The Ned McWherter Center for Rural Development has been led by former state Sen. Roy Herron, now a candidate for chairman of the state Democratic Party, since 2008 without accomplishing much, according to Steven Hale.
The center, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships to Tennessee students, was created with a $900,000 state grant in 2008. The grant was part of that year’s state budget during Herron’s term as senator and while he was the president of the organization.
But since that time, the center’s output has been minimal, according to tax records examined by The City Paper. Between 2008 and 2010, the center awarded no scholarships. The nonprofit began 2011 with $1,045,052 in assets but awarded only $35,750 in scholarships to students that year, the most recent available for public examination.
Herron announced in 2012 that he would not seek re-election, noting that he would devote his efforts to the McWherter center.
The center still bears the name of the late former governor, who died in April 2011, despite a nearly year-old request from the McWherter family that his name be removed from the organization.
Along with Herron, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and former Democratic Rep. Mark Maddox are listed as officers for the organization. Michael McWherter, son of the former governor, made the request in a letter to all three dated Feb. 20, 2012.
Jane Hampton Bowen has withdrawn as a candidate for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, the Chattanooga TFP reports, leaving the contest a two-man race that will be decided Jan. 26. “The race is now one between two strong Democrats,” Hampton Bowen, vice president and political liaison for the Chattanooga Area Labor Council, said in a statement. “My job now becomes one of support and input toward the reinvigoration of the Democratic Party in Tennessee.”
She said she’s looking forward to “continuing my quest for a more inclusive party, especially for working men and women, a party that stands for the rights and ideals of both urban and rural Tennesseans.”
Hampton Bowen did not endorse either of the two remaining candidates, Nashville lawyer Dave Garrison, currently party treasurer, and former state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.
Earlier this week Wade Munday, the party’s former communications chair, dropped out of the contest, announced he was running for treasurer and threw his support to Garrison. Ben Smith, a Nashville attorney, withdrew days earlier, throwing his support to Herron.
…Garrison has the backing of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, as well Democrats serving as mayors of Tennessee’s three biggest cities, A C Wharton, of Memphis; Madeline Rogero, of Knoxville; and Karl Dean, of Nashville.
— UPDATE: Steven Hale reports that Herron claims to have 42 of the Demoratic Executive Committee’s 72 members committed to him. He sent a list of the 42 — reproduced by Hale — in an email to members of the panel.
Note: Bowen’s statement on withdrawing is below.
The Democratic Party’s influence may be shrinking in Tennessee, but competition to rule over it has become something of a crowded field, observes Andrea Zelinski in a rundown on the race to succeed Chip Forrester as TNDP chairman. From all appearances, (former state Sen. Roy Herron’s) strongest rival for the job is Dave Garrison, who has worked closely with the party’s board for three years as treasurer. Following him are former party communications director Wade Munday and vice president and political liaison for the Chattanooga Area Labor Council Jane Hampton Bowen.
…Herron officially committed to joining the race during the holiday break, a decision he said he had put off after dealing with deaths and illnesses in his family. But the late start isn’t the only factor that sets him apart from his opponents.
Herron is a life member of the National Rifle Association with a legislative record that includes favorable votes for contentious bills the party fought strongly against, such as allowing guns in bars and parks. He has also positioned himself as anti-abortion, although like his Democratic counterparts he voted repeatedly against movements to insert anti-abortion language into the state Constitution.
…Herron’s fans say his experience on the campaign trail set him apart from the competition. And although Herron insists he’s not thinking about a bid for higher office, some think he could revisit his abandoned try for governor in the long term and that ultimately, it would be a win-win for the party.
“To even have a shot at statewide office, the party needs to be in better shape. So maybe that would be a good thing, because the party needs to be better off for him to swing that,” said Ben Smith, a former hopeful for the chairman’s seat who exited the race last week in favor of Herron.
A Nashville attorney, Garrison is in his first race with his own name on a ballot.
“I don’t take it as a criticism that I haven’t been running elections for 20 years,” said Garrison. “I think it’s an asset that I bring a fresh perspective, but the know-how and the ability to build coalitions and get things done at the party.”
“I don’t believe that the chair of the party necessarily needs to be a political candidate,” he added. “It needs to be somebody’s who’s raised money for others, and the party; it needs to be somebody that can build coalitions; it needs to be somebody that can run and manage an organization, and it needs to be somebody who can bring people that are not at the table back to the table or new people to the table of the Democratic Party,” he said.
Former state Sen. Roy Herron said Friday that he’s running for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, joining a crowded field of candidates looking for the chance to steer the party onto more solid footing in the state, reports Michael Cass Herron, who did not seek re-election to the Senate in November, said he decided to jump into the chairmanship race after a family member’s health issue was resolved late last week. He said he didn’t think it was too late to win this election, which the state party’s 72 executive committee members will decide on Jan. 26.
“It’s clear no one has a majority,” he told The Tennessean. “If I thought the election was over, I wouldn’t be getting in the race.”
…He joins at least four other candidates for the state party’s chairmanship: Jane Hampton Bowen, the political liaison for a Chattanooga labor group; Dave Garrison, a Nashville lawyer and the party’s current treasurer; Wade Munday, a Nashville nonprofit executive who once served as the party’s spokesman, and Ben Smith, a Nashville lawyer who advised Jason Powell in his successful run for the state legislature this year.
State Rep. Sherry Jones, who considered running, told The Tennessean earlier Friday that she probably wouldn’t seek the position. Jones said she has “too much going on” and that she doesn’t think a woman can win the post right now.
State Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville is the latest Democrat to declare an interest in succeeding Chip Forrester, who is not seeking a new term as chairman of the Tennessee Democratic party.
Jones, a Nashvillian who has recently been crusading against what she considers ineptness at the state Department of Children’s Services, says she would seek a change in party by-laws if elected so that the position would be part-time rather than full-time. She would continue to hold her legislative seat – just as Rep. Beth Harwell, now speaker of the House, did while chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Jones said last week that she believes the party needs to work toward becoming more inclusive, noting that white men have always served as chairmen in the past – with the single, 1980s exception of Jane Eskind.
“I love all the old white guys, but we’ve got to include everybody,” she said.
Previously declared candidates for state Democratic chair are David Garrison, now the party treasurer; Wade Munday, who previously served as the party’s communications director; and Nashville lawyer Ben Smith.
Former state Sen. Roy Herron’s name has come up in speculation, but he has yet to indicate an interest in the job.
There’s also been speculation about former state Sen. Roy Herron, who did not seek reelection as a legislator this year. But so far Herron, a Dresden lawyer, has not said whether he will seek the post.
Sen. Roy Herron’s mother and mother-in-law both passed away within a 24 hour period this week. Here’s an email from the senator: My father’s been gone for 35 years, but yesterday afternoon, I visited my nearly 96-year-old mother in the ICU. Her eyes were open, really open, for the first time since before the ambulance took her to the hospital last Friday.
I leaned close, talked loud, and told her that yesterday, September 10th, was my father’s 100th birthday. She squeezed my hand and then, within three hours, Mother went to join him. She was never one to miss a birthday party.
Last week, Nancy’s mother entered hospice care. Today, less than twenty-four hours after my mother went home, Nancy’s mother — with her two daughters holding her — also went home. She is now with her husband. She didn’t want to miss the party either.
One friend said this is a tough time for our family, but I am overwhelmed with gratitude. When our mothers have been with us for a combined180 years, we can surely be grateful for blessing after blessing, year after year. Their lives were full, and they have filled our lives with love.
Now we will honor and remember two wonderful women, two loving mothers, and two precious grandmothers. For my mother, we will gather in Dresden at the First United Methodist Church for visitation on Friday night between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. and a Celebration Service on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. For Nancy’s mother, we will gather in Memphis for a Committal Service this Sunday morning and a Memorial Service over Thanksgiving.
As we give thanks, please keep our family in your prayers. And know that we are praying for you and yours.
Senators argued to a temporary standstill Thursday over whether anyone teaching in a college should also be automatically eligible for to teach in high schools.
The bill in question (SB2302) says that “notwithstanding any law to the contrary,” the state Department of Education shall issue a license to teach to anyone who has taught in certified college or university fulltime for two years are part-time for four years.
Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, led a verbal assault by Democrats on the proposition, declaring the broad language means overriding current laws requiring teachers to have “good moral character” and denying teaching licenses to those with felony convictions or “addicted to the use of intoxicants or narcotics.”
He envisioned the Department of Education forced to issue a teaching license a “convicted sexual predator” with a narcotics conviction.
News release from Sen. Roy Herron:
Dresden–Senator Roy Herron (D-Dresden) today announced plans not to run for office in 2012, but instead to lead the Ned McWherter Center for Rural Development in expanded efforts to help young people go to college and create jobs for Tennesseans.
The senator expressed both great gratitude to constituents and high hopes for students and workers. Herron stated:
“I am blessed to represent the most wonderful people on earth. The people who have let me work for them as their representative and senator are my teachers, friends, and many are like family. I’m excited about working with them and other Tennesseans to help more young people go to college and help our state grow and gain good-paying jobs.”
Herron said after he finishes his state senate responsibilities this year, he will work actively as the president of the McWherter Center, a non-profit, non-partisan, charitable organization. The McWherter Center provides scholarships and educational opportunities for Tennessee students.
Officials on both sides of the debate over the state’s new voter ID law are pointing the blame at each other about who, exactly, is disenfranchising voters, reports Andrea Zelinski. Liberal advocacy groups like Citizen Action say the lawmakers who agreed to turn away voters who show up at the polls without a government-issued photo identification are at fault.
But a handful of conservative lawmakers and Haslam administration officials speaking to the issue on Capitol Hill Tuesday are blaming those same groups for implying that the General Assembly is taking away some people’s ability to vote.
“Misinformation is a disenfranchisement. If someone reads that they are disenfranchised, they may believe that,” Mark Goins, the state’s coordinator of elections, told the Senate State and Local Government study committee that met to discuss the issue.
One such example, said Goins, was a recent op-ed by Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, who alleged the Legislature is obstructing his 94-year-old mother’s right to vote because she doesn’t have a photo ID. In the editorial that ran last week, Herron tallied the cost of getting proper identification to at least $100, adding up the cost of ordering a birth certificate, the cost of gas getting to and from the DMV to obtain a photo ID and the cost of taking time off work and characterizing it as a “poll tax.”
“For those who are working people and poor people and hurting people … this will make it harder for them to vote,” Herron said after the hearing. “Those who don’t have photo IDs, and there are 675,000 Tennesseans, according to the Department of Safety, that do no have a driver’s license with a photo on it, they might have some other ID, but if I was not a state senator, I would not have any other government-issued ID, and that’s true of most people.”