Category Archives: Republicans

TN Republican Assembly backs (mostly) primary challengers

The Tennessee Republican Assembly — which bills itself as “a socially, morally, and fiscally conservative group of individuals committed to strengthening the Republican party by upholding the traditional, Republican ideals that represent the American founders’ original intent” – has endorsed 28 candidates in state legislative races.

There are seven incumbent House members on the list and no incumbent senators. With a couple of exceptions in open seats, those backed are challengers in GOP primaries.

The group maintains a political action committee (TRA PAC) with a current reported balance of $2,699 and no contributions made to candidates since 2014, when the PAC made donations totaling $1,500.

The TRA website is HERE. It’s endorsement list, as posted on Facebook, is below. Continue reading

Delegate Victor Ashe: Party platform puts GOP ‘squarely on the right’

Note: Victor Ashe, former Knoxville mayor and U.S. ambassador to Poland, will be writing a “Delegate Diary” for the News Sentinel from the 2016 Republican National Convention. The following is an excerpt from his report on a meeting of the Platform Committee, of which he is a member:

The committee-approved platform “certainly marks the party as the most conservative.

Whether social issues or national defense or economic issues, the party is squarely on the right. To the credit of the 112 delegates, there was extensive debate and almost exhaustive consideration given.

The section on foreign policy was titled a “Dangerous World,” and contains the view of how the world looks today. Given the tragic set of attacks across the world, the title is an accurate summary of the situation all of us face.

As an observer, the shortcomings were lack of substantive research on some amendments as there was on occasion an absence of resources to verify or nullify assertions. That is why the committee focused on national security and relationships with foreign allies in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The United Kingdom was recognized as our top ally — whether the U.K. is in the European Union or not.

A quick glance at the composition of the Platform Committee shows a membership overwhelmingly white, with only one African-American woman and one openly gay woman. At some point, the Republican Party must include more nonwhites if there is a serious intent to win future national elections. The makeup of the committees is governed by each state delegation, which chooses one man and one woman on each standing committee.

…An innovative development among committee members was continued discussion on changing to a short, direct statement of principles not to exceed 1,200 words. Such a platform would be much more readable and understandable than the current 33,000-word document.

Led by Boyd Matheson of Utah, the effort to shrink built support as the arcane debate on numerous amendments left delegates wondering how much the American public would ever understand or know about the decisions made in Cleveland. They are right on target: only policy wonks and some media people will ever read such long reports.

Shorter statements of principle for both political parties would enable more voters to be better informed on both parties’ platform. Perhaps it would increase voter turnout. Such a move could not take place until the 2020 presidential election.

TN GOP congressmen praise Trump after meeting with him

Tennessee Republican congressmen came out of a meeting with Donald Trump Thursday praising the party’s presumptive presidential nominee and declaring commitment to help him get elected; reports Michael Collins.

“Mr. Trump was well-received by House Republican members,” said Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin. “He focused on his agenda for getting the economy moving and bringing people together. There was great energy and enthusiasm in that room, and with Donald Trump at the top of the ballot, we are all ready to take on Hillary Clinton this November and hold our majorities in the House and Senate.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood described the meeting as positive. “He took questions from many members, addressed the issues, and focused on unity and winning in November,” she said.

With the Republican National Convention kicking off in Cleveland in a little more than a week, Trump made the rounds on Capitol Hill in meetings billed as a chance for lawmakers to get to know the presumptive GOP nominee for president.

In his meeting with House Republicans, Trump spent roughly a half-hour talking about policy and issues such as caring for veterans, strengthening the military and repealing and replacing Obamacare, said Rep. Scott DesJarlais of South Pittsburg. Continue reading

Winslow quits TNGOP: ‘Our soul rotted away some time ago’

Mark Winslow, former chief of staff for the Tennessee Republican Party, resigned Thursday as a member of the state GOP Executive Committee in a letter posted on Twitter, reports Nashville Post Politics.

“As it’s currently constituted, TNGOP is really nothing more than a small corrupt core group who view our party as their private club and personal piggy bank,” wrote Winslow. “Our soul rotted away some time ago.”

Winslow confirmed that his timing was no coincidence: After losing his job and suing the party and surviving several attempts to kick him off the SEC, he wanted declare his independence in concordance with the national holiday.

“I’ve actually wanted to quit for three years,” Winslow says. “It’s a relief. It’s time for someone else to step in.”

Winslow said his resignation had nothing to do with the battle over delegates for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, nor over a bylaw likely to come before the SEC at its next meeting in August that would automatically remove SEC members from the committee if they have ever worked for a Democrat running for office, which Winslow did.

“They’ve tried to change the bylaws a few times regarding me, and it’s never worked,” Winslow said. “It wouldn’t have worked this time, either.”

But other SEC members — all of whom were surprised by the sudden resignation, though most declined to comment on record — said Winslow would not have kept his position past August, nor were they upset to see him go.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish!” SEC secretary Christi Cross said. “My hope is that a bona fide Republican, with a commitment to the party and its platform, will be appointed to fill his term.”

The state GOP office declined comment, saying they still hadn’t officially received notice of Winslow’s resignation. Winslow said this was intentional on his part, because the party “stopped communicating” with him “long ago.”

“Really, this is a very happy time for me,” Winslow said. “It was the right time for me to do something other than dealing with the bickering of the state executive committee.”

With or without Winslow, the “bickering” on the SEC seems likely to continue throughout the primary and at least until the August board meeting.

Note: TNGOP Chairman Ryan Haynes notified SEC members that he had accept the resignation, but had no comments on Winslow’s remarks. Says Haynes letter to the committee:

As many of you are aware, Mark Winslow has publicly communicated his resignation from the State Executive Committee. I am accepting that resignation effective immediately. We wish him well with his important work with veterans for Judge Blackburn.

Per the Bylaws of the Tennessee Republican Party, I will appoint a special subcommittee to make a recommendation to the full SEC for a new male representative of the 19th District.

I hope each of you has a happy and safe Independence Day.

Text of Winslow’s resignation letter is below. Continue reading

Sunday column: On the primary muddle in legislative campaigns

As campaigns for state legislative seats develop, the themes that will be in play for the handful of November general election contests are pretty clear while the candidate contrasts in the August primary are more difficult to decipher, though arguably far more important from a statewide policy perspective.

Under Republican-engineered redistricting and the Tennessee electorate’s prevailing political mood, there’s no chance that Democrats, as a matter of practical politics, can end the Republican Supermajority reign for the 110th General Assembly that convenes in January, even though Democrats “came out of the woodwork” – to use Democratic Chair Mary Mancini’s phrase – to qualify as underdog challengers in 40 or so seats now held by Republicans.

That’s about twice as many Democrats seeking Republican-held seats as compared to a couple of years ago. The reason? To speculate at bit, it appears that Democrats at the local level are inspired by both irritation and perceived opportunity.

The irritation, apparently held individually by most candidates, is unhappiness with some Supermajority actions. The opportunity is a perception that voters overall are irritated as well, as indicated in polls on matters such as Insure Tennessee, while Republicans are themselves divided on these matters and on the notion of Donald Trump becoming president of the United States. Continue reading

TN Trump delegate advocates death for violators of Constitution

A Donald Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention from East Tennessee was also a delegate to a “Continental Congress of 2009” that advocated replacing the Department of Homeland Security with citizen militias and recently advocated the killing of U.S. leaders who violate the Constitution, according to Richard Locker.

The Trump campaign approved M. David Riden of rural McMinn County as one of its delegates. Voters in East Tennessee’s Third Congressional District elected him as a Trump-committed delegate and his wife Perry Riden as an alternate, in the state’s March 1 Republican presidential primary.

Gov. Bill Haslam will be a Marco Rubio delegate at the convention, although Rubio withdrew after the Tennessee primary. Asked to comment on Riden’s views, Haslam’s press secretary, David Smith, would only say, “The governor has a strict policy against elected officials being assassinated.”

Riden’s views attracted the interest of the national liberal magazine Mother Jones, which published an article on its website Thursday linking him to the murky world of far-right militias and “patriot” groups. (Note: It’s HERE.) Riden did not return repeated calls and emails from the News Sentinel for comment, but the Mother Jones article reported that he discussed his views in an interview with the magazine.

The article quotes Riden as saying that U.S. leaders who violate the Constitution may have to be done away with: “The polite word is ‘eliminated.’ The harsh word is ‘killed,'” Riden reportedly told Mother Jones. And he said all three branches of the federal government are “way off from the Constitution right now.”

Tennessee Republican leaders appeared to be distancing themselves from the delegate they’ll be sitting with on the floor of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena next month.

“If true, those views are not reflective in any way of the Tennessee Republican Party. We advocate for reforms by electing smart, principled conservatives and our record proves that. We would refer you to the Trump campaign for any additional information regarding individuals serving as their delegates,” TNGOP Chairman Ryan Haynes of Knoxville said in a statement.

Note: Another quote from the Mother Jones article:

Riden said his wife, Perry Riden, who is an alternate Trump delegate from Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, also thinks Obama is dangerous. “My wife looks at me and says, ‘Remember, he is one of them.’ Meaning he is a Muslim, he is on the side of the terrorists, he will…let Iran have nuclear weapons, which would destroy Israel and the United States, because his way of thinking is right in line with Iran, North Korea, and Russia.”

57 TN House Republicans want special bathroom session

Excerpt from a Tennessean update on efforts to call a special legislative session on transgender bathrooms:

As of Monday afternoon, 57 House Republicans have agreed with the call for a special session, nine have said no and six are undecided, according to Cade Cothren, a caucus spokesman. In the House, Republicans will likely need Democratic support to call the special session.

The Tennessee Constitution stipulates that it takes two-thirds of both chambers — 66 signatures in the House and 22 in the Senate — for lawmakers to call themselves back for a special session.

Despite the push from Republicans, Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, have questioned the need for a special session. Although the Senate has not formally started a similar signature gathering effort, they are expected to do so in the event that the House reaches the required number.

The article includes comments from emails Republican representatives have sent on the matter. Rep. Susan Lynn, who sponsored a transgender bathroom bill that failed during regular session, suggests a special session might be premature. She said that the federal directive was nothing more than “bait” and an attempt to “jerk us around.” Lynn sponsored — and later withdrew — legislation this year requiring students to use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.

“They want us to be drawn in,” she wrote to her colleagues. “All we have to do is ride out the clock. Next year we will have President Trump and he will not pursue us over this nor will his DOE (Department of Education) nor justice department make the same assessment.”

In the event that Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton wins in November, Lynn said “we should be all up in it all the time — we can be her worst nightmare but right now we have one chance left — let’s elect our candidate.”

…Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, who said his email has been “lighting up” with concerned constituents — all of whom opposed the federal directive — warned that while it may be true that the issue is intended to be an “election-year ‘distraction’ by the Obama administration” there has been little indication that Gov. Bill Haslam will take a stronger stand and issue an executive order opposing the directive.

“The impact on Tennessee elections will be mostly in the primaries, as the Democrats will stay as far from this as they can,” Ragan added.

Ragan expressed skepticism that the attorney general would take “independent action” on the matter.

“Our actions in this situation must have a ‘strategic’ view as well as a ‘tactical’ one,” Ragan wrote.

Ramsey: TN Republicans have reached their peak

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a driving force in the Republican boom in Tennessee, is taking a final victory lap before retiring from politics.

The Blountville auctioneer was scheduled to be honored at the state GOP’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on Friday evening, an event that has grown along with the fortunes of Republicans in Tennessee politics.

Having presided over vast Republican gains in the Tennessee General Assembly that took the GOP from an afterthought to near complete control, Speaker Ramsey, who served two terms in the state House before being elected to the Senate in 1996, announced earlier this year that he would not seek another term.

“There’s not a lot more to accomplish,” Ramsey told The Associated Press in an interview in his legislative office this week. “On top of the fact that I have five grandkids, it made that decision not that hard, honestly.” Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Mancini bashes supermajority session; GOP bashes Mancini

Excerpt from a Richard Locker report on Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini’s news conference on the recently-ended session of the state Legislature:

“This year’s legislative session and the 109th General Assembly perfectly illustrate the differences between Tennessee Democrats and Republicans. Republicans are in the supermajority in the Legislature and at every critical moment when they could have shown leadership they instead at best said ‘There’s nothing we can do’ and at worse showed themselves to be unethical, self-serving extremists,” Mancini said.

“They spent hours debating the state book, the state rifle and whether or not skunks should be house pets — but refused to bring Insure Tennessee to the House floor for even one minute of discussion. They fought hard to give tax breaks to the top wage earners while doing nothing to address the fact that Tennessee has the highest percentage of low-wage workers in the nation.”

Her remarks included references to bills designating the Bible as the “official book of Tennessee,” which the governor vetoed, and the Murfreesboro-made Barrett M82 sniper rifle as the state’s official rifle, which was approved; the failure for the second year of Haslam’s plan to expand health coverage to up to 280,000 low-income working residents, and an approved reduction in the state’s Hall income tax on investment earnings.

…The party chairman said 104 Democrats are running for the state Legislature and for Congress this year: 77 running in 68 state House districts, 10 in six state Senate districts and 17 in nine congressional districts.

Mancini would not predict how well Democrats will do in the state elections.

Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, called Mancini’s statement “over-the-top rhetoric” and a “silly attempt to obscure the fact that they supported an indicted representative and spent taxpayer time sponsoring far-left bills for mandatory” erectile dysfunction treatment and studying “swingers’ clubs.”

“Maybe that’s a winning formula in San Francisco but it’s a guaranteed loser in Tennessee,” Leatherwood said in a statement.

The erectile dysfunction bill he cited, House Bill 1927, was apparently an attempt to draw attention to the impact of anti-abortion legislation because it required 48-hour waiting period for a physician to write a prescription for an ED drug and mandatory counseling. The other bill, HB 1269, asked for a study of the potential regulation of “swingers’ clubs” and was introduced in 2015 when the planned location of a club next door to a school generated considerable controversy. But it was never discussed in a committee and later withdrawn.