More TN GOP congressmen climb aboard Trump train

U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais was the first Tennessee congressman to endorse Donald Trump for president, followed more recently by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. After Trump’s win in Indiana Tuesday, other Republican congressmen are pledging their support.

From a Michael Collins report:

“It looks like the presumptive nominee of the party is going to be Donald Trump, and I think Republicans need to unify and get behind the Republican nominee,” said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah.

Fleischmann, who initially backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, had declined to endorse another candidate after Huckabee dropped out of the race.

…”I will back the Republican nominee for president 100 percent,” Fleischmann said. “If that is going to be Donald Trump, I will certainly get out and campaign for him and support him 100 percent.”

U.S. Reps. Phil Roe of Johnson City and Diane Black of Gallatin also pledged to support Trump.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, I will support our nominee,” Roe said. “It’s time for the Republicans to unite, and I am enthusiastically supporting Donald Trump. I look forward to helping him in any way that I can to take back the White House in November.”

Black said “the three scariest words in the English language today are ‘President Hillary Clinton.'”

“I will support our presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump, in the general election and call on Republicans across Tennessee to do the same,” she said. “After eight years of failed liberal policies, this is a time for our party to unite and put a conservative in the White House.”

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood didn’t mention Trump by name, but said, “I will support the Republican nominee, and I look forward to seeing a Republican in the White House.”

Williamson County businessman eyes run for governor in 2018

Williamson County businessman Bill Lee says he is considering a Republican run for governor of Tennessee in 2018 and is ready to self-finance if he does enter the race, according to The Tennessean.

Lee in February stepped down as CEO of the the Lee Company, a Franklin-based home service and facilities solutions company founded by his grandfather.

“I’m definitely exploring the possibility of it,” the 56-year-old Lee said. “That’s as far as I’ve gotten.”

Lee, a Franklin native and Republican donor who resides with his family on a farm in Williamson County, said he would likely have a decision by early next year, which will be after the upcoming presidential election.

“I’m not a politician, and I haven’t been,” he said. “I’ve lived my life completely in the private sector. And so, honestly, a part of what I’m doing is learning about the Republican Party in Tennessee by traveling around and talking to community leaders and grassroots folks, and really learning where I do fit in the Republican Party.

“My family has lived in Tennessee for seven generations. I love this state and the people here, so I’m trying to find out just what the people think about what’s most needed.”

…Others considered possible Republican candidates for governor include U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.; U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd; state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville; former ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty; House Speaker Beth Harwell; and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

…Lee Company, founded in 1944, has annual revenue of $160 million, according to the company’s website.

Asked about his ability to self-finance part of his campaign, Lee said, “If I decided to do this — and that’s a big if — I would certainly be willing to invest in my campaign, just like I would be asking other people to invest in it. Ultimately, I can’t do this on my own.”

Ken Whitehouse goes to work for Nashville DA

Ken Whitehouse, a former journalist and political operative who most recently worked for public relations firm DVL Seigenthaler, has been named director of research and media relations for Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk, according to the Tennessean.

Whitehouse makes $79,000 annually in the new position and started work Monday.

Whitehouse said he will work with media organizations and do research on how to help reduce recidivism in Nashville. Current spokeswoman Dorinda Carter will become the office’s primary contact for community groups, victim’s rights groups and other organizations. Carter earns about $85,000 annually, according to state salary data.

“I am excited to have someone with Ken’s experience, depth of knowledge and respect in the community join our staff as we continue to make Nashville a healthy and safer place to live,” Funk said Tuesday in a statement. “He and Dorinda will make a great team as they share the efforts and initiatives of this office throughout the city.”

TN Republicans moving to accept Trump as presidential nominee

With some misgivings, prominent Tennessee supporters of Ted Cruz are ready to support Donald Trump for president now that the Texas senator has suspended his campaign, reports The Tennessean.

Tennessee House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, who voted for Cruz in the state’s March primary, said he will ultimately back Trump in the November election, even though he didn’t see eye to eye with the New York businessman.

“I’m just not convinced he’s an intellectual conservative,” Casada, R-Franklin, said Tuesday night about Trump… Nonetheless, Casada said in a race pitting Trump against Clinton, there’s no question as to whom he will support.

…Steve Gill, a former conservative radio talk show host from Brentwood and a Cruz Tennessee delegate, called Cruz’s exit from the race disappointing but commended the senator for recognizing the political reality he faced.

Gill indicated he would eventually rally behind Trump, but said the repeated personal attacks from Trump against Cruz could make it difficult for some Cruz loyalists to get energized behind the presumptive nominee.

…State Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, also backed Cruz and said he was disappointed but will support the eventual GOP nominee.

“It’s pretty clear, though, the American people and the people of Tennessee believe that Donald Trump can best go to Washington, D.C., and reverse the downward spiral caused by both parties,” Green said. “He just seems to change people and clearly we need a fresh start.”

…Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said she was surprised by Cruz’s decision to drop out of the race, but respects his decision.

“Donald Trump was not my first choice, but if he is our nominee, I will support him,” Harwell said.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said the choice is now clear.

“Hillary Clinton must be stopped and Donald Trump can stop her,” Ramsey said in a statement. “Trump has given voice to frustrated and alienated voters who had all but given up on the political process. He is building a coalition that can defeat Hillary Clinton and make America great again — but only if all Republicans and conservatives unite with him.”

‘Tennessee Trey’ wins Indiana GOP congressional primary

Joseph Albert “Trey” Hollingsworth III, the young multimillionaire who moved from Tennessee to Indiana last fall, Tuesday won the Republican nomination to a congressional seat in his newly adopted state after spending $2 million of his own money in the campaign.

Further from the Indianapolis Star:

Trey Hollingsworth, 32, won the nomination by portraying himself as a political outsider and knocking off three seasoned Republican politicians: Attorney General Greg Zoeller and State Senators Erin Houchin and Brent Waltz.

Hollingsworth picked up the win with 34 percent… Houchin received 25 percent of the vote; and Zoeller had 22 percent.

He will square off in November against Indiana University professor Shelli Yoder, who won the Democrat primary with 70 percent of the vote.

…Hollingsworth, who moved to Indiana from (the East Tennessee town of Clinton) last year, out-spent his competitors by a wide margin and got a boost from a super PAC funded primarily by his father, who spent about $500,000 on ads attacking Zoeller as a political insider. It was an approach, political observers said, that played perfectly to a Republican electorate fed up with Washington politics — the same voters who propelled Donald Trump to a decisive Indiana win that knocked Ted Cruz out of the race.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Houchin and a new super PAC, funded primarily by Indianapolis businessman Bill Oesterle, struck back at Hollingsworth. The one-two punch included mailings and radio commercials labeling Hollingsworth as “Tennessee Trey,” a rich carpetbagger who moved to Indiana to buy a seat in Congress.

Mancini bashes supermajority session; GOP bashes Mancini

Excerpt from a Richard Locker report on Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini’s news conference on the recently-ended session of the state Legislature:

“This year’s legislative session and the 109th General Assembly perfectly illustrate the differences between Tennessee Democrats and Republicans. Republicans are in the supermajority in the Legislature and at every critical moment when they could have shown leadership they instead at best said ‘There’s nothing we can do’ and at worse showed themselves to be unethical, self-serving extremists,” Mancini said.

“They spent hours debating the state book, the state rifle and whether or not skunks should be house pets — but refused to bring Insure Tennessee to the House floor for even one minute of discussion. They fought hard to give tax breaks to the top wage earners while doing nothing to address the fact that Tennessee has the highest percentage of low-wage workers in the nation.”

Her remarks included references to bills designating the Bible as the “official book of Tennessee,” which the governor vetoed, and the Murfreesboro-made Barrett M82 sniper rifle as the state’s official rifle, which was approved; the failure for the second year of Haslam’s plan to expand health coverage to up to 280,000 low-income working residents, and an approved reduction in the state’s Hall income tax on investment earnings.

…The party chairman said 104 Democrats are running for the state Legislature and for Congress this year: 77 running in 68 state House districts, 10 in six state Senate districts and 17 in nine congressional districts.

Mancini would not predict how well Democrats will do in the state elections.

Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, called Mancini’s statement “over-the-top rhetoric” and a “silly attempt to obscure the fact that they supported an indicted representative and spent taxpayer time sponsoring far-left bills for mandatory” erectile dysfunction treatment and studying “swingers’ clubs.”

“Maybe that’s a winning formula in San Francisco but it’s a guaranteed loser in Tennessee,” Leatherwood said in a statement.

The erectile dysfunction bill he cited, House Bill 1927, was apparently an attempt to draw attention to the impact of anti-abortion legislation because it required 48-hour waiting period for a physician to write a prescription for an ED drug and mandatory counseling. The other bill, HB 1269, asked for a study of the potential regulation of “swingers’ clubs” and was introduced in 2015 when the planned location of a club next door to a school generated considerable controversy. But it was never discussed in a committee and later withdrawn.

Message at TN prayer rally: ‘Vote for the lesser of two heathens’

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Evangelist Franklin Graham told a crowd of thousands at the Tennessee Capitol on Tuesday to pray for the country and vote for candidates that stand for biblical principles.

“I’m going to say something that’s going to make some people angry,” Graham said. “I have zero hope in the Republican party. I have zero hope in the Democratic party.

“The only hope for the United States of America is almighty God.”

Graham told reporters after the rally that he has been a Republican most of his life but left the party last year because he was fed up with it.

During the rally he said politicians are too concerned with being politically correct. Asked later about the veto of a Tennessee bill that would have made the Bible the state book, Graham said he was not surprised.

“I see how weak politicians are,” he said. “Isn’t it interesting they are scared of the Bible?”
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Judge dismisses one piece of UT sexual assault lawsuit

By Steve MeGargee, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge has dismissed one of dozens of claims in a Title IX lawsuit filed against Tennessee while denying the rest of the school’s motion to dismiss.

The school filed a motion in March to dismiss and strike portions of the complaint, which includes eight unidentified women as plaintiffs and said Tennessee violated Title IX regulations through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Tuesday that one claim was “dismissed without prejudice,” but she allowed the rest of the case to proceed and didn’t strike any other portions of the complaint.

“We appreciate the judge’s consideration of dismissal of certain issues with this case especially in light of the case’s difficult nature as it involves the lives and well-being of young people,” Bill Ramsey, the school’s lawyer, said in a statement. “Under the standard for a motion to dismiss, the Court was required to accept the allegations in the complaint as true for purposes of ruling on the motion. We maintain our position that the allegations put forth in the lawsuit regarding the university are unfounded and without merit. We are confident that once all of the facts are considered instead of only the allegations in the complaint, plaintiffs will be unable to prove their claims.”
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TNGOP political director’s wife quits some consulting contracts

Citing “false allegations” that had become a distraction, the head of a Tennessee Republican consulting firm said Monday she has ended two contracts that recently attracted the ire of more than two dozen state GOP lawmakers, reports The Tennessean.

But that’s not enough for Rep. Judd Matheny, who still wants Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes to “clean house” and fire Walker Ferrell, party political director, and end all contracts with his wife, Taylor Ferrell.

In an email Monday, Taylor Ferrell said she had ended two contracts after calls from Matheny and others about alleged inappropriate conduct.

“Due to some wrong information and false allegations, I decided to withdraw my contracts with two clients where distractions were increasing. It is of the utmost importance that our firm protect our clients and that is why I made this decision,” Taylor Ferrell said in an email Monday.

Taylor Ferrell, head of Southland Advantage, didn’t say in an email Monday which contracts she had ended. The move comes after Matheny and 26 other GOP lawmakers signed a letter asking Haynes to to fire Walker and Taylor Ferrell. The couple allegedly skirted party bylaws with Taylor Ferrell helping GOP candidates challenging Republican incumbents.

On Monday, Matheny said he sent another letter to Haynes. In this letter, he says he recently received a text message from Haynes on Monday morning in which the party chairman says he “got Taylor to stop working with your opponent.” Matheny, R-Tullahoma, faces a contested primary in August.

“We both know that your response to the very serious issues raised in the original letter signed by myself and other legislators is, at best, a benign bandaid that continues to let the artery bleed out,” Matheny says in the letter.

Note: Besides Mathney’s primary challenger, Ferrell had also contracted to represent the primary challenger of Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville. She also has a contract with the state party for handling logistics for the Tennessee delegation to the Republican National Convention at Cleveland in July and with Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), who has no primary challenge but faces a Democratic challenge in November. Other clients include Michael Curcio, seeking the House seat being vacated by Rep. David Shepard (D-Dickson), and Grant Starrett, who is running against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in the 4th Congressional District Republican primary.

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Ramsey backing Trump for president ‘100 percent’

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey thinks Donald Trump is on the way to winning the Republican presidential nomination and backs him “100 percent,” reports WJHL-TV.

“First of all I didn’t think that Donald Trump would ever get in,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he thought the real estate billionaire’s campaign would fizzle out.

“And that didn’t happen but I do think people are so fed up with Washington D.C. they want somebody from the outside, somebody that’ll shake things up, and he’s riding that wave,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he wasn’t initially on the wave of support for Trump.

“I like to keep it a secret who I voted for but I was not a Trump person of course…but now I’m behind him 100 percent,” Ramsey said. And he hopes eventually, the Republican Party will back Trump too.

“Trump has pretty much locked down the nomination so whether you’re for him or against him to begin with, obviously I’m for whoever the Republican nominee is,” Ramsey said.

…“If he’s not at the 1,237 that it takes, the delegates, then he’ll be very, very close. I think that’ll be almost impossible to take that away from him, and hopefully it doesn’t because the people have spoken,” Ramsey said.