SMYRNA, Tenn. — While Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney acted as master of ceremonies at an event hosted by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s reelection campaign Saturday, tea party activists held an event nearby to denounce the incumbent lawmaker’s voting record.
The contrast may illustrate the split within state Republican ranks now that the party holds a supermajority in the state Legislature, the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and seven of nine U.S. House seats.
“We’re just sick and tired of the Republican establishment telling us we can’t have an open debate on Lamar Alexander’s record,” said Ben Cunningham, founder of Nashville Tea Party and Tennessee Tax Revolt, who served as master of ceremonies at the “counter-rally” attended by perhaps 200 persons from around the state — including a small group from Alexander’s native Blount County.
He said Devaney “is not supposed to endorse in a primary” but is effectively doing so by boosting Alexander’s re-election campaign toward a “coronation” by “trying to intimidate” prospective opponents.
“There is no primary now,” said Devaney when asked about the comments of Cunningham and others at the tea party gathering.
See also The Tennessean, which includes this paragraph: Jim Jeffries, a spokesman for Alexander, on Saturday night said that more than 500 people showed up for the Alexander campaign event at the Smyrna Air Center to honor Middle Tennessee Republican Party chairmen.
Members of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Memphis Saturday with the robed white supremacists and those opposed to their message separated by two blocks and several fences, reports the Commercial Appeal. A few dozen anti-Klan protesters showed up late and tried to enter the rally without going through a security checkpoint, but police quickly quelled that.
Then, after talking to each other for just over an hour, the Klan members got back on their buses, the protesters filtered out of Downtown and police began packing up their enormous quantities of gear.
Although a few people were removed from the area to head off trouble, police made only one arrest, and the event went off peacefully.
That was all in sharp contrast to the last Klan rally in Memphis, in January 1998. A near-riot broke out during that rally, as police fired tear gas to disrupt the crowds. Police arrested 26 people that day, confiscating numerous guns and knives.
Responding to the lessons learned in 1998, the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, aided by other law-enforcement agencies, put on an overwhelming show of force Saturday.
A few dozen people, including members of the Tennessee AFL-CIO and other labor groups, gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon to express their opposition Gov. Haslam’s proposed changes to workers’ compensation, according to TNReport. The ralliers, waving signs and chanting “Save Workers’ Comp,” were joined by Democratic leaders from the state House of Representatives who address the crowd and promised to continue to oppose the reform measure, House Bill 194, sponsored by Republican Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner had strong words for the governor and GOP supermajority on the matter, calling the legislation “just wrong,” “shameful” and “immoral.” ”
This administration and this legislature have cut every tax they could cut on the wealthy and they’re paying for it on the backs of working people,” said the Old Hickory Democrat. “This workers comp bill is just one more example of that and it may be the worst of all that I have seen.”
A small throng of protesters gathered at War Memorial Plaza on Sunday in a rally organized by conservative activists, including tea party members, to oppose extending TennCare to tens of thousands of Tennessee families, reports The Tennessean. They claimed that an expansion would undermine small government values and inflate the national debt. On a bright and breezy day, about 100 demonstrators carried handwritten signs suggesting that their anger stretched beyond the issue of TennCare expansion with messages like “entitlement programs create more dependency and harm.” Many of the speakers blasted President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul as an instance of the federal government overstepping its constitutional powers.
“There are always well-intended groups suggesting that we abandon our principles contrary to sound conservative judgment,” said Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who filed a measure in the House to bar the state from expanding TennCare. “That’s the exact mindset that got our country into the dire fiscal straits we face today.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais spoke in broad terms about how Obamacare represents “the socialization of our health care system.” Asked by reporters after he spoke about his position on TennCare expansion, he said he opposes it. “To look at history and say, ‘let’s double down on a failed policy’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
For more reporting on the rally, see Andy Sher, and WPLN.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis City Council has given preliminary approval to changes in parade permits that would ban the wearing of masks.
The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/Y3texd ) reported the change was proposed after the Ku Klux Klan requested a parade permit to protest an effort to rename three city parks.
The KKK wants to rally on March 30 in downtown Memphis. The council is considering renaming parks that memorialize the Confederacy from Civil War times.
Police Director Toney Armstrong said masks are a problem, but he is more concerned about concealed weapons.
“Certainly I cannot allow (armed) people walking around this city with masks or concealing their identity, even if you have a handgun carry permit, because I have no way of knowing who you are,” Armstrong said.
Council member Shea Flinn said members must be careful to not curtail free expression.
“You are having some real potential for government suppression of speech here, and I want to make sure we’re not way on the other side of that,” Flinn said.
The council must pass the proposal on two more readings before it would become law.
If ultimately approved, it would require groups receiving parade permits to “secure the police protection deemed necessary” and pay for it. The proposal would also make it unlawful to wear a mask or disguise with the intent to violate state civil law outlawing civil rights intimidation.
Additionally, it would ban any person at an assembly to carry weapons that would violate state law banning carrying weapons in public parks, civic centers, and public recreational buildings and grounds.
The white supremacist group applied for the parade permit after a proposal emerged in the council to change the names of the parks. If it is approved, Forrest Park would become Health Sciences Park, Confederate Park would be renamed Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park would be known as Mississippi River Park.
Forrest Park is named for Confederate cavalry officer Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The park is also his burial place.
Also on Tuesday, the council appointed a committee to review the proposal to change the park names.
Carr Addresses Pro-Gun Gathering
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — At least 1,000 people gathered on the Legislative Plaza across from the Capitol building in Nashville to show their support for gun rights.
The “Guns Across America” rallies are being held in state capitols nationwide. Activists have promoted the rallies primarily via social media. They’re being held days after President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping package of gun-control proposals.
Many who came to the Nashville event carried signs and flags with messages like “Don’t tread on me.” A few also carried guns.
Republican State Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas told the crowd that “.any assault on the Second Amendment is an attack on any amendment.”
Carr has introduced a bill that would slap federal officials with a misdemeanor charge for enforcing the new proposals.
— Note: The Tennessean story has the gun rally crowd at “more than 500.” There’s also this quote from Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron: “I say, ‘No.’ I say, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ “
— Anti-abortion Rally Marks Roe v. Wade Anniversary
Approximately 200 people gathered on the steps of the State Capitol to listen to guest speakers and show support for unborn life at the Right to Life Rally hosted by Tennessee Right to Life, reports the Tennessean.
“It was a healthy crowd,” said TRL President Brian Harris. “The Supreme Court certainly didn’t do us any favors making this ruling in the dead of winter, but this crowd shows our commitment (to) take a stand for human life.”
The rally coincides with the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. Tuesday will mark its 40th anniversary. Clergymen, laymen and children were among those in attendance, many holding signs with various Bible verses and anti-abortion phrases.
Kelly Lang clutched a black sign that read “I Regret My Abortion.” “There is so much pain that comes with it,” she said. “Lots of women don’t realize the emotional pain you carry.”
Joined by several Republican legislators, about 300 tea party activists rallied at the state capitol Wednesday in hopes of prodding an undecided Gov. Bill Haslam into opposing the creation of a Tennessee Health Care Exchange.
Haslam, who faces a Dec. 14 deadline for notifying the federal government of the state’s intentions, said he is listening to all sides but remains uncertain. Initially, Haslam said he was initially inclined to opt for a state-run exchange, but his misgivings have grown.
If they state does not create an exchange, which would serve basically as a clearinghouse between citizens and insurance companies, the federal government would instead operate an exchange in Tennessee. Nationwide, 22 governors have decided against running their own exchange.
At the rally, there was some criticism of Haslam for his indecisiveness from both speakers and signs waved by participants sign-wavers. One sign said, “Fire Haslam.”
“If Bill Haslam cannot say no, then it’s time we get another governor,” said Carl Boyd Jr., who hosts a Nashville radio talk show and was one of several speakers.
Legislators attending the event, including Knoxville’s Sen. Stacey Campfield, said they believe a majority of the Republican-controlled General Assembly would reverse Haslam if he decides in favor of creating a state-operated health care exchange.
Two years after Nashville attorney Judson Phillips failed to lure tea party activists to a rally in Las Vegas, a judge is ordering him to pay the bill for a slew of hotel rooms he booked for the event, reports The Tennessean. Phillips, the founder of the for-profit corporation Tea Party Nation, owes the Venetian Casino Resort more than $748,000, according to the ruling. The hotel alleged Phillips reserved 1,637 room nights for a July 2010 event but then canceled the gathering just a few weeks prior.
A claim was filed against Phillips in July of last year. The judgment, handed down last month by the Clark County District Court, represents the unpaid bill of $554,000 plus nearly two years of interest for an additional $194,300 in charges.
According to court records, Phillips appeared to take little interest in defending himself. He filed nothing to counter the hotel’s claims and at last month’s hearing when the motion for default judgment was heard, no one represented him. Phillips did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the decision..
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Republicans once made a point of converging on the weekend after primary battles to put on a public face of party unity. Not this year.
Seven Republican incumbents in the state House lost to GOP challengers in Thursday’s primary. Among them were the caucus chairwoman and the education committee chairman.
All seven Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation won their nomination after two freshmen survived pitched campaigns to oust them.
While previous rallies purporting post-primary unity have had their awkward moments, party leaders said they were needed to coalesce around the winning candidates.
Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican Party, said not to read too much into the lack of a unity rally this year.
“Republicans are united heading into the November election,” he said in an email. “From time to time, we have held unity events, but did not find it necessary this year.”
Politicians and coal advocates from four states portrayed President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency as a coal job killing machine during an Abingdon, Va., rally attended by more than 1,000 miners and their family members on Saturday.
Tennessee was represented. An excerpt from Hank Hayes’ report: Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told the crowd there’s been a concerted effort by environmentalists over the last five years to shut down coal mining in Tennessee.
Ramsey noted legislation was introduced this year — and then defeated — to eliminate Tennessee’s mountain top mining.
“(Environmentalists) said ‘We’re only going to stop coal mining above 2,000 feet.’ … Well guess where all the coal in the state of Tennessee is? Above 2,000 feet,” said Ramsey, R-Blountville.
Tennessee state Rep. Tony Shipley, an Air Force veteran, explained the Obama administration’s attack on coal in military terms.
Shipley remembered military strategists telling him that any time 50 percent of a target is destroyed, it’s useless.
“The Obama administration is about to destroy the energy industry in this country. You must … we must remove that man from our White House,” Shipley, R-Kingsport, told the crowd. “How many of you all like to use air conditioning in the middle of the summer? How many of you like to use heat in the middle of the winter? How many of you enjoy non-kerosene lights all the time?
“Ladies and gentlemen, if the Obama administration continues, you will have to discover how you can live on 50 percent of your air conditioning, 50 percent of your heating and 50 percent of your lighting. That is unacceptable.”