Randy McNally appears to have clear field in bid to succeed state Senate Speaker Ramsey

Randy McNally appears to have clear field in bid to succeed state Senate Speaker Ramsey

March 25th, 2016 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Tennessee Sen. Randy McNally, left, speaks to Sen. Bo Watson in 2015.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Republican state Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge, Tenn., appears to have a clear field in his bid to succeed Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who is not seeking re-election to the Senate.

During the chamber's personal order time at the conclusion of Thursday's floor session, McNally, 72, who is also the Senate's longest-serving member, made his run official while praising Ramsey's accomplishments.

McNally also said he has spoken with colleagues who had considered running, those being Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson; Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville; Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro; and Senate Commerce Chairman Jack Johnson, R-Franklin.

Asked later if he had their approval, McNally said all were "supportive."

Watson said last week he would back McNally. Earlier this week, Norris told reporters he saw McNally as a consensus candidate who could play a transitional role as the chamber pivots after Ramsey, who led GOP senators from a minority to a dominant super majority and has held the powerful speaker's post for a decade.

Ramsey himself has said McNally would be a good fit for the speaker role.

A Republican speaker is a foregone conclusion in the 33-member chamber which has 28 Republicans and just five Democrats.

"I think the main thing is keeping the Senate united and continue down the path that Ron has established," McNally said.

Now chairman of the Finance Committee, McNally has previously said he doesn't see himself trying to hold the speaker position for more than two two-year terms. In Tennessee, the Senate speaker also holds the title of lieutenant governor and is first in line of succession in the event the governor's office becomes vacant.

Ketron said he's "giving my full, 100 percent for Chairman McNally. I think everybody else has given their support. I think everybody's there. We're still a team."

He cited several reasons for his own support, noting, "It's always been a pleasure serving with him on the Finance Committee. And you know, his institutional knowledge of his 38 years down here. He's the most seasoned member of our caucus, and as caucus chairman I plan to use that knowledge to recruit [candidates] and keep our team together."

McNally was first elected in 1972. He rose to prominence after cooperating with the FBI and wearing a secret wire to expose corruption on Tennessee's Capitol Hill in the 1980s during the Operation Rocky Top federal investigation.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com, 615-255-0550 or follow via twitter at AndySher1.