The longtime Nashville lawmaker started in Republican rich Williamson County Monday morning, meeting with local leaders before heading on to Memphis and Shelby County later in the day.
“I am listening and learning,” the Republican representative told News 2 outside Puckett’s Restaurant, where she lunched with both the county and Franklin city mayor, along with House Finance Chair Charles Sargent, who represents part of the area.
Like any candidate who has been part of a governing party, she accented the positives of the state that she’s helped lead since becoming Tennessee’s first woman elected house speaker in 2011.
“Without a doubt the speaker of the house is an important role, one that I feel I have played well over the last years, and will continue to working with the governor,” Harwell said, adding, “And I think we are in a wonderful position as a state. We have one of the lowest tax bases in the nation, the lowest debt in the nation, the fastest improving education and I hope that I have been a part of that leadership team.”
With a political record more front and center than the other Republican hopefuls for governor, the speaker has been criticized sometimes for waiting to see what the majority of house members want, rather than helping them decide by leading on issues like Governor Bill Haslam’s failed Insure Tennessee health care plan.
“Ultimately it is the legislative body that makes most of the policy decisions for this state,” the speaker responded. “And I have tried to guide and help my members as they make their decisions in how they represent their districts best.”
Harwell repeated that she has no plans to resign either her House seat or her leadership role while she pursues the governor’s office.
Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is the only announced Democrat candidate for governor.
Primaries for both parties are in August 2018.