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Republicans just don't get it. In Kent Williams, they have a political star. Like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
, Williams started as the handpicked stooge of the political establishment but has proven himself a decent, commonsense guy with the bizarre idea that legislators should come to Nashville, vote their conscience and then go home. He may not be the brightest bulb. (No one's counting on Williams to solve the world's problems.) But he's funny and disarmingly candid, and he's Abe Lincoln compared with the venal yahoos who mostly make up the legislature.
So naturally, rather than embrace Williams, the state GOP has disowned him and looks for every opportunity to tear him down. Over the weekend, RNC chair Michael Steele
came to Kingsport and unloaded on the speaker, too. "I got a bull's eye right on his back, and we're taking him out," Steele told a fund-raiser.
At the media's request, Williams responded this afternoon in typical fashion, refusing to play in the sandbox with his critics and choosing instead to focus on the state's problems.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has publicly stated that he is going to take me out. He came in from Washington to speak in Kingsport, Tennessee. I believe it was his first trip here ever. I was not present when he made his remarks and he has had no contact with me. I have never met the gentleman.
Williams pointed to an online poll in the Kingsport paper
showing 72 percent disagree with Steele that Williams "betrayed every Republican in this state." Maybe that's why Republican candidates for governor are making trips to Elizabethton
to pay homage to the speaker. Here's the rest of his statement:
Based on a Kingsport Times-News online poll it does not appear that his remarks resonate with the people here in Tennessee, or at least in the area where he made his remarks. The poll showed that 72% of the people disagreed with Mr. Steele's remarks about me. Perhaps this is because of my actual performance on the job.
I have made it my goal to move past all the rhetoric and distractions and focus on issues that are important to the people of Tennessee. I have remained true to the core principles of the Republican Party.
I own a small business and as reported in the Tennessean earlier this year I have a 100% voting record with the National Federation of Independent Businesses. I am a supporter of Second Amendment Rights to bear arms. Under my tenure as Speaker, I have guided to the House floor legislation which has allowed legally permitted handgun owners to carry their guns in additional areas for their self-protection.
I am a supporter of SJR 127, the pro-life constitutional amendment. We have moved to the floor of the House and passed for the first time ever Senate Joint Resolution 127 allowing the people to vote on a pro-life amendment to our constitution. Under our constitution it takes a second vote by another General Assembly to actually put the proposed amendment on the ballot for a vote by the people. I hope to be here in the next General Assembly to cast another vote for this resolution.
I do not want government involved in all aspects of our citizens' lives. I am a proponent of a small, efficient government. I believe in balanced budgets, where we live within our means. I believe in working to improve our schools, bringing in and keeping good jobs and keeping the government off the backs of working families.
Perhaps, it is because of my record, my holding to these core principles that keep the people here in Tennessee supportive of me and not the politics of Washington telling them to think otherwise.
This is a challenging time in our history. I will not let rhetoric and outside distractions keep me from the work we have at hand. The people of Tennessee expect and deserve our very best as we move our state forward.
Let's all work together to address the challenges before us.