With Praise for Rep. Curry Todd, Democratic Leader Undercuts His Party



Rep. Mike Turner
  • Rep. Mike Turner
If you need yet more evidence for why Democrats have been virtually extirpated in Tennessee, it arrived this morning in the daily birdcage liner. House Democratic Caucus chairman Mike Turner told the Tennessean's Brandon Gee he hopes Rep. Curry Todd not only keeps his House seat but also his committee chairmanship.

“I think he’s one of the best chairmen we have up there,” Turner said. “I’m not going to beat somebody up for making a mistake. I don’t think you’ll ever see him get in this situation again."

On full display here is the arrogant, clubby, circle-the-wagons attitude that so disgusts the public about elected officials. Todd is charged with weaving wasted around town in his SUV with a loaded pistol. That's exactly what he repeatedly promised the public and his colleagues in the legislature that no responsible handgun carry permit holder ever would do. In part on the basis of his word, the legislature has expanded gun rights in this state to laughable extremes.

His audacious hypocrisy alone obviously raises legitimate questions about whether he should remain in public office. In an online poll conducted by Channel 5, 80 percent thinks Todd ought to quit if he's convicted. That's in no way scientific, of course, but we imagine it's fairly indicative of the way the public actually feels. Yet Turner thinks Todd ought to keep his House leadership position. Can you say disconnect?

Turner undercut his own party chairman. Late yesterday, Chip Forrester issued a strong denunciation of Todd and demanded that House Speaker Beth Harwell either force Todd to quit or explain why she won't.

For the Democratic caucus chairman, the guy who's supposed to go to bat for his party in the House, Turner's public comments lately have been curious. He has been full of praise for Harwell and Gov. Bill Haslam, and the other day he declared weirdly out of the blue that he might run for mayor in four years. He seems more concerned at this point about not upsetting Republicans who are about to redraw district lines. Maybe he hopes that if he plays nice, they won't add too many Republicans to his Old Hickory district, and maybe they'll go easy on him in next year's elections. In '10, Turner only barely squeaked past an oddball unknown Republican who smashed buffalo turds for some reason in his YouTube ads.

Whatever his motivation, Turner now has handed Republicans all the political cover they need to try to sweep this little matter under the rug. Harwell has been, um, out of pocket since Todd's arrest. She went to Montana to take her daughter to visit a college, and no one seems to be able to communicate with her. In Montana, apparently, phones don't work. But if we ever get the chance to ask Harwell what she's going to do about Todd, you can bet the first thing she'll point out is that Turner wants him to stay.

In a Tennessean online poll, 58 percent say Todd should resign from the legislature.


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