published Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Former Speaker Kent Williams to retire from Tennessee House

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Kent Williams, whose election as House speaker in 2009 shocked and infuriated fellow Republicans, says he won't seek a fifth term.

He announced today that he will instead run for Carter County mayor next year.

Republicans in 2008 celebrated gaining their first majority in the state House since Reconstruction. But a one-seat advantage in the 99-seat chamber proved the GOP's undoing, when all 49 Democrats banded together with Williams to elect the little-known restaurant owner from Elizabethton as speaker.

The maneuver sparked denunciations from fellow Republican House members, and the state GOP ultimately threw Williams out of the party.

Williams had no trouble being re-elected as an independent, but further Republican gains in the Legislature meant his time as speaker would be limited to a single two-year term.

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