LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (AP) — A former Democratic candidate for the state House has filed notice that he will appeal the dismissal of his libel lawsuit against state Sen. Stacey Campfield.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, blogged before the 2008 election that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.
Circuit Judge John McAfee, a Republican, last month found that Campfield had gotten it wrong on his blog, but he agreed with defense attorneys that the lawmaker did not know the information provided by House Republican leadership was false when he posted it.
The elder Byrge lost his House bid by fewer than 400 votes and later filed the $750,000 lawsuit in Campbell County.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge in northeast Tennessee is dismissing a $750,000 libel lawsuit against state Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield for publishing false information online about a Democratic candidate for the state House in 2008.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, blogged before the election that year that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.
The elder Byrge lost the House race to Republican Chad Faulkner by fewer than 400 votes and later filed suit in Campbell County.
“It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, and this stuff happens,” Circuit Judge John McAfee said, according to a transcript of Wednesday’s court hearing in Jacksboro.
“Sometimes you just get beat, and that’s just the plain simple truth of the matter,” he said. He added: “Politics are politics, and it’s a big boys and big girls game. That’s just the way it is.”
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Sen. Stacey Campfield has given a deposition in which he is unapologetic for posting false information about a Democratic candidate on his blog, dismissive of the possibility of paying damages for that and belittling of the technological skills of fellow lawmakers.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, is the defendant in a $750,000 libel lawsuit brought by Roger Byrge for falsely stating on his blog in the weeks before the 2008 general election that the Democrat had a criminal record. Byrge lost the state House race to Republican Chad Faulkner by fewer than 400 votes, 8,321 to 7,930.
Campfield, in a deposition attached to a court filing last week, said he would be unlikely to pay any damages, noting that he earns about $30,000 a year.
“Like I’ve got any money to give it even if you win,” Campfield said in the deposition taken in April 2011.
“Go right ahead,” he said. “I mean, I can show you my tax returns. If you think you’re going to get money out of me, it’s laughable.”
A bill to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law was sidelined for the year in a House subcommittee after a remarks by Rep. Roger Kane that are being criticized as insensitive.
Kane, R-Knoxville, read from a section of the bill (HB927), which would broaden the definition of bullying to include “any conduct that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, and that is based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, academic achievement, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or physical appearance of either the student or a person with whom the student has an actual or perceived association. ”
He told the sponsor, Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, that he could see the broad language covering a 7th grader “wearing a Texas Aggie t-shirt” being the butt of jokes from other students. Kane recalled himself “being the tallest 4th grader and being picked on because my ears stuck out.”
“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Kane said.
The latter remark was cited by Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, in a news release declaring that Kane should be removed from the House Education Committee.
“He’s essentially saying that bullying is good for you because it toughens you up. Rep. Kane sends a terrible message to those Tennesseans who have forever lost a friend, a student, a son, or a daughter (through suicide after a bullying situation),” said Jonathan Cole with the Tennessee Equality Project.
Kane said afterwards that he was simply pointing out that the bill is overbroad. Kane said his mother was Jewish and his father Catholic, which caused him to be criticized as “a Jesus killer” as a child.
“It made me a better person – able to got to a better place because of it,” he said.
Several other members of the panel criticized the measure in lengthy debate. It was ultimately sent to to the state Department of Education for review with Kamper’s agreement. That means it will not be further considered this year.
Kane said he would work with Kamper on the bill “to refine it and make it better” for consideration next year.
— UPDATE: Asked for House Speaker Beth Harwell’s response to Kane’s comments, her spokeswoman, Kara Owen, sent this email: The Speaker takes the issue of bullying very seriously, as does this entire legislature, evidenced by the full discussion in committee on the bill. We are confident Representative Kane wishes to work toward good, solid policy on this very important issue.
The House gave final approval Monday night to legislation that will require all public schools to allow home school students to participate in their athletic events.
The House approved the measure 69-24 under sponsorship of Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville. It earlier had passed the Senate unanimously with Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, as sponsor and now goes to the governor for his expected signature.
Under current law, the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association has developed a policy for home-schooled children trying out for public school teams, but it is left for each school system to decide whether the allow them to participate. Campfield says that roughly half do so. The bill (SB240) requires all systems to open their athletic doors to home-schooled children.
The TSSAA, which is the governing body for school athletics, has opposed the bill. Home-school organizations have pushed the idea for several years.
“This is just making it an even playing ground for everyone who is involved in sports,” said Kane.
In debate, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said he was concerned with setting a precedent of giving “the benefits of public schools” to those who are not enrolled in those schools. He questioned whether virtual school students would be next and, if the Legislature enacts a voucher system, whether students with a state voucher attending a private school will be going to public schools for athletics.
Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, said the bill will erode local school board authority in favor of rules developed by TSSAA as body that “nobody elected.”
Kane said the parents of a home-school student “do pay taxes to the state and they do take a burden off the local school system” by not enrolling in it.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, argued in support of the measure. He said that youngsters from all sorts of backgrounds typically play together at younger ages on nonschool teams, “then suddenly when we get into high school we start segregating them” and “excluding children” because they are home-schooled.
“I think we’re here (as legislators) to help kids get benefits,” Dunn said. “If they can benefit, why would we deny them.”
Georgina Vines talks with freshmen legislators about their orientation sessions…. and one who made a trip to Washington for an ALEC meeting, too. “It’s not government civics.”
That’s how newly-elected state Rep. Roger Kane, a Knoxville Republican, described orientation and GOP caucus sessions that he’s attended in Nashville to get ready for when the General Assembly begins meeting in January. The Legislature will have a large freshman class with 22 new House members and six new senators.
Representing the new 89th District in Northwest Knox County, Kane said the GOP caucus session in particular was not something he remembered studying. The vote was done by a secret ballot.
“I thought it would be more of a voice thing,” he said.
….Orientation covered everything from security to offices. A tour of the newly-renovated Capitol was given. Presentations were made by the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“They want us to be prepared so in January everything is not overwhelming and new,” he said.
Democrat Gloria Johnson, elected to represent the 13th District, also attended the sessions.
“As I am still teaching, I haven’t had the time I would like to get familiar with things there, so the day was definitely beneficial for me,” she said.
The Nashville meetings were Nov. 26-27,and then Kane went to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28-30 to attend a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC paid the transportation and expenses at the Grand Hyatt of freshmen legislators, Kane said.
He was the only newly-elected lawmaker from East Tennessee to attend the ALEC program, he said. Johnson did not attend, saying she chose instead to meet with constituents in her district.
…Kane said the group acknowledged it had taken some missteps and planned to focus in areas where it feels it’s the strongest. Its website said ALEC works on the principles of free markets and limited government.
“I’m being inquisitive and figuring out what these groups do for me, how I can be a part of it or not be a part of it,” Kane said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Court of Criminal Appeals judges Jeffrey S. Bivins and Roger A. Page have been retained by Tennessee voters.
Both won approval by approximately 3-1 margins in Thursday’s election asking voters to retain or replace them. Judges rarely lose such votes in the state.
Bivins, on the Middle Division of the court, was appointed to the court last summer. Before that, he was a Circuit Court judge for Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson counties.
Page, on the Western Division, was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam last December to replace the late Judge J.C. McLin after serving as a Circuit Court judge for Chester, Henderson and Madison counties since 1998.
Greg Johnson, conservative columnist who lives in Sevier County, takes a look at the House District 17 race (as lifted from the News Sentinel):
The race for the Republican nomination for state representative in the newly created 17th District could come down to voter turnout. Straddling the boundary between Sevier and Jefferson counties, district demographics tilt toward Jefferson, with 55 percent of the electorate.
But Sevier County attorney Andrew Farmer stands a good chance to win his first elective office. Farmer, a “general practice” attorney, has a heap of endorsements from Sevier County politicos, and enthusiasm is high in Sevier County over the possibility of electing two native sons to the state House. In the 12th District, either state Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, or Sevierville Alderman Dale Carr will carry the Sevier County banner in Nashville.
Farmer faces Jefferson County Commissioner Roger Griffith and retired businessman Larry Boggs of Dandridge in the Aug. 2 primary. Griffith, an engineer by trade, has shown a depth and breadth of understanding of the issues and has been impressive in debates. Boggs has been solid, if not quite as charismatic as Farmer or as passionate as Griffith.
Boggs, Farmer and Griffith all pass conservative litmus tests by saying they are pro-life, pro-gun owners, anti-tax and anti-spending. But Farmer wavers from conservative orthodoxy on education, refusing to support school vouchers even though the state Senate passed a voucher bill last session and Gov. Bill Haslam has promised to support a voucher program.
Both Griffith and Boggs have blasted Farmer over his statements about teachers’ unions. Farmer said at a tea party debate he supported the National Education Association, but later he amended his stance to say he meant to say the Tennessee Education Association and local union affiliates have “done some good things.” Asked at another debate last month to name those “good things,” Farmer said, “They back our teachers.”
In debates, the frontrunners appear to be Farmer and Griffith, with Griffith demonstrating a well-researched understanding of state fiscal issues. Farmer, a newcomer to politics, answers questions in generalities, though he did criticize the Republican-backed state investment in the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.
Farmer’s command of the issues may not measure up to Griffith’s and he may not be as conservative as his opponents, but geography may trump ideology and preparedness. If Boggs and Griffith split the Jefferson County vote and Sevier County voters turn out strong for Farmer, the first representative from the new 17th District could be an inexperienced moderate.
In electing their new state representative this summer, Republican voters in parts of Jefferson and Sevier counties will choose either an engineer, a lawyer or a retired businessman who wants to take tax money from the state and give it to city and county governments.
The three candidates are vying in the Aug. 2 Republican primary for the House 17th District, which was redesigned by the Legislature earlier this year.
The engineer candidate is Roger W. Griffith, 50, of Jefferson City, a married father of nine who worked 14 years for TVA, then set up his own firm, specializing in the design of mechanical systems for commercial buildings. He currently serves on the Jefferson County Commission.
The lawyer is Andrew E. Farmer, 32, who returned from a Florida honeymoon with his bride last week. He is the grandson of a former Sevier County road superintendent making his first run for public office.
The retired businessman is Larry Boggs, 71, of Dandridge, a married father of four and grandfather of seven who grew up in Mississippi and spent much of his professional career, he says, as a “rescuer of broken plants” in the apparel industry, both inside and outside the United States.
The area designated by state law as House District 89, today geographically covering a part of urban Memphis and represented by one of the few acknowledged liberal Democrats remaining in Tennessee, will be transformed on Nov. 6.
On that date, House District 89 will certainly become, geographically, a rural-suburban enclave within Knox County 300 miles away, thanks to the new state legislative redistricting plan enacted to change state law earlier this year by the General Assembly.
And, almost certainly, House District 89 will be politically represented by one of four Republican men who — based on recent interviews — have few philosophical differences in adhering to basic conservative Republican principles and equal ambivalence on issues that have split sitting Republican legislators. The race to represent the relocated District 89, then, would seem to be largely a personality contest.