Rep. Judd Matheny could challenge Beth Harwell for House Speaker

(Graphic: WKRN)

Republican Representative Judd Matheny sounded more and more Wednesday like he may challenge fellow party member Beth Harwell for House Speaker, even though he maintained, “I am keeping my options open.”

“Deep inside, I have to be more fulfilled, and I am being called to a louder voice, a more active voice in the General Assembly,” Matheny told Nashville's News 2.

He continued, “When core constitutional principles were compromised as I feel they were in the past session, there is a lot of faith that has been lost in the status quo, and I refuse at this point in time to endorse the status quo and be part of its current projectory.”

Matheny was referring to the “guns-in-parking lots bill” which would have allowed handgun permit holders to carry weapons in their vehicles into workplace parking lots without reprisal from employers.

The bill stalled after opposition from top Republican leaders like Governor Bill Haslam, Speaker Harwell and Republican House Caucus Chair Debra Maggart who recently lost a primary challenge to gun rights advocate Courtney Rogers, but Matheny said there are other issues ignored by what he called “the status quo.”

“That is the right to life, right to bear arms, the right for the states to govern themselves, spend our own money the way we want to do it, I think the health care law is case in point,” said Matheny, who is a former law enforcement officer.

“Stand up for core constitutional principles, do not deviate for those,” he added.

In lieu of seven House Republicans losing their seats to primary challengers earlier this month, the representative was asked if there is a battle underway for the soul of the Tennessee Republican party.

“Absolutely there is a battle for it,” he replied.

“And it's a natural battle that comes with the machinations of time and power changing hands,” he continued.

Matheny said there are two camps in the Republican party.

“There are the pathfinders which I call somewhat happy with the status quo, they don't want to rock the boat too much,” said Matheny.

“Then we have the pathfinders, and that is the group that says we have to make changes in our projectory, we cannot continue with the habits that we have, it's fiscally irresponsible, and we must make a change.”

Republican Beth Harwell was asked for a statement about Matheny's possible challenge to her Speaker's position.

“At present, I am 100% focused on the November elections, bringing back all of our Republican House members, and growing our majority. The voters asked us to reduce taxes, limit the size of government and balance our budget in a fiscally responsible way. Working together, we accomplished those things and I am proud of our track record in the House. With a stronger majority, we can do even more,” said the Speaker in the statement.

The election for Speaker typically takes place in early December every two years amongst House members.

Harwell was elected in 2010 in a contest with former House Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada.

The voting is secret, but lawmakers who were there believe the balloting was extremely close.

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