GOP orders total of 58 flags on first day of new session
Posted: Monday, January 31, 2011 8:01 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
NASHVILLE (AP) — The nearly 200 state flags ordered to be flown over the state Capitol on the first day of the 2008 legislative session ended up as an enduring symbol of Republican overconfidence after their nominee for House speaker lost in a stunning upset.
The GOP’s delayed triumph in officially taking full control of both chambers of the General Assembly earlier this month was more muted — at least by a count of the flags hoisted on behalf of Republicans.
An Associated Press open records request has found that just 58 state flags were ordered this year — seven fewer than the number flown on request of former Rep. Jason Mumpower of Bristol, the thwarted Republican nominee for speaker two years ago. Seven other Republicans ordered at least five flags for what they expected to be a historic occasion for the GOP.
But Republican Rep. Kent Williams ended up the surprise winner of the 2008 speaker’s election when he banded together with all the chamber’s Democrats in a maneuver that ultimately caused him to be stripped of his right to run again as a Republican. The Elizabethton restaurateur was re-elected to the House as an independent last year, but decided against another bid for speaker.
This year, state workers raised and lowered flags for the 26 new Republicans in the House and Senate and one each for new Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheney of Tullahoma.
The remaining state flags were ordered by other Republicans, including 15 for Rep. Joshua Evans of Greenbrier and two by Comptroller Justin Wilson, who hired Mumpower after he retired from the Legislature last year.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville said the smaller number of flags ordered this year reflects a change in leadership styles since the exuberance of 2008.
“I think Beth Harwell’s a little more down to earth an approachable than maybe the previous pretenders to the throne,” he said.
Harwell declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
Published in The Messenger 1.31.11