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.
Republican state House candidate Lauri Day suffered collateral damage in an attack sent by her own party against a Democratic candidate in Sumner County, reports the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said in an Oct. 2 news release that Steve Glaser, a Democratic candidate for state House District 44, should drop out of the race because of unpaid taxes. Devaney wrote that Glaser’s tax liens exhibited “a pattern of just refusing to pay his fair share.”
Glaser owes nearly $88,000 to the IRS, and at least 15 liens by federal and state tax collectors have been filed between 1988 and August of this year against him, according to the release.
“What arrogance for him to think he could run for office and actually serve in the Legislature. Instead of campaigning to have Tennesseans pay his salary, he should be working a second job to pay his bills,” Devaney said in the release. “Steve Glaser should do what’s right and suspend his campaign until his taxes are paid in full.”
The Tennessee Democratic Party pointed out Monday morning that Devaney’s attack should also apply to Day.
“There’s just one problem – in his zeal to attack a Democrat, Devaney has effectively said that candidate for state House Lauri Day should resign from her race in order to get a second job,” spokesman Sean Braisted wrote in a news release.
Day, who is running against Democratic Rep. John Tidwell in District 74, has a $46,000 lien against her home for unpaid federal income taxes.
“This is just blatant hypocrisy on the part of the Tennessee Republican Party,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester in the news release. “Either Devaney needs to call on his candidate, Lauri Day, to drop out of her race and get another job, or he needs to come clean and admit that he doesn’t actually mean what he says.”
…Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas said the cases were different because Glaser had not been up front with voters.
“He came out with desperate and meritless attacks against his Republican opponent while ignoring his excessive amount of unpaid taxes, which is well-documented, even while his campaign touts more government spending just like John Tidwell,” Nickas wrote in an e-mail.
“Lauri Day, on the other hand, has been up-front with the voters and, unlike the Democrats, has been running a campaign based on the important issues facing our state.”
Day said on Monday that she may have mentioned her tax issues on a radio show prior to the Republican primary. The liens first received widespread attention following a Sept. 10 article in The Leaf-Chronicle.
Tennessee isn’t the only Southern state where Democrats have had difficulties in coming up with a credible candidate for statewide office, observes the Tennessean. While Tennessee Democrats have disowned and vowed not to support nominee Mark Clayton of Whites Creek in the U.S. Senate race — due to his views on gays and his association with an anti-gay group — their Alabama counterparts took an even more drastic step with one of their candidates.
The Democratic Party there disqualified its nominee for chief justice of the state Supreme Court because of comments he made online about the Republican nominee, accusing him of having “dementia” and being “a devil worshipper.” Party officials felt the comments were improper for a judicial nominee. It just so happened the Democratic nominee in question, Harry Lyon, also had a long history of entering and losing Alabama political races.
And in Mississippi, Democrats are relying on an 82-year-old to fill a ballot spot opposite incumbent Republican Sen. Roger Wicker. His name is Albert N. Gore Jr., who the Mississippi League of Women voters says is a distant cousin to Al Gore, the former Democratic vice president and U.S. senator from Tennessee.
Gore told National Public Radio that someone younger should be making the race but “they didn’t want to fight.”
“The lack of even qualified Democrats is really becoming a problem (in the South). More and more Republicans are running unopposed,” said Steve Borrelli, political analyst at the University of Alabama.
The National Federation of Independent Business has released its list of endorsed candidates in races for state legislative seats — all Republicans with three exceptions.
The exceptions: House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in House District 82, Rep. Charles Curtiss of Sparta in House District 43; Rep. Joe Pitts of Clarksville in House District 53 and Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis in House District 90. DeBerry and Pitts have no Republican opponents. Curtiss and Fitzhugh do.
Many of the Republicans endorsed also have no opponent in the general election.
The news release follows, with the candidate list below that under ‘continue reading.’ News release from National Federation of Independent Business:
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 10, 2012 – The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee’s leading small business association, released a list of endorsed candidates, including 29 NFIB members.
The endorsements were made by NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members. The general election will be held Nov. 6.
“NFIB supports candidates who understand how important it is to reduce burdens on small business,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee. “These candidates have consistently supported or pledged to support a lower tax environment and to improve our unemployment and workers’ comp systems.”
Endorsements by Senate and House Districts (NFIB members noted with an asterisk):
From a Tennessean story on state Democratic efforts to find candidates for statewide office in the future: They say those future contenders are already running governments in the state’s biggest population centers.
“The big-city mayors are clearly the future leaders of our party,” said Chip Forrester, the state Democratic chairman since January 2009. “They’re on a platform to run statewide when those opportunities arise.”
At the top of the list is Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who has his share of critics but has managed to guide the capital city through a recession and a flood with a pro-business, education-reform platform. Forrester said being the mayor of “the media center of the state” also gives Dean an advantage.
Dean, who will leave office in 2015, is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and was mingling — in his affable but soft-spoken way — with other delegates and party officials at the delegation’s breakfast Tuesday. But his office said in a statement last week that he’s not laying the groundwork for any statewide run at this point.
…Forrester and other Democrats said Dean is just the first of several mayors with potential. They also praise A C Wharton of Memphis, Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, Kim McMillan of Clarksville and state Sen. Andy Berke, who is running for mayor of Chattanooga.
Forrester called Wharton “a uniter” and said McMillan — who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor two years ago — and Berke have put together strong records as state lawmakers. He said Rogero showed “tremendous crossover appeal” by getting elected in a “traditionally Republican city.”
“Coming from East Tennessee gives her some panache,” he added. “Madeline has really been focused on results in Knoxville, not party labels. And we’ve been working hard to encourage women to step up and run.”
Dean, Rogero and Wharton are scheduled to speak to the state delegation here in Charlotte on Thursday.
The Tennessean has a roundup story on some of the state House candidates who live outside the boundaries of the district they want to represent. Jason Potts wants your vote in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary, and he’s going to need it. After all, the House District 53 candidate won’t be able to vote for himself.
Charles Williamson says he already cast a ballot for himself in District 50. But the Republican shouldn’t have, based on Metro Codes documents and rulings that show he can’t legally live where he registered to vote.
Potts, already a Metro councilman, does not yet live in the South Nashville legislative district he seeks to represent in the General Assembly. He’s one of several candidates who haven’t established residency this year in the districts where they’re campaigning for voters’ support.
“I do think it’s important to live in the place you’re going to represent,” said Jason Powell, Potts’ primary opponent.
But Powell had his own bit part in the game of musical homes that tends to play out every 10 years in the wake of redistricting by the legislature. He just moved to the district himself in March, after he had already picked up a candidate qualifying position.
The candidates have benefited from a timing quirk in state election law, which allows them to run from beyond a district’s borders but requires them to live within them to hold the office.
Earlier this year, a Knox County judge removed state Senate candidate Shelley Breeding from the ballot over residency concerns. Breeding said her home was in Knox County, but the judge determined the border property was actually in Anderson County. A state appeals court upheld the ruling, and the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to consider the case further.
Susan Lynn, a former state representative running to reclaim the District 57 seat she held for eight years, now lives in District 46. Lynn has said lawmakers, including Rep. Linda Elam, who replaced her, redrew the Wilson County district to exclude her.
Political action committees, businesses and legislative leaders placed $1.4 million in bets on races for the Tennessee General Assembly between April 1 and June 30, reports Andy Sher. Among dozens of groups giving money, the No. 1 position goes to a PAC operated by StudentsFirst, a national education reform advocacy group, according to Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance records.
Tennessee Parents/Teachers Putting Students First gave $105,000 directly to candidates, according to candidate filings. Among other issues, StudentsFirst, founded by former Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, supports a limited form of school vouchers, an issue expected to resurface in the Republican-led legislature in 2013. The group gave mostly to Republican lawmakers or candidates but supported some Democrats.
Coming in at No. 2 was the Plumbers and Pipefitters Education Committee, a labor-union PAC, which contributed $88,400 to Democrats, filings show.
Republicans can thank President Barack Obama for the party’s solid control of the Tennessee Legislature, starting with his appearance at the top of the national Democratic ticket in 2008 — after losing the state’s presidential primary even among Democratic voters — and continuing in more dramatic fashion in 2010.
The GOP has used advertising that linked many Democratic state legislators, even some who were staunch fiscal and social conservatives, to the evil national Democrats.
“You’d think Nancy Pelosi was my high school sweetheart and I played golf with Barack Obama every weekend,” grumbled state House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner recently.
The ads pictured Obama side by side with the designated target Democratic legislator. And it seems they were very effective, though you have to wonder if they were really even necessary, given the animosity most voting Tennesseans seemed to have toward Obama.
The National Rifle Association wants Tennessee legislative candidates to declare whether they will back Republican leaders or the NRA next year if that’s what it takes to put a controversial guns-in-parking lots bill up for a full vote, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. In a gun-issues survey sent to Republican and Democratic candidates, the NRA devotes two of 27 questions to the Safe Commute Act, which cleared most committees but never came up for House and Senate floor votes this year.
The NRA-backed bill, as amended, sought to block public and private employers’ ability to bar workers, customers and most visitors from keeping firearms in locked vehicles on company property, provided the weapons are stored out of sight.
The survey asks candidates if they would support the bill and blames Republican leaders for blocking full House and Senate votes this year.
“As a legislator, would you follow the demands of party leadership even if they run contrary to the NRA’s legislative agenda?” the survey asks.
In an interview, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulandandam called the survey question “pretty straightforward and self-explanatory.”
“At the NRA we’re not shy. We don’t mince words,” he said.
….House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said the survey question “sounds like they were asking, ‘Will you do what we tell you to do instead of sticking by leadership?'”
…When Democrats controlled the General Assembly, the NRA routinely criticized leadership for bottling up gun bills.
This election cycle, Democrats aren’t shedding any tears for the GOP chieftains.
“It’s the residue of the Republicans promising the moon [while in the minority], knowing they couldn’t deliver anything” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said. “And now that they’re piloting the space shuttle, it’s different.”
Switching metaphors, Kyle said, “It’s the chickens coming home to roost.”
U.S. Senate candidate Brenda Lenard said Wednesday that she has been urged to leave the race and endorse another of incumbent Sen. Bob Corker’s opponents in the Republican primary because of a bad check conviction and bankruptcies in her background.
Lenard, a Tea Party activist and single mother working on a doctorate in political science at the University of Tennessee, said she will “absolutely not” do so and believes that her life experiences – including the 1990s financial problems – make her a better person and a better candidate.
“There is not one thing in my past or even now that I’m ashamed of,” said Lenard, 45, of Sweetwater. “Life is tough and sometimes you have to roll with the punches.”