The head of a Knoxville political consulting firm has acknowledged to the TBI responsibility for an automated telephone survey asking voter opinions of state Sen. Stacey Campfield while declaring there was no intention of harassing those getting the calls or attacking Campfield, his attorney said Monday.
Ben Farmer, owner of Cyragon, LLC, spoke “in a very lengthy interview” to a TBI investigator last week and explained that the survey was a matter of “internal testing” of the firm’s surveying system that went awry through a “computer glitch” that caused many of the 2,000 targeted voters to receive multiple calls, said G. Turner Howard III, Farmer’s attorney.
The TBI has been investigating the “robo poll” at the request of District Attorney General Randy Nichols in response to an initial request to the TBI from Campfield. A TBI spokeswoman said Monday that the agency has not turned over its final report to Nichols and declined further comment because the matter is part of “an ongoing investigation.”
Campfield said Howard’s explanation for the calls was “ridiculous” and that Farmer’s acknowledgment indicated political motives. Farmer is a supporter of Richard Briggs, a Knox County commissioner and physician who has declared himself an opponent to Campfield in the 2014 Republican primary. Briggs’ first campaign financial disclosure shows $7,000 in payments to Cyragon.
Kingsport’s mayor and some other city officials “apparently have a strained relationship” with state Rep. Tony Shipley that stems from the lawmaker’s Republican primary battle last year with Alderman Ben Mallicote, according to the Kingsport Times-News.
The following is from a story appearing Friday: At the time, Mayor Dennis Phillips said of Mallicote, “hopefully you’ll be serving us in Nashville.” In addition, Phillips, Alderwoman Valerie Joh, the Kingsport Firefighters Association and the Kingsport Coalition of Police appeared in ads supporting Mallicote.
Carl Moore, a lobbyist and former state senator from Bristol, said in a recent interview that Mallicote’s announcement and Phillips’ endorsement upset Shipley, and that he overheard Shipley express some disturbing emotions concerning the BMA members who were supporting Mallicote.
“That morning I was in a cafeteria in Nashville and Tony came by and was upset about it,” Moore said. “(Shipley) said ‘I don’t understand why … I’ve tried to help them all I can do. I guess I can’t do anything else for them.’ It was very colorful language (Shipley) used and I’ve heard nothing since.”
Phillips said last week he has heard about some troubling comments made by Shipley.
“During and since the election, Tony has been very cold,” Phillips said. “I sent him an e-mail when the election was over, saying ‘I supported your opponent and you won and it’s in everyone’s best interest if we work together and I’d like to have lunch one day.’ I haven’t heard any response.”
Since the election, Phillips said there have been events in Kingsport that he thought Shipley would attend, but he has not, such as the public hearings held last month on the State Route 126 improvement project — the cornerstone of Shipley’s 2008 campaign.
…Responding in an e-mail Shipley said, “Over the past four years, I’ve been fortunate to build close working relationships with local and county officials throughout the 2nd District. Together, we’ve worked to strengthen DUI laws, address the dangers of ‘bath salts’ and improve infrastructure. We’ve done so with a common goal of improving the lives of Tennesseans, both in the city and county. I will continue to work with everyone who sets the importance of improvement in our community above political spats that don’t achieve progress for the people we represent.”
Vice Mayor Tom Parham said …”Shipley has strength and support in the Colonial Heights areas and there’s developed some animosity towards Kingsport, fueled by that election… It’s the city’s challenge to heal that rift. We must engage the people in Colonial Heights … to be new residents in the city and work very hard to include all of our elected representatives with our plans as we go forward.”
Former state Sen. Roy Herron said Friday that he’s running for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, joining a crowded field of candidates looking for the chance to steer the party onto more solid footing in the state, reports Michael Cass Herron, who did not seek re-election to the Senate in November, said he decided to jump into the chairmanship race after a family member’s health issue was resolved late last week. He said he didn’t think it was too late to win this election, which the state party’s 72 executive committee members will decide on Jan. 26.
“It’s clear no one has a majority,” he told The Tennessean. “If I thought the election was over, I wouldn’t be getting in the race.”
…He joins at least four other candidates for the state party’s chairmanship: Jane Hampton Bowen, the political liaison for a Chattanooga labor group; Dave Garrison, a Nashville lawyer and the party’s current treasurer; Wade Munday, a Nashville nonprofit executive who once served as the party’s spokesman, and Ben Smith, a Nashville lawyer who advised Jason Powell in his successful run for the state legislature this year.
State Rep. Sherry Jones, who considered running, told The Tennessean earlier Friday that she probably wouldn’t seek the position. Jones said she has “too much going on” and that she doesn’t think a woman can win the post right now.
State Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville is the latest Democrat to declare an interest in succeeding Chip Forrester, who is not seeking a new term as chairman of the Tennessee Democratic party.
Jones, a Nashvillian who has recently been crusading against what she considers ineptness at the state Department of Children’s Services, says she would seek a change in party by-laws if elected so that the position would be part-time rather than full-time. She would continue to hold her legislative seat – just as Rep. Beth Harwell, now speaker of the House, did while chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Jones said last week that she believes the party needs to work toward becoming more inclusive, noting that white men have always served as chairmen in the past – with the single, 1980s exception of Jane Eskind.
“I love all the old white guys, but we’ve got to include everybody,” she said.
Previously declared candidates for state Democratic chair are David Garrison, now the party treasurer; Wade Munday, who previously served as the party’s communications director; and Nashville lawyer Ben Smith.
Former state Sen. Roy Herron’s name has come up in speculation, but he has yet to indicate an interest in the job.
There’s also been speculation about former state Sen. Roy Herron, who did not seek reelection as a legislator this year. But so far Herron, a Dresden lawyer, has not said whether he will seek the post.
At first glance, the two candidates running for the state House seat in District 53 look strikingly similar, according to The Tennessean. Republican nominee Ben Claybaker and his Democratic opponent Jason Powell are in their mid-30s with young families. Both are former college athletes.
Claybaker owns a small commercial real estate firm while Powell dabbles in residential real estate on the side. They’ve both held teaching jobs and worked in positions involving drug-control policy.
But the candidates represent vastly different views for how the state legislature should handle issues ranging from economic development to education reform.
The men are running to represent a district that stretches from South Nashville southeast through Davidson County following parts of Interstate 24.
Powell, 34, said that if elected he wants to focus on bills that help create jobs or improve education.
“I think the key to success is to work on legislation that moderate Republicans agree on and Tennesseans agree on,” Powell said.
…Claybaker, 36, favors a more macro-economic approach. Rather than focus on individual programs to spur jobs, the candidate wants to create a more favorable business environment by cutting or lowering taxes to lure new companies to the area.
Some tax issues the candidates agree on. Neither wants a state income tax created, and both candidates said they support lowering the food tax rate.
But Claybaker wants to go further, eliminating the tax on income from stock dividends and reforming the franchise and excise tax.
In the Nashville area, WPLN reports that legislative candidates of both parties refrain from stressing their party affiliation. House District 53, being vacated by Rep. Janis Sontaney, D-Nashville, provides an example. After lines were redrawn by Republicans, this district doesn’t lean quite as heavily toward Democrats. But (Ben) Claybaker still keeps his brand in the background.
“I don’t want to walk up to somebody and have this big ‘R’ stamped on my forehead and have people make assumptions, good or bad,” he says.
You wouldn’t know Claybaker is a Republican by looking at his website either. The “R”-word is nowhere to be found, although his resume does list a position he held in the Bush Administration. Then there are his yard signs. Instead of red, they’re dark blue.
“It’s my favorite color,” he says. “You walk up to my closet, and it’s all blue.”
Others running in Nashville’s historically Democratic districts haven’t gone to printing up blue signs. But they have stayed away from the more partisan social issues.
However, Democrats aren’t exactly loud and proud about their party. Claybaker’s opponent – Jason Powell – gives only a tepid endorsement of the President.
“I’ve been so focused on this local election and my own race, I’ve had barely any time to keep up with what’s going on a national level,” Powell says when asked if he supports President Obama.
Going door-to-door off Nolensville Rd, Powell finds a gentleman just off an overnight shift sorting mail. His pickup truck’s bumper stickers reveal he’s a conservative.
“We need somebody working for hardworking people like yourself, and I sure would appreciate your vote in November,” he says.
When the homeowner asks if he’s a Republican or Democrat, Powell says he is a Democrat.
“But I’m a ‘Jason Powell’ Democrat, kind of my own man,” he says.
KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — A challenger to state Rep. Tony Shipley for the Republican nomination in House of Representatives District 2 says he will not contest the election.
According to the Kingsport Times-News (http://bit.ly/ObMQXK), the unofficial results showed incumbent Shipley with an 11-vote victory over Ben Mallicote in the primary earlier this month.
The count certified Tuesday showed Shipley with a 10-vote margin: 3,405 votes compared to Mallicote’s 3,395 votes.
Shipley’s win was thanks to absentee ballots.
Mallicote said in a statement to his supporters that he decided not to contest the election because he didn’t think he could make a case strong enough to compel the State Executive Committee to reverse the outcome.
Shipley, who is seeking a third term, will face Democrat Bruce Dotson in the November general election.
Some state legislators facing re-election challengers have been overspending their taxpayer-funded accounts for communicating with constituents, covering the shortfall either with political money or transfers from colleagues who are either retiring or face no re-election opposition.
Some examples from a review of the 2012 “postage and printing” accounts:
-State Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, who is not seeking re-election transferred $4,720 from his account to state Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, who faces a general election opponent. Another retiring Democrat, Rep. Bill Harmon of Dunlap, chipped in $1,500 to Windle from his account.
-Five Republican lawmakers with no opposition gave $1,000 each to state Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, who faces a challenge in the Aug. 2 primary. Without the transfers, Montgomery would have lacked enough money in his account to cover a May mail piece carrying the headline, “Rep. Richard Montgomery: Making Job Creation Priority #1.”
-At least a dozen lawmakers had to write checks to the state to either cover a deficit in their taxpayer-funded accounts or avoid one. Only one legislator wrote a personal check — Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, for $62.02 — while the others transferred political campaign funds. The biggest campaign fund check to the state as of Friday came from Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, for $2,833. Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, had tentatively reported a shortfall of $8,653, though the paperwork was still being processed Friday.
State Rep. Tony Shipley kicked off his re-election bid for a third term in office Thursday night with testimonials from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, other state lawmakers and local officials. Hank Hayes was on the scene: Shipley, R-Kingsport, is again seeking the 2nd House District seat in the GOP primary and faces a challenge from former Kingsport Alderman Ben Mallicote.
Neither Shipley, nor the elected officials endorsing him, publicly mentioned Mallicote at the downtown event held inside Korner-Copia.
“My opponent is certainly entitled to hold a rally, but the voters of the 2nd District are also entitled to hear the candidates engage in a substantive debate about the issues,” Mallicote said in response to Shipley’s event.
“Representative Shipley has ignored invitations to debate from the Chamber, Kiwanis, Rotary and WKPT, retreating instead into a small group of his supporters. It’s a shame he no longer feels he needs to earn our citizens’ votes.”
Ramsey, R-Blountville, told the small crowd that he has known Shipley since both went to Sullivan Central High School.
“He has not changed one bit,” Ramsey said of Shipley. “People ask me all the time: ‘Are you behaving in Nashville?’ I say ‘No. You don’t want me to behave. You want somebody who keeps it stirring, keeps it going, changing the direction of the country and the state, and Tony is one doing that.'”
State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, pointed out Shipley understands he answers to the electorate.
“You can find someone who wants to keep a seat warm in Nashville, or you can find someone who will get in the mud and fight … (and) maybe he’s a little rough around the edges,” Faison said of Shipley.
State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, told Shipley he was a “brash and blunt” lawmaker starting out four years ago.
“You want someone like that starting out in Nashville. … You don’t want someone to say ‘I will try to do this or that.’ … Tony, you’ve been consistent for four years,” Lundberg told Shipley.
Two Democrats and two Republicans are running to succeed retiring state Rep. Janis Sontany, a Nashville Democrat, and all four are in their 30s. Michael Cass has a rundown on the contests. Each candidate brings government and political experience to the table, from seeking or holding an elected office to working for President George W. Bush during his second term.
“It’s a critical period in our state,” said Democrat Jason Powell, who ran unsuccessfully for another House seat in 2006. “We need strong leaders.”
Powell is running against first-year Metro Councilman Jason Potts, who has said he would continue to serve on the council if elected to the House of Representatives.
In the Republican primary, Ben Claybaker faces Tonya Miller, who lost to Sontany, a fifth-term Democrat, two years ago.
…Both Democrats are named Jason, and both have last names starting with P. There’s enough potential for uninformed voters to be confused that Potts, 33, appreciates his slight alphabetical advantage, which will give him the first listing on the ballot.
“I’m on top, so hopefully it goes my way,” he said.
Otherwise, Potts and Powell give Democratic voters more substantive differences to mull over. Powell, 34, is generally seen as a progressive who has advised Councilman Jerry Maynard and judicial candidate Rachel Bell. Potts, who married into an extended family that has produced five Metro Council members since 1983, is more in the moderate-to-conservative tradition
…Sontany is co-hosting a $150-a-head fundraiser for Powell on Wednesday.
…The Republican race pits Claybaker, the CEO of real estate firm NAI Nashville, against Miller, a Spanish-language interpreter.
Miller, 37, said she has worked with many government agencies, including the Tennessee Department of Transportation and various courts, through her interpreting work as a self-employed, independent contractor.
“It gives me a little more compassion,” she said. “I’m there with the people.”
She said she wants to create a digital platform to give constituents more of a voice, producing “something I can carry with me when I go to the floor” to vote. She worries about the nation’s direction, and she wants to help unite various constituencies under the Republican banner.
“The Republican Party is not all about being pro-life or anti-gay,” Miller said. “The Republican Party is about freedom and liberty.”
Claybaker, 36, has been around politics for much of his life. His father is a small-town mayor in Camden, Ark. Claybaker worked for an Arkansas congressman soon after graduating from college and helped run a Texas candidate’s successful campaign for the lieutenant governor’s office.
In 2004 he worked for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign as political coordinator for Southwestern states, then went to work at the White House as a policy analyst for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.