U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s first visit to Oak Ridge was short and busy, but he still came away impressed, according to Frank Munger. Cantor was keynote speaker Thursday at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, offering his views on budget battles in Washington, taking a few light jabs at the White House and showing he’d done a little research on Oak Ridge before he arrived and went straight to the stage.
“From the beginning, I know that Oak Ridge has been one of America’s strongest forces for peace,” Cantor said, referencing the Atomic City’s role in the World War II Manhattan Project.
The Virginia Republican tied the early atomic work on weapons, which ultimately were used to “help break the back of the Soviet Union” in the Cold War, to Oak Ridge’s pioneering role in producing radioisotopes for cancer therapies, which he called proof “of the serendipity of science.”
He said these were “amazing feats” and a source of inspiration and innovation.
Cantor said there’s a lot of discussion in Washington these days about the proper role of the federal government, and he said it is “appropriate and desirable” for federal policy to serve as a catalyst for the discoveries that take place at the facilities in Oak Ridge.
“The job in Washington is to encourage the innovation,” he said. “It is not to allow gridlock to stand in the way.”
Following his remarks, Cantor got a 25-minute tour of the Y-12 National Security Complex.
He fielded a few questions from the news media, and then was whisked away to speak at a $500-a-plate fundraiser for his host, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
— Note: See also the Chattanooga Times-Free Press report, HERE.
A raft of legislation on school security filed after the Newtown, Conn., shooting tragedy was whittled down to one “consensus bill” last week after negotiations between Gov. Bill Haslam and several key legislators, but a conflict quickly developed between the House and Senate.
Under the proposal, school districts would be authorized to hire retired law enforcement officers who could carry guns in schools. Only people who have gone through regular law enforcement training, hold a handgun carry permit and take an additional 40-hour course in “school policing” would qualify.
“These are not just people we’re handing out guns to,” said Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, the House sponsor of the bill. “These are seasoned, veteran officers.”
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, the Senate sponsor, described it as an option for “top-quality security at a real good price.” Retired officers are likely to sign up for such work for very modest wages, he said.
Haslam has included $34 million in his proposed budget for the coming year for distribution to schools statewide for security improvements. A school could use its share of that money to hire the officers if local school officials choose, an administration spokeswoman said, though it can also be used for other purposes such as equipment or building renovations.
The bill (SB570, as amended) touched off lengthy debate in the House Education Subcommittee and the Senate Education Committee in its initial airing. Both approved the measure, but in different form.
As drafted, the “consensus bill” — a term used by Niceley and Watson — grants immunity to schools for any damages or injuries caused by a retained security officer.
The House panel, however, stripped that provision from the bill at the urging of Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, who cited an incident in New York wherein a security officer’s gun accidentally discharged and hit a 5-year-old student. School systems carry insurance for such things, he said, and granting them immunity could “leave a child out in the cold” after being gravely and permanently injured.
Critics of the move said that without immunity schools would pay higher insurance premiums, and the cost would prevent many from hiring new security officers. But Stewart’s motion prevailed.
The immunity issue was not mentioned in the Senate committee debate, and the provision remained intact. Instead, senators argued over the bill’s effectiveness.
Niceley, who after the Newtown shootings initially proposed requiring a security officer in every school, defended the proposal that he said was worked out during “three or four weeks of back and forth with the governor.”
“This is as good as anything we can pass this year,” Niceley said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow school districts to hire retired law enforcement officers for security advanced in the Legislature on Wednesday after being approved by the governor.
The legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland passed the House Civil Justice Committee on a voice vote before being approved 5-2 by the Senate Education Committee.
The proposal is different from the original version, which would have allowed school teachers and faculty with handgun carry permits to be armed at school. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he’s against such a proposal and others like it being considered this session.
However, a representative from the governor’s office said Wednesday that the governor is OK with the bill that’s advancing.
The proposal would allow schools to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a school policing course. Total raining could require over 400 hours.
From a Chattanooga TFP story: The ostensible reason for firing former Bradley County deputy Dallas Longwith was that he was seen mowing the yard in December, wearing only his underwear.
The real reason Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth fired him a year ago, Longwith claims in a federal lawsuit, is Longwith was open about plans to support state Rep. Eric Watson if he runs against Ruth next year.
“It had nothing to do with work-related stuff — it was just to get rid of me because I had an affiliation with the man who might be the next sheriff of Bradley County,” Longwith told the Times Free Press.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, seeks $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
In it, Longwith claims that Ruth, a Republican, “systematically demoted, cut pay and/or changed the shifts of Sheriff’s deputies who had openly supported” Democrat Steve Lawson.
Debate in Tennessee’s bitter 4th District congressional campaign turned over the weekend to the respective candidates’ past legal problems, reports Andy Sher. Democrat Eric Stewart was sued by Citibank in November 2011 for failing to pay on nearly $5,000 in credit card debt, Franklin County General Sessions Court records show. Republican incumbent Scott DesJarlais, a physician, has a “history” of medical malpractice, state Democrats claim, citing claims in 1991 and 2004.
Citibank sued Stewart on Dec. 6, 2011, a little over a month after the state senator and insurance agent announced he was running for Congress. DesJarlais campaign manager Brandon Lewis said the lawsuit underscores a pattern of financial mismanagement that makes Stewart unqualified to tackle the nation’s debts.
“When Tennesseans are struggling to find jobs, we can’t count on someone with failed businesses, multiple IRS tax liens and warrants for unpaid personal debts,” he said. Small businesses “know that Eric Stewart’s support of Barack Obama’s policies and Obamacare will mean additional tax burdens that may put them out of business and cost Tennesseans even more jobs,” Lewis said.
Attorney Bill Shick, who represented Citibank, said Stewart settled the debt Dec. 27, 2011, but the suit wasn’t officially dropped until March 6.
…Already rocked by revelations that DesJarlais dated at least two patients while separated from his first wife, his campaign over the weekend responded to new charges by the Tennessee Democratic Party that his medical practice shows a “history of lawsuits.”
Democrats cited a 1991 malpractice suit in Kansas and Tennessee records indicating he settled a malpractice claim here in 2004.
Kansas court records show a hospital, DesJarlais and another doctor were sued in a case involving a newborn they delivered who had a severe form of cerebral palsy.
After a difficult labor, the other doctor determined a caesarian section was necessary and instructed a nurse to push the baby’s head up the birth canal to accommodate the procedure, according to a Kansas appellate court opinion.
The jury ruled in favor of DesJarlais and the other defendant, and the appellate court upheld the ruling.
And Tennessee Health Department records show DesJarlais in 1994 settled an “above average” malpractice claim of at least $75,000. The records contain no additional information, and Democrats said they could not find a publicly filed lawsuit. A Democratic Party spokesman said the actions raise issues of trust.
Reports on Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ sexual relationship with a second patient he met as a physician have brought a new round of criticism from supporters of Eric Stewart, the Democratic nominee in the 4th Congressional District.
House Majority PAC, a group with ties to Democratic congressional leaders, announced it had purchased another $180,000 worth of television time for a new commercial criticizing the embattled congressman. That makes a total of about $280,000 spent by the group.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester, meanwhile, called a news conference to declare that DesJarlais “ran his medical practice like a Craigslist cathouse” and berate the state’s Republican leaders “standing in support of Scott DesJarlais and his unethical behavior” though a “conspiracy of silence” on the controversy.
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press on Sunday quoted a woman, who was granted anonymity, as saying she had the Marion County physician had a sexual relationship 12 years ago while his divorce was pending, that they shared marijuana and that he wrote prescriptions for drugs to her at her home. An earlier report quoted a transcript of DesJarlais urging another woman, also met as a patient, to get an abortion.
DesJarlais has said that, in the first case, he believed the woman was not really pregnant and used “strong language” with the aim of having her admit it. She turned out not to be pregnant, the doctor-congressman said.
DesJarlais had no direct comment on the second report. His campaign manager sent media this email:
“The woman mentioned in this article has reached out to both the congressman’s wife and the paper to express concerns about her statements being taken out of context and factual inaccuracies contained in this article. … Rather than focusing solely on a 14-year-old divorce, why don’t they talk to the congressman’s wife, Amy, who he has been married to for more than 10 years?
“It speaks volumes that even Lincoln Davis recently said that he regretted his actions and that these types of personal smear campaigns that hurt families have no place in politics.”
Davis, the Democratic congressman DesJarlais defeated in 2010, ran ads pointing to other allegations in DesJarlais’ divorce, including his ex-wife’s claim that he threatened her and once put a pistol in his mouth. Davis, who is backing Stewart this year, has said he regrets the ads.
Meanwhile, Forrester has called on the Republican Party and elected officials to seek DesJarlais’ resignation and to condemn his actions.
“Their approval and support of DesJarlais’ unethical behavior and hypocrisy makes it painfully clear that the Tennessee Republican Party is only concerned with one thing — holding on to power,” said Forrester.
Asked for comment on the Democrat’s call, state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney sent this via email:
“We’re not going to comment further on hearsay, anonymous charges that are being leveled by a desperate candidate. Folks in the 4th District are focused on jobs and the economy, and not on stories being ginned up for political purposes by a desperate Democrat Party.”
(Note: This updates and replaces previous post.)
State Sem. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, has begun laying the groundwork for a 2014 campaign in the 4th Congressional District, regardless of whether incumbent Republican Scott DesJarlais or Democratic challenger Eric Stewart wins this year’s contest. Andy Sher reports that political operatives and Republican legislators say Tracy has met with donors about a bid and will make a decision after the Nov. 6 election. Tracy said Friday he’s focused on “getting to know the folks in my new district and working on my re-election and helping other Republicans and Mitt Romney get elected.”
He said the questions about DesJarlais “are serious allegations and I have some concerns about it.”
DesJarlais, first elected in 2010, has acknowledged he encouraged the woman in 2000 to get an abortion. But he says he knew the woman wasn’t pregnant and he was simply trying to get her to acknowledge it. He said the relationship occurred when he and his then-wife were in divorce proceedings and had agreed they could see other people.
Prominent Republican officeholders ranging from Gov. Bill Haslam to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga have distanced themselves from DesJarlais but publicly have held their tongues.
“People are going to hold their nose and push a button one more time for DesJarlais. They don’t want [House Democrat Nancy] Pelosi to be speaker,” a senior Republican said. “But he’s going to have major primary competition” in 2014.
In 2010, before redistricting, Tracy, ran for Congress from the 6th District, coming in third in a race with Murfreesboro businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik and state Sen. Diane Black. Black won.
GOP-controlled redistricting reshaped the 4th District with the addition of part of Bradley County and all of Rhea, Meigs and Rutherford counties plus Tracy’s home county of Bedford.
This year, legislative Republicans thought state Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, would challenge DesJarlais in this year’s primary. But the confrontation never materialized.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Freshman U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais received just $10,610 in contributions from individual donors in the reporting period following revelations that he once urged a mistress to seek an abortion.
The Republican congressman seeking re-election in the 4th District also reported $17,700 in receipts from political action committees for a total of about $28,300 over the course of the 17-day campaign finance reporting period, the last before the Nov. 6 election.
DesJarlais spent $304,000 in the period, led by more than $216,000 on TV advertising, nearly $52,000 on direct mail and $7,000 for polling services just days after the news about his abortion discussion emerged Oct. 10.
DesJarlais faces Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart, whose campaign said he raised $63,700 in the reporting period.
The conversation between DesJarlais and the woman who had also been under his care as a Jasper physician took place while he was trying to reconcile with his first wife, Susan.
“You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais told the woman who is not identified in the transcript. “If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.”
DesJarlais, whose campaign platform includes his opposition to abortion rights, does not dispute the contents of the transcript but has argued it leaves out the context that he was trying to pressure the woman to admit that she was not pregnant. He has said there was no pregnancy and no divorce, and that he and his former wife had an agreement to see other people before the divorce was finalized in 2001.
Other than the barrage of television ads, DesJarlais has largely maintained a low profile since the abortion discussion became national news.
DesJarlais’ report shows he gave $2,000 to Mitt Romney’s campaign on Oct. 1, though that didn’t keep the Republican’s presidential campaign from quietly removing the congressman’s endorsement from its website after the details of transcript emerged nine days later.
A Democratic super PAC has jumped into the Tennessee 4th Congressional District race with an ad slamming Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais over revelations that he once had sex with a patient and encouraged her to seek an abortion, reports Andy Sher.
The House Majority PAC is spending”more than” $100,000 in the campaign and it is the first evidence that Democrats see Jasper’s DesJarlais, who has campaigned as being anti-abortion, as being vulnerable in his contest with Democrat Eric Stewart.
The group’s ad, “Trust,” begins airing this evening. “Trust and faith,” it says. “As a doctor, Scott DesJarlais earned his patients’ trust.” The ad then cuts to extensive news coverage of the abortion controversy.
View the House Majority ad HERE. “Scott DesJarlais’ incredible hypocrisy is just staggering,” said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC, which is linked to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement. “Tennesseans deserve better than Scott DesJarlais, for whom touting the values of trust and faith was nothing more than lip service.”
DesJarlais’ campaign issued a statement charging Stewart “has tried to run from his strong backing of Barack Obama and Obamacare throughout this campaign by pushing out recycled, 12-year-old garbage to keep from talking about his support of liberal policies that are killing jobs in Tennessee.”
“His out-of-state, liberal attack team that works hand in hand with Obama is now trying to hijack this race from Tennesseans — but they are too smart to fall for that.”
— Note: The Tennessee Democratic Party, meanwhile, has a web video that is being passed around on the Internet, also bashing DesJarlais. It is HERE.
— Note2: DesJarlais is currently up with an ad attacking Stewart for thinking that Obamacare” is “great,” Prior post HERE. The Tennessee Journal says the current DesJarlais ad buy is for $250,000.
Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais is slamming Democratic rival Eric Stewart on “Obamacare” in a new television ad, but the underfunded Stewart’s fortunes may be in for a substantial change, reports Andy Sher.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday switched Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District to its “red to blue” category, a designation indicating Democrats think it’s a winnable seat and intend to devote resources to Stewart’s battle with the Jasper physician.
Stewart announced the move Thursday in an email to supporters, saying he has “more good news” after his campaign on Wednesday released an internal poll that Stewart says shows him in a “dead heat” with DesJarlais.
… DesJarlais enjoys a huge cash-on-hand advantage over Stewart, a state senator from Winchester, and is currently pounding him in television ads over what he says is Stewart’s support of “Obamacare.” (View the ad HERE.)
…(The ad accuses Stewart) of calling the federal Affordable Care Act “great.”
“Great,” a woman announcer says, “a word used to describe a quiet moment of fishing, a [UT] Vols win, a plate of barbecue. But great is how Eric Stewart describes Obamacare. Bureaucrat between patient and doctor — great. $700 billion in Medicare cuts — great. … There are a lot of great things in Tennessee, but Eric Stewart and Obamacare are not one of them.”
The ad cites a Times Free Press article from this summer in which Stewart said repeal of the law would kill popular provisions such as one that fills in a gap in Medicare drug coverage for seniors known as the “doughnut hole.”
Repeal, Stewart said, also would allow insurance companies to continue denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions and parents wouldn’t be allowed to keep their children on their plans until age 26.
“Given all those great things that are in it, no, I wouldn’t vote to repeal it,” Stewart said. “Now, it still needs some work. … What we need are leaders who can go up there and do the job they were sent to do and that’s work together and solve the problems.”