August 31, 2009
Ward Cammack at SETPAC
On Friday, August 21, members and guests of the Southeast Tennessee Political Action Committee heard from Ward Cammack, a Nashville businessman who is running in the 2010 election for Governor of Tennessee. In addition to learning how to pronounce his last name (seriously, I didn't know), I heard some of the specific plans Cammack has for the state, if he is elected.
Most political types whose blogs I've read, or to whom I've talked, consider Ward Cammack to be the "green jobs" candidate, and they are not far off the mark. But the remarks he gave provided some visibility into the reasoning behind that decided focus. In short, Cammack says that Tennessee is positioned to be a national leader in creating a new economic force—one that just so happens to involve alternative forms of energy.
Just as other states are focusing on their inherent strengths and maximizing their benefits to the people, Cammack said, Tennessee needs to take stock of what we have and build it out to its greatest capacity. Industry and the natural environment would join together, rather than be seen as competing entities, in a state he envisions. Furthermore, Tennessee would export these innovations and practices to the rest of the country, and the world, and save ourselves from certain economic hardship in the process.
In addition to solar, wind, and biomass power technology, Cammack would like to see Tennessee well-connected to surrounding states via high-speed rail. This, along with existing transportation infrastructure, such as our rivers, the package delivery hubs in West Tennessee, and good roads, would enable such an industrial boom.
Cammack also talked passionately about education, and said that one of his first goals as governor would be to double the number of associate degrees awarded by the state's community colleges and vocational training centers. He says that the current graduation rate in our state's public high schools is leading toward an employment crisis, which in turn spells doom for the economy.
When asked how the state would pay for the initiatives he would push, Cammack first made sure the audience knew he was against a state income tax—it's unconstitutional, and the lack thereof is a selling point for inviting job-creating industry—and then went on to say that the government's revenue cannot all be on the backs of consumers, as in a sales tax. (He mentioned possibly lowering the sales tax on locally grown food.)
He stated that a lot of the funding, such as for workforce training, should come from private industry, like Volkswagen, Wacker, and Hemlock are possibly going to provide. He mentioned toll roads as another possible revenue source. Overall, he seemed ensconced in the idea that by keeping taxes low, and having a plan to grow industry and create jobs, that the budget will work itself out.
On the point of attracting industry, Cammack stated that this year's "guns in ___" bills sent the wrong message about our state, and that the next governor should be more outspoken (than Governor Bredesen was, it was inferred) on legislative items that do not meet his or her approval. (One could argue that a veto sends a pretty clear message.)
In summary, after presenting a fairly grim outlook for our economic situation, Ward Cammack informed the group that he is the only candidate with a detailed plan for changing the current trajectory into one that aims toward prosperity, by both incubating and enticing businesses to create "green" energy jobs, and by placing a critical priority on educating and training a workforce who can hold those jobs.
My personal take: I found very little in this candidate's message with which to argue. But reality being what it is, Cammack's campaign is not currently where it needs to be to contend for the top job. These things could change; but if I were one of the frontrunners on either major team, I would be seriously looking at Ward Cammack as a potential key administration member—say, Commissioner of Economic and Community Development.
We need smart, successful people who have new ideas and a willingness to serve. If those talents get Ward Cammack elected as he wishes, then he'll be as capable an executive as any of the other candidates I've witnessed so far. But if not, then I hope he is able to put his energy to use in other ways.
An Endorsement in the Race for Tennessee Governor
Betsy "Aunt B." Phillips has decided on her gubernatorial candidate. Trouble is, it's not anyone that's currently running.
August 30, 2009
West Tennessee Lawmakers Rebut Wamp Remark
Senator Lowe Finney and Represenative Craig Fitzhugh, of Districts 27 and 82 in their respective houses of the Legislature, co-wrote a guest editorial in today's Jackson Sun that takes U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp to task for a recent comment he made about Stanton, Tennessee's TVA "megasite":
[W]e are extremely disappointed in the uninformed and potentially damaging comments recently made by East Tennessee congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp that the West Tennessee site is "isolated."
Consider this: In 1990, the population of Spring Hill, which is about 35 miles south of Nashville, was only about 1,500 when the Saturn Corp. located there. Today, Spring Hill is bursting at the seams with more than 23,000 residents.
In February, Wacker Chemical announced plans to build a $1 billion facility bringing hundreds of new jobs to Charleston, about 41 miles northeast of Chattanooga. This East Tennessee town's population was 630 in 2000.
By comparison, Stanton, the site of the megasite, is roughly 50 miles from downtown Memphis and had approximately 600 residents according to the last census. Charleston and Stanton are each almost exactly 5 miles from the nearest interstate, as is the General Motors plant in Spring Hill.
The longer I live in Tennessee (and I recently celebrated my 20th anniversary here, discounting very brief sojourns elsewhere), the more I become aware of the territorial undercurrents that exist among our constitutionally ordered Grand Divisions. (Come to think of it, we're a little like Iraq; and coincidentally, one of the Divisions boasts a significant Kurdish population. Hmm.)
Such would require a governor to possess exceptional diplomatic skills, I would think. Candidates for the job would do well to avoid fanning the embers. Regionalism may be great when one, say, sits on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee; but it loses its importance quickly in light of administering the entire state.
Democratic Party Hopefuls Campaign for Governor
Vibinc caught up with Sen. Jim Kyle at a Memphis meetup, and compares the latest candidate to some of the others.
Dru's Vues has pictures of all five major Democratic Party gubernatorial candidates as each wooed the crowd gathered at the state party's Jackson Day fundraiser on Saturday evening.
I'll post more links as I find them. I'm missing one that, in haste, I forgot to bookmark. It seems there was another forum (somewhere in East Tennessee?) last week. If that's yours, or you know about it, holler and I'll update this post.
August 29, 2009
Republican Candidates for Governor at Cool Springs Forum
Truman Bean has an executive summary of the four major GOP gubernatorial candidates after they appeared at a Republican Women's group meeting in Williamson County. The forum was moderated by conservative Middle Tennessee radio personality Phil Valentine.
August 28, 2009
"New Orleans Is Like Basra"
As we reflect on this four years later, we should reflect on those we lost, but we’re still in the middle of the tragedy. The real tragedy is that $800 million dollars appropriated for New Orleans is still sitting unspent. It was sent down by the federal government. Our tax dollars are caught up in so much bureaucracy.
I went to Washington to ask why can’t individuals use different subsidies together to become whole? The feds said, "We didn’t restrict it. The state has the right to determine how it’s used." [ Louisiana Governor] Bobby Jindal, along with the consultants, has sent down a restriction and prohibition of using different pools of money together. The state is hostile to the city. That’s the mentality that has restricted the money.
What do you think? Has the state government of Louisiana hindered efforts to rebuild the city? Is the problem perhaps closer to home, i.e., the city's administration? Is the federal government still failing? All or none of the above?
Judicial Nominating Commission Appointed
The AP, published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, reports that the seventeen-member Judicial Nominating Commission has been selected by Speakers Kent Williams and Ron Ramsey.
The General Assembly had considered bills that would have allowed the popular election of Tennessee's higher court judges, but those efforts failed. Proponents point to the state Constitution, which states that judges are to be elected.
Opponents of electing appellate and state Supreme Court judges say that doing so would politicize those positions, and thus potentially prevent the best candidates from advancing to the bench. They contend that the Constitution's directive is nominally satisfied by the system that places "judicial retention" questions on the ballot.
Judges for Circuit Court, Sessions Court, Juvenile Court and other lower courts are directly elected in Tennessee.
Members of the Judicial Nominating Commission will select finalists from applicants for open higher court positions, and pass those names on to the Governor, who will then appoint a judge.
UPDATE: Commentary by blogger David Oatney:
Constitutionally correct judicial elections were defeated in no small part because certain Justices of the Supreme Court spoke out publicly against the election of judges. The reason for doing so, it was said, was to keep our judiciary "impartial." While the ethical questions surrounding elected judges are certainly worth debating (and hence so is the matter of whether judges should be elected), the Tennessee Constitution is clear that our judges, including Justices of the Supreme Court, are to be elected by the people. For Justices of the Supreme Court-who swore an oath to defend the Tennessee Constitution-to publicly advocate that the State Constitution be ignored is not only a violation of their oath, but is a disgrace to their profession and station. If these judges really believe that an elected State judiciary poses a serious ethical threat, they should suggest amending the Constitution, not operating completely outside of it.
August 27, 2009
House 62 Special: Primary Results
Post Politics reports that Pat Marsh has won the Republican primary for the special election to replace Curt Cobb in the House of Representatives' 62nd District. Cobb's brother, Ty Cobb, was unopposed in the Democratic Party's nominating process.
Cobb and Marsh will face each other and Constitution Party (billed as Independent) candidate Chris Brown in the general election on October 13.
Mark Brown has questioned Pat Marsh's GOP credentials, citing a recent record of votes for Democratic candidates. Nevertheless, Marsh will be certified as the Republican candidate in this election.
August 25, 2009
Senate 17: Givens Up Again
Of the seventeen Tennessee Senate seats up for election in 2010, only a couple so far are known to be open seats. One of these is in District 17, where Sen. Mae Beavers is stepping down to run for Wilson County Mayor.
In 2006, the Democratic nominee had formerly held the position. Bob Rochelle did not make it back this time, unless something changes. But Rochelle's primary opponent, Aubrey Givens, is going for the nod.
Rep. Lynn's primary opponent is A.J. McCall, who heads up a family furniture business at D.T. McCall's. Sadly, there's no mention of C.W. McCall. Now that would make for an interesting race. Come in, Rubber Duck.
August 24, 2009
Ballot Order Could Change. Would That Mean Anything?
And here I had always assumed it was determined purely by the alphabet. Tom Humphrey:
With Republicans now in control of Tennessee's election apparatus, GOP candidates could be listed first on Tennessee ballots next year, a reversal from years of having Democratic candidates in the top position.
Blake Fontenay, spokesman for Secretary of State Tre Hargett, said Friday that officials are researching how to make the change in "legally correct fashion." State law is silent on which party's candidates are listed first, he said.
Changing the order of ballot appearance seems like a gigantic waste of time. Furthermore, the process by which we the people elect our representative government should not be controlled by any one political party. Chip Forrester, current chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, can bitch all he wants about what the Republicans are doing to manipulate elections, but it's merely a case of the shoe being on the other foot. The Democrats did this kind of thing for years. No, that doesn't make it right for the GOP to do it now.
My second rant has to do with the idea that a candidate's name being listed first makes that candidate more likely to receive votes. Who votes like this? A ballot is not a survey, nor is it an achievement test. "Eeny meeny miney mo" does not cut it. If you haven't reviewed the whole ballot before an election, and made your choices, then don't vote. If you need help, that's what I'm here for.
Neither should you vote based on a candidate's label alone. Humphrey's hypothesis that we independent voters are more likely to pick the first name carries an ugly implication: that dedicated partisans are voting for the label only, and not for the candidate.
Yes, I know; it's all true. Parties will attempt to dominate the electoral process. Voters will show up uninformed at the polls. Ballot placement probably carries some slight advantage as a result. But this is all one big windmill at which I have no plans to stop tilting.
Note: Blake Fontenay stated the following in a comment at Humphrey's KnoxNews blog.
We have not reached any conclusions about ballot configuration - and your post implied that we have. We're simply researching the situation. Your article was incorrect
What Paul Stanley Did to House Republicans—And You And Me
The 2008 elections gave Tennessee Republicans the barest of majorities in the state House of Representatives: 50-49. And even then, they were not able to elect a Speaker as a caucus, since Kent Williams colluded with Democrats to make himself Speaker, using all 49 of their votes plus his one.
So the prospect of losing the majority outright, before the General Assembly is through a single two-year cycle, has to be crushing to members of the state GOP. But that is exactly what could happen if things aren't timed exactly right. And it is a fellow Republican that did this to them. And it wasn't Kent Williams.
Paul Stanley, the former state Senator who resigned last month after a scandal, once also served in the Tennessee House of Representatives. (He ran for the Senate when Curtis Person retired.) He therefore served alongside the members he has ended up putting in a real bind.
Rep. Brian Kelsey is running for Stanley's old Senate seat. The election has been set: a primary on October 13, and a general election on December 1. The election belongs to Kelsey, as no one has stepped up to run against him, to date.
That puts Kelsey's House seat square in the spotlight. Whether through the nefarious practice of gerrymandering or otherwise, the district is considered solidly Republican. State election laws say that if a seat becomes vacant less than one year before its regularly scheduled next election (November 2, 2010), the county commission must appoint an interim representative. And here's the rub: the Shelby County Commission, of which a majority are Democrats, would likely appoint a Democrat to that seat if Brian Kelsey waits until December 1 to resign his House seat.
Waiting until it's official would be, under most circumstances, the correct thing for Kelsey to do. And as Tom Humphrey points out, another factor is the outcome of the District 62 special election. If a Republican wins that seat, their majority is "solid" regardless of what happens in Germantown.
Would it be right for the Shelby County Commission to (temporarily) overrule the reasonably expected will of the 83rd District and possibly affect the outcome of floor votes in the next session? That's a question I haven't seen answered, and probably because anyone who's written about this subject is realistic enough to just ignore it. The commissioners will act like so many financial traders, and appoint a Democrat for that illusory short-term gain.
Special elections are costly. Ideally, Kelsey's seat would be filled by appointment. But too many people see the stakes as being too high to just let that happen. Paul Stanley's legacy not only leaves us pondering the worst side of our state government (to be fair, he's not alone); but it will help bring out the worst in those who will work the machinery to replace his replacement. That is bad for all of us.
(HT: Post Politics)
August 19, 2009
House 62: Chris Brown Is Constitution Party Candidate
For all we voters know, an "Independent" candidate in Tennessee could be a left-wing Green Party member, a right-wing Constitution Party member, a Libertarian, or a truly unaffiliated moderate. The Volunteer State has many things right, but there is still plenty of room for reform in our election laws, including those governing ballot access.
Thanks to the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, and the blogger at Independent Political Report who picked up the story, we learn that "independent" candidate Chris Brown, who is running in the October 13 election in the 62nd District of the House of Representatives, is a Constitution Party candidate.
I don't really know how many voters in the 62nd self-identify as Constitution Party members, but as it is a national party that has, according to Wikipedia, run candidates for the White House since 1992 (albeit starting with a different name), it could be a ballot-identified party if the barrier were lowered.
There has to be a reasonable limit, else ballots would become a mess. The Constitution Party of Tennessee no longer maintains a Web site (although they once did, as I had them linked on TennesseeTicket's old state parties page). Maybe Chris Brown isn't as good an example as the Green and Libertarian candidates that have and will run, but I don't want to make that judgement. And perhaps, if he were allowed to appear on the ballot—and, should he win, in the Legislature—as a Constitution Party member, wouldn't that in itself potentially strengthen the party? That is exactly the fear that drives the two major parties to keep others out.
Voters' choices are indefensibly limited when there are only two parties identified. And they are potentially misinformed when someone running on a well-defined platform is so ambiguously labeled.
Basil Has No Cabbage
Tom Humphrey kindly let us know last week about a gubernatorial campaign finance database created by his employer, the Knoxville News Sentinel. Humphrey says it is easier to use than is the mechanism at the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
Of course, the TREF site is going to be more complete—and it covers much more than contributions to candidates for governor. But it does suffer from some basic front-end design problems, in my opinion. (Not that I have any room to talk. Please be patient.)
In any case, it's good to see options being made available.
August 17, 2009
Kim McMillan Releases A Video, Announces Contest to Name It
The lucky winner will receive two tickets to the Tennessee Democratic Party's Jackson Day Dinner in Nashville on August 29. (Don't worry: I won't spoil the contest for you, even though I could come up with winner names. I have a gig here in Chattanooga that night.)
The video and contest details can be found on Kim McMillan's campaign site.
McManus Will Not Run
As several have already pointed out in the hours since the announcement, the District 31 Senate seat ingloriously vacated by Paul Stanley essentially has Rep. Brian Kelsey's name on it, now that Kelsey's fellow House member has decided to stay put.
From the Memphis Flyer:
After weighing his options, which included what he already had said were favorable House committee assignments and may also have included Monday's endorsement by six Republican state senators of his House colleague Brian Kelsey, state Rep. Steve McManus has decided not to contest the forthcoming special election for state Senate District 31.
The Memphis Daily News reports that Rep. McManus wants to run for the U.S. House in a potentially redrawn 7th Congressional District. No sooner had that news come across the browser than an update was made to the Facebook group that had been established to promote McManus for state Senator. The name of the group changed to "Steve McManus for US Congress." Soon after that, another update came, which indicated that the "for US Congress" has been removed. But the cat is out of the bag.
Rep. McManus's full letter, as posted by A.C. Kleinheider, is after the jump.
It is with the most profound sense of gratitude for the support from the hundreds of citizens, public servants, and business leaders from across the state that I have decided against seeking the Republican nomination for the vacant State Senate seat representing District 31.
Almost four years ago, I was humbled to receive the trust of thousands of citizens from Cordova, Germantown, and Memphis and was sent to Nashville to serve in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Since that time, I have been given the opportunity to use my decades of experience in the financial services industry to work in the hopes of helping guide our county and our state through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
As Secretary of the House Commerce Committee and member of Finance Ways and Means and Fiscal Review Committees, my concentration on economic progress and stability is given adequate weight to make a difference for every Tennessean concerned about losing their home, their job, or their savings for retirement or their child’s education. With the certainty that next year’s budget will be much more challenging for the government and people of our state, I feel that my attendance in the House of Representatives is of a particular importance.
My contribution as a member of the General Assembly lies in my comprehensive knowledge of the economy. If I can better help the people of Tennessee emerge through this recession through service in the House of Representatives, than it is in that body that I will stay until I feel our state is as financially stable as possible.
With a spirit of service,
House 62, Senate 31, Memphis Mayor Special Election Updates
A candidate forum will be held on Tuesday in Bedford County, where voters can meet the four Republicans and one independent who are running in the October 13 special election to replace former Rep. Curt Cobb. Cobb's brother, Ty Cobb II, will not attend. He is the only Democratic candidate. The primary election will be held on August 27. See the Shelbyville Times-Gazette for details.
In Senate District 31, the Republican field narrowed over the weekend to two likely candidates after Shelby County School Board chair David Pickler decided to drop out. Jackson Baker has the story in the Memphis Flyer (via Post Politics). Both of the remaining GOP candidates are members of the state House: Brian Kelsey in District 83, and Steve McManus in District 96.
As Baker points out, whichever of those two seats becomes open will be at the center of a partisan tug-of-war during the 2010 General Assembly session:
[E]ither Kelsey or McManus would be likely to resign from the House of Representatives upon winning the primary. That would hasten the way for an early special election in the vacated House district — something Republicans would push for so as to have a new GOP representative in place for as much of the 2010 legislative session as possible.
The Democratic-controlled Shelby County Commission would probably be inclined to appoint a Democrat in the vacated district to begin the session.
After Thursday's mayoral election bombshell, Memphians can't be blamed for being unable to concentrate on this Senate election or last week's expected official announcement by state Senator Jim Kyle that he is, in fact, running for governor. I'm speaking, of course, of the news that Willie Herenton, who voluntarily left office mid-term last month and is pursuing a primary challenge to incumbent Congressman Steve Cohen, pulled qualifying papers to run in the October 15 special election—to fill the seat made vacant by his own resignation.
There's no word yet on whether Herenton will go through with the qualifying process, but the mere possibility has people scrambling for answers to the obvious question—well, the second or third obvious question, after "Wha ?" and similar jaw-agape utterances. How would that work?
For more on the possible reasons behind this development, click through Kleinheider's link to read about a fascinating behind-the-scenes power struggle.
Sizing Up the Democratic Candidates for Governor
John Little of Stay on the Go hopes the next governor of Tennessee will be a Democrat, despite the voters' penchant for switching every eight years. To that end, he gives the current slate of Democratic candidates a look.
Drink Liberally with Jim Kyle
Memphis friends who want to get to know state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jim Kyle over an adult beverage can do just that, on August 26. Steve Steffens has the details.
August 16, 2009
Healthcare Town Halls Monday in Cleveland with Rep. Wamp, Sen. Corker
Congressman Zach Wamp will hold a town hall meeting Monday morning, August 17, at 11:00 a.m. EDT in the Dixon Center on the campus of Lee University in Cleveland. The subject is healthcare reform.
UPDATE from the Lee Clarion's Twitter account: U.S. Senator Bob Corker will also hold a town hall meeting there, at 9:30 a.m.
August 13, 2009
Interview with Kim McMillan
"South Knox" blogger Randy Neal has an exclusive with the gubernatorial candidate from Clarksville.
Next we asked her thoughts on why Tennessee ranks so poorly in education and what we can do about it.
Ms. McMillan said "it is a shame," and that she first ran in for the legislature in 1994 "primarily to make our educational system in Tennessee the best that it could be for my children and hopefully my grandchildren someday and everyone else's children and grandchildren because children are the future of our state."
She said we rank low because "we are just now starting to make the efforts to get where we need to be. For example, up until recently we didn't have a Pre-K program. We ranked 50th in Pre-K because we didn't even have a program.
There's a lot more.
August 11, 2009
Our Blogs Are Still Here
I've been thinking, and reading, that Twitter (and other newer tools) are great and all, but that blogs—simply put, Web pages that can hold as little or as much content as we want: excerpted and linked, or all original thoughts; trite and fluffy, or deeply serious—are still the place to both record and locate online content.
With that in mind, I've attempted to find a few moments here and there to inject some energy back into this blog, even as I am starting a new one. (The TN03 blog will simply carve out a piece of what would normally go here, though.)
Our blogs are still there, as is the web and the Internet. They never went away just because we foolishly flirted with something fast and easy and seductive. Our blogs never went away, they're still ready to share our ideas and connect us with others.
We'll go back to basics now, take what we learned from this round of innovation, and build it for real this time.
I'll leave the "building" part to the experts, and I eagerly await what they create. I want to provide a resource-intensive service here, and I think a blog should still be a part of that. Obviously I'm not as old-school as someone like Dave Winer (or, locally, Mike Kelley), but I think I have an orange coffee cup sitting around here somewhere, and I want to fill it with all the Tennessee electoral goodness I can find.
Thanks for staying around.
August 9, 2009
Representative Stacey Campfield to Run for District Seven Senate Seat
In a blog post titled simply, "I'm in," state Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-18) announced his intention to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Tim Burchett, a fellow Republican. Sen. Burchett plans to run for Knox County mayor in the August 2010 election.
Rep. Campfield is seen by some as a controversial legislator. Members of his own party have unsuccessfully attempted to defeat him in primary elections. He has a devoted following among like-minded conservatives, and it will be interesting to see how he uses that in this bid for a larger district.
As is often the case these days, I got the tip from Twitter before seeing it on blogs or news Web sites. Thanks, Aunt B.
See also: No Chaser
In related news, Knoxville City Councilman Steve Hall may run for Campfield's House seat.
2008 GOP Victory Foils 'Convenience Voting' P(i)lot
As David Oatney tells it, the Knox County Election Commission—which as of this year comprises three Republicans and two Democrats, rather than the other way round—saved the Republican Party from certain ruin when it voted against starting a pilot project commonly known as "convenience voting."
The plan would have expanded on a concept that already exists. Voters would not be required to report to a particular polling location, but could go to any one of several centers that would be open for a number of days, instead of just one day. Some see this as a logical extension of the type of thinking early voting has introduced.
According to Oatney, such a plan would be disastrous for his party, because:
[I]n most East Tennessee counties, the Republican party is organized by precinct. Each precinct has a precinct Chairman and a number of precinct delegates who can be convened to district conventions if necessary. More importantly, these precinct organizations are what help with Republican get-out-the-vote efforts all over East Tennessee.
Why would certain people want to take this "pilot program" to other East Tennessee counties, and then Statewide? Because Democrats know that in East Tennessee, Republican dominance filters down to the precinct level, and they can't beat Republicans at the polls, so they must destroy the party from within.
All ninety-five county election commissions in Tennessee were required by law to shift to Republican majorities this year after the GOP won majorities in both houses of the Legislature last November. (What kind of dumb law is that, you ask? It's the Democrats' fault. More on that in another post.) If the "convenience voting" idea is an insidious conspiracy to destroy the very fabric of Republicans' existence, chances are it won't get traction anywhere soon.
But what if it isn't? Could it be a mere attempt to modernize a system that came into being before the automobile and the two-career household? And here's another thing: since early voting introduced the idea, the number of people who show up at a "convenience center" on Election Day expecting to be able to vote there, instead of at their precinct polling location, is astounding. Believe me, I know. Wouldn't it help those (yes, under-informed) people to vote if there were election workers and machines available when they arrived? Isn't that a primary goal?
I do see another side to this, which is related to the wholly wholesome experience of voting in one's precinct on Election Day, and recognizing the faces, and feeling that small-town patriotism welling up. I get that. But the fact is that the lifestyles of many voters require different options: hence early voting.
However, the main reason I'm disappointed by the setback to "convenience voting" is that we are missing out on a chance for increased efficiency in our elections. Precinct voting costs more, and it requires far more trained election workers, than a convenience-centers system would. The budget should be a large part of an election commission's consideration if and when they discuss this. In fact, I'm going to start referring to it as "efficiency voting" to emphasize what I see as its main selling point. (You can tell I'm not a marketing guy. "Convenience" probably sells it better to the public.)
Finally, I have no doubt that a healthy political party would find ways to adapt to changes that would bring our elections into the 21st Century, were those changes to be adopted. If precinct voting were all that was holding the Republican Party together, then something else would come along fairly soon and just as easily kill it. David Oatney may think I'm naïve for saying it, but I don't think the destruction of a party was the reason for developing this project plan. That said, I have plenty of reason to believe that fear of losing control (if more people entered the voting process) would cause some to recoil from the idea and reject it outright.
August 5, 2009
Social Media Scorecard: Candidates for Governor of Tennessee
The proof of the pudding is in the election night results, but regardless, it's fun to analyze campaigns from the proverbial armchair (or, heck, recliner) using silly filters, like "how well Campaign X uses new media/social media."
I had planned a serious post on this subject, but I didn't want to come across as some kind of "social media expert." After all, I am only on the social internets as some sort of grand, twisted experiment. Therefore, take the below rankings with a few grains of salt.
The Bill Gibbons campaign currently holds the lead, as it launched its own proprietary social media site, the Gibbons Grassroots Network, at midnight last night, and back-announced it on Facebook this morning.
A prior runner-up who has since faltered a bit is Joe Kirkpatrick. He personally comments on blogs, and is active on the major social networks, but then he wiped out with some questionable comments made to a renowned and respected blogger via e-mail. There's still a chance for Joe to make a comeback, given his early strong showing.
Taking over the second-place spot is U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, whose Twitter updates seem personal and genuine, even as they may be written by a hack. (I don't know; do you? That said, he has twittered from the House floor—during a State of the Union Address.) On Facebook, Wamp has a robust group and a page (broken as of this writing, but it seems to be Facebook's fault).
The bronze goes to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Whoever runs his Twitter account seems to "get" the medium. Placing Wamp and Ramsey is actually a bit of a toss-up, rather like that Davidson County straw poll.
Honorable mention goes to Mike McWherter, whose Facebook operation seems strong. Big fail for not using Twitter.
But an epic fail goes to McWherter's chief Democratic rival, Sen. Roy Herron, whose website advertises a Twitter account—but that user has a whopping zero updates. The one Twitter user he is following, ActBlue, tells me that the account itself may be an ActBlue creation. Your guess is as good as mine.
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam has slowed down a bit on Twitter, and his Facebook group is under attack (albeit a fairly mild one) by a troll.
Biggest disappointment so far: the Ward Cammack campaign, who started using social media to great effect, but then it all went away. Or maybe that was just Mark Brown.
Several of the other candidates have nominal presences on the popular sites, but don't seem to be reaching me with them. And I watch for this stuff. Are they reaching you, the TennesseeTicket reader? The general public?
As I stated above, this sort of handicapping means very little in the end. If I had to guess, I'd say that traditional campaign methods will yet again determine the eventual winner. And it's early yet. But thanks for indulging me; and if this post in any way helps a campaign rethink its efforts to "engage the engaged," then it will have been worth our time.
The Real Reason "It's Not Easy Being Green"
There did not seem to be any official vote taken during the whole meeting. There was not even a time where it seemed like people noted a decision was made by consensus. The only item where moderators or Steering Committee seemed to be saying action was taken was on setting up a proposal for messaging. It went in phases, so it is unclear if it will be consider[ed] a proposal that passed, or just work that got done.
I love the Greens, even though I consider myself independent. (I have too many libertarian—and even some moderate/centrist—tendencies to fully fit in over there.) But I can tell you from experience that being involved in a Green Party meeting, at any level of jurisdiction, can be an exasperating occasion. (And frankly, what I've seen of other parties' sessions, including the Libertarian Party, as well as Democrats and the GOP, isn't all that different. I have a much more enjoyable time entertaining arguments, dissent, lack of cohesion, bullheaded factions, etc. when they are all completely contained inside my own head. So there's a good possibility that it's just me.)
This is not an attack on my Green friends. This is just a gentle reminder that you'll get more done, and have a better sense of accomplishment, when you can be more organized and focused.
Semi-related: Newscoma with some advice for Tennessee Democrats on using social media.
2009 Special Election Dates Set in Shelbyville and Shelby County
Shelbyville, Fayetteville, Eagleville
A special election will be held in Tennessee House of Representatives District 62, which includes Bedford County and parts of Lincoln and Rutherford Counties, to replace Rep. Curt Cobb, who resigned to take a position in the Bedford County courts system.
The general election is Tuesday, October 13, and primary elections will be held on August 27. To get the point across about how close these elections are, I'll point out that early voting begins this coming Friday, August 7.
The candidates are:
Democratic Party: Ty Cobb, brother of former Rep. Curt Cobb
Republican Party: Pat Marsh, Bobby Scott
Special elections have been paired together to replace former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and former state Senator Paul Stanley in District 31. The latter resigned following a sex-and-blackmail scandal.
These elections will be held the same week as the House election above, but on Thursday, October 15. Steve Ross wondered this morning whether the October 15 date represents a primary or the general election. I'm trying to find that out. Either way, it seems that a separate election will need to be held, either before or after that date, to complete the cycle in the Senate District 31 race.
Two GOP House members (Reps. Brian Kelsey and Steve McManus) and the chair of the Shelby County School Board (David Pickler) have declared in the Senate race. I'm not aware of any Democratic or independent/third party candidates at this time.
There are a number of candidates running in the Memphis mayoral special election. Current Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton appears to have the momentum at this point, but I'm basing that on very cursory glances at the race.
August 4, 2009
The Senate is the Senate: Now with Firebrands?
Post Politics blogger A.C. Kleinheider, writing his weekly column in the Nashville City Paper, wonders if the Tennessee Senate might become populated with a few more "extreme" members after this year's special election in District 31 and next year's regular round.
As the majority in the Senate attempts to replace their fallen colleague and repair their brand, the Caucus will have to deal with another seismic shift in the political landscape: the rise of the radical Right.
Tennesseans face the possibility of seeing, not just one, but three of the most conservative and controversial members of the state House GOP caucus running for seats in the upper chamber this year and next.
Since all three of these seats will be open, we can expect contested primaries. But as Kleinheider points out, Rep. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville (District 18) has faced down well-funded opponents from his own party as an incumbent.
Read the rest of his analysis, then come back and say what you think.
August 3, 2009
From Huck to Chuck: Chip Saltsman to Coordinate Fleischmann Campaign
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported over the weekend that Chip Saltsman, who served as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign manager, has joined the Chuck Fleischmann for Congress campaign here in the Third District.
As Dave Flessner and Matt Wilson point out, Saltsman and one of his new boss's opponents have a bit in common:
That means two recent state GOP chairmen are involved in the race to represent Tennessee's 3rd District. Former Chairwoman Robin Smith of Hixson is running for the seat.
Mr. Saltsman and Ms. Smith also have faced criticism for what some have called racist attacks on President Barack Obama.
The article also states that Oscar Brock, who narrowly lost a bid to become the current Tennessee GOP chair, is now Robin Smith's campaign treasurer.
This is going to be the most engaging U.S. House race around these parts in quite a while.
UPDATE: I had a strange feeling that I was reading some stale news. Saltsman's role has been known for a while. Sorry.
Note: In the near future, Chattarati will be launching a wholly self-contained blog inside the parent site that's dedicated to covering the Third District race, and I'm humbled to say that I will be its curator. Stay tuned for a launch announcement.
McWherter Would Aim for Continued Industry Recruitment as Governor
Last Friday morning, a couple dozen supporters and curious onlookers gathered in the Miller & Martin law firm's Chattanooga office for coffee and handshakes with Mike McWherter, who is running for governor in 2010 as a Democrat.
The candidate was introduced by former National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jim Hall, who in 1986 managed the successful campaign waged by former Governor Ned Ray McWherter (Mike's father). The younger McWherter recounted his background and professional experience as his qualifications for office. He has a law degree from Vanderbilt University, and went into business as a beer distributor in the late 1980s. He also worked on his father's campaign in East Tennessee.
Along with local examples Volkswagen and Wacker Chemie, McWherter cited Carlisle Tire and Wheel's recent announcement of a new plant in Jackson as results made possible by the state's focus on infrastructure, including broadband Internet services.
The next governor will need a business background, McWherter stated, adding that he would be fully supportive of another Bredesen term if not for term limits.
Following his remarks, the candidate answered a few of my questions, starting with "what made you decide to run?" He said that as the field of candidates started to emerge, he could not see any that possessed the right credentials to lead the state in terms of economic development.
When asked about his campaign's arguable "frontrunner" status among its Democratic rivals, McWherter was quick to point out the "long way to go" before becoming governor, even if he prevails in the primary race, and said that becoming the next chief executive is his goal.
I followed up on a comment he had made to the audience that indicated he would "govern like Bredesen." I asked if there were any ways in which he would serve differently. He was careful not to criticize the current administration, but to position his answer as ways he would build on its accomplishments. A Mike McWherter administration would work to "capture supplier industries" for the large manufacturers our state has landed, and to spread those jobs as evenly as possible throughout rural Tennessee.
Another issue we talked about briefly is education. McWherter says that he would focus more on K-12, given Tennessee's dismal ranking in college performance by our high school graduates.
Finally, I asked him about a state income tax. The prospect of having one first surfaced (in recent memory, anyway) during his father's time in office, though it was dropped, only to be picked up by Republican Don Sundquist, who was not successful in getting it passed. McWherter is against a state income tax, and listed a lack of public support as a key reason why. "You can't lead where the people don't want to go," he said.