Tag Archives: todd gardenhire

On Senate District 10 (Gardenhire) endorsements and fundraising

Nick Wilkinson, the deputy administrator of Chattanooga’s Department of economic development, has an apparent financial lead in the state Senate District 10 Democratic primary, reports the Times-Free Press. He got checks from Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, former Mayor Jon Kinsey and other area political figures in second quarter fundraising.

Wilkinson also got an endorsement on the newspaper’s Times editorial page – both for the primary and in the general election against Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire. The Free Press editorial page, meanwhile, made no endorsement in the Democratic primary but declared its support for reelecting Gardenhire in the general election.

Wilkinson raised $42,600 in the second quarter. Further from the fundraising story:

That exceeds the $36,250 raised by incumbent Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, as well as one of the Democrat’s two rivals in the Aug. 4 primary — Khristy Wilkinson, who is not related to Nick Wilkinson…. (Nick Wilkinson) reported spending just $2,948 during the April 1 to June 30 period. He had $47,474 in cash on hand.

But Gardenhire has a little more than double that amount with $105,567.

… Gardenhire began the second quarter with $72,917 in cash on hand. He reported raising the $36,250 with contributions including $7,500 from Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s RAAMPAC.


The endorsement editorials include some background information and observations — and some blessing and/or bashing of the incumbent –making both recommended reads for Tennessee political junkies. The Wilkerson endorsement is HERE; The Gardenhire endorsement is HERE.

Partisan debate in Senate District 10: Bathrooms vs Insure TN

Perhaps setting a precedent for fall legislative campaigns, Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga is attacking the Democrats seeking his seat for failure to speak out against President Obama’s bathroom directive. The Democrats are attacking Gardenhire for voting against Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal.

So reports the Times-Free Press.

The three Democrats seeking the party nomination in Senate District 10 is flogging the transgender-student school bathroom controversy to distract voters from his own record on health care and in other areas.

Democrats Ty O’Grady, Khristy Wilkinson and Nick Wilkinson are competing for the Democratic nomination in the August primary. The winner will face Gardenhire in the November general election.

O’Grady, a business entrepreneur, charged in a statement that Gardenhire’s two votes in 2015 against Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan for low-income Tennessee adults has resulted in “many children losing their parents and loved ones throughout our state.”

Calling Gardenhire “Dr. Death,” O’Grady said the senator “only cares about kids while they’re in the bathroom.”

“Gardenhire was unable to stand up for what he knew to be right [on Insure Tennessee] when tougher men and women made him toe the line. Gardenhire’s silence was not golden,” O’Grady said.

That was a reference to Gardenhire’s taunt last week that Democrats’ “silence was golden” in terms of not speaking out about the transgender issue.

Nick Wilkinson is Chattanooga’s deputy administrator for economic development. He said in a statement that “when Senator Gardenhire could be fighting to ensure 35,000 veterans have access to health care by passing Governor Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal, working to make neighborhoods safer, or finding ways to ensure all kids in our area have access to a high-quality education, he decides to waste money on a frivolous lawsuit and spends his time on issues counter to the good judgment of east Tennesseans.”

Last week, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery joined 10 other states in suing the Obama administration over its recent guidance to the nation’s public school districts. Federal officials say schools must allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker facilities based on their gender identity and not biological sex.

Khristy Wilkinson, a community activist and former adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who is not related to Nick Wilkinson, said in an interview, “I fully support Obama’s directive and I fully believe that public schools should accommodate transgender students.”

“I feel there are many more important issues facing our children than a seemingly unfounded fear that transgender people are just sexual predators waiting in bathrooms to harm our kids,” she said. “If this were really a safety issue we would have done something about it a long time ago.”

If Gardenhire “is really so concerned about protecting our kids, then he would be working to improve the standard of education they receive” as well as working to eliminate poverty and address the state’s health needs, she said. “I think there are more pressing issues facing our kids and families in Tennessee than where to use the bathroom.”

Gardenhire said he was surprised the three Democrats “didn’t understand the fundamental reasons” for Slatery filing suit against the Obama administration.

The Obama administration says schools that don’t comply with its directive risk losing federal funding due to officials’ interpretation of civil rights provisions related to sex discrimination.

“And that is any president should not be able to change the words of the law — as in Title VII and Title IX,” Gardenhire said. “No. 2, the lack of knowledge. The Obama administration threatened to cut off money to schoolchildren for his social agenda. Those are the fundamental reasons for the lawsuit and it’s interesting that they still refuse to address those issues and call Obama’s hand on it.”

Two Democrats compete for Senate District 10 nomination

Community organizer Khristy Wilkinson announced Friday that she will run as a Democratic candidate for the state’s 10th District Senate seat, reports the Times-Free Press.

She is the second Democrat — and the second Wilkinson — to announce a campaign for the 10th District seat in two days. The deputy administrator for Chattanooga’s economic development department, Nick Wilkinson, announced his candidacy Thursday. Khristy and Nick Wilkinson are not related.

Republican Todd Gardenhire now holds the seat.

Wilkinson said she is frustrated with the status quo and seeks to challenge it because it fails to truly represent the disadvantaged.

“I’m not a politician, but I believe our current representatives do not represent the vast majority of the people they are supposed to represent,” she said.

As a Detroit native who was born in poverty and left the city at the height of its recession-driven suffering in 2009, Wilkinson said she understands firsthand what it’s like to be disadvantaged. She said she considers it one of her strengths as a candidate.

“My life experiences differ from any of the other candidates,” she said.

She said her frustration with the political system is personal.

“I myself do not believe I’m being represented,” Wilkinson said. “How’s this going to work?”

Wilkinson, a philosophy professor who serves as vice president of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, is a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign in the Chattanooga area. The experience has transformed her, she said.

Before that, running for office never seemed like an option, she said.

Gardenhire shoots back at gun group

Sen. Todd Gardenhire is criticizing the Tennessee Firearms Association, reports Andy Sher, after the organization accused the Chattanooga Republican of breaking his word by not backing an “open carry” bill that failed in a Senate committee this week.

The bill failed in the Judiciary Committee on a 4-4-1 vote with Gardenhire abstaining. It needed five votes to pass and proceed to the Senate floor.

… After the vote, the Tennessee Firearms Association, headed by attorney John Harris, issued a release criticizing both Gardenhire for abstaining and Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntington, who voted no.

“Constitutional Carry Held Hostage by broken oaths in Tennessee Senate,” the email’s headline reads.

“Sen. Gardenhire ‘passed’ — that is he pulled a Barack Obama and was ‘present but not voting,'” the release said.

But Gardenhire, who is a handgun permit holder, returned fire, saying he never agreed to vote for the bill and told the sponsor, Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, he wouldn’t. Gardenhire said he also told Green he would not vote against his bill.

He then went on to call Harris a bully who “can’t take it when he loses.”

Gardenhire said the state’s decades-old handgun carry permit law, which requires criminal background checks and firearms training, provides important safeguards.

“I’m a strong believer in the Second Amendment,” Gardenhire said. “But this bill has come up time and time again always by the same individual, Mr. Harris. He makes his living by stirring the pot on these issues, always bringing people bills that nobody can vote for because they’re way out of line.”

Broadband expansion bill proponents blast AT&T

Proponents of rural broadband services on Wednesday demanded Tennessee lawmakers quit listening to for-profit telephone and cable giants and allow municipal electric power services to expand their lightning-fast Internet offerings to underserved areas, reports the Times-Free Press.

“We’re talking about AT&T,” Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, bluntly told a rally of business owners, families and local officials gathered in the state Capitol. “They’re the most powerful lobbying organization in this state by far.”

The bill has been opposed for years by AT&T, Comcast and other providers who say it’s unfair for them to have to compete with government entities like EPB. But EPB, as well as some lawmakers like Gardenhire, say if the free market isn’t providing the service, someone else should.

“Don’t fall for the argument that this is a free market versus government battle,” Gardenhire said. “It is not. AT&T is the villain here, and so are the other people and cable.”

…Outside the state Capitol’s first-floor old Supreme Court room was a placard charging AT&T in Tennessee received $156 million from an Obama administration program aimed at expanding access to broadband. At the same time, Gardenhire said, they’re opposing governmental entities like EPB expanding.

AT&T spokesman Daniel Hayes said in an email “it is incorrect to equate the common practice of government providing incentives to encourage private-sector behavior with the concept of direct government competition.”

He said the Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund provides private-sector incentives “specifically designed to encourage deployment to address a clearly defined and limited federal goal.

“Generating significant amounts of public debt to sustain municipal networks is a different animal,” Hayes added. “Taxpayer money should not be used to over-build or compete with the private sector, which has a proven history of funding, building, operating and upgrading broadband networks. Policies that discourage private-sector investment put at risk the world-class broadband infrastructure American consumers deserve and enjoy today.”

Bike bill transformed into attack on teachers union PAC

UPDATE: The bill passed the Senate 21-9 Monday.

A bill that originally addressed how students should wear bicycle helmets will hit the Tennessee Senate floor today with an amendment critics say aims to punish the state’s largest teachers union for legal political activity, reports the Times-Free Press.

Sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, Senate Bill 151 began life last year as a measure urging the state Department of Education to include information in a pilot bicycle safety program about “the proper use and positioning of bicycle helmets.”

In last week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, Gardenhire introduced an amendment, quickly adopted, that completely rewrote the bill.

It no longer mentions bicycles or helmets.

Now the bill zeroes in on educators’ automatic payroll deductions to a professional organization that also runs a political action committee.

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA), which has thousands of members, is the only teachers group that fits the description. Another group, the Professional Educators of Tennessee has no PAC.

Gardenhire’s “Fair Access to Collection of Teacher Support Act” would bar employee dues check-offs by local school systems “for a professional employee organization, if any of that organization’s funds are contributed in any way to another organization that engages in political activity.”

TEA leaders, who had no inkling of what Gardenhire planned, were stunned.

“It would target TEA for its political activity,” charged Jim Wrye, TEA’s chief lobbyist. “It would eliminate payroll deduction for our members. We’ve had payroll deduction for decades. It’s just a slot on a paycheck just like United Way or the Farm Bureau or any other entity.”

Wrye argued that “teachers need to be politically active, you know, when we have all of these out-of-state special interests pouring in tons of money. We need to stand up for our schools and our communities.”

Asked about the amendment Sunday, Gardenhire said “one group has a monopoly of collecting dues” because many districts say their computers can’t work in other groups for automatic deductions.

“We’re giving an unfair advantage to a particular association and there’s other associations that are vying for membership and have a good representation. And we ought to treat them all equal.”

Moreover, Gardenhire also said he’s seen where TEA is “even now working on a way to set it up [dues deduction] up outside [local school systems], with people writing a check or through a credit or debit card. They’re already anticipating this. So I thought it would be a good time to get the process going and make sure everyone’s on an equal footing.”

But Gardenhire, vice chairman of the Education Committee, acknowledged the TEA’s political activity factored into the bill.

“That was certainly part of it,” the lawmaker said, but quickly added, “They’ve given me political contributions in the past. I just think it’s the right thing to do.”

Senators study CON reform, make no recommendations

A study committee set up by the Senate Commerce Committee, chaired by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, met Monday to hear testimony on whether to continue Tennessee’s “certificate of need” program, which requires a state agency’s approval prior to major new expansions of health care facilities. There were some calls for repeal of the CON process, but more calls to keep it in place — perhaps with some changes or new exemptions in some areas.

From The Tennessean report:

Lawmakers probably will take up efforts to reform laws governing patient amenities, such as upgrades to waiting rooms, and capital thresholds as well as some clinical specialties that could be removed from the certificate of need regulations.

“We’ve got to find those very specific clinical scenarios where the certificate of need provides a clinical protection for the patient — and then we’ll still stand on that,” said Sen. Mark Green, M.D. “I think you’ll see anywhere there’s a number we’re going to bring it to today’s inflation adjusted amount.”

Tennessee is one of 36 states, including Washington, D.C., with a certificate of need program. It has one of the heftiest CON programs with 20 laws. In Tennessee, health care providers apply with the Health Services and Development Agency for a certificate of need to build facilities or expand into new services.

Certificate of need programs are seen by many as a way to ensure health care providers provide charity care and to control the build-out of the industry.

Voices for significant reform of the programs, including the Beacon Center of Tennessee, argue that the programs keep costs high through increased regulation, which stymies competition.

“I want to see why there’s so much opposition to lowering the cost of health care and why there’s so much support for protecting the status quo,” Gardenhire said before the hearing.

Representatives of HCA, HSDA, Tennessee Hospice Organization, Tennessee Public Teaching Hospital Association and Vanderbilt University Medical Center addressed how the program gives structure to the health care system around the state and some areas that could be improved.

VUMC would like to see “modernization” of the CON rules on patient amenities and the threshold that is required to file for approval for a project, said Clisby Hall, senior adviser of health policy.

…Gardenhire was disappointed that most of the speakers, and hearing attendees, were “here to protect the status quo” and did not bring lists of areas where they want reform. He plans to meet in the coming months with those who want to help rethink the certificate of need.

“I’m going to pin them down,” Gardenhire said.

Chattanooga councilman eyes run against Sen. Gardenhire

Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson, a Democrat, said Thursday that he is weighing a challenge to Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, in next year’s Senate District 10 election, reports the Times-Free Press.

Anderson said in the interview that either he or another Democrat will run against Gardenhire, who is seeking a second four-year term.

“He seems more concerned with pursuing a radically conservative agenda than serving the people of the 10th Senate District and the people of Tennessee,” Anderson said.

Two other Democrats are also said to be looking at running, according to Hamilton County Democrats. Several Democrats said Carl Landsden Jr., son of a former top union leader of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, plans to run. A second name could not be confirmed.

Landsden could not be reached for comment.

Gardenhire said he is “approaching [the election] like it’s a tough race because it’s going to be I’m not taking anything for granted and working hard.”

…The district includes portions of Hamilton County and several portions of GOP-leaning Bradley County.

“I think I’m very in tune with the district and will continue to do what I think is right and go from there,” Gardenhire said.

But Anderson and other Democrats believe Gardenhire is vulnerable for a number of reasons, primarily circumstances surrounding the senator’s two votes against Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal.

Democrats targeting Gardenhire

At a fundraising event in Chattanooga, state Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini said gaining ground in the Legislature is the party’s top priority and state Senate District 10 is the first battleground, reports the Times-Free Press.

The district is held by Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire. It includes the southern parts of Hamilton County, including Chattanooga and East Ridge, and a large swath of southern and eastern Bradley County.

Gardenhire has served since 2013, after now-Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat, said in 2012 he wouldn’t seek re-election. Berke had held the seat since 2008.Gardenhire was the firs t Republican to hold the seat in four decades.

…Gardenhire said Friday he was not surprised at all. He said the Democratic party started its campaign against him months ago.

“I’ve been saying all along that the state Democratic chair and the local Democratic chairman has been the impetus behind all the harassment and the protests, even though they deny it,” Gardenhire said. “But that’s OK. This is America. It’s their job to field candidates, and it’s our job to protect our seats.”

Mancini said Friday in a phone interview that Gardenhire brought protestors and criticism upon himself.

“I think Senator Gardenhire has to take responsibility for that. He’s the one who voted against Insure Tennessee. He’s the one who voted not to give 300,000 Tennesseans the same access to health care that he has,” Mancini said.

Protesters give Gardenhire ‘Silver Spoon Award’ at GOP gathering

Item from a Times-Free Press ‘political notebook’:
A group of health-care activists interrupted dinner at the 2015 National Pachyderm Convention in the downtown Marriott on Saturday night.

Two women in evening gowns, carrying an oversized spoon and identifying themselves as a group called “Millionaires for Wealthcare,” took the stage and presented Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, with the “Silver Spoon Award” for “keeping health care in the hands of those who can afford it.”

Gardenhire has been the target of multiple demonstrations by activists since he voted against Gov. Haslam’s Insure Tennessee bill, which would have extended health coverage to an estimated 280,000 low income Tennesseans.

Gardenhire didn’t respond, but some in attendance shouted catcalls at the intruders, who were quickly escorted out.