NASHVILLE - Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith announced today that House Speaker Kent Williams, R-Elizabethton, will be barred from running again as a Republican.
Her action follows a resolution recently approved by the Tennessee Republican Party's executive committee that bars Rep. Williams from running again as a Republican.
"As chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, I regret the necessary response," Mrs. Smith said. "I will honor and enforce the resolution passed by the state committee ... and no longer recognize Kent Williams as a Republican in good standing in the state of Tennessee."
GOP officials and lawmakers are angry with Rep. Williams after all 49 Democrats banded together with Rep. Williams to elect him speaker over Majority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol, on Jan. 13. He was elected on a 50-49 vote. Rep. Williams is being barred for two votes: for voting for himself as speaker and for joining Democrats in electing Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, as speaker pro tempore.
Mrs. Smith said the party no longer considers Rep. Williams a Republican.
"The credibility of this party, our principle and our great people are not to be jeopardized, compromised or bargained away for personal gain," Mrs. Smith said. "Tennesseans deserve leaders who treat their public service as a trust, not a personal possession."
Mrs. Smith was not bound to accept the executive committee recommendation. But she said today that Rep. Williams' choices appear to be self-serving.
The executive committee resolution says "the evidence shows that Rep. Kent Williams had been planning his betrayal for eight weeks and conspiring with Democrats to crown him Speaker in exchange for betraying his fellow Republican caucus members."
It also says Rep. Williams "intentionally concealed the conspiracy for eight weeks by telling lies to fellow Republican colleagues, members of the media, and even to the public via the radio airwaves."
In addition to saying Rep. Williams should be barred from seeking election to his House seat as a Republican, the resolution also states the state party should "immediately request all media outlets in Tennessee to cease referring to Rep. Kent Williams as a Republican."
It also says that Rep. Williams should "receive no support, endorsements, or financial backing by those affiliates of the Tennessee Republican Party."
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, the Senate speaker, said last week he told Speaker Williams he voluntarily should leave the party.
For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.