Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle joined his House counterpart Wednesday in declaring disinterest in running for governor, even though he waged a brief campaign for the office in 2010.
“I haven’t thought about it,” said Kyle, D-Memphis, adding that he had hoped House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley would run. As for himself, Kyle said he is not really interested, though stopping short of absolutely ruling it out.
“I’ve thought more about ‘do I want to leave the Senate and become a judge or do I want to stay in the Senate.’ That is the decision I’ve got to make between now and the end of the year,” he said. “That’s what I’ve focused all of my energy on.”
Fitzhugh, who has toyed with the idea of running for governor since December, said earlier this week that he has decided to instead seek re-election to his West Tennessee House seat and another term as head of House Democrats.
Kyle ran briefly for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2012, then withdrew — along with three other Democrats who initially declared themselves candidates, including the party’s current chairman, former state Sen. Roy Herron. Dresden businessman Mike McWherter won the nomination, then lost to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
The lone Democrat to voice interest in running against Gov. Bill Haslam for governor said he’ll stick to running for re-election to his West Tennessee House district instead, reports The City Paper. “I’m committed to continuing as leader and trying to run for my representative position again. That’s what I’m going to do, I believe,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh told The City Paper.
“I certainly hope that we can find somebody who will step forward because I do think some of the things that are happening in our state are not going the way that they could,” he said.
Fitzhugh first raised the possibility of a run for governor in December. (Previous post HERE)
See also, The Tennessean story.
State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says Republicans showed an inclination to “put petty politics above the safety of our students” during the legislative session by killing one of his bills.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada says that’s not so and Fitzhugh is “seeing a ghost behind every tree.”
The bill in issue (HB494) passed the Senate unanimously and cleared House committees system until it reached the Calendar Committee at the end of the session, where Casada declared it unneeded and “duplicative” of present law. He made a motion that, in effect, killed it for the year. The panel’s Republican majority backed him, scuttling the bill.
As amended, the bill declares that the Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission and the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, upon request of any school system, will provide advice on school security systems.
Fitzhugh said the move was retaliation for his vote against the state budget bill.
“This was a good bill that had bipartisan support throughout the legislative session. Had I known they would take it out on our students and teachers, I would have voted for their budget,” Fitzhugh said in a news release distributed by the House Democratic Caucus.
“Republicans leaders warned us about voting against the budget, but I never thought that in the wake of the horrors at Sandy Hook that they’d risk the safety and security of our children and grandchildren just to prove a point,” he said.
Casada said, when asked last week, that was “absolutely not” the case. Current law already allows the POST Commission to give advice to schools and the bill was “just playing politics” by Democrats seeking to claim credit for enhancing school security.
Current law apparently contains nothing that would prohibit the POST Commission from offering security advice to school systems, but nothing that explicitly authorizes it either.
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In an unusual and highly political move, House Republicans led by Chairman Glen Casada (R-Franklin) voted last Thursday to kill HB494 by Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley); this despite the bill having already passed the State Government, Education, and Finance Ways & Means Committees with a majority of support. The legislation would have helped local law enforcement increase security around school by working with the Tennessee peace officer standards and training commission.
“Republican leadership has put petty politics above the safety of our students,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “This was a good bill that had bi-partisan support throughout the legislative session. Had I known they would take it out on our students and teachers, I would have voted for their budget.”
Under the proposed legislation by Leader Fitzhugh, local schools could have requested that the POST commission initiate a security assessment of each school. Once completed, local governments and LEAs would have had the option to adopt security recommendations. This legislation was introduced in light of Governor Haslam’s declaration that Tennessee couldn’t afford to put a safety resource officer in every school. This bill was a common sense way to increase school safety, without dramatically increasing state or local expenditures.
The House Republicans voted to send this bill back to the Civil Justice Committee, which effectively killed the bill this year, after Leader Fitzhugh and 13 other Democrats voted against the budget. The intent of Republicans to kill the bill became even more clear when three House committees opened up Friday morning to hear bills, but Civil Justice was not one of them. The Senate version passed 32-0 on April 11.
“Republicans leaders warned us about voting against the budget, but I never thought that in the wake of the horrors at Sandy Hook that they’d risk the safety and security of our children and grandchildren just to prove a point,” said Leader Fitzhugh.
Video of the Calendar & Rules Committee hearing on HB494 can be found here: : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKySr0HBDUA
Representatives voting to kill the bill: Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Rep. Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson), Rep. Curtis Halford (R-Dyer), Rep. Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville), Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), Rep. Steve McManus (R-Cordova), Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), Rep. Eric Watson (R-Cleveland), Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville).
News release from House-Senate Democratic Caucus
NASHVILLE – House and Senate Democrats pushed in a Tuesday press conference for a full debate and an up or down vote on a bill to allow Tennessee to expand Medicaid.
“Unfortunately, this General Assembly has been in session for more than a month now, and we’ve spent most of our time on trivial matters,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said. “Whether we expand Medicaid affects the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans and has profound implications for our states budget.
“It’s time for us to do what the people sent us here to do and tackle the elephant in the room.”
Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell have remained open to Medicaid expansion, and Republican legislation to block expansion was taken off notice in the House and Senate.
“Accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid will create thousands of new jobs and create millions in new revenues for state government,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney said. “If we don’t expand, Tennessee businesses will face millions in new taxes.
“This should not be a partisan issue. This is about jobs and people.”
— Note: The Fitzhugh/Finney bill on Medicaid expansion is HB290/SB604.
By limiting the scope of his plan for launching a school voucher system in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam finds himself facing legislative critics who think he hasn’t gone far enough and others who think he has gone too far.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, for example, is in the camp of those who think the governor’s plan is too restrictive. He predicts that the Senate will amend the Haslam bill, filed as SB196, to make it “more universal.”
At the other end is House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who said a state near the bottom nationally in public school funding should not be diverting any money at all to private schools. The Tennessee Education Association takes a similar stance.
As introduced, Haslam’s bill would limit vouchers to the students enrolled in schools ranked in the lowest-performing institutions in the state, called “priority schools” by the state Department of Education. There are 83 on the “priority school list” — 69 in Shelby County, six each in Davidson and Hamilton counties, one in Knox County and one in Hardeman County.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, says he was surprised to find a bumper sticker promoting his candidacy for governor on his desk at the Legislative Plaza last week.
The bumper sticker says, “Run Craig Run” and gives a website address — http://www.fitz14.com — that invites people to sign an online petition urging Fitzhugh to enter the 2014 race.
Fitzhugh, who held a news conference last week devoted mostly to legislative issues, said he knew nothing of the effort until finding the bumper sticker on his desk. The website has a disclaimer saying it is sponsored by Democratic Policy Council, a PAC with Regina Morrison Newman, a Memphis Democratic activist, listed as treasurer and very little activity reported in recent filings with the Registry of Election Finance. On it’s last filed report, the PAC listed a cash balance of $448.86.
Fitzhugh said he hasn’t decided on running, but probably will soon after the 2013 legislative session ends. Legislative leaders are predicting that will be by late April.
The lawmaker has often said he likes and respects Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is already planning fundraisers for his re-election effort.
The closest he came to criticizing the incumbent during the news conference was to remark that Haslam has “failed to be decisive”as might be expected from a politician with a high approval rating — especially those issues pushed by the Republican Party’s “right wing.”
Asked to elaborate, Fitzhugh recalled former Gov. Don Sundquist once saying he was “irrelevant to the process” — a remark made after Sundquist was criticized for failing to sign bills passed by the Legislature allowing local governments to raise local taxes.
“I would hope that the governor (Haslam) is relevant to the process,” Fitzhugh said.
Does that mean he is comparing Haslam to Sundquist?
“No,” he replied after a long pause. “I’m just making conversation.”
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll get his 2014 reelection campaign underway with at least two fundraisers – one in Knoxville and one in Nashville – before the legislative session begins in January.
The governor was asked Monday about House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s statement that he is considering a run for governor in 2014. He said “Craig has every right” to make the campaign, but it doesn’t alter his own plans.
“We’ve always intended to have a vigorous campaign,” he said, declaring plans for the two fundraisers. He gave no details of the events.
“I’ve always intends to do this regardless of the circumstances,” Haslam said.
Under state law, the governor and state legislators are prohibited from political fundraising while the General Assembly is in session. The session starts on Jan. 8.
The Republican governor’s plans for an early start contrast with Ripley Democrat Fitzhugh’s vow to put off launch as campaign as long as he can in the belief “the shorter the better.” Fitzhugh also said he recognizes Haslam has high popularity ratings and “deep pockets” to run a campaign, but believes Democrats need a candidate to “rally around” at the top of the ticket in 2014.
— Note: Previous post HERE.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says he may become a candidate for governor in 2014, but not because he thinks a Democrat can beat Republican incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam.
“I don’t think Gov. Haslam is going to lose any sleep over me,” Fitzhugh said in an interview. “Our current governor is a good man with deep pockets and a 70 percent approval rating.”
Actually, Haslam’s approval rating was just 68 percent in a Vanderbilt University poll released last week. But that included a 60 percent favorable nod from those self-identifying themselves as Democrats.
If he runs, Fitzhugh said, “it would be an issues deal” with the idea in mind of having a statewide candidate on the ballot without big negatives to drag down Democrats seeking other offices, such as state legislator.
“It would have nothing to do with him (Haslam) personally. I like him very much,” said Fitzhugh.
This year, the only statewide Democratic candidate on the ballot was Mark Clayton, who had been officially disavowed by the state Democratic Party for what Chairman Chip Forrester characterized as “extremist views” and membership in an “anti-gay hate group.” Clayton nonetheless won 30 percent of the vote in losing to Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. And at the very top of the Democratic ticket was President Barack Obama, who Fitzhugh said “is not very popular in Tennessee” and got just 39 percent of the statewide vote in losing the state to Republican Mitt Romney.
“Democrats need somebody at the top of the ticket that people can rally around,” Fitzhugh said. “We didn’t have anything like that in this last election. Maybe there’s somebody else out there who can be that type of person. That’s sort of what I was thinking (when he decided to acknowledge an interest in running).”
Fitzhugh said he will delay a final decision on running as long as possible — “the shorter (a campaign) the better” — and much will depend on the way things develop in the coming 2013 legislative session.
“I don’t think we need to continue another two years down the road we’ve gone,” he said. “Not that it’s totally the governor’s fault that the Legislature passes these bills” focusing on controversial social issues rather than jobs and people while tuition increases annually at colleges, universities and trade schools and Republicans strive “farm education (in grades K-12) out to the private sector.”
“I’m not meaning to start a gubernatorial campaign right now. This is meant to try and get our focus back and move in the right direction,” said Fitzhugh, who was re-elected without opposition a new term as House Democratic leader last week.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who was reelected to his post without opposition Wednesday, is now considering a run for governor in 2014, reports Andrea Zelinski. When asked directly whether he would run for governor, Fitzhugh said “I wouldn’t rule it out at all.”
“I’ve got some experience, good, bad or otherwise. And feel like I understand the issues of this state, understand the budgetary process and just am concerned with some of the fundamentals of our state. Before we step too far back, we just need to keep things moving forward,” he told The City Paper Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, before the House Democratic Caucus, Fitzhugh had played an audio montage of classic comeback speeches, including “Inch-by-Inch” from the film Any Given Sunday, saying it was time for Democrats to have “somebody at the top that we can rally around.”
Fitzhugh has served in the legislature for just less than 20 years, largely as the caucus’ budget guru. He first ran for minority leader and won in 2010. He was re-elected to that post Wednesday.
“If we can have a viable statewide candidate at the next general election that espouses the views of many Tennesseans — which happens to be the views of many Democrats … even though it would be running against a multimillionaire, Senate seats, House seats, somebody can rally around at those levels and we can start bringing our house back,” he told The City Paper.
“We’re in a tough position, and we’re in a crossroad where we could just continue to be small and let people sort of run over us, let the other side run over us,” he said. “Or we can start clawing our way back. So I think that’s what our people want to do.”