Matheny speech on TNGOP ‘crisis’ spurned

The Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee took a vote Saturday on whether to let state Rep. Judd Matheny address the body on his belief the party faces a “crisis,” in part over leadership ties to a consulting firm that helped challengers attack him and other incumbents in this year’s primary elections.

The result, according to The Tennessean: 24 voted to let Matheny talk; 35 voted no.

In recent months, Matheny has taken issue with the fact that Southland Advantage – a company founded by Taylor Ferrell, who is the wife of the party’s political director, Walker Ferrell – was once hired by candidates running against Matheny, Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, and U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais.

All three lawmakers beat their challengers in the state’s Aug. 4 primary election.

Several party members, including Wilson County Republicans, have called for the firing of Walker Ferrell, as well as party chairman Ryan Haynes and Brent Leatherwood, the state party’s executive director, arguing that they have condoned activity that undermines the work of incumbent Republicans.

…Matheny later told The Tennessean that he hoped to provide SEC members with a packet of information that included a two-page speech, his April letter and other notes about Southland Advantage’s involvement in primary election races.

…“We are here today because we know and the public knows that our party is in crisis,” Matheny wrote in his prepared remarks. “We are at a point where we have to make a choice. We either work to restore our party to one that conducts its business with integrity and based on principles, or we stand by and watch it decline into Obama-like lawlessness.”

… Matheny said the party cannot continue to “buddy up with people of questionable ethical behavior who for their own personal benefit and ambition are willing to lie, cheat and bend the rules until they become unrecognizable.”

Haynes has previously said that no party staff members have been involved in any Republican primaries. In an email sent to SEC members in May, Haynes said the party has a long-standing policy of staying out of primary elections but the bylaws do not prevent “vendors or spouses of staffers from engaging in primaries.”

…Matheny also said Haynes originally told him he could address the SEC but was removed from the agenda during a last minute administrative meeting held Friday night.

Haynes confirmed that the party’s administrative committee voted against Matheny speaking but added that he supported the lawmaker.

“I think it would’ve been in the best interest of the party to allow him to have an opportunity to speak,” he said, adding that he and Matheny disagree on the facts.

Matheny said Haynes has been “very disingenuous” with him, adding that the chairman told him Saturday morning that he would “lobby” for the lawmaker to address the audience. Matheny also said he would only talk to Haynes via email or in public because “I can’t trust him.”

Haynes said he was sorry Matheny felt that way about him and that he believes the lawmaker is “an outstanding conservative legislator.”