published Friday, February 28th, 2014

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner says he will retire

NASHVILLE — House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said Thursday he won’t seek re-election to the state Legislature in November.

“I’ve served here 14 years, and I can honestly say there’s no one I’ve served with I don’t personally like,” Turner announced to colleagues on the House floor. “And I’ve tried not to like some of you. This is a hard place to quit.”

The 59-year-old Nashville firefighter has served as the House’s No. 2 Democrat since 2009. An unabashed liberal and union supporter, described by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, as a “bull,” he is quick to anger but generally equally fast to cool down.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, called Turner a “good, honest advocate for his party and his positions” and added, “I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and I’ll miss him.”

That praise comes despite repeated confrontations between the two after Republicans took control of the House.

In one well-publicized 2010 case, tempers flared on the House floor over a teacher testing issue. At one point Turner was held back by several Democrats from rushing down the chamber’s central aisle to confront McCormick.

McCormick later told The Associated Press that Turner had calmed down by the time they spoke.

Turner later had a book of religious proverbs called “Ancient Wisdom” delivered to McCormick’s desk that he inscribed with “To my friend Gerald, I love you.”

“We have tangled over and over again,” McCormick said. “But if my house were on fire and my family stuck inside I’d want Mike Turner to be the guy kicking the door down.”

Turner, who acknowledged that he’s exploring a race for Nashville mayor next year, told reporters Thursday he feels a “little bit guilty” not running when Republicans hold a 71-27 majority in the 99-member chamber, which has one independent.

But, he said, they’ll find a good replacement for him as caucus chairman after the November election.

“We’ve got some sharp young people here,” Turner said. “They’re young and energetic, and they’re ready to go to war for Tennesseans.”

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or asher@timesfreepress.com.

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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