NASHVILLE, Tennessee – At the State Senate Republican Caucus meeting held Monday afternoon in an eighth floor conference room of the Cordell Hull Building, there was no obvious drama in the selection of its six leaders for the upcoming 111th General Assembly.
The elections held off until Governor-Elect Bill Lee, after making his rounds greeting each of the Senators individually, made scheduled opening remarks that lasted about five minutes. He was introduced by Lt. Governor Randy McNally, who said Lee, elected by an overwhelming majority in both the primary and general is a man of faith and a conservative, concluding “I think we’re going to get along just fine.”
Lee said it was an honor and humbling to be there with a remarkable group of public servants, many of whom he has built relationships with.
Lee was complimentary of the leadership by those in the room, as well as the state House and the Governor, which has made Tennessee a remarkably good place to be by creating and laying a foundation that can be built upon so that all Tennesseans can enjoy a good job, good school for their kids and a safe neighborhood.
From there, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore and Treasurer Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) took over, announcing that they would be working under Mason’s rules. With a supermajority of 27 of the 33 Senate seats, 14 votes would be needed to elect a candidate. Vote totals would not be announced, just the name of the winner of each individual contest.
Senator and current Speaker of the Senate/Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), running unopposed, was selected as the Republican candidate after being nominated by Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) who said McNally is “without question one of, if not the most, honorable member” of the Senate.
First elected in 1978, McNally first served eight years in the state House before being elected to the Senate. McNally became the Senate Speaker/Lt. Governor in the 110th Tennessee General Assembly, replacing the retired Ron Ramsey.
After each candidate was allotted three minutes to speak, Williamson County’s Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) was selected as Majority Leader over Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville), resulting in the Governor-Elect Bill Lee, Presumptive Speaker of the House Glen Casada and the Senate Majority Leader all being from the Republican stronghold of Williamson County.
Each candidate for the position of Republican Caucus Chairman, Senators Brian Kelsey (R- Germantown), Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Ken Yager (R-Kingston), in their allotted three minutes, addressed in their own unique way how they would tackle the primary function of the Caucus Chairman which is to raise money and ensure Republicans are elected or re-elected.
Impressively, in the three-way race, Yager was determined to be the victor in the first round of voting.
For the positions of Treasurer, Secretary and Chaplain, Senators Ferrell Haile, Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro), respectively, ran unopposed and were elected by acclamation.
The three members selected for the joint Fiscal Review Committee were Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) and Steve Southerland (R-Morristown).
As the meeting was wrapping up, Senator and Congressman-Elect Mark Green (R-Clarksville) was given an opportunity to say a few words. In addition to some pleasantries, Green said that at the start of each year, he would like to get his new colleagues together to meet with the state legislature, “As a state Senator, I felt like we weren’t heard up here.” Green continued that if he has any influence, he would use it to arrange the get together.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally made the statements below following the Senate Republican Caucus elections:
Jack Johnson will be an outstanding Senate Majority Leader. He has the experience, temperament and policy expertise to lead our caucus and the Senate to new heights. Jack has been intimately involved in the progress we have made as a state. Beginning with his transformation of the Government Operations Committee to his strong leadership on the Commerce Committee, Jack has put conservative ideas into action on behalf of the people of Tennessee. As we embark on a new era in Tennessee state government, Jack’s leadership will be critical. Congratulations, Leader Johnson.
Ken Yager has the depth of skill and breadth of experience to excel as chairman of our Senate Republican Caucus. As a county executive and chairman of the Senate State and Local Committee, he has demonstrated an ability to lead under pressure. Our caucus has achieved much success both in policy and in politics. I expect that success to continue under Ken Yager’s leadership. Congratulations, Chairman Yager.
The Senate is fortunate to have a membership full of capable and talented leaders. I am confident the team we have elected today will work together with Governor Lee and the state House to keep Tennessee the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family.
The state Senate issued a press release following the Republican caucus elections, which can be read here.