Category Archives: Governor campaign

Karl Dean takes statewide tour with eye toward run for governor

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is traveling the state with an eye toward running for statewide political office, reports The Tennessean. Dean is most widely seen as a prospective candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018.

He was in Chattanooga and Memphis last week to talk to leaders in both cities and has other stops planned. (Note: He has a stop scheduled June 10 in Oak Ridge; a press release HERE.)

In an interview with The Tennessean, Dean characterized these trips — and visits to other cities on the horizon — as educational and part of the process to determine whether to run for office in 2018 when two statewide seats are up for grabs.

He declined to say specifically whom he met with in Chattanooga and Memphis, calling them a “broad range of people.”

“I think for this calendar year, it’s a time for me to see whether I have something to contribute,” Dean said of a possible run for state higher office. “It’s an opportunity for me to learn more about the state and it’s also an opportunity, frankly, to see whether something like that is doable.That’s really all I’m doing.

“Going through an exercise of thinking about this is a wonderful way to get educated about different issues that face the state,” he said. “People look at things differently in different parts of the state. And there are different issues that certainly confront different parts of the state. Then you’ve got to figure out whether it’s a realistic thing to do or whether it’s the right thing or right timing for my family and myself.”

Dean, whose two terms as Nashville mayor concluded in September, is more frequently discussed as a possible Democratic candidate in 2018 in what will be an open governor’s race to replace Bill Haslam. In addition U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee — who has received recent speculation as a possible running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — will be up for re-election the same year.

Dean said he wouldn’t make a decision on his plans until sometime next year.

…Dean could be in position to self-finance at least a portion of a future campaign, having dropped more than $1 million of personal funds into his first mayoral campaign in 2007.

“That’s not something I’ve made any decisions about,” Dean said when asked about the use of personal funds in a possible campaign. “I can tell you that it will cost a lot to run for governor and have a serious campaign, and, obviously, I think you would need to raise a lot of money.”

Following his time in the mayor’s office, Dean has spent the past eight months teaching at Belmont University and Boston University, as well as chairing a new education nonprofit called Project Renaissance.

Black-Green-Carr spat cancels county GOP fundraiser

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Reagan Day fundraisers have been a staple of GOP politics ever since the Great Communicator made a point of promoting the 11th Commandment — thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But in the conservative suburbs east of Nashville, the event has become too poisonous to be held this year.

According to party emails obtained by The Associated Press, three leading Tennessee Republicans refused to speak at the June fundraiser if their rivals were given the same opportunity, forcing the Wilson County Republicans to call off the event altogether.

The flap suggests just how fractured the GOP has become this election year, as Donald Trump and tea party supporters continue shaking up what’s left of the Republican establishment. It also suggests what hardball tactics may come in the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in 2018.

The head of the county party has no comment on why the party canceled the event. But a flurry of correspondence obtained by the AP suggests that organizers couldn’t get the three candidates to share a stage.

The event was to be held on June 7 in the district of U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who faces a tea-party rival, former state Rep. Joe Carr, in Tennessee’s congressional primary this August. Black also is a top contender for governor, and will likely face state Sen. Mark Green, an Army veteran who has been speaking at other Reagan Day events around the state.
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Williamson County businessman eyes run for governor in 2018

Williamson County businessman Bill Lee says he is considering a Republican run for governor of Tennessee in 2018 and is ready to self-finance if he does enter the race, according to The Tennessean.

Lee in February stepped down as CEO of the the Lee Company, a Franklin-based home service and facilities solutions company founded by his grandfather.

“I’m definitely exploring the possibility of it,” the 56-year-old Lee said. “That’s as far as I’ve gotten.”

Lee, a Franklin native and Republican donor who resides with his family on a farm in Williamson County, said he would likely have a decision by early next year, which will be after the upcoming presidential election.

“I’m not a politician, and I haven’t been,” he said. “I’ve lived my life completely in the private sector. And so, honestly, a part of what I’m doing is learning about the Republican Party in Tennessee by traveling around and talking to community leaders and grassroots folks, and really learning where I do fit in the Republican Party.

“My family has lived in Tennessee for seven generations. I love this state and the people here, so I’m trying to find out just what the people think about what’s most needed.”

…Others considered possible Republican candidates for governor include U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.; U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd; state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville; former ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty; House Speaker Beth Harwell; and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

…Lee Company, founded in 1944, has annual revenue of $160 million, according to the company’s website.

Asked about his ability to self-finance part of his campaign, Lee said, “If I decided to do this — and that’s a big if — I would certainly be willing to invest in my campaign, just like I would be asking other people to invest in it. Ultimately, I can’t do this on my own.”

Harwell on Durham: No impact on 2018 run for governor

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — House Speaker Beth Harwell said Tuesday that the scandal surrounding a Republican lawmaker who has gone on hiatus amid sexual harassment allegations shouldn’t damage her prospects as a serious gubernatorial candidate in Tennessee.

The Nashville Republican emphasized to reporters after a speech to the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business that she has not yet made up her mind about a run for governor in 2018.

“I’m looking at it; I think a number of good people are,” she said. “I’m looking at it, but it’s a little early to decide right now.”

Harwell said she has been working toward a “cultural change” at the state Capitol after allegations of inappropriate behavior by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, toward women at the Legislature.
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ECD undertakes $250K study of rural broadband

Without taking a position, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has cautiously entered a hotly contested dispute over the appropriate governmental role in providing broadband Internet connections to rural areas of Tennessee.

Randy Boyd, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the state has contracted with two companies to “define the problem” of getting broadband access to rural areas, believing that it is crucial to expanding jobs and future development opportunities.

With the studies, Boyd said in an interview, “We are not going to propose a solution.” But he said that, as some point, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Haslam administration may “take some leadership in developing the solution.” The solution is currently subject to a multifaceted dispute.
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Freeman joins list of Democrats not ruling out a 2018 run for governor

Millionaire businessman Bill Freeman, a Democrat who finished third in this year’s Nashville mayoral race, responds in The Tennessean to a Times-Free Press article quoting one of Frieman’s friends as saying he’s taking a “long, hard look” at running for governor in 2018.

“I don’t want to rule anything out or anything in, but that’s not anything I’m working on at the moment,” he said, adding: “I’m hoping we find some great candidates, and I’m concerned about some of the candidates on the other side, and I think it’s important that a good Democrat step up. And I think we’ve got several looking, and I hope I can find one that I can get behind.”

Among those considering a run for governor as a Democrat in 2018 — or perhaps for the U.S. Senate during the same election cycle — is former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who recently told The Tennessean that he’s interested but is a long way from making a decision. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke also has been floated as a possible Democratic contender for governor, although he told the Free Press in August he’s still solely focused on his current job.

A longer list of Republicans has been bandied around as possible 2018 gubernatorial candidates.

Black goes politicking in Knoxville

Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, widely believed to be eyeing a run for governor in 2018, joined a roomful of Knoxville-area politicians to “press the flesh” at Vol Market #3, and would neither confirm or deny such an interest when asked, reports the News Sentinel.

Black said Friday she was only in town to see her grandson play in the University of Tennessee Pride of The Southland Marching Band during the football game against South Carolina on Saturday.

…When asked if her visit might be an early campaign stop with an eye toward the 2018 gubernatorial race, Black said: “I’m just here to see my good friend Tim Burchett right now. He asked some of his friends to come by, and I’m enjoying meeting them.”

The two previously served in the Tennessee General Assembly together… Among some of the gathered were Knox County Commissioners Randy Smith and Jeff Ownby, Trustee Ed Shouse, plenty of people running for local office, and one notable visitor from Nashville — Tom Ingram.

Ingram has been an adviser for Haslam’s campaigns, a former chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander and recently backed Jeb Bush’s effort to win the GOP presidential nomination in Tennessee.

Black, meanwhile, is on the shortlist of Republicans who have been considered in some statewide political circles to be among those seeking the 2018 gubernatorial bid.But on Friday she was just in town to meet some of Burchett’s friends, she maintained, and to watch her grandson play in the band.

Burchett, for his part, addressed the very rally-like lunch at Vol Market #3 more directly.

“We’re political animals here,” he said. “Everybody knows the game.”

…“Anyone can raise a potful of money, but if they want to talk to voters, then that’s my base,” he said, listing off the gathered. “You got preachers and firemen and business people, and even Tom Ingram showed up.”

When asked whether he thought Black was seeking another elected office, Burchett speculated a little.

“She’s made a name for herself,” he said. “She’s fiscally conservative and she’s well-spoken. We could be well-served by some like her, whatever she decides … I don’t know, she’s probably just testing the waters.”

Note: Last month, Black was speaking to Republicans in Sullivan County. Previous post, HERE.

Haslam backs Vitter in Louisiana governor’s race

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Gov. Bill Haslam has endorsed U.S. Sen. David Vitter for governor of Louisiana after he finished ahead of two Republican rivals in Saturday voting despite a combative campaign that included explicit references to his 2007 prostitution scandal. Vitter now goes into a runoff election next month against Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards.

From a Politico story on the Louisiana gubernatorial campaign:

Among those Edwards still needs to convince of his viability is the Democratic Governors’ Association, which has yet to spend money on television ads in the contest and isn’t committing to do so during the run-off. The DGA is sending Scott Arcenaux, a Louisiana native who was previously executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, to assist Edwards’ campaign.

“John Bel Edwards has proudly served our nation and the state of Louisiana with integrity,” DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson said, adding: “The primary results were a clear repudiation of David Vitter’s tired Washington politics. Louisiana voters know that they just can’t trust David Vitter. That’s why more than 70 percent of them rejected his campaign today.”

…Polls have shown Vitter’s image rating tanking among the state’s voters, compared to the popular Edwards. But while Vitter had focused his primary campaign on his GOP rivals, the Republican Governors Association revved up its attacks on Edwards, spending $1 million in the final weeks on TV ads that call Edwards an “Obama liberal” and features audio of Edwards saying “I supported the president” four different times.

The RGA formally endorsed Vitter on Saturday night.

“As a dedicated leader for Louisiana, David Vitter has been committed to making government work better for the people by cutting wasteful spending and fighting back against President Obama’s executive overreach,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the RGA chairman, said in a statement. “His record of reform shows that he knows what it takes to solve Louisiana’s most pressing issues.”

Edwards’ ads rarely mention his party affiliation and instead emphasize his most conservative policy positions. One ad features Edwards and his wife discussing their decision to keep her pregnancy after a diagnosis of spinal bfida in the womb. Their daughter, Samantha, is now in graduate school and engaged, the ad says.

Black talks Boehner in Sullivan County

U.S. Rep. Diane Black. reported to be eyeing a 2018 run for governor, was keynote speaker at the Sullivan County GOP Reagan Day Dinner Friday night, reports the Kingsport Times-News in a story focused on her comments about House Speaker John Boehner.

“There obviously have been difficult times for us and our conference … where we don’t all agree,” Black, a Gallatin Republican, explained. “And yet, I want to tell you that even though I disagree so many times with the way the speaker does things, he is a good man with a good heart. I saw that pain in him (Friday) when he made that announcement … He really felt like for the good of our conference and the good of the country, he would resign.”

No one saw Boehner’s move coming, Black pointed out.

“Even Kevin McCarthy (the Republican majority leader) did not know he would do this,” she continued. ” … We did find out he planned on doing this on November 17, which is his birthday and by the end of the year, he was going to leave … (but) he wanted us to be together.”

Black honored Boehner by noting he ended Congressional earmarks adding to the federal budget, and keeping it from growing.

“We’ve actually reduced the budget for four years in a row,” she claimed. ” … That doesn’t get talked about that much, but that is so important for the future of this country.”

…After her remarks, Black was joined onstage by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe for audience questions and the first one was: Who will succeed Boehner?

“I think it’s too soon to say who that person will be,” Black responded.

But Roe, R-Tenn., said McCarthy, a California Republican, will be Boehner’s successor.

“It takes 123 (votes) to get there,” Roe said of how many House GOP votes it takes to elect the next speaker. “But who will be the new (majority) leader? I think that’s what will happen. I may be wrong … (Wisconsin Republican and former Vice President candidate) Paul Ryan said he’s not interested and wants to stay (as chairman of the House) Ways and Means (Committee), but statistically the leader has a huge edge (in being House speaker).”

Berke downplays notion of running for governor

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tells the Times-Free Press he’s really focused on his current job and has no plans to run for governor in 2018, as recently suggested by the state Senate’s top two Democrats.

“It’s always very flattering when someone says a nice thing about you. That being said, I wake up every day to better help the people of Chattanooga,” Berke said.

He said he’s got no exploratory committee or plans for the governor’s seat — and he’s not even preparing yet for a second term as mayor. His term ends in 2017.

“I’m just trying to do the job that I was elected to do for Chattanooga,” he said.

Berke’s local campaign finance records show he hasn’t raised any money from January 2014 to July 15 this year. But he has spent $43,200 with Global Strategy Group, a New York-based polling, marketing and public relations firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Hartford, Conn., Denver and Los Angeles.

Berke said his “campaign conducts various activities” but did not divulge what services the payments bought.

…Vanderbilt political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer says there’s merit in what Yarbro and Harris suggest.

Recent history shows successful metro mayors in Tennessee have been the picks for the governor’s mansion and have won statewide races.

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen was mayor of Nashville before taking the state’s top seat. And Republican Gov. Bill Haslam was previously mayor of Knoxville. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, served as Chattanooga’s mayor before he was elected to the Senate.

“It’s been the road to political success in this state for the past couple of years. It’s certainly been the stepping-stone to being elected statewide,” Oppenheimer said.

…And, if Republicans select an ultraconservative candidate for the governor’s mansion, moderates and swing voters may go for a Democrat in the general election.

Also, Republicans and Democrats have traded the job in two-term stints since former Republican Gov. Lamar Alexander held the post from 1979 to 1987. Alexander is now Tennessee’s senior U.S. senator. Democrat Ned McWherter held the job for two terms after him, followed by two-term Republican Gov. Don Sundquist. Bredesen and Haslam followed.