NASHVILLE - Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville said today that challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., in Tennessee's 5th Congressional District next year is "not something high on my agenda right now."
But the speaker isn't ruling out a race.
"What, you guys want the jump or something?" a laughing Harwell told two reporters at Legislative Plaza today. "I haven't even thought about it. We're still so focused on what we're doing in here [state Legislature]."
Still, Harwell said, "I'll give it some thought. But it's not something that's high on my agenda right now. I'm excited about state government right now. I feel good about the state legislature and where we're going."
Nashville television station WTVF's political analyst, Pat Nolan, recently reported in his column that someone has been polling in an effort to see how Harwell might fare in a contest against Cooper.
"Would House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville give up her powerful position and safe seat in the State House of Representatives to run for Congress against incumbent Democrat Jim Cooper?" Nolan wrote.
Harwell said it was not her poll and Cooper reportedly denies it's his. Nolan said he suspects it is one of the national parties.
Meanwhile, the speaker, who is in a prime spot to shape Cooper's district to her liking during redistricting next year, said she doesn't think much of what Congress is doing these days.
"I think the answer to our nation is really to return a lot of these programs back to the state level because I think Congress has proven itself inept," she said.