Republicans Oust Williams From Party (Updated)

The chairman of the state Republican Party declared today that the Speaker of the Tennessee House is no longer a Republican.

GOP Chairman Robin Smith says Kent Williams bargained away power the state party had been seeking for years, when he teamed with all 49 Democrats to become Speaker.

Smith says the GOP raised and spent more than $2 million for those legislative victories.

“And the stated goal from the start line to the finish line when we broke the tape, was to have the… majority in the House of Representatives and …the state Senate for the purposes of leadership.”

Smith says 81 percent of Republican Executive Committee members voted to kick Williams out of the party.

Williams says his ouster was the act of one person – Robin Smith.

“You know, when you give one person that much power, that becomes a dictatorship, and it’s a long time ’til …the primary, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m back in good graces with the Republican Party by that time.”

Williams says he will remain a “Carter County Republican.”

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Williams says he thinks he had the support of House members.

“I think if you polled most of the members here, they disagree with that decision.”

Smith says if Williams had wanted to run for the leadership office, he had the chance during the Republican Caucus race.

“This gentleman could have run as speaker of the House in November, or as speaker pro tem, and he did not offer himself up as a candidate. Instead he agreed to bargain away the importance of his vote and become the nominee of the Democrat caucus.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says the move was the right one.

“Now there are some feelings hurt in the state House, absolutely, and rightfully so. Kent Williams told 49 Republicans that he was gonna vote with them and then didn’t, he got elected with 49 Democrats, so for that reason, I feel the action by the state party today was the correct one, to have him be an independent, that’s where he is anyway, appointed the committees 50-50, appointed committee chairmanships 50-50, so I think the easiest way to put this behind us and move on is for Kent Williams to be that independent.”

Meanwhile Williams says he won’t change over to the Democratic Caucus.

Smith has consistently denied that the fight is personal between her and Williams. She says that the state executive committee was following a paragraph in the bylaws that requires party members to vote for its leadership nominees in the General Assembly’s organizational session.

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