An AP Story on Republican Legislative Primaries

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two dozen Republican incumbents face challengers in legislative primaries, but party leaders say those bids signal enthusiasm — not dissatisfaction — with the way the GOP has run the Statehouse.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga called it a “a sign of a healthy system to have primary opponents,” even though the caucus has to raise more money to defend incumbents.
“Having opponents makes you a better legislator, so I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from running,” he said in a phone interview on Friday.
McCormick also noted that more Republicans want to become lawmakers given the party’s firm control in both chambers of the General Assembly.
“It’s much more desirable to run for one of these seats when you’re in the majority than when you’re in the minority and don’t have much influence,” he said.

Adam Nickas, the executive director of the state Republican Party, said he sees the large number of Republican challengers to be a reflection of anger at Democratic President Barack Obama.
“There are several candidates who have decided to run for public office in order to vent that frustration,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily guided toward the state Legislature.”
State Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese scoffed at that explanation.
“If they wanted to run for president, they could have run for president,” he said. “But I think it had a lot more to do with what they see happening in their neighborhoods and their communities.”
“This majority party has completely failed to create jobs,” he said.
Among the highest-profile primary challenges among 21 House GOP races is retired Lt Col. Courtney Rogers’ bid against House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville.
Rogers has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, which is still outraged that Maggart didn’t push through legislation to allow workers to store guns in vehicles parked on company lots regardless of their employers’ wishes.
In its endorsement of Rogers, the NRA accused Maggart of “procedural maneuvering behind closed doors” to defeat the bill opposed by the business lobby.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are among the prominent Republicans campaigning and raising money for Maggart, arguing that she has been unfairly targeted by the NRA.
“Debra had been critical to us this year, has been very helpful as caucus leader,” said Haslam, who also opposed the gun legislation. “Sometimes when you’re the leader you take a little added heat and pressure from folks, and we wanted to support her.”
The governor told reporters recently that he hasn’t decided whether he will support all Republican incumbents running for re-election to the state Legislature, but ruled out working against any sitting GOP lawmaker.
Another closely watched House race features former Rep. Susan Lynn of Lebanon taking on freshman Rep Linda Elam of Mt. Juliet. Lynn gave up the seat two years ago to mount an unsuccessful challenge to state Sen. Mae Beavers.
Freshman Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville is expected to face the strongest of three GOP challenges in the Senate from Scott Hughes of Seymour. Hughes, who works as chief financial officer for a Knoxville church, has questioned Overbey’s conservative credentials.
Ramsey said he is supporting Overbey’s re-election despite their sometimes differing views on legislation.
“He’s voted for me for speaker twice — and so I’ll be helping him, too, to return the favor,” Ramsey said.

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