Category Archives: legislative campaigns

On Coleman vs. Dickerson in Senate District 20

Excerpt from Nashville Public Radio’s review of the state Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson and Democratic nominee Erin Coleman:

Democrats have high hopes for Coleman. She’s a young mother and a business owner, a lawyer and an Army veteran — the sort of person who might appeal to voters in a Nashville district that’s generally suburban and right-of-center.

“We really feel like we’re headed in the right direction,” she tells one young man, “and people are starting to listen and recognize that there’s an election happening.”

“I also feel like a lot of Republicans are going to stay home,” he says.

“From your lips to God’s ears,” Coleman replies.

He means that Republicans are going to stay home because of Donald Trump. Continue reading

Five legislators hosted on seaside trip by voucher advocate

Five Republican state legislators were hosted on a three-day trip to the Alabama Gulf coast in 2014 by Mike Gill, a board director of Tennessee Federation for Children, a group that actively pushes school voucher legislation and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legislative campaigns through its political action committee, according to The Tennessean.

Reps. Andy Holt, Mike Carter, Billy Spivey and recently ousted lawmaker Jeremy Durham stayed at Gill’s condo and left one morning for a half-day deep sea fishing trip paid for by Gill. They didn’t catch many fish, but the captain showed them how to filet the ones they did. Rep. Jimmy Matlock also made the trip but went to the beach instead of fishing because he gets seasick.

The group traveled to Gill’s Gulf Shores condo and ate seafood at local restaurants on their own dime. They discussed policy, but some say there was a rule not to do so when Gill was around.

Carter, who bunked on a couch in the condo for the three-day trip, thought he might have to take a quiz after watching the movie. He described the weekend as “intense training in integrity” involving “an odd duck.”

(Note: The referenced movie was “A Man for All Seasons,” a 1966 film on the final years of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Lord Chancellor of England who clashed with King Henry VIII on religious principles and was beheaded. The men watched the movie one night, then discussed it at length.)
Continue reading

Democrat gets Berke’s backing in Senate District 10 (but not former foe’s)

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is now backing Khristy Wilkinson, the Democratic nominee against Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire, though she defeated a top Berke aide that the mayor strongly backed in the primary, according to an Andy Sher look at the Senate District 10 campaign.

On the other hand, the top aide she defeated in August, Nick Wilkinson (no relation)), has not offered any help, says according to Khristy Wilkinson.

“Mayor Berke has helped me and he continues to help me,” Wilkinson said last week in an interview during a trip to Nashville, where she met with several Senate Democrats and potential contributors.

…(Berke) “gives me advice whenever I call, and he’s made contributions to my campaign. And he has asked folks who support him to support me.” Wilkinson said she has been “well received by members of the city council and people who work in City Hall and things like that. [Berke’s] using his voice to help me as much as he can now that he is, of course, running his own reelection campaign” for mayor.

…During the primary, Berke gave whole-hearted support to Nick Wilkinson, his deputy for economic development. The mayor, who held the Senate seat from 2007 to November 2012, personally contributed $1,000 to his aide, while a leadership political action committee that Berke created during his Senate tenure, gave another $11,000, according to disclosures filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.

…But Khristy Wilkinson, the former philosophy professor and mother of two who supported Bernie Sanders in this year’s Democratic presidential primaries, pulled off an upset on a shoe-string budget in Democrats’ primary.

.…In response to a question about whether her former opponent, Nick Wilkinson, is helping her in her effort against Gardenhire, Khristy Wilkinson said he wasn’t. Asked whether she had requested help from him, she smiled and said, “I would if he returned my phone calls.”

…Gardenhire, who is seeking his second Senate Term, said that after having had no opponent in his August GOP primary, he’s not taking anything for granted in the general election with Wilkinson.

“The thing that worries me the most is she’s a hard worker,” he said. “She’s an intelligent person.”

However, he said he’s heard from a number of his supporters that he has “no problem.”

“That’s the worst thing I could hear,” the senator said, worrying backers could be over confident, with Republicans not showing up on Nov. 8.

House candidate ‘likes’ explicit tweets, blames automated program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Republican candidate for the state House says an automated program is to blame for his campaign Twitter account “liking” several explicit tweets.

WSMV-TV reports that Nathan Massey’s campaign said the program had been set up to automatically like posts coming from areas in House District 50 in Nashville, including from the Madison community.

The racy tweets liked by Massey’s Twitter account included the hashtag “Madison.” (The station says they included images of naked women and sexually-suggestive language.)

Campaign spokesman Chase Geiser said the program aimed at enhancing social media exposure “picked up some unintended content.” The Massey campaign has stopped using the program.

After a WSMV reporter called to discuss the tweets with Massey campaign, she was blocked from viewing the account.

Massey is challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Bo Mitchell.

Knox commission won’t name interim Armstrong successor

Knox County commissioners have decided not to appoint anyone to temporarily replace Rep. Joe Armstrong in House District 15, reports Georgiana Vines.

“We’re close to November, you allow the constituents then to say who they would want for the seat,” said Commissioner Evelyn Gill, who represents the commission’s 1st District. “If the time frame had been extended, you could’ve had an appropriate appointment. But really, it is 25 days. I looked at my calendar.”

Gill’s commission district overlaps with the state’s 15th House District that Armstrong had represented for many years before recently announcing his retirement after an August felony conviction.

…In a special called meeting, the county’s Democratic Party nominated Rick Staples. He faces Independent candidate Pete Drew on the official Election Day ballot on Nov. 8. Rhonda Gallman has launched a grassroots and online campaign as a write-in candidate for the seat, which covers much of East Knoxville. The district is a Democratic stronghold in an otherwise Republican county.

Rep. Rogers draws write-in opponent over Durham vote

A Hendersonville woman dissatisfied with state Rep. Courtney Rogers’ vote against expelling fellow lawmaker Jeremy Durham has formally filed as a write-in candidate against Rogers, reports The Tennessean.

Sibyl Reagan, co-founder of Sumner County’s grassroots group Strong Schools, filed a Certificate of Write-In Candidacy on Thursday with the Sumner County Election Office.

First elected in 2012, Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, is seeking her third term in the legislature representing the 45th House district. She defeated Sumner County School Board Chairman Beth Cox in the Republican primary in August and is running unopposed in the general election.

“Right now the voters of the 45th District have one option and I wasn’t happy with that option in light of the vote that happened Tuesday,” said Reagan.

Rogers was one of two legislators to cast dissenting votes in a bid to expel Durham in the wake of an Attorney General’s report where 22 women accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, also represents part of Sumner County and voted along with Rogers.

Registry board votes to review activities of Stand for Children PAC

The Registry of Election Finance board has taken the first step toward a hearing on allegations against the Stand for Children political action committee and several Nashville school board candidates it supported violated campaign finance laws, reports The Tennessean.

A complaint against the PAC was filed by Tennessee Citizens Action, which bills itself as promoting consumer rights and civic action.The complaint contends Stand for Children illegally coordinated its activities with several pro-charter school candidates during the election.

“My gut feeling is there is enough smoke to open up and look at it,” said Tom Lawless, chairman of the registry board. He added: “If they violated (the law), we need to be consistent. We don’t have to be punitive, we can be constructive.”

The complaint was filed Aug. 4, a day before Nashville’s school board elections, and cites a story by The Tennessean that details emails sent by the head of a prominent Nashville nonprofit that appear to show she coordinated with Stand for Children to find campaign workers for the four school board candidates.

It also cites a July 29 WSMV report that says Stand for Children Director Daniel O’Donnell met with candidate Thom Druffel during a 10-day mandatory blackout period before the election. Stand’s attorney said O’Donnell took a day off from work that day and was not in violation of the law.

Stephen Zralek, an attorney with Nashville law firm Bone McAllester Norton PLLC who represents Stand for Children, said the organization takes election ethics issues seriously and consistently follows the law.

“The Registry’s order is standard procedure whenever a complaint is filed. We look forward to answering the Registry’s questions and providing an accurate account of the facts,” he said in a Wednesday email.

Gerard Stranch, the attorney who filed the complaint, told the registry he thought it was clear that there was evidence Stand for Children exceeded campaign contribution limits by coordinating with candidates, and violated laws banning donations by a PAC within a “blackout period” in the days immediately leading up to the election.

Write-in candidate files in House District 15

Rhonda Lynnese Gallman, who is known as “Mousie” and often demonstrates on behalf of justice and unity on Knoxville’s Martin Luther King Avenue, has qualified as a write-in candidate in House District 15, reports Georgiana Vines.

On the certificate she signed requesting that her ballots be counted, Gallman said she was running in a Democratic primary and a general election. Cliff Rodgers, Knox County elections administrator, said it is “fine” for her to do that, since she apparently identifies with the Democratic Party, but this is not a primary election and only a general election.

The ballot will list Rick Staples, whom the Knox County Democratic Party chose as its candidate after a felony conviction disqualified incumbent state Rep. Joe Armstrong from running, and Independent Pete Drew.

Armstrong was found guilty by a federal jury of filing a fraudulent income tax return on Aug. 8. His attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, has asked a judge to either throw out the conviction or grant him a new trial.

Armstrong said Friday he had filed retirement papers on Thursday, his anniversary date from when first elected in 1988, with his retirement becoming effective the same day as the special legislative session that begins Monday to resolve an issue on federal funds that are jeopardized.

Terry makes challenger tweets an issue in House District 48

There’s a social media battle underway in the campaign for House District 48, reports the Murfreesboro Post. Republican Rep. Bryan Terry is criticizing Democratic challenger Justin Miller for old tweets and Miller calling for Terry to stay above board and debate him publicly.

Terry, 47, an anesthesiologist in his first two-year term, recently wrote a post on his website contending Miller, in a tweet, proclaimed he “has watched enough ‘House’ reruns to be a real pain to the next doctor he sees” and accuses him of joking about “serious, life-threatening medical conditions.”

Terry also says Miller is similar to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in that he “deletes data and information that could be detrimental to his campaign and tried to hide it from voters.”

The incumbent argues that while he can run on his voting record, his opponent just registered this year to vote and contends his series of statements reveals the type of representation he could bring.

“Whether he was joking or immature, it is his record, and I’m not sure anyone holding public office would have that record,” Terry says via email.

In response, Miller sent out a statement saying he refuses to get personal in his campaign and challenges Terry to join him in four debates. Continue reading

Durham invested campaign funds with political donor

A state campaign finance audit shows Rep. Jeremy Durham invested money from his campaign, his political action committee and his personal bank accounts into the company of well-known Republican donor and activist Andrew Miller, reports the Tennessean.

Miller, who was scrutinized in 2014 after another GOP lawmaker invested money in his company, confirmed Monday he’s been contacted by the state about Durham’s investment.

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, an entity within the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, is investigating whether Durham, R-Franklin, used his campaign funds for personal use or anything else that would be deemed a violation of state law.

“Yes, the state did contact me for clarification on an investment Jeremy’s campaign made. I have provided them that information and they seemed satisfied with our response,” Miller said in an email to The Tennessean.

On Monday, Drew Rawlins, executive director of the bureau, confirmed Miller’s company had provided information. Rawlins said Miller provided details about the amount of money Durham had invested in the company, along with the payouts Durham received from those investments.

Tennessee law states candidates can’t use campaign funds for personal purposes.

…When asked Monday if the information pertaining to these investments showed any illegal activity by Durham, Rawlins said, “We are still looking at it, so I can’t really say yet.”

On Monday, Nashville defense attorney Peter Strianse confirmed he is representing Durham in relation to an investigation by local U.S. Attorney David Rivera into Durham’s use of campaign finances and a possible tax violation. Durham has received two subpoenas, Strianse said. Late Monday, Miller said he has not been contacted pertaining to the federal investigation.