Friday, August 23, 2002

The Naifeh Jacket

The Tennessean had a brief interview with House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. Go ahead and read that first. It's short.

Welcome back. Bill Hobbs adds his comment and it's good. Now go read that. I'll wait.

My first question is why does an unopposed candidate (as Naifeh was until literally days before the primary elections) have half a million dollars in the bank? Why? The Tennessean reporter didn't bother to ask.

said support for an income tax plan
would not be a litmus test when it
comes to providing financial assistance
to House Democrats seeking

''My goal is to be re-elected down
here, first, and then to keep a majority
of Democrats in the House.'
I think he's saying that he'll help you get elected, but he'll own you afterwards. He's buying allegiance. Why? Well, his aura of invincible leadership, which had been unquestioned until the Income Tax War, was shattered. Almost immediately after Naifeh gave in, a couple of Representatives said they would explore running for his post! What does that tell you? He's feeling threatened and he's using his bloated "slush fund," as Bill Hobbs calls it, to save his ass.

The Tennessean continued:
As far as his own race, Naifeh said he planned to wage a full- scale campaign
against Tony Lopez, a retired Air Force colonel who mounted a write-in campaign
in the spring and summer to get his name on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Naifeh said he had not determined how much he would spend on the campaign
but said he would not underestimate Lopez.
I've said this before and it bears repeating: Naifeh isn't taking Lopez' run as a hopeless long shot. He's treating it deadly seriously. Lopez and the Tennessee Republican Party would do well to take that seriously. It's hard to imagine Lopez winning, because Naifeh is still the most powerful man in State government and why would the folks in his district give that up?

But it comes down to how much has he done for them lately? And there's the fact that a lot of folks have been moving up to his district from Memphis, largely white and conservative. He's still formidable, and I think the State Republicans will look at that carefully. Don't be surprised to see them only make a token donation to the Lopez campaign.

That said, if Naifeh returns I think it's a pretty good bet that he may not keep his Speakership. We'll have to wait and see.

But the real point of interest is Naifeh's statement "that the income tax issue is dead for at least two years." As Hobbs points out it's "hardly the long time he indicated previously." I agree. Immediately after the vote that killed the IT, Naifeh and the papers pronounced it dead, completely and full stop. But within weeks they began to qualify that statement, at first claiming it dead for eight years (the two terms of the next governor), then four years (the McWherter/Sundquist gambit). In fact, Naifeh's two years is twice what some papers are predicting, assuming as they are that budget pressures this coming year will assure a need for even more revenue, and likely assuming that efforts by the incoming Legislature to make meaningful reforms will die aborning.

I wish Lopez the best of luck, 'cause he'll need it once the papers begin to back Naifeh. But "Thug" Naifeh needs to go. Unquestionably.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

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