September 28, 2009
U.S. House: Eight Safe Seats, Part I
Does any member of Tennessee's current congressional delegation stand at risk of being voted out of office in 2010? Here is the first installment in a three-part series briefly looking at the upcoming races.
TN01: This primevally Republican district changed representatives in 2008 when Dr. Phil Roe successfully challenged former freshman Rep. David Davis in the primary. OpenCongress cites a Roll Call article that indicated Davis may be looking for a rematch. Rob Russell, an administrator at ETSU, will again be running on the Democratic Party ticket, and will again face very long odds.
TN02: There is no known primary challenge for U.S. Rep. John "Jimmy" Duncan, a Republican. The Democrat who ran against him in 2008 has apparently filed again. His name is Robert Scott.
(I'm skipping TN03 because there's this whole other blog dedicated to my home district, and because it's an open seat, so "safe" isn't a factor.)
The good parts are coming up in later episodes. One race in particular is experiencing plenty of turbulence right now, and perhaps it will stabilize before I get around to covering it.
September 19, 2009
Ruckus in Rutherford Today
This kind of crept up on me: the "Grow Tennessee" event in Rutherford County is being held today on the MTSU campus, and all five major Democratic candidates for governor are expected to be there, as are U.S. Reps. Bart Gordon and Lincoln Davis. State Rep. Kent Coleman and a few former legislators are expected to be there as well.
A key event embedded in the sold-out festivities is a straw poll that organizers say "will send a strong message to the party, press, and donors" about the winner's chances.
A Real Campaign Blog?
The Mike McWherter for Governor campaign has launched a blog. "Big deal," you say: candidates have been "blogging" for years now.
But this one is a bit out of the ordinary. It will feature firsthand accounts by campaign staffers of the experiences they have while traveling the state and helping their boss try to win the governor's mansion. What I've typically seen in campaign blogs (other than surrogate or shill sites not directly connected to the main campaign site) is essentially a redundancy with a site's News or Issues page. At best, the candidate writes infrequent bits of non-specific pap; and comments sections are all too rare, or are moderated in the extreme. (Lesser-known, and -funded, candidates do sometimes authentically blog, but we're talking about major campaigns here.)
I'm definitely subscribing to the McWherter blog, because I am curious to see how this experiment plays out. I applaud the campaign for jumping into this arena, even though I may tire someday of reading about "meat and three" meals.
September 18, 2009
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam Visits SETPAC
Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam was the guest speaker at last Friday's Southeast Tennessee Political Action Committee (SETPAC) luncheon. He spent part of the morning organizing his ground forces in neighboring Sequatchie County before arriving at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Chattanooga.
Haslam, who has spent years running a family business, noted his recent entry into politics by invoking a familiar name: he said he was riding bicycles on vacation with former Chattanooga Mayor (now U.S. Sen.) Bob Corker, who convinced him to leave his position as CEO of Pilot Oil and run for mayor of Knoxville. (He would go on to mention Sen. Corker at least two more times.)
He then described the preconditions that led to seeking higher office: being willing to commit to a 2-year additional full-time job, doing a feasibility check on whether winning is actually possible (because it involves many other people), and deciding that one is capable of responding to the specific challenges facing that office in the next term.
He outlined three major issues that will confront the next governor: a "massive" state budget problem, high unemployment, and the need to drastically improve the state's K-12 education.
After concluding his brief talk, Haslam took questions from SETPAC attendees. The audience asked him about healthcare, the state's new gun laws, how to improve education without spending more, gas prices, how he is different from the other GOP candidates, and how much money it will take to win this campaign.
I'll post detailed questions and answers as I get them transcribed from my notes.
September 17, 2009
Herron Back Again
State Sen. Roy Herron, one of the Democrats running for governor in 2010, announces a new Web site. What do you think of the overhaul?
September 16, 2009
House District 62: The Debate Over Debate
Mark Brown writes about the special election in House District 62 (Shelbyville, and other places) today, and as is expected from a former Senate Democratic Caucus staffer, he castigates the Republican candidate, Pat Marsh, for demanding a debate with his Democratic opponent, Ty Cobb.
As for the repeated calls for a debate, only candidates trailing in the polls demand debates. They want the opportunity to stand on the stage with the candidate ahead of them, thereby appearing to be that candidate’s equal in the eyes of the voters. They also want the opportunity to trip up the leader, maybe get him to say something damaging. Conversely, a candidate in the lead has very little to gain from doing debates.
I know that the above describes conventional strategy. I'm aware of "how it works." But from the perspective of a voter advocate, it also represents a lot of what is wrong with politics and elections. Why should a candidate allow polls to dictate whether or not he or she deigns to appear in public? Why, for that matter, is fear of losing the only seeming motivator for a candidate to want to hold public discussions?
Worse yet, there are three candidates in this special election, not two. The third candidate, Constitution Party member Chris Brown, wasn't even invited—but asked to be included when he heard about the possibility, even if Ty Cobb refused to show. And Pat Marsh, the guy supposedly all for informing voters, said "no."
I hope, mostly for the sake of District 62 voters but also for those of us around the state who care about the entire state government, that we will get a chance to hear from all three candidates together in a public setting before the October 13 election (and preferably before, or as, early voting gets underway). I implore Ty Cobb to agree to a debate; and even if he will not, I ask Pat Marsh and Chris Brown to go ahead without him. The voters will decide whose ideas they like best.
The typical campaign methodology is great for staffers, pollsters, pundits, and, well, one candidate in each race; but it is bad for voters. If one is running for office, one should be eager to present qualifications and issue positions directly to the voters, and to discuss freely with other candidates whose ideas have the most merit. It's not easy to do, as I now personally know; but hiding behind "safe" poll numbers is cowardly; as is, to be fair, ignoring any candidate that doesn't sit on the precious two-party see-saw.
See also: Post Politics has Ty Cobb's rebuttal to Pat Marsh's accusations
September 11, 2009
Senate District 31: Candidate Field Narrows to Pointless Primary
Tom Humphrey notes that two less well-known candidates have withdrawn from the state Senate District 31 primary elections.
Republican Brian Kelsey and Democrat Adrienne Pakis-Gillon have effectively won their respective party nominations in the special election in state Senate District 31 to replace former Republican Sen. Paul Stanley, who resigned in a sex scandal.
Kelsey is now a state representative with local name recognition - actually statewide recognition among political junkies, thanks to his inclination toward firebrand conservative efforts in the House - and is thus heavily favored in a district that leans strongly Republican.
But Democrats say there's a nucleus of party faithful folks in the district and that Pakis-Gillon has been a popular and personable activist who will motivate that core of Democrats to go to the polls.
If you guessed that the other two candidates—Democrat Bobby Baker and Republican Jim Harrell—didn't exactly wake up one morning and each decide to quit on his own, you're right. Party leaders persuaded them to step out of the way of the chosen nominees.
So why does there need to be a primary election now? This is a perfect example of an opportunity for reform in our state's election laws. Whenever a political party can determine on its own a nominee for a general election, whether through a democratic means like a convention, or through a (hey, at least I didn't say "strongarm") technique such as was employed above, then why go through a public-funded, pointless primary process?
September 8, 2009
Rep. Kelsey Will Likely Resign House Seat, Force Special Election
A press release posted today by A.C. Kleinheider confirms what many suspected would happen, given the narrow majority held by state Republicans in the House of Representatives:
Germantown, TN - State Representative Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today announced that, if he is chosen the Republican nominee for the state Senate, he will resign his state House seat prior to Nov 2 to ensure that the voters of House District 83 are allowed to choose their next state Representative.
Click here for more on this topic.
In related news, the qualifying papers have been turned in for the Senate race Kelsey has entered, and four candidates have made the cut. Tom Humphrey:
Only four candidates qualified for the special election in state Senate District 31, the seat vacated by former Sen. Paul Stanley. The two Republicans are state Rep. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, the apparent frontrunner, and financial services consultant James A. Harrell of Cordova. The two Democrats are party activist Adrienne Pakis-Gillon and Bobby Baker, a UPS employee.
September 6, 2009
'Isolated' Megasite Flap Highlights West Tennessee Importance in Governor Race
U.S. Rep. and GOP gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp executed another defensive maneuver in the ongoing battle of words regarding the Haywood County industrial site that the Congressman recently labeled as "isolated." His opinion piece in today's Jackson Sun attempts to further smooth over tensions that emanated from citizens and politicians of the region—and directly follows last Sunday's guest editorial by Sen. Lowe Finney and Rep. Craig Fitzhugh.
Words do get away from us, and usually it's a good idea to double back and make sure to make amends, as well as to clear up any misunderstandings. But the real story here is that West Tennessee is incredibly important to these Republican candidates, even if it's true, as some say, that the primary will be won in the "ring counties" around Nashville. It still can't be done without the West.
Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons has natural support by way of "home field advantage" (and has wisely weighed in on this megasite discussion). Democrat Mike McWherter, son of a very popular former governor, is a Jackson businessman, and who's to say that he won't siphon some of whatever energy Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam hasn't already pumped out of the region?
I honestly don't know how well Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey plays in the West, and could stand to be educated. I imagine he has a pretty good lock on quite a few "Nashville types," though, and so Zach Wamp is therefore committed to eking out whatever he can from West Tennessee.
And that is why he is being so careful to repair his self-inflicted PR damage now. He cannot afford to do anything else. If he had made a similar offhand remark about the Wacker site (which is in his own district), we probably wouldn't have heard much of a follow-up, even if the same number of people had spoken out about it.
Speaker Kent Williams Attempts to Regain GOP Status
Today's Kingsport Times-News has the latest in House of Representatives Speaker Kent Williams' fascinating journey away from, and back towards, membership in the Tennessee Republican Party.
District 10 State Executive Committee member Oscar Brock is quoted in the article:
“The most obvious question is this: If he voted against the House Republican Caucus nominee (Mumpower), sided with 49 members of the House Democratic Caucus on the most important vote of the two-year cycle, how can anyone consider Kent Williams to be a bona fide member of the Republican Party?” Brock asked. “He abandoned our party on the day when we needed him most, on a day that he had sworn to be with us.”
However, other committee members appear to be ready to give Speaker Williams a chance to regain his standing. Williams' own comments suggest that he still plays for the Republican team, at least in spirit.
“There’s a lot of important issues coming up after 2010. ... The most important is redistricting,” Williams said. “We only have to have the majority by one. I feel that’s how Democrats have kept their majority through the years is because of redistricting. This is a tremendous opportunity for our party. When I say our party, I mean the Republican Party."
What do you think? Did Kent Williams irrevocably de-list himself as a Republican by getting elected to the position in the way he did (and, as is pointed out in the above article, by subsequently allocating certain committee chairs to Democrats)? His constituents don't seem to think so. (I'd love to hear from any Carter County or other District 4 voters.)
I know I'll be watching for the next page turn in this drama.
September 5, 2009
Tennessee Valley Family Asks Public to Help Transfer Sick Daughter
Danielle Pearson is a 22-year-old former junior ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In July, she was hospitalized for pneumonia while visiting family in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and has remained in the hospital since. While doctors there recently gave their permission for Danielle to be transferred to a local hospital, officials here have said that she cannot be admitted.
A Web site has been set up to ask the public for donations to cover the transfer costs. It also provides some more information regarding this story.
I don't know Danielle, but I met her mother, Sandy, earlier this year, after being her friend on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Sandy has two younger boys, who have to be here in the Chattanooga area in order to attend school—but Sandy has been spending most of her time at her daughter's side in Virginia. I cannot think of anyone who would not want help getting out of such an arrangement.
If you are able to help this family overcome a nightmarish situation, I greatly appreciate it. As Dan Lehr points out, the annual MDA Telethon hosted by Jerry Lewis airs this weekend. I can't think of a better time than right now to directly help someone affected by this disorder.
(HT: Strat Parrott)