Sen. Beverly Marrero tells Andrea Zelinski that she has yet to forgive Sen. Jim Kyle for edging her out of office in the Democratic primary instead of running against a Republican. But the 73-year-old says she hasn’t totally ruled out taking another stab at getting back into the Legislature by running against Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, in 2014.
“It flashed on my mind a little bit that I might run against Brian Kelsey, but I would have to move to do that,” she said Wednesday in her Capitol Hill office during an interview with TNReport. Marrero added that many of her constituents for the last decade were drawn into Kelsey’s district this year.
“I’m sure that they’re not going to be happy with their choices. However, I’m sure there are enough Republicans in that district where he’ll easily be able to win. I may make him work for it a little bit. I don’t know,” she said.
Marrero lost her bid for re-election last month against Kyle, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, who asked Republicans to draw him into a race against Marrero instead of Kelsey during redistricting this year. Kyle beat Marrero with 55 percent of the vote in the Memphis district.
“I’m trying to deal with my feelings about it because I do — had — a certain feeling that I had been betrayed by a member of my own party, particularly when he was originally drawn into a district with a Republican and he chose to run against me,” Marrero said.
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats are calling on Secretary of State Tre Hargett to launch a full inquiry into voting irregularities across the state.
“There are a lot of questions about the integrity of the August primaries, and voters deserve answers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle. “We didn’t have these problems four years ago.”
In Shelby and now Davidson County, there have been reports of voters getting the wrong primary ballot and voting in the wrong district. State election officials have admitted that poll worker training was inadequate. Davidson County officials were advised against using electronic poll books, but used them anyway.
“We need to know why the machines defaulted to a particular party’s ballot,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “We need to know who made that decision, and we need to know whether these machines will be used again.”
Democratic leaders called on lawmakers to reconsider the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which requires that precincts use optical scanners that produce a paper ballot. The bipartisan law passed unanimously in 2008 but implementation has been delayed.
“People invest considerable time in deciding how to cast their vote, and when they leave the voting booth, they should be confident their vote counted the way they intended,” Sen. Finney said. “I hope state election officials will take these irregularities seriously and conduct a thorough review.”
After 10 years of asking drowsy drivers to get off the road, Kathi Wright of Cordova saw her message flash across Tennessee interstate message boards last week, reports the Commercial Appeal.. “Please, Don’t Drive Drowsy,” the state has joined her family in asking drivers on highways in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.
The local story behind the new message is of Kyle Kiihnl, a 17-year-old at Houston High School who was killed by a somnolent student driver on May 5, 2002.
“After 10 years it was like: Now there’s a reason,” said Wright of her nephew’s death. “It has been so emotional because somebody finally took us seriously. If we save just one person who pulled over and slept — well, that’s the reason we’ve kept going.”
Kyle had been out about midnight, walking with a friend in Germantown near Farmington Boulevard and Allenby. A teenage driver coming home from the Beale Street Music Festival fell asleep at the wheel, and, according to witnesses, his tires met the sidewalk.
Kyle, then a junior, died on the scene. His friend came away with a broken thumb.
News release from the House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) issued the following statement on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus regarding the June revenue collections, which showed an over-collection of $116,563,000 for the month and $554,650,100 for the first eleven months of the fiscal year:
“Back in April, House Democrats predicted that Tennessee would have excess revenue well north of $200,000,000 based on trends in over-collections. On multiple occasions, we requested that the State Funding Board call a meeting to revise their revenue projections, so the state’s budget for FY ’12-’13 would reflect more accurate revenue figures.
“When the majority party ignored our calls, House Democrats put forward an alternative budget we felt was more in line with revenue trends. Our alternative budget was balanced, it cut the food tax by an additional .25 percent, it restored the 2 percent cut to higher education– which would have helped avoid the 6-9 percent tuition hikes we are seeing across the state.
“Our alternative budget put $20,000,000 into our community colleges and technology centers, avoided cuts to key services and reduced our reliance on bonds for capital projects. All this could have been done for less than the $200,000,000 we had in over-collections at the time.
“Now, with double that figure in over-collected revenue, we must act–at the very least–to lower the sales tax on food and stop tuition from continuing to climb. The economy is improving, but our families are still struggling. We have the means to make putting food on the table a little easier and make college a little more affordable. If we ignore this opportunity, it is simply irresponsible. It’s the people’s money; it should be used to their benefit–not for politics.”
— News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE -Senate Democrats are calling on state lawmakers from both parties to come together and stop the massive over-collection of taxes from Tennesseans.
The state collected an excess of $338 million in tax revenues that it isn’t spending for the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
“This is your government, collecting more of your money than it can spend,” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said. “We have heard a lot of talk about tax relief, and now it’s time for them to deliver.”
News release from Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle called on Governor Bill Haslam and lawmakers to introduce larger cuts to the food tax and to freeze college tuition rates amidst news that the state government has nearly $225 million in excess funds.
“The Governor has said he believes we should provide the best services at the lowest cost possible,” Kyle said. “It’s time to take out the scissors and give the people of Tennessee new, lower prices on food and education.”
Lawmakers this year repealed the state’s gift and inheritance taxes, saving some of the wealthiest Tennesseans millions in current and future taxes, while approving a .25 percent decrease in the food tax – meaning middle-class Tennesseans will save only 25 cents per $100 of groceries.
Kyle also encouraged Haslam and higher education leaders to hold the line on college tuition rates. The same week the excess revenues were announced, state community colleges and universities proposed tuition increases ranging from 4 to 7 percent.
“We’re asking Tennesseans to pay more for college while saying that we have all this extra money,” Kyle said. “Something doesn’t add up.”
Note: See also Rick Locker’s write-up.
Democratic primary voters across a broad swath of Memphis must choose between two of the party’s Memphis leaders — State Sens. Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero — as a result of this year’s redistricting of the state legislature, Richard Locker has discovered. With similar voting records, the two senators are focusing their campaigns for the Aug. 2 primary on jobs, education and crime, but with different themes.
Kyle is emphasizing his 29 years of Senate experience, his position as the Senate’s Democratic leader “and the fact that as a result, I have the opportunity to do more for my community.”
Marrero is running a grassroots campaign emphasizing her work on issues affecting women, children and families. She served three years in the House before moving to the Senate in 2007.
It’s the state’s only Senate race in which two sitting senators are paired against each other.
Nearly two-thirds of the new Senate District 30 is in Kyle’s current district, so Marrero says she’s working to meet voters in the Frayser and Raleigh areas she hasn’t represented before.
…Both attended Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill-signing ceremony in Bartlett Wednesday for three anti-crime bills, which both supported for safer neighborhoods. Marrero said she was particularly interested in the one that increases penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders.
…”It’s been a very positive fact that I’m the minority leader,” Kyle said. “I just left the crime-bill signing, and I helped make those bills reality. I think my experience on finance matters separates me and it’s been a good thing for Memphis and Shelby County. I’m going to be emphasizing what I have done and what I can do as a result of my leadership position.”
Both agree that Marrero is more liberal, or in her view, “progressive.” She is an outspoken supporter of abortion rights in a legislature dominated by Republicans.
“While Beverly has a reputation of being a very liberal person and I have a reputation of being a more moderate person, our voting records will reveal many similar votes,”
Kyle said. “And so the issue comes down to who can be more effective in representing the district and the community. It needs an effective legislator because of the community’s needs.
“And the experience I had of being (former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen’s) point person for six years has given me a view of government that allows me to work the system for the citizens of our community,” said Kyle, a Memphis lawyer.
…Marrero, who operated a real estate business and a bookstore before retiring, said that while she and Kyle most often vote alike, “I think I might be a little more of a progressive on certain issues. Issues having to do with women, children and families have been my strong suit and I’ve always favored legislation to make our neighborhoods safer and to reduce domestic violence.”
She cited her sponsorship of a bill extending foster-care benefits from age 18 to 21, which finally won approval under a Republican sponsor.
Marrero has the backing of her mentor, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen. Kyle won the endorsement last week of the Memphis Education Association.
Congressman Steve Cohen is backing state Sen. Beverly Marrero in her Democratic primary contest against Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, reports Jackson Baker. The Republican redistricting plan requires the two to run against one another. Cohen described Marrero as “my good friend, my successor, the lady who stands up when people need to stand up, the person with courage, the person with the right voice for the City of Memphis and for Senate District 30,” while he referred to Kyle, a longtime party rival, as someone “who in redistricting took Senate District 30 and made it into something different.”
Of his own reelection campaign, in which he has Tomeka Hart as a Democratic primary opponent, Cohen focused on the likely Republican nominee in the 9th District race, former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn, the wealthy radiologist and broadcast magnate who, as Cohen noted, has waged unsuccessful races in the past for county mayor, City Council, and Congress.
“We’ve got a primary, but the enemy is the Republicans, and we’ve got a self-funder that’ll be running against me in the fall….He’s going to spend a lot of money, so we’re going to spend some money, too, and we’ll do everything we can to see that this is his worst defeat.”
State Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis asked the Tennessee secretary of state on Wednesday to conduct a “formal investigation” into allegations that the voting histories of 488 Shelby County registered voters were deleted from Election Commission records, reports the Commercial Appeal. Critics are concerned that such deletions could pave the way for the purging of those voters’ names from the official rolls. The Senate Democratic leader’s letter follows a similar request by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., for investigations by U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins into the allegations originally made by voting rights activist Bev Harris, whose Black Box Voting website monitors irregularities with voters nationwide. (Note: Previous post HERE) …Hargett, in a media statement in response to Kyle’s letter, said that his office “began our investigation as soon as we heard about this matter. We want to assure Leader Kyle and everyone involved that we take these matters very seriously. We keep the database of official voters at the state and no voter histories have been deleted in Shelby County.”
“We have checked the list of those who believed their data had been deleted, and all have (a voting) history. No one on the list was scheduled to be purged because of inactivity. If they had been scheduled to be purged, they would have received confirmation notices,” Hargett said.
Hargett’s spokesman, Blake Fontenay, said the state is “still trying to figure out how people got data that appeared to show the histories as erased.”
The Senate gave final legislative approval Monday to the bill letting the Memphis suburbs hold referendums this year on creating municipal school districts, despite charges that it’s “part of a growing trend … of apartheid in Shelby County.”
More from the Richard Locker report: The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who said earlier that he wanted the panel planning the merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools to complete its work before the suburbs decide on new municipal school systems. If the bill does become law, it may be the subject of further federal court review.
In his ruling in the schools consolidation lawsuit last August, U.S. Dist. Judge Hardy Mays upheld last year’s Public Chapter 1 that set up the merger planning process but made it clear he was not ruling yet on provisions in that law allowing for new municipal or special school districts after the merger occurs.
Monday’s Senate approval would have been anti-climactic were it not for an exchange between the majority and minority leaders, both from Shelby County. The House approval Friday was the critical vote, because the Senate had approved virtually the same language last week.
The Senate’s 22-9 vote Monday was mostly along party lines, with Sens. Reginald Tate of Memphis and Charlotte Burks of Cookeville the only Democrats voting for the bill. All Republicans voted for it.
News release from Sen. Jim Kyle:
NASHVILLE — Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle called on House and Senate Republicans to support floor votes on a bill allowing Tennesseans to store guns in vehicles on businesses’ parking lots, regardless of the business owners’ personal preferences.
“I would respectfully ask that the minority yield to the majority of members on this bill, so that we might have a fair and open vote,” Kyle said. “I can’t vote against this bill if the members won’t allow it to be heard on the floor.”
Kyle’s motion to suspend the rules and place Senate Bill 3002 on Tuesday’s Senate floor calendar failed with 17 yes votes. The motion requires two-thirds of members pressing a button – either yes, no or “present not voting” – to support the motion.
Of the 13 members who voted no or registered as “present not voting,” 12 were Republicans. Another three Republicans were in the Senate chamber, but did not press a button at all.
An Associated Press report Monday night quoted an anonymous House Republican who said that House Republicans had decided against a floor vote on the bill. Guns rights advocates, including members of the National Rifle Association, support the legislation.
Kyle told his Senate colleagues Monday night that he plans to make the same motion when the Senate reconvenes Tuesday.
“We have another chance to ensure this bill has a fair hearing later this week,” Kyle said. “I would hope that some Republicans might reconsider their stance against a bill that affects many of their constituents.”