Tag Archives: Ophelia

On the three contested legislative primaries in Shelby County

Richard Locker finds there are only three contested primaries for state legislative seats in Shelby County, most notably the one now held by Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis.

Ford has three challengers: Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris, police officer Ricky Dixon and former Memphis Education Association staffer Herman L. Sawyer. Harris is deemed the most formidable.

Ford, 63, appears to be doing little or no campaigning for re-election, while Harris, 35, a University of Memphis law professor, is campaigning hard. “We’re trying to talk directly to the voters. We’ve had several events, including a couple Downtown and more planned soon, called ‘State Senate on Your Street’ gatherings,” he said.

“There is a very stark, serious difference between Senator Ford and my record of performance and my record of leadership,” said Harris, who this week emphasized his record of attendance at City Council meetings, where he’s been a member for 2½ years. Ford was absent for 20 of the 36 days that the Senate met in floor sessions this year and 25 of the 53 total days that senators assembled for floor sessions and committee-only days.

She did not return repeated phone calls for comment, but during the legislative session, filed letters with the Senate clerk citing physical illness and hospitalizations for her absences.

Dixon and Sawyer, the other two Democrats on the ballot, have run for several offices before. Dixon, the younger brother of former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon, ran for Circuit Court clerk in 2010 and for the state House in 1996. Sawyer ran as an independent in 2010 for the Senate seat in 2010, winning only 2,945 votes to 18,229 for Ford and 7,654 for the Republican nominee. He lost a race for the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2004 and for the Shelby County School Board in 2006.

…(I)n House District 84, (Joe) Towns, a state representative since 1994, is opposed by political newcomer Kenneth L. Wells in the Democratic primary. Wells could not be reached for comment. The winner in the primary is the winner; no Republican or independent filed.

And in House District 91, ( Raumesh) Akbari has a Democratic primary rematch with Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw, one of six candidates Akbari defeated in a special election last autumn for the seat vacated by the death of 41-year Rep. Lois DeBerry. Akbari is a Memphis lawyer. Bradshaw is a longtime environmental and community activist and a sister of Rep. John DeBerry. Two Republicans, Samuel Watkins and Orrden Williams Jr., are running in the GOP primary but the district is heavily Democratic.

Sen. Ford absent on 25 of 53 legislative days during 2014 session, three times more than any other lawmaker

Residents of Shelby County’s sprawling 29th Senate District had no vote during the past legislative session during most meetings of the state Senate, according to Richard Locker.

Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, who has represented the district from Whitehaven to Downtown to Millington for eight years, was absent for 20 of the 36 days that the Senate met in floor sessions this year — including the last week and a half of the session when scores of the most important and sometimes contentious bills flow through the chamber for debate and approval or rejection.

Overall, Ford was listed as absent for 25 of the 53 total days that senators assembled for floor sessions and committee-only days. That is far more than any of her 131 colleagues in House and Senate were absent during the 2014 session that ran from mid-January to April 17.

Ford, 63, submitted letters to the Senate speaker for most of her absences saying she was too physically ill to attend.On April 15, she wrote Speaker Ron Ramsey that she had fallen and broken her hip and would “remain hospitalized for the rest of the session,” which adjourned two days later.

It was unclear when the fall occurred. Legislative attendance records show Ford was present on April 7 and 8 but absent April 9 and 10 of the week before she wrote the letter. She wrote the speaker on April 9 asking to be excused, saying only that “details will follow.” But on April 10 and April 14 her letters again asked to be excused without any details… She could not be reached for comment Friday.

…The lawmaker with the second largest number of overall absences was Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, who missed nine days. He was followed by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, with seven days. Watson is leaving the legislature this year and running for sheriff of Bradley County.

Two legislators missed six days each: Reps. Harold Love Jr., D-Nashville, and Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg.

Two members, Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, and Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, recorded five absences each. Six lawmakers missed four days: Reps. Barry Doss, R-Lawrenceburg; Jason Powell, D-Nashville; Barrett Rich, R-Somerville; Dennis Roach, R-Rutledge; Mike Turner, D-Nashville; and Dennis Vance, R-Savannah.

Twenty-three members, including Ford, Kyle and Todd, were absent on March 3 when freezing rain, sleet and snow blanketed much of the state.

Senate Staffer Fired for Political Activity at Work

An aide to Sen. Ophelia Ford was fired Tuesday in the wake of a TNReport story that showed him apparently conducting political work while collecting his state paycheck.
“As of today, Derek Hummel’s employment with the Tennessee General Assembly has been terminated,” Office of Legislative Administration official Tammy Rather told TNReport via email.
Hummel had been executive secretary for Ford, D-Memphis, since April, drawing a $30,468 annual salary. He’s also been working for the Phillip North campaign, a Democrat locked in a tight race against Republican Steve Dickerson for a Davidson County state Senate seat.

Full story HERE. Previous post HERE.

State Senate Staffer Reported Doing Political Work on State Time

A Tennessee Senate staffer appears to have been doing political work while collecting a full-time state paycheck, an apparent violation of state law, public records and documents reviewed by TNReport show.
Derek Hummel has been executive secretary for Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, since April of this year, drawing a $30,468 annual salary. Over the past three months, he has also been conducting political activities during state business hours on his state-issued computer, according to phone records and Facebook postings.
Hummel has identified himself as field director for the Phillip North for State Senate campaign. Hummel was paid $625 in September by the North campaign, according to campaign finance filings released last week.
When TNReport visited Ford’s office at the Capitol last week to interview Hummel, no one was present, but Hummel’s desk was strewn with what appeared to be campaign material, and political documents were visible on his taxpayer-funded desktop computer.
During an attempt to interview Hummel today, he accused TNReport of violating state law by calling him on his government-office phone.
“You’re an idiot,” Hummel told TNReport. “I’m calling Bill Fletcher,” he added, before abruptly hanging up. Fletcher is a prominent Tennessee Democratic campaign advertising specialist and political strategist.
…According to a state law call the “Little Hatch Act,” state employees are prohibited from “engaging in political activity not directly a part of that person’s employment during any period when the person should be conducting business of the state.” The law mirrors the federal Hatch Act.

Note: The state Republican party’s rapid response team had criticizing news release out promptly. Here it is:
Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas today released the following statement regarding a news report that Democrat State Senate candidate Phillip North’s Campaign Field Director ran campaign operations out of the legislative office of Sen. Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) with state-owned equipment on state time:
“Phillip North has set a new low for public corruption. Without ever serving a day in the legislature, Phillip North has managed to violate our system’s most basic legal and ethical boundaries. It is disgraceful that North would allow a state employee to work on his campaign full-time while drawing a check for full-time work from the taxpayers of Tennessee. North has broken trust with the citizens of Nashville by having taxpayers subsidize his campaign effort. He should immediately return to taxpayers the money his field director took while he was explicitly doing political work on state-owned equipment on state time.”

Sen. Ford Denounces ‘Mean and Hateful Nurses’

State Sen. Ophelia Ford told a Senate committee Tuesday that a bill to increase penalties for assaulting health care professionals is “ludicrous,” and said she was treated by “mean and hateful nurses” in recent years.
From the Rick Locker report:
“I’m not telling it all, because it was so horrible you could not even believe it,” said Ford, D-Memphis.
She added later that she was restrained during a hospital stay during which “I didn’t even know where I was.” She said that “there are kind nurses too, and usually they know how to handle themselves.”
Senate Bill 2658, proposed by the Tennessee Nurses Association, would enhance penalties for assault and aggravated assault against health care providers acting in the discharge of their duties. It won narrow 5-4 approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee despite Ford’s objections during a 30-minute debate.
Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, said federal Bureau of Labor Statistics figures indicate that the health care sector leads all other industries in the number of employees subjected to nonfatal assaults.
But Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, joined Ford in arguing against the bill, saying perpetrators of assault should be punished equally regardless of who the victim is.
…Ford’s long, rambling descriptions of her experiences with extended hospital and nursing home rehabilitation stays starting in 2006 generated the most interest in the room. It was reminiscent of previous eyebrow-raising speeches in which Ford has linked personal experiences to legislation.
“I would not be in your presence today because of mean, hateful nurses, and the lower on the scale they are with the least amount of experience, the worse they are.
“Most of you know I’ve had several illnesses, back in 2008, in and out of the hospital in 2006 and 2007… I cannot tell you the horrific experience I’ve had and it was nurses who were mainly doing these things to me. I knew that such happens but I just didn’t know it was so horrible.”