Talking to the Memphis Flyer's Jackson Baker
last night, House Democratic leader Gary Odom admitted he hopes the coup d'état that put Kent Williams in power has dispatched Jimmy Naifeh to the dustbin of history. Stamping out Naifeh was, in fact, one of Odom's motivations for giving Williams the speaker's gavel, Odom said. Naifeh was killing the Democratic Party, said Odom, who also acknowledged he would have challenged Naifeh for the speakership himself if Democrats hadn't lost the House in November's elections.
"He was the one always pushing the income tax," Odom said, "and that was the single greatest reason for the Democrats' decline in Tennessee over the last few years. It was why Al Gore lost the state in 2000, and it was why we kept losing seats after that, until finally we were in the minority."
In the article, Odom casts himself as the crafty one and Naifeh as witless and doddering. According to Odom and Williams, who's also in Memphis chattering to Baker, Naifeh didn't even know about the plot until the night before. More from Baker:
Odom makes the case that only by starting anew, with totally fresh leadership in the House, could the Democrats began a serious comeback. He had meant to provide that leadership as Speaker himself, but the election results had forced him to look elsewhere - in the direction of Williams, the maverick Republican who, as Williams related to a group of Democrats at a Playhouse on the Square reception Thursday night, had been a high-school basketball opponent of Odom, now a Nashvillian, when the two of them were growing up in Carter County.
Williams and Odom are teammates now, and back in January they collaborated on a buzzer-beater that dashed the individual hopes of both Jimmy Naifeh and Jason Mumpower but inaugurated a new era of power-sharing and kept Democratic hopes alive.