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« Watching What They Eat | Main | Record Number of African-American Top Leaders »

January 14, 2009


IM Russell

I was there and it was absolutely insane. The new Speaker has only been in office two years, they went for the weakest link and got it. Brilliant, just not a great thing for Tennesseeans.

Frank Jackson

Also note the election of Republican Sen. Bill Ratliff as presiding officer of the Texas Senate (after Lt. Gov. Rick Perry succeded George W. Bush as Governor)was probably accomplished with 15 Democrats and himself versus the 15 other Republicans. I say probably because the election was by secret ballot.

The Thicket

Frank is going back in history a bit with his comment about the Texas Senate in 2000, but his point is a good one. When the leadership ballot is secret, we don't always know what is a coalition and what is not.

Also, on a Nashville Post blog that links to this posting, a Tennessee reader commented, "Uh, it’s clear the NCSL doesnt’ understand what went down. It’s not a bipartisan coalition, unless 49 Dems and one turncoat Republican on one side and 49 pissed off Republicans on the other makes it “bipartisan.”"

Because this may be of interest to other readers of The Thicket, I will respond to it here. I am not surprised to receive this comment, and I'm sympathetic to it. I think it's true that there is a qualitative difference between a situation in which a single member of one party joins with all of the members of the other party to organize the chamber (as in the Tennessee House) as compared with a chamber in which substantial numbers of member from both parties join together (as in the Alaska Senate and the Texas House). To a partisan on the losing side, the one-vote defection probably feels more like a palace coup or a stolen election than a "bipartisan coalition."

But an analyst has to define terms. My definition of a coalition is any situation in which votes from both parties are required to elect a leader and organize the chamber. It doesn't matter whether it's one vote (Tennessee) or six votes (Pennsylvania House in 2007) that tip the balance. They're both coalitions according to the definition.

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