Monthly Archives: August 2009

Republican Rivals: Susan Lynn versus A.J. McCall

With a campaign kickoff fundraiser on Saturday, A.J. McCall will join Rep. Susan Lynn as a candidate in the Republican primary to succeed Sen. Mae Beavers, one of the state Senate’s most conservative members.
Already, there has been some indirect and preliminary skirmishing between the two over McCall recruiting some incumbent Republican legislators and former state GOP Chairman Robin Smith to serve on the host committee for his inaugural fundraiser.
Interviews with the two indicate there may be considerably more direct clashes in the making and the match could well become one of the most competitive legislative primaries in the state next year.
“I’m more conservative than she is,” said McCall, adding that he would have voted against some state budgets that the “moderate-to-conservative” Lynn has supported – including the one now in effect. Beavers this year was the only state senator to vote no on the budget, though a dozen or so House members did.
Further, says McCall, “I think voters are looking for business people, or people in the private sector, instead of someone who is a career politician, in my opinion.”
Lynn disputes McCall’s categorizations.
Elected to the House at age 38, she is now 45 and “that hardly makes for a career politician,” Lynn said, adding that she has a lengthy career background in businesses ranging from handling audits and accounts receivable at a hotel to serving as sales representative for a golf equipment company.
As for conservative credentials, Lynn said, she has plenty and “most people consider me a conservative lawmaker.” Indeed, she has on occasion been roundly criticized as ultra-conservative when, for example, proposing that welfare mothers be subject to random drug testing.
As for backing Gov. Phil Bredesen’s budget, Lynn said she and other conservatives “worked for many weeks against the things that bother us” in the spending plan.
“You work as hard as you can to change anything that is disturbing, but in the end it’s wise to support your schools, your law enforcement and the infrastructure that is needed in your area,” she said.
As previously posted, McCall listed two state senators and four state representatives, along with Smith, as members of the host committee in invitations to his fundraiser that were sent out earlier this month.
Lynn subsequently said that most of the legislators had contacted her to say they were embarrassed to have their names on the list and had agreed to McCall’s request to serve without realizing she would also be seeking the Senate District 17 seat.
She had not told them of her plans, Lynn said, because she was busy traveling the Senate district to meet prospective constituents in areas not part of her House district.
The Mount Juliet lawmaker also said she will not be asking colleagues for an endorsement.
“Generally, we have an unwritten rule that we don’t get involved in primaries. I think that’s a good rule and I respect that with my colleagues,” she said. “The only endorsement that really matters is from voters on election day.”
McCall said that, when Lynn declared her candidacy after he had sent out invitations to the fundraiser, he contacted all legislators on the list to “see if they were still comfortable” serving on the committee.
None of them objected, he said. Since the invitations were sent a third senator, Mike Faulk, has also agreed to serve on the host committee, McCall said.
Interviews with a sampling of the legislators on the list indicated they did not know Lynn was running for the seat.
“I’d maybe heard some talk that she might,” said Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro.
Rep. Beth Harwell of Nashville, a former state GOP chairman, said she had recalled Lynn saying at one point that she was “not interested” in the Senate seat. Harwell said she would also be willing to serve on a Lynn fundraising committee.
All the legislators contacted stopped short of saying that awareness of Lynn’s candidacy would have meant saying no to McCall. Rep. Bob Ramsey of Maryville said “I would have taken that into consideration out of respect to Susan.”
In similar fashion, Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville said, “I would have thought more about it.”
McCall, who is CEO of one arm of his family’s furniture and appliance business, was uniformly praised by the Republicans. The McCall family has been generous financial donors to GOP causes over the years.
“A. J. McCall has been someone who reminds me a lot of me,” said Smith. “He has never really asked much for himself, but he and his family have been some of our best supporters – not just financially, but in devoting time and effort.”
“When he called me several weeks ago, before Susan Lynn was a candidate, I said, ‘Anything you can ask from me, I’m going to do it’,” she said. “This is not anything against Susan Lynn. I think she has served well in the House.”
Would she have done otherwise had Lynn been an announced candidate? “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals,” said Smith.

Speakers Name Judicial Nominating Commission Members

House Speaker Kent Williams and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey named 17 appointees to the Judicial Nominating Commission, which will play a central role in deciding upon judges to fill vacancies on state courts.
Ramsey and Williams each named eight members of the panel.
In accord with a law enacted earlier this year by the Legislature, they also jointly appointed one member, Verna Anne Wyatt of Nashville, who described herself in an application as “crime victim advocate” and executive director of You Have The Power, a non-profit organization.
The law required that the commission include at least four members from each of the state’s three grand divisions. Officials say 236 people applied for the positions.
Twelve men and five women were appointed to the commission, including two black members and one Hispanic. There are two former Republican state representatives on the list — Russell Johnson of Loudon County and Chris Clem of Hamilton County.
The panel includes 10 attorneys in private practice, lawyers for FedEx Corp. and Eastman Chemical Corp. and the president of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.
The commission replaces the former Judicial Selection Commission, which was the subject of complaints from many Republicans — notably including Ramsey. In naming members of the former commission, the speakers had to pick from a list of candidates submitted by various legal special interest groups.
There is no such restriction in the new law, which also permitted appointment of more non-lawyers — although lawyers make up most of the new appointees,
The commission will nominate three candidates for judicial vacancies as they occur. The governor can then appoint one of the nominees as a judge or ask for a slate of three more nominees.
Here’s a list of Williams appointees:
-David Bautista, an attorney and adjunct professor in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.
-Mary Helen Beard, senior attorney with FedEx Corp. in Memphis.
-Ana L. Escobar, a Nashville attorney specializing in criminal defense.
-Russell Johnson of Loudon County, who is district attorney general in the 9th Judicial District and a former Republican state representative.
-Edward L. Martindale Jr., a Jackson attorney.
-William Scott Sims, a Nashville attorney.
-Denise Terry Stapleton, a Morristown attorney.
-C. Barry Ward of Tipton County, a lawyer who practices in Memphis.
Here is a list of Ramsey appointees:
-Miles Burdine, president and CEO of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce.
-Christopher Campbell, a Memphis attorney.
-Christopher Clem, a Chattanooga lawyer and former Republican state representative.
-William Jenkins Jr., a Dyersburg attorney and son of former U.S. Rep. Bill Jenkins of Rogersville.
-Theresa Lee, senior vice president and chief legal officer for Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport.
-Thomas Lawless, a Nashville lawyer
-Jack Lowery, a Lebanon lawyer.
-William Young of Signal Mountain, general counsel and senior vice president of Risk Management for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in Chattanooga.

Clinton Still Planning To Speak at TN Jackson Day

From the AP:
Tennessee Democratic Party officials don’t expect funeral services for Sen. Edward Kennedy on Saturday to prevent former President Bill Clinton from delivering his scheduled keynote speech at the party’s annual Jackson Day fundraiser in Nashville.
Kennedy died Tuesday after his yearlong battle with brain cancer. Clinton is expected to join President Barack Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush at a Saturday Mass at what is commonly known as the Mission Church in Boston.
Kennedy will be buried later Saturday near his slain brothers — former President John F. Kennedy and former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy — at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.
Spokesman Keith Talley says Clinton officials have told the state party that the former president should still be able to make it to Nashville in time for the Saturday evening event.

Republican Candidates Courting the Middle

Four Republican gubernatorial candidates Tuesday courted votes in Middle Tennessee, which, as the Tennessean observed, is a primary battleground, given that three of the candidates are from East Tennessee and one from Memphis in the west.
The occasion was a forum arranged by the Republican Women of Williamson County.
WPLN summarized three of presentations thusly:
Congressman Wamp branded himself as the Christian conservative. Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam paraded his business credentials as part of Pilot Travel Centers, his family business. And Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey positioned himself as the state government insider.
Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, naturally, presented himself as the anti-crime candidate.
The public radio station also collected some candidate quotes:
Wamp: “We are a Godly state, a state after God’s own heart. What Sonny Perdue has done down in Georgia, we can do in Tennessee. We’re not going to run from the Lord, we’re going to run to him as a people, as a state, and we’ll be blessed for it.”
Gibbons: “I hope that in January 2015 [after one term as governor] we’ll be known as one of the safest states in the nation.”
Haslam: “I think the next governor has to understand and personally to have recruited jobs themselves, to understand how companies make critical capital allocation decisions and why they decide to choose a place to do business.”
Ramsey: “We need a governor who is ready to hit the ground running, that doesn’t need a briefing book on how state government works. I’ve been there. I’ve done that for 17 years.”

House Per Diem Reports Posted — In Case You’ve Been Eagerly Waiting

The House “per diem” expense reports for the second quarter have been posted on the Legislature’s website, some weeks after the Senate reports.
A quick look indicates only one House member, Rep. Mark Maddox, D-Dresden, billed for motel and travel expenses on an out-of-state trip during the quarter. He made a trip to Washington for a National Conference of State Legislators event.
Fifteen representatives, including Maddox on his NCSL trip, billed for the daily $171 expense allowance while on out-of-Nashville journeys. Presumably, that means they either paid the motel and travel costs themselves or had them covered by the organization sponsoring the event.
The reports also show that some devoted legislators did six-day work weeks during the period, which covered four-day work weeks for in-session activities. They thus collected $1,026 in per diem for those weeks.
None of the six-day workers live within commuting distance of Nashville. They included House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower and Democratic Reps. Lois DeBerry of Memphis, Dennis Ferguson of Harriman, Jeannie Richardson of Memphis, Harry Tindell of Knoxville and Joe Towns of Memphis.
The state Democratic and Republican parties, meanwhile, continue to squabble over the per diem spending of Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas. The latest Democratic release, available HERE, calls for Carr to reimburse the state for out-of-session per diem.
The latest Republican release declares the Democratic criticism “laughable.” It’s not posted online anywhere I can find, but the email sent out to media is posted below, if you’re interested.

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Sales Tax Holidays: ‘Nothing but Political Gimmicks’

Tennessee is one of 16 states holding sales tax holidays that, according to a Tax Foundation study released Wednesday, “are nothing more than political gimmicks that do little to help consumers.”
“Instead, the holidays distort consumer choices while favoring certain industries over others, increase tax code complexity, and distract from real, permanent tax relief,” says a news release summarizing the study.
This is unlikely, of course, to get much attention in Tennessee state government, where Gov. Phil Bredesen pushed the idea (fulfilling a 2002 campaign promise) and legislators of both parties compete in claiming credit for the weekend with no sales tax on clothing, school supplies and computers.
(On the other hand, the study is particularly critical of 2009 sales tax holidays on gun purchases in South Carolina and Louisiana. Now that’s an idea that could trigger some Tennessee legislator interest!)
Key findings of the study, as listed in the news release:
Sales tax holidays do not promote economic growth or significantly increase consumer purchases; the evidence shows that they simply shift the timing of purchases. Some retailers raise prices during the holiday, effectively absorbing the benefit of the holiday and reducing consumer savings.
Sales tax holidays create complexities for tax code compliance, efficient labor allocation, and inventory management. Instability in tax law is costly to the economy not only because of complexity, but because it disrupts plans and expectations of consumers and businesses, especially as states cancel sales tax holidays due to the recession and related revenue loss.
Most sales tax holidays involve politicians picking products and industries to favor with exemptions, arbitrarily discriminating between products and across time, and distorting consumer decisions. For example, Virginia’s hurricane-preparedness sales tax holiday applies to cell phone chargers but not laptop chargers, and duct tape but not masking or electrical tape. South Carolina’s gun sales tax holiday applies to firearms but not associated safety products.
While sales taxes are somewhat regressive, sales tax holidays are a bad way of providing relief to the poor. Sales tax holidays amount to a 4 percent to 7 percent price reduction for all consumers, but only for a brief period of time.

Special Election Notes

Stanley’s Special Cost
The Shelby County Election Commission has voted to spend $604,000 for the special election to choose a successor to state Sen. Paul Stanley. Since that’s a state office, state government will reimburse the cost.
The election will be held Oct. 15, the same date for the special election to pick a successor to Willie Herenton as Memphis mayor. The city is responsible for covering that cost, originally estimated at more than $1 million by Shelby County Election Administrator Rich Holden.
But since there’s some overlap between precincts in the state Senate seat and the mayoral election, the state funding will reduce the city’s overall cost to about $840,000, Holden said.
891 Early Votes in House 62
In the special election for House District 62, a total of 891 votes were cast during the early voting period, reports the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.
According to Bedford County Administrator of Elections Summer Leverette, there were 718 early votes in the Republican primary, in which candidates Joseph Byrd, Pat Marsh, Bobby Scott and Casey Walters are competing, and 173 early votes in the Democratic primary, which has only one candidate, Ty Cobb II. Early voting ended at noon Saturday. Primary election day is Thursday.

Tennessee Commentary on Ted Kennedy

Sen. Lamar Alexander: “Ted Kennedy was at once the most partisan and the most constructive United States Senator. He could preach the party line as well as bridge differences better than any Democrat. I will especially miss his cheery disposition and his devotion to United States history of which he was such a consequential part.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker: “We disagreed on many things but I never doubted his integrity.” (Michael Silence has more from Baker)
Sen. Bob Corker: “Ted Kennedy devoted his life to the service of our country and while more often than not we had a different point of view, I was honored to have had the opportunity to work with him and to have witnessed his tremendous drive, passion, ability and intellect. There was no more effective advocate for what he believed in. Though we are saddened by his loss, we are also thankful for his service to the country he loved.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: “Today Karyn and I feel the deep loss of a personal friend. In our lives Ted Kennedy was more than the legislative lion of the Senate. He was the proud sailor who introduced our sons to the spiritual element of sailing on his beloved wooden sailboat in Nantucket, the young senator I first met as a college intern in 1972 as he patiently found the time to lay out the fundamentals of universal health care to our summer class, the proud step-dad who with Vicki beat Karyn and me to every afternoon high school baseball game while our sons played side by side, and the masterful legislative colleague who never sacrificed his liberal principles standing for the everyday person as we joined each other on the health committee in writing and passing bills on health care disparities among the poor, emerging infectious diseases like HIV and avian flu, and preparing the nation and the world to fight bioterrorism. His death is a loss not just for Massachusetts and the Senate, but for all of mankind.”
Former Vice President Al Gore Jr.: “He was a true giant. He was a warm, funny, thoughtful, and generous friend and he was the most effective member of the United States Senate with whom I served. In the grief that Tipper and I share with so many, we know that the legacy of his brilliant work will carry on for decades to come. Ted was a champion for those Americans who had no voice–the sick, the disabled, the poor, the under-privileged–and they could have had no greater friend in the Senate. Now, Ted would want nothing more than for his colleagues to continue his life’s work and to make real his dream of quality health care for all Americans.
“Tipper and I send our love and heartfelt condolences to Vicki, his children, and all of his family. The nation and the world will miss him a great deal.”
Rep. Jim Cooper: “Ted was a lion. He was the best legislator of the Kennedy’s and his passing is a tremendous loss for our country. He was not only a great Senator, but a great American. Liberal, but bipartisan, he was always willing to compromise to achieve a larger purpose. This is the end of an era, the end of Camelot. My thoughts and prayers are with the Kennedy family.”

Zoyle Jones Sues TSEA, Dept. of Corrections

From the AP:
Zoyle Jones is suing to be reinstated as the president of the Tennessee State Employees Association following a determination by Nashville prosecutors that he did nothing wrong by charging both the state and the employees group for the same trips.
He is also suing for $300,000 in damages from the state Correction Department for comments Commissioner George Little made to the media after demoting Jones at his state job in February.
Jones had been stripped of his role as president of the TSEA in January.
Assistant District Attorney Rodney Faulk wrote in an Aug. 17 letter that there are no state laws prohibiting travel reimbursement from the state while also receiving payment from a private entity for the same trip.
Faulk says there is no proof Jones didn’t engage in legitimate state business while on his trips.
The Correction Department and the TSEA are declining comment on the lawsuits.

Herron Campaign Belatedly Discloses ActBlue Expenses

Democratic Sen. Roy Herron’s gubernatorial campaign today amended a financial disclosure to show almost $4,000 in expense payments to an online fundraising service that were omitted from the candidate’s original filing last month.
The amendment came a day after a reporter contacted Herron’s campaign to ask why no expense payments to ActBlue were reported, though the candidate had issued a news release touting his success in collecting more than $100,000 online – more than any other Democratic candidate.
“Completely and totally my mistake,” said Martha Stutts, the campaign treasurer, in an email.
Stutts said that, in copying the ActBlue files, she overlooked the charges for each contribution that are listed on “the far right side” of a form.
“I’ve never used ActBlue or een taken credit cards for fundraising before this campaign,” she wrote. “So I’m still learning and I honestly just made a mistake.”
The amendment reports $3,993.77 in fees paid to ActBlue as an expense, reducing the cash-on-hand balance to $600,012.
ActBlue typically deducts a small percentage of each contribution as its fee for handling online donations.
Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, has said current law is somewhat vague on handling contributions made via the Internet, but has advised candidates to list the full amount of the donation for each individual contributor, then separately list fees paid for handling the collection as an expense.
Herron faced some criticism earlier for a news release reporting that he had collected more than $650,000 in contributions, when his actual report showed a lesser amount. Herron subsequently said the larger figure included more than $42,000 in expenditures from his state Senate campaign account that benefited his gubernatorial campaign.
Also, Herron listed some contributions in his report that were received after June 30, the cutoff date for the last disclosure filing.
Though the earlier miscues prompted speculation that Herron was trying to inflate his contribution receipts to more closely match the top Democrat in collecting donations, Mike McWherter, the senator said he was actually going “above and beyond” requirements of the law to provide as much disclosure as possible.
ActBlue’s website shows McWherter’s campaign collected just over $50,000 in online contributions for the service. His disclosure reported payment of $1,824 in fees to ActBlue.