State Sen. Reginald Tate says he supports approval of Amendment 2 on the November Tennessee ballot, even though he is listed as a member of the steering committee for an organization opposing the proposal authorizing gubernatorial appointment of the state’s top judges.
“I made a mistake,” Tate, D-Memphis, said in an interview.
Tate said that he misunderstood the purpose of the committee in a conversation with organizers and assented to use of his name thinking it involved a show of support for electing judges at lower court levels.
Amendment 2 does not impact trial court judges, who will remain subject to contested elections. Instead, it authorizes the governor to appoint the state Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals — subject to legislative confirmation and a retention election wherein voters will decide whether they get a subsequent term in office.
Tate noted that he voted for Amendment 2 when it was approved for placement on the ballot by the Legislature. The lawmaker said he will ask leaders of the Vote No on 2 organization to remove his name from the steering committee list.
He was the only Democratic lawmaker on the list, announced in a news release on the organization’s formal launch in July. Three Republican lawmakers remain as steering committee members – Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden and Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma.
Niceley said he opposes Amendment 2 and believes rejection by the voters will be a step toward returning to popular elections for the state’s highest judges as framers of the Tennessee constitution intended.
“If we’re going to have an independent judiciary, they’re got to be elected by the people… independently of the legislative and executive branches,” Niceley said. “If people understand they are giving up the right to vote, it won’t pass.”