Meeting with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sens. Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy, Bredesen immediately acknowledged he had appointed only Democrats to the board during his two terms as governor and would have to replace three of them with Republicans. Afterward, the three senators sat down with reporters. According to Ramsey:
The governor said, ‘OK let’s just hit this head on. I was supposed to have three Republicans on the Board of Regents. I didn’t know that. I overlooked that. I have 4,000 appointments, and I made a mistake. I’m just going to say that right up front. I’m going to fix that.’
And I said, ‘You mean you’re going to kick three people off the Board of Regents?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’
Republicans discovered the law’s existence as they were protesting the appointment of Deputy Gov. John Morgan as Board of Regents chancellor. The board rewrote the job description for Morgan, and critics have complained that the fix was in for Bredesen’s top aide. Senate Republicans have scheduled hearings into the selection for later this month. Ramsey, Ketron and Tracy said they want to ask questions about the process, but they agreed they won't try to scuttle Morgan's appointment.
“Something good will come out of this because it will send a signal to the Board of Regents that we’re serious about what we’re doing in higher education,” Ketron said.
Bredesen has accused Ketron and Tracy of grandstanding for political benefit. The senators said the governor asked them whether they are playing politics.
“We had a good discussion about that,” Tracy said. “He asked us that point-blank. It was probably the first question he asked. It’s not about politics to us.”