McNally Will Go For Tennessee Senate Speaker Post At Least One More Time

Image Credit: John Partipilo

By Sam Stockard [Tennessee Lookout -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0] –

Maneuvering for the lieutenant governor’s position promises to be a drawn-out affair.

Senate Speaker and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally confirmed to the Tennessee Lookout he plans to run for re-election to the post in 2024, guaranteeing he wants to finish this four-year term in office.

The Oak Ridge Republican, however, wouldn’t guarantee he will seek another term representing District 5, which now contains Anderson and Loudon counties and a portion of Knox County, going deep into downtown Knoxville. He says it’ll depend on how he feels.

McNally joked that he couldn’t stay around forever — though it seems he has already — while at a groundbreaking Wednesday for a $415 million law enforcement training center.

Senators started jockeying to be the next Senate Speaker when McNally ran into a bit of a problem last March amid reports he was messaging a young, gay man on Instagram, sending him fire hearts and other odd emojis. 

McNally and his backers played it off as providing emotional support for the guy, and the lieutenant governor said he isn’t gay. 

After a good deal of upheaval and angst, the longtime lawmaker, who’s been going to Nashville since 1978, ultimately won a vote of confidence to remain in the leadership post. (During that time frame, a security detail surrounded McNally from the Senate chamber to the elevator, keeping the media from asking questions. Things are about back to normal, hence McNally stops and talks to reporters without much hesitation.

That didn’t keep senators from wrangling for the job during the regular session. Because of the firestorm, some prognosticators thought McNally might step down at the end of this session or following his two-year term as speaker. The controlling Senate Republican Caucus, with 27 of 33 seats, has the biggest hand in selecting the speaker, even though the full Senate makes the final vote.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson of Franklin would have to be considered a front-runner for the job. Sen. Paul Bailey, chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee, was and is among those bucking for the top spot. And little-heard-from Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown, chairman of the Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, wants the leadership position. Sen. Bo Watson has been mentioned, but he’s more likely to stick with running the finance committee.

But if August’s special session was a dress rehearsal for Johnson, he might not have passed the audition.

Senate committee chairmen balked at the way he handled the session, much to McNally’s surprise, and some pretty innocuous bills nearly ran into trouble.

For example, a bill codifying the governor’s executive order on background checks barely got enough votes to pass the Senate because of disagreement over whether court clerks should notify the TBI within three business days or 72 hours about felony convictions. It passed 18-6 in the Senate with seven present not voting, which is practically a no vote, meaning it received only one more vote than constitutionally required to pass.

Granted, some lawmakers such as Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, didn’t vote for any bills — a protest of sorts over the special session.

But a group of senators made clear they were leery of Johnson’s leadership, which doesn’t bode well for him in two years or next year if some senators attempt a palace coup.

Meanwhile, McNally’s problems fairly vanished during the regular session when a person shot their way into The Covenant School in Green Hills and killed three adults and three 9-year-olds. 

Yet the push to take over his post continues with two years of posturing to go. The question is whether the public can stand it.

About the Author: Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state’s best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association. Follow Stockard on Twitter @StockardSam

4 thoughts on “McNally Will Go For Tennessee Senate Speaker Post At Least One More Time

  • September 29, 2023 at 3:56 pm

    Come on Sam, you’re too old to have to embarrass yourself by writing ” . . .a person shot their way into The Covenant School. . . .”

  • September 29, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    As a constituent in his district, at least I get the privilege of voting for someone other this fraud.

  • September 29, 2023 at 6:30 pm

    Lucifer’s own old vile perverted RINO puke. Be GLAD to see him gone in hopes of a Republican replacement.


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