Haslam Praises Harwell Amid Hints of Matheny Challenge

Governor Bill Haslam is backing current State House Speaker Beth Harwell, amid hints that a fellow Republican could challenge her control of the lower chamber. Tullahoma Rep. Judd Matheny says he might try to unseat Harwell.

A challenge from Matheny risks pitting more conservative House Republicans against the moderate Harwell, who has worked closely with Haslam. Asked about the potential for such a challenge, Haslam told reporters he liked Harwell’s work in what he called a difficult role.

“I have a new appreciation for it. When you have 99 elected members, all of whom have a little different idea, it’s difficult to build that consensus, even if your party has a big majority. I think most people would look at the job Beth has done and be very, very impressed.”

Two years ago Harwell beat out Franklin Republican Glen Casada to take the speaker’s gavel, and now Casada says he’s not looking for a rematch. Harwell has preferred to keep the House from spending a lot time on gun bills – a stance that has drawn increasing ire from more gun-friendly lawmakers.

Matheny told the Associated Press he feels fellow Republicans sidelined his key bills, ‘ranging from loosening gun laws to battling what he perceives as the spread of Islamic law.’

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