Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee
The Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee is the Speaker of the Tennessee Senate and first in line in the succession to the office of Governor of Tennessee in the event of the death, resignation, or removal from office through impeachment and conviction of the Governor of the U.S. state of Tennessee.
Under the Tennessee State Constitution of 1870, the Speaker of the Senate is elected by the Tennessee State Senate from among its members. The full title of the office is Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate; the title of lieutenant governor is granted to the Speaker by statutory law enacted in 1951 in recognition of the fact that the Speaker is the Governor's designated successor; such has been the case since the adoption of the first state constitution and Tennessee statehood in 1796. The job is in theory a part-time one, paying $48,500 per year; the Lieutenant Governor is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly (the base pay for which is $16,500 per year), which is a legislature limited to 15 organizational days and 90 legislative days with full pay and expenses in each two-year sitting. The Lieutenant Governor as a member of the Tennessee Senate has a four-year term as a Senator but is subject to reelection by his peers with each new legislature; as the Senators' terms are staggered by class and there could be a 50 percent turnover in membership between one legislature and the next. The current Lieutenant Governor is Ron Ramsey, who was elected to the post on January 9, 2007 and is the first Republican to hold the post since Reconstruction. He succeeded John S. Wilder, who held the post continuously from 1971 to 2007, by far the longest tenure of any person in the office. Wilder was reelected in November 2004, but the former Democratic majority in the Tennessee Senate was not; this marked the first Republican majority resulting from an election (as opposed to mid-term party switching) since Reconstruction. However, Wilder's personal relationship with two long-time Republican members meant that he was reelected Lieutenant Governor in January 2005; Republican party discipline and promises to endorse primary opponents for those supporting Wilder apparently precluded a recurrence of this in 2007.
Since Tennessee became a state in 1796, four Speakers of the Senate have succeeded to the governorship:
- William Hall, who succeeded upon the resignation of Sam Houston;
- Dewitt Clinton Senter, who succeeded William G. Brownlow, who resigned to accept election to the U.S. Senate;
- John I. Cox, who succeeded James B. Frazier, who resigned as governor after arranging his own appointment to the unexpired term of U.S. Senator William B. Bate, who had died in office; and
- Henry Hollis Horton, who succeeded Austin Peay, the only Governor of Tennessee to die in office as of 2014[update].
Under the Tennessee Constitution, in the event of succession the Speaker does not become "Acting Governor" or "Interim Governor" but Governor in the fullest sense of the word, much as the Vice President of the United States becomes President upon the death or resignation of the President. An important distinction is that if the Speaker becomes Governor during the first 18 months of a four-year gubernatorial term that an election for the balance of the term will be held at the next general election. If there are less than 30 months remaining in the term at the time of the succession, the Speaker will serve the entire remainder of the term. This provision has never been put into practice as of 2014; the office of governor of Tennessee has not been vacated since the term of that office was extended to four years in 1953.