Thursday, March 15, 2007

Williams Shuns GOP for Independent

Nashville - Sen. Mike Williams of Maynardville announced today that he will leave the Senate Republican Caucus and will become an Independent.

Williams' move will leave the state Senate with 16 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and one Independent.

At a brief news conference, Williams said he believes the Republican party is stressing partisanship and divisiveness that could lead the legislature to a gridlock.

Williams said he admires many Republicans such as former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker and former state Senate Republican Leader Ben Atchley. Current party figures are not following that tradition, he said.

"Some in this party are leading us down a path of bitterness and divisiveness and in doing so, they have left me," he said. "I have not left them."

Reaction was mixed to Williams' announcement.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he believed the change would have no practical effect.

"Mike has always been pretty independent," said Ramsey. "I don't know that anything will change."

On the other hand, Sen. Paul Stanley said, "Good riddance."

"Every now and then the herd needs to be culled," he said, vowing to campaign against Williams in the next election.

Sen. Democratic leader Jim Kyle said Williams' move could help Democrats line up needed votes at times. Williams will now be free of "peer pressure", said Kyle.

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