Speaker Jimmy Naifeh had “Naifeh’s Bitches” — a group of eleven RINO Republicans who back in 2003 voted for him for Speaker while trading their vote for various 30 pieces of political silver [credit to Frank Cagle for creating the term “Naifeh’s Bitches.”]. The arrangement was a savvy one for Naifeh because by splitting up the GOP caucus, it allowed him to cling to power for several years longer than he should.
Then came Speaker Beth Harwell and “the Coconut Water Caucus.” RTP coined the phrase, but feel free to use it. It derives its nomenclature from the fact that apparently the Speaker likes nothing more than a cold refreshing bottle of coconut water, especially after an exhausting day of subverting conservative legislation with spurious fiscal notes, covering up sexual harassment accusations about her friends while trying to cling to power past her expiration date. And anyone who wants to suck up to Harwell apparently can do so by bringing the Speaker a nice cold bottle of coconut water — a much more politically correct method of sucking up than being an opposition party member who got invited to Naifeh’s office for 5:00 cocktails.
The latest incarnation of “Naifeh’s Bitches” are Democrat supplicants: like Rep. Kevin Dunlap – generally conservative voting record, but clings to the liberal Democratic Party. One of the most attentive to Harwell is Rep. John Mark Windle, who likes to who keep a ready supply of coconut water on hand so when he goes to see Harwell, he doesn’t go empty handed. But Windle’s “special relationship” with the Speaker goes beyond just a refreshing beverage.
Windle has been in the legislature for over a decade. He has a conservative voting record (for a Democrat), but to the consternation of the fine folks of the Upper Cumberland, he supports Hillary Clinton (who is about as popular there as an outhouse breeze). He is also squatting in a conservative legislative seat that would almost certainly go to a conservative Republican (you know, the kind of Republican who Harwell, Haslam and the establishment just hate), if someone would just mount a serious challenge or if it was an open seat.
But Windle benefits from his unusually close friendship with Harwell. So much so that she has been known to run interference for him against Republicans candidates who want to replace him.
Discouraging challengers for a reliable toady such as Windle is par for the course for Harwell, but such maneuvers have their limits. Harwell’s “Coconut Water Caucus” is facing a drought of extinction proportions. There has not been a new conservative Democrat elected to the state legislature in years. Harwell has seen other Democrats who have sucked up to her go down to defeat in recent elections, so she is losing many of her valued supporters – leaving her to contend with the growing, restive conservatives in the GOP caucus on her own.
[Editor’s note: If history is any guide, the future does not look bright for the Coconut Water Caucus. Of the 11 original “Naifeh’s Bitches, only two are left in the legislature. 5 retired, 3 were defeated in GOP primaries, one went to the state senate, one went to prison and only one is still in the House. All were allies of Beth Harwell and all but one are gone from the House.]
Whether it’s passing college tuition subsidies for illegal aliens, propping up Common Core, trying to stop the elimination of the Hall Income Tax, etc., Harwell needs every vote she can muster. And those votes are getting harder to come by.
Which brings us back to John Mark Windle, the Democrat apple of Beth’s eye. We will have more on John Mark and how he figures into Harwell’s chances for re-election as Speaker.