Harwell faces balancing act of Speaker, candidate for governor

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Balancing the jobs of being a top lawmaker and a candidate for governor is no easy task.

But while several others are doing it this election year in Tennessee, Beth Harwell may be the busiest as both the House Speaker and a Nashville Representative.

She hopes to become the first speaker in more than three decades who goes on to be governor.

“I think it plays very well into becoming the next governor of the state, similar to what Ned Ray McWherter did,” said Harwell.

(Photo: WKRN)

Democrat McWherter rode into the governor’s chair in 1987 after 14 years as speaker of a chamber controlled by his party.

Republican Harwell hopes to do the same thing, only now with her party in control.

“I think I have been fortunate to be the Speaker of the house when we have had some of our boldest, most successful reform efforts in the state of Tennessee,” Harwell told News 2.

Most notable is K-12 education reform pushed by outgoing Governor Bill Haslam which has led to improved student test scores.

Then there is the opioid crisis where Harwell’s leadership will be tested.

“We are going to have to have our budgets aligned. If we are going to make the opioid crisis a priority, it’s going to have to be a priority on the executive branch as well,” added the speaker. “And I think it is, so you are going to see more funding for TBI agents for example.”

On another major issue, medical marijuana in a non-smoking form is something the speaker could now support after the back condition of a sister in Colorado was helped by it–instead of taking opiate based prescriptions.

“She did not smoke marijuana,” explained the speaker. “She took a little crystal that she put on her tongue in the evening. She did it two or three times and has not used it since.”

Rep. Harwell said it gave her an open mind about the issue.

“So you have to wonder. Maybe this is a gift from God. Maybe this natural plant is better than synthetic drugs we are prescribing to people,” said the speaker.

But she is making no predictions about medical marijuana passing this year or what she would do with it as governor