In an interview with the Associated Press, Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) said that if she enters the race for the Republican nomination for Governor of Tennessee, she will not give up her current position as Speaker of The Tennessee House of Representatives.
“I’m not going to give up the speakership, that would be foolish,” Harwell told the AP.
“I’m serving a valuable role here, and I suspect the next session will be an easier session that this one, so I think we’re in good shape,” she added.
She also said “she wants to take the rest of the month to decide whether to run,” according to the AP story.
“We have a lot of good people that are interested in it. . . Our state’s headed in the right direction, and I’ve been part of the leadership team getting the state headed in that right direction,” Harwell concluded.
Not everyone thinks it is a good idea for Harwell to hold on to her job as Speaker if she jumps into the race for Governor.
“This is another example of those in power ensuring that they stay in power. This kind of behavior is exactly why so many Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are rebelling against the political establishment,” former State Rep. Joe Carr tells The Tennessee Star.
“The biggest downside to remaining Speaker is the fact that she can’t raise money during the legislative session, which will likely run for about three months next year (January-March),” conservative political and media strategist Steve Gill tells The Star.
“It appears that she and her team have done the math and determined that they think she can raise more money from lobbyists and special interest groups before the session begins due to the power she wields as Speaker than she will lose out on by having to forego fundraising opportunities during the Legislative Session ‘blackout’ period,” Gill says.
“That is probably a reasonable calculation,” Gill concludes.
Harwell’s decision, however, would not be unprecedented.
Former Governor Ned McWherter, a Democrat, ran for Governor in 1986 and continued to serve as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives throughout the campaign until he was elected and inaugurated.
“In 1973, at the age of forty-two, he was elected Speaker of the House, a position he ably filled until his inauguration as governor in 1987,” the Tennessee Encylopedia reported.
“It’s unfortunate that Speaker Harwell, who claimed it’s a new day in politics when she was first elected Speaker in 2011, is continuing the same worn-out Democratic Party tradition of holding on to power in one office while seeking higher office. I hope and pray Speaker Harwell reconsiders her position on this, and takes the high road, and resigns as Speaker if she announces she will run for Governor,” former Rep. Carr tells The Star.
It was rumored that Harwell would announce her candidacy for Governor at the Rutherford County GOP Reagan Day Dinner on Thursday, which featured four announced or expected candidates, but a family emergency prevented her attendance.