October 31, 2008
Reading the Odom-eter
The really meaningful change that could come to the Tennessee House of Representatives next session might be an intra-party shift in power at the very top, which would likely then cascade down to how committee chairs are chosen. It all depends on whether the rumors, that House Majority Leader Gary Odom will try to become Speaker, are true -- and, of course, it only matters if he were to be successful.
Blogger Newscoma puts it right out there: "Odom IS looking to make a move. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. All politicians look up. It is what it is." And: "People just don't set up war chests for no reason. Remember that."
Whatever Rep. Odom's specific plans are, I struggle to understand why good Democrats (and a dwindling number of Republicans) continue to prop up Jimmy Naifeh as the Speaker. I know why my Republican friends want to see him go: they want one of their own in the chair. But since I'm an independent, it's not about party for me. I'd be just as comfortable with a Democrat. I'd want either to bring new principles to presiding over the chamber, and to avoid the seeming conflicts of interest (such as being married to one of the top lobbyists in the state).
I would enjoy an opportunity to meet Speaker Naifeh and talk to him face-to-face. I realize that from this distance, he comes across a bit caricatured, and that he might not seem such a "bogeyman" in person. But without such firsthand knowledge, I can only state that I feel his time with the gavel should end, so that our citizen legislature has the "breathing room" it needs to operate as intended. Therefore I support neither Rep. Odom nor Rep. Jason Mumpower specifically (should the Republicans gain a majority of seats); but I do support the process of reforming the General Assembly -- one member at a time, but also in how and why its leaders are chosen.
What do you think? Will Gary Odom go for it? And if he does, will he win it?
(Psst. The title is for alice. And I'm afraid that's all the mileage I'll get out of it.)
Betting against the House changing hands (updated)
The Tennessee House of Representatives is undergoing far less scrutiny than is the Senate during this election season. In fairness to political writers across the state, that would likely not be the case if the balance of political party power were closer to being tipped. Imagine that the House contained 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 1 Independent. You'd be hearing a lot more about it.
As it is, there are 53 Democrats and 46 Republicans. A great many of these are safe in their carefully drawn districts. Quite a few didn't even draw an opponent. (For example, in the Hamilton County delegation, which also covers Rhea County, only one Representative (JoAnne Favors) has even nominal opposition in the general, and only one (Jim Cobb) had a serious challenge in the primaries.)
Therefore, some of the only chances for upheaval are in open seats, such as District 40, which has been represented by retiring veteran legislator Frank Buck, a Democrat. No matter which of the three candidates wins, Rep. Buck's departure leaves a deficit in the area of ethics reform that a freshman is unlikely to reclaim for constituents.
Two other seats are open because sitting Republican members chose to run for the Senate. In the Maryville area, Rep. Doug Overbey will likely become Sen. Doug Overbey after having defeated incumbent (and fellow Republican) Sen. Raymond Finney in the primary. But there is only one candidate for Overbey's House seat, Republican Bob Ramsey, so we know how that will turn out.
Rep. Delores Gresham is locked in a heated battle for the District 26 Senate seat. Her House District 94 position does have a couple of candidates vying for it: Democrat John Dowdy, and Republican Barrett Rich. The GOP appears to have the advantage in this one, too.
A handful of other retirements, along with a few seats where an incumbent faces a viable challenger, are expertly reviewed by
Truman Bean Ken Whitehouse of the Nashville Post and City Paper in the latter part of his comprehensive legislative election roundup. (UPDATE: the link points to Truman Bean's blog, where I mistakenly missed a hyperlink to the actual source. My apologies for the misattribution.)
Bottom line: even if Republicans pick up a seat or two, the Democratic Party will retain a majority in the House.
October 30, 2008
Is it $250K, $200K, or $150K? What's with all the tax cut thresholds?
You've heard all the talking-head wrangling over the seeming "moving target" when it comes to which income levels will, and which won't, see a relief in their tax burden under a President Barack Obama, should he win election and pass his agenda.
There are three different amounts. Here's my understanding:
A) $250,000. Barack Obama says that, if you make this amount or above, you will see your "Bush tax cuts" expire, which is an effective tax increase, as has been thoroughly discussed.
B) $200,000. Obama says that families* making less than $250K will not see an increase in their taxes, and that families making less than $200K will get a tax cut. So by inference, the 200-250 window is a "no change" bracket.
C) $150,000. Joe Biden was not identifying $150K as a threshold. His comment was that, contra McCain's plan, relief needs to go to the middle class. He said that the tax relief doesn't need to go to the wealthy, it needs to go to "those making $150,000." He could have said $40,000, or $75,000, or $199,999 -- any number less than $200,000 would have been accurate (provided it didn't go so low as to dip into income brackets that actually don't pay taxes to begin with). See B) above.
I think the confusion over this is causing already skeptical people to just shut their ears to what the actual plans are.
However, if you have factual information to share that differs from the above, I'd love you to share it. I'm not saying my interpretation is right; I'm simply sharing what my interpretation is.
*Single persons may experience slightly different results. I'm not sure.
October 29, 2008
A message for campaigns, candidates, and voters
Dear candidates, supporters, and staff,
Please do the public a favor and, after early voting closes on Thursday evening, October 30, remove your signs from in front of the early voting locations -- in particular, the Brainerd Recreation Center on North Moore Road.
As we saw on August 7, voters do show up at the early voting sites expecting to vote on Election Day, and the numerous campaign signs help lure them. The Brainerd Rec site is particularly confusing, because for some voters in a few precincts at different points in the recent past, that was their Election Day polling place, as well as an early voting location. While your campaign signs have been helpful in pointing out where to vote early, they will have the opposite effect if left standing on Election Day.
Thanks for your understanding and assistance.
And to voters:
As of August, 2008, the Brainerd Rec Center is designated only for early voting. There are no ballots there on Election Day. The last precinct to use this as an Election Day site was the Brainerd precinct, number 6, which now votes at the Brainerd Baptist Annex (aka "BX") near the corner of Belvoir Ave and North Terrace.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Election Commission, for what I'm sure are valid reasons, has moved several other Brainerd-area precincts' voting locations over the past few years. So if voters do happen to mistakenly come to the Brainerd Rec Center, it can be challenging to get them to the correct location. When asked what precinct they're in, many will say "Brainerd" (as they are referring to the general area, not the actual voting precinct ), even if they are really in Woodmore, Eastgate 1 or 2, Eastdale 1 or 2, and so on.
I bring all this up because it will be my job, for twelve hours on Election Day, to redirect voters away from the Brainerd Rec Center and to their correct voting locations. I did the same thing on August 7, and I had a few frustrated people tell me that they just weren't going to vote. I don't want that to happen now, as I didn't then. I want to help people to vote. This public message is one way I plan on doing that.
A guide to Chattanooga area elections
It continues to be quieter here than I'd want, but part of the reason is that I've expended some of my keystrokes over at Chattarati for a bit. Thanks for reading.
October 27, 2008
State Senate roundup, part two
It's past time to pick up where we left off the other day. There's little time to waste on introductions, so here we go.
District 18: Incumbent Senator Diane Black (R) faces Democratic challenger Jim Hawkins.
District 20: Incumbent Senator Joe Haynes (D) faces Republican challenger David Hall.
These two seats, represented as they are by the parties' respective caucus chairs, seem safe for the incumbents. But don't tell Hawkins, who is the beneficiary of a whole lot of Democratic party dollars and support.
District 22: For every Mike Williams, there is an equal and opposite Rosalind Kurita. Or something like that. The Tennessee Democratic Party, upset by Sen. Kurita's deciding vote for new Speaker Ron Ramsey, tried to unseat her in August by running a primary challenger against her. That election's outcome was very close (19 votes), and so the losing candidate contested -- not to election officials, but to the state party.
Long story short, the party overturned the election results, and now Tim Barnes is the Democratic nominee for this election. Not one to give up without a fight, Kurita began a write-in campaign, which technically makes her an independent. So, in the same election year, we have a former Republican (Williams) running as an Independent who's supported by Democrats; and we have a (not former?) Democratic Senator (Kurita) running as an Independent (write-in) who gets quite a bit of support from Republicans; and each is on the outs with his/her own party due to a vote for Speaker that the party didn't appreciate.
Now, in terms of control of the upper house: what happens if Williams and Kurita both win their elections? I'm picturing a square dance for some reason, thinking about the committee assignments and other alignments.
District 24: Incumbent Senator Roy Herron (D) is unopposed.
District 26: This is one of the few open seats, held for a very long time by former Lt. Gov. John Wilder, a Democrat and, many say, an institution unto himself. Republicans have been talking about the conservative shift of this district's rural voters since well before it was known for sure that Wilder would retire. They want this one, and a bird's-eye view from here says that they might get it, although it remains close. The GOP recruited a sitting House member, Rep. Delores Gresham, while the Democratic primary yielded Randy Camp. The ensuing campaign has become one of the most heated in the state, and has drawn attention from several blogs that have a national focus.
In contrast to several of the above, there's no movement in the Shelby County area:
District 28: Incumbent Senator Jim Kyle (D) is unopposed.
District 30: Incumbent Senator Beverly Marrero (D) is unopposed.
District 32: Incumbent Senator Mark Norris (R) is unopposed.
There's more analysis today from Truman Bean.
(Note: Again, many thanks are due TennViews for compiling the candidate data in a handy, usable way.)
October 26, 2008
That's his name, and you wore it out
The Instapundit made it clear today that a certain Glenn Reynolds, of Martinsville, Virginia, is not the widely read libertarian blogger from Knoxville, Tennessee. The Martinsville Glenn Reynolds got quoted in The Huffington Post as having a problem with the candidacy of U.S. Senator Barack Obama because he's against the idea of so-called "interracial marriage." (As far as I know, we are all of the human race.) The Knoxville Glenn Reynolds, on the other hand, sees no problem with individuals choosing a partner of a different, or the same, ethnic background -- or, for that matter, gender. (It's one of the finite number of endearing things about the Knoxville Glenn Reynolds.)
See, I count Martinsville, Virginia as one of my hometowns: I lived there from 1972 through the late 1980s or so. I still have close family members near there. And so I know that there is a significant portion of the local African-American population whose genetic makeup includes plenty of Caucasian DNA. Even though Virginia (reluctantly, with the help of the Supreme Court) only began allowing "interracial" marriage just a few years before my family moved there, black-white pairings obviously occurred long before. (After all, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings lived just up the road a ways.)
It's therefore rather disheartening to learn of the Martinsville Glenn Reynolds denigrating so many of his own neighbors, even though his comments were made concerning Obama. However, it's not surprising. If I were the blogger Glenn Reynolds, I'd be sure to distance myself from this guy as quickly as possible too.
October 24, 2008
Bob Tuke for Attorney General?
You heard it here first. ;-)
But truthfully, and I'm a little ashamed of myself, I just made that up to pique some Internet curiosity. I was trying to think of a title to go with pointing out this Chattanooga Times Free Press article, wherein Tuke tells reporters that gasoline prices are plummeting due to the impending election. I was attempting to come up with something about Bob Tuke running for "detective, not senator" and, in that process, somehow landed on Attorney General, as one does not run for detective. I decided to just go with it.
Really, Bob? Gas prices are dropping because of the election? I don't know how in the world you came up with that.
Back to the wildly speculative, and eminently more fun, side of things: Tuke's U.S. Senate campaign seems somewhat less vigorous than, say, Jim Martin's next door. But Tuke is really chummy with Senator Obama, so could it be possible that he is, in fact, running for a job in the administration? Maybe not Attorney General, but something?
Pat Buchanan gets his wish
Yesterday, Patrick J. Buchanan asked, "What if 'SNL' mocked Michelle Obama?"
Today, Gothamist reports that the live sketch comedy show plans to do just that, and will bring back former cast member Maya ("It's the holidays we can order anything") Rudolph to do the honors.
No, Pat, it won't bring "hate-crime charges." Heck, it may even be funny (though I think Tracy Morgan might should have been considered for the role).
October 23, 2008
The socialist candidate for President
Here's a hint: it's not Barack Obama.
I was going over the sample ballot provided by the Hamilton County Election Commission a few days before I voted, and I noticed a name I truly didn't recognize in the list of "independent" candidates that follow the two major party contenders. Moore. Brian Moore.
Well, it turns out that Brian Moore isn't a Monty Python-esque gag, but an actual candidate for President of the United States of America, and one that represents an actual political party. The Socialist Party USA is one of several parties with socialist platforms, and it tends to run a ticket on quite a number of states' ballots every four years.
So if you want to vote for a true socialist, vote Moore-Alexander. Even though Senators Obama and McCain have displayed what could be argued as mild(?) socialist tendencies in some of their votes from time to time, they are no match for the real socialism of these folks. They are truly and proudly anti-capitalist. Before you chime in with "voting for Obama is voting for a socialist," stop yourself, and remember Brian.
And please, Tennessee: do something about proper party labels. If there is a socialist on the ballot, I want to be warned about it. I don't want him or her masked by the impossibly vague "INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE." Independent could mean virtually anything. And it's demeaning to the hard work of party members in the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties, among others. Like Socialists. And the Boston Tea Party. (Really -- check out Charles Jay and Thomas Knapp.)
Early voting hours extended
I am very encouraged by this turnout, no matter for whom the votes are being cast. Down with voter apathy!
October 21, 2008
The Tennessee State Senate: A chamber in the balance
The election is two weeks away, and it's time to get our thoughts together about what really could happen in 2009 as a result of our actions on November 4.
This is the year for even-numbered seats in the state Senate, so here are some notes about all sixteen races. Note: many thanks are due this year to KnoxViews/TennViews blogger Randy Neal, who has listed all of the candidates in a handy database. You'll also forgive me (please) for not including links in the commentary below.
District 2: incumbent Senator, Speaker, and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R) against Democratic challenger Bill Jones. Nothing to see here; on to the next one.
District 4: incumbent Senator Mike Williams, the Legislature's only independent, against Republican challenger and Church Hill attorney Mike Faulk. At one point it seemed that Williams was destined for defeat, but a scandal involving Faulk and a married GOP official, plus heavy support by state Democrats of the once-Republican Williams, may have turned the tide. We'll have to see. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments below.
District 6: incumbent Senator Jamie Woodson (R) against Democratic challenger Gary Farmer. I'd say it's a safe reelection.
District 8: Republican primary winner and current House member Doug Overbey against independent Ira Lapides. This is a shoo-in for Overbey, who challenged a member of his own party, current Sen. Raymond Finney, and won. It was over in August.
District 10: incumbent (since 2007) Senator Andy Berke (D) against Republican challenger Oscar Brown. I was at a candidate forum last month where each of these men spoke. (This is my district.) I give this one to Berke in a landslide.
District 12: open seat, created by Sen. Tommy Kilby's retirement. Becky Ruppe (D), Ken Yager (R) and Christopher Fenner (I) are the candidates. This district dips all the way down to include Rhea County, where Yager's signage dominates. I haven't been to other parts of the district, though. Both major parties are putting a lot into this one, and many endorsements have hit the news. Even though the seat was held by a pretty powerful Democrat, the rural nature of the district gives Republicans hope for a pick-up.
District 14: legal troubles caused the departure of Jerry Cooper, and an interim senator was installed by appointment; but he lost in the August Democratic primary to Eric Stewart. A lively Republican primary produced Mike Niederhauser. This essentially open seat will probably stay in the Democrats' column.
District 16: incumbent Senator Jim Tracy (R) against Democratic challenger Jean Anne Rogers. I really don't know what will happen here. Insight from Rutherford and other included counties is most welcome.
That's half: to be continued....
October 20, 2008
Tuke hitches wagon to a star
The Obama for America organization sent an e-mail message to supporters in Tennessee today that urges them to volunteer and to vote for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bob Tuke.
Earlier this month, after the presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tuke stood on a stage with Barack Obama at former Vice President Al Gore's house as Obama himself took up Tuke's cause.
Tuke, along with several others, is a long-shot candidate against incumbent Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from East Tennessee. It would seem to the amateur observer (including this one) that Tennessee voters will again buck the national trend, as in 2006, and elect a Republican when the tide is in Democrats' favor. (However, circumstances are different this time, as the seat won by Senator Bob Corker was open, and Lamar Alexander is a popular, well-known incumbent.)
No doubt the tremendous energy associated with the Obama campaign will help Tuke somewhat. But the question is, since it probably still won't be enough, is this a perfect time for voters to look at independent and "third-party" options, and get a little real-world experience choosing someone other than the typical "D" and "R" offerings?
It's something to think about, anyway. Do yourself a favor and check out the alternatives. If you decide to stay with either Tuke or Alexander, then you've at least made a more informed decision.
October 17, 2008
Campaigning on image
I promise to get back to Tennessee politics shortly, but I have recently arrived home from a welcome vacation, part of which took place in the Commonwealth of Virginia's Fifth Congressional District.
Virginia's CD-5 is represented by Virgil Goode Jr., who is a Republican -- and who served in the state's Legislature for many years as a Democrat. (He switched parties when he first ran for the U.S. House.) Not surprisingly, Goode seems to enjoy wide bipartisan support, as I encountered several households during my visit that plan to vote for Barack Obama for President, and for Mark Warner (the Democratic Party candidate) for U.S. Senate, but for Goode in the latter's bid for reelection.
Therefore, it could be said that Goode's Democratic opponent, Tom Perriello, faces quite an uphill battle. After all, it's very difficult to defeat an incumbent; and one for whom members of the opposing party are willing to split the ticket is nearly invincible.
However, I was really surprised when I pulled up Perriello's website while writing this post and saw the campaign's photographs of the candidate -- for the image I saw during an ad for Virgil Goode was remarkably different. Until I saw the other photos, I would have reasonably assumed that Tom Perriello is a rather dark-skinned, bearded man of Italian-American heritage, and one whose appearance could be mistaken for, I dunno, a person of Middle Eastern or Afghani ethnicity.
The Goode ad* also mentions more than once that Perriello, an attorney (as is Goode), is an import from New York City. Perriello's Wikipedia bio says that he was "born and raised" in Virginia's Albemarle County, which is home to Monticello and the University of Virginia. It's the contrast in pictures, though, that makes one wonder what the ad is trying to get across. I understand that campaigns use unflattering likenesses of opponents. But you tell me whether or not something else is being implied by the darkness of the photograph.
Incidentally, during the same commercial break, an anti-Obama ad co-sponsored by the RNC and the McCain campaign played, and it seemed like the same thing was happening in that one. The first picture of Barack Obama on the screen was the "blackest" I have ever seen the man look. (And I wasn't reacting to the Goode campaign's portrayal of Perriello, because I hadn't yet seen what Perriello really looks like.)
If this is the best that campaigns can do to convince voters to vote for someone, then our political system is in serious trouble. Unfortunately, I have to believe that these tactics work -- else they wouldn't be used. Let's hope that voters make their choices based on informed opinions about policy differences, and not based on fear of those with a different skin color (especially when it's been falsified).
*Note: I was not able to find an original version of the ad on YouTube or anywhere else. The editorializing around the ad in the YouTube clip I linked is not my own.
October 11, 2008
I will be out of town for the next few days, so blogging will be even more sparse than usual here. When I get back, there are all kinds of updates I'll be trying to make in a short period of time.
October 8, 2008
State Representative's son indicted in e-mail hacking incident
The Knoxville News-Sentinel is reporting that David Kernell, a University of Tennessee student and state Rep. Mike Kernell's (D-Memphis) son, will be arraigned before a federal judge today in Knoxville on charges that he illegally accessed Yahoo! e-mail accounts owned by Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Our thoughts go out to Rep. Kernell, for whom this development has to be difficult. On a personal note, I have a child who appears to be very smart, but he's not yet four years old. Sometimes looking ahead 12-15 years can give one the shudders.
But, let's all remember, in this great country the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
(HT: Michael Silence)
October 6, 2008
There are a lot of people running for U.S. Senate in Tennessee
After Bob Tuke edged out his relatively unknown but handily named opponent in the Democratic primary two months ago, many probably settled into the notion that the U.S. Senate race was down to two men: Tuke and, of course, incumbent Senator Lamar Alexander.
However, I took a gander at the sample ballot for my precinct in the upcoming election, and there were more names than I anticipated in this race. (And I try to follow this stuff.) Here is the complete list:
Edward L. Buck
Christopher G. Fenner
Those last two names are listed as independent candidates on the ballot, due to Tennessee's ballot access laws, but each has the nomination of a significant political party. Daniel Lewis is the Libertarian Party candidate; and Chris Lugo, though he originally filed in the Democratic Party's primary along with Bob Tuke, Mike Padgett, and others, later backed out of that bid and instead sought, and won, the endorsement of the Green Party of Tennessee.
David Gatchell isn't really running to serve in Congress. He is a candidate for a principle, namely, None of the Above, or NOTA. I'd like to think that voters can find someone in the above list to vote for, but if not -- well, then, Gatchell's your guy.
I have linked as many Web sites as I could readily find. If you know of a site for either Edward Buck or Christopher Fenner (who, by the way, is also running as an independent for the state Senate, in District 12), please leave a comment below and I will link to their sites as well.
It will be difficult to concentrate on any of the down-ticket elections, but I'll keep trying to remind us all of their existence anyway.
Another city council member turning the page
Chattanoogan.com has the full statement from Third District Chattanooga City Council member Dan Page, who is not running for reelection in 2009.
Page's announcement follows that of Ninth District representative Debbie Gaines.
October 5, 2008
This week in Tennessee politics
Here's a short list of events, notable and otherwise, for voters in the Volunteer state this week to peruse:
Voter Registration Deadline
Do not miss this; and don't let any of your friends miss it either. Registration forms must be postmarked or hand-delivered by 4:00 p.m. Monday, October 6. If you have been registered, but have had a name or address change, you must update your registration. If you have not registered, then get on with it.
Second Presidential Debate
A "town hall style" debate between the Democratic and Republican nominees for President is set to occur Tuesday evening, October 7, on the campus of Belmont University in Nashville. With Senator John McCain almost sure to win Tennessee's eleven electoral votes, we are somewhat lucky to have this amount of attention during the campaign. I applied for, and did not receive, media credentials to cover this debate as an independent blogger. Oh, well. Maybe next time. (Note: I am an independent, and a blogger, but I endorsed Senator Barack Obama earlier this year. I am under no illusions about how that may affect readers' perceptions of the site's content.)
TennesseeTicket Live! One Night Only!
One rather unforeseen outcome of my aforementioned endorsement in this year's presidential race is an invitation as a guest speaker in a local university's journalism course on politics and media. It seems that one of my former history professors saw a quote from this blog in The New Republic online, and he checked out the site, and then connected me with the journalism department. I'm honored to be asked to speak about the intersections among blogs, traditional media, and politicians.
October 1, 2008
A prescription for political power, or pain relief for the public purse?
Should a city government open and operate its own pharmacy? Chattanooga is going to, as a proposal was unanimously adopted in Tuesday's City Council session.
Why would this even come up? I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the headline. I just wouldn't have thought of it as an option -- not that it's a particularly shocking thing post-discovery. Apparently, there is a company in Gainesville, Georgia whose business it is to cause municipal HR types to think of it as an option.
I'm torn on the idea. If at the end of it all, the taxpayers save money, then that is good. But for some reason, it doesn't sound right. I'm going to sleep on it. Hopefully I won't wake up with a proxy case of buyer's remorse.