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VOL. 125 | NO. 35 | Monday, February 22, 2010

Democratic State Rep. Ben West Says He's Retiring

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - State Rep. Ben West Jr. announced Friday that he won't run for re-election this year because he wants to spend more time with his family and pursue other goals.

The Nashville Democrat said his retirement is "effective with the election in November 2010."

"Even though it is difficult to let go of something you love so very much, as I do serving the people, there comes a time when it is the right thing to do for both me and my family," the 68-year-old said in a release. "My wife, Phyllis and I are looking forward to spending more time with our children and their families, and pursuing other adventures and life goals."

West, who was re-elected by 32 percentage points in 2008 over Republican Ron Hickman, has held the House District 60 seat representing eastern Nashville since 1985. He missed several months of last year's legislative session after a heart attack that required double bypass surgery.

In comments from the well of the House chamber upon his return, West said: "My chest and my abdomen look like I've been in a very, very sophisticated knife fight. But I'm alive."

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said he's talked with West since his surgery about the "importance of family and making sure we make the most of the time we have on this planet."

"While I selfishly would like my friend to continue his work as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, I know in his heart he is making the right choice," Turner said.

Democratic House Minority Leader Gary Odom of Nashville said he was disappointed when he heard of West's decision.

"I asked him to reconsider his retirement but he indicated that it was the best thing for him to do at this time in his life, and I am not one to question that kind of decision," Odom said.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin said he appreciates West's bipartisanship.

"He's ... reached across the aisle many, many times," Casada said. "He's a good fellow."

West is the son of the former Nashville mayor of the same name who became known for telling civil rights protesters in 1960 that he thought segregation was morally wrong and the lunch counters should be desegregated.

In 2008, the state Department of Commerce and Insurance sent a complaint letter to West to ask why a company he owned called Securitech Inc. advertised security guard services for which it did not have a license. The complaints were closed a year later for what the department deemed "insufficient evidence."

West had problems with his businesses before. In 2004, he acknowledged owing nearly $1 million in federal taxes and pledged to repay "every cent" to the Internal Revenue Service.

Nevertheless, Turner and other Democrats said that West is an effective lawmaker, and that they hope his replacement will be similar.

So far, Democrat Tommy Bradley, chief clerk for Davidson County Criminal Court, and Nashville Councilman Jim Gotto, a Republican, have expressed interest in West's seat.

Republicans hold a 51-48 majority in the state House.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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