Monthly Archives: September 2018

Ramsey touts Blackburn bid in op-ed

Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn speaks at a business forum in Nashville on Aug. 15, 2018 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has penned an op-ed in the Johnson City Press touting Republican Marsha Blackburn’s U.S. Senate bid over Democrat Phil Bredesen.

“We saw the blue wave come crashing through Virginia last year, but we cannot allow that to happen here in Tennessee,” Ramsey writes.

“Do not buy Bredesen’s false promises to be a moderate,” he said. “He will not support the president, and he will not put your best interests before those of the national Democratic Party.”

UPDATE: Former state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens has an op-ed running alongside Ramsey’s in support of Bredesen.

“This November, Tennesseans have a choice: they can either pick eight-term Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn who’s been helping to create gridlock in Washington for nearly two decades, or they can hire Gov. Phil Bredesen, an independent thinker who has a proven track record of working across the aisle to get things done for Tennessee,”Givens wrote.

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UT President DiPietro sets retirement date

A release from the University of Tennessee:

KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro announced today that he will retire Feb. 14, 2019. 

He will step down from active service Nov. 21 to use his remaining vacation time.

DiPietro, UT’s 25th president, has led the University of Tennessee system since January 2011. He serves as the chief executive officer of UT and its campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, the Health Science Center in Memphis and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and the Institute of Public Service.

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Former Gov. Winfield Dunn endorses Blackburn

Former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn has endorsed Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn.

“November’s election is not about the past; it is about the future of the state and the country,” Dunn, 91,  said in a release. “Marsha Blackburn is the only candidate who will vote to protect Tennessee values. She has dedicated her life to making things better for her fellow Tennesseans, and she will represent us faithfully in the United States Senate.”

Dunn’s election as governor in 1970 kicked off a new two-party era in Tennessee state government that had largely been controlled by Democrats since Reconstruction. Dunn made another bid for governor against Democrat Ned Ray McWherter in 1986, but fell short. He has since become an elder statesman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

Democratic group takes aim at Blackburn over opioids

A new ad being run by the Democratic-aligned group Majority Forward criticizes Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn’s role in the opioid epidemic sweeping the country, The TennesseanJoel Ebert reports.

“Congresswoman Blackburn helped pass special legislation to restrict law enforcement’s ability to combat the opioid crisis and hold drug companies accountable,” the ad’s narrator says.

According to Ebert:

In 2016, Blackburn co-sponsored a bill that critics said limited the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to freeze suspicious shipments of drugs. The legislation was highlighted in a 2017 joint investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.”

After the joint investigation was published, Blackburn vowed to lead the effort to revise the law and fix any unintended consequences.

In August she said the DEA has yet to offer guidance to Congress on addressing the law, which has prevented her from taking action.

Blackburn’s campaign spokeswoman, Abbi Sigler, said the congressman has introduced bipartisan measure to increase civil and criminal penalties for bad actors and give law enforcement additional tools.

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen has said he would sign on to efforts to reverse the legislation if he is elected in November.

Majority Forward is the nonprofit wing of the Senate Majority PAC, which Republicans have said is run by close associates of Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. The group has also run ads criticizing Blackburn for her congressional salary and trips she’s taken that were paid for by interest groups. It has also run ads supporting Bredesen.

Bredesen camp issues ‘Transparency in TV’ challenge

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen is issuing a “Transparency in TV” challenge to Marsha Blackburn’s camp after the Republican released an ad featuring people who purportedly voted for Bredesen as governor but won’t do the same again for Senate.

(The Tennessee Journal asked the Blackburn campaign to identify the people featured in the ad, but has yet to hear back. A spokeswoman told The Tennessean — and later the TNJ — that “voters featured in these ads are real, unpaid Tennessee voters,” but did not give further details.)

Bredesen spokeswoman Alyssa Hansen released the names, occupations, and hometowns of the five people featured in Bredesen’s latest spot titled “Brown Bag.”

The five Bredesen voters are identified as: Ann Johnson, businesswoman, Williamson County; Heather Powell, public school parent, Nashville; Jack Pratt, farmer, Wilson County; Marianne Schroer, civic leader, Franklin; and Frank Stevenson, faith leader, Nashville.

“From our perspective, this is a campaign about authenticity, ideas, and — above all else — honesty,” Hansen said. “Hopefully, Congresswoman Blackburn’s campaign will be as transparent as Governor Bredesen has told us to be.”

Purported former Bredesen voters say ‘not this time’ in Blackburn ad

A new ad by Republican Marsha Blackburn’s campaign and the National Republican Senate Committee features people who say they voted for Bredesen for governor, but won’t do so for Senate.

The Bredesen campaign was unimpressed.

“While Congressman Blackburn is too busy focusing on swamp scare tactics and continuing to follow the losing D.C. Diane playbook by dodging debates, Governor Bredesen is in Memphis today to share his ideas with voters in West Tennessee,” spokeswoman Ayssa Hansen said in an email.

“As he has said from Day 1, this campaign is open to voters of all stripes who are tired of hyper-partisan squabbling,” she said.

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Lee welds in new ad touting vocational training

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee’s latest ad features the Franklin businessman using welding equipment and talking about how his plumbing and HVAC company has provided vocational training to workers.

“For way too way too long, we’ve told people, ‘You’ve got to go to college, don’t go into the trades,'” Lee says in the ad. “At Lee Company, we’ve trained more than a thousand skilled tradesmen in the last ten years. I don’t just talk about vocational training, we’ve actually done it.”

Lee faces Democrat Karl Dean, a former Nashville mayor, in the general election to succeed Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

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Fox News poll has Blackburn leading Bredesen by 3

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican Senate nominee in Tennessee, speaks at a Farm Bureau event in Franklin on Aug. 9, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Marsha Blackburn has a 3 percentage point edge over Democrat Phil Bredesen in a new Fox News poll released Wednesday. The survey results follow an NBC/Marist poll that found Bredesen with a 2-point lead last week. Both polls receive A ratings from the polling website FiveThirtyEight.

In the Fox poll, Blackburn had 47% support, compared with Bredesen’s 44%. The poll of  686 likely voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The poll showed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee with a 20-point lead over Democrat Karl Dean, 55%-35%, with 16% of Bredesen supporters crossing over to support Lee.

Eighty-one percent of Bredesen’s supporters said they feel certain they will vote for him, while 74% of Blackburn’s supporters said the same for her. Twenty percent said they might change their vote before November, while 8% were undecided.

Among those who said they support President Trump, 76% said they support Blackburn, while 16% support Bredesen. The former governor was supported by 93% of Democrats polled, while 83% of Republicans said they plan to vote for Blackburn.

According to the poll, the top issues for voters are:

  • Economy and jobs: 29%.
  • Health care: 27%.
  • Immigration: 14%
  • Taxes: 8%
  • Gun policy: 6%
  • Foreign Policy: 3%
  • International trade: 1%

Popularity ratings were similar for both candidates the Fox poll, with 54% having a favorable impression of Bredesen and 36% seeing him unfavorably. Blackburn’s favs/unfavs were 51%-39%.

President Trump had a 58% approval rating among likely voters, while 38% disapproved.

Thirty-nine percent of those polled said they think Trump’s trade policies are helping the U.S. economy, while 37% said they are hurting.

Bredesen, Blackburn make balanced budget pitches

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen speaks to reporters after at a Farm Bureau speech in Franklin on Aug. 9, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn on Tuesday unveiled rival plans for balancing the federal budget.

Bredesen told the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce that he wants to freeze all spending except Social Security to balance the budget within six years. Blackburn said she supports a balance budget amendment and across-the-board spending cuts for all but military expenditures.

“Everyone gives lip service to fixing the deficit, but there has been no action.  Democrats — my own party — have never been great on the subject, but since the Reagan era, Republicans have completely fallen off the wagon as well,” Bredesen said. “We ought to give it some serious thought.”

Republican Marsha Blackburn also tweeted her support for balancing the federal budget.

“I’ve been a deficit hawk, and I plan to take that same steely commitment to the U.S. Senate,” Blackburn said in a release.

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Dean takes aim at Lee over Medicaid expansion

A new ad by Democrat Karl Dean is taking aim at Republican gubernatorial rival Bill Lee over Medicaid expansion.

“I’ve stood next to Bill Lee when he’s been adamantly against expanding medicaid, even though it means more shut down hospitals and higher costs on all of us,” Dean says in the ad.

Dean notes in the spot that Tennessee doesn’t get back the full amount that it pays into the federal Medicaid program.

“I’ll expand Medicaid and bring our tax dollars home,” Dean says.

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