May 31, 2009
Haslam Counts Decosimo, Probasco Among Supporters
The Times Free Press ran a story on Saturday about two prominent political moneymen, Scottie Probasco and Joseph Decosimo, being listed as supporting Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam's gubernatorial bid, when for years they've been very generous toward Congressman Zach Wamp's campaigns.
On the surface, this piece doesn't say much. So these men supported Wamp when he ran for the U.S. House. So they support someone other than Wamp now that Wamp is running for governor. The jobs are very different, and there is no guarantee that if one has performed well in one, he is automatically considered above all comers for the other.
But so much of politics is about loyalty, and in that respect it might be moderately significant that some of a candidate's usual friends aren't readily subsidizing his quest for a higher office. The paper seems to have tried to make a more sensational story out of it, is all.
On the other hand, I'm still chasing a rumor about what would amount to a real defection in this race, but I can't get anyone to correspond, let alone confirm. That suggests either that it's true, and still very hush-hush; or that I've been fed a line of bull.
Chris Devaney New State Republican Chair
The Tennessee Republican Party's State Executive Committee elected Chris Devaney as the new party chairman on Saturday, to coincide with the resignation of outgoing leader Robin Smith. Devaney received 28 votes to Oscar Brock's 25 on the second ballot, according to Post Politics. The first ballot included Rep. Eric Swafford of Pikeville.
Mr. Devaney told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he will step down from his current job as U.S. Senator Bob Corker's State Director. (There's a nice opening for someone.) He told his fellow Republicans that his primary objectives are to increase the party's majority in the General Assembly and to help elect a Republican governor in 2010.
The runner-up in the close election, Oscar Brock, currently serves as the party's treasurer, which is also an elected position. When asked if he would continue in that role, Brock told TennesseeTicket that while he "[does] not have any immediate plans to resign the position," he will "discuss [his] future role on the state executive committee with Chairman Devaney" to ensure the two former rivals "are completely comfortable working together in those closely related capacities."
Mr. Brock also sent a congratulatory letter to the new chairman, which you can read after the jump.
I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to you, Mr. Chairman. You ran an excellent campaign, you worked your heart out, and the results are clear evidence of your work ethic and conviction to elect Republicans. Well done!
Eric Swafford, a current and future leader for Republicans across Tennessee, deserves much praise for his courage to offer himself up to be the leader of our party.
You've accepted a heavy burden as you lead us into the 2010 election cycle. You know better than any the importance in having majorities in both houses as we head into redistricting. There is no Republican in Tennessee that is wishing you more success over the next 18 months than I. We eagerly await election results on November 2, 2010, showing solid Republican gains in the State House and regaining control of the governor's mansion.
You'll perform excellently. I know that you'll make us all proud that this day, May 30, 2009, you became our chairman.
Godspeed, Mr. Chairman, and good luck.
State Executive Committee Member
May 27, 2009
Tennessee Elections Nearly Out of Commission
The Tennessee House of Representatives signaled agreement today on a bill that will add two members to the Tennessee Election Commission, and thus avoided allowing the commission to expire out of existence. From Tom Humphrey, via Michael Silence:
House Democratic Leader Gary Odom told a party caucus meeting today that, after a round of discussions, he now recommends that Democrats go along with passage of HB845, which adds two Republicans to the State Election Commission. That will give the GOP control of the commission, which otherwise would remain with a 3-2 Democrat majority until 2011.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris had declared that, if Democrats continue to hold up approval of the bill, Senate Republicans will hold up passage of a bill to continue the existence of the Election Commission itself. The commission, as things stand now, will "sunset" on July 1 unless the Legislature votes to renew it.
As I'm sure you're aware, the State Election Commission appoints the members of all ninety-five county election commissions. You might also know that a long-standing state law provides the following: that whichever political party controls the Legislature determines the majority on each of these elections-overseeing bodies.
To wit, the Hamilton County Election Commission, like its Nashville parent body, comprised 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans for years, until the 2008 elections gave both houses of the General Assembly to the Republicans. Earlier this year, the members changed, and now there are 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Thanks to the Tennessean's Colby Sledge, I have learned that the state commission was more or less bound to be intact until 2011--that is, if no one pulled the plug on it altogether.
Here's a question: Why are election commissions defined in partisan terms anyway? I get that it matters when one or the other party controls the actual legislative bodies, and, to a slightly lesser degree, the administration; and I understand that there's a good chance that anyone interested in being a commissioner would likely have a personal party preference; but to spell out "there shall be one more of these than of those if these are in power in the House" and so forth seems wholly unnecessary in terms of selecting good, honest men and women to fill the role.
And here's the answer: The Tennessee Democratic Party, which did control the Legislature for generations, sought to extend its grip on power even further, and brought this partisan rule into existence. This occurred decades ago (citation needed, as the 'pedia says), but, as surely all but the most optimistic realized, the tables would eventually turn; and now they have.
The Republicans, for their part, are seeming just a little too eager to grab the electoral reins. Maybe they are hedging their bets against a possible loss in the 2010 elections. In that case, waiting until 2011 would do them no good. Maybe they're just tired of waiting.
It's all a little disturbing, though. Do them no good? What "good"? Why should either (no, make that any) political party expect an advantage to come out of the election commission?
And what if Democrats regain the lead, if not in 2010, then a few years later? Will two more members have to be added so that the spoils of war don't, well, spoil? This tug-of-war could go on for a long time, and get ever more ridiculous along the way.
As stated earlier, there are good (or at least arguable) reasons for certain elected positions to carry with them the backing of a political party that in turn represents a certain set of ideals. But remember: the goal of a political party is to win elections (even more so, as we are constantly reminded, than to forward said ideals). Is that who we want wrestling over the controls of democracy?
Perhaps it is time to revisit the basic function of the election commission, and to restore its austere task to a place far above partisan gamesmanship.
May 25, 2009
"Happy" Memorial Day?
My four-year-old son has been saying "Happy Memorial Day" to us all weekend. (Cute aside: until Friday or so, he was still saying "Happy Mother's Day," which led to many reminders that "every day is Mother's Day.") There are many reasons to be downright elated today, but part of me feels like saying "Happy Memorial Day" is somewhat akin to wishing someone a "Merry Yom Kippur" or a "Rockin' Ash Wednesday."
We are proud of our brave men and women who have sacrificed life and limb to keep us free; and we are, surely, glad to live in a nation founded on such principles as liberty and justice. And, heck, it's nice to have a Monday off. But is today really a "happy" day?
If you've never been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the day Rolling Thunder puts thousands of rumbling motorcycles in a continuous stream around the National Mall, you should make a point of doing so. The other war memorials, and the Arlington National Cemetery, and your local national cemetery, are all worthy subjects of a visit as well. But for me, there's something especially poignant about the Vietnam Memorial's wall.
My father served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war, although he did not see combat. A conscientious objector, he nevertheless responded to the call of duty, and volunteered for "Operation Whitecoat," wherein GI's were subjected to medical experiments. (Whether the biological-weapons research was purely defensive, or at least partly offensive, is an interesting discussion, but of no consequence concerning the bravery of the program's members.)
The very fact that it has taken killing, maiming, bombing, "collateral damage," atomic weapons, covert coups d'etat, flag-covered coffins shipping into Dover, legless vets wheeling through the mire at Walter Reed, and all the rest, to preserve these United States, should bring a jolt of sobriety to even the most carefree among us. Death of human beings at the hands of other human beings is never glorious, even if the courage of those who faced similarly grim circumstances while carrying out their duties is eminently laudable. Shift the context the slightest bit, and "bravery and honor" become "murder and genocide."
So, yeah, I'm making potato salad to go with the cookout feast. We might even go buy something that's on sale. But if you think it's all frisbee and barbecue, sunblock and beer, think again. Remember why we as a nation set aside this day for commemoration. And by no means wish me a "happy" Memorial Day, unless you're four.
May 20, 2009
Help for Homeowners in Foreclosure
The Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise announced a new counseling hotline for citizens unable to pay their mortgages. Case workers will help clients work out deals with lenders in order to stave off foreclosures.
See also: Abena Williams' report for WDEF.
May 19, 2009
Brock: 2010 "most important election year for Tennessee Republicans ever"
In a letter to his fellow Executive Committee members on Saturday, Oscar Brock, now a candidate for Tennessee Republican Party chair, highlighted the prized redistricting pen as a key goal he seeks to help the party attain if elected.
If the GOP can hold on to its lead in the state Senate, and pick up "just a couple seats" in the House, the party will control the redrawing of district lines for all 132 General Assembly and nine U.S. Congressional districts following the 2010 census. This is a huge goal.
Obviously, the Democrats are going to do everything possible to prevent the above from happening. The margins in both houses of the Legislature are slim, and the right gubernatorial candidate on either side could, one would think, help a few down-ticket races in his or her party's favor.
I asked a couple of Democratic Party members for a reaction to the weekend's news, including how the change in GOP leadership could affect state elections in 2010.
Sean Braisted, a Young Democrats activist and blogger in Nashville, writes that it is "hard to gauge the level of impact the state party has on local elections. I think the respective caucuses have more impact on the state legislative elections. What will be interesting to see is whether [Robin Smith] takes Bill Hobbs with her. If so, that could have an impact on their web presence." (Hobbs, meanwhile, tells Post Politics that he plans to stay with the state party organization.)
Jeff Brown, who was recently elected Chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, says that he doesn't "think that Ms. Smith's stepping down will have much of an impact on the 2010 elections. From recent statements I've read by the potential candidates, it sounds like more of the same." Brown elaborated, "I only hope that the next chairman will seek a more congenial and civil level of debate than what we have seen in the past, rather than the petty rhetoric that all too often drives people away from politics, regardless of party."
In terms of the gubernatorial contest, Brown says that "[t]here is no doubt that the race for Governor will increase interest and turnout in general for the elections. While that may well influence House and Senate elections, it is really too early to tell whether that would favor one party or another."
Oscar Brock's letter to his fellow Republicans goes on to state that "[t]he destiny of the Tennessee Republican Party and the future for the people of Tennessee are in our hands. We cannot afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.... Together we must talk about personal values and job growth and health care and education. Together we can talk about fiscal responsibility, low taxes, and smaller government."
Back to Jeff Brown: "I believe that most Tenneseans are interested in hearing about detailed solutions to complex issues such as fixing the economy, overhauling healthcare, becoming energy independent, and having an honest day's work for an honest day's pay really mean something....We plan on taking our ideas to the people in all 95 counties in an unprecedented scale of grassroots organization, and let them tell us what's most important to them, what issues they want to see addressed."
Whatever your party, whichever your cause, 2010 will indeed be a landmark election year in Tennessee. We might as well start paying attention now.
May 16, 2009
Corker Staffer Devaney Joins Race for Tennessee GOP Chair
Today has been a busy one among Tennessee Republicans. Following the announcement by Robin Smith that she is stepping down at the end of the month, three candidacies were announced in short order. In addition to Oscar Brock and Rep. Eric Swafford, Chris Devaney, former party Executive Director and current State Director for U.S. Senator Bob Corker, also entered the race for party chair today.
From the Chattanoogan:
Professionally, for almost 20 years, I have had the privilege of supporting Republican values by supporting strong Republican leaders here in Tennessee and in Washington. I have worked to ensure that our values are carried to victory at the ballot box and implemented as policy after the election is over. From my time with the Tennessee Republican Party and three members of United States Senate, including Senator Bob Corker, to my work in the national media and running a business - my experience is broad and varied.
When I worked for Senator Fred Thompson, I learned a great deal about leadership and what it meant to stand on principle and never waiver from your core convictions. Fred taught me that our Republican ideals are not a random set of good ideas, but a closely knit set of principles that weave the fabric of our nation.
I'll have more information about the three candidates (and any others) over the next couple of weeks.
Oscar Brock to Seek GOP Chairmanship
Press release in full:
Oscar H. Brock, Treasurer of the Tennessee Republican Party, today announced his intention to seek the chairmanship of the Party following the resignation of current Chairman Robin Smith.
Pledging to the members of the State Executive Committee a determination to carry forward and expand the winning policies of 2008, Brock begins his bid with commitments from more than 25 of the 34 votes required to win election as chairman. "Over the past two years, our party has defied the national trend by staying true to our conservative principles," Brock said. "I intend to carry our party's winning message to every corner of Tennessee with a pledge to build on the victories of 2008."
Brock was elected Treasurer of the Tennessee Republican Party in December of 2008. He has served as the State Executive Committeeman for the 10th State Senatorial District since 2002. In announcing his candidacy, Brock noted, "As an elected member and officer of the Committee, I am best suited to direct the resources of the Tennessee Republican Party to achieve our goals: growing our legislative majorities and returning the office of the Governor to Republican control."
The son of former United States Senator Bill Brock, Oscar Brock has served at all levels of the Republican Party, helping turn the Hamilton County GOP into one of the premier county party organizations in the state. Brock graduated from Stanford University in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in economics in 1986 and earned his masters in business administration at Vanderbilt University 1996. He has built a successful commercial real estate business in the Chattanooga area. Brock and his wife Meg have been married eighteen years and have two children.
Tennessee Republican Chair Smith Resigns
From the Chattanooga Times Free Press (thanks to a tip from Chattarati):
Robin Smith will step down as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party effective May 30, according to a statement. She has held the post since August 2007.
Ms. Smith said she told members of the GOP State Executive Committee of her plans in a conference call this morning.
Hey, it's her birthday, and she can do what she wants. (According to the social networking site Facebook, May 16 is Ms. Smith's birthday.)
More to come.
May 13, 2009
McCormick out, DeVol in for Third District
Tennessee House of Representatives member Gerald McCormick (R-26) announced this week that he will not seek the Republican Party's nomination for Congress in 2010. McCormick had been considered somewhat an early favorite in the contest, even among other familiar names from Hamilton County.
The field is far from settled at this point, so further speculation on these others' intentions isn't worth much--although the prize is shiny enough to keep people interested, especially with a significant potential rival out of the way. We're all keeping an eye on state party chair Robin Smith and Senator Bo Watson, to name a couple. Wild cards are bound to surface as well.
Meanwhile, a candidacy has been launched in Anderson County for this seat, which has belonged to a Chattanooga area denizen for all of recent memory (depending on, I guess, how old one is). Since Chattanooga's metro area population dominates the district, a candidate from elsewhere, even Oak Ridge, has a lot of work to do to build name recognition.
I've written to Mark DeVol to ask whether he's running as a GOP candidate or an independent. His campaign site's content pegs him squarely as a fiscal conservative, but that can mean several things (especially, ahem, given Republican-controlled Washington from 2001-07). I'll update this site with more information as I receive it.
But back to Gerald McCormick. The good folks at Liberadio(!) posted some pointed accusations last week regarding possible motives behind McCormick's support for voter ID legislation: namely, that he was using it to bolster his electoral chances in the upcoming congressional race. Hindsight being what it is, I'm happy to confirm that my skepticism about those charges was apparently valid, because, even though I don't know Gerald personally, I have acquaintances who do, and such a cynical move seemed like a real stretch.
Is Rep. McCormick willing to carry water for the larger movement, in order to score some points toward ostensible future ambitions? Sure. But painting him as being for "voter suppression," with the explicit goal of which being his own electoral victory, just doesn't fit. I've been labeled a naif before, but I think I'm on the right track here. Educate me if I'm not.
Last word: "Mark DeVol" has to be one of the greatest names for a Tennessee politician in, like, forever. I'm pretty sure it translates to "the color orange." I could be wrong.
May 6, 2009
With Maine passage, ten percent of states allow same-sex marriages
Maine Governor John Baldacci has just signed into law a bill passed by the Legislature this week that makes same-sex marriage legal. In so doing, Maine becomes the fifth state to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont have also enacted similar laws.
California voters rescinded the Golden State's earlier stance on this issue by passing Proposition 8 in last November's election. The initiative amended the state Constitution to specifically define a valid marriage as being "between a man and a woman." In all, some thirty states have added similar constitutional amendments, including Tennessee in 2006.
With a three-fifths majority of states trending toward placing a hard, though not irreversible, ban on so-called gay marriage in their foundational documents, and a small-but-growing minority of states--mostly with geographical affinity, it should be pointed out--heading in the opposite direction, is it fair to say that same-sex marriage will continue to be a primarily regional difference for quite a long time?
And, assuming that eventually most places will wind up siding with Maine and company (an assumption, to be fair, I'm not certain is valid), where will the last holdouts be? Surely the South, or major portions of it; but there's also the Midwest, and don't forget Utah.
May 5, 2009
Tennessee Third District Update
With Congressman Zach Wamp running for Governor, the heavily gerrymandered Third U.S. House District is up for grabs. Here is a draft list of known candidates and potentials for next year's race. (Really, as my friend J.C. Bowman recently pointed out, it's this year's race. Labor Day 2009 will mark a fundraising milestone in the 2010 contest. As the song says, "It's crazy, but it's true.")
Brent Benedict -- Chattanooga
attorney systems analyst
Paula Flowers -- former Insurance Commissioner
Grand Ole Party
Chuck Fleischmann -- Chattanooga attorney
Tim Gobble -- Bradley County Sheriff
Gerald McCormick -- State Representative, 26th District
Robin Smith -- Tennessee Republican Party Chairperson
Bo Watson -- State Senator, 11th District
Additions and clarifications will be forthcoming. If you know of changes that should be made here, please leave a comment.
29-year fugitive from Hamilton County nabbed in New York
The Chattanoogan reports that a man who escaped prison in 1980 has avoided capture until, well, now:
Robert Henry, who is now 62, said he has not gotten into any trouble during his 29 years on the lam, according to the Troy Record newspaper.
He told a reporter, "I'm a Christian. I go to church. I've had no problem with the law whatsoever."
Henry also claimed to have been pardoned by former Gov. Ray Blanton.
He was convicted of robbery in Hamilton County and had served three years of a sentence of 10 to 15 years when he escaped.
Pardoned by former Gov. Blanton? Would that even count, if true? (If you didn't know or remember, Blanton was convicted of selling pardons, among other offenses. I'm not implying that Robert Henry's pardon was one of those paid for, but still....)
The trail of trouble left by a corrupt politician can be quite long, indeed. With a new governor to be elected next year, this is a timely, if oblique, reminder for us to make sure we pick one who will deserve our trust.
See also: NewsChannel9
May 3, 2009
"One Big...Happy Family"
The Tennessee Democratic Party held a summit this weekend in nearby Monteagle, and they may have poured cold water on a draft post I've been meaning to finish for weeks now.
The general theme I've been working on is that there are three or four distinct organizations within this one state party. Each has separately identifiable membership, different goals--and, more to the point, separate ideology--and somehow the whole thing is held together with a special kind of duct tape labeled "But (at least) We're Not Republicans."
Since my pondering began, there have been great opinion pieces written on this topic by Aunt B, Newscoma, and others (apologies for lack of specific links); and one person with whom I had planned to speak has left a party insider post to work for one of the gubernatorial candidates, so I kind of doubt he'd say much at this point (if he would have beforehand).
After the recent reconciliation by two leadership factions (which, I'll make clear, don't break exactly along the lines I was drawing), and after this summit, is my exploration still worth pursuing? Or is everything all mended?
I'd guess that the multiple parties are still in there. They just may be getting along a little better right now.
And yes, this post's title does reference a song by Roger Alan Wade.