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Tennessean Breaks Tradition, Backs Republican for President

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville has broken with a decades-long tradition of backing Democratic candidates for president and given its endorsement to Republican Mitt Romney.
An editorial (http://tnne.ws/PcEWUV) published Thursday expressed disappointment with the campaign tone set by Romney and President Barack Obama and the lack of clarity on what either would do if elected.
It faulted Romney for straying from the positions he held as governor of Massachusetts and Obama for pursuing health care reform instead of the economy.
The editorial urged Romney, “Be the man who governed Massachusetts, and you’ll reunite America.”
Of Obama, the paper said, “it’s clear whatever shaky bridges were burned in the push for health reform only emboldened Republicans to oppose his subsequent economic proposals. That has rendered much of his presidency ineffective.”
The newspaper’s editorial page leans left and has endorsed Democratic candidates for president since 1972, when it backed George McGovern.
The paper endorsed Obama in 2008, and the Democrat won in Nashville. But John McCain won Tennessee by a landslide with 57 percent of the vote.

Note: The News Sentinel earlier broke tradition by deciding not to make an endorsement in the presidential race. Editor Jack McElroy discusses the reaction in a blog post.

News Sentinel Ends Endorsements in Presidential Race

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Knoxville News Sentinel has ended a decades-old tradition of endorsing presidential candidates, saying it no longer has any special access to the candidates.
Editor Jack McElroy said in a column (http://bit.ly/WpA2Ec) published Sunday it was a difficult decision.
“Citizens can find plenty of opinions about the presidential candidates to weigh against their own, and there is no shortage of community dialogue — far from it,” McElroy wrote. “The News Sentinel also has no special access to the candidates, and, in this age of global Internet and 24-hour news, we have no sources of information that every other citizen does not have as well.”
The tradition of endorsing a presidential candidate dates to the paper’s beginnings in the 1920s.
Until 2008, the newspaper’s presidential endorsement was decided by its parent company, E.W. Scripps Co. Most went to Republicans, including in 2000 when the paper backed George W. Bush over Tennessean Al Gore. In 2008, the newpaper’s editorial board endorsed John McCain.
McElroy said the editorial board sees strong reasons for endorsing candidates in local races, including sparking community dialogue and using a newspaper’s special access to candidates to help inform voters. That rationale no longer applies to the presidential contest, he said.
The paper will continue to endorse candidates in local races

Ragan vs. Hackworth and the News Release War

The Tennessee Democratic Party and state Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, are stepping up a war of words over the freshman lawmaker’s voting record, with Democrats now saying Ragan is “in the pocket” of the school voucher lobby, reports Bob Fowler.
In a news release, Chip Forrester, the chairman of the state Democratic Party, blasts Ragan for supporting private school vouchers.
Ragan said he wasn’t going to respond to “every lie leveled by the Obama shills at the Tennessee Democratic Party.”
Ragan in June received what Forrester said was Ragan’s largest contribution — $5,000 — from Students First. That education reform group “pushes for school vouchers,” Forrester said. He said vouchers amount to “a tax break for wealthy Tennesseans” while diverting money from public schools.
Ragan said the group is nonpartisan and has been praised by both the Bush and Obama administrations as well as Governors Bredesen and Haslam.
Forrester said a voucher program could provide around $7,000 for families to spend on private school tuition, but many private schools charge much more, “leaving poor and working families a choice only on paper.”
“John Ragan has agreed with his corporate and political bosses every time they propose a new method to weaken public education in Tennessee,” Democratic Party official Jason L. Huff said.
Ragan said he has supported “measures like paying our teachers better and offering parents more choices.”
“Unlike my opponent, I do not believe the status quo is good enough, especially when it comes to our kids,” Ragan said in response to the Democratic criticisms.
Ragan is running for re-election Nov. 6 and is opposed by Democrat Jim Hackworth of Clinton, who Ragan unseated in 2010.


Note: Below are warring press releases from the two parties on the Hackworth-Ragan contest.

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Tennesseans at GOP Convention, Day 2

Haslam: From Fla. to N.C. for Romney
Gov. Bill Haslam travels to Tampa today but says he’ll soon be on the road again to North Carolina where he’ll resume his role as a Romney surrogate.reports WPLN.
The first-term governor says the choice is between four more years of the federal government telling people what to do and a government that – in his words – “takes advantage…of the free enterprise system.”
“I think the President has done a nice job on some things. I don’t think he has a real appreciation for what makes the economy grow, and I think the numbers reflect that.”
While a longtime Romney backer, Governor Haslam does not have a speaking role at the Republican National Convention.
Corker: Romney’s Like Reagan
The presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is the most important race the country has seen since the 1980 matchup between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Monday.
More from Michael Collins:
The Chattanooga Republican said he attended an event with Romney a couple of months ago in Park City, Utah, where Romney gave a speech that sounded “incredibly Reaganesque.”
“I left there about as excited as I could possibly have been at that moment,” Corker told Tennessee delegates to the Republican National Convention. “I think when people get to see who he is, it’s going to make a tremendous difference in this race.”
Corker, one of the guest speakers at a breakfast meeting for the state’s delegates, framed the race between Obama and Romney as a choice between “individualism and really allowing people real opportunity” versus “collectivism and trying to have equal outcomes.”
…Corker offered high praise for Romney’s vice presidential running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the influential chairman of the House Budget Committee. Corker said he has spent a lot of time with Ryan on budget issues and has gotten to know him really well.
Hagerty: A Candidate Himself Someday?
State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, a longtime friend of Mitt Romney, is interviewed by Chas Sisk.
“I think it’s going to be a real rush, to see someone that you’ve worked so hard for get to this next level,” Hagerty…said of Mitt Romney, the man he has supported for president for more than half a decade. “It’s also going to be a real grounding sense of responsibility there, because we’ve got the race of a lifetime.”
Hagerty first met Romney when the two were young consultants based in Boston, part of a cadre of bright minds recruited from prestigious law and business schools in the 1970s and 1980s to remake blue-chip companies. He was part of a group who urged Romney to get into presidential politics six years ago, and he was a key member of the fundraising team for Romney’s first bid for the White House in 2008.
Hagerty and his wife, Chrissy, have been selected as delegates to the Republican National Convention, an honor that will let them both cast ballots to nominate their friend for president.
The campaign could be a precursor to one of Hagerty’s own. The former political aide and financial executive has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Congress or the governor’s office after Gov. Bill Haslam’s tenure has run its course in 2014 or 2018.
…Hagerty said he came to know Bill Haslam in 2008, as the then Knoxville mayor was launching a run for governor. Just as Romney did in his runs for president, Haslam committed two years to his gubernatorial campaign.
“Whether it’s a person running for a county- or city-level position or a statewide position or national position, I feel certain that people that do it and do it well are putting 120 percent of their available time into the run,” he said. “Anybody that cares as much as a candidate that wins probably does; you’re putting your all into it.”
It is that depth of commitment needed that gives Hagerty pause about running for office himself. While he said he enjoys serving in government, Hagerty doubted that most people understand how much work it takes to win an election.
“You go through really a gauntlet of stresses and pressures,” he said. “I think until you’re near a person that does that, one doesn’t appreciate how challenging it is.

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TN Primary Election Day News Notes (early edition)

Super PACs Spending to Last Hours
A few Super PACs are keeping political ads – most of them negative – on the air in Tennessee through Election Day, according to WPLN.
The biggest spending is in the 6th Congressional District. Nashville health care investor Andy Miller has spent more than $230,000 attacking Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin. He’s supporting Lou Ann Zelenik, who narrowly lost to Black in the Republican primary two years ago.
ANDREW MILLER: “I honestly believe with my entire heart that she will not be bought out by special interests.”
REPORTER: “Are you a special interest?”
ANDREW MILLER: “I suppose to some degree I am, but my interests are to see the primary process find a more level playing field.”
As the incumbent, Black has been able to raise nearly a million dollars from political action committees. She’s also gotten her own Super PAC help from the American College of Radiology.

Kernell Cries Foul on Hardaway
A campaign flyer for state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, one of the candidates in the hotly contested House District 93 Democratic primary race, drew attacks Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen as “not honest,” while backers of state Rep. Mike Kernell, Hardaway’s opponent, say their names were used without permission in the flyer. HERE.
Slowdown in Shelby?
In an effort to make sure all voters receive the proper ballot, the Shelby County Election Commission has added an extra step that chairman Robert Meyers said could slow the voting process for everyone in Thursday’s elections. Ballot problems following redistricting of state House and Senate and U.S. House voting boundaries led to more than 3,000 voters appearing to cast ballots in incorrect races during the early voting period. The majority of the incorrect ballots involved state House party primaries, although some of those are uncontested. HERE.
Still More on Maggart vs. NRA
From a Frank Cagle column on why today’s elections are important: If the NRA defeats Maggart and some other members they have targeted, one of two things will happen. The members will bow down to the NRA lobbyists, shaking in their boots, and do what they are told. Or, they will be so angry at the tactics used against one of their own that they may revolt. Given that none of them wants $100,000 spent in a race against them in two years, I suspect it will be the former.
Incumbent Advantage in Roane?
Early voting should be moved out of the Roane County Courthouse to avoid potential problems about campaign boundaries and uniformed officers near polling places, the county’s District Attorney General says. Russell Johnson’s recommendation to the Roane County Election Commission is based on the premise that voting in the courthouse “provides what is perceived as an unfair advantage” to courthouse officeholders, the incumbents. HERE.
Hurley Signs Vandalized
State Rep. Julia Hurley said she is “sick and tired” of having to replace campaign signs due to vandalism and ready to press charges if the perpetrators can be identified. Hurley, facing a primary today against challenger Kent Calfee for the Republican nomination in the 32nd District, said the sign damage increased as the campaign progressed.
Since the campaign began, Hurley said she has replaced dozens of signs. Replacing vandalized signs has become a huge drain on campaign funds she said. … Hurley said she has had to replace many small signs that are found ripped up by the side of the road. She also lost two large signs to vandalism. The two signs alone cost more than $3,000 to replace, including the fence posts. More HERE.
An Omission in Rutherford
A printing error that left a few words off thousands of voter registration cards sent out last month shouldn’t affect voters when they go to the polls today, according to Rutherford County’s elections administrator…. The Rutherford County Election Office mailed 130,000 new voter registration cards to registered voters in July, in addition to information about 46 voting precincts and voting district lines, in preparation for today’s county general election and state and federal primary vote.
…The omitted words are on the part of the card with the voter’s name, address and voter registration card number. Just above the voter’s signature and that of Administrator of Elections Nicole Lester, the cards say, “The above is entitled to vote on and after the issuance of this card, provided the …” Missing are the words “registration has not become void.” HERE.

TN Political News Notes, 8/01/12

Silence on Chuck’s Stalled Bills
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann enjoys telling voters about legislation he has introduced to freeze government spending, eliminate capital gains taxes and abolish “wasteful” federal programs. However, the Ooltewah Republican never tells campaign audiences that his legislative output — six resolutions in all — has stalled in various House committees. Story HERE.
Cohen Offers Voter Advice
Some involved in Shelby County school board races are riled at U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen for endorsing candidates in Memphis-specific races he says had the “foresight” to vote against dissolving Memphis City Schools to force Shelby County schools consolidation. HERE.
Property Assessor Plans False Arrest Lawsuit
Rutherford County Republican Property Assessor Bill Boner said he has until Friday, the day after the election, to turn himself in to authorities on a sign vandalism accusation.
“I’m going to file a false arrest lawsuit,” Boner said during an interview at his property assessor office Tuesday. HERE.
Knox Fundraising
State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey has $166,344 in her campaign chest with no opponent going into Thursday’s Republican primary, while Evelyn Gill, the only Democrat in the race for the 6th District post, has $1,927.. Part of a roundup on campaign balances of Knox County legislative candidates, HERE.
Anderson County’s High-Spending Mayor’s Race
An unprecedented amount of campaign money (into six figures) is being spent in a special election for Anderson County mayor, the county’s administrator of elections said. HERE.
Editorial Bashes Vital
Start of a Chattanooga Free Press editorial: Another day, another allegation of dirty campaigning against Greg Vital. On July 25, this page endorsed Vital in the Republican primary for the open 10th District state Senate seat, but we expressed our concern about his “win-at-all-cost mentality.” Since that time, that win-at-all-cost attitude has turned Vital from a promising candidate into a loathsome embarrassment. HERE.

SCORE Report: The News Release (and link)

News release from SCORE:
(Nashville) — The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) today released a report, Supporting Effective Instruction in Tennessee, regarding Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system. The report follows a five-month listening and feedback process SCORE led on the evaluation system to identify what is working well, gather input on challenges and concerns, and report back with a range of recommendations to the Tennessee Department of Education and State Board of Education.
“SCORE’s role in this process has been to listen,” SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said. “It is our hope that this report and its recommendations will build on key successes of the new teacher evaluation system and support improvements moving forward, while always keeping the focus on what it takes to improve student achievement in our state.”
Research shows that effective teaching is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Tennessee is now completing the first year of implementing a new teacher evaluation system, designed to identify and support effective teaching.

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Super Tennessee Tuesday News Notes on Sunday

Romney Rising?
From Rasmussen Reports:
Just two days before Super Tuesday, the Republican primary race in Tennessee has become a two-man competition between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The first Rasmussen Reports survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in Tennessee shows Santorum attracting 34% of the vote, while Romney earns 30%. Polls from other firms have previously shown Santorum with a large lead in the state.
This Tennessee survey of 750 Likely Republican Primary Voters was conducted on March 3, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.

A Battle for the Heart & Soul of TN GOP?
With Republicans firmly in control of Tennessee, the outcome of the battle between Romney and Santorum could signal the direction in which the Tennessee GOP, and possibly the entire state, will march for years to come, according to Chas Sisk.
“Tennessee, it’s moved past center right and more to the right in the last few years,” said (Santorum supporter Glen) Hughes, 47, a Bellevue accountant and the president of a group called the Tennessee Republican Assembly — the “right-wing side of the Republican Party,” as he put it.
“I think Santorum appeals to your average Tennessean.”
A victory by Santorum would suggest that the GOP’s conservative wing will continue to rise and could even displace moderates such as Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell in Nashville. But a come-from-behind win by Romney would show that top party leaders still have their fingers on the pulse of Tennessee’s voters.

Gingrich Wins TCU Straw Poll
Excerpt from a Gingrich campaign email on Sunday:
Just last night, Newt won the straw poll at the Tennessee Southern Conservative Union’s annual banquet with 37.96% of the vote. Santorum was next with 33.8%. Rep. Paul pulled 11.11% and Romney finished in last place with 10.65% of the vote. Over in Jackson at the Madison County Reagan Day Dinner, Newt Delegate Mike Peery was named Madison County’s “Man of the Year.”
Romney Rally Breaking Rules?
Blogger R. Neal suggests that Sunday’s Knoxville Romney rally breaks Knox County school policy.,
Knox Co. School Board policy states that “No part of the school system, including the facilities, email addresses, the name, the staff, and the students, shall be used for advertising or promoting the interests of any commercial, political or other nonschool agency or organization.”
Crossover voting? Well, It Depends
While slamming crossover voting by Democrats in Michigan, Mitt Romney backers aren’t so much opposed in Tennessee, reports The Tennessean.
Middle Tennessee State University released polling data that showed Romney leading among Democratic voters and tied with Santorum among independents. He was losing to Santorum by a 21-point margin among Tennessee Republicans. So was the Romney campaign saying they didn’t want Democrats and independents to vote in the Republican primary in Tennessee?
The campaign didn’t seem to have a ready answer. When asked, they fell silent for a good five seconds before former U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan finally said crossover voters might be OK after all.

Note: Both party chairmen in Tennessee, Chris Devaney and Chip Forrester, say they don’t expect much crossover in the state on Tuesday. But there are some like, say, Pam Strickland.
Heckled Newt’s Finest Moment
According to Chas Sisk’s notebook, Newt Gingrich’s best moment during last week’s campaign swing through Nashville may have been his handling of six Occupy Nashville protesters who disrupted his Monday afternoon rally at the state Capitol by waving a red banner and shouting slogans.
Gingrich did not ask security to have the protesters removed. (Note: But a Highway Patrol officer who has dealt repeatedly with the protesters suggested, ‘This is not your party’ and they ultimately departed.) Instead, he quietly waited them out from the podium, giving them an icy glare while occasionally waving to his supporters to keep their cool.
Once things had started to quiet down, Gingrich delivered his retort: “I just want to make one observation. In terms of being out of touch with reality,” he said, gesturing toward the protesters, “somebody who 21 years after the collapse of the Soviet empire still has a red flag, is a sign of a commitment to fantasy over reality that is breathtaking.”
Video of the exchange is available at Tennessean.com.

Romney is the TN Money Man
From Michael Collins:
Rick Santorum may have a 2-to-1 lead in Tennessee polls heading into the GOP presidential election on Tuesday, but in the race for campaign dollars, he remains dead last.
The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania has collected just $2,700 in campaign donations from East Tennessee, according to the most recent fundraising reports on file with the Federal Election Commission.
Santorum’s cash yield is a fraction of the haul taken in by the most prodigious fundraiser in the race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney has collected $263,000 in contributions from East Tennessee, putting him far ahead of any of the other candidates.

Cain: Don’t Protest on Tuesday
Former presidential aspirant Herman Cain said he’s still on a mission to defeat President Barack Obama and urged conservatives on Saturday in Knoxville, as part of a statewide tour, to support former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Tennessee’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, reports Georgiana Vines.
For those who still wish the Georgia businessman was in the race, he said to vote for his fellow Georgian instead. “Don’t protest on Tuesday,” he said.
Cain was the main speaker at the Tennessee Conservative Union’s annual Reagan Day dinner at the Crowne Plaza hotel and made his comments during a reception for table sponsors before the event.

The Debut of PolitiFact Tennessee

In Sunday editions, the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Memphis Commercial Appeal jointly reported the launch of Politifact Tennessee, which is designed to check the veracity of statements made in the course of state political and governmental doings.
Excerpt from News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy:
Today, Tennessee joins the PolitiFact network. The News Sentinel and its sister paper, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, have launched PolitiFact Tennessee.
The project has both print and online components. Each Sunday and Monday, the News Sentinel will publish new Truth-O-Meter rulings, complete with details of the evaluations.
Then, during the week, other rulings will appear on the Tennessee portion of PolitiFact.com.
Among the first batch of comments to scrutinized by the Tennessee Truth-O-Meter are U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen’s claim that the Republicans have “never done anything” to lower the budget deficit, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s remarks about the 100-watt incandescent light bulb and state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s assertions about the cost of drug tests.
Researching the Truth-O-Meter rulings is a team of veteran Scripps journalists: Zach McMillin in Memphis; Steve Ahillen in Knoxville; Richard Locker and Tom Humphrey in Nashville; and Bart Sullivan and Michael Collins in Washington, D.C.
Bill Adair, the creator of PolitiFact, is personally overseeing the Tennessee launch, as he has the launches of all PolitiFact sites
.

Note: Commercial Appeal Editor Chris Peck on Politifact, HERE.

AP’s Top Ten Tennessee News Stories of 2011

We’re still a couple of weeks away from year’s end, but the cycle of media re-reporting what happened during the year is underway.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Here are the top Tennessee news stories of 2011 as chosen by The Associated Press staff:
1. 37 die in April tornadoes.
2. Pat Summitt diagnosed with early onset dementia.
3. Lawmakers repeal teachers’ collective bargaining rights amid union, tea party protests.
4. (Tie) Occupy Nashville protesters gather at Capitol; win court battle to keep going.
4. (Tie) Mississippi River floods parts of Memphis, West Tennessee.
6. Bruce Pearl fired as Tennessee basketball coach.
7. Woman who spent 26 years on death row is released.
8. Former Gov. Ned McWherter dies.
9. Legislators approve photo ID for voting.
10. General Motors announces plans to restart assembly work at Spring Hill plant.
Note: The story accompanying the list, written by Joe Edwards, is below.

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