Majority rules: Republicans remove Matheny from No. 2 state House spot

Majority rules: Republicans remove Matheny from No. 2 state House spot
From AP, staff reports
NASHVILLE — Members of the House Republican caucus on Monday unanimously nominated Speaker Beth Harwell for another term in charge of the chamber, but ousted Rep. Judd Matheny from the No. 2 slot.
Matheny, R-Tullahoma, was defeated by Rep. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville in a secret ballot.
State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said Harwell did a “phenomenal job” in her first term as speaker.
“I was more than happy to voice my willingness to move her into that second term,” he said, adding that Harwell is “exactly what we need to transition after 140 years of opposition party control.”
Holt praised Harwell for what he said was her willingness to treat both parties equally and put forth legislation beneficial to all.
“It doesn’t matter to her – or to me, either – if it’s a Democrat or Republican writing a piece of legislation,” Holt said. “If it’s good legislation it should pass. If it’s bad legislation it shouldn’t pass.”
Matheny announced in August that he was mulling a challenge to Harwell for speaker because he felt marginalized by other Republican leaders.
“That caught up with him,” Holt said of Matheny’s challenge of Harwell. “I hate that for him.”
Holt called Matheny a “close personal friend” who has done a “good job.”
“Sometimes,” Holt added, “the caucus moves in a different direction, and this is one of those times.”
Matheny said Republican leaders worked to dilute his key legislative initiatives ranging from loosening gun laws to battling what he perceived as the spread of Islamic law in the United States.
He later abandoned that bid in favor of another term in his current role, but by that point, Johnson had already begun to round up support for the position.
“We all need to pull together, we should all remember that our caucus tent is big enough to have different opinions,” Johnson said before the vote.
Matheny left before the House GOP meeting ended and did not speak to reporters.
He was a main sponsor of a 2011 bill that sought to make it a felony to follow some versions of the Islamic code known as Shariah law.
Hundreds of Muslims came to the Legislature to express fears the measure would outlaw central tenets of Islam, such as praying five times a day toward Mecca, abstaining from alcohol or fasting for Ramadan. 
The heavily watered-down law ultimately enacted by the Legislature bore little resemblance to the original proposal and references to any specific religion were removed.
“The main goal that we have right now as a caucus with a vast super-majority is that minorities tend usually to unite,” Holt said. “Majorities have the tendencies to sometimes divide.
“We are trying to move our caucus into a more unified position, not that we’re not unified right now. We’re just trying to galvanize that unification. I think we’re going to be successful at that.”
Matheny also clashed with House leaders over a bill seeking to guarantee employees the ability to store firearms in vehicles parked at work. Matheny rejected property rights concerns raised by several fellow Republicans in the House.

Harwell said the fact that only the major leadership position was challenged illustrates the level of unity within the caucus.
“There’s not the dissention that some might thing within the caucus,” she said. “I think we have a great leadership team in place.”
Harwell also welcomed Johnson’s victory.
The speaker and the speaker pro tempore are the only positions elected by the entire House membership, but as Republicans hold 70 of 99 seats in the chamber, the official votes are expected to be little more than a formality.
Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga was unopposed for another term, and Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin was elected Republican caucus chairman, a position vacated by the primary defeat of Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville.
Rep. Curry Todd, who was absent from the meeting, failed to be re-elected to fiscal review committee. The Collierville Republican has a court date this week in Nashville on drunken driving and gun charge.
News editor Brad Gaskins contributed to this report. Contact him by email at wcpeditor@frontiernet.net.
Published in The WCP 11.29.12

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