Ryan Haynes moves from TNGOP chair to liquor lobbyist

Former Tennessee Republican Chairman Ryan Haynes has signed on as lobbyist for the Tennessee liquor wholesalers, reports the Times-Free Press. He’s deemed the heir apparent to Tom “Golden Goose” Hensley, for decades the top lobbyist for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee.

Haynes, 31, who was a state representative from Knoxville before resigning to become TNGOP chair, registered as a lobbyist for the group on Dec. 6 just three days after stepping down as chairman. He and Hensley both declined comment.

Once seen as an able lawmaker with a future in House leadership, Haynes has now cast his lot with the wine and liquor wholesale distributors organization as the group finds itself increasingly on the defensive.

…Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro confirmed there is a slow-motion shift of sorts underway in the wholesalers’ organization which for decades has shaped how, when and by whom wine and liquor get sold in Tennessee.

In 2014, Ketron outmaneuvered Hensley and the wholesalers, passing a landmark bill marking the first significant change in state law for decades over their opposition. It allowed grocery and convenience stores to sell wine for the first time.

Still, before the law passed, Hensley managed to stick a few quills into the law, including delaying the change until last July 1.

Asked whether Haynes’ hiring by the wholesalers was over Hensley’s objections, Ketron said, “it’s a succession thing based on what Tom told me. Tom said he’s going to try to move into semi-retirement. He’s going to work with Ryan during this session. Then there’s some kind of wholesalers distributors’ school right after session” for Haynes.

Ketron said Hensley also told him Haynes would have the opportunity to work with him further and then “at some point in time I’ll turn the reins completely over to him. That’s all I know at this point.”

Henry Hildebrand, general counsel for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers group, confirmed Haynes was working not just as a contract lobbyist for the session but for the organization itself under a decision made by the group’s leaders.

Because Haynes has been out of the legislature for 18 months, the one-year ban on former lawmakers lobbying their one-time colleagues has come and gone.

Meanwhile, if Hensley is “the Golden Goose,” what is Haynes going to be called? Some old Capitol Hill hands are arguing for “the Gosling.” But Ketron said Hensley told him it will be “the Duck.”

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