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Battle of the ex-commissioners: Templeton, Walley to run for Gresham’s state Senate seat

Jai Templeton and Page Walley are announcing their bids to seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring state Sen. Dolores Gresham.

Templeton is a former state agriculture commissioner, while Walley was once commissioner of the state Department of Children’s Services. Senate District 26 comprises Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy, and Henderson counties.

Gresham was elected to the West Tennessee seat after John Wilder (D-Mason), retired after 44 years in the Senate — 36 of them as speaker. Gresham, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, has served as chair of the Education Committee ever since she joined the Senate.

Templeton, a former McNairy County mayor, lives in the Stantonville community, about 15 miles southwest of Savannah. Walley, of Hardeman County, served in the state House from 1990 to 2000. State Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) plans to stay in the House.

Read the campaign releases after the jump.

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Dunn doesn’t want Cordell Hull Building named after him

Former Gov. Winfield Dunn awaits the start of the of the inauguration of Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A proposal to rename the Cordell Hull Building after former Gov. Winfield Dunn sparked a round of self-congratulation among Republicans in the state House. But key members of the Senate were less enthralled by the idea. And now Dunn himself is asking the legislature not to go through with it.

The Daily Memphian’s Sam Stockard spoke to Dunn about the proposal on Monday.

“I was very surprised to learn what the representative had undertaken to do,” Dunn told the publication. “It seems so completely out of proportion to the historical context of our state. I personally consider Cordell Hull to be an unblemished representative of what Tennessee is. I expressed my reservations to the legislator.”

Dunn was governor from 1971 to 1975, serving at a time when incumbents weren’t allowed to run for re-election. Dunn took another swing at the governor’s office in 1986, but fell short to then-House Speaker Ned Ray McWherter (D-Dresden).

State Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) last month announced plans to name the building Dunn. The facility has been named after Cordell Hull, the country’s longest-serving secretary of state, since it was first constructed in the 1950s.

Dunn is a Republican, while Nobel Peace Prize-winning Hull was a Democrat. Dunn became Tennessee’s first Republican governor in 48 years when he was elected in 1970.

So is Dunn’s demurral the end of the renaming effort? Not according to Gant.

“Anybody who thinks a building should be named after themselves probably isn’t worthy of such an honor,” he said in a statement. “Governor Dunn does not have an over-inflated sense of self worth like many politicians in this day and age. Former Gov. Dunn is a humble man and was a dedicated servant for our state. It is not surprising he is hesitant of this honor being bestowed upon him.”

McNally says renaming Cordell Hull Building shouldn’t be done ‘without considerable forethought and study’

Former Gov. Winfield Dunn awaits the start of the of the inauguration of Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) doesn’t appear quite as eager to push through a new name for the legislative office complex as some of his House counterparts. Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) announced last week he plans to introduce legislation to name the building after former Gov. Winfield Dunn. The facility constructed in the 1950s is named after Cordell Hull, the country’s longest-serving Secretary of State.

“This is not something that should be done without considerable forethought and study,” McNally told The Tennessean.

McNally got his start in politics working for Dunn’s 1970 campaign for governor, calling him “a great man (and an) outstanding governor. But he also praised Hull, who was a state representative before serving in the U.S. House and Senate.

New movement afoot to rename Cordell Hull Building

Gant

State Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) wants to rename the General Assembly’s new office complex after former Gov. Winfield Dunn, reports WKRN-TV’s Chris Bundgaard. The building has been named after Cordell Hull, the country’s longest-serving secretary of state, since it was first constructed in the 1950s.

Dunn is a Republican, while Nobel Peace prize-winning Hull was a Democrat.

Dunn became Tennessee’s first Republican governor in 48 years when he was elected in 1970.

It’s not the first time Republicans have chafed at working in a building named after a Democrat. As the AP reported in 2017, state Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) wanted to remove the name of “that old Democrat socialist” before lawmakers moved last year. But Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) opposed the change, noting that Hull was from his district.

Hull was born in a log cabin in rural Pickett County in 1871 and served in the state House and the U.S. Senate before being named secretary of state in 1933. Poor health forced him to retire from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Cabinet in 1944.

The previous call to change the name of the Cordell Hull building didn’t gain much traction. Then-Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) wasn’t thrilled by the idea.

“He was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives,” McCormick said. “And as long as he wasn’t a state senator, I think it’s OK to leave his name on the building.”

No word yet on whether the effort to name the legislative branch’s office complex after a former head of the executive branch will give anyone pause.

Gant: ‘We can all recognize the severity of what is happening’

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone in the House chamber in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Rep. Ron Gant, the assistant House majority leader, is issuing a call for a caucus meeting to discuss the fallout from the text messaging scandal enveloping Glen Casada’s speakership.

“With all the vitriol playing out before our eyes; personally, I find myself thinking that if this is what public service has come to then I may want to serve the community that I love in another way,” wrote Gant.

It’s unclear whether Gant’s call for a caucus meeting differs from once sought by Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), which the latter has described as involving a “vote of confidence” for the speaker.

Here’s the full statement from Gant (formatted for clarity):

I believe in our government and I believe in the people of our great state, but my heart has been heavy over the last couple of weeks. With all the vitriol playing out before our eyes; personally, I find myself thinking that if this is what public service has come to then I may want to serve the community that I love in another way. It’s no wonder why good people don’t want to serve in politics with all the viciousness and hatred towards one another that takes place.

I believe we all can recognize the severity of what is happening. We are all looking for direction and understanding at this time. Therefore, as the Assistant Majority Leader I’m calling for a caucus meeting within the coming days. I want to thank those who have reached out to me personally over the last few days, I value your input greatly.

After much thought and prayer; along with hearing from my district and various fellow house members, I feel it is imperative that we meet as a caucus and seek a direction as members of the Tennessee House of Representatives. I would encourage us to consider the counsel of Micah “He has shown you, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I ask that we each pray and seek our Heavenly Father for His wisdom and direction as we move forward.