NASHVILLE - Democratic state Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington, whose 18-year reign as House speaker was the longest in Tennessee history, said today he won't seek another term for the seat he first won in 1974.
In an address to the now-Republican-dominated House, Naifeh, 72, said "this institution is part of me and it's part of my family."
But he recalled words of advise from his friend and mentor, former Democratic House Speaker and Gov. Ned McWherter. McWherter "always told me that I would know when it was time to go. And I know that time has come for me to step aside for the next generation."
He later added, "I'll miss it tremendously, but it's time to pass the torch."
Naifeh lost the speakership in 2009 when Republicans won their first majority since post-Civil War Reconstruction. But Naifeh and other Democrats did succeed in electing to the speakership a Republican of their choosing, Kent Williams, who was later bounced from the Republican Party.
Republicans won a huge 64-38 majority in 2010 and GOP members elected Beth Harwell as speaker.
Naifeh becomes the fifth House Democrat to announce he will not seek reelection following passage of a Republican redistricting plan that makes their districts more difficult to run.
Four Democratic senators have announced their retirements as well.