In a News Sentinel column, Frank Cagle adds Randy Boyd — the newly-named commissioner of economic development — to the list of prospective Republican candidates for governor in 2018 and speculates that other gubernatorial wannabes — particularly House Speaker Beth Harwell — may be looking over their shoulders in the coming controversial legislative session.
As economic development guru, you rub elbows with the state’s major business people — i.e., political donors — on a daily basis. You work with local officials and legislators and you get to be a hero at the ribbon cutting. In short, it’s not a bad place to be in order to be introduced statewide.
Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd appears to be Haslam’s go-to guy. He served as an unpaid adviser on higher education and has now been named the new Economic Development commissioner. Whether Boyd has any interest in following his friend Bill into the office or not, the new job puts him in the spotlight and positions him to decide one way or the other in a couple of years. He has the qualification the last four winning statewide candidates have had — considerable personal wealth.
…Putting Boyd forward into a public role may make some other potential candidates nervous. Wonder how House Speaker Beth Harwell feels about it? Harwell has let it be known she is considering running. Harwell has been Haslam’s ally, fending off criticism from her conservative members, and she will play a vital role for any of Haslam’s initiatives standing a chance of passing next session.
Will she go to the mat for Medicaid expansion, new education standards (we aren’t allowed to call it Common Core anymore) or a gasoline tax? How much of her political capital is she willing to expend? None of these issues are popular with the conservatives who make up the Republican caucus.
…The Republican caucus is conservative, but within it is a subset of what might be described as the “Krazy Kaucus.” They see a mop sink and think it might be a foot-washing receptacle for creeping Sharia law. Obamacare, Obamacore, Obamaeverywhere are their constant watchwords. They may not be a majority, but they can make enough noise to spook some of the more level-headed members.
Haslam needs Harwell. He should hope she isn’t distracted looking over her shoulder.