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Kent Williams becomes Independent Speaker of the House in Tennessee

Kent Williams was a Republican legislator in Tennessee who temporarily allied with the 49 Democratic representatives in the House in order to become speaker and make the Democrats the majority party in the House, despite the fact that there were 50 Republicans elected. In response to this, the Tennessee Republican Party has now expelled Kent Williams, who is now serving as Speaker of the House. This story says that Speaker Williams intends to run for re-elected as an independent.

More interesting, perhaps, is Richard Winger’s commentary on the subject over at Ballot-Access News.

Tennessee does not have registration by party. It seems likely that the speaker is the first Independent to head up a state legislative body in the United States in decades, perhaps since before World War I. There are now 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and one independent in the Tennessee House.

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Trent Hill


  1. Trent Hill Trent Hill Post author | February 16, 2009


    Im sure that part of the “deal” was that they wouldnt run anyone against him for x amount of years. Besides, what Democrat would vote for the Democratic-candidate, knowing that that man handed them the Democratic majority and that a Democratic candidate has very little shot at winning the district to begin with–even without a “spoiler”.

  2. Ross Levin Ross Levin February 16, 2009

    I’ll bet the Dems won’t run anyone against him in 2010. They probably didn’t run anyone against him last year either, just because of gerrymandering.

  3. Trent Hill Trent Hill Post author | February 16, 2009


    I think you are right. I’ve done a bit of research and the guy seems to be even more well liked now that he has made this move. The democrats LOVE him, the Independents are claiming him as one of their own, and a sizeable minority of the Republicans still adore him.

  4. Rick Markland Rick Markland February 15, 2009

    You can follow Speaker Kent Williams’ support in his home district by reading the letters to the editors and other articles on-line at He has a trememdous amount of support in his home county. The republicans of his district are so angry with the state ouster, they would elect him under any party. At this point, there isn’t a soul in Carter County that could beat him.

  5. Catholic Trotskyist Catholic Trotskyist February 11, 2009

    Why does he have to satisfy the Democrats? If they try to do anything against Sanders, and he loses his position, a Republican will become speaker and the Democrats will lose all the power they gained. Think more like the Lieberman situation, if Lieberman had actually jumped completely.

  6. Ross Levin Ross Levin February 10, 2009

    Bernie Sanders is more independent than most (or all) Democrats, so I’d say that’s a compliment, although I know nothing about Tennessee politics or this man really. Even though Sanders caucuses with the Democrats and generally agrees with them and could be more outspoken, I think he is better than most/all of them. He’s even getting some accolades for calling for a salary cap before TARP even passed. He was probably called crazy for saying that then…

  7. Trent Hill Trent Hill February 10, 2009

    Remember that he has a republican district to win in, but a Democratic caucus to satisfy–so he’ll have to walk a fine line.

  8. Trent Hill Trent Hill February 10, 2009

    Steve Trinward,

    I doubt that. The deal was that he got to be speaker–and would appoint Republicans and Democrats. I think he’ll have a great deal of independence.

  9. Steve Trinward Steve Trinward February 10, 2009

    The good news is, Jimmy Naifeh no longer controls the whole Assembly process DIRECTLY.

    The bad news is, Williams was ousted from GOPdom for not being enough of a social conservative, and for scooping the Repubs just when they thought they could take over the body for the first time in … well since Reconstruction days …

    He will act more like the Dems on most issues, and owes his position to them almost entirely. He’s Independent the way Bernie Sanders is in Congress

  10. Trent Hill Trent Hill Post author | February 9, 2009

    It is, and he is. But he’s also a well-known conservative in Tennessee. If Tennessee is anything Louisiana–their politics value these sort of quirky personalities and mavericks. I hope he gets re-elected.

  11. Ross Levin Ross Levin February 9, 2009

    The Republicans will definitely target him. And chances are he’s from a district that’s been gerrymandered to favor Republicans.

  12. Catholic Trotskyist Catholic Trotskyist February 9, 2009

    Very good. I hope he doesn’t abuse his power. Will he use it to attempt to move more liberal or more conservative policies, an interesting question. But can he be reelected?

  13. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli February 9, 2009

    Wow! Interesting progress on breaking up the duopoly.

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