Depleted Democratic Corps in Legislature Looks West for Leaders

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Fitzhugh; Kyle
  • Fitzhugh; Kyle
The ill wind that blew down Democratic electoral hopes in November may have blown some good to West Tennessee Democrats.

In the aftermath of the election debacle that left Democrats with only 34 House seats —- compared to the Republican Party’s 64 (with Kent Williams of Elizabethton, erstwhile Speaker and “Carter County Republican,” a de facto independent) the party’s leadership has shifted back westward.

This is the region which provided the Democrats their leaders (John Wilder of Somerville as Senate Speaker; Jimmy Naifeh of Covington as House Speaker) during their most recent decades of domination, now gone.

On Wednesday, a reduced party caucus, meeting in Nashville, elected Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley, 50-odd miles north of Memphis, to lead the Democrats in the state House (succeeding Gary Odom of Nashville). They also named two Memphis representatives — Joe Towns and Lois DeBerry, as assistant party leader and floor leader, respectively.

Yet a third Memphian, Rep. John DeBerry, had been a contestant for the position of minority leader.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, named three West Tennesseans as their principal officers. Jim Kyle of Memphis returns as Democratic Senate leader, Lowe Finney of Jackson was elected caucus chairman, and Beverly Marrero of Memphis was named secretary/treasurer. The Democrats’ vice chair is Andy Berke of Chattanooga.

Tennessee’s Republicans recently made their own recent selection of officers, with Ron Ramsey of Blountville returning as Senate Speaker, and Beth Harwell of Nashville having been nominated by the GOP as House Speaker. Memphis’ Mark Norris has been renominated as Senate Majority Leader, and Mark White of Memphis and Barret Rich of Somerville were nominated for GOP whip positions in the House.

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