With Ron Ramsey Consistently Stealing the Spotlight, Tennesseans are Asking, Who’s Steering This Ship?
Just under 80 days since Phil Bredesen left the helm, there’s a power struggle going on in the state of Tennessee between Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Gov. Bill Haslam. Whether this is an out and out war or not is yet to be seen, but based on the differing courses charted by the two men, the direction our state will travel is yet to be seen.
Ramsey, the Speaker of the State Senate representing Sullivan and Johnson Counties in East Tennessee, has been at the forefront of just about every legislative battle this session. Pushing a hard-line right wing agenda, Ramsey has consistently pushed for more radical legislation than the Haslam administration.
Haslam, who was elected riding a tide of nearly unlimited campaign cash and a conservative wave that swept the nation, has been espousing more moderate reforms, and in the process, has found himself waiting in the wings as the Lt. Gov. consistently stole the spotlight.
While there have been several issues on which the Governor and Lt. Governor have differed, the most obvious issue is on Collective Bargaining for Teachers. The two recently issued dueling Facebook posts on the issue, exposing the divide in the newly elected Tennessee Republican majority.
This and other divisions have led observers to ask questions about the future plans of Ramsey, who seems to be positioning himself for higher office. Despite recent public statements to the contrary, most political observers agree that Ramsey has set his sights on something more than just Lt. Governor.
Ramsey’s leadership pac RAAMPAC recently introduced a new website for Tennesseans to report red tape in government. The front page of the site notes the Lt. Gov. as the Chief Red Tape Cutter, upstaging any efforts the Haslam administration may make to reduce bureaucracy in government.
As Andy Sher reports in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, some on the extreme right have noticed and believe the two are equals:
Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty said in a recent interview that he told Ramsey that, in his opinion, the Senate speaker/lieutenant governor position is “just as powerful if not more powerful” than that of governor.
But it doesn’t end there. Ramsey is also elbowing his way into the judicial branch by asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to help him draft a constitutional amendment on the election of appellate judges or deal with the consequences.
All of this must be very frustrating to the Haslam administration, which has consistently tried to frame its positions as moderately conservative, rather than the arch conservative positions being passed by the state legislature. Which begs the question, when will the Governor finally man up and stand up to Ron Ramsey’s legislative and publicity bullying?
That’s a question that only the Governor can answer, but until he does, there are serious questions about his ability to navigate the treacherous waters of Tennessee politics. Even conservative writers have noted the leadership problems and general lack of an agenda from the Governor’s desk.
How will this all play out? Who knows, but until the Governor starts to assert his authority, Ramsey, in his role as legislative leader, will continue to run roughshod over him.