State Sen. Doug Overbey, a Maryville lawyer, has pocketed a passel of endorsements in the 2nd District Senate Republican primary, observes Greg Johnson.
Newspapers, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Tennessee Education Association endorsed Overbey, along with Republican heavyweights Gov. Bill Haslam and, a bit surprisingly, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a tea party favorite.
Given his opponent, Overbey needs all the help he can get.
Scott Hughes, chief financial officer for a Knoxville church and former pro-life executive, is challenging Overbey at every turn, in every way. Though Overbey maintains an enormous financial advantage, Hughes has loquaciously roughed up Overbey in debates.
At a June debate in Sevierville — the 2nd District includes all of Blount County and much of Sevier — Hughes had Overbey back on his heels, out-arguing the lawyer with a withering, well-researched attack on Overbey’s record. Hughes’ verbal pugilism aims to make Overbey the moderate, a characterization sure to stick with some voters.
In fact, TEA’s lead lobbyist, Jerry Winters, said when endorsing Overbey and a few other Republicans, “The people we endorsed in Republican primaries are moderate Republicans who have voted pro-public education.” TEA’s political action committee donated to Overbey, though the group historically gives more than 90 percent of its contributions to Democrats.
Overbey isn’t backing away from the TEA endorsement, citing it on his website under the headline, “Teachers Endorse Doug Overbey.” Education is, no doubt, an important issue for Overbey. In 2008, he ousted incumbent Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, after Finney voted for changes to school funding formulas that led to both Sevier and Blount counties receiving much less money from the state.
Hughes, a Seymour resident, is supported by the Tennessee Conservative Fund, a tea party PAC, which wrote in its endorsement, “Hughes is a full-fledged conservative who has vowed to protect life and Tennessee’s sovereignty under the Constitution.” Significantly, Hughes is backed by Peggy Lambert, a longtime Blount County GOP activist and Republican National Committee member.
At the June debate, Overbey said, “I will work with anybody willing to reach out a hand of goodwill to do what’s right for the state of Tennessee.” Could such bi-partisanship burn him?
Here’s a memo on a poll commissioned by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, by North Star Opinion Research, who is seeking reelection in Senate District 2 against Republican primary challenger Scott Hughes. It was provided by the Overbey campaign in response to a request for poll information to the senator during an interview last week.
To: Interested Parties
From: Dan Judy
Date: June 22, 2012
Re: Senator Doug Overbey’s Standing Among Senate District 2 Republican Primary
Our firm conducted a survey of 300 likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee’s 2nd State Senate District May 15-17, 2012, with a margin of error of ±5.66 percent. The results show that Senator Overbey is very popular among these voters, and enjoys a wide lead on the primary ballot. The key findings are:
• Senator Overbey enjoys a favorable-to-unfavorable rating of better than ten-to-one.
Overbey’s favorable-unfavorable rating among these Republican primary voters is 70 to
• Senator Overbey is strong among his conservative base. Overbey has a 66 to 7
percent favorable-unfavorable rating among voters who consider themselves “very
conservative” (over half of the electorate), as well as a 68 to 6 percent rating among
voters who support the Tea Party movement (over two-thirds of the electorate).
• Voters overwhelmingly approve of the job Doug Overbey has done as state senator.
Seventy percent of these voters approve of the job Senator Overbey has done, while just 8
• Senator Overbey currently enjoys a wide lead on the primary ballot. Overbey leads
challenger Scott Hughes by a 69 to 9 percent margin, with 22 percent of voters
Senator Overbey’s ratings are impressive, particularly during a time of unprecedented voter cynicism about elected officials. He begins his reelection campaign in a strong position.
Perhaps more than any Tennessee campaign this summer, the contest between Scott Hughes and Doug Overbey poses the question of whether Tennessee’s ruling Republican majority in the Legislature has achieved an appropriate balance in governing on proclaimed conservative principles.
Answering the question on Aug. 2 will be voters in state Senate District 2. Composed of Blount and Sevier counties, it is one of the most staunchly Republican regions of the state and has a history of unseating incumbent senators. With no Democrat running, the GOP primary decides the election.
Hughes, 35, a married father of four and chief financial officer for a Knoxville chuch, declares that Overbey, 57, a married father of three and attorney with a Knoxville law firm, is “the least conservative Republican legislator in the state.”
He has produced a long list of votes cast by Overbey to advance the claim, which is echoed by some local political figures – notably including Peggy Lambert, who serves as Tennessee’s national committeewoman on the Republican National Committee and chairman of Hughes’ campaign. A tea party-oriented political action committee has also endorsed Hughes.
Overbey adamantly rejects Hughes’ contentions, instead saying he continues “to represent conservative values and bring commonsense solutions to the issues facing our state.” He says the critique of his voting record is “chock full of untruths, half-truths and misleading statements.”
News release from Scott Hughes campaign:
SEYMOUR, TN- Today, the Scott Hughes for State Senate campaign launched an informational website aimed at shedding some light on the voting record of Hughes’ opponent, State Sen. Doug Overbey. The website, HowDougVotes.com, details some areas of Sen. Overbey’s voting record that he has, so far, been reluctant to discuss with voters and includes topics ranging from taxes and spending to illegal immigration and ethics laws.
In launching HowDougVotes.com, Hughes had this to say:
“Unfortunately, truth and fact are usually the first casualties of political campaigns. All too often in election years, politicians spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on political advertising and direct mail campaigns aimed at reframing the record and injecting uncertainty and ambiguity into their voting histories. As campaigns exchange poll-tested rhetoric and one-liner accusations, voters are often left unsure about who to believe and the debate becomes less and less about where the candidates actually stand on the issues.”
“Hence, I do not feel that my opponent has been entirely forthcoming about his voting record. While he has been quick to assert that he has ‘a conservative voting record,’ after looking at his voting history for myself, I feel that his votes tell a very different tale.”
“My intention in launching HowDougVotes.com is not to personally attack my opponent. It simply reflects my efforts to ensure that voters have access to all of the relevant information needed to make an informed voting decision. Every vote discussed in the website is documented and linked back to the official voting records on the Tennessee General Assembly’s website. I would encourage voters to visit HowDougVotes.com and read over the legislative records for themselves. From taxes and spending to government bailouts and ethics laws, I believe the truth about where my opponent really stands on the issues can be found in his voting record.”
Note: The website is easy to use and well-researched and cleverly (but, of course, not very objectively) written. An example, stemming from Overbey’s vote this year against a proposed constitutional amendment to change the state system for selecting Supreme Court judges to something along the lines of the federal judicial selection system:
Voted against legislative confirmations for state judges, effectively siding with liberal billionaire George Soros in keeping judicial selection insulated from both the voters and their popularly-elected representatives (SJR 710, 2012; SB 3576, 2012)
Gov. Bill Haslam will be supporting state Sen. Doug Overbey in his re-election bid against Republican primary challenger, Scottie Hughes, according to the Mountain Press.
Overbey’s Senate district includes Blount and Sevier counties. The governor had previously said he would back House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, who also faces a challenger in the Republican primary.
A spokesman for the governor said Haslam is offering his “full support” for fellow Republicans Rep. Richard Montgomery and Sen. Doug Overbey in both their August primary contests and the November general election. (Note: No Democrat is running for either seat.)
Haslam told reporters recently he would be working for incumbents including Montgomery, with Press Secretary David Smith explaining Overbey will also receive that assistance. While the governor’s office is being careful to point out he’s not offering any full endorsements, Smith was willing to say Haslam “fully supports” both men in their campaigns. (Note: Say what, Dave??)
Meanwhile, a political action committee declaring ties to Tea Party groups has endorsed Hughes and declared Overbey too liberal and too tied to special interests. The news release is below.
News release from Scott Hughes:
Today, Seymour resident and Republican activist Scott Hughes announced his candidacy seeking the Republican nomination for the newly-drawn 2nd District State Senate seat currently occupied by Maryville attorney Doug Overbey. The recently reconfigured and renumbered district includes all of Blount and most of Sevier Counties.
Scott currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer for the church he and his family attends, Fuse Church. In addition to his history of involvement in the Republican Party, including a 2010 run for the 8th District State House seat, Scott has over 10 years of experience working in the Pro-Life movement. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director for the Hope Resource Center, East Tennessee’s largest crisis pregnancy center.