Cracks in the GOP Monolith?

All is not rosy within Republican ranks these days, despite a supermajority in the Legislature and control of the governor's office. The state executive committee has challenged and removed from the ballot some tea party candidates running for the executive committee as not being "true Republicans."

As many as 20 candidates were scrutinized. A Memphis candidate was removed—he votes Republican but was head of the local Libertarian Party. An opponent of former state Rep. Julia Hurley was also removed, and there may be others.

There is also a looming split over what to do about retention elections for state Supreme Court justices. Some Republicans want to campaign not to retain the three Democrats on the court and let Haslam appoint Republicans in their place. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey may support the effort so the Republican court can appoint the state attorney general, a position that has always gone to a Democrat.

On the other hand, the popular Democratic Justice Gary Wade is being helped with fund-raising by prominent Republicans. A bi-partisan campaign committee for Wade includes establishment Republican lawyers like Lewis Donelson from Memphis and Lew Connor from Nashville. Lynn Duncan, wife of Congressman Jimmy Duncan, is on the list, along with Sam Furrow. The list also includes former North Carolina Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler. A fund-raiser is being hosted by Pete DeBusk, a frequent contributor to Democratic candidates.

The Republicans in the Legislature have already abolished the Democrat-laden Judicial Selection Commission and the Republican speakers have appointed Republican members of the Judicial Evaluation Commission. A Republican majority on the state Supreme Court would likely mean a Republican attorney general for a clean sweep.