NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has been elected as the Republican Governors Association's new chair for 2024 while fellow Republican Brian Kemp of Georgia is vice chair of the organization whose top objective is helping elect and support Republican governors.
Both governors assumed their positions immediately.
"Republican governors are reminding the nation that common sense, conservative policies drive economic prosperity and expand opportunity, security and freedom — changing lives for the better," Lee said in a statement.
Lee thanked the departing chair, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, for her "exceptional leadership" over the past year.
"I look forward to working with my colleagues to support incumbent Republican governors and elect more to our ranks," said Lee, who is in his second and final term as governor.
Lee was first elected governor in 2018, after edging out competitors in the Republican primary and then romping to victory in the general election.
Tennessee Rep. Bo Mitchell, a Nashville Democrat, recalled working for then-Gov. Phil Bredesen when he served as head of the Democratic Governors Association.
"I guess it's an honor for (Lee)," Mitchell said. "But I hope he focuses on Tennessee. Here we're supposed to be leading the nation in all kinds of categories, but in most things I see, we're near the bottom. And with this (school) voucher scam he's promoting right now, I don't think that's anything he wants to share with the rest of the nation."
Lee is proposing to expand a voucher program to give families tax dollars to have their children attend private schools. He says parental options on education are needed, but critics say his plan would undermine public schools.
Kemp said he will work with colleagues to ensure the governors' group's efforts in 2024 are successful.
"RGA has consistently been the most effective political organization in the country, and under Gov. Lee's leadership I know we will continue to take our message to every state on the map. I'm looking forward to working with him in the effort," Kemp stated.
Kemp has experienced first hand the association's ability to aid Republican candidates. The group poured some $5 million in 2022 to help Kemp fend off a GOP primary challenge by former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, The Washington Post reported at the time.
Perdue, who lost his Senate seat to Democrat Jon Ossoff, had been recruited by former President Donald Trump after Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger opposed Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn the state's 2020 presidential election results.
Republicans currently hold 27 governorships while Democrats have 23. Heading into 2024, 11 governorships are on the table, eight held by Republicans and 3 by Democrats.