A unanimous ruling by the state Court of Appeals has provided a serious setback to efforts to remove three Powell-Clinch Utility commissioners from office, reports the News Sentinel. Judges opined that the commissioners can’t be removed from office for allegedly running a loose fiscal ship before a state law was amended in 2009 making that an ouster offense. That amendment made failure to fulfill fiduciary duties — even without “knowing or willful conduct” — a valid reason to toss commissioners out of office.
The Court of Appeals called the effort to oust on the basis of that amendment “an impermissible retrospective application of law.” The case was sent back to a Davidson County chancellor for further proceedings.
The ouster effort by the state’s Utility Management Review Board began two years ago and was sparked by a state comptroller’s investigative audit.
Excerpt from a Politico article on how Republican U.S. senators – Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander being a prime example – are working diligently to assure they don’t face a serious primary challenger in 2014. “I’m running a Colin Powell military operation, which is assemble an overwhelming force, focus on a single target and have the stomach to see it all the way through to the end,” Alexander said in an interview.
The recent Washington controversies are giving the senators a unique opportunity to woo the right — whether it’s McConnell’s rhetoric against the Internal Revenue Service, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) railing at the White House for its handling of the Benghazi attacks or Alexander slamming Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for soliciting private donations to help with the implementation of Obamacare, comparing the situation to the Iran-Contra scandal.
And some of the senators are finding ways to push issues in Washington that resonate back home, including last week, when the Senate passed a McConnell-Alexander plan they called the Freedom to Fish Act targeting federal restrictions along a river their states share.
…Alexander ended the first quarter of 2013 with $1.8 million in cash and has stepped up his fundraising considerably since then. Last month, he pulled in $430,000 at a dinner at the Chattanooga home of his fellow GOP senator, Bob Corker, just days before a Nashville fundraiser pulled in $1 million more. Alexander later secured an additional $530,000 at a dinner on May 2 in Memphis, officials said.
…In this race, Alexander clearly recognized a primary as his biggest threat and wasted no time locking up support within his own ranks. Less than a month after the 2012 elections, Alexander had awarded campaign chairmanships to every Republican in the congressional delegation except Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who was ensnared in a sex scandal. Other big name Republicans in the state who could give him a serious scare in a primary were added as well, including Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Alexander even won the endorsements of the 13 living past GOP party chairs in Tennessee.
“He said if it’s necessary he would get some who were deceased, too,” Corker quipped.
With some charm and back-slapping, Alexander is also trying to ensure no state legislator emerges against him, either. After the state legislative session earlier this year, Alexander hosted a Nashville reception for state GOP lawmakers. And that came after he addressed the GOP-dominated Legislature with a red-meat speech attacking Washington mandates.
Tennessee House members cheered, whistled and noisily clapped Thursday as a Nashville colleague launched a verbal barrage at Georgia’s demands for access to Tennessee River water, observes Andy Sher. “I believe that we might be the Volunteer State, but I believe in no way should we surrender any part of our state, particularly land and water we’ve possessed for nearly 200 years,” Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, said in his floor speech.
“Just because another state and a specific large city in that state has not done a better job for planning and development” doesn’t mean they can poach something that belongs to Tennessee, Powell said. “As far as I’m concerned, Georgia can keep its greedy hands and its thirsty mouths away from our water.”
Replied House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga: “I believe the representative can rest easy.”
Georgia state Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, said later Thursday that Powell was “grandstanding.”
“He probably is looking for something to prop up his notoriety,” he said.
The Georgia Legislature recently passed a resolution that seeks to negotiate with Tennessee over a small portion of land in Marion County that would let it tap the river.
In something of a protest, Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Nashville voted for a Republican as Speaker of the House Thursday, but not John Boehner. He supported Colin Powell.
From WPLN: In a written statement after the vote, Cooper points out that the speaker does not have to be a member of the House. He says the Republican and former Secretary of State has a “proven ability to work across the aisle and has supported President Obama.”
Cooper was the only Colin Powell supporter, however there were more than a dozen other protest votes. Cooper himself received two votes for speaker. Also an outgoing congressman and a former comptroller were named along the way.
The rest of Tennessee’s congressional delegation supported their party’s nominee.
At first glance, the two candidates running for the state House seat in District 53 look strikingly similar, according to The Tennessean. Republican nominee Ben Claybaker and his Democratic opponent Jason Powell are in their mid-30s with young families. Both are former college athletes.
Claybaker owns a small commercial real estate firm while Powell dabbles in residential real estate on the side. They’ve both held teaching jobs and worked in positions involving drug-control policy.
But the candidates represent vastly different views for how the state legislature should handle issues ranging from economic development to education reform.
The men are running to represent a district that stretches from South Nashville southeast through Davidson County following parts of Interstate 24.
Powell, 34, said that if elected he wants to focus on bills that help create jobs or improve education.
“I think the key to success is to work on legislation that moderate Republicans agree on and Tennesseans agree on,” Powell said.
…Claybaker, 36, favors a more macro-economic approach. Rather than focus on individual programs to spur jobs, the candidate wants to create a more favorable business environment by cutting or lowering taxes to lure new companies to the area.
Some tax issues the candidates agree on. Neither wants a state income tax created, and both candidates said they support lowering the food tax rate.
But Claybaker wants to go further, eliminating the tax on income from stock dividends and reforming the franchise and excise tax.
In the Nashville area, WPLN reports that legislative candidates of both parties refrain from stressing their party affiliation. House District 53, being vacated by Rep. Janis Sontaney, D-Nashville, provides an example. After lines were redrawn by Republicans, this district doesn’t lean quite as heavily toward Democrats. But (Ben) Claybaker still keeps his brand in the background.
“I don’t want to walk up to somebody and have this big ‘R’ stamped on my forehead and have people make assumptions, good or bad,” he says.
You wouldn’t know Claybaker is a Republican by looking at his website either. The “R”-word is nowhere to be found, although his resume does list a position he held in the Bush Administration. Then there are his yard signs. Instead of red, they’re dark blue.
“It’s my favorite color,” he says. “You walk up to my closet, and it’s all blue.”
Others running in Nashville’s historically Democratic districts haven’t gone to printing up blue signs. But they have stayed away from the more partisan social issues.
However, Democrats aren’t exactly loud and proud about their party. Claybaker’s opponent – Jason Powell – gives only a tepid endorsement of the President.
“I’ve been so focused on this local election and my own race, I’ve had barely any time to keep up with what’s going on a national level,” Powell says when asked if he supports President Obama.
Going door-to-door off Nolensville Rd, Powell finds a gentleman just off an overnight shift sorting mail. His pickup truck’s bumper stickers reveal he’s a conservative.
“We need somebody working for hardworking people like yourself, and I sure would appreciate your vote in November,” he says.
When the homeowner asks if he’s a Republican or Democrat, Powell says he is a Democrat.
“But I’m a ‘Jason Powell’ Democrat, kind of my own man,” he says.
Two Democrats and two Republicans are running to succeed retiring state Rep. Janis Sontany, a Nashville Democrat, and all four are in their 30s. Michael Cass has a rundown on the contests. Each candidate brings government and political experience to the table, from seeking or holding an elected office to working for President George W. Bush during his second term.
“It’s a critical period in our state,” said Democrat Jason Powell, who ran unsuccessfully for another House seat in 2006. “We need strong leaders.”
Powell is running against first-year Metro Councilman Jason Potts, who has said he would continue to serve on the council if elected to the House of Representatives.
In the Republican primary, Ben Claybaker faces Tonya Miller, who lost to Sontany, a fifth-term Democrat, two years ago.
…Both Democrats are named Jason, and both have last names starting with P. There’s enough potential for uninformed voters to be confused that Potts, 33, appreciates his slight alphabetical advantage, which will give him the first listing on the ballot.
“I’m on top, so hopefully it goes my way,” he said.
Otherwise, Potts and Powell give Democratic voters more substantive differences to mull over. Powell, 34, is generally seen as a progressive who has advised Councilman Jerry Maynard and judicial candidate Rachel Bell. Potts, who married into an extended family that has produced five Metro Council members since 1983, is more in the moderate-to-conservative tradition
…Sontany is co-hosting a $150-a-head fundraiser for Powell on Wednesday.
…The Republican race pits Claybaker, the CEO of real estate firm NAI Nashville, against Miller, a Spanish-language interpreter.
Miller, 37, said she has worked with many government agencies, including the Tennessee Department of Transportation and various courts, through her interpreting work as a self-employed, independent contractor.
“It gives me a little more compassion,” she said. “I’m there with the people.”
She said she wants to create a digital platform to give constituents more of a voice, producing “something I can carry with me when I go to the floor” to vote. She worries about the nation’s direction, and she wants to help unite various constituencies under the Republican banner.
“The Republican Party is not all about being pro-life or anti-gay,” Miller said. “The Republican Party is about freedom and liberty.”
Claybaker, 36, has been around politics for much of his life. His father is a small-town mayor in Camden, Ark. Claybaker worked for an Arkansas congressman soon after graduating from college and helped run a Texas candidate’s successful campaign for the lieutenant governor’s office.
In 2004 he worked for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign as political coordinator for Southwestern states, then went to work at the White House as a policy analyst for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Two candidates announced runs for Nashville seats in the General Assembly on Wednesday, reports the City Paper.
Jason Powell will run for House District 53 in South Nashville, soon to be vacated by Rep. Janis Sontany, who announced her retirement last month. Powell, a real estate broker and former teacher, announced his candidacy via Twitter and Facebook.
In a release posted on his Facebook page, he said, “If elected, I hope to continue in the tradition of strong leadership demonstrated by Representative Janis Sontany.”
Harold M. Love Jr., pastor of St. Paul A.M.E., also announced his run for state House District 58, presently held by Rep. Mary Pruitt, in the Aug. 2 election. Love pointed to his father’s 24 years of service as a state representative that drew him to want to impact other’s lives in similar fashion.
“I feel I have significant fresh ideas regarding governance, utilizing the talents of many that are being ignored in our community, and tapping the full potential of the resources and skills we have at our disposal,” Love said.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
POWELL, Tenn. — Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Wednesday that he is undaunted that Tennessee Republican leaders haven’t endorsed him, saying that his conservative credentials will help him carry the state on Super Tuesday.
“I’m a conservative and they know it,” the former Pennsylvania senator told reporters after an hour-long speech at the Temple Baptist Church outside Knoxville. “This is a state that we fit into very, very well, and I’m very confident.”
Santorum pointed to his record on government spending, national security and health care. “And I’ve led the charge on moral-cultural issues,” he said.
Santorum said he wasn’t concerned that the large number of state Republicans endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination includes Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and state House Speaker Beth Harwell.
“Every endorsement there is it seems like is going for Mitt Romney,” Santorum said. “This is the establishment — that’s just what happens.
“You know what, we’re the insurgent candidate here,” he said. “We’re the ones going out scrapping and clawing, and you know what? We’re doing all right.”
State Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville said he’s unconcerned that he’s among the few prominent Republicans endorsing Santorum.
“There’s more common people than there are establishment,” Dunn said in a phone interview. “So I think Santorum will win going away in Tennessee.”
A recent Vanderbilt University poll showed Santorum with 33 percent support, followed Romney with 17 percent and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 10 percent.
The poll of 767 likely Republican primary voters was conducted Feb. 16-22 and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Haslam in a statement praised Romney’s wins in Michigan and Arizona on Tuesday.
“He has the kind of common-sense approach this country needs to turn the economy around and put people back to work,” Haslam said. “I encourage Tennesseans to join me in casting their vote for Gov. Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s election.”
Ed Reese, 83, who teaches at Crown College of the Bible in Powell, said after the speech that he expects Santorum’s focus on social issues to be an advantage in the primary and general elections.
“Evangelical protestants and Catholics and many nonreligious people take great issue on abortion and same-sex marriage, so there’s a great alignment that goes beyond just one particular group,” he said. “And I think it will surface and show in this election.”
Santorum was introduced by former U.S. Rep. David Davis, who was defeated by current Rep. Phil Roe in the 2008 Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District seat in the northeastern corner of the state.
“He was part of the belief system of the tea party before there was a tea party,” Davis said. “That’s what we need — someone who understands our values, continue stand up for those values (and) not be ashamed of those values.”