In what was considered a bit of a surprise to her fellow Republicans and the Tennessee political community in general, State Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) announced Tuesday afternoon she will not run for re-election when her term ends in January 2019.
Butt has been one of the most reliably conservative members of the Tennessee House of Representatives since her election in 2010. Republicans are now looking for someone of similar stature to hold the seat for the party, while Democrats believe that the seat–considered unwinnable for them as long as Butt was in office–might come into play again in 2018.
Through a statement appearing in The Columbia Daily Herald, Butt said, “After much prayer and consideration, I will not be running for re-election for the next General Assembly which will convene in January of 2019.”
Being a representative of the people was never intended by our Founding Fathers to be a profession, and was specifically designed to be a limited time of public service.
As the year ends and January is approaching, I am looking forward to the second half of the 110th General Assembly beginning in 2018. It has truly been one of the highest honors in my life to be elected to serve the people of the 64th District in the Tennessee General Assembly, and I sincerely thank my constituents for that opportunity.
Reacting to her decision, Maury County Republican Party Chair Scott Cepicky told The Daily Herald the Party would have a formal statement in the coming days, but that, “It is a shock to us all on both sides of the aisle. She has done a fantastic job over her last three terms. We are very proud of what she has accomplished, hopefully, she will stay involved in local politics and local issues. Whether you agree with her politics or not, she had a passion for her job. Her compassion for people was always self evident. They put their heart into the job and they give it everything they have.”
Voters first elected Sheila Butt to the State House in 2010, defeating freshman Democrat John ‘Ty’ Cobb for the state district 64 seat. During her four-term tenure, she has been a consistent voice for conservatives, sponsoring a resolution for the federal government to follow Tennessee model of a balanced budget (HJR 199), and co-sponsoring Voter Identification legislation (HB0007).
Prior to her election to the State House, Butt authored five books. The latest in 2008 is titled, “Everyday Princess: Daughter of the King,” and discusses the relationship between God, his worshipers, and each other.
“I look forward to working with and for the people of the 64th District in the next year and then devoting full time to my Women’s Ministry, ‘Sisters, Servants and Soldiers,'” Butt wrote to The Daily Herald. “This is an exciting new opportunity for service for women in the Kingdom of God. We will create a list of strong, knowledgeable women speakers and teachers as a resource for congregations. We will present mission opportunities for those who are willing to travel and teach throughout the world. We all have different talents to be used to His glory.”
Butt may be taking a step back, but she vows to remain a voice in local politics, telling The Daily Herald, “I will also be actively involved in helping to elect another strong Conservative from District 64 who will represent us well and who will continue making Maury County the best place to live, work and raise our families in Tennessee.”
Meanwhile, the people’s business moves ever forward, and the business and hand centers around who might fill the retiring Columbian’s spot. The Daily Herald’s editor Jim Bennett has already published an editorial about it, writing, in part:
Maury County Democrats were giddy Tuesday night over Shelia Butt’s decision to vacate her spot in the state legislature.
They’ll be even happier in the weeks ahead, when former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen announces he’ll run for the U.S. Senate. And they’ll be intrigued by lawyer Chad Molder’s possible run for Columbia mayor.
Bredesen floated the possibility of his candidacy to replace U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in mid-October.
If Bredesen were not running, he would have told Democrats he was out, giving other candidates a chance. I am sure he’s working behind the scenes to shore up support and develop a media campaign.
Meanwhile, Molder, who came close to winning the race for District Attorney in 2014, is one of the party’s favorite local sons. He’s the son-in-law of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Craig Fitzhugh, a state representative from outside Memphis.
Molder would be a formidable candidate to replace Mayor Dean Dickey, if Dickey decides to step aside after two terms.