This is a fantastic story.
Last night, the Tennessee legislature was thrown into chaos after the Republican majority failed to elect a Speaker of the state House of Representatives.
In the Tennessee House, the Republicans have 50 seats and the Democrats have 49 seats, giving the GOP a 1-seat majority. Normally, votes for Speaker are party-line affairs, meaning that the GOP should have elected their choice for Speaker by 1 vote.
But enter Rep. Kent Williams, a moderate Republican. See, during the last election, Williams’ fellow Republicans bullied him to take more right-wing positions, going as far as threatening a boycott his family’s business if he didn’t comply.
Understandably, Rep. Williams didn’t enjoy being pushed around by his fellow Republicans. And the Democrats in the TN House knew this. So, they approached Williams and asked if he wanted to be Speaker. He said yes, and with both his vote and the votes of the entire Democratic caucus, Rep. Williams defeated the Republican Party candidate for Speaker.
Of course, Rep. Williams is still a Republican, but he’s far to the left of most of his colleagues. And now that he’s in charge, he’ll appoint a bunch of Democrats as committee chairmen, something that wouldn’t have happened had the Republican-backed candidate been elected Speaker.
So now the Tennesee Republican Party, despite having a majority of seats in the House, will be denied the Speakership for two years because they took Kurt Williams’ vote for granted. So not only is this a great tale of brilliant political maneuvering, it’s also a lesson in hubris that the TN GOP won’t soon forget.
UPDATE: Here’s a video segment of the vote. Note how nasty the Republicans get toward Williams: