Tag Archives: elections

TBA asks judge candidates to sign Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct

News release from Tennessee Bar Association
NASHVILLE, May 5, 2016 – With three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices and seven intermediate appellate judges facing retention elections, along with 15 trial judges and a number of local judges on the ballot in August, the Tennessee Bar Association is renewing its effort to assure fair and impartial judicial elections by asking judges to subscribe to the Tennessee Fair Judicial Campaign Code of Conduct.

“Judicial elections are different,” said TBA President Bill Harbison. “Judges are not permitted to make promises or pledges about how they will rule because we expect them to proceed case by case to apply the law to the facts and come to fair and impartial decisions. The code helps to ensure this impartiality by committing the judges not to make pledges, promises or commitments on how they will rule in cases.”

In the 2014 election cycle, where all judges and judicial officers were on the ballot, more than 116 judges subscribed to the code. Letters to all known judges and judicial candidates on the ballot are being issued this week. For more information and to view the code of conduct, visit

Note: The link includes listings of judicial candidates, including three Supreme Court justices — Jeffrey S. Bivins, Holly Kirby and Roger Page — and seven other appeals court judges who will be on the August ballot. The Supreme Court members are all Republican appointees of Gov. Bill Haslam and no opposition to their retention has surface, a contrast to the 2014 election when three justices appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen were on the ballot (and won despite heavy opposition, led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey).

Referendum on Insure TN rejected; Democrats blame Durham

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to place Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal before the voters in November has been defeated in a House subcommittee.

The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee voted Wednesday to study the bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley (HB2545) after the General Assembly adjourns.

Haslam last year proposed extending health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans. The Tennessee Hospital Association had pledged to cover the entire $74 million state share of the program to draw down $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid funds over two years.

But Republican lawmakers rejected Haslam’s plan last year amid fears that it was too closely linked to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Haslam wants to wait and see who the next president is before deciding how to proceed.

Note: Democrats blame defeat of the bill on Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who is otherwise facing an investigation into alleged sexual harassment. News releases below.
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Bill ends early voting in uncontested special elections

Freshman Rep. Jason Zachary says the first bill he brought before the House Local Government Subcommittee would have saved Knox County $30,000 if it had been in effect when he won a special election last year.

The Knoxville Republican’s bill — HB1475 — would eliminate early voting in special elections when there is only one candidate on the ballot – the situation that occurred in 2015 when Zachary was the only candidate on the special general election to replace former Rep. Ryan Haynes, who vacated the 14th House District seat to become state Republican Party chairman.

Zachary defeated fellow Republican Karen Carson in the August 2014 special primary election. No Democrat sought nomination to the seat and no one filed the paperwork necessary under state law to qualify as a write-in candidate. The Knox County Commission proceeded to appoint Zachary to take the seat early, but — as required under existing state law — the county election commission proceeded with holding early voting prior to the special general election in September.

Zachary told the subcommittee last week that the early voting cost taxpayers about $30,000 and “this is a bill to protect the taxpayers” in the future based on his personal past experience. He said about 5,000 people voted in the contested primary while only about 200 in the uncontested general election.

The panel approved the bill on voice vote and with no discussion on its merits, but not without a bit of the banter that freshman legislators typically endure on their initial appearance as sponsor of a bill.

Local Government Committee Chairman Tim Wirgau, R-Buchannan, told Zachary it was traditional for a freshman appearing before the panel to sing “the Tennessee General Assembly fight song” prior to a vote.

“If you will teach it to me, I will sing it,” Zachary replied.

Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, asked Zachary if he voted for himself in the special general election. Zachary acknowledged doing so and Miller then declared support of the bill, noting that without it the possibility would exist for a candidate being elected based only on his own vote — as would have been the case if “those 199 other people didn’t vote.”

The General Assembly, while it does have its own official flag, does not have an official fight song — at least not yet — though it has enacted multiple official state songs.

TN Secretary of State’s early voting press release

News release from Secretary of State’s office
Nashville, Tennessee – (February 10, 2016) – Early voting for the March 1 presidential preference primary, or “SEC Primary,” begins today.

This election cycle voting early may be an important option because of unpredictable winter weather. The number of presidential candidates as well as the number of delegates could also create incredibly long ballots for some voters.

Six Southern states will join Tennessee to help decide who could be the next president of the United States. The Volunteer State’s clout could mean more primary interest than in years past.

“I’m trying to remember the last time we were seeing this much attention in a Republican primary, this many people paying attention to Tennessee and Southern states,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett told Politico late last year. “I can’t think of a time.”

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays and ends Tuesday, February 23. Some counties will be closed on Monday, February 15 for Presidents Day.
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TN presidential primary candidate list finalized

News release from Secretary of State’s office
Nashville, Tennessee – (December 17, 2015) – Today marks an important milestone on the road to the White House, which will cross Tennessee during the 2016 election cycle. Secretary of State Tre Hargett has now certified the names of presidential candidates for the March 1 presidential preference primary, or “SEC Primary,” when Tennessee will join six other southern states to help decide who will be the next president of the United States.

“It is likely one of these men or women will hold our country’s highest elected office. Hopefully Tennesseans understand how much of an impact their votes will make,” Secretary Hargett said.

It’s important to note that once a candidate is certified for a party primary they are unable to appear on the November 8 general election ballot as the nominee of a different political party. Hargett presented the list of 14 Republicans and three Democrats to the State Election Commission December 1.
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On the Supreme TN political rule changes

In the aftermath of record spending by three justices in last year’s campaigns, the Tennessee Supreme Court last week revised the rules for judicial politicking, allowing judges to start campaigning earlier and easing restrictions on campaign trail conduct.

Three justices will also be up for a yes-no retention election in August 2016, state election officials have decided, although there has been some uncertainty over the timing.

The 2016 campaigns might not be as combative as the 2014 contests, which saw three justices appointed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen facing charges they were “liberal Democrats.” In 2016, the three justices will all be appointees of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam — Jeff Bivens of Franklin, Holly Kirby of Memphis and a justice who will be appointed soon by the governor.

Chief Justice Sharon Lee would not agree to be interviewed on the rule changes, which were announced Wednesday via a news release that stressed judges will still face far more restrictions on politicking than other public officials.

But others uniformly agreed the rule revisions amount to a court response to the successful but troubled campaigns of Lee, Justice Cornelia Clark and former Justice Gary Wade last year.

“It was an awkward situation last year,” said Wade, who had ethics complaints filed against him for allegedly violating a now-abolished rule forbidding judges from endorsing any other candidate for public office.

The new rule lets judges endorse — or oppose — candidates running for judicial positions, but not in other races for other political offices.

“They ran for re-election on keeping politics out of the court system, and now they’ve just injected politics into the court system,” said George Scoville, a Nashville-based blogger who filed complaints against Wade and other judges last year.
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Startup nonprofit’s politicking scrutinized

As Nashville voters decide a runoff mayor’s election today, the faith-based group Nashville Organized for Action and Hope says it is weighing legal action over use of campaign materials appearing under the name of a predecessor organization.

Further from The Tennessean:

The name at issue is Tying Nashville Together, a defunct social justice-driven nonprofit in Nashville that consisted of churches, synagogues and neighborhood associations and was active for nearly two decades, particularly in North Nashville.

Tying Nashville Together, founded in 1991, recently dissolved, but core members in 2013 organized under the nonprofit NOAH, which has built a campaign platform that it has presented to Nashville’s mayoral and council candidates.

Two pieces of campaign material have surfaced ahead of Thursday’s Metro’s runoff election that say they are paid for by a new nonprofit corporation with the same name, Tying Nashville Together, which records show filed for organization with the Tennessee Secretary of State on Aug. 20.

One piece of campaign literature — one that appears to be circulating in North Nashville — is a voting card that says “Vote for these candidates.” Candidates listed are mayoral candidate David Fox and at-large Metro Council candidates Erica Gilmore, Jim Shulman, Sharon Hurt, Lonnell Matthews Jr. and John Cooper.

The Aug. 20 nonprofit filing of Tying Nashville Together with the state lists Donald Richardson at 1028 Charlotte Ave. as the registered agent of the group. That address is also the address of Nashville Limousine Service, an Internet search shows.

A phone number listed on the Yelp page for Nashville Limousine Service is the phone number of Rick Williams, chairman of Save Our Fairgrounds and Stop Amp who is historically active in Metro races. In addition the incorporating address of Nashville Limousine Service appears to be the Madison home address of Williams.

Williams did not return numerous calls from The Tennessean or respond to multiple text messages.

Fox campaign spokesman Israel Ortega said the Fox campaign gave a $1,500 contribution to the Williams-led entity to cover printing costs of the voting card.

State Rep. Bo Mitchell accused of involvement in mystery Nashville campaign robocalls

Nashville mayoral candidate David Fox’s campaign is pointing to state Rep. Bo Mitchell, who supports another candidate, as the person behind anonymously-sponsored robocalls tying Fox to “extremist” Republicans. Both Mitchell and the campaign he supports – that of Bill Freeman – denied the allegations.

From The Tennessean’s report:

The robocall, which went out to phones on July 31, did not disclose who paid for the message, which would violate federal telephone consumer regulations.

According to the Fox campaign, the call used the caller ID number 615-852-7237, which is linked to a Google Voice account with a voicemail set up.

The Barry and Bone campaigns both denied any role in the robocall last week. In now pointing to Mitchell and Freeman, the Fox campaign claimed they have the following evidence:

Fox’s campaign claims Mitchell “possesses the technology” and has a history of using an auto-dial machine in his own political races.

Fox’s campaign alleges that “eyewitnesses” place Mitchell, Freeman and former state Rep. Mike Turner, another Freeman supporter, at the Noshville restaurant on Broadway on the morning of July 30, one day before the robocall went out.

Fox’s campaign also points to a Facebook post that Democratic state Rep. Sherry Jones, also a Freeman adviser, made on July 30. Jones wrote the following: “For those of you who may not know, mayoral candidate David Fox is a tea party Republican.”

Mitchell responded to questions from The Tennessean via text message on Monday:

“I didn’t create anything that targeted any candidate,” Mitchell texted, adding that he’s been encouraging folks to early vote.

Asked whether he had any involvement at all with the robocalls, Mitchell texted: “None.”

Jones, a South Nashville Democrat, also denied any involvement in the robocall.

Nashville’s mayoral election is Thursday. Early voting ended Saturday.

Fox campaign officials say they plan to turn over their findings to the district attorney’s office as well as relevant state legislative committees.

Hargett spokesman: ‘There will be a retention election in 2016 for Justice Wade’s vacancy’

Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office, which oversees the state division of elections, appears now to have concluded that the successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade should first face a retention election next August, and not in 2022, as some have speculated, according to TNReport.

“Per Tenn. Const. Article VII Section 5 there will be a retention election in 2016 for Justice Wade’s vacancy,” Adam Ghassemi, director of communications for Secretary of State Tre Hargett, wrote in an email to TNReport Friday evening.

The provision of the state Constitution cited in Ghassemi’s statement declares in part that should an unscheduled judicial opening arise, “such vacancy shall be filled at the next biennial election recurring more than thirty days after the vacancy occurs.”

The “next biennial election” for Tennessee judges is next August.

Justice Wade, who won a new eight-year term to the Supreme Court last August, unexpectedly announced his retirement from the bench on July 24.

Wade’s departure, effective Sept. 8, will take effect approximately seven years ahead of schedule, and it will create the first vacancy on the five-member Supreme Court since voters endorsed new judicial-selection procedures in November.

…(T)he portion of the Tennessee Constitution cited by the secretary of state’s office on Friday, Article VII, was in fact not altered by Amendment 2.

Article VII addresses “State and County Officers.” Amendment 2 rewrote only Section 3 of Article VI, which is titled, “Judicial Department.”

Amendment 2 modified the Tennessee Constitution so that it now declares that the state’s most powerful judges “shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor.”

In wake of Wade’s retirement announcement, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration indicated confusion over whether their new Supreme Court appointee will stand for a retention vote in August 2016 — the next regularly scheduled judicial election — or in 2022, when Wade’s full term was scheduled to expire.

When will you vote on next TN Supreme Court justice? ‘Unclear at this time’

There seems to be confusion over when the successor to state Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade will face a retention vote in a statewide election after he or she is appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports Richard Locker. (Note: It might be 2016; it might be never.)

Prior to last November’s ratification of a new judicial amendment to the state constitution, the answer was clear: The governor’s appointee to a vacancy on the state Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or the Court of Criminal Appeals would appear on the ballot at the next statewide August election for a “retain” or “replace” vote by the public. The appointee could serve no more than two years without a direct public vote.

But the new amendment altered the judicial selection process, and opponents of the amendment criticized the new wording as vague and confusing regarding the timing of retention elections for appointees filling vacancies on the court.

…The governor’s office said Monday that “it’s unclear at this time” when a retention election will occur. “We anticipate the General Assembly will address the question when they reconvene early next year,” said Laura Herzog, the governor’s deputy director of communications.

The chief legislative drafter of last year’s Amendment 2, state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said Monday, in an email response to questions regarding the upcoming appointment, that Wade’s successor will not be subject to a retention election until 2022, the end of the current eight-year judicial term. That would give the successor nearly seven years on the state’s high court bench without a direct vote by Tennesseans. (Note: And, of course, under that scenario, if the judge decides not to seek another term, he or she would thus never face a vote.)

But at least twice before last November’s constitutional referendum, Kelsey publicly said that an appointee filling a vacancy on the court would be subject to a retention election at the next August statewide election.

During the campaign for the constitutional amendment last fall, Kelsey appeared at a Sept. 20 forum in Nashville and said, in response to a question from Amendment 2 critic John Jay Hooker: “As Mr. Hooker knows full well, there are two other sections of our state constitution that talk about the election of judges … so if it’s a vacancy, the retention election would occur at the following, at the next even-year August election. If it’s a full term, the retention election would occur at the end of the eight-year term.”

And in a Senate floor debate on Feb. 21, 2013, on the resolution that put Amendment 2 on the ballot, Kelsey said in response to a question about the timing of retention elections asked by then-Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville:

“At the end of the eight-year term for a full term or at the next August election for a vacancy, there would be a retention election under the language of this constitutional amendment.”

…John Avery Emison, who helped run last year’s Vote No on 2 campaign against the judicial amendment, said Monday he hopes the “governor will make the right decision” and declare that his appointee is subject to a retention election in August 2016.

Emison, who lives in Crockett County, cited an email he received last Oct. 11, just before the referendum, from prominent Nashville lawyer Lee Barfield, in response to Emison’s questions to Haslam about retention elections for appointees filling judicial vacancies if Amendment 2 passed.

Barfield, who played a lead role in the Yes on 2 campaign in support of the judicial amendment, said in that email: “ If Amendment 2 is adopted by the voters, a person appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy must stand for retention election by the voters at the next biennial election unless the vacancy occurred less than 30 days prior to the biennial election, in which case the judge will face a retention election in the second biennial election after the vacancy occurred.”