Republican leaders deny senator's seating request

Associated Press • Apr 21, 2007 at 12:42 PM

NASHVILLE - First Sen. Mike Williams left the Republican party. Now the GOP wants to keep him from changing his seat.

Williams, of Maynardville, cast the Senate into a 16-16 tie between Republicans and Democrats when he became an independent last month. He said he was asked by some Republicans to move out of his seat on their side of the chamber after he shed his party affiliation.

But when Williams brought that request to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, it was denied.

Williams said he still gets along with most Republicans, but that he fears becoming a scapegoat for any internal GOP strategies that leak out to Democrats.

"I will be the fall guy even though I know nothing about it," said Williams. "They can say ‘We can blame that on Mike because he's sitting there.' I don't put it past them."

Williams wants to move from the back row on the right side of the chamber to the outside seat in the middle row on the left side of the room, a seat once occupied by former Democratic Sen. Kathryn Bowers of Memphis.

"I don't care what Republicans do, I don't care what the Democrats do," Williams said. I just want to vote on the issues. That's what we're here for." Ramsey said he sees no reason to let Williams move. "That's the way it was when we started the session, and that's the way I like it," he said. Ramsey laughed off Williams' suggestion that he would be blamed for any GOP information that reaches Democrats. "Please," Ramsey said. Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris was also unsympathetic to Williams' arguments. "Don't fall for all this stuff," said Norris, of Collierville. "This is all drama of his own making." Norris said he wants Williams to stay where he is, and that the request to move is "just Mike being Mike." (AP) On the Net: Tennessee General Assembly: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us AP-CS-04-20-07 1459EDT

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