NASHVILLE — While one lawmaker in the Tennessee House Republican Caucus race dropped his bid against a top GOP leader, Rep. Robin Smith of Hixson says she is continuing her challenge to current Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison when Republicans meet Tuesday.
"Yes, I am running," Smith said Wednesday. "From the day after the election in November and I called Chairman Faison and indicated I was going to run, I've been traveling the state and meeting with our colleagues and kind of casting a vision of where the caucus could be on some messaging and fundraising, on other things, and I'm continuing that and have been very well received."
Earlier this week, Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, told GOP colleagues that he was abandoning his challenge to House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. The Tennessee Journal reported Farmer citing the "fantastic" outcome of the Nov. 3 election in which House Republicans held all 73 of their seats in the 99-member chamber.
Although first elected just two years ago to the House, Smith is a former Tennessee Republican Party chair. "I told the chairman from the very beginning that yes, this is a 'race,' but I'd rather couch it as allowing our members to determine which direction the caucus wants to go," she said.
Smith said her idea is having the GOP Caucus operate on a day-to-day basis and making it "more of a member-centric entity as opposed to just a campaign vehicle. The caucus will be given an opportunity to vote on not really a candidate, but for the direction and vision of the caucus."
Faison, a Newport Republican who represents a rural Northeast Tennessee district, said in a recent interview that Republicans' success in staving off efforts by Democrats to make gains means the "current leadership has done a heck of a job" and went on to cite efforts by Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville and Majority Leader William Lamberth of Portland, as well as himself.
"I walked 516 miles going door-to-door campaigning" on behalf of Republican candidates since last summer, Faison said. "And I drove in this state back and forward from Memphis to Murfreesboro to Northeast Tennesse. I drove over 4,000 miles since this summer."
Faison said, "What I'm saying is between all the efforts of all of us in leadership we retained all 73 seats. And I think in this climate it shows what we're doing is working."
Both lawmakers contributed to fellow Republicans.
Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville, who won his caucus' 2019 contested nomination to replace former Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, doesn't face any renomination challenge in the caucus.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.