Stewart County Republican Party Chairman Kyle Mallory says Gov. Bill Haslam’s greatest failing is that “he hasn’t cleaned house” by ridding state government of Democrats and homosexuals in key positions and by hiring a Muslim.
Mallory is one what he described as “10 or 12 Republican activists” urging county party organizations to adopt resolutions condemning Haslam and urging the Republican State Executive Committee to take some action against the governor.
His home county party has done so, including a concern over homosexuals working in the Department of Children’s Services.
At least seven other county GOP organizations have also adopted resolutions criticizing Haslam, though at least two restrict their criticism to the hiring of Samar Ali as director of international marketing with the Department of Economic and Community Development.
But Knox County Republican Chairman Ray Jenkins says he trusts the governor’s hiring decisions and that adopting resolutions of condemnation is an “overreaction” to relatively minor matters. He said no such resolution is being considered in Knox County, where Republicans “are satisfied — or proud — of the job Gov. Haslam is doing.”
State Republican Chairman Chris Devaney said the resolutions are “just a distraction” and based on “some misinformation out there.” Devaney said he has begun calling county party chairs to make sure they “are getting the right information and are focused on the election.”
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said the resolutions “basically told the governor they wanted to return to a patronage system for state employees” and left him “taken aback.”
If Haslam is sanctioned by the Republicans and not welcome in their party, Fitzhugh said, he would be welcomed by Democrats.
“I think he’s making a pretty good governor, actually,” said Fitzhugh, who has criticized Haslam on some issues in recent months.
Key criticisms of Haslam in the draft resolution, which was adopted with the same wording by the Stewart and Carroll County parties, include:
The hiring of Ali, who is described as “an expert in Shariah Compliant Finance, which is one of the many ways Islamic terrorism is funded” and as “a one-time Obama appointee” from a family with “a long history of supporting the Democratic Party.” ECD officials say Ali, who served in a White House fellowship program, has nothing to do with Shariah law or finance.
Haslam said last January that 85 percent of former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s appointees to executive service jobs — those were employees can be fired at will — have been retained. Those include some who serve as administration liaisons to the Legislature, the resolution says.
The administration has “allowed and retained openly homosexuals to make policy decisions in the Department of Children’s Services.” Mallory declined to elaborate on the statement.
Haslam has shown “non-support/lack of leadership with regards to handgun carry permit holders.”
The governor “manipulated state law in the hire of a commissioner of education (from out of state), who has been an embarrassment to our Republican Legislature.”
Haslam refused to sign a resolution criticizing United Nations Agenda 21 that was passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
The governor “lied to party leaders by stating that changes would come” in hiring and firing practices after passage of the “TEAM act,” which overhauled the state’s civil service system for state workers.
The resolution is being circulated among conservative party members around the state, though Mallory said Knox County wasn’t on the list.
Besides Stewart and Carroll, other counties adopting some form of the resolution include Humphreys, Gibson, Grundy, Obion, Williamson and White, Mallory said. In Grundy and Williamson, the resolutions were limited to criticism of the Ali appointment.
Devaney said the criticism of Ali was based on “bad information.”
“We’re talking about a lady who grew up in Waverly, Tenn. She was a member of the 4-H club in high school. She is just not an Islamic zealot,” he said.
Several other counties are apparently considering adoption of a condemnation resolution. Putnam County GOP Chairman Curtis Shinsky said “there are several versions out there” and his group plans to draft one of its own and consider it at the next party gathering on Aug. 7.
“We’re concerned with some of the people he’s bringing on board,” Shinsky said. “We have concerns, but we are going our own way and with our own verbiage.”
The Stewart County resolution says Haslam “is worse than Kent Williams,” a state representative from Elizabethton who in 2009 joined all House Democrats in voting to make himself speaker of the House. The Republican Party subsequently barred Williams from running as a Republican and he is now the Legislature’s only Independent.
Mallory said he is not calling specifically for Haslam to be ousted from the party.
“The State Executive Committee needs to prod him to clean house,” he said. “It’s up to them how to handle it.”
Haslam spokesman David Smith shrugged off the resolutions, saying a “recent poll shows that 79 percent of conservative Republicans approve of the job he’s doing.”
The governor has defended the hiring of Ali, describing her as a “highly qualified person” with a “great track record.”