Haslam Exits RGA Chairmanship Post

The Republican Governors Association held leadership elections in Las Vegas this week, thus capping off Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s year-long stint chairing the organization.

With the election this month of Matt Biven in Kentucky, there are now 32 sitting or soon-to-be-sitting Republican governors in the United States. That number could change depending on the outcome Saturday of Louisiana’s gubernatorial runoff. (Update, 11/22: Democrat John Bel Edwards won Louisiana’s race for governor.)

Members of the RGA on Thursday picked New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to take over for Haslam. Martinez won selection as vice chair in November 2014 and faced no opposition in this week’s vote.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who two months ago quit his bid to capture the GOP’s presidential nomination, will be the organization’s new vice chair.

In a press release from RGA, Haslam praised both Walker and Martinez, who’s both the first woman and the first governor of Hispanic heritage to head the association.

Haslam called Martinez “one of the Republican Party’s best leaders” and “an outstanding choice to lead the RGA for the next year.”

“She has made the tough decisions necessary to move New Mexico forward and knows what it takes to win in a blue state, a skill that will be vital to ensuring our governors and candidates have the resources they need to win in 2016,” said Haslam.

Tennessee’s governor also praised Gov. Walker’s record, calling it “enormously impressive.” Haslam noted that Walker, too, has triumphed in three elections in what’s traditionally been a Democrat-leaning state, and has done so by challenging organized labor.

Since first securing the Badger State’s highest public office in 2010, Walker, who survived a 2012 recall effort and won reelection last year, “has not shied away from any battle, even taking on the labor unions, in order to build a better tomorrow for Wisconsin,” said Haslam.

Now that Haslam is no longer leading the RGA, he may feel freer to stump for a GOP presidential candidate of his liking. When asked in the past who he favors in the crowded Republican primary field, Haslam has declined to answer.

“It’s probably best for me to stay out of it until I am either not in this role (as RGA chairman) or that field narrows some,” Haslam told TNReport in August.

Nine of the GOP presidential hopefuls at that time were or are current or past governors. Since then, Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobbly Jindal have abandoned their 2016 Oval Office aspirations. Jindal’s departure was announced just this week.

Haslam complained during a RGA press conference this week that real estate magnate Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, neither of whom have ever held elected public office, seem to be stealing headlines and limelight from the Republican governors in the race.

A poll conducted earlier this month by Middle Tennessee State University indicated Volunteer State opinion is widely split among the GOP field, but Carson is leading with Trump in second. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading among Democrats.

“Benjamin Franklin famously said, ‘Well done is better than well said,'” said Haslam, according to a Politico story published Thursday. “Unfortunately, around the presidential election, we live in a media environment where well said is better than well done.”

Haslam will serve on the RGA’s 2016 executive committee, along with Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Pence of Indiana, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska.