Tag Archives: local campaigns

McCormick for mayor?

State Rep. Gerald McCormick says he had no thought of running against incumbent Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke when he decided against another term as House Majority leader, but lots of people have raised the possibility since — and he’s not ruling it out.

Further from Andy Sher:
“That was definitely not on my mind,” McCormick said Tuesday of the idea of running for mayor. “It’s been surprising the number of people who’ve called me.”

Berke, a Democrat and former state senator, recently announced he is running for a second four-year mayoral term in the city’s March 7 election. City Councilman Larry Grohn last month announced he is challenging Berke for the non-partian position.

…The lawmaker, who noted he personally likes Berke, said “I’ve had people I respect very much” raise the issue in the days since about running for mayor. “I do not have any plans to run for mayor and if I had to give a quick answer the answer would be no.”

But, McCormick said, “I don’t want to close out the door completely.”

Berke, 48, has been embroiled in controversy after a domestic incident involving adviser Lacie Stone and her husband, Bobby. Bobby Stone has alleged his wife was having an affair with Berke. The mayor has denied the claim.

McCormick is a principal in the commercial real estate firm of Stone Fort Properties. He recently became a director with the investment banking firm of Decosimo Corporate Finance. In addition to overseeing Chattanooga-based Stone Fort, McCormick is assisting Decosimo in sourcing and executing sell-side advisory engagements and debt and equity raises.

Registry board votes to review activities of Stand for Children PAC

The Registry of Election Finance board has taken the first step toward a hearing on allegations against the Stand for Children political action committee and several Nashville school board candidates it supported violated campaign finance laws, reports The Tennessean.

A complaint against the PAC was filed by Tennessee Citizens Action, which bills itself as promoting consumer rights and civic action.The complaint contends Stand for Children illegally coordinated its activities with several pro-charter school candidates during the election.

“My gut feeling is there is enough smoke to open up and look at it,” said Tom Lawless, chairman of the registry board. He added: “If they violated (the law), we need to be consistent. We don’t have to be punitive, we can be constructive.”

The complaint was filed Aug. 4, a day before Nashville’s school board elections, and cites a story by The Tennessean that details emails sent by the head of a prominent Nashville nonprofit that appear to show she coordinated with Stand for Children to find campaign workers for the four school board candidates.

It also cites a July 29 WSMV report that says Stand for Children Director Daniel O’Donnell met with candidate Thom Druffel during a 10-day mandatory blackout period before the election. Stand’s attorney said O’Donnell took a day off from work that day and was not in violation of the law.

Stephen Zralek, an attorney with Nashville law firm Bone McAllester Norton PLLC who represents Stand for Children, said the organization takes election ethics issues seriously and consistently follows the law.

“The Registry’s order is standard procedure whenever a complaint is filed. We look forward to answering the Registry’s questions and providing an accurate account of the facts,” he said in a Wednesday email.

Gerard Stranch, the attorney who filed the complaint, told the registry he thought it was clear that there was evidence Stand for Children exceeded campaign contribution limits by coordinating with candidates, and violated laws banning donations by a PAC within a “blackout period” in the days immediately leading up to the election.

On uncoordinated Stand for Children spending

Stand for Children’s two political action committees that are spending heavily in Tennessee campaigns this summer – more than $700,000 in the case of an independent expenditure group and about $130,000 in direct donations – tell the Nashville Scene’s Steve Cavendish they don’t coordinate efforts.

Excerpt from the article, entitled “Stop the Dark Money Now:”

So, I called Dan O’Donnell, the Nashville director for the organization, and asked him about the money (in particular a mailer attacking Nashville School Board incumbent Will Pinkston).

“I found out about that when you did,” he said, then went through an explanation. Stand for Children Tennessee PAC, which he works for, is completely separate from the Stand for Children Tennessee Independent Expenditure Committee. Even though O’Donnell’s PAC gave huge donations directly to the campaigns for Thom Druffel, Miranda Christy, Jackson Miller and Jane Grimes Meneely, there was absolutely no coordination between that money and the tens of thousands of dollars spent by a committee controlled by the national office of the same organization. An organization that shares national leadership. And money. And whose address on 18th Avenue South is exactly the same. And spent money on exactly the same candidates.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

I reached out to Krista Spurgin, who was responsible for the spending, which in the case of every candidate but Jackson Miller represented more money than the candidates were able to raise on their own.

“My current title is National Campaigns Director, but I am concurrently serving as the Stand for Children Tennessee IEC Chair,” Spurgin said. So a political operative in Denver, who shares the same leadership as the locals here in Tennessee, is directing hundreds of thousands of dollars into local school board races from a slush fund of charter advocates in Oregon.

If you don’t think this is an erosion of democracy, you’re not thinking about it hard enough. The current campaign finance system, which lets so-called social welfare organizations launder unlimited money from rich interests — in this case money from Walmart and Microsoft billionaires — into local races, is asinine. They are picking candidates who support their worldview and turning on a firehose of attack ads, direct mail and digital marketing.

Note: Previous related post HERE.

Stand for Children PAC dumps $700K into TN campaigns

Stand for Children, a political action committee focused on promotion on charter schools, sent more than $700,000 from its Portland, Ore., headquarters and then spent it attacking or supporting Tennessee candidates from July 1 through July 25, according to the group’s new disclosure statement.

The Tennessean has a report on the disclosure, focusing on $200,000 spent in Metro Nashville School Board races. But it also notes:

The organization also spent big in Republican primaries at the statehouse level.

Having already spent more than $65,000 on advertising and mailers in June in support of Sam Whitson — who’s running against embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham for a seat representing parts of Williamson County — the group spent another roughly $15,000 on fliers in July for Whitson. It also spent roughly $9,000 on ads and mailers attacking Durham.

They spent similar amounts either attacking Reps. Courtney L. Rogers and Judd Matheny or supporting their GOP primary opponents, Beth Cox and Will Lockhart.

Some further notes: It appears the biggest beneficiary is Christy Sigler, seeking the House District 34 seat vacated by Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale. She’s listed as supported in independent expenditures totaling more than $120,000.

The blog Rocky Top Politics, published anonymously with a strong Republican right-wing inclination, had a recent post — before the new disclosure — declaring Stand for Children the “new Advance Tennessee.” Advance Tennessee got widespread conservative criticism in 2014 after six-figure spending in legislative races — the money coming mostly from supporters of Gov. Bill Haslam. Advance Tennessee dissolved in January of this year, according to the Registry of Election Finance.

TN homeland security chief makes ‘lunch hour’ political speech

David Purkey, Tennessee director of Homeland Security, may have violated state law by speaking at a May 13 campaign event for Bradley County Eric Watson, a former state representative, according to the Times-Free Press.

“I cannot imagine having anyone better professionally or personally in the office of sheriff for your county,” Purkey told a crowd that included the Cleveland and Bradley County mayors, at least one state representative and the district attorney, according to the Cleveland Daily Banner.

By law, state employees may not take part in political events while they are on state business. Purkey said he was on his lunch hour, but his speech was listed on his official daily schedule and the invitations described him as Homeland Security director.

,,,Purkey said that when he was invited during the legislative session to speak at the luncheon, he didn’t realize it was a campaign event. When he learned differently, he said, “I told them I would only do this on my lunch hour.”

Tennessee’s Little Hatch Act, modeled after federal law, says state employees may not “engage actively in a political campaign on behalf of any party, committee, organization, agency or political candidate, or to attend political meetings or rallies during those hours of the day when such person is required by law or administrative regulation to be conducting the business of the state.”

However, the law exempts employees “on leave or during those hours not required by law or administrative regulation to be conducting the business of the state.”

Purkey said officials appointed by the governor also are exempt, and he’s one of them.

“I’m not claiming an exemption based on that,” he said. “I’m saying that I made sure it was during my lunch hour on my way home to East Tennessee.”

His hometown, Morristown, is off Interstate 40 northeast of Knoxville. After accepting the speaking invitation, he added a visit to the Homeland Security office in Chattanooga to his itinerary, Purkey said.

Note: The article says the event may have violated other state laws as well — use of marked police cars and emergency vehicles for political purposes, law enforcement officers attending a political event … and the TFP says there are allegations that some county employees were pressured to donate to Watson’s reelection campaign.

Unicoi GOP won’t replace deceased nominee, leaves race to write-in candidates

The Unicoi County Republican party has decided against selecting a party nominee for the position of Assessor of Property oin the Aug. 4 election, reports the Erwin Record. The nominee would have replaced General Election ballot.

A nominee would have replaced Margaret Seward, who won the March 1 primary election but died on election day. Another candidate, Wayne Peterson, who was holding the position on an interim basis, died during early voting.

The party’s Executive Committee met at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 28, at the Unicoi County Courthouse and unanimously voted not to place a candidate on the ballot; instead, allowing individuals interested in the office run as write-in candidates.

Debbie Tittle, the county’s register of deeds and the county party’s vice-chairman, motioned not to place a candidate on the ballot, saying, “… I think that this is still America; it is still a democracy and this ought to be in the hands of the people.”

Tittle’s motion was seconded by Terry Haynes, the county’s road superintendent and vice-president of the county party.

Both Tittle and Haynes voted in favor of her motion. Also voting yes were Executive Committee members Mitzi Bowen, Lynn Woodruff, Kent Harris, Sarah Sellars and Jim Buchanan, who chairs the committee.

From the Johnson City Press: Peterson’s assistant, Teresa Kinsler, now holds the interim property assessor title after being named by the commission on March 28. Commissioner John Moseley was the only opposing vote and Walter Garland was absent.

“She had been helping Peterson run the office for some time and she is now conducting a write-in campaign before we even made (this decision),” Buchanan said of Kinsler.

TNGOP ponders procedure for replacing deceased nominee

At the request of state Republican Party officials, a meeting to select the party’s nominee for Unicoi County property assessor has been postponed, reports the Johnson City Press.

The new nominee will replace Margret Seward, who won the primary election March 1 but died on election day. Another candidate, Wayne Peterson, had died during February early voting. A third candidate, Alan “Rocky” McInturff, finished second behind Seward and ahead of Peterson in the voting.

Jim Buchanan, chairman of the Unicoi County Republican Party, notified local media outlets Friday afternoon that Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee GOP, had instructed him to cancel a public meeting to select the candidate previously set for 9 a.m. Saturday.

…Leatherwood told the Johnson City Press that in addition to questions about the executive board’s makeup, the state party is seeking clarification of its own bylaws and state election laws on “minor procedural issues,” including the mandatory publication of an advertisement giving legal notice of the public meeting.

“We have a few questions that we would like to have clarification about,” Leatherwood said. “It being the nomination, we feel it is best, in due diligence, we have all our questions answered before proceeding through with the nomination.

“We are seeking clarification from our own general counsel, the state Election Coordinator and the District Attorney General.”

Leatherwood said the selection must be made within 40 days of the Aug. 4 election, giving the party ample time to clarify all procedures.

Referring to the deaths of Seward and Peterson, Leatherwood said, “It is a tragic situation and that is why we want to make sure we are doing our due diligence to make sure all proper procedures are followed.”

Unicoi candidate dies on election day, wins voting

Margaret Shelton Seward, a Republican candidate for property assessor in Unicoi County, died of a heart attack on election day, reports the Johnson City Press, but still collected more votes than two other candidates on the primary ballot.

One of the other candidates, Interim Property Assessor Wayne Peterson, died on Feb. 16, halfway through the county’s record-setting early voting period.

Seward, a longtime county employee who was employed by the County Clerk’s office at the time of her death and who previously worked in the assessor’s office, died just after midnight Tuesday at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital after suffering heart failure at her home.

Unicoi County Administrator of Elections Sarah Bailey told the Johnson City Press after Peterson’s death that state law requires the county’s Republican party to select a candidate for the general election in the event the top vote-getter dies during the election. Bailey confirmed on Tuesday those rules will apply with Seward’s death and election victory on Tuesday.

Seward (had)… a 48 to 34 percent advantage over McInturff in Tuesday night’s final tally, with Seward earning 1,570 of the vote compared to 1,116 votes for McInturff and 560 votes for Peterson.

Unicoi County Republican Party Chairman Jim Buchanan said the party will meet sometime after the Election Commission certifies the results on March 17 to first determine how to the make selection.

Buchanan said he anticipated the party will entertain and discuss nominations and take a vote in the same meeting.

Candidate lied about having a UT degree?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — University of Tennessee officials say a candidate for Knox County property assessor knew his transcript did not exist.

University spokeswoman Karen Simsen tells The Knoxville News-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1PIazRP) that despite the fact that Andrew Graybeal on Monday at a Halls Republican Club meeting held up what he said was a confirmation letter that he had ordered his transcript, Graybeal had already been notified online four days prior that the request transcript did not exist.

Graybeal’s attorney, Keith Stewart, says his client never received an email notifying him that the university couldn’t complete his transcript order.

Graybeal has said he transferred to the University of Tennessee and then graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s of applied sciences in electronics engineering technology degree.

University officials say they have no record that Graybeal ever was enrolled at the school.

Memphis PAC dodges donor disclosure until after election

A group of well-known Memphis businessmen was behind a political action committee that opposed former mayor A C Wharton’s reelection last year, according to the PAC’s financial disclosure Thursday and reviewed by the Commercial Appeal.

Neighborhood Alliance PAC includes several supporters of Mayor Jim Strickland, including developer and Shelby County Schools board member Billy Orgel, Paul Boyle and Mark Halperin of real estate firm Boyle Investment Company, and HealthChoice CEO Mitch Graves.

Strickland said Friday that he didn’t know, and the “chances are zero” that his campaign staff knew, who was funding Neighborhood Alliance.

Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said the group passed their donations through another PAC, which avoided having to disclose the donations until after the Oct. 8 election.

The PAC received all of its $113,000 in donations in September from another PAC, Conservatives for Effective Government, according to disclosures filed before the election. Conservatives for Effective Government received $132,500 in September from six people and one company, all from Memphis.

That doesn’t violate any election rules, although Libowitz said the approach put up a “roadblock to transparency.”