Despite campaigning as a staunch conservative, Governor-elect Bill Lee has assembled a senior leadership team and Cabinet composed almost entirely of Democrats, anti-Trump Republicans and Haslam Administration holdovers over the nearly two months since election day. Nevertheless, his announcement of former State Rep. Courtney Rogers (R-Hendersonville) as his Commissioner of Veterans Affairs is a clear signal that he CAN find a conservative leader to serve on his team when he chooses to do so.
Supported by Tea Party and Second Amendment activists, Rogers won an underdog primary race against Rep. Debra Maggart in 2012. At the time, Maggart was a part of the House Republican Leadership team as Caucus Chair. Rogers crafted a solidly conservative record in the House and remains a favorite of conservative activists across the state.
While Rogers’ appointment will be cheered by conservative grassroots activists, it is a position with limited policy significance despite the strong credentials that she will bring to the job. The State Department of Veterans Affairs largely serves as a pass through for federal dollars to federally authorized programs and services.
Many Cabinet appointments remain that carry much more weight — including Transportation, Education, Economic Development, and General Services. Should Lee continue to shut out conservatives from the remaining key positions in his Administration, the dissension and disappointment among his earliest supporters will only increase in volume and spread more deeply.
While Rogers’ is a good choice, why has it taken so long? Will it be the only one?