July 28, 2009
Paul Stanley to Resign; Any Others?
In a letter to Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, Sen. Paul Stanley of District 31 today announced his intent to resign effective August 10. Stanley had come under increasing pressure from party officials to step down after news of his affair with a legislative intern became public.
This story has had its share of disgraceful disclosures, and it helps no one for this blog to attempt an exhaustive recap of all the gory details, never mind all of the reactions. But a pair of comments left at Post Politics speaks to a troubling scenario in Nashville:
TennRod writes July 28th, 2009 11:57 am Does anyone believe that Stanley's behavior is uncommon in the General Assembly? I don't. In fact, I think what is coming to light about this guy is just routine for quite a number of those second-raters in our state legislature.
autoegocrat writes July 28th, 2009 6:39 pm It's amazing what a huge bank of dirt there is on this guy. If this is just what we're hearing about Paul Stanley, there must be a mountain of it stashed away on just about everyone.
Paul Stanley has done the right thing by resigning, and hopefully he and his family will be able to reconcile and restore their relationships. But what about others?
Yes, I recognize that Stanley's hypocrisy is what somewhat sets him apart. It would be different if someone ran for office openly disclosing a penchant for partying. "Elect me. I'll get drunk and get loud. I'll kiss the girls and make them cry; but I'll keep your taxes low and your roads paved." You get the idea. (They still shouldn't sleep with employees, though, no matter what.)
I start out willing to give most of our legislators the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they're neither philandering nor peddling influence...but then along come Operation Tennessee Waltz, Jerry Cooper, Jeff Miller, Rob Briley, and now Paul Stanley, to name a few; and I have to wonder. The scene in Washington, D.C. renders the picture even more grim. I'm not trying to be a prude; again, if you want to throw down, just be straight with me first. But if your daily regimen includes a tremendous amount of deception about your personal life, then I likely can't bring myself to trust you in matters of policy, or even take your swearing-in seriously.
I'm going to hope that Sen. Stanley's saga is the last of this sort of thing that we'll hear for a while. But as I don't necessarily believe he was a "bad apple" going into his first term in office, I won't hold my breath, either. There is, apparently, a pervasive culture of entitled wantonness in our state and national capitols. It distracts our representatives from performing their solemn duties. It hurts innocent people. And it needs to be addressed by an informed public.
July 26, 2009
2010 Election Season Commences in Hamilton County
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, whom the "grapevine" had suggested was considering retiring from the position, unofficially announced last week at a Rotary Club meeting his intention to seek another four-year term. Ramsey has held public office for many years, and is in his fourth term as the county's chief executive.
What kind of challenge will Claude Ramsey face, if any? A brief but unsubtle opinion letter posted on Chattanoogan.com expresses hope that County Commissioner Larry Henry will run for the job. Henry has been mentioned more than once as a possible contender, but that has usually been in the context of a Ramsey retirement. It has been argued by some that Ramsey, a key figure in landing the Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South, perhaps has even more "Beetle juice" than Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield did going into the latter's reelection bid, so any challenger will have to work at it.
There are also nine commission seats, five court clerk positions, and a number of judicial seats up for election next August, in addition to those for a trustee, a deeds registrar, a sheriff, a district attorney, and a public defender. Primary elections are in May.
While it is natural that the election for an executive position starts first, and thus takes longest--just look at our campaigns for governor, or, better yet, the perpetual presidential campaign--it will not be too long before we start hearing announcements, official and otherwise, about more of the county positions.
Say, that reminds me: are you following this blog on Twitter yet? Some of the updates are auto-generated links back to the blog posts, but plenty of others are handmade by a real person. Thanks.
July 24, 2009
Addenda: Candidates for Governor of Tennessee
There is at least one more site to include in your critique, and I wish to apologize for omitting this candidate yesterday: Joe Kirkpatrick is a Republican seeking his party's nomination along with Messrs. Gibbons, Haslam, Marceaux, Ramsey and Wamp.
Here is Kirkpatrick's Web site.
Additionally, TennesseeTicket.com has received an e-mail from Lenny Ladner, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2008. Ladner is expected to announce his campaign for Governor shortly, but does not appear to have a site up at this time.
UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Shane, here are a couple more.
July 23, 2009
Which Candidate for Governor Has the Best Web Site?
Here's your chance to laud, deride, or shrug at Tennessee's gubernatorial candidates' respective online presences.
It's just for fun, but I'm interested in why you rate them the way you do. What is the most important component to you? Design? Information? Usability? Subtlety (or not) of "DONATE HERE" elements?
Here's a list:
Ward Cammack (D)
Bill Gibbons (R)
June Griffin (I) (former congressional campaign site)
Bill Haslam (R)
Roy Herron (D)
Jim Kyle (D) (cursory searches did not return a site)
Basil Marceaux (R)
Kim McMillan (D)
Mike McWherter (D)
Ron Ramsey (R)
Zach Wamp (R)
Carl Whitaker (I)
We'll talk about social media in a subsequent post.
July 22, 2009
Speaking of Politicians Who Dallied with Young Interns...
...Former President Bill Clinton will be the keynote speaker at this year's Jackson Day Dinner on Saturday, August 29.
The state's Democrats are undoubtedly--and in some ways, rightfully--ecstatic over this news.
But the juxtaposition of this story with that of a Republican state senator's apparent affair with a legislative intern exposes a need for caution on the part of those who might be tempted to crow loudly.
I saw a comment on one Web site recently (and forgive me for the lack of proper attribution) that reminded readers that President Bill Clinton was not known as a "moralizer," so the situations are different. Yes, they are. It's all a matter of degree, though. President Clinton was responsible for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Clearly those pieces of legislation weren't as far-reaching, in culture-war terms, as some of Sen. Stanley's have been.
But I'd be careful, TNDP, about how I handled the Paul Stanley news. Treat him and his family with the same respect that you wanted shown to your party's leader in very similar circumstances. Maybe you could even ask President Clinton his opinion about it when he's here. I have a good guess as to what he'd say.
Updates on Sen. Paul Stanley Affair, Extortion Story
Here's more information and opinion on this story as located by late morning, 7/22:
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
A.C. Kleinheider, Post Politics
Jeff Woods, Nashville Scene
Jackson Baker, Memphis Flyer
Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News-Sentinel
Speculation has already begun on possible replacements for Sen. Stanley, should he resign his seat. (Note: to date, he has only resigned chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee.) I think I'll wait for some of this to settle before getting into the possibility of a special election, or an appointment by the Shelby County Commission.
July 21, 2009
Senator Paul Stanley to Resign Committee Chair after Alleged Affair, Extortion Ordeal
State Senator Paul Stanley (R-Memphis) will resign his chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow, NashvillePost.com has learned, in the wake of the revelation that he was the subject of an attempted blackmail scheme over a sexual relationship with an intern in his office.
According to documents filed in Davidson County Criminal Court, Stanley was in a relationship with McKensie Morrison, a 23-year-old student from Austin Peay State University. At the same time Morrison was involved in a relationship with Joel Watts of Nashville, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
I'll post updates as they are available.
Kleinheider's got links.
July 20, 2009
Today's Post Is Brought to You by the Letter 'C'
Eight days after admitting to an extramarital affair, Sen. John Ensign gave $5,000 to the Tennessee gubernatorial campaign of Rep. [Zach] Wamp - a fellow Republican who lives with Ensign in a Christian group house on Capitol Hill's C Street.
A secretive group known as "The Fellowship" actually owns the townhouse on 133 C St. S.E., where Wamp lives while in Washington. Other lawmakers who live there currently include Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).
Two other former housemates, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) and former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), both have also been implicated in extramarital affairs since the Ensign scandal broke last month.
Senator Ensign's generosity cannot come without awkwardness on the part of its recipient. No wonder Rep. Wamp "hate[s] it that John Ensign lives in the house and this happened," right during a critical period of this current campaign.
Let me be clear: there is no reason to connect Wamp with any of his housemates' or their friends' shenanigans. I'd just be regretting my DC address right about how, if I were in his shoes. Even if the story were mostly hype, the unavoidable perceptions would not be welcome.
What do you think? Is this meaningful news? Does Ensign's contribution inform your decision process in the gubernatorial race? Or is it just business as usual?
Candidates for Governor Raise Millions
Well, one candidate has raised millions. A couple of others have raised a bit over a million each. And then there are the Democrats.
Several candidates in the race to be the next governor of Tennessee released fundraising totals last week, and as well fired up the spin cycle that invariably accompanies such disclosures. The analysis so far is that the GOP primary is still a three-man race, despite lopsided bank accounts; and that the Democratic Party primary is...well, some of us are still trying to figure it out.
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam out-raised everyone by far. This is significant, because early comments about his candidacy painted it as largely self-financed, given the family's wealth and his relative lack of name recognition (compared, to be clear, to that of a sitting Congressman and Lieutenant Governor). Instead, there is quite a showing by a large crowd of donors.
Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey couldn't start raising money until June 1, since he is a member of the General Assembly. That put him behind his opponents, but he has made up a lot of ground in a month and change. I mentioned above that he might have more name recognition out of the gate than Mayor Haslam; but (sadly) how many people know their Lt. Governor's name? Doubt it not, though: Ramsey will work hard for this title.
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp is keeping the race interesting by being "in the game" when it comes to money, and by winning a couple of early polls recently. Former Tennessee Republican Party Communications Director Bill Hobbs acknowledged the likelihood that Wamp and Ramsey are competing for the same primary voters in a pair of Twitter updates on Thursday:
If Wamp were to decide to drop out and run for another term in Congress instead, Ramsey would be clear beneficiary... 6:16 AM Jul 16th from web
Bottom line: Haslam has the money, Ramsey has the momentum, Wamp holds the key - he stays in congress and Ramsey has a good shot to win. 6:19 AM Jul 16th from web
Reading between the tweets: if Wamp stays in, that hurts Ramsey and simultaneously helps Haslam. Hmmm.
Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons is effectively out of this contest, unless a miracle happens. He may stay in it "on paper" for a while, to boost his standing for a future run for office.
Mike McWherter, son of former Governor Ned McWherter--early on, I thought that "son of former Governor Ned McWherter" was going to be all there was to write about this candidate. I stand corrected. The party establishment has largely, silently (so far), and somewhat inexplicably gathered in his support, which is not what happened when he briefly considered a run for the U.S. Senate in 2008. As of right now, McWherter is essentially the frontrunner and, even though these early polls are mere noise, he can tout being ahead of the pack in that regard as well.
Tennessee Senator Roy Herron made the talk in this disclosure round, due to his "above and beyond" style of campaign finance disclosure. Here's Nashville's Pat Nolan:
Some would say at least one of the disclosures (from State Senator Roy Herron) was quite creative. News releases from his campaign touted that he had collected "over $650,000." That's conveniently just a little more than chief rival Mike McWherter reported, which was $650,000. But a further check of Herron's records shows that he made that number only if you add in money he raised, spent and/or transferred from his State Senate campaign account.
Now that's all apparently legal, but when almost a third of the funds you are reporting ($251,049.15) and your largest expenditures (over $40,000) actually came from monies collected for your previous state senate campaigns, and not directly from your gubernatorial efforts, some people might get a wrong impression about how well the Herron campaign is really doing.
Nolan goes on to point out that Sen. Herron has been under the same calendar constraint faced by Gov. Ramsey.
Former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, who also served in the Bredesen administration, is not raising a lot, and (unfortunately) seems to garner a reaction something like "oh, that's nice" from people who learn of her candidacy.
Ward Cammack, a Nashville businessman, has a surprisingly "underwhelming" track record thus far, given that, to this writer anyway, he makes a lot of sense, and (being a former Republican) seemingly could have appealed to moderates on both sides of the party divide.
The lesson here is that one should never underestimate the power of party insiders to steer an anointed candidate through the primary process. This also makes the suggestion, put forth last year by a well-meaning legislator, to close primary elections to only "bona fide" voters simply unthinkable.
State Senator Jim Kyle, who has only more recently joined this race, did not disclose any numbers in this round. He hasn't made as many speaking appearances as some of the other candidates. He will be one to watch, though.
Other candidates, per the invaluable Politics1.com: Basil Marceaux (Republican), June Griffin (Independent), and Carl "Twofeathers" Whitaker (Independent)
Thanks to Post Politics for collecting most of the links used in this post.
July 15, 2009
Ein Jahr im Rückspiegel: Volkswagen Keeps City Spirits Afloat
One year ago, we Chattanoogans were holding our collective breath, waiting to see whether German auto manufacturer Volkswagen AG would choose the Scenic City over nearby Huntsville, Alabama. A Michigan location had also been among the finalists to receive a new manufacturing facility.
That morning, the word came filtering through unofficial channels, then quickly was made legitimate, that Chattanooga was chosen--no doubt in large part due to the massive efforts of city, county, and private contractor employees who readied the "megasite" to make it as attractive as possible. Oh, and the government incentive package couldn't have hurt.
I have met a few people who've bemoaned VW's arrival, but mostly, we are pretty happy about it. And I, for one, extend a hand of peace to our former rival communities. Huntsville may be close enough to fairly directly enjoy some of the benefit; and the paint shop builder is a Michigan firm, as I understand it. Chattanooga has much to be proud of, and last year's announcement, just as the national/global economic unraveling was becoming well known, has surely helped buoy our municipal mood.
So, thanks again, Volkswagen, for choosing our great city. Thanks to all who made it possible (including, but certainly not limited to: Governor Phil Bredesen and his team, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, County Mayor Claude Ramsey, the Chamber of Commerce, and Mayor Ron Littlefield).
Now let's go build some cars.
July 13, 2009
Voting Machines Are Neither Democrats Nor Republicans
It is a real shame when something as fundamental to our system of government as the act of voting becomes the focus of a partisan fight. Then again, debate is just as fundamental to our system, thus the two (elections and disagreements) go hand-in-hand.
In the past week, though, things got a bit too hysterical, with the chairman of one Tennessee political party stating that the Secretary of State, who belongs to the opposite party, should be fired. The call for ouster accompanied a press release that alleged a conspiracy on the part of the second party.
Here in Hamilton County, we're shielded from the battle. For whatever reason, when the rest of the state adopted digital recording electronic (DRE) machines of one type or another, our local officials opted for (or to keep) an optical scan system. Yes, there have been problems, like the time rats peed all over the modems and delayed election night results, and when a batch of ballots had to be reprinted--twice--due to errors. But optical scan is all the rage now, and we should feel lucky that we (along with tiny Pickett County on the Kentucky border) are ahead of the game.
Elsewhere (and Nashville is naturally the hot spot), temperatures are rising over the possibility that Tennessee voters could go another election cycle without a verifiable ballot. The Legislature passed the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act in 2008, which mandated "paper ballots with optical scan voting machines" by November of next year. The aforementioned Secretary of State, former House Minority Leader Tre Hargett, says that's nigh impossible to do.
There is an oft-quoted saying in my line of work (and I'm sure in yours as well): "There are three possible components to getting a job done: Good, Fast, and Cheap. You can only ever have two out of the three." Secretary Hargett seems to be down to only one of these options. He wants the General Assembly to delay implementation of the act; yet he also acknowledges that the costs associated with the change are prohibitive. That leaves "Good": in a Q&A document issued recently, Hargett says "Anything worth doing is worth doing right. And it makes more sense to take the time necessary to get the best quality equipment rather than settle...."
On Facebook, a group called "Tennessee Wants Secure and Verifiable Elections" has asked its members to write opinion letters to the media stating their opposition to what they regard as stalling tactics by Secretary of State Hargett, and asking that the Voter Confidence Act be implemented as required.
Who is right? How quickly (or not) can this be done?
Here's something you, my faithful and intrepid readers, can help me with: finding out how many Tennessee counties were using optical scan technology before they (almost) all went fully digital, only a few years ago. Another task: find out who lobbied for the digital switch, and who has now lobbied for optical scan. I hate to be so cynical, but I doubt altruistic activists have been the chief (or chiefly listened to) proponents.
There is a lot of election machine-buying going on here, and there undoubtedly will be again very soon, as further federal mandates come into effect. (Incidentally, those 2012 mandates help make the argument for a delay. I'm just saying. Two years, and then switch/upgrade them all again? More on that later.) The real winners in this saga appear to be voting machine manufacturers, and, at some point, a contingent of lawyers.
Chief among the losers here are the large number of independent voters in Tennessee. Speaking only for myself, I submit that we independents don't so much care which party rules the election commission roost, just so long as elections are conducted accurately. While I do, unquestionably, want a verifiable vote, I wonder about the motives on all sides of this. It seems like some are in this fight just to score personal merit badges and move up in esteem within their respective political parties. The election process should not fall victim to partisan politics.
Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press
July 8, 2009
Robin Smith Names Congressional Campaign Finance Director
The Chattanoogan today carried a press release from the Robin Smith for Congress campaign announcing Dori Thornton as finance director.
Tom Humphrey fills us in on Ms. Thornton's background:
A Chattanooga native and University of Tennessee graduate, Thornton is the daughter of John "Thunder" Thornton, Chattanooga developer, former UT trustee and frequent donor to Republican political causes.
She was named White House Deputy Social Secretary in 2007, one of the youngest people to ever hold that title, according to the news release.
July 7, 2009
How Important Is Online Fundraising?
A press release by Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Senator Roy Herron today made an interesting claim: "HERRON ON-LINE FUNDRAISING 4TH HOTTEST IN NATION."
First of all, I didn't know there was a national contest on, nor that this type of thing was measured in "hotness." Secondly, the numbers quoted in the release seem rather low when compared to the totals filed by Republican candidates last week. I haven't seen the Democratic candidates' numbers; has anyone else?
Lastly, about Internet campaign contributions: how'd that work out for 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul?
Then again, the successful Obama campaign made it work for them, in significant part. (They had plenty of traditional paper checks to go with, I'm certain.)
What is your view regarding online fundraising?
July 6, 2009
Curt Cobb Resigns: House Special Election October 13
Rep. Curt Cobb of Shelbyville has resigned his seat in the General Assembly in order to take the Clerk and Master job in Bedford County. A special election will be called (instead of a county commission appointment, due to the timing), and that is big news for those of us who'd otherwise have to wait until 2010 for our next fix.
The House of Representatives is about as closely divided as it can get. Not only do the Republicans hold a mere one-seat majority (50-49), but when leadership elections were held this past January, the Democrats persuaded a single Republican to be their candidate for Speaker, and so his vote plus their 49 toppled Republican Majority Leader Jason Mumpower's dreams of being the first GOP Speaker in decades.
The good news, for standard and nonstandard media alike, is that the campaign will be fiercely fought by both state party organizations. The bad news, for those who have to suffer through it, and for good and decent politics everywhere, is that the campaign will be fiercely fought by both state party organizations.
- David Oatney on what Rep. Curt Cobb was thinking
- Rep. Stacey Campfield on a candidate whose name I've seen a couple of times now
- "The Rep" again, on his party's chances
- Tom Humphrey on the possibility of a "Who's on First" situation if two Ty Cobbs were to be in the House
- Sean Braisted on the Democrats' chances of holding the seat
Most links are courtesy of A.C. Kleinheider, who today posted notice of the Writ of Election.
Shootings Outside Teen Club Must Be Stopped
Early Sunday morning, there was another shooting in a downtown parking lot. The victim is fifteen years old, and is in critical condition at Erlanger hospital, according to a release from the Chattanooga Police Department. A report on NewsChannel9.com says that a crowd of teens had gathered near Club Fathom after a Fourth of July party there.
The club, at 412 Market Street, has been in the news before. Ostensibly a concert space and night spot for teens run by a Christian group, the establishment apparently also rents out its space for private parties. And it is after some of these parties that shots have been fired in nearby streets and parking lots.
I'm not blaming the club. In fact, the shootings and other criminal behavior tends to occur well after Fathom closes its doors. Youthful revelers are then set loose on the streets, with nowhere to go but...
HOME? Where is home? Where is a parent or guardian, especially of those under sixteen? Citizens are free to assemble peacefully, but to protect our children there is a curfew in effect at 11:00 p.m. There is no better enforcement of such a curfew than in the home.
But in the event that kids are out "way past bedtime" and, well, armed: what of the police department's role in enforcing the curfew, and keeping our streets safe? The downtown precinct is right in the middle of these parking lots. Do they patrol the area?
That's not all of the answer, either. Last week, a Chattanooga Housing Authority officer shot and killed a fifteen-year-old who would not disarm following a shootout and argument. An increase in confrontations certainly bears the risk of more tragic events like that one.
But these kids are fifteen. That puts them coming out of the womb in about 1994. We need effective solutions that will keep them alive and unhurt until at least the age of majority, and preferably much, much longer.
I am appealing to you, the community; the media; the network of social organizations; the law enforcement contingent; and anyone else who can work on this. We cannot stand aside and let this keep happening.