The Best, Most, Least, and Yeesh: Tennessee's (ulp) Legislators of the Year

Most Likely to Succeed (in embarrassing almost everyone in the state): Sen. Stacey Campfield

Oh, Stacey. Oh, Stacey, Stacey, Stacey. The Daily Show. Fox News. George Takei.

Oh, Stacey. (C.W.G.)

Most Dedicated (to getting the heck out of the Legislature): Jamie Woodson

Jamie Woodson started this session as Knoxville's most prominent voice of (relative) reason. She was Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate, and she didn't sponsor anything particularly silly or dangerous. She was the only Republican on the Senate Education Committee to vote against Stacey Campfield's "Don't Say Gay" bill, and she helped put the brakes on a proposed school voucher plan.

Then, she bailed. Halfway through the session, Woodson announced she was leaving to head up Bill Frist's State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a Republican-leaning education think tank. The move makes sense: It almost certainly will pay more than her Senate gig, and it also gives her a chance to schmooze statewide, building a network in advance of what many people predict will be an eventual run for governor. Plus, really, what self-respecting, aspiring politico wouldn't want to put some distance between herself and this Legislature?

But Woodson's move stuck Knox Countians with Campfield himself as our most senior state senator, and a bit of that feeling you get when the girl you brought to the prom leaves with a guy in a nicer car. Still, it does give Woodson a particular distinction: She's one of the only members of the Legislature this year who can credibly claim to have created a job. (J.F.M.)

Most Likely to Succeed (in a karaoke contest singing the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun"): Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey

Sure, the Carpenters are a duo, but when you post statements like the following to your Facebook page, we're pretty sure you have what it takes to sing both parts at once:

"Tennessee Republicans have talked a lot about what we would do when we took power. Now we are showing what we can do. This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course."

Would it be fair to say Ramsey is the bullying Richard Carpenter to the overwrought Karen of House Speaker Rep. Beth Harwell? Probably not—Harwell may be svelte, but she sticks up for herself. Would it be fair to say Ramsey is bullying everyone else? Yeah, probably. (C.W.G.)

Most Likely to Have Rewritten Other People's Papers: Sen. Bill Ketron

Okay, we don't actually have any idea if Ketron would have plagiarized an essay in college. But we do know he has a bad habit of slapping his name on any old piece of legislation that's handed to him and dropping it in the hopper without so much as bothering to read the damn thing.

When that legislation would allow wine sales in grocery stores, we're not so bothered by it, but when that legislation would basically make it illegal to be Muslim in Tennessee, it gets a little more disturbing. Ketron's hardly the only offender (see Dunn, Bill, and HB 368), but the sheer volume of Ketron's legislation (154 bills sponsored, 46 cosponsored) earns him special distinction. (C.W.G.)

Least Likely to Leave the Legislature for a Job at ORNL: Rep. Bill Dunn

The greater Knoxville metro area is home to some of the most brilliant scientists in the world. We suspect it must be frustrating for them to know their legislative delegation includes Dunn, who made Tennessee the subject of ridicule with his introduction of the Discovery Institute-written HB 368, which would prohibit school districts from disciplining teachers who want to question the veracity of evolutionary theory. Dunn says his bill is about teaching critical thinking skills, but the state's science teachers say they're doing just fine as it is. The bill passed the House, but the Senate wisely decided to hold off until next session before taking action. (C.W.G.)

Pioneer for Women's Rights (who did the most to take those rights away):

House Speaker Rep. Beth Harwell

Harwell is the first female speaker of the House ever, so she's kind of like Tennessee's own Nancy Pelosi. Too bad Harwell's in charge of a party that couldn't care less about the reproductive rights of women. For every bill that increased protections for victims of domestic violence, there was another that made it that much harder to be a woman in Tennessee. In Harwell's defense, it's not like she submitted or pushed through this legislation herself, but by doing so little to tone down her party's anti-woman rhetoric, she has almost nullified her own history-making position. (C.W.G.)

Most Likely to Never Succeed (in the Legislature [because he's too damn sane]): Sen. Andy Berke

Wait, a state politician from East Tennessee who's a moderate? Who seems to actually be sane? Who doesn't really appear to be in any one special interest group's pocket (any more than any politician is, at least)? Who actually votes against things that he doesn't support? Who's from Chattanooga, which has never been known for sending sane legislators to Nashville? Really? Swoon!

We are thankful for the relative breath of fresh air that is Berke, who will actually speak his mind on the floor—and to reporters. At the end of the session, he told the AP, "There are many things that we've done this year that are going to hurt Tennessee. And ultimately, the people who passed them will pay a cost for that. Tennesseans are moderates. They want to see us working together to make a better state. They don't want to see the radical agenda that is being pushed through." He's probably too sane to ever succeed in the state Legislature, but we're glad he's around. (C.W.G.)


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