Monthly Archives: January 2020

Poll: Trump approval rating on the rise in Tennessee

Graphic: Mason-Dixon Polling.

A new Mason-Dixon poll shows President Donald Trump’s popularity is on the rise in Tennessee and three out of five respondents say they oppose efforts to remove him from office.

Trump’s approval rating was 57% in the poll released Friday, up from 54% in April 2018 and 51% in November 2017. Disapproval was a steady 42% in all three surveys.

Trump’s approval was highest in East Tennessee at 61%, compared with 56% in Middle and 53% in West. Ninety-three percent of Republicans approved of the president, while 53% of independents agreed. Just 10% of Democrats approved of Trump’s job performance.

Fifty-nine percent said they opposed the efforts to remove Trump from office. The ratio was higher among men (65% for to 32% against) than women (54%-41%). A near-unanimous 97% of Republicans opposed the president’s removal, as did 56% of independents, and 7% of Democrats.

The poll of 625 registered voters, including 247 Republicans, 207 independence, and 171 Democrats, was conducted between Jan. 28 and Jan. 30. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Alexander decides against impeachment witnesses

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) attends an event at the state Capitol in Nashville on Dec. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) says he doesn’t need to hear from witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial:

I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense. …The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.

The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday. …Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.” – Senator Lamar Alexander

Here is the full release from Alexander’s office:

Washington, D.C., January 30, 2020 — United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on his vote regarding additional evidence in the impeachment proceedings:

“I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense.

“There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television on October 3, 2019, and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine. There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’ There is no need to consider further the frivolous second article of impeachment that would remove the president for asserting his constitutional prerogative to protect confidential conversations with his close advisers.

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.

“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.

“The Senate has spent nine long days considering this ‘mountain’ of evidence, the arguments of the House managers and the president’s lawyers, their answers to senators’ questions and the House record. Even if the House charges were true, they do not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense.

“The framers believed that there should never, ever be a partisan impeachment. That is why the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate for conviction. Yet not one House Republican voted for these articles. If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist. It would create the weapon of perpetual impeachment to be used against future presidents whenever the House of Representatives is of a different political party.

“Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.”   

He’s back! Flinn announces latest campaign for U.S. Senate

George Flinn, the Shelby County radiologist and broadcast company owner, has dropped $12.5 million of his own money on five unsuccessful congressional bids since 2010. He’s now announcing his latest Republican bid for the U.S. Senate.

Flinn ran against U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis) in the last two cycles, dropping $6.1 million of his own money on those bids. It’s his second bid for the U.S. Senate, having spent $1.2 million in a 2014 bid. He finished that race in distant third behind incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander and former state Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas).

Here’s the release from the Flinn campaign:

BRENTWOOD, TN- Today, George Flinn announces his candidacy for U.S. Senate. As a tenured businessman, Flinn brings extensive experience to this race. For too many years politicians have avoided the hard work of problem-solving and instead focused on distracting the American people with soundbites and spin. Elected officials are more interested in being idols, celebrities, and stars. George Flinn is appalled by this trend and knows it is hindering America’s progress.  

Flinn is committed to providing real solutions, rather than being focused on distracting the voters. He knows government is about policies, passing bills, and being a servant to our country by implementing real solutions, not by sounding good and accomplishing nothing. George Flinn will bring back the true conservatism that this country was founded on,

Time and time again politicians provide soundbites over a working plan. That’s why I feel I had to throw my hat in the race this year, for a chance to really work, to get things done for Tennesseans. A political campaign is not about just getting elected, it is about creating an opportunity to reach a large group of people with a powerful message that will create major improvements in their lives. I feel the majority of political candidates have lost sight of that. I refuse to give up on the opportunity to improve the quality of so many lives across Tennessee. 

Innovative solutions require crucial work that is at times boring, but always vital. It is critical to invest time to consider all of the possibilities to address our complex problems. This is the type of work and commitment you can expect from George Flinn as a U.S. Senator. 

I have developed real solutions for the complex problems facing Tennesseans and am sharing them with everyone, through my website. I am so committed to implementing solutions that I invite other candidates to embrace these solutions also. What is really important is that these solutions that benefit Tennesseans, are implemented. As one of my favorite Ronald Reagan quotes states, “There is no limit to the amount good you can do when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

George Flinn is a double-boarded certified M.D. in radiology and nuclear medicine, electrical engineer,  author of multiple books, and U.S. Senate candidate, who truly believes we can improve the future of Tennessee.   

For more information visit his website at www.realsolutionsfortn.com.

Sethi raises $500,000 in fourth quarter

Republican U.S  Senate candidate Manny Sethi raised $500,000 in the fourth quarter and had about $2 million left on hand. The Sethi camp said about $1.7 million was earmarked for the primary campaign.

Here’s the release from the Sethi campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dr. Manny Sethi, conservative Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, announced that his campaign raised over $500,000 this past quarter and will show nearly $2 million cash-on-hand in his campaign’s financial disclosure to the Federal Election Commission due January 31. Since June, this campaign has amassed nearly 7,000 donors, from all 95 counties and all 50 states, with a median donation of $25.
“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support across our state. This quarter is yet another sign that Tennesseans want to send a conservative outsider to Washington,” said Dr. Manny Sethi.
“Dr. Manny continues to rack up significant support and is investing in a powerful campaign apparatus. With our organization and the significant war chest we have amassed to spend on the primary, we are in a strong position to win the GOP nomination,” said Chris Devaney, Campaign Chairman of Dr. Manny for U.S. Senate.
Of the nearly $2 million that the campaign has on hand, over $1.7 million is eligible to be used for the August Primary, with under $250,000 donated towards the General Election in November.
The candidate made no personal loans to his campaign in this quarter.

Harwell, Noland nominated to TVA board

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Associated Press)

President Donald Trump has nominated former state House Speaker Beth Harwell and East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Harwell decided to give up her House seat to make a bid for governor in 2018. She fell short in the the Republican primary won by eventual Gov. Bill Lee.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Harwell had worked with TVA on several issues during her time as speaker.

“She understands that TVA’s mission is to continue to provide cheap, clean and reliable electricity throughout the Tennessee Valley, and I know her leadership will be a valuable asset to the TVA board,” he said in a statement.

Alexander called Noland “a respected leader in East Tennessee [who] has helped transform Tennessee’s fourth largest university.”

“His administrative experience makes him the right person to help keep TVA on a good path – to continue to provide clean, cheap, reliable electricity at the lowest possible rates for homes and businesses through the seven-state Tennessee Valley region,” Alexander said.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports TVA directors are paid an annual stipend of $52,702. The chair receives $58,650 a year.

Hagerty launches his first TV ad of Senate race

Republican Senate candidate Bill Hagerty has launched his first TV ad of the campaign. The spot highlights President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Hagerty and criticizes the ongoing impeachment proceedings as an effort by Democrats to “steal the next election.”

Here’s a transcript of the spot, which The Tennessean reports is running on cable stations Fox and CNBC.

Narrator: The Washington liberals have wanted to impeach President Trump since day one of his presidency. They know they can’t beat Trump at the ballot box, so they’re trying to steal the next election. We deserve better.

Bill Hagerty: I’m Bill Hagerty. It’s time for the impeachment sham and witch hunt to come to an end. I’m proud to be endorsed by President Trump, and I’m ready to take on the Do Nothing Democrats and put America first. I’m Bill Hagerty. I approve this message because enough is enough.

 

IRS places lien against Rep. Matthew Hill for unpaid taxes

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) checks his phone during a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The IRS has filed a lien against state Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) for failing to pay $19,042 in federal taxes over two years, WCYB-TV reports.

Hill had an unpaid balance of about $14,700 in 2018 and $4,300 in 2016, according to IRS documents filed on Jan. 2.

“After recently receiving notice of the tax amount variance referenced for the years in question, I am taking corrective action to resolve this issue and will pay all taxes owed,” Hill told the station in a statement.

Hill was a top ally of former House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin), where he was purported to preside over “kill lists” for disfavored legislation, and mounted an unsuccessful bid for the speakership last summer.

Hill previously rejected as “stupid” a WCYB report that Washington County developers donated $45,000 to support the speaker’s bid after he supported legislation to establish a tax incentive retail district for their  proposed Boones Creek retail center.

Don Spurrell, an attorney considering legal action to block the creation of the district, said the tax deal had the appearance of “pay-for-play.”

Hill was dismissive of those claims.

“That’s an absurd allegation and is just stupid,” Hill said.

The Tennessean reported last summer that Hill operated a Christian-themed magic supply business, but that he hadn’t registered it with the state or in his statements of interest. Washington County officials later said Hill was required to secure a proper business license for the company.

The Tennessean also reported Hill had nearly lost his house to foreclosure in 2017, but that he avoided that losing the home when he came up with the money in the last minute. Hill, the part owner of a political robocall company, declined to say where he got the money.

Hill first drew attention to a secretive local grant fund last year when he announced that a local nonprofit would be receiving more state money than expected. That came as a surprise to other Northeast Tennessee lawmakers and Gov. Bill Lee’s administration. The governor ultimately froze $4 million pool over what he called misunderstandings about the purpose of the money. Critics quickly labeled the money as supporting pork for lawmakers who supported Lee’s school voucher program.

Lee to introduce sweeping bill to restrict abortions in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference about his plan to introduce sweeping legislation to restrict access to abortions in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is proposing a sweeping bill aimed at restricting access to abortions in Tennessee. The bill would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected and would require women to undergo an ultrasound before seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

The bill includes a “ladder” approach of severerability clauses to that would keep provisions of the law in place if certain components are thrown out in court. For example, if the heartbeat provision doesn’t pass muster, the state could enact a ban at eight weeks, ten weeks or 12 weeks, depending what stands up in court.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he will submit comprehensive pro-life legislation to the Tennessee General Assembly this year, including the prohibition of an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists. This legislation would make Tennessee one of the most pro-life states in the country.

“I believe that every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Today, Tennessee is taking a monumental step in celebrating, cherishing, and defending life at every stage. I’m grateful to be joined by so many leaders in our state who are boldly standing up for our most vulnerable.”

This legislation would build upon successes in other states while incorporating innovative approaches to enhance existing law, including provisions such as:

  • Prohibiting an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists;
  • Requiring a mother to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion;
  • Prohibiting an abortion where the physician is aware that the decision to seek an abortion is motivated by the race, sex, or health or disability diagnosis of the unborn child. 

To protect against legal challenges, the new law would also include a creative “ladder” provision, modeled after Missouri law, of sequential abortion prohibitions at two-week gestational age intervals, along with severability clauses for each step of the ladder.

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Hagerty announces $1.5M haul in fourth quarter

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty speaks at Nashville event on Dec. 3, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty raised more than $1.5 million in the fourth quarter, his campaign announced Thursday. That brings his total haul to $3.4 million since joining the race. He has spent about $400,000 on his effort so far.

Here’s the release from the Hagerty camp:

Nashville, TN — Team Hagerty today announced Bill Hagerty raised more than $1.5 million in his second quarter as a candidate for U.S. Senate. This builds on the success from his first quarter as a candidate, in which he raised $1.9 million in just 22 days. In just four months, Hagerty raised a total of $3.4 million. Team Hagerty has over $3 million cash on hand. 

“Team Hagerty is building momentum every single day, and we are so grateful for this outpouring of support,” said Bill Hagerty. “These resources are critical as we work to share my conservative message with Tennesseans across the state. Together, we will bring Tennessee’s Christian, conservative values to the Senate and defeat Chuck Schumer’s hand-picked liberal candidate.”

Speaking about the fourth quarter, Team Hagerty Finance Chair Steve Smith added, “Bill Hagerty is running a strong grassroots campaign that is quickly garnering support all across the state. Bill is the only candidate ready to work with President Trump on day one, and Tennesseans are excited that their Senator will be able to work so closely with the President on their behalf. Team Hagerty is strongly positioned to defeat Chuck Schumer’s radically liberal candidate in November, and we are not going to let our foot off the gas.”

Hagerty earned President Trump’s “complete and total” endorsement while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Donald Trump Jr. is coming to Tennessee on January 28th in support of Hagerty’s campaign.

Capitol Commission won’t vote on Forrest bust at next meeting

Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, left, participates in a meeting of the State Funding Board in Nashville on Jan. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A long-awaited meeting of the State Capitol Commission next month won’t decide the fate of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust located outside the House and Senate chambers.

Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter told reporters on Tuesday that he envisions a series of at least two meetings to sound out supporters and opponents of moving the bust of the former slave trader, Confederate general, and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Even if the Capitol Commission were to seek a waiver under the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act to remove the bust, a lengthy process would ensue. The State Historical Commision must wait at least 60 days to hold an initial hearing once a petition is filed. A final hearing can’t take place until at least 180 days after that. And any determination made by the panel (it would take two-thirds of the members to remove the monument) would have to wait 120 days from the final notice being posted on its website from going into effect.

And of course not of that takes into account any likely court challenges.

In other words, it’s going to be a while. Unless lawmakers decide to jump start the process by filing legislation to bypass the hurdles put in place by the Heritage Protection Act.