Harwell elected House speaker
Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 11:06 pm
NASHVILLE (AP) — Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives elected their first female speaker on Tuesday in a leadership vote that ended with a historic result, but none of the partisan surprises from two years ago.
State Rep. Beth Harwell, a Nashville Republican, ran unopposed for the post and was elected by all 98 members present.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in our great state,” Harwell told her colleagues from the well of the chamber. “I recognize the significance of this day for women, and I’m thankful for the guidance and influence that many women have had on my life.”
Women have previously held the position of speaker pro tempore in both chambers, and several have been elected to Congress. But none has won statewide office.
The smooth election stood in contrast to the drama of two years ago, when Republican Rep. Kent Williams in a surprise move banded together with 49 Democrats to thwart the GOP nominee by one vote.
The maneuver was met with outrage among GOP lawmakers and observers in the chamber, and ultimately caused Williams to be stripped of his right to run again as a Republican. The Elizabethton restaurateur was re-elected as an independent in November, but decided against another run at speaker.
Following a warm response to his final remarks as speaker, Williams joked: “Thank goodness — I thought I’d hear at least one ‘boo.”’
Republicans in November gained 14 seats in the House to give them a 64-34 majority, while the GOP advantage in the Senate has grown to 20-13 over Democrats.
Those majorities, combined with the election of Republican Gov.-elect Bill Haslam, mean the GOP will have complete control of both the legislative and executive branches of state government for the first time since 1869.
Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville saw no ill effects from his poor showing as a gubernatorial candidate last year. He was elected to his third term on party-line vote over Democratic Sen. Joe Haynes of Goodlettsville.
Ramsey teared up as he took the oath of office and wiped his eyes as he walked to the podium to take up the gavel again.
Published in The Messenger 1.12.11