published Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

GOP leadership seeks to block Williams from rejoining party

NASHVILLE — Eighteen Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee members are urging colleagues on the 63-member panel to reject any attempt to restore the GOP credentials of state House Speaker Kent Williams.

A letter to executive committee members dated Saturday warned that “the possibility exists that a motion to restore Kent Williams’ credentials as a bona-fide Republican will be raised at the next meeting of the State Executive Committee.” The panel meets Saturday.

“We pledge to uphold the decision of the State Executive Committee to bar Mr. Williams from appearing on the ballot as a Republican and ask for you to join our stand on principle in this matter,” said the letter from the group of 18, which includes Oscar Brock of Lookout Mountain and Dr. John Stanbery of Cleveland.

In January, Rep. Williams, of Elizabethton, voted with all 49 House Democrats to elect himself speaker over Republican Leader Jason Mumpower, of Bristol.

Then-Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Robin Smith, citing support from state executive committee members, later invoked her power to keep Rep. Williams from seeking re-election to the House as a Republican.

Since then Rep. Williams, who describes himself as a “Carter County Republican,” has sought to get himself reinstated. He supported Republican House members’ positions on a variety of issues this past legislative session and gave money to Republican Pat Marsh of Shelbyville, who ran in and won a special election.

A number of state House Republicans support his reinstatement.

Speaker Williams was not available for comment Monday.

Mrs. Smith gave up the chairmanship to run for Congress. Her successor, Chris Devaney, has said he is inclined to listen to executive committee members on the issue.

Mr. Brock said he’s standing on principle and doesn’t want to yield to “political expediency.”

“I think there’s times when honor and honesty and integrity matter, and this guy has displayed none,” Mr. Brock said.

“We think we have the vote to keep it (reinstatement) from happening, which I suspect and hope means the motion won’t be brought.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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