State Senator Reginald Tate, who represents District 33 in southern Shelby County, has long had various Democratic members of the county’s legislative delegation privately chafing on account of Tate’s GOP-friendly votes and close relations with Republican legislators, including Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, the Senate’s Speaker.
During debate on 2011’s Norris-Todd bill and subsequent measures favoring the creation of suburban municipal school districts in Shelby County, Tate did not join other inner-city Democrats in opposition. And Tate was the only Democratic member of the Shelby delegation member to be appointed this week by Ramsey to the key educaton committee.
On Wednesday, when the Shelby County legislative delegation met in Nashville to elect officers, Tate became a last-minute candidate for delegation chairman, nominated by Rep. Curry Todd and Senate majority leader Mark Norris, both Republicans. By a 10-9 margin, he defeated Rep. Antonio Parkinson, who had long campaigned for the position of chairman and was nominated by Rep. Larry Miller and Senate minority leader Jim Kyle, both Democrats.
The vote was by secret ballot, but Parkinson’s supporters (most of the Democrats) tend to believe the delegation's Republicans cast their votes for Tate.
In other voting earlier in the week, Tate had been one of only two Democrats (the other was Charlotte Burks of Monterey) to cast votes for Ramsey as Speaker. Four Democrats supported Kyle -- even though, by prior decision of the party caucus, he had not been formally nominated -- while another Democrat, the venerable Doug Henry of Nashville, had abstained from voting.
Asked why he did not discourage pro forma support for the Speakership by Democratic members, who are out-numbered in the Senate 26 to 7 by Republicans, Kyle said, “There are still lots of Democrats throughout the state. We don’t need to look like we’re collapsing or capitulating.”
That contrasts with Tate’s remarks to the Shelby delegation on the occasion of the chairmanship vote: “I’m not an R or a D, or a W or a B — Republican, Democrat, white, black. I look at issues as they come.”
In an even earlier vote, held last month, Tate had unsuccessfully challenged Kyle's reelection as leader of the Senate Democrats, who now number only 7 of the body's 33 members. The vote in favor of Kyle was by a razor-thin 4-3 margin.