The state Senate’s five Democrats — veteran Sens. Thelma Harper and Reggie Tate along with freshmen Sens. Lee Harris, Sara Kyle and Jeff Yarbro — will try meeting again Tuesday to decide who will fill the caucus leadership positions. Harper and Tate didn’t show up at a previous meeting.
Andy Sher has a report on some of the current Democratic senatorial doings while Robert Houk has a column recall the way things used to be.
From Sher’s story:
And, amid intense speculation that at least two want the top position, Yarbro and Harris last week sidestepped reporters’ questions about whether they were seeking the leader’s post or the No. 2 slot, caucus chairman.
“In a caucus of five people, everybody’s going to be in leadership,” Yarbro said. “That’s the reality.”
Said Harris: “There are a whole lot of ways to move Tennessee forward.”
Sara Kyle, a former Tennessee Regulatory Authority chairman, is the wife of former Democratic leader Jim Kyle, who left the Senate to run for a local judgeship. She also was vague on what post — if any — she is pursuing.
There’s talk that Tate may want to be caucus leader — he challenged Jim Kyle for the post two years ago but lost. This week, he wasn’t available to discuss his ambitions.
In a five-person caucus, just three votes make a majority. Some Republicans are wondering whether the three freshmen have an agreement and are waiting for the meeting to make it official.
But nobody really knows except the Democrats involved.
One of those Democrats, though, is outright professing no interest in the minority leader post — or any post, for that matter.
“Listen,” Harper said in an interview Tuesday. “I made it very clear. I’m not running for anything. I’ve paid my dues.”
From Houk’s column:
The makeup of the state Senate in 2015 will be much different from the one that the longest-serving member of the Northeast Tennessee delegation was first elected to in 1990. State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, who represents the 3rd District, was a member of the Democratic Party then.
There were certainly partisan divides two decades ago, but nothing like the acrimony seen on Capitol Hill today. Most of the truly harsh battles then were reserved for the traditional rural vs. urban divides.
In addition to the occasional bruising debates between Democrats and Republicans, there was also cooperation between the two parties.
Former Lt. Gov. John Wilder could never have served as long as he did as speaker of the Senate without building a coalition of like-minded Democrats and Republicans. It was, as the late Wilder used to say: “The Senate being the Senate.”
Serving in the Senate is much like being a member of an exclusive club, one perk of which includes being at the center of some of the most important debates in state history. Former members are often welcomed back to the Senate floor for recognition. “We never forget our colleagues,” I recall one senator telling me a few years ago.