RTP has done an unscientific, biased and contrived poll (just like Speaker Harwell’s district survey on Insure Tennessee, or just about any poll conducted by the Tennessean) focused on tomorrow’s state GOP chairman’s election and we have come to some conclusions which we graciously share with you now.
Actually, our intrepid band of operatives did fan out and gently ask a number of SEC members and those close to said SEC members about how they think the election is going to go tomorrow. Here are some observations:
The race seems to be between Rep. Mary Littleton and Rep. Ryan Haynes, while there are a multitude of other candidates, including the intrepid Dr. Carol Swain, the executive committee members seem to believe it will come down to essentially a two-person race. As the balloting proceeds and as candidates drop out either by rule or personal decision, somewhere around the third ballot it will effectively be a race between the two state Reps.
Both Littleton and Haynes have had their legislative allies calling SEC members on their behalf and our survey indicated that Littleton has had significantly more legislators calling to support her efforts. Littleton also benefits from her long service to the party as a member of the SEC, with a majority of long-time veteran members leaning to her and only a handful who are supporting Haynes.
A wildcard in the race is the role of the governor and/or his representatives. There are a number of accounts by members who say they have been contacted by those purporting to represent the governor’s interests and that he wants Haynes to be anointed. In years past, the state executive committee was the personal playground of incumbent Republican governors and whichever crony the guv (or in some cases, a U.S Senator) wanted to be chairman, got the job. This happened under Sundquist (when he named his campaign driver Chip Saltsman to be chairman). During the second (and highly unpopular) second term of Dandy Don, Sen. Fred Thompson stepped in and hand-picked Rep. Beth Harwell for the post. During the Lamar! years, the governor picked every state party chairman, including one individual who was reputed to be a not-so-in-the-closet Democrat to the lead the GOP.
Those days are gone and the SEC is now a largely independent body with many on the committee taking the “long view” and operating under the knowledge that Gov. Haslam is largely a lame duck at this point and that they have a greater obligation to the state party than to just rubberstamp the governor’s preference. This has led many to believe that as Haynes is increasingly seen as Haslam’s boy, it only strengthens Littleton’s chances.
We here at RTP believe our analysis is absolutely correct and unassailable.
Unless it’s not.