State GOP chief to hang it up

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Ryan Haynes will resign his post as state GOP chair a few weeks after the Nov. 8 election. Haynes, a former state legislator who represented Farragut and West Knox County, has been unhappy with the position. He is a more policy-oriented person and does not like the internal GOP politics on the state executive committee. He was also blindsided by Gov. Bill Haslam’s rejection of Donald Trump, which fell on him to explain.

When Gov. Haslam repudiated Trump, the party headquarters was swamped with irate Republican calls and Haynes was attacked, too. He received only six hours’ notice on the Haslam move to prepare when it hit the media.

Haynes is mentioned as a possible candidate for Knox County mayor, but he has not made a decision.

His successor will be chosen by the 66-member state executive committee elected by GOP voters from each of the 33 state Senate districts. The committee is divided between more traditional Republicans and more conservative ones.

Normally, Gov. Haslam would be able to choose the next chair as a practical matter and the committee would approve it. That may not be the case this time around as many SEC members are furious at Haslam for opposing Trump. Picking someone other than the governor’s choice could be part of the fallout. The governor may not make a recommendation and leave it entirely to the state committee.

Haslam may also suffer in the next session from ultraconservative lawmakers opposing his programs in his final two years as governor as a consequence of his opposition to Trump.

However, if the SEC stiffs the governor, it may find fundraising becomes very difficult as the SEC needs him and the two U.S. senators helping to meet payroll at party headquarters.

■  Early voting in Knox County has exceeded every prediction over the past two weeks. Not clear who this favors, but clearly voters are not staying home.

■  The Eddie Smith-Gloria Johnson race continues to be hard hitting and should be close. I actually think one of the two may have a comfortable win and it will not be as close as the past two elections have been where the winner was fewer than 240 votes apart from the loser. The winner might have a margin up to 900 votes out of 21,000 that will be cast in that district. The last election in this district was decided by fewer than 200 votes.

Trump has been a real negative for Smith and if Smith loses, Trump will be part of the reason. In fact, most of the state House and Senate seats that Tennessee Democrats win from Republicans next Tuesday can be credited in part to Trump’s controversial campaign and vulgar remarks, which have upset and angered many voters.

Mayor Madeline Rogero tried to help Smith with a news conference in Sequoyah at Talahi park, where Smith presented a check for $30,000 the Legislature had approved. The only problem was that state Sen. Becky Massey, who was equally responsible for the check by handling it in the Senate, was omitted from the news release by Rogero spokesperson Jesse Mayshark. Massey was appropriately recognized at the ceremony itself despite the Mayshark-Rogero blunder. Rogero is publicly backing Johnson but playing ball with Smith.

■  State Senate majority leader Mark Norris from Memphis spoke a few weeks ago in Oak Ridge to a breakfast meeting of over 100 and was asked about the gas tax. Norris immediately pointed out that the governor has not sought his advice and pointedly asked the two other senators present, Randy McNally and Ken Yager, if he has sought their advice. Their response was NO. If the governor does propose a gas hike, he needs to be working the legislative leadership now or he will pay a penalty for failing to do so.

■  It is hard to realize that it was 60 years ago last month when the Hungarian uprising in Budapest occurred against the Soviet occupation. The uprising failed and was brutally crushed, but not before the world saw the Soviet system for what it was – a cruel, nondemocratic occupying force.

Great Britain and France were consumed by the Suez Canal crisis at the time along with the British attack there. The USA was in the middle of a presidential election between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. Eisenhower was recovering from a heart attack. The Catholic Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty became a refugee in the US Embassy in Budapest, where he lived for the next 15 years. This set the stage for the ultimate revolution of 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell 33 years later and the Soviet Union collapsed soon thereafter.

■  Jim Hagerman, city engineering director, deserves kudos for the replacement of the street sign at Jack Dance Street (named after a former mayor) and Kingston Pike. Hagerman is a trustworthy city employee. The Sticky Rice Cafe on Jack Dance Street will benefit from the street sign.

■  Former state Rep. Harry Tindell, who may run for City Council next year, turned 56 last Sunday, Oct. 30.

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