NASHVILLE, TN. (AP) - Rep. Beth Harwell has become the first woman elected speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

The Nashville Republican was elected unanimously on Tuesday. She drew no opponent among the chamber's 33 Democratic members.

The election stood in contrast to the drama of 2 years ago, when Republican Rep. Kent Williams banded together with 49 Democrats to thwart the Republican nominee by one vote.

Williams was stripped of the right to run again as a Republican for the maneuver and decided against seeking another term as speaker.

The 53-year-old Harwell is a former political science professor at Belmont University and holds a doctorate in social science education from Vanderbilt. She was first elected to the House in 1988 and was chairwoman of the state Republican Party from 2001 to 2004.

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