November 29, 2009
Special Election in Senate 31 and House 83
Voters will go to the polls in and around Germantown, Tenn. on Tuesday, December 1st.
In the Tennessee Senate's 31st District, there is a general election between former Rep. Brian Kelsey, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger Adrienne Pakis-Gillon.
Since Kelsey vacated a House seat in the 83rd, there is a primary (contested on the Republican side) being held Tuesday. The two GOP candidates are John Pellicciotti and Mark White. Whoever wins will face Democrat Guthrie Castle and independent John Andreucetti in the January 12 general election.
November 27, 2009
A loss in the Legislature: Rep. Larry Turner has died
The Associated Press is reporting that Rep. Larry Turner has succumbed to an illness. The Memphis Democrat had been a member of the Tennessee General Assembly for nearly a quarter century.
Turner represented the 85th House District, which occupies a narrow strip along Shelby County's southern border.
May he rest in peace.
References and further reading:
Memphis newsman Mike Matthews eulogizes in short form
The Mayor of Memphis sends his thoughts
Tom Humphrey's reminiscence informs us about the late legislator's character
Rep. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville says goodbye to "Little Larry"
David Oatney shares a memory and examines what comes next for the vacant House seat
Jackson Baker fondly remembers the gentle politician
November 26, 2009
A couple of real turkeys
Tennessee Third District candidate Art Rhodes is celebrating Thanksgiving in a very special way this year: according to Facebook, it is his birthday. That he managed to calculate his date of arrival on the planet so that it coincided with this holiday in the year he would be running for Congress is quite a feat.
Not to be outdone, Sheriff Tim Gobble—a fellow Bradley Countian and rival for the GOP nomination—had himself born into a family with the surname "Gobble."
Note: the title applies to the above two "jokes," not to the candidates.
November 24, 2009
Campaign finance disclosure should be fully electronic
The Knoxville News-Sentinel editors write today that in order for voters to make the best possible decisions in the 2010 elections, campaign finance disclosure should be paid more attention:
What the public should demand is timely and thorough disclosure - where the money is coming from and to whom is it going. Disclosure will come more often during 2010, and it will need to be followed, not merely by the media but by all who seek to make an informed vote in the August primary and the November general election.
As is mentioned in that editorial, ethics training for legislators and a somewhat better disclosure mechanism were indeed part of the reaction to Operation Tennessee Waltz; but I maintain that the crimes committed and found out during that sting involved illegal cash payments—out-and-out bribes—rather than legal campaign contributions, or even the clever use of loopholes.
Furthermore, the goal of those reforms was not, in my view, to reduce the overall amount raised and spent by candidates. "Now candidates are raising as much money as ever," laments the editor. While it's a shame that so much money must be collected in order to secure a position of viability in a given race, I say that as long as the funds are acquired legally, and reported promptly, the amount alone doesn't seem to be the problem.
But I agree that all of us need to pay attention to the sources and recipients of election-related money. No question. And in addition to the media, and their audiences, I am hopeful that our state and local elections offices will begin doing something to help. Two specific reforms will enable better disclosure to be more meaningful at the same time.
Report earlier. This gets to the "timely" aspect mentioned in the Knoxville paper. The final reporting deadlines in many (if not all) election cycles fall just a few days prior to the election date. By the time an increasingly overworked newsroom collects and disseminates the financial data, and it is then digested by the public and regurgitated by pundits, it is past time to vote. Reporting should be timed so that voters have access to the data before a significant part of early voting has been completed.
Implement electronic reporting. Last winter, my friends at Chattarati created a project for the 2009 Chattanooga elections called "Cash Maps." The local election commission readily supplied the disclosures electronically—but they were merely scanned images of the paper forms filled out by campaign treasurers. The data entry that preceded the final product made for some long nights, I'm told. This is just one example that demonstrates the need for a technologically enhanced campaign disclosure process.
Whether the data entry task then would fall on election bureau workers or campaign staffers is a worthy discussion, as each prospect has its pros and cons. I'm not claiming to have all the answers. But the campaign finance disclosure product available from our election offices should be electronic data that is usable by either wholesale (media) or retail (citizen) consumers.
How the GOP will win in 2012
November 19, 2009
More on Kefauver Dinner and Candidates
And then there was this little matter concerning Third District congressional campaigns.
November 18, 2009
Local Democrats Party at Annual Kefauver Dinner
About the only things to add are some quotes. I spoke with Sen. Roy Herron after the event was over, and asked him to what he attributed his straw poll victory. "There's a sizable number of Hamilton Countians who have been kind to me, who have persuaded their friends they should be kind to me too," he replied, smiling. I asked him what he wanted to say to Democratic Party voters who hadn't yet made up their minds, and he said that he will continue to work as hard as he can to earn their vote, and will return to Hamilton County soon, and many times.
There weren't actually any undecided votes in the announced gubernatorial straw poll results. I asked local party chairman Jeff Brown whether they just weren't announced, or if there truly were none. His reply: "No, there were no undecided votes, but there was one write-in for Andy Berke."
Sen. Jim Kyle, from the podium: "I'll be twittering tonight on my way back to Nashville."
Sen. Roy Herron, also from up front: "People all over this state are looking for real work."
Person 1: "Quit playing with your BlackBerry. You're not paying attention." Person 2: "I've heard these same speeches since 1958. Leave me alone."
"If the other candidates would learn how to cart around crowds of volunteers like Roy Herron does, maybe they would start winning some of these straw polls."
Here is the press release from the Roy Herron for Governor campaign:
Chattanooga — Sen. Roy Herron (D-Dresden) has gone three-for-three in Democratic straw polls in the race for Governor, with the latest win coming tonight at the annual Kefauver Dinner hosted by the Hamilton County Democratic Party in Chattanooga.
Sen. Herron received 152 of the 310 votes cast — 49% — in the five-candidate contest. On Saturday, he won the straw poll in Sullivan County with 57%. He also won the first straw poll in Rutherford County also by a large margin.
“I’m very thankful to the people of Hamilton County for their votes and their confidence,” Sen. Herron said. “We’re going to keep on working all across the state to earn people’s trust and support.”
Full results of the straw poll are below:
1. Sen. Roy Herron - 152
2. Sen. Jim Kyle - 79
3. Kim McMillan - 30
4. Mike McWherter - 25
5. Ward Cammack - 24
Sen. Herron represents nine counties in West and Middle Tennessee. For over 22 years, he has demonstrated strength in being elected in rural areas, and now he has demonstrated his appeal to urban voters by winning straw polls in three major metropolitan areas: Murfreesboro, Tri-Cities, and Chattanooga. By winning now in Middle Tennessee, Northeast Tennessee, and Southeast Tennessee, he is proving strong support in all three of Tennessee’s grand divisions.
At the dinner, the candidates were asked to share their ideas on restoring Tennessee’s dragging economy and creating new jobs. Sen. Herron said his top three priorities would be “jobs, jobs, and jobs,” and that improving education is the best way to prepare students and Tennessee’s workers to compete for 21st Century jobs.
November 16, 2009
Herron Wins Hamilton County Straw Poll
Sen. Roy Herron: 152
Sen. Jim Kyle: 79
Kim McMillan: 30
Mike McWherter: 25
Ward Cammack: 24
There was no total given from the podium for undecided votes. I asked party chairman Jeff Brown if there were any. He replied, "No, there were no undecided votes, but there was one write-in for Andy Berke."
More later, and check http://twitter.com/TnTicket for the play-by-play, if you missed it.
November 15, 2009
Herron Wins Sullivan Straw Poll
Tennessee Senator Roy Herron added a second county straw poll victory to his list on Saturday, when he won 47 percent of votes cast at a Sullivan County Democratic Party event. From the Kingsport Times-News:
Herron had 85 votes, McWherter had 20 votes, Kyle had 12 votes, and Cammack and McMillan had 11 votes apiece. Twelve people were undecided.
Anyone who bought a $10 ticket could vote, and Herron bought 10 tickets, Jones said. Kyle said he wasn’t aware candidates could buy tickets until he got to the event. Neither McWherter, the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter, nor McMillan [was] at the event.
Herron will ride these early straw poll victories into Chattanooga on Monday night, where all five major Democratic candidates are expected for the annual Estes Kefauver dinner. Herron was in town last week for a reception, and I owe you a post on that event.
Coffee with the Candidate: Kim McMillan
I recently sat down for a brief interview with former legislator and governor's adviser Kim McMillan, who is running to replace her onetime boss, Gov. Phil Bredesen. (Due to an equipment user malfunction, this interview was not recorded via audio, but only by handwritten notes.)
First things first: the coffee. I had an iced latte from Chattz on Market Street. I didn't ask what was in Ms. McMillan's mug, but I assume it was coffee made in the office where she was camping out for the day, a few doors down from Chattz.
I asked McMillan what she thought set her apart from the rest of the candidates running, and she said that she is the candidate that listens. She has been to all but a few of Tennessee's 95 counties, and she has been seeking input from the people wherever she goes.
So, what are they saying? I asked. Her reply was that education ranked first among citizen concerns, with jobs being a very close second. She then indicated that not much has changed along those lines since she was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, with the exception that perhaps people are realizing to a greater degree just how inseparable those two topics are.
I wanted to know whether she would focus most on K-12 education, or higher ed (including community colleges), or pre-Kindergarten; she said that all were of pretty much equal priority. She praised the Tennessee SCORE group led by Bill Frist, M.D., a former U.S. Senate Majority leader, and pointed to its final report as a worthy input to the education reform that, many say, the state desperately needs. To McMillan, measuring the success of higher education (i.e., graduation and job placement) is just as important as making sure children have access to pre-K.
I then asked how she was that much different than a couple of her opponents on this issue, since I have been hearing a lot of education talk from Sen. Jim Kyle (a fellow Democrat) and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam (a Republican), among others. She cited her upbringing—both of her parents are former educators—as well as her tenure in the state House, where she sponsored legislation and got it passed (such as the 2005 pre-K expansion bill, of which Kyle was the Senate sponsor), and where she made sure that education was a priority in every budget; and the fact that she worked closely with Gov. Bredesen on education issues while a member of his Cabinet.
McMillan ended by saying that we should not be defeatist about our ranking (after I brought it up), but that we should focus on what is working well, and improve upon the rest.
I had brought a couple of reader-submitted questions with me, and we moved on to those. First, someone asked McMillan to name one thing she would do differently than Gov. Bredesen has in his two terms. Not surprisingly, I didn't get a specific answer on this one. Bredesen is a popular Democrat in an increasingly Republican-dominated state, so to be a Democrat and start pointing out his weaknesses is simply not done. She said that the issues facing the next governor will be different than those that he has faced, and that his business management skills made him the right person for the job at the time he ran. Sidestep=complete.
The second question was what role McMillan thinks gender plays in this campaign. She is, after all, the only woman running for governor (Ed. note: besides June Griffin, whom most observers write off). Were she to win next November, McMillan would become the state's first female governor. However, she said, she is "not running to be in the history books." She feels that she has the experience and know-how to get things done, and that the unique status her gender would provide is a bonus, much like President Barack Obama's race vis-à-vis his qualifications. She doesn't know that being a woman gives her any more advantage than her being the youngest of the major candidates provides her any inroads to the youth vote.
Since our schedules were cramped, the Kim McMillan campaign has agreed to have her answer some additional questions via e-mail. So, what else would you like to know?
November 11, 2009
Did I Hear You Correctly?
Earlier this fall, I met with Mike McWherter for an hour or so of discussion about the campaign for governor, and how he intends to address some of the challenges facing Tennesseans. As that conversation drew to a close, I asked a couple of questions that had been solicited from readers earlier that week.
McWherter's answer to one of those questions, as posted here, touched off some controversy in the online political arena, and there have been more conversations with the candidate on the subject—some of which may indicate that I misinterpreted the candidate's response, and thus inadvertently attributed to Mike McWherter a specific policy position that he does not, in fact, hold.
Let me state first that I would never intentionally twist, spin, or otherwise distort an interviewee's words, for political reasons or for any other purpose. My intent here is to provide readers with information about candidates and their views, and if I have an opinion about that information, I try to demarcate that opinion clearly from the facts that I'm presenting.
The original question asked the candidate to declare whether or not he supported a proposed ban on adoption by unmarried couples.
When I asked McWherter whether, if he were governor and such legislation passed in the General Assembly (effectively prohibiting same-sex adoption), he would veto that bill, I understood his answer to be "no," which meant, to me, that he would allow the ban to go into effect.
I did ask a couple of follow-up questions, but I did not inquire whether McWherter would allow the bill to become law without his signature. I felt at the time that his responses, overall, to the question made his position clear on adoption by gay couples.
The McWherter campaign has now stated, according to Sean Braisted, that a bill with this intent would be very complex, and that McWherter would not be in favor of it.
If I misinterpreted, and erroneously published, Mr. McWherter's earlier remarks, I sincerely apologize.
I plan to use a fully disclosed digital recording device in future interviews.
The story remains a little muddled, but I have learned some things. Hopefully voters have as well.
November 7, 2009
Incumbent Congressman Jim Cooper, a "Blue Dog" Democrat, had been rumored to be facing an imminent challenge from the Left (and, for all we know, he still might); but for now has a solidly right-wing opponent.
Hope You Were Hungry
During the attempt to adjust some design elements on this site, it appears that a lot of entries were re-posted via the RSS feed, and thus it looks like I spammed some aggregators. Sorry about that.
East Meets West Meets Middle
A pair of Twitter updates from Tennessee gubernatorial candidates demonstrates that the pack's pre-holiday trips back and forth across the state are in full swing.
Enjoyed meeting democrats in Knoxville this morning at Shoney's on Western Ave. Chip Forrester to be featured speaker. A large crowd.
In Clarksville today. Meeting with officers from Fort Campbell and veterans groups. Taking part in a parade. Looking forward to a good day.
I will be meeting with one or more candidates here in Chattanooga in the next week or two.
November 5, 2009
Straw Poll for Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates in Hamilton County
From Facebook: The Hamilton County Democratic Party will hold its annual Estes Kefauver Dinner on Monday, November 16 at 6:00 p.m. in the Choo Choo's Imperial Ballroom. Five Democratic gubernatorial candidates will be there, and a straw poll will be conducted.
The candidates are:
- Ward Cammack, Nashville, businessman
- Senator Roy Herron, Dresden, attorney and former Methodist minister
- Senator Jim Kyle, Memphis, attorney
- Kim McMillan, Clarksville, former House Majority Leader and Bredesen administration official
- Mike McWherter, Jackson, businessman, son of former Gov. Ned Ray McWherter
(Corrected start time.)