Freshman Young Republican Legislators Make Impact in General Assembly in 2003


State Representatives Chris Crider and Judd Matheny have provided a tremendous example of how Young Republicans can make an impact in the state legislature. Each legislator defeated a sitting legislator in order to be elected as a state representative. Chris Crider
defeated five-term Democrat incumbent Paul Phelan in west Tennessee, while Judd Matheny knocked out a pro- income tax Democrat incumbent legislator in Tullahoma, Butch Lewis. Each legislator provided the General Assembly and the House Republican Caucus with some fresh new faces.

MathenyGetting accustomed to the session routine in Nashville was not a problem for these freshmen legislators. Chris Crider did not have a problem getting accustomed to the routines of committee hearing and legislative session, but he noted that time management is a difficult challenge for him. “It is very tough dealing with constituent calls plus trying to be a good lawmaker at the same time,” said Crider. Judd Matheny adjusted to the Capitol Hill scene by doing his homework on the legislature while campaigning for State Representative. “I closely watched every move my opponent made in the General Assembly. While spending time in Nashville, I learned about many of the power players in the legislature,” said Matheny. Matheny also drives back and forth between Tullahoma and Nashville each day during the legislative session.

Crider and Matheny spent lots of time last session scrutinizing spending increases in the state budget. Matheny vigorously opposed a streamlined sales tax bill extending the sales tax to Internet sales and removing some exemptions from the sales tax. Crider was instrumental in thwarting legislation to private Tennessee’s Commission on Aging. “Privatization of the aging commission would tremendously hurt senior citizens in my district,” said Crider.

Freshmen legislators left the 2003 session with many positive feelings. Crider does feel very excited that his vote makes a difference in the General Assembly. Matheny was most impressed by the strength and efficiency of the House Republican Caucus. “The Caucus staff handled business very quickly and efficiently. I am very impressed with the leadership provided by Representative Tre Hargett,” said Matheny. The cohesiveness among urban/rural non-partisan coalitions established in the General Assembly

Although Crider and Matheny had many positive thoughts about their first session, they saw some negative aspects of the session. Crider is highly disappointed with the ludicrous partisan politics that surrounded the House. “ There were a number of very good bills that were rejected purely of because of partisan politics,” said Crider. Matheny was very frustrated with the failure of safety legislation requiring driver’s license applicants to show proof of their social security number. He also felt helpless in many situations where his constituents would not be assisted, especially in the case of denied TennCare benefits. “It is very difficult to explain to your constituents that you cannot get help for them,” said Matheny.

Crider and Matheny espoused some ideas for changes in the General Assembly. Crider feels that the
growth of Tennessee state government should be kept to an absolute minimum and that Tennessee should practice fiscal conservatism in all areas of government. Matheny believes that the best possible change for the General Assembly would be a change in leadership. He is disappointed with the leadership of Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. “It is time for a Republican majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives,” said Matheny.

Chris Crider, who will be the top target of Tennessee Democrats next year, feels confident that he can
handle any Democratic challenge to him. Judd Matheny believes that there are many stellar individuals inthe freshman Republican class. Both legislators are impressed by the strength of the freshmen Republican membership in the General Assembly and look forward to serving there.