U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander enjoys a very strong lead over prospective rivals in next year’s Republican primary, according to a poll commissioned by the incumbent’s campaign.
A memo distributed to media by the campaign shows Alexander leading Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who says he’s considering the race, by 62 percent to 23 percent. State Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas, who recently announced as a candidate, trailed Alexander a bit more, 64 percent to 22 percent.
Two others mentioned as potential candidates did even less well, according to Whit Ayers, president of North Star Opinion Research, who has been polling for Alexander since his 1996 presidential campaign. The poll had Alexander leading Brian Kookegey, former Williamson County Republican chairman, 69 percent to 15 percent; while leading Brenda Lenard, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Bob Corker in the 2012 primary, 69 percent to 16 percent.
The Alexander poll could be seen as contrasting with a Triton polling survey of Tennessee Republican voters earlier this month that – as reported by Breitbart News – found Alexander trailing a nameless “credible conservative candidate” by five points, 49.5 percent to 44.9 percent. Breitbart, without identifying who paid for the survey, said that poll “shows how vulnerable he is” though it also found that 64 percent of GOP voters approve, at least somewhat, of Alexander’s performance in office. Continue reading →
The head of a Knoxville political consulting firm has acknowledged to the TBI responsibility for an automated telephone survey asking voter opinions of state Sen. Stacey Campfield while declaring there was no intention of harassing those getting the calls or attacking Campfield, his attorney said Monday.
Ben Farmer, owner of Cyragon, LLC, spoke “in a very lengthy interview” to a TBI investigator last week and explained that the survey was a matter of “internal testing” of the firm’s surveying system that went awry through a “computer glitch” that caused many of the 2,000 targeted voters to receive multiple calls, said G. Turner Howard III, Farmer’s attorney.
The TBI has been investigating the “robo poll” at the request of District Attorney General Randy Nichols in response to an initial request to the TBI from Campfield. A TBI spokeswoman said Monday that the agency has not turned over its final report to Nichols and declined further comment because the matter is part of “an ongoing investigation.”
Campfield said Howard’s explanation for the calls was “ridiculous” and that Farmer’s acknowledgment indicated political motives. Farmer is a supporter of Richard Briggs, a Knox County commissioner and physician who has declared himself an opponent to Campfield in the 2014 Republican primary. Briggs’ first campaign financial disclosure shows $7,000 in payments to Cyragon.
After a conversation with Sen. Stacey Campfield, District Attorney General Randy Nichols said Wednesday he is asking the TBI to proceed with an investigation into whether state anti-harassment laws were violated by automated calls to voters asking their opinion of the senator.
Campfield told Nichols, according to interviews with both men, that he believes the calls were intended to make people mad at him and that a possible source of the calls was Ben Farmer, who owns Cyragon LLC, a political consulting company that has been paid $7,000 by the campaign of Richard Briggs, an announced opponent to Campfield in the 2014 Republican primary.
Briggs said he had nothing to do with the “robo poll” made late last month. Farmer has acted as a consultant to his campaign, he said.
Nichols said that preliminary inquires left it apparent that some people receiving the calls “felt they were harassed” and “we’re going to go a little deeper into it to see if we can determine who caused the calls to be made.”
Some people reported receiving repeated call backs – as many as 37 – and Campfield contends the calls appeared programmed to keep calling back the same number until the respondent gave an unfavorable opinion of Campfield.
State Sen. Stacey Campfield has requested a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe into an automated telephone poll last month asking voters about their opinion of him, saying the survey may have violated anti-harassment laws by making repeated return calls to the same households.
The Knoxville Republican said he met with a TBI agent, providing him with information, including emails from people saying they got multiple calls — 20 or 30 in some cases — that began with a declaration that “Citizen Opinion Research” was conducting a “quick one-minute survey” of voter opinions on Campfield.
TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm confirmed that Agent Darren DeArmond met with Campfield and accepted the information. TBI officials, in turn, took the information to Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols. Under state law, a formal TBI investigation must be requested in most situations by a district attorney general.
Nichols said he asked that TBI do some more preliminary research — contacting some people who sent emails, for example, to ascertain how many calls they received and when.
“Some of the information we got we need to verify a bit,” said Nichols. “It’s way too early to put a world of resources into it. … We need to figure out if a crime was committed.”
Nichols said that repeated phone calls could be a violation of anti-harassment laws. He said there was one mention of someone receiving 37 calls during an evening.
“Now, if that’s the case, that’s something we need to take a look at,” he said. “I suspect it might be some kind of computer error.”
After getting the followup information from TBI, Nichols said he will make a decision on whether to request a full-blown investigation.
Campfield and Richard Briggs, a Knox County commissioner and physician who has announced he will oppose the incumbent senator in the 2014 Republican primary, both say they had nothing to do with the calls.
Campfield said he believes many of the callbacks were to people who gave him a favorable rating in the poll, and the callbacks continued until the call recipient gave him a negative rating.
Briggs said that “just as speculation” he thought the poll might have been conducted for some local media outlet.
Voters in state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s district have been bombarded with automated phone calls asking their opinion of him, but both the Republican lawmaker and his primary challenger say they had nothing to do with the survey.
Campfield and Richard Briggs, a physician and Knox County commissioner who has declared himself a candidate for Senate District 7 in the 2014 Republican primary, said they have heard from people unhappy with the calls. In many cases, there were apparently repeated callbacks.
“It was OK to respond once, but I didn’t want to respond 20 times,” said Pam Jordan, a retired KUB employee who said she began receiving repeated calls starting at about 6:30 p.m. Monday and continuing until 8:23 p.m.
If she hung up on the call, there was an immediate call back, she said. If she responded, there would still be another call perhaps five minutes later, Jordan said.
She declined to say which of five options she chose from those presented for an opinion on Campfield, who has stirred controversy both with bills filed and comments made as a legislator.
Here are two news releases distributed to Tennessee media as the U.S. Senate considers a landmark immigration bill:
First, from the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition:
Nashville – According to the results of Harper Polling, an independent polling firm, over three-fourths of Tennessee voters support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers and families already here. Over three-fourths also think the bill currently in Congress is tough but fair, and want Senators Alexander and Corker to support it.
The poll offered several questions relating to immigration reform, including “How important is it that the U.S. fix its immigration system this year?” to which 91% of respondents answered “important” (71%) to “somewhat important” (20%). Tennesseans overwhelmingly showed support for an earned pathway to citizenship if undocumented immigrants meet certain requirements, with 77% of respondents showing “strong” (46%) to “somewhat” (31%) support for a legalization process that includes citizenship. The bill is being considered and debated today on the floor of the US Senate.
The following is a statement from Stephen Fotopulos, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition:
“The will of Tennessee voters is clear. We want Congress to do its job, make sense of our immigration laws this year, and finally bring order to the system. Undocumented immigrants are already in our state working hard and raising families, just waiting for the chance to get in line and on the books, and start the long, tough path to citizenship.”
Next, from the American Federation for Immigration Reform:
A poll conducted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, found there is strong support for the implementation of the state’s Common Core State Standards and that awareness of the new standards continues to grow, according to the News Sentinel. Last school year, districts across Tennessee began implementing the standards, which are a more rigorous and detailed way of teaching to help students be better prepared for college and the workforce. Forty-six states have adopted the new standards.
….SCORE’s poll, which surveyed 500 registered voters statewide, was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research on May 6, May 7 and May 9. The agency conducted a similar survey in the fall of 2012.
Results of this year’s poll found that after hearing a brief description about the standards, about 76 percent of voters support their implementation, with 44 percent “strongly” favoring them.
A total of 15 percent of voters were either “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed to their implementation.
Of those surveyed, 80 percent of voters, who had some knowledge of Common Core, said that “educational standards of public school will be either raised by the Common Core (39 percent) or stay about the same (41 percent). Only 14 percent of voters expect the Common Core will lower standards.”
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre said the poll was important because there has been some “misinformation” in the public about the standards.
“Getting a sense of where Tennesseans stand on these new higher standards is important to be able to move forward,” he said. “It tells me that the efforts to provide information and educate the public on the benefits of Common Core, those efforts are paying off and that message is being heard. I think that’s a really positive development.”
A poll sponsored by an organization promoting expanded background checks for gun purchases found that 67 percent of Tennessee voters surveyed support the idea while 26 percent oppose it.
The survey of 500 Tennessee registered voters, taken May 22-23, was conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Americans United for Change. Similar results were found in surveys of Arkansas and Georgia voters, a news release says, indicating “even in dark red states there’s strong, bipartisan support for expanded background checks.”
A Vanderbilt University poll, conducted earlier in the month, asked Tennessee voters if they supported criminal background checks for gun purchasers and 90 percent said they do.
— Note: The PPP poll news release is below.
State Sen. Frank Niceley says he’s not surprised by a poll indicating that 93 percent of Tennesseans oppose his proposal to have the Republican and Democratic nominees to the U.S. Senate selected by the partisan caucuses of the state Legislature.
“Ninety-two percent of them don’t realize that before 1913 the founding fathers had legislatures select the senators,” he said. “They just need a little history lesson. … Once you explain to them that it’s a check on the runaway federal government, they get it.”
At another point in an interview Niceley said he is troubled that, for many citizens, “the only thing that exceeds the ignorance is the apathy.”
“If you asked people should they even have a Legislature, 75 percent of them might say no,” he said. “They don’t realize the Legislature already selects the state treasurer, the comptroller and the secretary of state.”
Some of the findings in this month’s Vanderbilt University poll suggest that the Republican supermajority Legislature may be a bit out of sync with the overall Tennessee electorate — at least in comparison with Gov. Bill Haslam.
In general approval ratings, Haslam came in with 63 percent; the General Assembly at 51. Both a lot better than President Barack Obama at 40 percent, much less the U.S. Congress at 21 percent.
The multi-question Vandy poll results from surveying 813 registered voters earlier this month raises the possibility the differences could actually be in tune with issues on occasion.
Consider, for example:
n On Medicaid expansion, the polling indicated 60 percent of Tennesseans support the notion, up 9 points from six months earlier, though they don’t like the Affordable Care Act.