In the middle of the hoopla and celebration for Mayor Bill Haslam’s gubernatorial victory, cell phones were much in evidence up and down the hall as legislators, lobbyists, and political junkies were making calls and sharing information about House races across the state.
As reports of every Republican incumbent winning re-election and Democrats around the state going down to defeat came in, there were shocked faces and whispered consultations. Longtime popular incumbents like Dennis Ferguson in Roane County defeated by a young woman named Julia Hurley. Eddie Yokley defeated in Greene/Cocke counties. Former Speaker Jimmy Naifeh maybe won in a squeaker and House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner got a scare from a total newcomer.
Republican gains in the double digits make the prospects likely for a wide open fight for the next House Speaker.
The decimated ranks of the House Democrats will leave the Black Caucus with almost half of the Democratic seats, but a large Republican caucus likely means they may be shut out of their traditional leadership roles as committee chairs and holding the second spot of House Pro Tem, the longtime post of state Rep. Lois DeBerry.