Skip to comments.Former Tennessee House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh won't seek re-election
Posted on 03/08/2012 9:18:33 AM PST by SmithL
NASHVILLE State Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington the son of Lebanese emigrants who served as House speaker longer than anyone in Tennessee history announced on the House floor today that he wont run for re-election this year after 38 years in the General Assembly.
Naifeh, 72, a Democrat, was first elected to the House in 1974 and re-elected 18 times. The House elected him its speaker, the chambers presiding officer, for nine two-year terms from 1991 until 2009 when Republicans won a House majority. Hes remained an outspoken House member since then.
Addressing his colleagues on the House floor, Naifeh referred to his mentor, the late governor and House speaker Ned McWherter. Governor McWherter always told me when it was time to go home, Id know it. After talking with my family and friends, I believe the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders.
All told, Ive given 40 years of my life to public service: 38 in the legislature and two as an infantry officer in the Army. Now Im looking forward to a little more time for myself and a lot more time with my grandkids.
His House District 81 includes most of his home Tipton County except the heavily Republican southern part, and all of Haywood County.
But in this years legislative redistricting, Republicans moved heavily Democratic Haywood out of the district and merged all of Tipton into the new 81st. In 2008, Naifeh won both counties to win re-election by more than a 2-to-1 margin. In 2010, he lost Tipton by 681 votes to a Republican challenger but won re-election by carrying Haywood by more than a 3-to-1 margin.
Naifeh lost his first run for the legislature in 1972 by 13 votes but won two years later. He quickly became a leader in the mostly conservative Rural West Tennessee Democratic Caucus and became more moderate over the years. With former Republican governor Don Sundquist, he championed a progressive tax reform plan from 2000 to 2002 that was built around a new state income tax with high deductibles and which abolished sales taxes on food and lowered the sales tax rates on everything else.
The plan fell five votes short in the House. But despite heavy opposition by conservatives, Naifeh still won re-election five times after the tax plan failed.
He was also an advocate for public education, from kindergarten through the states university system.
In all aspects of my life, Ive always tried to be an effective leader. I think a lot of that stems from my army training. When I came to the House, it was no different. I got into leadership during my second term with the ultimate goal of becoming speaker. I achieved that goal and Im proud of what I accomplished during that time, he said.
That included the 1992 Education Improvement Act proposed by McWherter and which Naifeh shepherded through the House. It created a new funding formula for public K-12 schools that channeled more money to poorer rural districts but also ultimately increased overall funding for K-12 education by over $1 billion a year.
He said places like the Jimmy Naifeh Center in Covington, a branch of Dyersburg State Community College, are among his most proud accomplishments.
Naifehs father, Oney Naifeh, arrived in Covington from Beirut, Lebanon, to join his father in operating a grocery store on the courthouse square. The family has been in the grocery business in Tipton County since that time.
My Dad came here from Lebanon and couldnt even speak English! He always told me what a privilege it was to live in this country and that we had a responsibility to give back. Whether it was my work with St. Jude or in the legislature, Ive always tried to remember that and use what power I had to improve the lives of everyday people, Naifeh said.
Outside the legislature, his work has focused on St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital and its fundraising arm, ALSAC, where he serves on the board of directors. For the past 19 years, he has hosted an annual legislative golf tournament in Nashville to benefit the hospital.
Naifeh has three children and six grandchildren. He said he plans to explore future options and spend more time with his grandchildren.
The House and its packed galleries gave Naifeh an extended standing ovation and several members of the Senate joined in the back of the chamber. As he worked his way back to his seat at the rear of the chamber where members of his family awaited, members on both sides of the aisle -- Republicans and Democrats -- shook his hands.
The only current member of the House who has served longer, Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, said he exhibited courage throughout his legislative career.
Speaker Beth Harwell, the Nashville Republican who is the first woman speaker of either Tennessee chamnber, turned over the speaker's podium to him where he presided again briefly.
Did you happen to go to Millington for your communications training?
Amen! Good riddance to the gun grabbing socialist lowlife. I guess the criminals of Lebanon will be upset since he it not there to protect them anymore from pro-carry gun laws.
When I live in TN the only state level politician I detested more than Double Cross Don Sundquist was Naifeh.
Sorry criminals of covington...
My sentiments exactly. He and his ilk have kept this state behind the times by stifling growth and personal freedoms for too long. Talk about crony capitalism.
Boss Hogg Naifeh... the epitome of TN Democrat Party tyranny and thuggery.
Couldn't agree more.
I envy you, Madigan will die in office.
You won't believe the campaign literature Madigan is putting out for his re-election this year:
One thing I will say in Naifeh’s favor is that Republicans could learn a few lessons on sheer ruthlessness from the guy. He literally carried the testicles of the House GOP leaders for years in his pocket. His last act was pulling a Willie Brown and installing a creepy RINO puppet to ensure an additional 2 years of power for the Democrats (and himself). He’s only leaving now (after barely a year out of power as “Speaker Emeritus” AKA Puppetmaster) since his district was made Republican.
Sadly, had it not been for Watergate, he never would’ve won office at all. When he first ran in 1972, the district he lived in (Tipton County, which is now suburban Memphis) sent a Republican and probably would’ve continued to, but 1974 halted GOP strength almost everywhere and delayed the Southern realignment for more than 2 decades (and in TN’s case, for 36 years).
LOL they stuck poor Blago’s head on some other guy.
Madigan should be careful, he belongs where Blago is.
Damn Nixon. We could have well done without that smackdown. That one and 1958 really burn me.
...and so does the Mighty Quinn.