Although Election Day is still two weeks off, the fact that Republican candidate for Governor Bill Lee appears poised to win handily over Democrat nominee Mayor Karl Dean has speculation already underway about who might fill his Cabinet. One name generating a lot of buzz is State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma).
Bowling was one of Lee’s earliest supporters in the State Senate, publicly endorsing Lee while most of her colleagues in the Legislature were siding with the perceived front runners Diane Black and Randy Boyd. While the Lee team is avoiding any discussion of what role Bowling or any other potential Commissioners might fill, Education, Transportation and DCS would all fit her areas of expertise. Lee might prefer to keep her closer to the Governor’s office as a Legislative liaison with a portfolio that would include dealing with county and municipal leaders as well. (Bowling is a former Alderman in Tullahoma.) She is definitely high on the “secret” draft board at this point.
Another name drawing attention is former legislator Jamie Woodson, who served in both the State House and State Senate before becoming Executive Chairman and CEO of SCORE in 2011. As a former Chair of the Senate Education Committee and with SCORE having acted as a “shadow” Department of Education during the Haslam Administration it would not be surprising to see Woodson assume the actual helm under a Governor Lee. However, Woodson’s strong advocacy of Common Core could be a stumbling block for her and Lee may opt to keep Commissioner Candice McQueen in place initially or look elsewhere for a new Commissioner of Education.
Other names are likely to surface in the next few weeks, with a flurry of activity as soon as the polls close on November 6.