Tag Archives: U.S. Senate

Former Sen. Fred Thompson dies aged 73

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bouncing from politics to the big screen and back, Fred Thompson played many roles well and those who knew him say the folksy former U.S. senator won’t soon be forgotten for his impact on American life and the arts. He died Sunday at age 73.

A Tennessee-trained lawyer, prosecutor, hard-driving Senate counsel at the Watergate hearings, movie and TV actor and even a fleeting presidential hopeful, Thompson commanded audiences with a booming voice, outsized charisma and a 6-foot-6 frame.

“Very few people can light up the room the way Fred Thompson did,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “He used his magic as a lawyer, actor, Watergate counsel, and United States senator to become one of our country’s most principled and effective public servants.”

Thompson, who appeared in feature films and television, including a role on the NBC drama series “Law & Order,” died in Nashville after a recurrence of lymphoma, his family said.

Thompson appeared in at least 20 motion pictures. His credits include “In the Line of Fire,” ”The Hunt for Red October,” ”Die Hard II” and “Cape Fear.” By the early 1990s, Thompson said he had become bored with his 10-year stint in Hollywood and wanted to go into public service. That’s when he headed back to Nashville and embarked on a successful run for the Senate.
Continue reading

Two former Tennessee U.S. senators attend 2015 swearing-in ceremonies, 3 do not

Lamar Alexander says he invited five former U.S. senators from Tennessee — three Republicans and two Democrats — to attend swearing-in ceremonies for himself and Bob Corker as they began their new terms. Republicans Bill Brock and Bill Frist showed up. The two Democrats — Al Gore and Jim Sasser — did not. Former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson also didn’t make it.

From Michael Collins’ report:

Alexander said he extended the invitation to call attention to “the exceptional service we’ve had (in Tennessee) from so many United States senators in Washington.”

Also, “these are good friends,” Alexander said. “The Senate is a place of friendships, relations and traditions. And I thought it would be great for the former majority leader (Frist) to come back and for everyone to have a chance to visit with him. Bill Brock really was a pioneer in our Tennessee Republican Party.”

Brock, who served one Senate term in the 1970s and then went on to serve in President Ronald Reagan’s administration as trade representative and then labor secretary, said the recent dysfunction that has paralyzed the Senate needs to end.

“The Senate has had a couple of tough years,” he said. “I expect it to get a lot better.”

On aging U.S. Senate GOP chairs (Alexander, for example) seeking a legacy in an anti-Obama era

Politico has an interesting article comparing the new crop of U.S. Senate chairmen to their counterparts back in the 1980s when Republicans gained control over the Senate during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Basically, it’s said that the incoming chairs are much older – the average age is over 70 versus under 60 in the comparison Congress — and most are from the South, elected by a white Republican base that is hostile toward President Obama, the nation’s first black president who is now a lame duck. But they are also concerned about their own legacy and seem to be searching for compromise ground.

An excerpt:

Consider the case of Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the incoming chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. A former governor and secretary of education at the federal level, he brings impressive credentials, and in November, won reelection ensuring him six more years in the Senate.

That said, life’s markers are also there. Just last July, Alexander delivered the eulogy for Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), who had been Alexander’s mentor coming up in politics. Already 74, the new chairman will be 80 before this Senate term runs out.

“Howard Baker knew how to make the Senate work. He understood that the Senate’s unique role is as a place for extended debate and amendment on important issues until there is a consensus,” Alexander said in his eulogy. Six months later, he’s rushing to seize his chance.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has opted to go back onto the HELP panel for this Congress, said she was surprised when Alexander called on her — even before she could go to see him.

“He is in my judgment a legislative powerhouse,” Collins said. “He’s determined to have accomplishments come under or as a result of his chairmanship. I had planned to go visit him, but before I could do so he had called and came over and visited with me to find out what my particular interests were and to offer me the ability to lead on bills that I’m particularly interested in … I very much expect the HELP committee will be enormously productive under his leadership.”

First on Alexander’s list is tackling the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — a battle which will require him to find compromises not just on school testing but civil rights issues important to Obama.

“This is not veto bait. This is a legitimate effort,” said one Democratic leadership aide of Alexander’s early efforts to reach across the aisle. And reforms in the Food and Drug Administration are expected to be a second part of Alexander’s committee agenda.

For other chairs, the same hunger for enacting legislation — signed by the president — is there. The trick is to find issues that are not so “about Obama” that supporters at home can accept compromise.

Ward Baker named XD of National Republican Senatorial Committee

Republican operative Ward Baker, a Tennessee native whose political career includes past work with U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black, has been named executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Further from The Tennessean:

That means he’ll be charged with protecting the new Republican Senate majority in 2016 after midterm elections earlier this month swung the tide to the GOP.

During 2013-14 round of elections, Baker served as political director for the NRSC.

“For the past 20 plus months, we declared that anything short of winning the majority was a failure, and for the coming cycle anything less than protecting our majority will be a failure,” Baker said. “We have our marching orders.”

The NRSC has named Kevin McLaughlin its new deputy executive director.

Baker, a 37-year-old ex-Marine, helped oversee Republican Senate gains that included knocking off at least four Democratic incumbents while not losing a single Republican Senate seat.

Further still from Politico:
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell played a key role in Baker’s selection, and Senate leaders are pleased to have some continuity. The NRSC team just won the majority and will be defending seven seats in 2016 that Barack Obama carried twice.

Baker served in the Marines before getting into politics. The Tennessee native got his start on Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s 2002 campaign, worked for Haley Barbour’s 2003 election as Mississippi governor and George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

Baker spent Bush’s second term focused on down-ballot races at the Republican State Leadership Committee. In 2010, he helped now-Rep. Diane Black win a primary in his home state and then was a senior adviser on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign. He spent 2012 as an adviser on Mitt Romney’s campaign, a liaison between the Republican National Committee’s victory program in 11 states and Romney’s Boston headquarters.

Alexander: Things will be good when GOP controls the U.S. Senate

Sen. Lamar Alexander says a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate won in next week’s election would grease the wheels of that body and produce results for Tennessee, reports the Commercial Appeal.

“Sen. (Mitch) McConnell has said with Republicans in charge, we’ll put bipartisan bills on the floor, we’ll debate them, we’ll work Mondays and Fridays, and we’ll start dealing with the problems that Americans expect us to deal with,” Alexander said. “And it’s absolutely ridiculous that we haven’t been in Washington these last several weeks.”

Alexander said this could mean replacing the Affordable Care Act “as rapidly and responsibly as we can,” stressing local decision-making on education, defending right-to-work laws and reducing the “growth of runaway spending and fix the debt.”

“Perhaps more important than anything else, we’d try to restore the Senate,” he said. “We’d try to put the Senate back to work.”

Alexander spoke to The Commercial Appeal Tuesday afternoon after spending some of the day in Jackson, where he helped Republican state Senate candidate Ed Jackson campaign. Alexander was to hold a fundraiser, his last of the 2014 cycle, in Memphis Tuesday night before heading to East Tennessee Wednesday to continue his efforts in the final week of a campaign against Democratic nominee Gordon Ball.

In Memphis Monday at the first stop of a West Tennessee bus tour, Ball said the recipe for change wasn’t in changing leadership, but in changing Tennessee’s senator.

“If you want six more years of Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander, then the people of this state can go vote for them,” Ball said.

McConnell, the Senate minority leader from Kentucky, is poised to become majority leader if Republicans claim the Senate — and if he defeats Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Rhodes College graduate, in that state’s race. The New York Times’ statistical projection gives Republicans a 68 percent chance of winning the Senate, which is about in the middle of the various projections it has collected on its site.

Republicans need to win six seats to win the majority.

Alexander, 74, who is seeking a third six-year term, shrugged off a question about whether this is his last campaign — “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” — but said the chances of serving in a GOP majority were central to his desire to seek re-election. He is poised to become the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

Harlan Mathews, former U.S. senator and state treasurer, gravely ill

Former U.S. Sen. Harlan Mathews, who also served as Tennessee’s state treasurer and deputy to Gov. Ned McWherter, is gravely ill and has been admitted to a Nashville hospice facility, according to family friends.

Mathews, 87, began a long career in the public service arena in 1950 during the administration of Gov. Gordon Browning. He continued to serve during the administrations of Govs. Frank Clement and Buford Ellington, including a long stint as state finance commissioner.

Mathews subsequently served as an assistant to longtime state Comptroller Bill Snodgrass, then was elected state treasurer in 1974, holding that position until 1987, when he became deputy governor to McWherter.

He served as deputy governor until January, 1993, when McWherter appointed Mathews to the U.S. Senate, succeeding Al Gore after Gore became vice president. He did not seek election to a regular term and stepped down in December, 1994, after Fred Thompson won the seat.

He was afterwards active as a lawyer and lobbyist until retirement. Mathews and his wife, Patsy, have two sons, Les and Stanley.

Attorney Gordon Ball to seek Democratic nomination to U.S. Senate

Millionaire Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball said Wednesday he will seek the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Lamar Alexander, making term limits a central theme of the campaign.

Ball, 64, becomes the second Knoxville lawyer to declare as a U.S. Senate candidate. Attorney Terry Adams, who had announced his candidacy earlier, said he was “a little bit surprised” by Ball’s entry into the race. Larry Crim of Nashville is also running for the nomination.

“The more the merrier,” Adams said, adding Ball’s candidacy will not impact his own plans. “I think the process works best when there are candidates and a campaign. It’s good for the process.”

Alexander, meanwhile, is opposed by state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, in the Republican primary.

Ball said in a telephone interview that he picked up a qualifying petition Wednesday and will file it soon, planning to devote full time to the campaign starting in March.
Ball, who has a national reputation for success representing plaintiffs in successful lawsuits with multi-million dollar awards, said he anticipates self-financing his campaign to some extent. He declined to give a figure.

Ball said he had started planning for the race well over a year ago, but shelved his plans last summer after a routine physical checkup indicated possible heart problems related to open-heart surgery undergone in 1995. Recently, however, a new round of tests resulted in doctors giving him “a green light” to proceed with a campaign, Ball said.

Ball said he is running because “this country is broken” and a major reason is that its leaders are “professional politicians” rather than “citizen legislators.”

“The Harry Reeds, the Nancy Pelosis and the Lamar Alexanders need to go home and let other people do this,” he said. “At the end of the day, one thing I’d like to leave the people of Tennessee and of this country would be term limits.”

Alexander, a former governor, is seeking his third six-year term in the Senate.

Ball said he envisions, as a senator, going to each of his colleagues individually with a video camera and asking if they support term limits. Most publicly support the idea, but then never follow through with launching the necessary constitutional amendment, he said, but armed with the video recordings, “then we’d see how they’d vote.”

Ball also said he believes corporations, unions and political action committees should be blocked from contributing to political campaigns with only “real people and I don’t believe corporations are people” making donations.

The attorney said he would characterize himself as a “Blue Dog Democrat,” a term used by more conservative members of the party in Congress. Ball cited former U.S. Rep. John Tanner of Union City as an example.

Ball said he does not know Adams, but “I’m sure he’s a nice gentleman.” He talked with state Democratic leaders early last year, including state party Chairman Roy Herron, about entering the race but has not communicated with them since being sidelined by the potential medical problem, he said.

Two former party chairmen, Bob Tuke and Chip Forrester, have endorsed Adams and Herron has offered supportive comments — interpreted by Crim as an endorsement that Crime says broke party rules. Herron says his remarks should not be interpreted as an endorsement.

Alexander running new 60-second TV ad for three weeks

News release from Lamar Alexander reelection campaign:
NASHVILLE – Lamar Alexander’s re-election campaign today announced the launch of its first 2014 television advertisement “Standing Up for Tennessee.”

The ad features Tennesseans describing how Lamar’s conservative, principled leadership has strengthened the state. Shane Reeves voices the frustration of thousands of Tennessee business owners concerned about Obamacare saying, “Lamar stands up strong against Obamacare. He’s a thinking conservative, who is serious about solving problems.”

Other Tennesseans attest to Lamar’s role in recruiting good paying auto jobs and protecting the rights of fishermen. A songwriter, college students and Lamar’s sons provide their perspective on the positive influence of his leadership. An elementary school principal reminds us of his famous walk across the state and recounts how he continues to listen to Tennesseans.

The 60-second television spot airs statewide beginning Jan. 13. (Note: And running for three weeks, according to a spokesman, who declined to give further details — such as cost and frequency.)

Watch “Standing Up for Tennessee”:  HERE.

Watch the full stories: HERE.

UPDATE: Carr’s followup press release is HERE.

A couple of observations: It’s basically an ‘introductory’ ad, designed to tell viewers who the candidate is and give them a positive perspective — apparently deemed necessary because a lot of younger people don’t really know who Lamar is. On the other hand, those of us older folks will remember the line in this ad about Alexander — “he’s one of us” — was a theme line in the late former Gov. Ned McWherter’s campaigning.

Democrats still seeking a Senate candidate?

Though Knoxville attorney Terry Adams has announced as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Lamar Alexander, Democratic operatives continue “to search in vain for someone whose name and pocketbook carry more weight,” reports Steve Hale.

Two Democratic operatives in particular tell the Scene they’ve engaged in high-level discussions to that end, making the pitch to well-connected and/or deep-pocketed Democrats who might be able to upend the race, even at this late date.

Individuals targeted for potential candidacy fall into one of three categories, says a source involved in the effort. The first is made up of elected officials or other notables (read: music or movie stars) — people who have run and won, or have high name recognition for another reason (read: music or movie stars). The second includes the increasingly sought-after “self-funders.” That is, the kind of politically involved person who could write one check with the words “Senate Race” on the memo line and be done with it, or at least could jump-start a campaign by spotting themselves $1 million. (The benefits of this ability speak for themselves in an era when insiders say a U.S. Senate run will set you back more than $15 million.)

If all else fails, there’s Box No. 3, consisting of young up-and-comers who can afford to lose. This is where you find Terry Adams, whose future political ambitions would be well served by a respectable campaign run on a statewide stage.

Adams is seen as a promising candidate, but Democratic sources say his relative lack of statewide political relationships has meant that it’s taken longer to get into certain rooms. That and the possibility of a “dream candidate” stepping forward have made it somewhat more difficult for him to leave those rooms with big checks. And so, with an April 3 filing deadline looming, the effort continues.

Alexander below 50 percent favorable rating in two polls

Two polls released Wednesday show U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander with an approval rating below 50 percent, though one commissioned by his prospective Democratic opponent rated him somewhat lower than a Vanderbilt University survey.

The Vanderbilt poll of 860 registered voters found 49 percent approval of Alexander compared to 52 percent approval of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and 61 percent approval of Gov. Bill Haslam.

A poll of 531 likely voters by Public Policy Poling (PPP), commissioned by Democrat Terry Adams’ campaign and including an “oversample” of Republicans, found Alexander with a 37 percent approval rating and an almost equal number, 36 percent, giving him an unfavorable rating.

Vanderbilt found Alexander with a 57 percent approval rating among Republicans; PPP at just 50 percent.
Alexander is up for reelection next year with state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, having announced as an opponent in the Republican primary and Adams, a Knoxville lawyer, as a contender for the Democratic nomination.

The PPP poll found Alexander leading Carr 46-40 percent among Republican voters and leading Adams 45 percent to 32 percent in a head-to-head matchup.

Vanderbilt did not do head-to-head questions in its poll, but did ask those surveyed if they knew who Carr was. Only 24 percent did and, of those, 54 percent approved of him. Adams was not mentioned in the Vanderbilt poll.

For comparison to other public figures in Tennessee, Vanderbilt also asked those surveyed whether they recognized UT football Coach Butch Jones (39 percent did, 76 percent of those approved) and Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin (29 percent did, 70 percent of those approved). Singer Carrie Underwood, on the other hand, was known by 85 percent of those surveyed with an 85 percent approval rate from those who knew her.

Note: The PPP polling memo, distributed by the Adams campaign, is below.
Continue reading