Category Archives: Democrats

Harwell: DUI mistake not my fault

Responding to criticism from Democratic legislators, House Speaker Beth Harwell is defending her efforts to speed up lawmaking at the state Capitol, reports WPLN. She says spending more time on a new drunken driving measure — virtually certain now to be repealed — would not have made any difference.

Harwell says next week’s special session was not caused by Republicans rushing through the law at the end of the regular session in April. She says the new DUI law actually didn’t move all that fast, noting that 14 months lapsed from the time it was introduced to when it was passed.

“So there was sufficient time to look at this,” she says. “Attorneys reviewed it. Research analysts reviewed it. The commissioner of Transportation reviewed it, and none of them thought this was going to be in violation of federal law.”

Harwell blames federal authorities for the special session, saying they’re being inflexible.

Democratic lawmakers have frequently complained about the brisk pace of the legislative session since Harwell became speaker in 2011. And the special session has seemed like the perfect example of haste leading to a waste of tax dollars.

New group to recruit, train Democratic women as candidates

News release from Emerge Tennessee
Nashville — Emerge Tennessee, a statewide organization that will recruit and train Democratic women to run for office at all levels of government in Tennessee, launched last (week) in Nashville with trailblazers from the Volunteer State as well as a newly elected state representative from Kentucky, who in May became the first African American woman to be elected to the state legislature there since 2000.

A collection of quotes from last night’s speakers:

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan first ran for the Tennessee General Assembly in 1993 and has won all 15 times she has run for elected office since. Mayor McMillan was the first female mayor of a Tennessee city with a population greater than 100,000 and was the first, and only, woman to serve as House Majority Leader.

“What I needed was an organization just like Emerge Tennessee when I first ran for office,” she said. Continue reading

Democrats blame Harwell for DUI snafu

State House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart is blaming Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell for creating an environment that has recently put the state in jeopardy of losing $60 million in federal highway funds.

Further from The Tennessean:

“This was not an accident,” the Nashville Democrat said Wednesday. “This was the direct result of specific policies put in place by Speaker Beth Harwell.”

Stewart said Harwell, R-Nashville, is responsible for accelerating the pace of legislative sessions, placing a cap on the number of bills lawmakers can introduce and ignoring concerns about the state’s fiscal review process.

The combination of those things is what has led the state to what Stewart called a “catastrophic failure” which arose after the state approved a new DUI law.

In August, federal authorities told state officials the new law, which changed penalties for 18- to 20-year-olds found driving drunk, could result in the state losing $60 million.

Federal authorities say the state’s law is not in compliance with a federal zero tolerance law, which forces states to set 0.02 as the allowable blood-alcohol level for drivers under 21.

…A spokeswoman for Harwell did not respond to questions about Stewart’s comments, instead pointing out that the legislation in question was approved by an “overwhelming bipartisan vote.”

…Although he did not disagree with Stewart’s call for slowing the pace of the session down, (Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, chairman of the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee) took issue with the Democrats’ pointed criticism of Harwell.

“Blaming the speaker for is just playing political football,” White said.

Note: The Democrats’ press release is below. Continue reading

TN lottery jackpot winner donates to Democrats, picked as elector

Knoxvillian Roy Cockrum, recently designated as one of Tennessee’s 11 presidential electors by the state Democratic Party, has become a major donor to Democratic political causes since winning a Powerball lottery jackpot in 2014, a review of financial disclosure records indicates.

“He’s a big Hillary (Clinton) supporter,” said Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini in a telephone interview.

When he won the Powerball jackpot in June of 2014, Cockrum opted to collect the lump sum payout of $153.5 million rather than the $259.8 million payout that would have applied if spread out in annuitized payments.

In a news conference at the time, Cockrum, a 58-year-old bachelor, said he left his native Knoxville for college and after graduation spent 20 years as an actor and stage manager before taking a vow of poverty to serve in a religious order, the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, an Episcopal religious community in Massachusetts. He left the order and returned to Knoxville in 2009 to care for his aging and ill parents.
Continue reading

Shelby County Democratic Party disbanded

The Shelby County Democratic Party was forcibly disbanded Friday, punctuating years of bitter in-fighting that have recently revolved around former chairman Bryan Carson, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini said she notified SCDP chairman Michael Pope in a letter Friday that she had chosen to “de-certify” the state’s largest county party, effectively disbanding it.

“Shelby County is very valuable to the Democratic party because there are some good and active Democrats in this county,” she said. “The decision was made because the Shelby County Democratic Party was not supporting, engaging and encouraging all those good and active Democrats.”

In the letter, she said the TNDP would work with local Democrats to “determine their own needs, evaluate the effectiveness of past bylaws and leadership, elect officers and executive committee members, and enact reforms that bring in new people and build a strong grassroots organization.”

Corey Strong, a state party executive committee member representing Memphis, said a party whose main purpose was to organize support around electing Democratic candidates had been rendered ineffective by internal issues, as displayed in past elections.

Most recently, county party members have quarrelled about how to handle allegations that former chairman Carson embezzled more than $25,000 in his tenure. At the direction of Mancini, SCDP chairman Pope approved a $6,000 settlement with Carson, even though the county executive committee had already approved a resolution to file charges against Carson, leading to shouting matches at recent committee meetings.

Strong said the party was being disbanded because it wasn’t “living up to its purpose.”

“This is not about an individual,” he said. “This is about a systemic inability to meet the party’s own charter and the minimum requirements of the state party.”

He said state executive committee members from Memphis were the ones who pushed Mancini to decertify the party because they didn’t want the party to “flounder on the local level.”

Carson and his mother, Gale Jones Carson, are both members of the state executive committee.

Strong said the party would be reorganized, possibly as early as November, under the supervision of local elected Democrats. The party’s money would be moved into a trust until the party is reconstituted. A meeting with party stakeholders is scheduled in two weeks, Mancini said.

Democrats renew bashing of Haslam outsourcing

News release from Sen. Lee Harris and Rep. John Ray Clemmons
NASHVILLE, TN—Today, Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, and State Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, joined the United Campus Workers on a telephone call with statewide press to discuss the status of Gov. Bill Haslam’s plans to outsource thousands of state jobs, including facility maintenance jobs at Tennessee’s colleges and universities.

“Sen. Harris and I didn’t come to our position on this issue in blind opposition to the governor’s plan,” state Rep. Clemmons said. “After learning about his intentions through media reports, we followed up on the public’s concerns with roundtable discussions at UT Knoxville and UT Chattanooga. These were well-attended, public discussions where people who would be directly affected were overwhelmingly opposed to Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing agenda.

“This is about jobs and families, and this governor has consistently conspired to eliminate the jobs of thousands of Tennesseans. By trying to sell anything that isn’t nailed down, Haslam has negatively impacted the lives of thousands of Tennessee families. There’s no proof that government will operate more efficiently, but there is a track record of failed attempts that have cost Tennessee taxpayers millions of dollars.” Continue reading

‘I am more than Joe Armstrong’s wife’

LeTonia Hardin Armstrong was politicking Saturday, passing out a resume of her qualifications to serve in the House District 15 seat at a Democratic women’s gathering, reports Georgiana Vines. The Knox County Democratic Executive Committee meets Thursday to choose a replacement nominee for Joe Armstrong, who was convicted of filing a false federal income tax report.

“I am more than Joe Armstrong’s wife,” she said following the luncheon at the Foundry.

…(She) distributed to some Democrats and the media a copy of an email she has written to 15 members of the Knox County Democratic Party who will make the decision. Continue reading

Knox Democrats eye three for Armstrong’s seat

Three names have emerged as potential candidates to replace Rep. Joe Armstrong as the party’s House District 18 nominee on the November ballot and the Knox County Democratic Party will pick one or perhaps another person who steps forward, reports the News Sentinel.

Armstrong, who had run unopposed in his primary race last week, was convicted Monday on a felony charge of filing a false income tax return, disqualifying him from seeking re-election.

Party members Monday pointed to outgoing County Commissioner Sam McKenzie, City Councilman Dan Brown and community advocate Rick Staples, who most recently lost in the March primary to replace McKenzie, as top candidates to replace Armstrong on the ballot.

Knox County Democratic Chairman Cameron Brooks said he called an Aug. 18 meeting of the Board of Governors for 6 p.m. at the party headquarters. The 16 members who live in House District 15 will nominate and vote on the nominee, he said.

“We’ll take nominations and then go through a roll call,” he said, adding that a majority is not required and whoever received the most votes will face perennial Independent candidate Pete Drew in the general election.

A nominee must be submitted to the state by noon on Sept. 29, which is 40 days before the Nov. 8 election, according to state officials.

Democrats push change in TN voter ID law

Tennessee Democrats are calling on GOP lawmakers to revamp the state’s current photo voter-identification mandate to conform with five recent federal court decisions in other states, reports the Times Free Press.

Charging the 2011 legislation passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly is little more than a “Jim Crow law” intended to “suppress the vote,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said Tuesday federal court rulings in North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere send a message that “it’s time for Tennessee to get things right.”

In their Nashville news conference, Cooper and a group of state Democratic lawmakers also pointed to a 2014 U.S. General Accountability Office study of Tennessee and Kansas’ photo ID laws and their apparent impact on voting.

The study found that after its enactment, Tennessee voter turnout fell more steeply over a three-year period, especially among black and younger voters, than four other states that didn’t impose the tougher requirements.

Tennessee’s law requires state-issued photo ID such as a state Safety Department driver’s license or simple identification card, a state-issued handgun permit, a current U.S. passport and valid military ID.

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, who is black, said the Tennessee law’s “sole purpose is to prevent people of color and poor people and women and seniors and young people from going out and voting. And we’ve seen that most of that happened after the election of our president, President Obama.”

But state Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro quickly pushed back, citing GOP lawmakers’ main argument when passing the voter ID law: voter fraud.

“It should not be easier to board a plane, cash a check, or buy cigarettes than to vote in Tennessee,” said Ketron, who sponsored the law, in a statement. “Our right to vote is one of the most sacred symbols of our freedoms and we must protect the integrity of our elections. The National Democratic Convention has even required a picture ID to get in and vote.”

…Tennessee’s law is deemed among the nine most stringent among states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan organization for states.

TN Clinton delegate ejected for ‘assault’ on Sanders delegate

Jerry Ogle, a Hillary Clinton delegate from Monroe County, was removed from Tennessee’s delegation Tuesday morning after it was determined that he violated the party’s code of conduct agreement through inappropriate interaction with Amanda Kruel, a Bernie Sanders delegate.

Further from The Tennessean:

“Yesterday I was cheering for Bernie as many others were and there was a guy behind me who was making faces at me. There was one point where he grabbed me by the shoulder and he twisted me around and yelled in my face ‘Act like a Democrat,’ ” Kruel, who is from Knoxville, said while describing Ogle’s actions as “assault.”

Kruel said Ogle was angry because she was supporting Sanders.

“I told him don’t you care about freedom of speech — I’m just trying to be a Democrat,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “People are interrupting speeches to yell when they hear Hillary. Why is it wrong to interrupt speeches and yell when they hear Bernie?”

The incident in question occurred Monday shortly after the convention officially convened at 4:30 p.m.

After the interaction, Kruel said she reported it to Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Mary Mancini, who confirmed Ogle’s removal from the delegation. Continue reading