Nashville Public Radio
March 21, 2016

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With Speaker Ron Ramsey retiring in January, Republicans in the Tennessee Senate are trying to figure out who their next leader will be.

Some, including Ramsey himself, say an Oak Ridge lawmaker could be the candidate to lead them through a time of transition.

Republican Randy McNally was first elected to the state legislature in 1977 and to the state Senate in 1983. That makes him the longest-serving lawmaker on Capitol Hill.

But longevity isn’t McNally’s only qualification. He has a reputation for integrity, having secretly worn a wire during the Rocky Top corruption investigation in the 1980s. He’s viewed as solidly conservative, having served as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

And McNally isn’t seen as having ambitions that could threaten other lawmakers.

Even McNally says age is his biggest virtue.

“I don’t plan on being there for a long time. Simply, I’m 72 years old,” he says with a chuckle. “You know, you only live so long.”

The idea of McNally serving as a transitional speaker appears to be gaining momentum. The current speaker, Ramsey, says he’s for it. So does Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris.

“You know, I know this may be counterintuitive for some folks,” Norris, R-Memphis, told reporters Monday after meeting with Ramsey. “But I think it’s a solid, sound, safe approach.”

Norris has been seen as another possible successor to Ramsey. But Norris notes, letting that position go to a transitional figure would free him up to run for another office, like governor.

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