Republican Gov. Bill Haslam this week gave a pep talk to the state House's huge 22-member class of incoming freshman lawmakers in which he encouraged them to choose good public policy over playing politics.
"There's a way to be about good government versus a way to always be about politics," the governor told the freshmen during their orientation.
Conceding there are "times when you have to come up with a political answer -- that's just the reality," Haslam added, "but I really hope that we're always driven by getting to the right answer."
Of course, the governor also acknowledged, that right answer may be somewhat subjective.
Republicans picked up big gains in the House on Nov. 6, increasing their 64-member majority to a 70-member strong "super majority" in the 99-member chamber.
In response to a question posed by a freshman -- the only one evidently brave enough to state anything before reporters -- Haslam advised new members to study the state budget and how the state's annual spending plan often drives policy.
And the governor, who is known for putting his finger in the air from time to time to determine which way the wind is blowing, warned that "once you get here, things tend to be a lot less clear than maybe they were before.
"I'm a person of conviction. I really am," Haslam declared. "I'm not saying that we should just be somewhere in the mushy middle and everybody's got a great point. But we do have to realize in every discussion that the other fellow might be right."
Republican State Executive Committee members will meet today and are expected to re-elect Chris Devaney as their chairman.
Favors seeks post
State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, is looking to step up in the House's Democratic ranks and is challenging Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, for the party's post of whip.
"While the Democratic House Caucus is fewer in number, I am confident that our members can still effectively impact legislative outcomes for the benefit of Tennesseans," Favors says in a letter to colleagues.
She pledged to "work diligently to advance Democratic principles as we face critical issues related to emerging health care policy, education, business and job development."
Favors said in an interview that she's getting good reaction so far. The minority party's whip assists the minority leader on the floor, counts votes and makes sure members are there on important votes.
Also, Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, confirmed this week he is challenging House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, of Nashville, for the No. 2 slot. At this point, no one is mounting a challenge to House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.
Meanwhile, the contest for a new chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, which was set even further back on its heels in the November elections, is in full swing.
Jones is the latest to state publicly that she is weighing a bid to replace current Chairman Chip Forrester at their January meeting.
Three others are officially in. They are party Treasurer David Garrison, former communications director Wade Munday and Ben Smith, a Nashville attorney.
Democrats say former state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, is eyeing a bid.
On Friday, The Tennessee Journal quashed rumors about former Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Winchester, saying this year's 4th Congressional District Democratic nominee won't run.
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, ...