NASHVILLE - The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus beat back a leadership challenge and a Chattanooga lawmaker won a leadership post Wednesday for the 108th General Assembly.
Rep. Mike Turner, of Nashville, won a third two-year term in the No. 2 spot, though challenger Johnny Shaw, of Bolivar, was critical of his leadership.
Rep. JoAnne Favors, of Chattanooga, was elected vice chairwoman without opposition.
Favors initially planned to challenge House Whip Sherry Jones, of Nashville. But Favors said colleagues urged her to run for vice chairman instead. Jones was re-elected whip with no opponent.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, of Ripley, also was re-elected without opposition. Rep. Lois DeBerry, of Memphis, was elected deputy leader, a new position.
Shaw questioned Turner's ability to lead the caucus successfully as it faces a "supermajority" of 70 Republicans in the 99-member House. Democrats have 28 seats, and there's one independent who usually caucuses with the Democrats.
"I think the world of Mike as a friend," Shaw said. "I just don't think Mike has the leadership ability to take us where we need to go, especially in this era ... where we are way down on the totem pole."
He suggested Democrats need a more even-tempered chairman than the famously confrontational Turner.
Turner defended his record, noting that while Republican-controlled redistricting knocked Democrats from 34 to 24 members, the caucus battled back and reduced the loss to just six instead of 10 seats in November elections.
"Now's not the time to be shy," Turner said.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfree press.com or 615-255-0550.