Tag Archives: mike turner

Haslam on becoming RGA attack dog: ‘Not my style’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was known as an attack dog during his tenure as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, observes the Chattanooga TFP, while new RGA Chairman Bill Haslam “is known to friends and critics as the ever-optimistic Mr. Nice Guy.

So how does an amiable guy who often shuns direct confrontation work out as Mr. Attack Dog?

Haslam chuckled this week when reporters asked that question.

“I think anybody knows that’s probably not my style,” Haslam said. “But I do think it matters who we elect across the country.”

He quickly turned the topic to GOP gains in 2014 and how Republicans showed they are not solely a regional, Southern-based party with victories in Democratic states such as Massachusetts and Maryland. (Note: A typical Haslam tactic in avoiding potential confrontational questions, of course, is to change the subject slightly and offering an innocuous comment.)

…Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney predicted Haslam will do a fine job as chairman.

“I think that Gov. Haslam certainly has the experience. He’s a great campaigner and fundraiser. He knows how to win,” Devaney said.

As for Haslam’s nice-guy image, Devaney said, “everybody brings different styles to any position.”

“I don’t think you necessarily have to have the style Chris Christie has,” he added.

…”I just think his kind of message, a very positive message talking about all the great things Republicans can do under conservative leadership … is going to resonate very well,” Devaney said.

Mike Turner, the former state House Democratic Caucus chairman who does have a reputation as an attack dog, said he generally got along with Haslam with some major exceptions, such as expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

“He can be tough when he needs to be tough. He’s shown that to me,” Turner said. “There were times when things were going on and I made some statements or things were sent to him and he stood his ground.”

But he said he hopes Haslam will prove a “good influence” on Republicans at the national level.

“They’ve gone too far to the right. … I think he can be a moderating force on that group,” Turner said.

Fitzhugh picks a favorite in House District 51 Democratic primary

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh is backing Jennifer Buck Wallace, one of three Democratic primary candidates seeking the nomination to succeed House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner in House District 51.

Excerpt from his endorsement statement (available full length at the Nashville Scene’s blog, HERE):

While she was Executive Director of the Tennessee Democratic Party, Jennifer and I were in constant contact coordinating a strong defense for House Democrats. Her efforts were especially fruitful in 2012, when all our incumbents were re-elected and Rep. Darren Jernigan won back an important Nashville seat. Jennifer was a huge organizing force for Democrats and these victories wouldn’t have been possible without her work.

We need more people like Jennifer in the State House. While I have the utmost respect for the other Democratic Primary candidates in this race, I know Jennifer and I have seen her work to elect Democrats at all levels.

VW incentives offer outlined; Turner sees ‘bullying, bribing, intimiation’

Volkswagen was offered about $300 million in financial incentives by Tennessee economic development officials to attract a new vehicle line to the Chattanooga plant and a new American VW headquarters that could bring 1,350 jobs, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

The incentives offer, dubbed Project Trinity, was made last August as the United Auto Workers union was trying to organize plant employees, which led to a February election that the union lost by a worker vote of 712 to 626.

The offer sheet, first reported by Nashville TV station WTVF, said the incentives were contingent on VW discussions about setting up a works council at the plant being concluded to the “satisfaction” of the state. Gov. Bill Haslam and other Tennessee Republican politicians have been vocal critics of potential UAW recognition at the plant.

State Rep. Mike Turner, the Democratic caucus chairman, on Tuesday said the incentives looked like strong-arm tactics.

“I think it’s bullying, bribing, intimidation, whatever you want to call it,” Turner said. “It looks to me like that’s what it was.”

But Haslam said in Chattanooga on Tuesday night that incentives were never tied to an outcome of the UAW vote, and that the package wasn’t used as leverage against plant workers.

Haslam said his opinion about the UAW gaining a foothold in the plant wasn’t a secret.

“We had an interest in the outcome,” he said.

Haslam added that incentive discussions with VW have not restarted since the February plant election.

“[VW] said ‘We’re not ready yet,”‘ the governor said. “We’re waiting for them to come back to us, which we hope is soon.”

AG says bill to outlaw ‘mass picketing’ by unions is unconstitutional

A pending bill in the Tennessee Legislture that prohibits “mass picketing” by unions is unconstitutional and may violate federal labor law as well, Attorney General Bob Cooper has opined.

The opinion was requested by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner and applies to a bill filed by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. It was approved by a House subcommittee and is scheduled for a vote in full committee next week.

The opinion says that the bill violates free speech rights by effectively making it a crime for union activity that would not be a crime for others.

“HB1688 presents a content-based restriction upon speech. It would criminalize ‘any form of mass picketing activity in the context of a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute’,” the opinion says.

“HB1688 includes labor-dispute-specific proscriptions on conduct that do not apply in non-labor contexts. Furthermore, the injunction provision of HB1688… would establish a different standard for business and private-property owners who are the targets of labor-related mass picketing.”

The bill’s preamble declares that the state has a “compelling interest” – a legal phrase that must be established to have restrictions on constitutional rights justified – in protecting public safety from violence, intimidation and other “disruptive behavior” that may be caused by mass picketing.

“It is not at all clear that the risk of such harms in the labor-dispute context is sufficiently compelling so as to justify the bill’s content-based restrictions on speech,” says the opinion.

In a summary, the opinion gave a short answer to Turner’s question of whether the bill presented an “invalid” restriction on speech under the First Amendment: “Yes.”

Note: The full opinion is HERE.

Bill banning ‘revenge porn’ a bipartisan effort

The state House has unanimously approved legislation intended to deter what the Democratic sponsor calls “revenge porn” and now moves on to a Senate committee vote under sponsorship of state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville.

The bill, HB2201, makes it a misdemeanor to distribute a picture or video of an “intimate part” of another person’s body without permission and with an intent to cause “emotional distress.”

A typical situation, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said in a floor speech, would come when “some girl makes a mistake and shows an intimate part of her body to her boyfriend, they break up and he sends it out on a cell phone.”

Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, said political opponents had once distributed photographs where “my face was put on other people’s bodies” and asked whether that would be covered by the bill. Turner said it would not, though he believes such an occurrence could already be considered illegal as fraud.

House debate also included Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, questioning Turner, known as one of the more liberal members of the Legislature, about collaborating with conservative activist Campfield, whom Turner called “my dear friend” at one point.

“We disagree about 80 percent of the time,” Turner said, then added their agreement on the bill is perhaps “in the two percent category.”

Holt said the alignment shows “the great compromise that can come about on the state level.”

Campfield has the bill scheduled for a vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mike Turner argued ‘Democratic policy with a common man’s touch’

Chas Sisk offers commentary on Tennessee Democrats and one of their leaders, Mike Turner, who announced last week that he won’t seek reelection to his state House seat:

Turner has grown popular among Democrats statewide the past five years, even though by the most objective measure — ballot box results — he hasn’t succeeded. As caucus chairman, one of his first duties has been to get Democrats elected to the state House of Representatives, and under Turner’s tenure the party has lost 22 seats, leaving 27 members.

Turner’s supporters say it’s not his fault. Democrats were all but assured of going into the minority in 2010, when an unpopular president and his health care reform law weighed down candidates running outside party strongholds.

…Perhaps because of this, Turner’s outspokenness became a source of popularity. From his earliest days in the House, the pro-labor progressive took shots at Republicans and sometimes his own party’s leadership on issues such as gay rights, business regulation and inequality. For Democrats who complained their party had become “Republican lite,” the rhetoric stood out.

Now, Turner believes more voters soon will embrace his message.

“It’s great being here in Nashville, in the middle of Tennessee. You think there’s no limit to what we’re doing around here,” he said. “But the state as a whole is a pretty poor state. And a lot of these people that are elected (are) cutting their throats.

“I think someday that they’re going to wake up, and they’re going to realize that’s what’s been happening, and I think that’s when you’ll start seeing a change.”
It might not be that simple. Turner is right that Republicans, like any party with a big majority, run the risk of overreaching. GOP leaders have said as much.

Turner also is right that his successor will probably be a Democrat. His district heavily favored President Barack Obama in 2012, and its population of African-American voters, working-class laborers and hipsters is unlikely to receive the Republican message warmly in November.

But for the Tennessee Democratic Party to mount a comeback, it will need to do more than speak to East Nashville. It also will have to appeal to voters in suburban and rural Tennessee who might be persuaded to come back to the Democratic Party. Its next generation of leaders will have to figure out how to balance progressivism with religious conservatism, and worker interests with small-business priorities.

Turner succeeded, to the extent that he did, because he was able to argue for Democratic policy with a common man’s touch. Whether the next person who represents House District 51 can work that same magic — or even build on it — is uncertain.

Note: Post Politics has links to some other Turner departure notes HERE. Turner also gets kind words from those way over on the other side of the political aisle — say, for example, Stacey Campfield.

Potential candidates for Mike Turner’s House seat already emerging

The Tennessean reports that there’s already a list of people considering a run for the House District 51 seat that House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner is leaving. It’s a strongly Democratic seat.

Several young Democrats from the East Nashville and Germantown areas quickly expressed interest in succeeding Turner, though none of them were ready to commit to a race just yet. Democratic officials said they think the district is safely in their party’s column after President Barack Obama won it handily in 2012, when Turner ran unopposed.

Among the potential candidates are Metro Councilman Anthony Davis; Zak Kelley, senior policy advisor to state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, the House Democratic leader; Wade Munday, treasurer of the Tennessee Democratic Party; software developer Freddie O’Connell; Tennessee Health Department procurement officer Eric Richardson, a former soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan; and former Tennessee Democratic Party executive director Jennifer Buck Wallace, now the Tennessee development director for Organizing for Action.

Meanwhile, a Turner campaign for mayor could bring a strong pro-labor voice to that race, which is likely to be crowded with candidates seeking to succeed Mayor Karl Dean, who took office in 2007.

“I am going to look at that,” he said. “That’s a little ways off yet, but I’m interested.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Turner won’t seek reelection to House seat

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner announced today that he will not seek reelection to the House District 51 seat.

“This is a hard place to quit but I will not be running this time around,” Turner said in a brief House floor speech.

Turner, 59, who is has held the seat 14 years. A Nashville firefighter by profession, Turner has said he is eyeing a run for Nashville mayor next year. The current mayor, Karl Dean, cannot seek reelection because of Metro Nashville’s term limits.

UPDATE: Here’s the House Democratic Caucus press release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville) announced today that he intends to retire at the end of the year after serving 14 years in House District 51. Rep. Turner has served in the role as Caucus Chairman since 2009.

“Serving the people of Tennessee has been the greatest honor in my life,” said Rep. Turner. “This was a very hard decision to make because I am extremely grateful for all the friends I have made since coming to the House. While I remain committed to serving the people of House District 51 and my fellow House Democrats as Caucus Chairman, I look forward to being able to spend more time with my family in the months and years to come.”

“Mike Turner is the epitome of a public servant. He has been a tireless voice for middle-class families, organized labor and the City of Nashville. On a personal note, Mike Turner has become one of my closest friends in the General Assembly. Serving with him in leadership has had a profound effect on me and has most certainly made me a better legislator and a better leader. I will miss my friend and as I have said on many occasions—if I ever find myself or my family in trouble, I want Mike Turner there and I know he always will be.”

“Mike Turner is and always will be one of my best friends in the legislature,” said Rep. Joe Towns (D-Memphis). “There was no greater champion of working men and women in this state than Mike. While I wish he would stay, I know he feels the time is right to leave, and I wish him and his family all the best.”

“Nashville and the Democratic Party has always had a great advocate in Mike Turner,” said State Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville). “I have been proud to serve with him in the legislature and consider him one of my closest friends. I look forward to continuing to work with him to make Nashville and Tennessee a greater place for all.”

“My time in the legislature may be coming to an end, but I won’t ever stop fighting to make Nashville and Tennessee a better place for all,” said Rep. Turner.

House District 51 covers the areas of Old Hickory, Madison, East Nashville, Downtown Nashville, and Germantown. President Obama won the district with 66% of the vote in 2012, while Rep. Turner was uncontested.

Statement from House Speaker Beth Harwell:
“I appreciate Representative Mike Turner’s seven terms of service to this body, his district and Davidson County. Although we don’t always see eye to eye, I know his principles come from a place of genuine conviction. He has always been a strong advocate for his district and later, in leadership, for his caucus. I have considered it a pleasure to call him a colleague, and I thank him for his commitment to this state.”

See also Andrea Zelinski, who nicely rounds up Turner’s commentary in a meeting with media types.

House Republicans kill bill to establish a TN minimum wage

Republicans on a House subcommittee Wednesday killed a Democrat-sponsored bill that would have established a Tennessee state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour for employees of companies that do not provide them with health care insurance.

House Democratic Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville, sponsor of the bill, said 41 other states have a state minimum wage – 21 of them setting it at a level higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Turner’s bill (HB1694) would set a state minimum wage of $7.25, matching the federal rate and with a provision declaring that will increase in alignment with any future increase in the federal minimum wage. For companies that do not provide medical insurance, the state minimum would be $1 higher.

“This is the right thing to do and it’s time we did it in Tennessee,” he told the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee. “We’ve done very little in this state to help people on the lower end of the wage scale.”

None of the Republicans on the panel offered comments on the bill during the brief hearing, other than subcommittee Chairman Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, complimenting Turner on a “good presentation.”

But all three Republicans present voted no on the bill. A fourth was absent. The panel’s two Democrats voted yes. The defeat effectively kills the measure for the year.

The fiscal note prepared by legislative staff said there are 247 part-time state employees who do no get health care insurance and would thus be covered by the bill, costing the state about $701,500 annually.

Note: The Democratic party commentary on the rejection is below.
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Turner to remain as House Democratic Caucus chair

State Rep. Mike Turner says he will serve out his term as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus despite an earlier declaration that he would quit in January.

“I should not have let my temper get the best of me that day,” said Turner, D-Nashville, referring to a Nov. 2 Tennessee Democratic Party meeting where he announced he was quit as caucus chair after five years in the post and another year remaining on his current term. “I was extremely frustrated.”

“I’m still frustrated, but I’m going to serve out my term,” he said.

Turner announced his intention to exit following a dispute with state Democratic Chairman Roy Herron, in part over allocation of party resources. At the time, Turner said the dispute was “not anything personal,” but “my approach to what the party needs and where it needs to go is way different “I want a more progressive and aggressive party that more reflects probably the national trend and where Democrats are having some success in other areas,” he told The Tennessean then. “I think Roy has got a more traditional conservative approach.”

“You know me. I tend to shoot from the hip sometimes,” Turner told reporters last week.

Turner said he looks forward to helping Democratic campaigns for state House seats next year and believes minority Democrats have a chance at gaining seats against the majority Republicans.