Former House Republican Chairman Debra Maggart, defeated in her bid for reelection after being attacked by the National Rifle Association, has penned an attack on the NRA for the New York Times. An excerpt: They ran 12 full-page newspaper ads featuring my picture with one of President Obama stating I was for gun control. They ran radio ads, robo calls, posted a “Defeat Maggart” Web site, produced a YouTube video of their chief lobbyist explaining to their members why I should be defeated, and did nine mailings. They posted my photo with President Obama’s on three of the five billboards in my Republican hometown.
..Because of N.R.A. bully tactics, legislators are not free to openly discuss the merits of gun-related legislation. This stifling of discussion does not serve the interest of the public nor of the gun owners. But the N.R.A. gets their way because they know how intimidating they are and they know that lawmakers are afraid to speak openly about what needs to be done.
The N.R.A.’s agenda is more about raising money from their members by creating phantom issues instead of promoting safe, responsible gun ownership. N.R.A. members should ask about the million dollar salaries they pay their lobbyists and why they spend money to defeat proven Second Amendment defenders like me.
She’s also done an interview with Huffington Post. And here in Tennessee… well, previous post HERE.
Andrea Zelinski talks with Debra Maggart about the ramifications of the former House Republican Caucus chair’s defeat at the ballot box in the August GOP primary. Excerpts from a recommended read: “You could argue that I took a lot of bullets, in my position as caucus leader, for the caucus. And that was my job, and I did it,” said Maggart.
“No pun intended on bullets.”
…”All the lobbyists, all the special interest groups, have learned that if you just marshal enough and want to take one person out, you can,” she said.
“They’ve coined a new word called ‘Maggartized,’ ” she said. “If you don’t do what they want, they’re going to Maggartize you.”
That fear reveals something of a crack in the legislative Republicans’ armor as the party grapples with satisfying large swaths of business leaders and small business owners, the philosophical tea party groups disinterested in going along with the GOP’s political strategy — and everyone in between.
“I always said I just didn’t believe that people send us down here for any lobbying group, whether it’s for — I don’t know — any group, to use fear and intimidation to get their way. That goes against the very thing the Tea Party says all the time they’re against. It was just really a strange situation how all of that played out, that the gun lobby would turn on their friends. And they did,” she said.
To Maggart, the political realities of keeping happy an ever-widening Republican base apply not just to the guns-in-lots bill. The opportunities are great for other Republicans thinking long-term on the Hill to lose their seats when those in the far-right wing of their party pin members in uncomfortable positions.
Take former Metro Councilman and state Rep. Jim Gotto. He narrowly lost his bid for re-election to the state House last month to Democrat Councilman Darren Jernigan, a defeat Maggart contends could have been avoided had he not been pressured to vote for a tea party-driven health care compact bill.
The legislation as written, which Maggart said “didn’t do anything,” would ask the federal government to let Tennessee build its own health care program with other states, sending a message to the feds that the state was rejecting the Affordable Care Act. While demanded by tea party groups, the legislation gave fodder for urban Democrats to accuse Gotto of endangering the health benefits of seniors.
“We kept telling that group, the tea partiers, this is what’s going to happen with this bill,” said Maggart. “At the end of the day we had it on the House floor, and it died. I voted for it, but it died. It is one of the reasons why Jim Gotto lost. We lost a good House member because of different factions not listening.”
The risk of interest groups leveraging their power to bend lawmakers to their will has other ripple effects throughout the caucus. Take the $155,000 her campaign shelled out trying to keep her, an incumbent, in office.
“I hate it that we spent so much money on me,” she said, “when we could have spent it to protect Jim Gotto or to have helped a [Goodlettsville Republican] Charles Williamson get elected, or [Nashville Republican] Ben Claybaker.”
— UPDATE: Maggart continues her critique of the NRA in a video interview with the Huffington Post.
News release from House Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–Representative Debra Maggart (R–Hendersonville), who authored the voter ID requirement in Tennessee, today released the following statement on today’s Tennessee Court of Appeal decision:
“While I am encouraged our law was ruled constitutional, the fact the Court decided to add to it is disappointing.
“Since 2006, this legislation has been a priority of mine. I have worked with my colleagues to develop a law that is both constitutional and narrow in scope that protects the integrity of the ballot box here in Tennessee.
“Not only has the Court gone beyond the clear intent of the law by allowing library cards, it has also created an exception for the city of Memphis that falls below the standard for the rest of Tennessee. This is the definition of ‘legislating from the bench’ and, frankly, is unacceptable.
“Tennesseans overwhelmingly support a common sense photo identification requirement that ensures the person issued the ID is, in fact, a citizen of Tennessee. Since the library system is not equipped to verify an individual’s legal status, the Court has purposefully undermined the will of Tennesseans with today’s decision.”
— News release from Tennessee Citizen Action:
Nashville, Tenn. (October 25, 2012) — Mary Mancini, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizen Action, released the following statement regarding the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruling on the Photo ID to Vote law.
“This is good news! The ruling clearly states that city-issued library cards lawfully fulfill the requirements of the photo ID to vote. It should send a clear message to the Tennessee State Legislature that their attempts last session to limit allowable IDs to only a handful was both restrictive and excessive.
Citizen Action looks forward to working with the Tennessee General Assembly next session to amend the Photo ID to Vote law to allow other Metro and city-issued photo IDs to fulfill the requirements of the law thereby removing additional barriers to the ballot box making it much easier for more hardworkingTennesseans to vote.”
Scott McNutt uses a comment by Courtney Rogers — that she’s not going to be a one-issue legislator after beating House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart — as a starting point for a satire salvo targeting politicians, the National Rifle Association and allies.
A Snark Bites excerpt: Cox suggested that the solution was for the NRA to appoint its own officials to state government.
“It’s less expensive, and we’d no longer have to go to the regrettable lengths of making examples of more of you — as our dear friend John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, put it — with high-profile political crucifixions, as we were forced to do with poor Debra,” Cox explained.
Cox added that gun-advocate groups “probably represent a larger constituency than your Democratic counterparts in your so-called two-party system.”
Harwell responded that the Legislature’s leaders would do their utmost to respect the rights of gun zealots and find ways to coexist peacefully with them within the legislative structure.
“We will always do what is best for the state of Tennessee’s government,” Harwell said. “We are always open to discussion, but our job is to upend, er, uphold the Constitution and do what’s best for the state government’s officials. And if allowing the NRA to appoint its own government members is what’s best for us, you can rest assured they’ll be appointed, lickety-split.”
Cox said that, whether it was accomplished through sponsored legislators or NRA-appointed government officials, the organization would be passing a bill in the next legislative session to guarantee that weapons could await their owners in their owners’ vehicles parked at work, regardless of employers’ wishes.
…”In the next session, we plan to bring bills for guns in kindergartens, guns in nursery schools, guns in maternity wards and for emergency guns being installed in public places next to fire alarms with instructions reading, ‘In case of emergency, pull trigger,’ ” he explained. “Such emergency kits would have prevented some of the recent tragedies where innocent firearms were wrongly used.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam reacted cautiously to the dialogue between the gun activists and Harwell, saying he didn’t yet know if he would now pay fealty to the NRA’s Cox.
“It’s a little early to comment on whether I’ll be genuflecting to perform the traditional kissing of the NRA’s ceremonial rifle butt,” Haslam said. “But does this guarantee that we’ll be talking about how I might appease the NRA next year? Yes, it does.”
Leading House Republican Rep. Debra Maggart hasn’t decided whether she’ll make another go if it in 2014 following her recent GOP primary defeat in Sumner County, according to TNReport. The Hendersonville Republican blamed her loss on the National Rifle Federation and the Tennessee Firearms Association which “dumped over $150,000” worth of political ads into the race, she said.
“To tell the people of my district over and over and over that I am for gun control, which is a total lie, was very effective. People say they don’t like negative campaigning, but negative campaigning works,” she said following a roundtable discussion between Gov. Bill Haslam, legislators and business and education officials about improving higher education while at Tennessee Technology Center in Nashville Tuesday.
A review of contributions by political action committees indicated the NRA and TFA collectively injected $102,000 into the race.
Maggart’s opponent, Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers, enjoyed a 57 percent favorable vote to Maggart’s 43 percent to defeat the incumbent in the Aug. 2 Republican primary election. Rogers now goes on to compete with Democrat Jeanette Jackson in the general.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam says it’s too early to tell whether the defeat of House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart in last week’s primary will cause lawmakers to revive a gun bill championed by the National Rifle Association.
The NRA put up more than $86,000 against Maggart in the race, claiming she was instrumental in blocking legislation to guarantee employees the right to store weapons in vehicles parked at work, regardless of businesses’ wishes.
Haslam has said he supports the measure, but only with exceptions built in for large employers. The NRA wants a more blanket ban on keeping guns from being stored in parking lots.
The governor told reporters after a higher education meeting in Memphis on Tuesday that responses from lawmakers on the NRA-backed bill have been varied since Maggart’s ouster.
“There’s some who are like, ‘That makes me mad, that makes we want to fight,’ to ‘Let’s work out something before we even go into session,'” he said.
“It’s a little early to comment on exactly what the balance of the General Assembly will look like,” Haslam said. “But does that guarantee that it will be talked about next year? Yes.”
The Huffington Post reports there was a bit of a backlash from Sumner County NRA members over the organization’s attack on House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart. The group’s involvement didn’t sit well with 15 local residents, who signed a critical letter to Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist. The letter appeared as a full-page ad in the local Hendersonville Star News on Wednesday, the day before the election.
“As a D.C. lobbyist, if you ever make the 700 mile trip and come to Sumner County, we would love to sit down with you and ask why you are trying to force decisions on the people who live in a place, that as far as we know, you’ve never seen,” they wrote.
…One of the people who signed the letter was Bill Sinks, a lifelong Republican and an NRA member. He told The Huffington Post that he is dropping his membership in the gun group because of its campaign against Maggart.
“It’s a personal attack against Debra, number one. It’s unfounded,” he said. “Number two, it’s not about the National Rifle Association. It’s about power and their ability to change politics. That’s what it’s about. And they said they would do anything in their power to beat her, and that’s what they did.”
When asked what influence the NRA’s money had in the race, he replied, “Everything.”
“It was a battle against the state of Tennessee. That’s basically what it was. And they used Debra as their scapegoat,” he added, calling her a “good person” and characterizing Rogers as someone who hasn’t lived in the area very long and is relatively unknown to the constituents.
The general election still determines the ultimate winner, but Tennessee GOP Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey tells Hank Hayes that political campaigns are getting to the point where primaries may be “the race.” “Before I got to be in the (Republican) majority, I had to practically beg people to run, and now we have four-way primaries and six-way primaries. Things have really changed,” Ramsey said when asked to reflect on Thursday’s primary election results.
…”Debra (Maggart) hit the perfect storm,” Ramsey said. “She was running up against a good candidate. She was in this Nashville media market that just lives, breathes, eats and sleeps politics. It wasn’t just the NRA that brought her down. It was several other factors. I was a huge supporter. She was a great state representative. She took the brunt of other people’s frustration with politics in general. … The NRA spent $75,000 to get a pro-Second Amendment legislator defeated.”
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris DeVaney, in a conference call with reporters, said GOP candidates won for different reasons.
“Courtney Rogers ran an aggressive, grass-roots campaign … (but) certainly she was aided by an outside group or two,” said DeVaney. “But at the end of the day, voters have various reasons for voting one candidate over another. We have to commend Courtney for doing an outstanding job getting her vote out.”
While passion about gun rights contributed to the defeat of state Rep. and House Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart on Thursday, The Tennessean says her ouster may not dramatically change how the legislature addresses Second Amendment rights — at least not in the near future. Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said the legislature and its leaders will try to respect the rights of property and gun owners when they consider this type of legislation next spring.
“We will always do what is best for the state of Tennessee,” Harwell said. “We are always open to discussion, but our job is to uphold the Constitution and do what’s best for the state.”
…And while Harwell said all of the state Republicans who won Thursday share common conservative principles, she said the all-out effort didn’t play well with lawmakers.
“Some members have been upset about how she was treated,” she said.
…John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said the reasons his group got involved went beyond a single bill.
“It dates back to the broader issue last year when she said that she had no intent of taking Second Amendment issues to the floor in an election year,” he said.
Harris expects the law to pass eventually, whether in the next General Assembly or another one with more receptive legislators. And he sent a not-so-veiled warning to GOP leaders that they should pay attention to what happened Thursday — even if some of Tennessee’s biggest businesses don’t like it.
“We hope this legislation won’t be derailed by leadership because of financial allegiances,” he said.
In a statement, Chris Cox, who leads the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, called Rogers’ win a great victory for the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms.
“The NRA will always champion Second Amendment rights in Tennessee and across the United States,” Cox said. “We look forward to working with Courtney Rogers and all of our supporters in Nashville during the next legislative session to help secure passage of the Safe Commute Act.”
John Geer, chairman of the political science department at Vanderbilt University, said… this race showed how the Republican-dominated legislature could end up taking more conservative positions than the people it represents, a finding that emerged in a poll Vanderbilt conducted in partnership with The Tennessean earlier this year.
“They’re not fearful of losing to a Democrat,” he said.
“They’re more afraid of losing to a more conservative candidate.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart lost her state House primary Thursday to a retired Air Force officer backed by the National Rifle Association.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting Thursday night, Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers had 3,392 votes, or 58 percent, compared with Maggart’s 2,421 votes, or 42 percent.
In the two dozen races where GOP state lawmakers were facing challenges, at least four incumbents were defeated.
Five incumbent lawmakers — four Republicans and one Democrat — were in races too close to call. (Note: Final unofficial returns show seven Republican incumbents and five Democratic incumbents losing. See further parenthetical note below.)
Maggart’s race in Sumner County was the most closely watched because of her GOP leadership position and the NRA’s involvement against a member of a party it usually backs.
Outraged that Maggart didn’t push through legislation in the last House session to allow workers to store guns in vehicles parked on company lots regardless of their employers’ wishes, the NRA endorsed Rogers and paid for ads and a billboard that pictured her with President Barack Obama, an unpopular figure in Tennessee.