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County GOP wants senators 'expelled'
Feb 03, 2005 12:00 am
Wilson County Republicans are one of potentially up to a dozen county parties in the state demanding the Tennessee Republican Party "expel" two State Senators who crossed party lines in the recent speaker election.
It is the second time in as many months Wilson County Republicans have entered the the statewide fray over State Sens. Mike Williams (R-Maynardville) and Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) voting to return Democratic Sen. John Wilder to the speaker's chair.
The move by the county party comes on the heels of Wilson County's own Sen. Mae Beavers threatening resignation last month over a myriad of problems in the party, including the speakership going to Wilder.
In a resolution passed Monday night, the Wilson County Republican Party called upon state party officials to "expel" Williams and Burchett from the party, citing the lawmakers' votes to reelect Wilder as lieutenant governor.
According to Kevin Mack, chairman of the Wilson County Republican Party, the group's members voted "unanimously" Monday in support of a resolution condemning Williams and Burchett.
"We'll be sending it to the state party. We'll also be sending it to the local parties that are affected by those two senators' districts as well as the press in their area," Mack said of the resolution.
Williams and Burchett drew the ire of some of their fellow Republicans when they crossed party lines and voted for Wilder to serve as presiding officer of the state Senate.
Republicans won a majority in the Senate in last fall's elections for the first time since Reconstruction.
A Tennessee Republican Party official speaking on the condition of anonymity said as many as a dozen county parties are generating similar resolutions concerning Burchett and Williams. The same source also noted other county GOP organizations may follow suit this month in upcoming meetings.
Burchett told The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday that his own county party in Knox County had been "very supportive" of his vote for Wilder, noting that Wilder campaigned for him in Knox County during his last election when he had a well-funded Democratic opponent.
"What is going to happen with all of these attacks continuing … is a return of Washington DC style politics that we have not had in Nashville in 20 years," Burchett said. "It won't fly in Knox County. They know my record and they know where I stand on the issues."
Burchett noted that like Beavers he also strongly opposed a state income tax, and called Beavers "a friend."
Burchett also alluded to one of Beavers' chief concerns as she pondered resignation, that she was passed over by Wilder for partisan reasons on committee assignments.
"Mae's my friend, and she has her own issues to deal with on this," Burchett said. "I fell sorry that she feels like she has been slighted."
Williams did not return a telephone call for this story Tuesday.
In addition to seeking the pair's expulsion from the state party, the Wilson County resolution also encourages the Tennessee Republican Party to "recruit and support" candidates to oppose Williams and Burchett in upcoming elections.
It also calls for the two to be expelled from the Senate Republican Caucus and for the caucus to "henceforth treat them as senators whose primary allegiance is to themselves and not to the Republican Party" – a request that will also be forwarded to Republican organizations in Williams' and Burchett's respective districts.
Mack noted the local parties' frustrations are similar to those expressed in recent weeks by Beavers. However, he stressed Beavers played no role in devising the resolution. Instead, Mack explained he was contacted by numerous local Republicans who were "concerned by the lack of action" state party officials had taken against Williams and Burchett.
"This action is inexcusable, deplorable and indefensible and needs to be called out for what it is and demand that there be corrections in place to fix the problems," Mack remarked.
Neither Beavers nor Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis were available for comment Tuesday.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.