In a surprise move that trumped even the unexpected 2007 vote by former Democratic state Senator Rosalind Kurita to seat Republican Ron Ramsey as Speaker of the Senate, the Democrats of the state House on Tuesday leagued with Republican Kent Williams of Elizabethton to overturn the GOP's expectations of voting in majority leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol as House Speaker.
As the body met for the new session's preliminary re-organization, Williams added his vote to that of the 49 House Democrats to elect himself as Speaker, foiling Mumpower and the Republican majority and drawing a hailstorm of boos from GOP sympathizers in the gallery.
In retrospect, the maneuver may have been masked by statements from outgoing Democratic Speaker Jimmy Naifeh of Covington that he intended to win reelection despite the Republicans' 50-49 one-vote majority.
Williams, whom the state Republican organization had tried to defeat in the party primary last year, had been regarded by his GOP housemates as an undependable cadre, and they had extracted from him a public pledge that he would not vote for Naifeh, a friend, to return as Speaker but for a Republican.
That Republican turned out to be himself. And after his own election the same coalition of Republican Williams and the House Democrats installed Memphis state Rep. Lois DeBerry in her accustomed position as Speaker Pro Tem.
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