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Boos, hisses, shouts of "Judas" greet new Tennessee House speaker

Staff Report • Jan 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

According to the Tennessean, Tuesday's surprise vote for Republican Kent Williams as House speaker infuriated fellow GOP lawmakers that expected a handoff from Democrat Jimmy Naifeh to Jason Mumpower, the GOP nominee for the position.

As the vote took place, the House chamber at moments erupted into near bedlam, with spectators raining down boos, hisses and angry shouts, which was quieted at one point after Naifeh threatened to have unruly audience members removed.

Williams was booed loudly when he got to the podium after he was administered the oath, and there was laughter when he said his election heralded change. He promised a new bipartisanship in the House, with committee heads of both parties, based on ability and seniority.

The level of vitriol from Republican was palpable. After Williams left the chamber during a recess, Mike Weaver, the husband of freshman House member Terri Lynn Weaver, hissed "Judas" at Williams as he made his way down the hallway.

"There will be no change. He's their puppet," Weaver said of Williams. "I think they had that planned. Everybody knows it. The people were here to see something different, to see a real change."

Williams shrugged off such criticism, saying he's been the target of his party's ire before. One of the so-called "Naifeh seven" who has voted for Naifeh in the past, he also didn't deny the criticism that he had broken an implied pledge to vote for Mumpower, the expected Republican speaker, saying simply, "Things change."

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