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VOL. 124 | NO. 147 | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stanley Leaving Senate Aug. 10

By Andy Meek

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WICKED WEB: This January photo shows state Sen. Paul Stanley during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in Nashville. Stanley is embroiled in controversy over an alleged affair with a legislative intern and an extortion attempt by her boyfriend. -- AP PHOTO/MARK HUMPHREY

After privately talking things over with his wife Tuesday, State Sen. Paul Stanley decided to resign from the legislature Aug. 10.

Stanley told The Daily News he "went back and forth" with his wife Kristi, director of government affairs for the Memphis Area Home Builders Association, over what to do about his future. Stanley called his decision the best one he could make for his family.

"My situation is kind of like the housing market," Stanley told The Daily News. "I've hit a low point, and I may stay here for a while."

Bowing to recent calls from top Republican officials that he step down in the aftermath of his sexual affair with a 22-year-old legislative intern, Stanley, R-Germantown, sent a letter of resignation to Tenn. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in the late afternoon Tuesday. Ramsey forwarded that letter to Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Gov. Phil Bredesen.

The letter reads:

"Dear Governor Ramsey:

It has been an honor to serve with you in the State Senate in the 105th and 106th General Assemblies.  Due to recent events, I have decided to focus my full attention on my family and resign my Senate seat effective August 10, 2009.

Thank you for your service as our Speaker of the Senate and Lieutenant Governor.

Respectfully yours,
Paul Stanley
Senate District 3"

Stanley's departure caps a nine-year career in the General Assembly brought to a messy close amid allegations his former intern's boyfriend tried to blackmail Stanley for $10,000 in exchange for explicit pictures of the intern taken in Stanley’s Nashville apartment. Stanley told investigators he took the photos.

The majority leader of the Tennessee Senate late Monday night said state Sen. Paul Stanley should resign from office, the second call this week from the Republican Party for Stanley to step down.

Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, described his belief that Stanley should give up his seat as the “right thing for his family’s sake and for the sake of his constituents.” Norris, who was out of town Tuesday morning, issued a statement suggesting a behind-the-scenes effort to put the scandal to rest has been in the works.

“As Senate majority leader, my job is to do my best to make sure the Senate does its job,” Norris said. “I had hoped that our efforts regarding Sen. Stanley these last few days would prove successful without standing on a soapbox. It’s more important to do the right thing and meet with success than it is to send press releases about doing the right thing and meet only with the media. That is why I have been working to resolve this situation all week without resorting to press releases and press conferences.

“I have repeatedly expressed my belief, publicly as well as privately since this news broke six days ago, that Paul will ‘do the right thing’ for his family’s sake and for the sake of his constituents. I have also expressed my personal opinion that the right thing for him to do is to step down from his Senate seat in time for the healing to begin and for the voters in District 31 to elect a new senator to represent them.

“We have been working, and continue to work, diligently to bring this to a prompt and appropriate resolution. An appropriate resolution is one that acknowledges responsibility for one’s conduct and works to restore confidence in those who serve in public office.”

Earlier Monday, Shelby County GOP Chairman Lang Wiseman said the Germantown legislator should give up his seat. Wiseman praised Stanley’s work but also said “there are certain basic standards that we require of those persons who we hold up as our leaders.”

Wiseman told The Daily News he had not spoken with Stanley.

Joel Watts is the boyfriend of Stanley's former intern, McKensie Morrison. Watts has been charged in Nashville with extortion for allegedly trying to blackmail Stanley for $10,000 in exchange for the pictures.

News accounts that surfaced in Florida Tuesday morning described Morrison as having what appeared to be a checkered past. Morrison was charged with possession of cocaine a few months after she graduated from a Florida high school in 2005, according to the public records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. And her husband, Randy Mueller, currently is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Florida for beating a man.

A Republican member of the Shelby County Commission Monday night blasted media coverage of the scandal by some outlets, criticizing the way some attempts to reach Stanley’s wife, Kristi, for comment have been pursued.

“She and her children do not deserve seeing cameras and reporters around their home and her place of work,” said commissioner Mike Ritz. “Whatever you want to say and report on Paul, let it be about him and not the family. There is an old Rotary Club question, ‘Is it fair to all concerned?’ Please be fair to Kristi and the children. This story can be covered without Kristi and the children. Their whole family needs our prayers.”

Speaking with The Daily News Tuesday afternoon, Shelby County Commission chair Deidre Malone suggested it might not make sense for the commission to name an interm senator to fill Stanley's seat until a special election can be held. But she said the commission, which is split 8 Democrats to 5 Republicans, should choose someone from Stanley's political party to replace him.

"I think we should appoint a Republican if we have to do it, but I'm not sure we have to do it," said Malone, referring to the fact the legislature doesn't reconvene until January, after which a special election already will have been held.

State Rep. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, released a statement Tuesday night saying he  intends to run in the special election to fill Stanley's seat. Kelsey announced his intention around the time Stanley was wrapping up a radio interview confirming his imminent departure.

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