By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A court ruling that sets higher standards for a central component of the Tennessee’s open meetings law hasn’t drawn loud cheers from government transparency advocates.
In part that’s because the legal effort to stop construction of a mosque in Rutherford County is widely seen as being driven by fear of Muslims. But some good government groups also think the county government didn’t do anything wrong.
Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled May 29 that county officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law by not providing adequate public notice of the meeting where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new building was approved.
Corlew’s order does not require greater notice for all meetings in Rutherford County or even all meetings of the Planning Commission but specifically refers to meetings that involve either the Islamic Center or “further matters of significant public interest.”
As Luke E. Dickerson introduces himself to supporters at a local Democratic fundraiser, The Tennessean reports, it only gradually becomes apparent that the 28-year-old is not just an aide or campaign volunteer doing legwork for someone else. He’s the candidate.
While Dickerson may be green in terms of experience compared with other candidates statewide, he is the oldest candidate in the primary election for a Murfreesboro state House district set for August. His opponent, Spencer Douglas, is a 23-year-old Rockvale resident who just graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in May.
Douglas and Dickerson are trying to unseat first-term lawmaker Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale. If either were to win the southwestern Rutherford County district, he would be one of the youngest lawmakers in the state House and the first Democrat to win that district in recent memory.
As Douglas sees it, his eligibility to run for the state House is all the requirement he needs to succeed if elected.
“At 21, you can run. I don’t see how not having much personal experience can be a disadvantage,” he said.
Mayor Tommy Bragg sent two letters to state Rep. Rick Womick in March challenging “misstatements” he made in the General Assembly about city codes enforcement to garner support for a resolution against United Nations Agenda 21, reports the Murfreesboro Daily News. Bragg sent the first letter March 19 “to correct” several things Womick said on the House floor about the city’s dealings with Papa’s Butts and BBQ Hot Sauce Store on Old Fort Parkway. The second letter, dated March 20, said Womick made other “misstatements” in a House Judiciary subcommittee meeting March 14 about Murfreesboro’s flag regulations.
“At the meeting, you began describing the event when you presented a Tennessee flag to the president of the Murfreesboro Medical Clinic (Joey Peay). You commented that after I presented it to him publicly, (he) comes to me and says, ‘Well, Rep. Womick, thank you very much for the Tennessee flag. I appreciate it, but you’re going to have to talk to the City of Murfreesboro because they won’t let me fly the Tennessee flag on my property. We’re not allowed to fly any flags. No U.S., no Tennessee, nothing.'”
…Bragg’s letter states that Womick did not contact any city staff about flag or flagpole regulations, which led to his failure to “accurately describe the situation.”
City Manager Rob Lyons spoke to Peay, who told him he made a comment in jest that he would have to “go through the process with the city” to put up the flag. Peay made no comments that the city had banned state or U.S. flags, the letter states.
Bragg’s letter points out that the city requires a flagpole permit — at no charge — to verify proper footings and wind-load design. Nineteen flagpoles have been permitted in the last three years since the permit was established and none have been rejected, the letter states.
The mayor noted that the city lost a court case over flag regulations after previously exempting the American flag from its ordinance. The court ruled that it had to treat the U.S. flag the same as all signs.
Bragg wrote that Murfreesboro Medical Clinic did not apply for a flagpole, so the city could not have denied a permit request.
….”Your comments ….created the impression that the city banned the display of the flag and damaged our reputation statewide as a patriotic community.”
American and Tennessee flags fly over city buildings, Bragg stated, and Murfreesboro police officers and firefighters wear American flag patches on their uniforms.
…The Rockvale Republican, who is serving his first term in the state House, refused to speak to a DNJ reporter when approached Thursday morning on the House floor. Asked if he would talk when the House let out for the day, Womick, said, “I don’t have anything to say.” He has declined to return phone calls.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — A state lawmaker was mistaken about the facts of a restaurant’s zoning issues when he used the case of Papa’s Butts and BBQ Hot Sauce Store as an example of the creeping influence of the United Nations in Tennessee, a city official said.
Republican Rep. Rick Womick cited the store’s issues with the city of Murfreesboro in remarks on the House floor to support a resolution urging the rejection of the UN’s Agenda 21 on sustainable development.
But Murfreesboro Planning Director Joseph Aydelott told the Daily News Journal for Friday’s editions (http://on.dnj.com/yMjxz8 ) that Womick had the facts wrong about the case heading for a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals on March 28.
And Aydelott told the paper that Agenda 21 has nothing to do with the case. “I don’t really know what that is, except for what I’ve read in the paper,” he said.
Rick Santorum rode a wave of social conservative support to victory in Tennessee’s Super Tuesday Republican presidential primary, overcoming the solid support for Mitt Romney from many state GOP leaders.
The Tennessee results were a disappointment for Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished third in a state he had hoped would help his campaign rebound.
The results were also marked a rare win for a candidate who was hugely outspent in Tennessee campaigning. Pro-Romney forces, including a “Super PAC,” spent about $1.6 million advertising in the state – much of the money going to TV ads that attacked Santorum – while Gingrich’s forces spent about $470,000, according the most recently-reported figures.
Only about $100,000 was spent on Santorum advertising in the state, but the candidate had made trips to the state – the last including an appearance at a Memphis Baptist Church on Sunday. Romney visited Knoxville Sunday while Gingrich campaigned through East Tennessee on Monday.
“I think what he stands for is the closest to how Tennesseans feel about things,” said state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who is co-chairman of the Santorum campaign in Tennessee.
“He is the candidate who recognizes you have to be both socicially conservative and fiscally conservative because, when morals go down, taxes go up,” said Dunn in an interview after Santorum’s Tennessee victory was clear.
Latest unofficial returns Tuesday night, with about 58 percent of the vote counted, showed former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Santorum with 38 percent of the total, followed by Romney with 28 percent. Gingrich had 23 percent followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 9 percent.
Fifty-five delegates will be sent to the Republican National Convention from Tennessee. It appeared Tuesday night that Santorum had won at least 19 of the 28 delegates that will be allocated on the basis of statewide results. The remaining 27 are based on the voting in each of the state’s nine Congressional districts and the allocation was unclear late Tuesday.
The Associated Press said exit polling of 1,769 Tennessee Republican primary voters found that about seven in 10 identified themselves as born-again Christians.. About three-quarters said it mattered at least somewhat that a candidate shared their religious beliefs.
Romney is a Mormon while Santorum is Catholic.
Dunn, a Catholic who accepts the born-again label for himself, said the born-again majority in Tennessee is not surprising and ties into the belief that “You have to fix your social problems or you’re never going to fix your money problems.”
Dunn was the first state legislator to endorse Santorum, though 11 others eventually joined him. Six backed Gingrich. Twenty-two state legislators backed Romney, including House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Gov. Bill Haslam served as chairman of the Romney campaign in Tennessee and traveled the state last week to urge support for the former Massachusetts governor. Romney was also backed by four of the state’s GOP congressmen – the others did not endorse anyone – along with Sen. Lamar Alexander, former Gov. Winfield Dunn and many of the state’s leading Republican fundraisers.
It remains to be seen how significant Santorum’s victory in Tennessee, one of ten state’s voting or holding caucuses on “Super Tuesday,” will be in the national presidential nomination picture. In 2008, Tennessee Republicans gave a state victory to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who presented himself as the most socially conservative candidate in that year’s campaign. Arizona Sen. John McCain finished as Tennessee runnerup in 2008 and went on to win the GOP nomination. Romney finished third in Tennessee’s 2008 contest.
President Obama was unopposed in the Democratic primary. State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester sent out a statement Tuesday night criticizing Romney, who many Democrats believe will be the ultimate winner of the Republican contest.
“Mitt Romney’s loss tonight shows that he is out-of-touch with Tennesseans and it raises serious concerns about his chances in November — if he can make it to the general election,” said Forrester. “Not only did he and Tennessee’s Republican establishment fail to convince GOP voters to support his candidacy; he also wounded himself among women, moderate and blue-collar workers, without whose support he simply cannot win.”
Rick Santorum became the first Republican presidential candidate to visit the Memphis area in recent weeks with a Sunday morning appearance at Bellevue Baptist Church, reports the Commercial Appeal. Santorum, a Catholic and a former Pennsylvania senator, arrived with his wife, Karen, and three of their children, and was seated in the front row of the Memphis mega-church, which is one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the South. He seemed to enjoy an early hymn, nodding his head and swaying, then embracing his wife.
Bellevue pastor Steve Gaines brought Santorum and his wife onto the stage for a prayer. With the couple’s image featured on several of the arena-like sanctuary’s jumbo TV screens, Gaines quoted from I Timothy, verse two, and mentioned abortion and immorality.
“Our church is very concerned about our nation and we just believe we should turn back to God,” Gaines said in his prayer.
At one point, two parishioners placed their hands on Santorum’s shoulders, and most of the congregation raised their hands in a symbolic laying on of hands for the former Pennsylvania senator.
The appearance at one of the South’s largest Southern Baptist churches comes on the same weekend The New York Times examined Santorum’s devotion to the kind of “highly traditional Catholicism” that has historically caused tension between Baptists and Catholics.
According to The Times: “Unlike Catholics who believe that church doctrine should adapt to changing times and needs, the Santorums believe in a highly traditional Catholicism that adheres fully to what scholars call ‘the teaching authority’ of the pope and his bishops.”
The visit also comes as Santorum is working to lock down his advantage in the South over national Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, whose own Mormon faith has been a factor in his struggle to build a stronger following among religious conservatives, particularly those in the South.
The co-chairman of Newt Gingrich’s Tennessee campaign changed his allegiance Saturday to Rick Santorum, saying he hopes to set an example that leads to conservatives aligning behind a single candidate against “establishment Republican” Mitt Romney.
State Sen. Stacey Campfield’s surprise move comes with Santorum leading in Tennessee polls though under attack within the state from both pro-Romney forces and Gingrich in a frenetic finale of candidate competition for votes in Tuesday’s presidential preference primary.
The presidential campaign had been somewhat sedate in Tennessee until last week, when the three leading Republican candidates ramped up their efforts with television ads, radio ads, phone call banks, direct mail, a swarm of surrogate campaigners – Gov. Bill Haslam leading the way for Romney – plus some personal campaigning.
Romney visits Knoxville today while Gingrich plans a campaign trip through East Tennessee state Monday.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, traveled through the state last week, including a stop in Nashville where he had a Wednesday evening meeting with about 20 Republican legislators, according to state Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, who arranged the gathering as the only state legislator publicly backing Santorum at the time. Eleven legislators have subsequently joined Dunn as official Santorum backers.
State Sen. Stacey Campfield, co-chairman of Newt Gingrich’s campaign in Tennessee, announced today he is quitting that position to support Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential race.
The Knoxville Republican made his announcement in a post on his blog. In an interview, Campfield said he believes that conservatives need to unite behind a single candidate and that Santorum is best positioned to defeat “establishment Republican” candidate Mitt Romney.
Campfield’s decision comes after a conversation with Santorum earlier this week.
In his blog post, Campfield said he was “twisted inside because of my loyalty to Newt, my loyalty must first lie with my country and getting a country with a conservative leader must take precedence to my own personal whims of fancy.
:Therefore, As of now, I am stepping down as the statewide co chairman for Newt Gingrich and throwing all of my support behind Rick Santorum,” he wrote.
State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who until now has shared the co-chairman title with Campfield in the Gingrich Tennessee campaign, said Campfield’s move was “unfortunate.” He otherwise declined to comment, saying the two need to maintain a “working relationship in the legislature.”
“I’m not going to talk about Stacey. I love him. He’s a friend of mine,” said Shipley.
By Steve Peoples, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Short on money and staff, Rick Santorum needs help to remain a viable threat to front-runner Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. One strategist hopes it will come from another rival, Newt Gingrich.
Top adviser John Brabender says Santorum’s future may depend upon Gingrich leaving the race. The former House speaker is showing no signs of bowing out, certainly not before next week’s Super Tuesday voting.
“If we could ever make this where we have all the conservatives and tea party supporters behind us as one candidate against Mitt Romney, we’ll win the nomination,” Brabender said Wednesday as the Santorum campaign recalibrated after finishing a disappointing second in Michigan’s primary.
Santorum and Gingrich are appealing for support from the same bloc of conservative voters. In Michigan, where Gingrich didn’t actively compete, the former speaker earned more than 6 percent of the vote. Romney beat Santorum by roughly 3 percentage points.
As Super Tuesday nears, Gingrich’s campaign is focusing on Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for 20 years, and a handful of other delegate-rich states. A Gingrich spokesman confirmed Wednesday that there’s been no pressure from Santorum’s camp to leave the race.
Santorum went out of his way to compliment the former House speaker Wednesday at a rally in Knoxville, Tenn., as he recalled the impact of President Ronald Reagan and others early in his political career.
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.”