NASHVILLE — Former Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, says he intends to run for House speaker in 2019 now that current Speaker Beth Harwell has bet her political future on a 2018 gubernatorial bid.
Noting he first has to win re-election in 2018 to his House District 26 seat, McCormick said in an interview last week, "I plan to do that, and I expect to win — I think we've got a good plan in place to do that."
Then, when the General Assembly convenes in January 2019, "I expect I would run for the Republican nomination for speaker and run for speaker. At that point, I'd have been here 14 years."
The House speaker is one of the three most powerful officials in Tennessee, along with the governor and Senate speaker.
McCormick said with three two-year terms as majority leader under his belt — he chose not to seek the post last session and was named by Harwell in January as Finance subcommittee chairman — he believes he has "more experience probably than anybody else in the House dealing with governors and senators."
"And that's a lot of what the job entails, I think," McCormick said. "I think I can step in on the first day and know what I was doing and try to get things moving in the right direction so far as our relationships with those folks go and understanding how the body works and how committees work."
The speaker is elected in January of odd-numbered years following the general election the previous November. The 99 House members hold a vote and the speaker serves for two terms.
The speakership is usually determined in the majority party caucus' election. But not always, as Tennessee House Republicans famously learned in 2009 when outfoxed by Democrats on the House floor despite having a 50-49 majority.
McCormick's successor as majority leader, former House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin, is seen as another possible candidate to replace Harwell.
"I'll look at it this time next year," Casada said of a possible bid for speaker. "I've got a year of a lot of members leaving — it's the governor's last term. So we've got a lot of work to go and as majority leader I've got to focus on that.
"I can't take my eye off the ball of being majority leader for the next 12 months," said Casada, who expects 10 to 12 of the 73 Republican incumbents, including Harwell, not to seek re-election to the House.
Asked earlier about the possibility of Casada running, McCormick noted the Franklin Republican hasn't been involved in the Finance Committee, which participates in negotiations with senators over the state's annual spending plan.
Moreover, McCormick noted that in six years, he carried any number of bills for the governor.
"So I've got more experience from that standpoint," McCormick said.
In the 2008 general election, Tennessee Republicans won their first outright House majority since not long after the Civil War and were poised to seize control of the House.
But while the GOP caucus nominated Rep. Jason Mumpower, R-Kingsport, all 49 Democrats swung their support behind Rep. Kent Williams, R-Elizabethton, who then voted for himself and hit the required 50-vote margin. Williams was elected speaker.
Two years later, Republicans gained a firmer majority and elected Harwell as speaker, making her the first woman in Tennessee history to occupy the post.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.