News release from House Democratic Caucus:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (July 17, 2013) – The Tennessee Black Caucus released the following statement in response to the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida:
“This was a disappointing verdict that just goes to show we have a long way to go until all Americans enjoy true equal protection under the law,” said Rep. Larry Miller, Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus. “While we mourn and pray with the Martin family, we must also work hard to stop this from happening to innocent children here in Tennessee.”
On Sunday July 14, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators released a statement of support for the Martin family and reiterated the NBCSL opposition to so-called “stand your ground” laws across the country. In December of 2012, NBCSL ratified resolution LJE-13-06 “urging state legislatures that have adopted ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot First’ laws to reform or repeal them and we also support the review and investigation by the United States Department of Justice referencing the Zimmerman case.”
State Rep. Barbara Cooper, who was chairman of the Legislature’s Black Caucus last year when Sen. Jim Summerville sent her a controversial email, says the senator has belatedly apologized for the remark. In August, 2012, Dickson Republican Summerville declared in an email to Cooper, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Black Caucus thinks.”
The missive was sent after the Black Caucus issued a news release critical of a hearing Summerville led that looked into allegations of grade tampering at Tennessee State University.
Cooper provided a copy of a new Summerville email dated Jan. 12 and addressed to “Hon. Barbara Cooper and friends in the Black Caucus.”
“Dear Rep. Cooper and friends, one of my personal hopes in the new year is to try to lead a more Christ-like life. I realize that may require making amends to people I’ve hurt in the past.
“I want to tell you, then, how much I regret losing my temper last summer over your reaction to the TSU report. You said what you did with intellectual integrity and honesty of purpose. My reaction was unbecoming to me.
“Please know that I look forward to working with each of you in the 108th General Assembly for the welfare of all the people of our great state.
“Most sincerely, Jim Summerville.”
Cooper said that, in reply, she told the senator: “You’re apology is accepted and appreciated and you are forgiven.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik in a lawsuit that accused her of defamation for a campaign advertisement targeting rival Diane Black.
The suit was filed by Aegis Sciences Corp., a drug-testing company owned by David Black. He is the husband of Diane Black, who won the election for the 6th District seat.
The 2010 advertisement showed Diane Black, who was then a state senator, handing a $1 million check from “Tennessee Taxpayers” to her husband.
In an opinion filed this week, a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court ruled 2-1 for Zelenik. The court found that the advertisement portrayed Diane Black as a big spender but did not imply that Aegis received graft.
A spokeswoman for Aegis declined to comment.
State Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, already has taken the oath of office as president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators although he doesn’t begin duties until Feb. 1, reports Georgiana Vines. The group had its annual conference the first week of December in Washington, D.C., when he was sworn in, Armstrong said.
“It was the same week we met with President (Barack) Obama,” he said on Friday. Caucus representatives, including Armstrong, met with the president on ramifications of the “fiscal cliff.”
Obama was a member of the caucus when he was a state senator in Illinois in 1997-2004 before being elected to the U.S. Senate.
Armstrong said there’s a delay in being president until the organization’s financial books close this month and the 401(c)(3) organization is audited in January.
Armstrong said he has been invited in his leadership role to Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21 and plans to attend. He also went in 2009.
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) will be led by Tennessee’s own Rep. Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville), who will serve as President of the organization over the next two years.
Joining him in leading the group will be Rep. Karen Camper who will continue to serve as Region IV Chair (KY, TN, VA, and WV), as well as Rep. Brenda Gilmore and Rep. Johnny Shaw who will serve as Executive Committee members at-large. Allyson Sneed, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Shaw, will serve as Chair of the staff organization.
“I am honored to be chosen by my peers to serve as the President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators,” said Rep. Armstrong. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand the caucus and find new and better ways to serve our African-American constituencies.”
NBCSL, founded in 1977, is an organization dedicated to developing and promoting educational, research and training programs to help African-American legislators be more effective when considering and introducing legislation that affects their constituents.
“This is a great opportunity for me to be a voice for rural African-Americans within the Black Caucus,” said Rep. Shaw. “I hope to use this opportunity to inform other legislators about the work we’ve done in Tennessee, and to learn from my colleagues how we can be more effective in our state.”
In addition to a newly elected board, NBCSL has for the first time allocated funds to the regional chairs for the purpose of promoting policy engagement between the states.
“I am grateful to be chosen by my peers to once again serve as Regional Chair,” said Rep. Camper. “I am excited about the opportunity to use these new resources to work with other states in our area so that we can learn from each other about the best ways to help improve the lives of our constituents.”
“Too often the needs of African-Americans are neglected by state legislatures,” said Rep. Gilmore. “By amplifying our voices through NBCSL, we can ensure that important issues and programs are not forgotten as we work to make our states better places for all.”
The new NBCSL Executive Committee will take effect on February 1, 2013.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Democratic leaders point to insulting comments made by two Republican lawmakers to the Legislature’s black caucus in calling for legislators to undergo diversity and sensitivity training.
State Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson has been criticized for an email he sent earlier this month to the chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators saying: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.”
His Republican colleague, Stacey Campfield of Knoxville, has supported the comment and even called the black caucus a “segregationist organization” that should be ignored.
Three years ago, Democratic Rep. John Deberry of Memphis held two diversity training sessions for legislative staffers following the revelation that a Tennessee legislative staffer sent a racist e-mail about President Barack Obama from her state computer.
About a year later, Deberry gave the same sessions to state Safety Department officers who provide Capitol Hill security after a state trooper accidentally sent an e-mail proclaiming white pride to 787 state employees.
Those attending the sessions spent at least five hours being coached to avoid discriminatory behavior unacceptable in the workplace. It was the same training Deberry’s marketing firm gave to some clients before he became a legislator.
Deberry, who is a member of the black caucus and a former chairman, said the recent comments reveal a culture of insensitivity that still exists at the Capitol and that maybe it’s time for lawmakers to go through some sessions.
“Statesmanship is the ability to know what to say, when to say it and how to say it,” said Deberry, adding that he would be willing to once again oversee the sessions.
“That’s what we have to do if we’re going to be successful in making good public policy and having good public image. We’ve got to … learn how to communicate better.”
State Sen. Stacey Campfield says a colleague’s reference to a rat’s rump in a rebuke to the Legislature’s Black Caucus has become a “catch phrase” among members of Tennessee’s delegation to the Republican National Convention.
Expanding in a telephone interview on comments made in blog posts from the convention, the Knoxville lawmaker also said Wednesday the Black Caucus is a “segregationist organization” that should be ignored, just as Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, suggested in a controversial email.
That email, sent to Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, with a request that she forward it to other members of the Black Caucus said: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Black Caucus thinks.” He was responding to a Black Caucus comments on a Senate subcommittee report.
Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, chairman of the Black Caucus, said Campfield’s remarks were “asinine.” Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican party, said in an email that Campfield was wrong about use of the phrase at the convention.
“The only catch phrase I’ve been hearing is, “We built it,” in response to President Obama’s degrading comments to hard working small business owners,” Nickas wrote.
“In regards to Mr. Campfield and Summerville’s comments: We do not endorse their comments and they are not reflective of the view of the state party. Such statements are simply ridiculous.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Sen. Jim Summerville on Friday resigned from the Senate Education Committee after being stripped of his subcommittee chairmanship over an email that insulted the Legislature’s black caucus.
The Dickson Republican has been criticized for sending an email to the chairwoman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators saying: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.”
Senate Education Chairwoman Dolores Gresham stripped Summerville of his chairmanship of the higher education subcommittee for the remark, but the senator appeared unrepentant in brief remarks to reporters on Friday morning.
“Which part wasn’t clear? The matter speaks for itself,” he said. “Maybe I could have used a more artful term like a ‘rodents posterior.'”
The black caucus had sent Summerville an official response to a hearing over complaints about Tennessee State University’s handling of grade changes. The group called the allegations “much ado about nothing” and questioned why the historically black university was singled out for a legislative investigation.
Summerville did not give a reason for his resignation from the committee in a handwritten letter to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.
Democrats have demanded an apology, but Summerville hasn’t given one.
— Note: WKRN reports Summerville also made an obscene gesture to a TV news crew, story HERE.
State Sen. Jim Summerville was removed Thursday as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee after an email sent from his personal email account used a graphic term to convey to the legislature’s black caucus his view of its response to a hearing Summerville chaired last week on grade changes at Tennessee State University.
Further from Richard Locker: “I am very disappointed in the unfortunate choice of words and tone used by Senator Summerville in responding to Rep. (Barbara) Cooper,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, said in a statement Thursday. “There is a standard of courtesy that must be observed by members of the General Assembly and this went beyond what is acceptable. He has been removed as the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman.”
Summerville, R-Dickson, did not return repeated calls and emails from reporters to his home and office for comment. The email was sent to Cooper, D-Memphis, Wednesday night and, apparently at Summerville’s request, she forwarded it to her colleagues in the black caucus and other legislators. Summerville is a freshman lawmaker known for his candid public statements.
The message from a personal email address that Summerville has publicly posted as his says: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks. Jim Summerville”
The subject line of Summerville’s email to Cooper says “Please share this response with your colleagues”.
The email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, is one that Summerville has publicly posted as his personal contact for several years on various websites, including the National Association of Scholars, of which he was Tennessee chapter president. He is an adjunct professor of history at Austin Peay State University.
Cooper could not be reached for immediate comment but Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, chairman of the legislative black caucus, said that if the message is from Summerville, “that’s appalling. Not only does he embarrass himself, he embarrasses the entire state of Tennessee by making a statement like that. It makes you wonder what his state of mind was at the time. Why would a state senator even think that and why would you put it out publicly?
— Note: Statement from House Democratic Caucus, Democratic party below.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Chuck Fleischmann on Thursday turned back vigorous attempts by Republican rivals to deny them another term in Congress.
Fleischmann defeated dairy executive Scotty Mayfield and Weston Wamp, the son of the former congressman representing the 3rd District in East Tennessee.
“I look forward to returning to Congress to continue to fight for the conservative values I’m committed to,” Fleischmann said in an emailed statement.
With all precincts reporting, Fleischmann had 29,943 votes, or 39 percent, compared with Mayfield’s 23,772 votes, or 31 percent. Wamp had 29 percent.
Edwinea Murray, a retired Tennessee Valley Authority worker who lives in Hixson, said she voted for Fleischmann because she was disgusted by the tone of rival campaigns.
“They were slamming their opponents in the commercials more than anything,” she said. “I think a lot of that is unnecessary.”