville. Education Committee Chairman Harry Brooks of Knoxville and Rep. Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga have previously expressed interest but have since backed off.

The next speaker will have his or her hands full with 22 new members to train, assign to committees, and find offices and desks for. The next speaker will also have to manage the first-time legislators who may not be familiar with parliamentary procedure.

“That is a large freshman class,” said Williams. “I guess I’m fortunate I’m not going to be Speaker to deal with all that because that’s going to be a lot of work.”

Williams said he is endorsing Harwell to fill his post. While he is officially not a member of the party, he said his endorsement still carries significant weight.

“I know for a fact the majority of the caucus respect me for who I am, for being an honest individual and not afraid to take steps that need to be taken at the proper time,” he said.

“The ones that don’t like me aren’t going to vote for Beth either,” he said.

A few longtime legislators told TNReport this week what qualities will make themselves, or someone else, the best for party leadership. Here’s what they had to say: