It is painfully obvious to anyone who has watched the confused public responses of 79-year-old Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) to the controversy surrounding his inexplicable social media postings that he has lost a step mentally.
McNally also faces health and physical challenges not unusual for a man of his age. In February he underwent a medical procedure to install a heart pacemaker.
On Saturday, McNally was skewered mercilessly in a Saturday Night Live skit that went viral around the country and subjected McNally to withering ridicule.
Sources familiar with the Tennessee political landscape tell The Tennessee Star that McNally is simply not all there mentally, and has been declining for some time. Recently he has had difficulty recalling the names of colleagues he has known for years, those sources add.
Lt. Governor McNally can no longer perform his duties as speaker of the State Senate and lieutenant governor and he must resign both leadership roles immediately. He was re-elected to the State Senate this past November, and while his constituents in the 5th State Senate District deserve representation for the balance this session of the Tennessee General Assembly, which is expected to adjourn some time in May, McNally must carefully consider whether he is capable of serving the remainder of that four year term, which ends in January 2027.
McNally was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives 45 years ago in 1978. He was 34 years old at the time. He has served in the Tennessee General Assembly ever since.
In 1986, he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate. In Tennessee, the speaker of the State Senate, who is elected by a majority of the 33 members of the State Senate, also serves as the lieutenant governor. Should the governor die or become incapacitated, the lieutenant governor steps up to serve as the governor.
In 2019, McNally was elected speaker of the State Senate and lieutenant governor by his colleagues in the upper chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly, where Republicans have a 27 to 6 super-majority. He was re-elected in 2021 and 2023.
If Lt. Governor McNally cares about his constituents and the state of Tennessee – which we at The Star believe he does – he will resign as speaker of the State Senate and lieutenant governor immediately. The only Tennesseans who will benefit from his continuing in those roles are the five members of his staff who could lose their jobs if he leaves his leadership position. Should McNally resign from leadership, accommodations for those staff members could certainly be made.
The McNally Era is over.
The lieutenant governor can do this the easy way and resign from leadership now, or he can do it the hard way.
If Lt. Gov. McNally chooses the hard way, the outcome will still be the same – he will be removed from his position of leadership, either by a vote of the Republican caucus in the State Senate, or by impeachment proceedings.
It is our hope that Lt. Gov. McNally and those who advise him will choose the easy way, and he will resign his leadership position immediately.
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Michael Patrick Leahy is the Editor in Chief of The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Leahy on Twitter at @michaelpleahy.