Riley C. Darnell (born May 13, 1940) is a former Tennessee Secretary of State.
Darnell is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a graduate of Austin Peay State University and Vanderbilt University Law School. As an attorney at law, he was very active in Bar Association activities. He was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1970 and served five two-year terms in that body. In 1980 he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate. He served three four-year terms in that body. During his final term, he was elected Senate Majority Leader. At that point, he decided to challenge the incumbent Speaker of the Senate and Tennessee Lieutenant Governor John S. Wilder for that office, and secured the nomination of the Democratic Caucus nomination for it. As the Democrats had a majority in the Senate this seemed to make his election inevitable. However, when the Republican Senate Caucus nominated Wilder for another term, six dissident Democrats who were friends of Wilder deserted party discipline to vote with the Republicans for him, and Wilder proceeded to organize the Senate on a bipartisan basis with his supporters being named to committee chairmanships, a practice which persists 2006.
Defeated for re-election to the state Senate in November, 1992, Darnell's politics comeback was immediate. In January, 1993, he received the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State and was elected by a joint convention of the Tennessee General Assembly, displacing the incumbent Democrat, former congressional candidate Bryant Millsaps. Darnell has been subsequently elected to the post by the General Assembly again in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Many suggest that the Senate defeat was one of the best things that had ever happened to him in that he went from a position in state government that paid $16,500 per year to one which pays over $75,000. Darnell's office has many responsibilities, including the oversight of Tennessee-chartered corporations and the conduct of elections, the state library and archives and other functions of government that are generally regarded as largely mundane but nonetheless must be conducted in a professional manner. As the Democrats maintained an overall General Assembly majority in November 2004 (albeit with their majority reduced from 72-60 to 69-63), Darnell was re-elected to another four year term in January 2005.
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