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VOL. 36 | NO. 44 | Friday, November 02, 2012

State GOP poised for first super majority

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee Republicans are poised to get their first super majority - or more - in both chambers of the Legislature on Tuesday.

Currently in the Senate, Republicans have a 20-13 advantage. The margin is 64-34 in the House, with one independent. To get a super majority of two-thirds, Republicans need to claim two seats in each chamber.

The last time there was a super majority in both chambers was during the 90th Tennessee General Assembly when Democrats controlled the Senate 23-9 and the House 66-32, according to legislative records.

State Republicans have never held a super majority.

But GOP leaders, including Gov. Bill Haslam, believe that will change after Tuesday, particularly considering Republican legislative candidates have a financial advantage in just about all their races.

"I think it will be a good night for Republicans," Haslam recently told reporters. "Do I think Republicans will have a super ma jority? I do, in both houses. Where it goes beyond that I don't really know."

One contentious race Republicans are hoping to claim is in District 22, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Barnes faces candidate Mark Green.

Green was asked to run by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Gov. Bill Haslam and Barnes' 2008 primary opponent, former state Sen. Rosalind Kurita.

Kurita was ousted as the Democratic nominee in her bid for re-election to the Tennessee General Assembly after Democratic officials declared her 19-vote primary win as "incurably uncertain," allowing Barnes to succeed her.

Republicans have spent thousands of dollars on negative campaign ads targeting Barnes.

Other races Republicans are hoping to win include the 10th District, vacated by Democratic Sen. Andy Berke, who is running for mayor of Chattanooga; the 16th District, vacated by Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Winchester, who is running for the U.S . House; and the 28th District, a new seat relocated by redistricting from Shelby County to southern Middle Tennessee. The district number was previously designated for Kyle's seat.

In the House, key races being watched by the GOP are the 5th District, where incumbent Republican Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville is being challenged by former Democratic Rep. Eddie Yokley; the 33rd District, where Republican Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge is in a rematch with former Democratic Rep. Jim Hackworth; and the 76th District, where Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden faces a rematch with former Democratic Rep. Mark Maddox.

Political analysts, as well as some Republicans, acknowledge governing a super majority may be a tall order.

"The general rule is that as parties get larger in Legislatures, they get less cohesive," said Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer.

Haslam said he welcomes a super majority, but alluded it may present some c hallenges.

"Does it mean we'll get everything we want, I don't necessarily assume that," he said.