Harwell gives House Democratic chairman’s office space to Republican

House Speaker Beth Harwell has booted House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart out of his Legislative Plaza office and turned the space over to newly-elected House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams, reports the Nashville Post.

The move means Democratic Caucus staff will be in different offices than Stewart, who will be moving into the former office of Rep. Joe Armstrong in Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s suite — and it means the 25 Democrats in the House no longer have a conference room to call their own. 

…Harwell’s chief of staff, Scott Gilmer, said the move has nothing to do with politics, just space.

“Absolutely not,” responded Gilmer when asked if the move is retaliatory. (Stewart repeatedly attacked Harwell last year over her handling of the sexual harassment allegations against then-Rep. Jeremy Durham.) “It’s really about space. We picked up a member, and we already had a member sharing a suite with Democrats, and this is just what made sense.”

Gilmer said Democrats will be able to use committee rooms for caucus meetings, although apparently they have in the past been denied use of the rooms depending on the whims of the scheduler.

“The Speaker’s conference room can also be reserved for their use,” Gilmer said.

Williams said he didn’t ask for Stewart to be moved, and he was unaware until told by the Post that the move left the Democrats without any conference room.

…It’s unclear why Harwell’s office chose not to move Rep. Gerald McCormick from his set of offices, as he’s no longer majority leader. 

Democratic staff declined to comment on the record as to whether they thought the move was political. Stewart did not return a phone call seeking comment.

But the inconvenience for the Democrats will be over by 2018 (when legislators relocated to a remodeled Cordell Hull building nearby), Gilmer said.

“The will all be resolved in the new building, where everyone will be able to have their staff all together,” he said. 

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