Republicans were noticeably absent at a going-away party for former state House Speaker Kent Williams last week. Williams is leaving the Legislature to run for Carter County mayor.
Williams, a Republican, had voted for himself to be speaker in 2010, and with votes from all the Democrats he won in a closely divided House over the choice of the Republican caucus, Jason Mumpower. The Republicans have not forgotten nor forgiven him. The state party threw him out and he had to run for re-election as an independent. With additional Republican members last election, Williams was replaced by Speaker Beth Harwell.
But at the celebration in a Nashville restaurant, a long list of Democrats took to the podium to praise Williams for his even-handed treatment during his time as speaker. Former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, Caucus Chair Mike Turner, and former committee chairs like state Rep. Joe Armstrong headed a long list of those offering tribute.
There were at least two Republican House members that came by to say goodbye, but no one in leadership.
The program opened with Williams’ brother Dale introducing him by singing the old Johnny Paycheck classic “Take This Job and Shove It.”
Williams’ sister, Judy Veeneman, is running to replace him in the Legislature.