Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle joined his House counterpart Wednesday in declaring disinterest in running for governor, even though he waged a brief campaign for the office in 2010.
“I haven’t thought about it,” said Kyle, D-Memphis, adding that he had hoped House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley would run. As for himself, Kyle said he is not really interested, though stopping short of absolutely ruling it out.
“I’ve thought more about ‘do I want to leave the Senate and become a judge or do I want to stay in the Senate.’ That is the decision I’ve got to make between now and the end of the year,” he said. “That’s what I’ve focused all of my energy on.”
Fitzhugh, who has toyed with the idea of running for governor since December, said earlier this week that he has decided to instead seek re-election to his West Tennessee House seat and another term as head of House Democrats.
Kyle ran briefly for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2012, then withdrew — along with three other Democrats who initially declared themselves candidates, including the party’s current chairman, former state Sen. Roy Herron. Dresden businessman Mike McWherter won the nomination, then lost to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — State Rep. Joe Carr on Thursday joined state Sen. Jim Tracy in the race to oust embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in next year’s Republican primary.
Carr, a Murfreesboro business consultant, made his announcement from a balcony overlooking the Middle Tennessee Medical Center, which he said “represents some of the paralysis that has engulfed this county.”
“We’ve got a state of the art medial community over here, and it’s in peril because one thing, and one thing only: and that’s the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare,” he said.
Carr said beyond his opposition to the federal health care law, his campaign would focus on supporting gun rights and tighter enforcement of immigration laws.
“At the very least the immigration reform that is being touted by some of my colleagues in the Republican Party are premature,” he said.
Carr’s exploratory committee raised about $205,000 in the first quarter of the year. Meanwhile, Tracy’s campaign reported last month that he had raised more than $436,000 in the first quarter, while DesJarlais raised $105,000.
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, has struggled to raise money since winning re-election last year amid revelations that a phone call was recorded with him urging a patient with whom he was having an affair to seek an abortion.
The congressman denied during the campaign that he had recorded the call, but in his 2001 testimony he acknowledged that he did. DesJarlais said he was only trying to get her to admit she wasn’t pregnant.
Carr cast himself as the outsider willing to take on the entrenched interests.
“Don’t misunderstand me: This is going be difficult,” he said. “Because who we’re standing against … is some of our Republican colleagues. We’re standing against, in some respects, the establishment.”
Carr acknowledged that more than one candidate in the primary could improve DesJarlais’s chances, but predicted that conservative voters would come to embrace his positions.
Carr also said he was undaunted by Tracy’s long list of endorsements and financial backers.
“I think what the voters are looking for is more than the same good old boy politics that we’ve become accustomed to,” Carr said.
Tracy, a Shelbyville insurance agent and former college basketball referee, previously ran for Congress in 2010 before his county was moved from the 6th District as part of redistricting.
— Note: The Carr campaign announcement news release is below.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill to give Tennessee lawmakers the power to decide the nominees for the state’s U.S. Senate seats was withdrawn Tuesday until next year after Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said he had a “major problem” with the proposal.
The governor told reporters he objects to eliminating primary elections to decide Republican and Democratic nominees for the U.S. Senate, and said he would “very strongly” consider a veto of the measure if it was passed by the Legislature.
(Note: Actually, the precise gubernatorial comment in response to a question on whether the bill is a candidate for veto: “I think it very strongly could be.”)
“I have a major problem with that in the sense that we’re going to take the selection of a United States senator out of the hands of the people of Tennessee and have a few folks decide who that should be,” Haslam said. “That just doesn’t feel right to me.”
Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, announced a short time later in a House committee that he wanted to delay consideration of the bill until next year. The panel approved the motion without debate.
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, had previously put a full Senate vote on the measure on hold until the final calendar of the year. He has said the bill is an effort to return to the system closer to the direct appointments that were in place before the adoption of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1913.
The bill wouldn’t take effect until after the 2014 elections, meaning it wouldn’t apply to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election bid next year, but could affect fellow Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s next campaign.
Corker told reporters in Nashville he wouldn’t take a position on the bill, but said Tennessee voters like the ability to have a say in the nominees. He also said the contested Republican primary in 2006 was a good learning experience for him.
“Going through that process really does make you a better candidate and I think it causes people to get to know you,” Corker said. “Our race in 2006 was a national race that the whole country watched and I think it was important for me anyway to have gone through that process.”
— UPDATE NOTE: A legislative reception in honor of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander was held Tuesday evening. Asked his views on the bill at the gathering, Alexander hedged.
“I’m reluctant to become involved in state issues,” he said. “I trust the Legislature to deal with it appropriately.”
Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman William “Chink” Brown’s Senate confirmation vote for a new term on the panel may be dead in the water, according to the Chattanoga Times-Free Press.
Freshman Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, on Thursday “bumped” the confirmation of Brown, a Signal Mountain attorney and former judge, from a consent calendar. The consent calendar is a list of usually noncontroversial bills and resolutions that are passed en masse on any given day on the Senate floor.
Other nominees to the Fish and Wildlife Commission were confirmed. But Brown’s nomination was re-referred to the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Senators say at least five of the nine-member committee won’t vote to send Brown’s nomination back to the Senate floor.
…At least part of the opposition appears to come from residual resentment by some lawmakers over a two-year battle they fought with the TWRA and the-then Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, which oversaw the agency.
Brown was chairman of the commission during the fight. The commission eventually was renamed and other changes made.
Gardenhire, elected to the Senate last fall after the flap, said Thursday evening he had warned a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency official, which the commission oversees, over a week ago that he wouldn’t be voting for Brown “but I wouldn’t do anything to cause attention to it.”
…Brown, a Democrat, was renominated by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
Gardenhire said he warned an administration official last weekend that Brown’s confirmation was in danger but no one got back with him to discuss it.
Larry Crim, fourth place finisher in the Aug. 2 Democratic U.S. Senate primary, indicates in a news release that he’s dropping legal action to void the apparent victory of Mark Clayton, who has since been disavowed by the state Democratic party.
This comes after U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp of Nashville effectively threw the lawsuit out — though telling Crim’s lawyer he could come back and try again.
Instead of litigating, the release says Crim is launching a new organization — he will be chairman — called Democrats United For Tennessee. It’s purpose, says the release, will be uniting Democrats and “providing leadership for a new direction focused on emphasizing the importance of every race for public office and on the vetting, selection, nomination, and general election of Tennessee Democrats dedicated to being a public servant for all Tennesseans.”
The full release is below.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge on Thursday refused to void the Tennessee Democratic primary for U.S. Senate won by an anti-gay candidate the party has disavowed.
District Judge Kevin Sharp cited among the reasons for his refusal that the plaintiff, Larry Crim, was lacking certain filings and that there were errors in others. For instance, the Tennessee Division of Elections was named as a defendant instead of an individual, which should have been the election coordinator.
Sharp told Crim’s attorney, Michael Rowan, that once he got the proper items — such as a memorandum, affidavit and declarations — that he was welcome to file again.
“Before you can do anything, you have to follow the rules,” Sharp said.
Rowan, who acknowledged acting hastily in seeking an emergency ruling, told reporters after the hearing that he would talk to his client about how to proceed.
Crim sued the state Division of Elections and the Tennessee Democratic Party in trying to keep the winner of the Aug. 2 primary, Mark Clayton, off the November ballot.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney is halfway to clinching the Republican nomination for president.
The former Massachusetts governor inched up to 572 delegates on Monday — exactly half the 1,144 needed — after the Tennessee Republican Party finalized delegate totals from its March 6 primary. Results in several congressional districts were too close to call on election night, leaving three delegates unallocated.
Romney got all three delegates. He also picked up an endorsement from a New Hampshire delegate who had been awarded to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Huntsman dropped out of the race in January and endorsed Romney.
Romney and his chief rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, have been sparring over the delegate count for weeks. Romney’s campaign says there is no way for Santorum to reach the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, portraying the race as all but over. Santorum’s campaign says Romney’s numbers are inflated, raising the prospect of a contested convention in August.
According to the Associated Press tally, Romney has more than twice as many delegates as Santorum. Santorum has 273 delegates, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 135 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 50.
Romney has won 54 percent of the primary and caucus delegates so far, putting him on pace to clinch the nomination in June. Romney could substantially add to his lead Tuesday, when 95 delegates will be at stake in three primaries, in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Tuesday’s contests mark the midway point in the race for delegates.
A total of 2,286 delegates are slated to attend the party’s national convention in Tampa, Fla. — 2,169 will be selected through primaries, caucuses and state conventions, while 117 are members of the Republican National Committee, free to support any candidate they choose.
Santorum, who has won 27 percent of the primary and caucus delegates so far, would need 74 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination before the national convention. Gingrich would need 86 percent and Paul would have to win nearly all of them, which won’t happen because most states award delegates proportionally.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Beverly Marrero says she’s “stunned” by an online effort to draft her to run for the U.S. Senate this year.
Marrero has been a vocal critic of the legislative redistricting plan that places her in the same Memphis district as fellow Democratic Sen. Jim Kyle.
She said Wednesday that the calls for her to instead run against Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker this year are a “very lovely gesture” and said she’s not ready to rule anything out.
Marrero was elected to the state Senate in 2007 after serving six years in the House. She is 72.
The candidate filing deadline is April 5.
— Note: See also Trace Sharp backing the draft Marrero idea HERE; and the facebook page on the draft Marrero movement HERE.