from The Nashville Scene
With the legislature still in low gear and the dynamics of new Gov. Phil Bredesen's relationship with the General Assembly still developing, the question of who will be the governor's key ally in the state Senate is still open. But, the early betting line is beginning to favor Memphis Democrat Jim Kyle.
Unlike the larger state House, where the governor can work through the established leadership structure headed by Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, the Senate has been fairly chaotic since 1987, when John Wilder broke up the partisan structure to hang on to his job as Senate speaker. Since then, the 81-year-old Wilder's leadership has been increasingly focused on his own survival, and many of the other key leadership spots are held by superannuated members. Moreover, the departure of Bob Rochelle, who had been the de facto Senate leader for a decade, has also left a void.
Kyle holds no particular portfolio, other than as vice chairman of the finance committee, but he is an able, astute veteran senator with a moderate outlook in line with the governor's views.
Of course, as long as the only thing Bredesen is doing is cutting the budget, as opposed to finding ways to raise more money, he's getting along great with the Republicans. The area he's having the most problems with now relates to setting up the state lottery, where Sen. Steve Cohen, who has worked on the issue for nearly 20 years, is eager to push ahead with the program, while Bredesen wants to take a more cautious approach.
Not incidentally, Cohen and Kyle may share a hometown, but they've been bitter foes for most of their careers.