Political Roundup: Ramsey Boosts Kurita Again; More on Donelson and Cohen 

In appointing state Senate pro Tem Rosalind Kurita (D-Clarksville) to the influential Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) this week, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), the Senate's presiding officer, said, "Sen. Kurita has the rare ability to think outside the box and find answers to the problems facing our state."

Or, as Ramsey's GOP Senate colleague Paul Stanley put it more informally last week, introducing Ramsey at a testimonial dinner for Memphis' Lewis Donelson at the Homebuilders' Association, "Every now and then you'll get a right-thinking Democrat to see things your way." It was Kurita's surprise vote last January as the lone Democrat voting for Ramsey that enabled him to oust longtime Speaker John Wilder (D-Somerville) out of his box as the state's Lt. Governor;.

  • The best line of the night, however, came from Donelson himself, the 89-year-old eminence and honoree of last Friday night's event. Among other things, Donelson was: one of the founders of the host Shelby County Republican Party. He was also a key member (and a leading peacemaker) on the new Memphis city council that was elected in 1967 and had to grapple with the 1968 sanitation strike crisis that culminated in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

    When the newly elected Lamar Alexander was sworn in as governor three days early in 1979.to bring to an end the pardons-for-sale scandal under outgoing Gov. Ray Blanton, it was Lewis Dnelson who gave an invocation for that historic swearing-in ceremony, and it was Donelson who promptly became Alexander's principal agent in gathering up the reins of state government as Finance Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer.

    More recently, Donelson was lawyer for rural school districts in several successful litigations that fundamentally changed the way state education is financed.

    For these and other accomplishments, Donelson was toasted by dignitaries including Ramsey, former Governor Winfield Dunn, former city councilman Fred Davis, state Supreme Court Justice William Koch, and District Attorney General Bill Gibbons.

    When all the choruses and testimonials were done, Dnelson ascended the dais to make his own remarks of acknowledgement. Wearing a Cheshire grin almost as large as his diminutive self, he began this way: "After hearing all that, I'm almost obligated to die."

    Footnote: Though it was handled in good grace by everybody, there was one major snafu in the proceedings. Ramsey's appearance came only after the other testimonial-givers and Donelson himself had spoken. Somehow GOP chairman Bill Giannini, who otherwise handled things well, overlooked the lieutenant governor until large parts of the crowd had left thinking the event was over. Stanley hastened to the dais to tell Giannini otherwise, and Ramsey then came on - promising a "brief" speech that turned out to be, hmmm. regulation-size.

  • Meanwhile, Memphis Democratic congressman Steve Cohen continued his Zelig-like pace this past week, becoming a co-sponsor of a resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney and of another to censure both Cheney and President Bush. (Cohen had previously been a sponsor of a resolution to impeach Attorney General Albert Gonzales.)

    Appearing at Prescott Church Wednesday night, Cohen observed of the vice president: "Cheney is obviously running the government. And you can look at him and tell he's not Mother Theresa."

    Though he acknowledged "this isn't going to get passed either," Cohen announced that he is also sponsoring a constitutional amendment requiring that pardons and commutations require a two-thirds majority of the Supreme Court confirming that they are "in the interests of justice."

    At the close of his remarks at Prescott, Cohen hailed the church's pastor, Marise Tuttle, and presented her with a thick volume documenting the success of women in politics and public life. Then he quipped, “This doesn’t mean there needs to be another women in Congress anytime soon."

    That, of course, was an oblique reference to Nikki Tinker, who was runnerup to Cohen in the 2006 election and has already launched a campaign for the 9th District congressional seat in 2008.

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