McNally emerging as likely Ramsey successor?

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, previously named as a prospective successor to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker, tells Andrea Zelinski he would step aside in favor of Sen. Randy McNally, the legislature’s most senior member. And McNally is definitely running.

With a 38-year tenure in the legislature, McNally, 72, doesn’t face re-election until 2018. His longevity is a stat political insiders say could make his ascent to the Senate speakership a smooth transition following Ramsey’s expected departure next year.

“I know I’m not a Ron Ramsey. He’s a good friend. I probably see myself as more of a transition-type person. This will probably be the last thing I do in politics,” he told the Post. “I’m not going to be running for anything else. This is sort of the last hurrah.”

At max, McNally said he has one more term in him, “not a couple. Maybe one more.” His short tenure would pave the way for a replacement in a few years.

“Sen. McNally is our longest-serving member,” said Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, the Senate speaker pro tempore and another hopeful for the speaker’s gavel. “He’s played a multiple number of roles for our caucus, and in many ways, he’s earned what I would consider to be the right of first refusal.”

Watson is one of several expected contenders for the prestigious top job. Others include Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Commerce and Insurance Committee Chairman Jack Johnson, R-Franklin.

…McNally’s election to Senate speaker would open up a powerful position on the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee. Watson, first vice chair of the committee, could then slide over to the chairman’s position and potentially ready himself for a future run for speaker, sources say.

Asked about the strategy, Watson laughed. “I don’t know about a plan,” he said.

“In terms of what that would mean to everybody else, I don’t know. What I will say is, if Chairman McNally chooses to run for speaker, I would support that effort because he’s earned it. He’s earned that right,” said Watson.

…Ketron, a recent cancer survivor, said he’s also interested in the post. “Between now and December there will be a lot of — let the games begin, a lot of jockeying for position.”

He added: “I’ve had some encouragement, texts already today, so we’ll consider it… I’ve been through a journey these last few months. I know God got me through that for a purpose, so we’ll see what he has in store for me. I’ll let him lead me.”

Other potential candidates have declined to say whether they planned to contend for the speakership, saying it was too soon to begin talking about that prospect. However, none would rule it out.