Responding to an online petition drive launched by an 11-year-old Oak Ridge boy, StudentsFirst has rescinded its designation of state Rep. John Ragan as a ‘reformer of the year” because he sponsored the so-called “the don’t say gay bill.”
“Regardless of when Representative Ragan was named a “Reformer of the Year” by our organization, his introduction of ill-conceived and harmful legislation including HB 1332 — which would have cultivated a culture of bullying — does not represent the type of leadership we look for in our legislative champions. We have made that clear to Rep. Ragan and rescinded the recognition,” wrote Michelle Rhee, founder and president of StudentsFirst in a post on the education reform organization’s website.
“Simply put, we must hold our “Reformers of the Year” to a higher standard. So let me be very clear — policies that are intended to single out any student based on their sexual orientation and treat them differently are wrong,” Rhee said.
The rescission of Ragan’s recognition by the group Wednesday came five days after Marcel Neergaard, 11, and his parents started a petition at MoveOn.org urging StudentsFirst to do so. On Thursday afternoon, it had collected 55,034 supporters.
State Rep. John Ragan says the fresh round of criticism he has faced for sponsorship of so-called “don’t say gay” bill is uninformed and unfair because he was trying to completely transform the bill so that it had “absolutely nothing to do” with homosexuality.
“It really irritates me in a major fashion,” said Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, in an interview.
An article posted on both The Daily Kos and The Huffington Post chides StudentsFirst, a national education reform organization, for declaring Ragan a Tennessee “educational reformer of the year” while he was sponsor of the “don’t say gay” bill (HB1332).
“The latest version would have forced select Tennessee school officials to notify parents of children who privately discussed their sexual orientation, essentially dictating forced ‘outing’ of kids, even against their own objections,” the article says. “Ragan’s proposed education bill is more than just ignorant and wrong, and bad policy, it’s downright dangerous and does anything but ‘put students first.’ ”
State Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, has been designated a “reformer of the year” by StudentsFirst, which also gave $6,500 to his reelection campaign. This has inspired a critical article in the Daily Kos after bloggers discovered that he also sponsored the so-called “don’t say gay” bill along with Sen. Stacey Campfield. (And couldn’t get a second for passage in a House subcommittee, HERE.)
Excerpt: Eric Lerum, StudentsFirst’s VP of national policy offered some responses to angry backlash on Twitter Friday night, claiming they were unaware of John Ragan’s anti-gay history and “We wouldn’t have endorsed had we known.” He alluded Ragan’s selection was a candidate vetting snafu.
As vetting goes, one need simply type “John Ragan'” into the Tennessee legislature’s website to see Ragan filed HB 1332, the “Classroom Protection Act” back on February 14, 2013. It even pops up with a great big bold lead-in that says: “Education” so this educational political action group could easily find bills of interest to them. The legislative history for HB 1332 shows seven actions were taken on the bill until late March 2013 including lots of activity in the House Education Subcommittee.
Which, of course, perhaps indicates that discerning readers of this blog are more informed about Tennessee legislators and their doings than either StudentsFirst or The Daily Kos. (Sample Ragan posts HERE, HERE and HERE.)
The House Republican Caucus has reported spending more than $75,000 on a television ad that supports Rep. John Ragan while criticizing his Democratic opponent — apparently the largest TV buy of the campaign season in a Tennessee state House race.
Financial reports for the period Oct. 1-27 indicate Ragan benefited from about $150,000 in Republican PAC spending, including the TV buy, while former Rep. Jim Hackworth, got about half that amount from the state Democratic Party.
“We spent it where we need it,” said House Republican Leader Gerald McCormick.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said polling earlier in the campaign indicated Hackworth held a lead, but acknowledged the heavy Republican spending may have made a difference. He contended Republicans had reached a “saturation point” so that continued spending did them little good.
The candidates themselves in House District 33 have been spending less than their partisan allies, disclosures indicate. Ragan reported $66,989 in expenditures during the Oct. 1-27 period, including $20,000 in reimbursements to the House Republican Caucus for mailers, while Hackworth reported $56,331 in spending, including about $30,000 in reimbursements to the Democratic Party.
Ragan also benefited from $25,000 in spending on his behalf for advertising by the American Federation for Children’s Tennessee PAC. That’s more than spent on any other legislator’s campaign by the group, which advocates school vouchers — a topic that will be considered in the 2013 legislative session.
The PAC spent $145,300 between Oct. 1-27 supporting 18 candidates and the leadership PACs set up by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell. All those getting the PAC’s aid are Republicans.
The state’s Republican leaders have rallied behind fellow Republican Rep. John Ragan in his rematch clash with former Rep. Jim Hackworth while Democrats portray Ragan as an extremist, reports Bob Fowler. Ragan has won endorsements from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell.
Haslam in one news release is quoted as saying: “John has a true servant’s heart.”
The state Democratic Party has joined the fray, sending out scathing news releases and paid political ads slamming Ragan’s voting record and lambasting him as an extreme right-wing politician.
Republicans portray Hackworth’s record during four terms in the House as having a “long history of supporting tax increases, runaway spending, and a larger, more intrusive government.”
Ragan, 63, is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and is now a business consultant. He lists as one of his top issues is lowering the state’s jobless rate “by creating a business climate that encourages hiring.”
Ragan also says he wants to cut taxes and reduce state spending while increasing government efficiency.
He also calls for “more accurate and reliable education measurement capability and system accountability.”
Hackworth, 61, a fifth-generation Anderson County resident, is a retired senior facility engineer from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Democrats are crying foul over Tennessee Republican Party mailers attacking two East Tennessee Democratic legislative candidates.
A direct mail piece targeting former state Rep. Eddie Yokley, who is opposing incumbent Republican Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville, charges that the Democrat “supported taxpayer funding of abortions” in a 2009 House floor vote.
“You thought you knew Eddie Yokley, but Eddie says one thing in Greene County and does something different in Nashville,” declares the mailer. It includes a black-and-white photo of Yokley with a grim expression on his face and a copy of the printed roll call vote on HB1756 with his name circled under the list of those voting no.
“This is shameless and too far,” said Brandon Puttbrese, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party. “Would these pathetic politicians rather see young women and children die from preventable diseases than see Eddie Yokley in the state House?”
The bill in question was aimed at Planned Parenthood from receiving funding for providing “women’s health services” in Shelby and Davidson counties. The services provided under those contracts included contraception along with disease treatment and prevention, but did not include abortions.
As Puttbrese noted, taxpayer funding of abortions is otherwise prohibited by Tennessee law and has been for years.
The hotly contested 33rd House District race between incumbent Rep. John Ragan and his Democratic challenger, Jim Hackworth, has spurred furious sparring, with political salvos now being regularly lobbed at the state level by both parties. The latest attack from the Republican Caucus brands Hackworth of Clinton as a job-killer in favor of big government and “reckless, Washington D.C.-style policies that are sending this country down the wrong path at an alarming pace.”
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga is quoted as the spokesman in a recent news release. The headline: Hackworth “hides liberal record.”
Hackworth responded, calling Ragan a “job killer” who has focused on “extreme policies that have hurt our schools and teachers, embarrassed our community and neglected his responsibility to create jobs.”
Hackworth said he has a “proven record of job creation,” and described himself as a “fiscal conservative.”
The full News Sentinel story is HERE.
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.
The state Democratic party says first-term state Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, cast a “shameful vote” against a bill to prohibit convicted child abusers from contacting their victims, reports Bob Fowler. Ragan is seeking re-election and is opposed by Jim Hackworth, a Democrat from Clinton who previously held the 33rd House District seat, in the Nov. 6 election. The district encompasses most of Anderson County.
Ragan in April 2011 was the only member of the House who voted against the bill that also was unanimously approved in the Senate. The legislation, signed into law, prohibits any person convicted of child abuse from contacting the victim, including by electronic means.
“Ragan’s bizarre opposition to this common sense legislation is one more black stripe in a troubling pattern of irresponsible, anti-children votes,” Brandon Puttbrese, director of communications for the Tennessee Democratic Party, stated in the news release.
Ragan said, “While the aim of the legislation is admirable, the law is redundant.”
Frank Cagle’s column this week is about three state House races where he thinks Democrats have a chance this fall. Most of the discussion is about the contest between Democrat Gloria Johnson and Republican Gary Loe for the Knoxville seat vacated by Rep. Harry Tindell. If the Democrats in Knoxville turn out in droves to vote for Obama, it could mean a really healthy turnout for Johnson. There are no really hot local races to fire up Republicans. I don’t think they are worried about U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., losing his race.
Across most of the state, Obama at the top of the ticket is going to cause problems for Democrats down the ballot. Even some veteran Democratic House members in rural West Tennessee might be in trouble. But in Knoxville, urban Democrats are more likely to vote heavily for the president’s re-election.
…There are two other House races where former House members are trying for a comeback.
In Greene County, state Rep. David Hawk was arrested for assaulting his wife. Three opponents split the majority of the vote in the Republican primary, allowing Hawk to squeak in with a plurality. He is being challenged by former state Rep. Eddie Yokley, a likable Democrat who served four terms in the House in a district that used to include part of Greene and also Cocke County.
Who has more baggage in the election? Yokley has Obama at the top of the ticket in a rural, small-town East Tennessee county. Hawk spent a night in jail.
I rate it a toss-up.
Over in Oak Ridge, Republican state Rep. John Ragan is being challenged by the Democrat he beat for the job, former Rep. Jim Hackworth. I think Ragan, a blunt-talking retired fighter pilot, holds on to the seat, but it is a place where Democrats can spend some resources and have a chance for an upset.