Roy Herron has returned to full-time work — and pay — as chairman of the state Democratic Party after serving as an attorney in monthlong trial that resulted in a $15.2 million verdict for his client, a young man left permanently disabled by alleged malpractice of a doctor and hospital.
Herron, a former state senator, stopped drawing his chairman’s salary May 15 to prepare for the trial, which began June 3 and ended July 3 with a Weakley County Circuit Court jury verdict in favor of Cody Wade of Martin, Tenn., who was 17 when left with brain injuries while under the care of the defendants following a traffic accident.
Herron, who was part a team of attorneys representing Wade and his grandparents, returned to the party headquarters to resume full-time work on Monday, according to Democratic spokesman Brandon Puttbrese.
Defendants in the case were Dr. Susan Lowry of Martin and Cane Creek Rehabilitation Hospital, owned by Rebound LLC, an affiliate of HealthSouth Corp. They may appeal the verdict.
“This verdict can mean that he lives in Weakley County with his family and those who love him, instead of the state taking Cody from his family and shipping him to Memphis, Nashville or even East Tennessee to languish and survive in a distant nursing home that takes ventilator-dependent patients,” Herron told the Union City Messenger.
State Democratic Chairman Roy Herron is foregoing his party pay while acting as an attorney for the plaintiffs in an ongoing medical malpractice trial that he says could last “five or six weeks.”
Herron sent an email to fellow Democrats saying that he had committed more than five years ago to “a wonderful couple, both devout Democrats, that I would represent them in a case seeking medical care and redress for grievous injuries to their severely disabled grandson.”
In an interview Wednesday, Herron said Cody Wade, 17 at the time, underwent surgery on his trachea that allegedly left him unable to breath for a period of time, resulting in severe disabilities. The lawsuit, brought by Cody’s grandparents and conservators, Reba and Ronnie Wade of Martin, is against HealthSouth King Creek Rehabilitation Hospital and two physicians.
A jury trial began Monday in Weakley County Circuit Court.
Herron said he decided to forego his salary as party chairman starting May 15, when he attended a son’s college graduation, and will continue in that status until the trial has ended and he can resume fulltime duties as party chair.
The former state senator said that, in effect, he is returning temporarily to the “volunteer chairman model” followed by seven of the last ten state Democratic chairmen. His two immediate predecessors, Gray Sasser and Chip Forrester, were full-time chairs with a full salary – as was he until now.
Herron said he still expects to average 80 hours per week for the full year, since he often spends 100 hours per week on party labors otherwise. Even during the trial, Herron said he is remaining active in fundraising, overseeing staff including the hiring of a new deputy finance director and other duties.
— Note: Text of Herron’s email is below.
Tennessee Democratic Chairman Roy Herron today called for removing the Democratic party from a bill by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, that would have the party causes of the state Legislature nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate starting after the 2014 elections.
Here’s the text of Herron’s opening remarks at a news conference: Democrats believe that the People should pick the Politicians, instead of the Politicians picking each other. But now the Radical Republicans want to steal the People’s right to vote to nominate our United States Senators.
The Republicans already have made it harder for People to vote by:
*new restrictions requiring big government ID cards
*cutting back days to early vote
*cut back voting locations
*purging law-abiding citizens from voting rolls (e.g., Rep. Lincoln Davis and Rep. Butch Borchert’s wife)
*even doing away with paper verification so you don’t know if your vote is counted.
Now they don’t want Tennesseans to vote at all, even in nominating our most important representatives in Washington, our U.S. Senators.
Once again, the Reactionary and Radical Republicans want to take us back a couple of centuries, to the 1800s when the legislature picked our senators until corruption and the people finally ended the practice by Constitutional Amendment in 1913. In fact, Tennessee ratified the 17th Amendment 100 years ago today on April 1st, 1913.
Now we know what Republicans mean when they claim to be for smaller government: they want to take the People out of elections and let a small number of Republican politicians grab the power.
On behalf of the Tennessee Democratic Party, I call on the General Assembly to take the Democratic Party out of this bill. Tennessee Democrats do not want to be part of this April Fool’s Joke on the People of Tennessee.
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron called the current private school voucher proposal another battle in the “Republican War against public schools” today at a press conference in Nashville.
Herron derided the influence of big special interests, which accounts for about $2 million of known spending in the effort to allow public tax dollars to flow into private institutions.
At least four special interest groups are spending big money to push vouchers in Tennessee, including
•The Beacon Center of Tennessee, which has been funded by Washington, D.C.-based special interests, is currently airing deceptive television ads in Tennessee;
•Students First, which has spent at least $900,000 on lobbying and candidate contributions;
•The American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on advertising supporting private school vouchers; and
•the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conglomeration of big corporate backers that hosts conferences for state legislators annually, is a longtime supporter of privatization and school vouchers.
Herron’s prepared remarks can be read below:
Former state Sen. Roy Herron became the Tennessee Democratic Party’s new chairman Saturday, winning a solid majority of executive committee members’ votes despite criticism he is too conservative on some issues such as abortion.
From the Andy Sher report: The 59-year-old Dresden attorney outpolled Dave Garrison, a Nashville attorney, 39-27. Garrison was backed by the state’s two Democratic congressmen along with House and Senate Democratic Caucus leaders and the mayors of Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, as well as labor unions.
Herron will lead an embattled party that has seen Republicans seize the governor’s mansion and absolute control of the state Legislature.
Following his election, Herron charged that under Republican rule, “we’ve gone from common sense to nonsense.”
He accused the GOP of “trying to destroy the public schools” and said “those things that unite us as Democrats are far more important than those things that divide us.”
But his election left some Democrats uneasy.
At the end of the meeting, executive committee member Jerry Maynard, a Metro Nashville councilman, took the unusual step of asking Herron to declare his support of President Barack Obama.
Maynard said he had never heard Herron endorse Obama during the election campaign.
“I voted for the president, I announced I was for the president, I told anybody who asked me that I was for the president,” Herron replied. “I support the president, I support what he’s trying to do for the country, and I support the United States of America.”
…Herron succeeds Chip Forrester, who was elected four years ago despite opposition from top Democrats such as former Gov. Phil Bredesen and major party fundraisers. They punished Forrester by largely withholding support for the party.
Speaking before the vote, Forrester said he now was sorry he ran “without the support of the majority of the elected officials of this state.”
“Because of that I and my staff have faced an uphill battle for four years unifying this party.”
On the eve of the election of a new chairman for the Tennessee Democratic Party, there’s a bunch of commentary on the race among Democratic-oriented bloggers. Much of it is themed on concern about Roy Herron’s apparent lead over Dave Garrison – and Herron’s credentials as a ‘progressive’ Democrat — in the contest that will be decided Saturday. A good summary with links is HERE.
I would add a link to the Pam Strickland perspective, HERE. And maybe David Briley’s email, HERE.
The Ned McWherter Center for Rural Development has been led by former state Sen. Roy Herron, now a candidate for chairman of the state Democratic Party, since 2008 without accomplishing much, according to Steven Hale.
The center, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships to Tennessee students, was created with a $900,000 state grant in 2008. The grant was part of that year’s state budget during Herron’s term as senator and while he was the president of the organization.
But since that time, the center’s output has been minimal, according to tax records examined by The City Paper. Between 2008 and 2010, the center awarded no scholarships. The nonprofit began 2011 with $1,045,052 in assets but awarded only $35,750 in scholarships to students that year, the most recent available for public examination.
Herron announced in 2012 that he would not seek re-election, noting that he would devote his efforts to the McWherter center.
The center still bears the name of the late former governor, who died in April 2011, despite a nearly year-old request from the McWherter family that his name be removed from the organization.
Along with Herron, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and former Democratic Rep. Mark Maddox are listed as officers for the organization. Michael McWherter, son of the former governor, made the request in a letter to all three dated Feb. 20, 2012.
Jane Hampton Bowen has withdrawn as a candidate for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, the Chattanooga TFP reports, leaving the contest a two-man race that will be decided Jan. 26. “The race is now one between two strong Democrats,” Hampton Bowen, vice president and political liaison for the Chattanooga Area Labor Council, said in a statement. “My job now becomes one of support and input toward the reinvigoration of the Democratic Party in Tennessee.”
She said she’s looking forward to “continuing my quest for a more inclusive party, especially for working men and women, a party that stands for the rights and ideals of both urban and rural Tennesseans.”
Hampton Bowen did not endorse either of the two remaining candidates, Nashville lawyer Dave Garrison, currently party treasurer, and former state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.
Earlier this week Wade Munday, the party’s former communications chair, dropped out of the contest, announced he was running for treasurer and threw his support to Garrison. Ben Smith, a Nashville attorney, withdrew days earlier, throwing his support to Herron.
…Garrison has the backing of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, as well Democrats serving as mayors of Tennessee’s three biggest cities, A C Wharton, of Memphis; Madeline Rogero, of Knoxville; and Karl Dean, of Nashville.
— UPDATE: Steven Hale reports that Herron claims to have 42 of the Demoratic Executive Committee’s 72 members committed to him. He sent a list of the 42 — reproduced by Hale — in an email to members of the panel.
Note: Bowen’s statement on withdrawing is below.
The Democratic Party’s influence may be shrinking in Tennessee, but competition to rule over it has become something of a crowded field, observes Andrea Zelinski in a rundown on the race to succeed Chip Forrester as TNDP chairman. From all appearances, (former state Sen. Roy Herron’s) strongest rival for the job is Dave Garrison, who has worked closely with the party’s board for three years as treasurer. Following him are former party communications director Wade Munday and vice president and political liaison for the Chattanooga Area Labor Council Jane Hampton Bowen.
…Herron officially committed to joining the race during the holiday break, a decision he said he had put off after dealing with deaths and illnesses in his family. But the late start isn’t the only factor that sets him apart from his opponents.
Herron is a life member of the National Rifle Association with a legislative record that includes favorable votes for contentious bills the party fought strongly against, such as allowing guns in bars and parks. He has also positioned himself as anti-abortion, although like his Democratic counterparts he voted repeatedly against movements to insert anti-abortion language into the state Constitution.
…Herron’s fans say his experience on the campaign trail set him apart from the competition. And although Herron insists he’s not thinking about a bid for higher office, some think he could revisit his abandoned try for governor in the long term and that ultimately, it would be a win-win for the party.
“To even have a shot at statewide office, the party needs to be in better shape. So maybe that would be a good thing, because the party needs to be better off for him to swing that,” said Ben Smith, a former hopeful for the chairman’s seat who exited the race last week in favor of Herron.
A Nashville attorney, Garrison is in his first race with his own name on a ballot.
“I don’t take it as a criticism that I haven’t been running elections for 20 years,” said Garrison. “I think it’s an asset that I bring a fresh perspective, but the know-how and the ability to build coalitions and get things done at the party.”
“I don’t believe that the chair of the party necessarily needs to be a political candidate,” he added. “It needs to be somebody’s who’s raised money for others, and the party; it needs to be somebody that can build coalitions; it needs to be somebody that can run and manage an organization, and it needs to be somebody who can bring people that are not at the table back to the table or new people to the table of the Democratic Party,” he said.
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.