Category Archives: local campaigns

Candidate lied about having a UT degree?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — University of Tennessee officials say a candidate for Knox County property assessor knew his transcript did not exist.

University spokeswoman Karen Simsen tells The Knoxville News-Sentinel ( that despite the fact that Andrew Graybeal on Monday at a Halls Republican Club meeting held up what he said was a confirmation letter that he had ordered his transcript, Graybeal had already been notified online four days prior that the request transcript did not exist.

Graybeal’s attorney, Keith Stewart, says his client never received an email notifying him that the university couldn’t complete his transcript order.

Graybeal has said he transferred to the University of Tennessee and then graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s of applied sciences in electronics engineering technology degree.

University officials say they have no record that Graybeal ever was enrolled at the school.

Memphis PAC dodges donor disclosure until after election

A group of well-known Memphis businessmen was behind a political action committee that opposed former mayor A C Wharton’s reelection last year, according to the PAC’s financial disclosure Thursday and reviewed by the Commercial Appeal.

Neighborhood Alliance PAC includes several supporters of Mayor Jim Strickland, including developer and Shelby County Schools board member Billy Orgel, Paul Boyle and Mark Halperin of real estate firm Boyle Investment Company, and HealthChoice CEO Mitch Graves.

Strickland said Friday that he didn’t know, and the “chances are zero” that his campaign staff knew, who was funding Neighborhood Alliance.

Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said the group passed their donations through another PAC, which avoided having to disclose the donations until after the Oct. 8 election.

The PAC received all of its $113,000 in donations in September from another PAC, Conservatives for Effective Government, according to disclosures filed before the election. Conservatives for Effective Government received $132,500 in September from six people and one company, all from Memphis.

That doesn’t violate any election rules, although Libowitz said the approach put up a “roadblock to transparency.”

GOP credentials of sheriff candidate questioned

A Republican candidate in next year’s race for Monroe County sheriff has been informed by state GOP leaders that he must prove his party bona fides or face removal from the ballot, reports the News Sentinel.

Bryan Graves served as chief deputy to former Democratic Sheriff Bill Bivens, who lost the 2014 election to Republican Randy White. Bivens challenged the election and White was forced to step down following a trial that ruled he was not qualified to serve as sheriff.

In an email Saturday to Graves, Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the state Republican Party, said multiple Monroe County Republicans have challenged Graves’ status to run based on his voting record in Republican primaries.

“I have the unfortunate responsibility of informing you we have received a challenge to your bona fide status as a Republican. This means your standing as a Republican has been challenged in order to remove your name from the ballot,” Leatherwood wrote in an email.

Knoxville’s Ryan Haynes, state chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, will render his decision prior to the state’s Thursday deadline, Leatherwood’s email states.

The message instructs Graves to take the next few days to gather evidence that would prove his Republican bona fide status and to forward that information to Haynes by noon Wednesday.

“You may use your voting record if it shows you have voted in 2 of the most recent 4 Republican primaries or you may get letters of recommendation from Republican elected officials to vouch for you to the State Chairman,” Leatherwood wrote in the email.

Graves, who was reached by phone while out of state on a National Guard training assignment, said the challenge stems from the fact that he worked for and supported Democrat Bivens during the 2006, 2010 and 2014 elections.

“I am entirely qualified for the office of sheriff and this has nothing to do with me not meeting requirements of the state I am perfectly vetted,” he said.

Graves said he always voted Republican prior to working with Bivens and has been active in Republican events for most of the past year. He also said the bylaws of the state GOP do not state a specific period of time that he must be active in the party.

Total Nashville mayor’s race spending: $16.8M

A total of almost $17 million was spent in the recently-completed Nashville mayoral race, according to a review of final disclosures by the Tennessean. Almost half the money was from the wealthy candidates themselves.

Final campaign finance numbers from Nashville’s 2015 mayor’s race — won in September by Megan Barry — are now clear after the release this month of third quarter financial disclosures from all seven candidates and two Super PACs that were active in the race.

Candidates and Super PACs accounted for $16,820,277 in spending — a figure that crushed spending from Nashville’s last open mayor’s race in 2007, as well as this month’s mayoral election in Memphis won by Jim Strickland. The majority of overall spending, which covers activity in both the general and runoff elections, went toward television advertising.

Bill Freeman’s mayoral campaign spent $5,056,479 over the entire mayoral race, by far the most of any candidate… Freeman, a wealthy real estate executive and Democratic fundraiser who finished a close third behind Barry and David Fox in the August election, put in $3,828,899 in personal money toward his campaign overall, also the most among any candidates.

Candidates cumulatively pumped in $8,229,556 in personal self-funding in this year’s mayoral race, according to a tally of all financial reports…Nashville’s mayoral race attracted $7,725,395 in contributions from individual donors. In comparison the recently concluded mayor’s race in Memphis generated more than $1,700,000 in campaign fundraising — although that number will rise after candidates there submit one more round of campaign finance disclosures.

Postmortem reports on the demise of A C Wharton as Memphis mayor

From the CA’s Kyle Veazey, under the headline ‘In humiliating loss, Wharton only has self to blame’:

A C Wharton’s long-successful electoral career came to a humiliating end Thursday night, the victim of fumbles and too little follow-through, of half-measures and hubris, to a candidate who connected with an undercurrent he couldn’t touch.

This didn’t happen overnight.

No, don’t blame this loss on the Deidre Malone contract. Don’t hang it on the Robert Lipscomb scandal. The past couple of months weren’t kind to the veteran mayor, but it’s not as though the past few years were, either.

The city benefit cuts were one thing, but the execution of them kept them alive, made people angrier. The animal shelter. The so-so economy. Potholes and problems, over and over.

And everyone’s seen the cranes in Nashville, seen the resurgence so many other cities are enjoying, and wondering why they weren’t seeing enough of it here.

Memphians wanted change, and in Jim Strickland, they got a candidate — and a campaign — that spoke to that desire. When the city’s political establishment — and a good chunk of its business establishment — rallied around the incumbent, Strickland found a connection to voters that the establishment didn’t grasp.

Excerpt from Jackson Baker’s election report:

Make no mistake: This was as much a Strickland victory as a Wharton loss. When Strickland, just before his celebration party at the Botanic Gardens was breaking up, said matter-of-factly, “We ran a perfect campaign,” he wasn’t blowing smoke. He and ace strategist Steven Reid stuck very carefully to a game plan — focusing ad infinitum on three key points: public safety, blight, and accountability.

Those were not grand visionary goals. They were simply reassurances that a city administration that had begun to seem rudderless would see order restored under new management. This was, as it turned out, enough, particularly when a series of badly handled mayoral snafus — the Robert Lipscomb firing and the Deidre Malone contract brouhaha notable among them — gave volume to that third point, “accountability,” in Strickland’s triad of issues.

So Strickland is right to feel justified — even a tad smug — in his recollections of a well-run campaign. His 42 percent of the total, compared to the defeated incumbent’s astonishing low total of 22 percent, was impressive indeed — especially for a white candidate running to lead an electorate that is two-thirds African-American.

But the fact is that the votes garnered by third and fourth-place finishers Harold Collins, Strickland’s Council mate, and Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams added up to a full third of the total vote — 18 and 16 percent, respectively. Had either one of these candidates not been on the ballot, the other might have proved stout competition for the lead.

Strickland unseats Wharton as Memphis mayor

Voters in majority-black Memphis on Thursday elected the city’s first white mayor in 24 years as City Councilman Jim Strickland’s message of change propelled him over incumbent A C Wharton, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Complete but unofficial returns showed Strickland took 42 percent of the vote to Wharton’s 22 percent. Harold Collins captured 18 percent and Mike Williams had 16 percent. Six other candidates stood at less than 1 percent each. There is no runoff in the mayor’s race.

Strickland was the only white contender among the four major candidates.

It was a rare victory for a challenger against an incumbent — the most recent was Willie Herenton’s historic 1991 win over Dick Hackett — and the first time a council member will move into the city’s top job since 1972.

“Today the people of Memphis spoke loudly and clearly. You want a new direction for this city,” Strickland told a crowd at the Memphis Botanic Garden. “Today, the people of Memphis — you — said we want change.”

Wharton conceded to Strickland in an upbeat concession speech to supporters.

“This is Memphis, Tennessee, known for its graciousness and its hospitality. And I’ve tried to epitomize that throughout all my public service and nothing is going to change,” Wharton said. “That’s just the way I roll.”

New mystery PACs enter Memphis mayor’s race

Little has been made public about two new PACS trying to influence the Memphis election, reports the Commercial Appeal. One is called Neighborhood Alliance PAC and has at least filed a campaign disclosure.

The other, called Citizens for a Brighter Memphis, hasn’t done that much, but hit mailboxes in recent days with as many as three mail pieces attacking mayoral candidate Jim Strickland.

It prompted a pointed response from Strickland as a contentious mayor’s race traveled down a new road: deciphering the origins of outside money.

Third-party groups’ spending would be in addition to what’s already believed to be a record-breaking amount of money in this year’s mayor’s race — nearly $1.6 million raised just for the Strickland and Mayor A C Wharton campaigns alone.

Citizens for a Brighter Memphis’ mail pieces claim Strickland cut school funding and that he would “weaken our police force.” One mailer urges recipients to vote for Wharton.

…No group called Citizens for a Brighter Memphis is registered with the Shelby County Election Commission or the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. The only known pro-Wharton political action committee is Memphis First PAC, which had not filed a disclosure as of Friday afternoon.

…Meanwhile, Neighborhood Alliance PAC’s Thursday financial disclosure with the Shelby County Election Commission still doesn’t tell much about who is behind that group, but it does show it’s well-financed.

The political action committee reported $113,000 in receipts and $95,355 in spending on the election in September, leaving $17,645 to spend in the week before the race. The group formally disclosed in the filing that its expenses are in opposition to Wharton.

Wharton leads Memphis mayor money race

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s re-election campaign raised $412,260 in the financial reporting period that loosely mirrored the third quarter of the year while his leading fundraising opponent, City Council member Jim Strickland, raised $177,610.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Counting the nearly identical campaign balances Strickland and Wharton had at the midpoint of last year ($117,304 for Strickland; $115,786 for Wharton), that brings the total fundraising to almost $1.6 million for just those two candidates.

Wharton’s total is $947,892; Strickland’s is $622,285.

The two men are engaged in a fierce — and expensive — battle waged on fronts such as television ads, radio spots, consultants and poll workers. Strickland and Wharton reported spending slightly more than $1 million combined ($619,160 by Wharton; $422,553 for Strickland) in the reporting period, which ran from July 1 to Sept. 28.

A disclosure for a third high-profile candidate, Harold Collins, was not posted at the Shelby County Election Commission’s website as of the close of business Thursday. In late August, Collins said his campaign raised about $175,000.

Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams reported raising $37,661 as of Sept. 21, bringing his fundraising total to $43,864. But Williams filed in advance of an email to candidates from the Election Commission that changed the reporting period to end on Sept. 28, not a week earlier. Reports were due Thursday.

Rogero coasts to new term as Knoxville mayor

Mayor Madeline Rogero and most other incumbent city officials easily won new terms in Knoxville’s city elections Tuesday, reports the News Sentinel.

The only City Council seat left to be decided pits small-business owner Pete Bonovich against incumbent Finbarr Saunders in November.

“This campaign was a lot easier this time around,” Rogero said on stage at The Standard following her victory. “I think because of the outstanding success of our first term.”

Rogero had 3,711 votes, according to unofficial returns, versus 46 for write-in candidate Jack Knoxville. (Note: All election results HERE.)

Both (council) candidates lamented the historically low turnout that continued Tuesday, with just 4,748 votes cast in a city with roughly 105,000 registered voters. Knox County Election Commissioner Cliff Rodgers said he was expecting between 4,000 and 5,000 voters. About 2,000 cast their ballots during early voting.

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On Knoxville mayor’s transgender write-in opponent

A write-in candidate for Knoxville mayor, named Jack Knoxville, tells Georgiana Vines he’s running as a write-in candidate against incumbent Mayor Madeline Rogero in Tuesday’s city elections because “I don’t think any candidate should run unopposed.”

He is transgendered — born Jessica Ann LeMin — and talks about the change freely.

Knoxville, a native of New York, said he spent most of his life in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and came to Knoxville about three years ago when “I was in the process of becoming Jack.” The name was legally changed in Chancery Court in January.

He said he is running because he is concerned about a lot of things and has a lot of ideas. He cited trash on the sides of roads that needs to be cleaned up.

“Knoxville is so beautiful,” he said.

Knoxville, 36, describes himself as a freelance web designer with a business, Smoky Mountain Media Group.

“I’m a jack of all trades,” he said.

He’s spent only $90, according to a filing with the Knox County Election Commission, and he donated the money. He hasn’t named a treasurer, which Elections Administrator Cliff Rodgers said is “inconsistent” with state law.

…In response to Knoxville’s comment about wanting the mayor to have an opponent, Rogero said she didn’t understand how running just to give an incumbent opposition “and without mounting any kind of visible campaign serves to elevate our city or public discussion.”

“I do think our city is served when candidates with a record of voting and civic involvement are willing to engage in vigorous outreach and the dialogue about our city and its future. That’s what I did in my four previous campaigns (1990, 1994, 2003 and 2011) and how I’ve served as mayor,” she said in an email.