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Defeated for reelection to the state Senate in November, 1992, Darnell's political 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 reelected to another four-year term in January 2005.