Category Archives: Democrats

More TN Democratic email fallout: Widow gets apology, Cohen wants firings

Longtime Knox County Democratic activist Sylvia Woods says Scott Comer, finance chief of staff for the Democratic National Committee, called her Tuesday to apologize for a “smart-aleck” comment he made about Woods’ dead husband in an email prior to a reception for outgoing DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz here in June.

Further from Georgiana Vines:

Woods said Comer, a 28-year-old Knoxvillian, contacted her after she let Ronald Allen, the DNC’s Southern regional director, know people were reaching out to her in a concerning way about the email, provided by WikiLeaks over the weekend.

Woods and her husband, Harold, long served on Knox County and state Democratic Party committees. Sylvia Woods is on the county board of governors representing a Democratic women’s club and on the state executive committee. She is attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a member of the Platform Committee as a Hillary Clinton supporter and has obtained a floor pass to sit with the Tennessee delegation, she said.

Woods was reached by the News Sentinel as she boarded a bus to travel with the delegation from its hotel site in Valley Forge, Pa., to Philadelphia. She said Comer told her he would meet her at the convention site “and hug your neck just like Tennesseans do.”

The emails regarding the Knoxville reception were written after Sylvia Woods contacted Allen on learning of the event… Allen offered Woods two tickets. Woods told him she would be unable to attend and would appreciate a ticket for (Knox County Democratic Chairman Cameron) Brooks. Woods then mentioned she was using the iPad that had belonged to her husband, who died in 2014,.

… (In an email) Allen wrote to Comer, saying, “All good now and look at my well-crafted response lol! Can the Knox county chair come in her stead?”

“Of course!” Comer answered. “Glad she’s placated and using her dead husbands (sic) iPad.”

Brooks called Comer’s comments “embarrassing and mean.”

Woods agreed.

When Comer called Woods to apologize, “I gave him the motherly lesson,” she said. “Pay attention. You can hurt someone’s feelings. What he said was so unnecessary.” Continue reading

DNC staff fretted over Sanders supporter in Knoxville event

Some of the Democratic National Committee emails revealed by Wikileaks deal with internal debate over whether to allow an East Tennessee Bernie Sanders supporter to attend a private Knoxville event in June for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, reports Georgiana Vines.

The emails show Amanda Kruel, currently a Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention, was vetted was vetted at some length prior to the DNC fundraiser. She was a Sanders field organizer at the time.

“I did not realize that and to my knowledge I was the only one vetted that way,” Kruel said in a brief telephone interview with the News Sentinel in between meetings in Philadelphia on Monday.

…At the fundraiser at the home of Leanne and Rusty Comer in Deane Hill, Kruel was with a group of demonstrators at the subdivision’s gated entrance prior to the event, for which she had paid $50 to attend. When it was time for the event, she went by car. A security person told her she couldn’t go into the gated community with Bernie Sanders materials in the car and she said she told him, “I always have Bernie stuff in my car.” She eventually was admitted.

At the fundraiser, attended by about 40 people, Kruel said she had an opportunity to talk with Wasserman Schultz and they posed for a picture together, which she had as her Facebook picture on Monday.

Kruel said she had the feeling Wasserman Schultz had been warned about who she was but the conversation was cordial.

“There wasn’t any incivility,” she said.

…The emails show that staff discussed denying Kruel admission to the Deane Hill event and refunding her money. They allowed her to attend for fear of unfavorable publicity.

The email quoted DNC chief financial officer Brad Marshall as saying, “on further thought, Kruel could turn this back on us and say she was denied attendance by the big bad establishment.”

The emails also show that the Knox County Democratic Party was not heavily involved in the event until longtime activist Sylvia Woods asked that Cameron Brooks, the county party chairman, be invited to take her place since she would be out of town.

Kruel told the Washington Examiner that knowing what she knows now, she wonders if a man in the background of the picture of her and Waserman Schultz wasn’t a security person.

“I joked after the event that he seemed to have been ‘assigned’ to me, as he was never far from me. That joke may have been a fact,” she said.

Transgender Tennessean to keep Democrats timely

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The first transgender person to be named to a Tennessee government board or commission has been named the official podium timekeeper at the Democratic National Convention.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry appointed Marisa Richmond to the Metro Human Relations Commission in May. Richmond is a Nashville resident, a professor in the history department at Middle Tennessee State University and former president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.

State Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said Monday that she was thrilled by Richmond’s selection for the timekeeping role. Mancini said Richmond has been “one of the strongest advocates for the LGBTQ community in Tennessee and across the country for many years.”

The 17-member commission in Nashville oversees the human relations department, which is tasked with resolving discrimination complaints and carrying out educational programs.

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
Philadelphia, Pa (July 25 2016) — The Chair of the State Democrats (Mary Mancini) comments on the selection of Tennessean, Marisa Richmond, as the official podium timekeeper at the Democratic National Convention.

“I am thrilled that Hillary for America and the DNC have chosen a great leader, advocate and Tennessean to be the official podium timekeeper. Marisa has been one of the strongest advocates for the LGBTQ community in Tennessee and across the country for many years. She is a shining example of what makes Tennessee and the Democratic Party the Party of the people.”

Notes on TN Democrats headed to convention (mayors prominent)

From a News Sentinel pre-convention story:

“We’re going to be the grown-ups that have a helpful and optimistic message for America, versus the slander and negative campaign that we saw this week for the Republicans,” Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Cameron Brooks said Thursday. “We are much more unified than they are right now.”

… In contrast to Trump’s acceptance speech, which portrayed a country with porous borders beset by enemies worldwide, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, a delegate for presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, said she hopes to hear language of a more palliative, uplifting nature from Democrats this week.

“We all have to tone down the rhetoric,” Rogero said. “We have to talk about issues where a nonpartisan mayor or partisan state-level and federal-level people, can work together to get the job done.”

She said she hopes to hear constructive voices.

“Try to use language that doesn’t intimidate or upset,” she said. “We should try to frame issues in a way that avoids conflict. … What’s the common goal or the common interest? … I think you can accomplish much more when you share the common language and common goals.”

… Another Clinton delegate from Knoxville, Paul Witt… compared the GOP convention to a car wreck.

“It’s been a mess, which is great,” he said. “I think our side will be more unified around (Clinton) than the Republicans will be around Trump.”

Mayors in the lead

The Tennessean observes that four Democratic mayors will be delegates to the Democratic National Convention – Rogero, Nashville’s Megan Barry, Chattanooga’s Andy Berke and Clarksville’s Kim McMillan – that this shows the prominence and importance of big city mayors in party politics now that they are in minority status. (Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is a Democrat but not attending the convention.)

Barry, who introduced presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during two Clinton campaign stops in Nashville during the primary, will be in Philadelphia for the entire four-day event. She said Clinton “gets the impact” that cities contribute to the nation’s economy and would be an ally on efforts she wants to accomplish in Nashville.

“My hope is that we’ll continue to have the same type of relationship with her that we’ve had with Obama’s administration on infrastructure and transit and other things,” said Barry, a Clinton delegate.

… As Democrats look for a candidate who can compete for an open governor’s race and U.S. Senate in 2018, eyes turn first to two men who came from the mayoral ranks – former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Berke. Dean has been open about a run and has attended speaking engagements across the state to increase his political network. Berke has said he’s focused on only being mayor for now.

Former TN operative heads Clinton defense team

A former Tennessee Democratic party staffer, Issac “Zac” Wright, is heading a small army of fact-checkers called Correct the Record that is devoted to “blasting out real-time rebuttals” that defend Hillary Clinton from Republican attacks, reports Michael Collins.

In its biggest coup, the group got its hands on an advance copy of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech and then compiled and distributed a report on what it called “Trump’s lies” — hours before the GOP nominee for president delivered the address to the convention’s delegates and the nation Thursday night.

“It’s important to stop false narratives and untrue things before they become accepted,” said Wright, the West Tennessee native who runs the pro-Clinton group, Correct the Record.

Wright, a bearded father of two who cut his teeth on political races in Tennessee and other southeastern states, has been the super PAC’s executive director since 2013.

In an era when untruths can spread with lightning speed across the globe, Correct the Record exists to provide a rapid-response defense of Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, against what it calls baseless right-wing attacks.

The group’s operations center, or “war room,” is located on the sixth floor of a modern, glass-front high-rise office building in one of Washington’s up-and-coming neighborhoods.

…Wright’s first exposure to a campaign war room was as a young staffer on then-Vice President Al Gore’s campaign for president in 2000. During political debates that year, he was given the task of making sure that rapid-response materials that needed vetting were seen by the right people before they were sent out. Once they were approved, he clicked the “send” button.

His stint with Gore’s campaign was followed by other jobs in politics and government. He worked on the congressional staff of then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Memphis, and on Ford’s unsuccessful campaign for Senate. He also served as a campaign adviser and communications director to Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and later helped Jay Nixon get elected governor of Missouri.\

During his time in Arkansas, Wright, 36, said he developed an even deeper appreciation for what Clinton accomplished during her time as the state’s first lady and in her later roles on the national stage.

Rep. Akbari gets speech slot at Democratic convention

News release from House Democratic Caucus
Nashville, TN (July 21, 2016) — Democratic State Representative Raumesh Akbari (D­-Memphis) was tapped by Hillary for America and the Democratic National Committee to speak on Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The Representative was added as a speaker today along with other notable figures such as Senator Al Franken, Governor Howard Dean, Senator Elizabeth Warren and many more.

State Democratic Party Chair and the Tennessee Delegation Chair, Mary Mancini, expressed her her delight by saying, “We are thrilled that Hillary for America and the DNC have chosen Rep. Akbari to speak at of our national convention. She is the perfect example of the future of our Party, a dedicated public servant for her constituents, and a strong advocate for smart and effective government. She will represent Tennessee well!

State Representative Akbari represents Shelby County in the 91st State House district.

The 2016 Democratic National Convention will be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia July 25th­28th, 2016.

The Democratic Convention is the formal nominating event for the Democratic candidates for President and Vice President. At the Convention, the Democratic Party also adopts the official Democratic Party platform.

Democrats call for blocking Durham pension

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — House Democrats in Tennessee are calling for a special session to expel a Republican lawmaker accused of sexually harassing at least 22 women to block him from receiving a lifetime pension.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart said Wednesday that state Rep. Jeremy Durham of Franklin will automatically qualify for a pension starting at $300 per month in November, even if he loses his primary next month.

Durham suspended his re-election campaign earlier this month after a state attorney general’s office released a report alleging that he had sexually harassed at least 22 women.

The lawmaker has said nearly all of the allegations are either false or taken out of context, but stopped short of resigning his seat. Early voting is already underway, and Durham’s name remains on the ballot.

Note: Press release below. Continue reading

Democrats question Haslam fundraiser at governor’s residence

News release from Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville
NASHVILLE – Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris and State Rep. John Ray Clemmons sent a letter to Attorney General Herbert Slatery today formally requesting his legal opinion on several issues surrounding the Governor’s planned fundraiser for Rep. Diane Black at the Executive Residence.

“In the spirit of responsibly representing Tennessee taxpayers, we are seeking answers to some serious concerns that we have about the Governor’s political activities on state property and his consistent refusal to release his schedule,” stated Rep. John Ray Clemmons. “Transparency has been an issue for this administration from day one. From Governor Haslam’s very first Executive Order that eliminated financial disclosure requirements for him and his top aides to his secretive out-sourcing scheme, he has consistently skirted the sunshine.”

“Today, we are posing some legitimate questions, such as, ‘Can the Governor host campaign fundraisers at the Executive Residence?'” stated Sen. Lee Harris. “We don’t think the Executive Residence is a place where campaign events should be held, but that is why we are seeking clarification. If President Obama used the White House to host campaign fundraisers, many on the other side of the aisle probably would be up in arms about it. This is the same thing.”

These questions come on the heels of media reports that the Governor will be hosting a campaign fundraiser at the Executive Residence for Congressman Diane Black’s re-election efforts on July 21, 2016.

A copy of the letter to General Slatery can be found here.

Shelby Democrats balk on deal with former chair

The Shelby County Democratic Party, on a 10-10 tie vote, failed to ratify chairman Michael Pope’s signing of a settlement with former chairman Bryan Carson, reports the Commercial Appeal. That may set up a vote in August to censure Pope.

The members of the party’s executive committee hotly debated parliamentary procedure for much of the raucous meeting, which lasted until late into the evening, leading some to walk out.

Del Gill, an SCDP executive committee member who was defeated by Pope in the chairmanship election June 2, circulated a resolution Thursday that said Pope overruled the committee in violation of the party’s bylaws when he signed a $6,000 settlement to resolve a dispute between the party and Carson over Carson’s handling of party finances as chairman.

The resolution wasn’t proposed at the meeting, but Gill said he’ll make the motion at the next meeting Aug. 11.

Pope said the meeting went “well,” but that the vote didn’t change the fact that the settlement is on the books and Carson has already paid the first of his $100-per-month payments.

“As far as the settlement, it’s done,” he said.

Pope was ordered to sign the settlement by state party chairwoman Mary Mancini in a June 24 letter, but didn’t receive approval from the executive committee before signing it on June 27.

At the heart of the disagreement is a committee vote early this year to offer Carson a $6,000 settlement, although the settlement wasn’t agreed to then. The committee voted 14-7 on June 2 to approve a resolution accusing Carson of embezzling $25,000 or more and endorsing criminal charges. Gill then filed charges with Memphis police against Carson.

Gill’s resolution argues Pope didn’t have the authority to settle without another vote by the executive committee, and calls for him to sign the resolution censoring him or face “disciplinary considerations.”

In a letter to the executive committee Wednesday, Rep. Joe Towns Jr., on behalf of the committee he chairs in the Shelby County Democratic Legislative Caucus, said the settlement is “legally binding” and “must be adhered to in order to prevent additional negative attention and financial exposure to the local party.” Towns did not immediately respond to a phone call Thursday.

Mancini orders Shelby Democrats to settle with former chair

From the Commercial Appeal:
Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini issued an ultimatum Friday to the Shelby County Democratic Party: Forget bringing criminal charges against former chairman Bryan Carson and agree to a settlement with him — or else.

At Mancini’s direction, SCDP chairman Michael Pope then signed a $6,000 settlement with Carson, who was accused by the SCDP executive committee in a June 2 resolution of embezzling more than $25,000. Carson said Tuesday he already made his first $100 payment.

“Hopefully this directive will settle everything,” said Carson, who denies the accusations but acknowledges he should have kept better records of expenses. He said the embezzling accusations were the result of “malicious underlings” within the party.

But signing the settlement was a controversial move that will likely be opposed at the SCDP executive committee meeting July 7, although whether the committee can nullify the settlement is a disputed point between the party’s factions.

“They don’t have the authority to do that,” Del Gill, an executive committee member who supports legal action, said of Mancini’s directive.

“So, she can go to hell,” he added.

In her letter, Mancini said the party’s bylaws and state law gave her authority to issue the ultimatum, but she didn’t cite specific provisions.

Mancini wrote that pursuing criminal charges would send the party “down a path of further deterioration” at a time of internal “dysfunction” and following a $10,000 penalty June 8 for a late campaign finance filing. She also implied the state party could take action if a settlement wasn’t signed by July 1.

…Gill said he filed a criminal complaint with the Memphis Police Department on June 16, and doesn’t plan to drop the complaint — whatever Mancini says. The investigation is still in its infancy, he added.

…”They’re playing with pure fire, and it won’t work,” he said. “She’s not going to win.”