Ball poll shows him trailing Alexander by 13 points; he’ll join other candidates in Thursday debate

News release from Gordon Ball CampaignBal:
Today, the Gordon Ball campaign is releasing the results of a new statewide poll of likely voters in the Tennessee U S Senate race.

The new poll shows that the Senate race has tightened considerably and that two-term incumbent Lamar Alexander with 100% name ID is below 50% entering the homestretch of the campaign. The poll shows Lamar Alexander sitting at 45 %, Gordon Ball at 32 %, Tom Emerson Jr. at 13% and 10% undecided, leading up to the November 4th election. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, NC, 595 likely Tennessee voters were surveyed between October 17th and 18th; the margin of error for the poll is +/-4.0%.

“The polling for Lamar has continued to drop as Sen. Alexander began his negative campaign,” Press Secretary Trace Sharp said. “Tennessee voters deserve to hear from these candidates and Sen. Alexander has refused to debate Gordon Ball or any other candidates in the race.”

Ball will appear this Thursday October 23rd at 1:30 p.m. with several independent candidates at a debate scheduled at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Nashville. The debate will be moderated by Tom Humphrey.

Gordon Ball stated, “I urge Sen. Alexander to join me and the other candidates who are willing to discuss the important issues facing our state.”

Notes: A previous poll, posted HERE, had Alexander at 53 percent, Ball at 32. Previous post of a news release on the debate is HERE. Tom Emerson. mentioned above at 13 percent in the poll, says on his website that he is “running as a tea party candidate” for the Senate seat. And, yes, it appears I will be acting as a moderator of sorts at the seven-candidate debate.

Alexander reelection campaign spending tops $8M mark

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Lamar Alexander’s campaign spending in his bid to represent Tennessee in U.S. Senate for a third term now tops $8 million. By comparison, the former governor and two-time presidential candidate spent $4.5 million on his entire Senate bid in 2008.

Alexander in August defeated tea party-styled state Rep. Joe Carr by 9 percentage points, and now faces Democrat Gordon Ball in the general election.

Alexander reported raising about $660,000 in the third quarter and spending $1.5 million. He ended the period with $1.3 million on hand.

Ball loaned his campaign $1 million in the quarter and raised $138,000 from outside sources. He spent about $115,000 and had $1 million remaining.

Early voting for the Nov. 4 election runs through Oct. 30.

Haslam might consider restructuring gas tax, expanding pre-k in 2nd term

After a first term avoiding talk about politically sensitive issues like whether he would push to expand pre-K or restructure the gas tax, Gov. Bill Haslam says he might actually do something in those areas in the next year or so, reports Andrea Zelinski.

The governor told reporters Friday afternoon he expects to evaluate transportation funding in the next year after telling Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Chamber of Commerce leaders that states will have to work on transportation funding issues while waiting for the federal government to make a move.

“I think Tennessee is going to have to — sometime in the next I-don’t-know-how-many-years — sometime next year look at highway funding. We have some serious challenges facing us,” Haslam told reporters.

Haslam said he would also consider whether to expand the state’s pre-K program ahead of his original timeline tied to the conclusion of a Vanderbilt University study on the effectiveness of the state’s current pre-K program. Haslam said he may be ready to confront that issue about a year from now at the earliest, saying he wouldn’t build an expansion into this year’s budget.

Vanderbilt’s study was originally scheduled to conclude in 2015, but was extended to 2019.

“It’s fair to say that’s too long. We’re not going to wait until 2019 to make a decision on that,” said Haslam. “For us, I think it’s driven not so much when it will be completely finished but this: When do we think we’ll know enough to make a priority decision?

“The issue with pre-K is like everything else. It’s like, should we do pre-K? Might be a good idea. Should we pay teachers more? Might be a good idea. I can keep going with that list. It’s more a question of, given the reality of a limited budget, which we have and are always going to have, should that be a priority for funding?”

DesJarlais bashes ‘liberal Lenda;’ experts say Sherrell can’t win in 4th District

Democrat Lenda Sherrell may have raised more money than controversy-plagued 4th District Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais, but experts agree she has no chance of beating him, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press in a review of the campaign.Sherrell, of course, disagrees.

“I haven’t seen a shred of data in the district that would indicate she has a chance,” said David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Washington-based, nonpartisan The Cook Political Report. “People get wrapped up in who raises more money. We know that Scott DesJarlais isn’t attracting a lot of donors this cycle and yet he still was able to win the [GOP] primary” against state Sen. Jim Tracy.

…DesJarlais, rated the fourth-most-conservative House member, faces Sherrell in the largely rural, mostly white district that stretches from Cleveland in the east to Murfreesboro in the west and has a decided Republican tilt.

Sherrell, a Cumberland County native who is the daughter of a rural letter carrier and a teacher, is a certified public accountant who worked for several large health care companies. She retired after a dozen years as comptroller for McCallie School in Chattanooga.

…Sherrell cut her political teeth the past few years by working as a volunteer district head of Organizing for America, a national grass-roots group with ties to Obama that has backed efforts like the Affordable Care Act.

As someone who has developed multimillion-dollar budgets, she said, she’d like to take a pen to the federal budget.

She said she got into the race in January, after taking a hard look at the 4th District’s demographics. It’s a winnable race, Sherrell said. A third of the voters are moderates who tend to vote for the candidate and not the party, Sherrell noted. Another figure she cites: 54 percent of adults are women, “sort of a natural constituency,” said Sherrell.

…Last week, the DesJarlais campaign hit Sherrell in a direct-mail piece labeling her “Liberal Lenda” and citing her work in Organizing for America. Jameson said it’s fair to link Sherrell with Obama, noting, “the president said while he’s not on the ballot this time, his policies are, and many of his policies are embodied in Lenda Sherrell.”

Wasserman said voters in the conservative district are “loath to send anyone with a ‘D’ next to their name to Washington as long as Obama is president.”

Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University, said Sherrell has proven to be “a very good candidate who has raised an impressive amount of money.”

“But it is still a very steep climb,” Syler said.

Sen. Summerville charged with stalking, assault; accuses police of harassment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Outgoing state Sen. Jim Summerville is facing stalking and assault charges, a month after being arrested for public intoxication.

Lt. Todd Christian with the Dickson Police Department told The Associated Press on Sunday that Summerville was arrested Friday night on a stalking charge filed by a neighbor and released on bail. Christian said Summerville was arrested again on Saturday for assault after threatening the same neighbor. He was released on $10,000 bond.

In September, Summerville was charged with public intoxication after police said he sat in several residents’ yards drinking.

As for the latest charges, Christian didn’t provide details.

Summerville said in a statement that he’s being harassed and plans to sue the Dickson Police Department.

“The City of Dickson Police Department is engaging a systematic campaign of harassment,” he said. “(Stalking! At my age?) Once these charges are resolved in court, I shall be suing the City of Dickson. Settlement negotiations will start at one million dollars.”

Summerville resigned from the Republican Caucus in August after a loss in the Aug. 7 election primary. His term ends following the Nov. 4 general election.

His behavior and controversial legislation have made headlines on several occasions during his term.

Last year, he proposed a measure to eliminate affirmative action initiatives from higher education institutions in Tennessee. After the legislation failed, Summerville threatened GOP lawmakers who voted against it, saying they would face repercussions in this year’s election.

Summerville also was heavily criticized for an email he sent insulting the Legislature’s black caucus.

In the email to then-black caucus chairwoman Barbara Cooper, he wrote: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.”

The email was sent after the caucus issued a news release critical of a hearing, led by Summerville, that looked into allegations of grade tampering at Tennessee State University.

Summerville later apologized for the email.

TN Death Row inmate dies of natural causes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee officials say a death row inmate convicted of a 1988 murder in Campbell County has died of natural causes.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa E. Taylor says 61-year-old Olen E. Hutchinson was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. Sunday at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Hutchison was convicted in 1991 in the drowning death of 46-year-old Hugh L. Huddleston of Knoxville.

Huddleston was lured to Norris Lake under the guise of going fishing.

Hutchison’s case became the focus of demonstrations and forums on disparities in the state’s death sentences.

Hutchinson was one of seven men accused of plotting to kill Huddleston in an insurance fraud scheme. Hutchison was the only person sentenced to death.

The man convicted of pushing Huddleston into the lake received a life sentence.

Low turnout in early voting so far

Tennesseans are casting early votes at less than half the rate they did two years ago, according to figures on the state Division of Elections website.

For the first four days of early voting — Wednesday through Saturday — a total of 103,176 Tennessee voters cast ballots. In 2012, the total for the first four days of early voting was 228,225, according to a news release issued by Secretary of State Tre Hargett at the time.

Knox County reported 10,297 early votes during the first four days, second only to Shelby County (11,253) in total number, according to the website. Davidson County reported just 2,027 early votes; Hamilton County had 4,787.

Voter turnout typically declines in years when there is no presidential race on the ballot. In 2012, a presidential election year, almost 2.5 million Tennesseans voted. In 2010, only about 1.6 million. Total vote in this year’s Aug. 7 election — primary elections for state candidates and general election for judges and some local offices — totaled just more than 1 million.

Haslam has $3M in the campaign bank; Charlie Brown $103

Gov. Bill Haslam has spent about $2.75 million on his re-election campaign so far and has $3 million in the bank, while his Democratic opponent has not reported spending anything yet but has $103 available for the final weeks, according to financial disclosures.

A discussion has developed among some Democrats, meanwhile, over who they should support with their votes on Nov. 4.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis has urged fellow Shelby County Democrats to vote for John Jay Hooker, the Democratic nominee for governor in 1970 and 1998 who is running as an Independent this year with the centerpiece of his campaign calling for a defeat of Amendment 2, a proposed rewrite of the state constitution’s language on how appellate court judges are chosen.

Hooker reports spending zero dollars on his campaign efforts and says he told listeners in a recent speech on his anti-Amendment 2 efforts, “If you can’t think of anybody else better to vote for, vote for me … but vote for somebody, just not Haslam.”

State Democratic Chairman Roy Herron, while declaring Cohen is “as always logical in his arguments,” said in an interview that he will personally vote for the official Democratic nominee, Charles V. “Charlie” Brown, 72, a retired construction worker from Morgan County. Brown is widely assumed to have won the Democratic nomination because his name was first on the primary ballot and/or because of name identification from the famous “Peanuts” cartoon character, Charlie Brown.

“I’m just afraid that people will come out and they won’t vote for Charlie Brown because they’ve never heard of him or they think he’s funny or not really running a campaign,” Cohen told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

He said the 84-year-old Hooker is, in contrast, “dressed, tested and true. You know he’s good on Democratic issues.”
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Jimmy Carter: TN has been ‘dragged down’ with GA by Republicans

Former President Jimmy Carter was the speaker at a Hamilton County Democratic gathering Saturday, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. His speech focused on grandson Jason Carter, who is running for governor in nearby Georgia.

Carter sported his trademark toothy grin as he talked about his grandson’s accomplishment graduating second in his law school class from the University of Georgia. Jason Carter now serves in the Georgia senate.

The elder Carter also told the crowd about how politics in Georgia affect those in Tennessee.

“Tennessee has been dragged down with Georgia,” he said, to light applause from the crowd.

The former president said that, 10 to 12 years ago Georgia was a different state under Democratic leadership. He urged those in the room to “get rid of the burden we have been carrying under Republican leadership.”

He cited the high unemployment rate, a failing educational system, and falling family incomes as major problems in the state, which he said a Democratic candidate — his grandson — could fix.

Alexander: I’m on a ‘good path’ because country is headed in ‘a bad direction’

In a review of the Lamar Alexander-Gordon Ball race, Michael Collins reports on the incumbent senator getting a standing ovation following his standard Ball-bashing stump speech and the challenger being asked to leave a senior citizens center where politicking wasn’t allowed.

A couple of excerpts:

As for Alexander’s attempts to link him to Obama, Ball said he voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary, but supported Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections. Still, he said, he would have approached the presidency different from Obama has.

“I think he’s great on TV,” Ball said of the commander-in-chief, “but I don’t think he has the ability to sit down with people on the other side and get things done. I certainly don’t think he has the ability to reach across the aisle that Bill Clinton had.”

…Alexander said he thought hard about whether he should run again, but ultimately decided to seek a third term while looking back at fellow Tennessean Howard Baker’s third term in the Senate,

“I saw how he became the majority leader, and I watched him carry the Reagan tax cuts over and hand them over to Tip O’Neill,” Alexander said. “And then I watched him stay up all night for several days and make Social Security solvent. I saw how much he got accomplished in his third term.”

Alexander said he feels good about the prospects for his own re-election and about the GOP’s chances of winning a Senate majority for the first time in eight years.

“I think I’m on a good path to be re-elected because the country is so unfortunately headed in a bad direction,” he said. “I think most Tennesseans believe our country is headed in the wrong direction, and a vote for me could produce a Republican majority to begin to move our country in a new, more conservative direction.”