Rep. Haynes seeks to replace Devaney as GOP chair; Carr undecided

State Rep. Ryan Haynes of Knoxville has declared himself a candidate to succeed Chris Devaney as Tennessee Republican chairman today, shortly after Devaney announced his resignation effective next month.

Former state Rep. Joe Carr of Rutherford County, who lost a bid to replace Devaney in a December vote by the state Republican Executive Committee after losing a challenge for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in August, says he’s not decided whether to try again at the committee’s April 11 vote.

Carr said he expects “two, three or four” members of the executive committee may be interested in succeeding Devaney. And he says Haynes may have an initial advantage because “establishment Republican bloodlines” run to the East Tennessee area that the Knoxville lawmaker represents. He noted that Gov. Bill Haslam is from Knoxville, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander from nearby Maryville and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker – a longtime friend of the Haslam family – is from Chattanooga.

The Times-Free Press reports that Rebecca Ann Burke, a sitting state executive committee member, is also being mentioned as a potential candidate.

Here’s the letter that Haynes, who is chairman of the Knox County delegation at the state Legislature, sent to members of the GOP Executive Committee shortly after Devaney sent members his resignation notice:

Dear SEC member,

As you know, Chris Devaney has announced his decision to step down as Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. Under the leadership of Chairman Devaney and the State Executive Committee, our party has reached historic levels of success. Our state is better off because of that dedicated service.

It is now time to look to the future. We must examine who our party will trust to have a clear vision and a set of goals to keep us successful. I want you to be the first to know of my intentions to seek the position of Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. Certainly this decision does not come lightly. This is a tremendous responsibility and I would be honored to serve a party that stands on solid principles and protects the values of Tennesseans.

Having served in the state legislature since 2008, I have seen first-hand the significance of having conservative leadership leading our party and our state. Together Republicans have cut taxes, increased efficiencies in state government, and spurred economic development for our citizens while holding true to our conservative beliefs. I have been fortunate to hold many leadership roles in the General Assembly during this time that include serving as the assistant caucus chair and holding the gavel as chairman of the state government committee. In addition I have been a proud member of the Republican Caucus Campaign Committee where conservatives have reached historic levels in the state legislature. My persistence, hard work, and loyalty to the Republican Party have resulted in significant improvements to our state.

I appreciate the history of our party and the efforts of those who have paved the way to where we dominate local, state and federal offices. However, I believe there is more work to do for our future. My four goals are simple and are as follows:

1) Elect a Republican president in 2016 and send boots on the ground to other states that might need extra help to do the same
2) Strengthen our numbers in the state legislature and the United States Congress
3) Build on our Red to the Roots program
4) Prepare a comprehensive plan to attract younger voters, women, and minorities to our cause.

I intend to travel our state seeking your advice and counsel, but most importantly work to earn your trust and support. I’m sure others will be interested in serving as chairman, but I can assure you no one will outwork me. In my first race for the state legislature I knocked on thousands of doors, followed my campaign plan, and did a lot of listening. I plan on doing the same thing as a candidate for state chairman. My passion for our party runs deep and I know that together we can continue to build on our successes of the past, and capitalize on opportunities for the future. I will do my part and I know you will do yours just as you have in the past.

Therefore, I respectfully ask for your vote and your support. I look forward to seeing you along the trail in the days ahead.

Ryan Haynes