Thursday, March 08, 2012

The End of an Era

The son of a Lebanese immigrant, Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, the "Lebanese Lion" as Mike Turner calls him, was perhaps the most influential and important political figure in modern Tennessee history who was not the governor.

While controversial at times, Naifeh never feared speaking his mind and doing what he felt was right, despite an increasingly conservative and Republican leaning district.  That meant sometimes using the power of the committee to ensure the legislature focused on issues that were actually important in the lives of Tennesseans, rather than the social conservative distractions the Republicans have pushed in recent years.  As Mike Turner said in a press release:
He has done more for the people of Tennessee than most of us will ever know. He’s a hard worker, he’s well-informed and he’s not afraid to stand-up for the issues and the people he cares about. When he goes home this fall, our caucus and this House will be a much emptier place. I will miss him, but I wish him the best in everything he does in the future.”
In remarks on the House Floor, Speaker Naifeh said "Governor McWherter, my mentor, always told me I would know when it was time to go home and I know that time has come for me to step aside for the next generation of leaders." Indeed, with this end of an era brings the possibility of a rebirth of both the Democratic party and the House Caucus. While his district will likely fall to the Republicans this year, there are many other opportunities to infuse new life and blood into the legislature, hopefully within the new crop of Democrats there lies the potential for the next "Lebanese Lion".

Update: Video from Naifeh's farewell address to the House, with words of support from his fellow members, and a brief turn back at the gavel.

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