Monthly Archives: July 2020

GOP early voting lags behind 2018, while Nashville surge boosts Democrats’ totals

(Graphic credit: Don Johnson)

Republican turnout has been down 10% compared with the first 13 days of early voting in 2018, while Democratic turnout has been up 3%. Overall turnout has been down 7%.

(This post has been updated to reflect turnout figures for the first 13 of 14 days of early voting.)

Early voting for the Aug. 6 primary runs through Saturday.

The nominations for the open U.S. Senate race in 2018 were settled by the time the primary rolled around, but that year featured a rough-and-tumble primary for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. This year’s campaign season has been dominated by a bitter GOP contest for yet another U.S. Senate vacancy between former Ambassador Bill Hagerty and Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi.

Despite the comparative lag, Republicans have still turned out in far higher numbers than Democrats across the state, 330,580 to 194,368.

The biggest increase in GOP early voting has been a 64% jump in Washington County, which is in the heart of the 16-way 1st District primary to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City). It’s also home to heated primary challenges of state Reps. Matthew Hill and Micah Van Huss (both R-Jonesborough). GOP voting has been down in 72 of 95 counties.

The biggest increase in early voting among Democrats has occurred in Nashville, where turnout has been  61% higher than it was through the same period two years ago. This year’s primary features Keeda Haynes’ insurgent campaign against longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and a spirited contest for the Democratic nomination to challenge state Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville).

See your county’s turnout compared with the first 13 of 14 days of early voting in 2018 below.

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Feds charge Democratic state Sen. Robinson with embezzlement

Freshman state Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) is facing federal theft and embezzlement charges.

Prosecutors allege Robinson stole stole more than $600,000 from her business, the Healthcare Institute, by paying herself more than what was allowed under the terms the grant she received, the Daily Mempian reports.

Robinson defeated the late Sen. Reginald Tate in the primary in 2018 and went on to win the heavily Democratic district.

The Senate Democratic Caucus issued the following statement:

It’s clear that Sen. Robinson’s work in the state legislature on behalf of her constituents is not in question here today. Just like every other American, Sen. Robinson deserves the presumption of innocence and due process under the law. Her case should be resolved by a court of law, not by the court of public opinion.”

Investigators this week searched Robinson’s home and business again after conducting earlier raids in February. The complaint alleges Robinson used the money to buy a vehicle for her daughter, clothing, and beauty products. She is also charged with spending grant money on her wedding and honeymoon, followed by legal fees for her divorce.

Robinson’s company, the Healthcare Institute, in 2015 received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2015 to educate people  “looking for a jumpstart to their education and also to provide patient education to the elderly community.”

An anonymous complaint filed in 2016 alleged Robinson had spent $550 in grant funds to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag. The agency’s inspector general opened an investigation, which the FBI later joined.

Politico: Tennessee’s Senate primary ‘nastiest’ in nation

Tennessee’s Republican primary for the U.S Senate between Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi is the “nastiest” in the nation, according to a report by Politico

Here’s an excerpt:

Hagerty largely ignored Sethi most of the race — seemingly confident of his lead which his internal polls had at 17 points — until earlier this month, when he abruptly went on the offensive. His recent campaign speeches and interviews are chock-full of attack lines. His campaign has dubiously accused Sethi of donating money to a group “bankrolling these rioters” in an ad with a wounded veteran telling voters that Sethi can’t be trusted to defend the flag.

And Hagerty has been repeatedly mispronouncing Sethi’s name as “Set-ee” instead of “Seth-ee” a year into the race, even in response to reporter questions with the correct pronunciation. Hagerty told POLITICO it was inadvertent, and he didn’t know which pronunciation Sethi, the son of Indian immigrants, prefers.

“Bill Hagerty is Thurston Howell III without the charm,” said Jordan Gehrke, Sethi’s senior strategist, comparing Hagerty to the out-of-touch millionaire in the ’70s-era sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.” “He’s desperate. He should be.”

[…]

On mispronouncing Sethi’s last name on the stump, Hagerty says the slight is unintentional.

“I’m just not sure what his preferred pronunciation is, but there’s nothing underlying it,” Hagerty said.

Lee releases plan for reopening schools in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is Gov. Bill Lee’s plan for reopening schools in Tennessee:

Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced today the State of Tennessee’s recommendations to reopen schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

“Providing parents a choice in their children’s education is incredibly important,” said Gov. Lee. “In-person learning is the medically sound, preferred option. Our state is doing everything we can to work with local school districts and ensure that in-person learning is made available in a way that protects the health and safety of our students and educators, and this plan helps us accomplish that goal.”

“Leading health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, and National Academies of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering, have all stressed the importance of in-person learning for students,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey. “The Department of Health has worked with Department of Education to establish a protocol to keep school buildings open safely and cause minimal disruption when positive cases occur.”

“Tennessee is prioritizing health and safety of our school communities,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. “Ensuring schools, teachers, families, and students have the critical resources and supports they need to start the new school year strong is paramount, and I am thankful to Governor Lee for continuing to support education in Tennessee as schools reopen across the state.”

The recommendations from the Department of Health and the Department of Education are below:

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Pence officially joins list of Hagerty endorsers

Nobody was really surprised when U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) threw her support behind Bill Hagerty’s U.S. Senate bid last week. Throw the endorsement from Vice President Mike Pence on Monday evening into the same category:

While the endorsement underscores the Hagerty narrative of being the choice of President Donald Trump, it would be near unimaginable that Pence wouldn’t take the same position as the commander-in-chief.

But every endorsement counts. Or at least so we’re told…

 

 

Sethi spot features wife blasting Hagerty for attack over $50 donation

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi’s latest ad features his wife, Maya, criticizing rival candidate Bill Hagerty for attacking a $50 donation made to a Democratic congressional candidate a dozen years ago.

“Yep, 50 bucks,” she says in the spot. “Now, Bill Hagerty is attacking me to hurt my husband. But Hagerty gave Mitt Romney and Al Gore over $100,000.”

The donation has featured heavily in attacks by the Hagerty campaign and an independent PAC supporting the former ambassador’s bid. The money was given in Manny Sethi’s name through the online fundraising portal ActBlue.

Here’s a transcript of the new ad:

Twelve years ago, some friends called me for political donations. I sent $50. Yep, 50 bucks.

Now, Bill Hagerty is attacking me to hurt my husband. But Hagerty gave Mitt Romney and Al Gore over $100,000.

If you want a politician who will say and do anything to win, vote Bill Hagerty. For a conservative with integrity, please, vote for Manny.

I’m Manny Sethi, and I approve this message.

Namesake town pushes back against moving Farragut bust

The call to move the bust of Admiral David Farragut from the state Capitol is rubbing residents of his namesake town in East Tennessee the wrong way. As KnoxTNToday’s Betty Bean reports, Farragut was born in Lowe’s Ferry on what was then called the Holston River. He moved away as a child before embarking on a Navy career that later led his home town to be named after him and the high school mascot to be called the Admirals.

According to Bean:

Farragut had a spectacular career. He was the first-ever American admiral (the Navy had theretofore resisted the hoity-toity British-sounding title) and served an astounding 60 years, capped by decisive, Civil War momentum-changing victories in New Orleans and Mobile Bay.

He probably didn’t say, “Damn the torpedoes and full-steam ahead!” after the Rebs sank one of his ships and then took aim at the one he was on, but he said something very like it, and was a key figure in the ultimate Union victory.

Comptroller Justin Wilson successfully amended a motion to move the bust of Forrest, long a controversial figure because of his career as a slave trader and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan,  to also include the busts of Farragut and fellow Admiral Albert Gleaves, who served in the Spanish-American War and World War I.

The State Capitol Commission voted 9-2 to recommend the removal of the busts to the Tennessee Historical Commission. That latter panel can consider amendments to the proposal, but such a move would likely draw out an already lengthy process. Petitions can only be taken up six months after they are received, and the clock resets for any amendments.

 

Hagerty-supporting PAC pushes back against Sethi’s effort to block ad

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi speaks at a campaign event in Clarksville on Feb. 4, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

An outside PAC supporting Bill Hagerty’s bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination is pushing back against rival Manny Sethi’s efforts to get TV stations to drop its ad.

Sethis’s lawyers this week called the ad by the Standing with Conservatives PAC “knowingly dishonest” for suggesting a $50 donation to Democratic congressional candidate in 2008 was linked to  online contribution processor ActBlue’s later support for Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

“The ability to criticize a public figure’s actions, and to discuss matters of public importance, lies at the heart of the First Amendment, as courts have repeatedly recognized,” Karen Blackistonea lawyer for Standing with Conservatives, wrote to station managers.

“The Candidate denies supporting ActBlue and asserts that ActBlue does not conduct any advocacy. Per ActBlue’s website, ActBlue is more than just a credit card processor. It is dedicated to empowering democratic and progressive liberal campaigns build their movements,” Blackistone wrote “ActBlue exclusively permits certain groups to use its services that shares similar liberal, progressive values.”

The ads were still on the air of as late this week.

The full letter from Standing with Conservatives follows.

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Sethi says voters have choice: ‘Me or Mitt Romney’s guy’

U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi is out with a new ad responding to a barrage from rival Republican Bill Hagerty. While the spot seeks to paint Sethi as the victim of “all these crazy attacks,” the Vanderbilt surgeon also gets in his own barb at Hagerty.

“End of the day, it’s about who you believe: Me or Mitt Romney’s guy,” Sethi says in the ad. Here’s the whole thing:

Transcript:

All these crazy attack ads. Bill Hagerty can do that if he wants; that’s not me. You know why Hagerty’s doing this, right? Because we’re winning.

The truth: I hate Obamacare. Testified against it in front of the Senate. I’m a Christian–which is why I’m pro-life. And as a doctor, I know those are babies.

End of the day, it’s about who you believe: Me or Mitt Romney’s guy. I’d sure appreciate your vote.

I’m Manny Sethi, and I approve this message.

Ted Cruz endorses Sethi, Blackburn backs Hagerty

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi speaks at a campaign event in Clarksville on Feb. 4, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the runner-up to Donald Trump in the Tennessee’s 2016 presidential primary, is endorsing Manny Sethi in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. Trump, of course, has endorsed rival candidate Bill Hagerty.

Cruz’s endorsement of Sethi follows a nod by another 2016 presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“Primaries are a time for choosing,” Cruz said in a statement. “Too many times the Washington swamp tries to trick voters into choosing their preferred candidate.”

Trump carried 39% of the vote in Tennessee’s Republican presidential primary in 2016, while Cruz won 25%. The third-place finisher was U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who received 21%.

UPDATE: U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) formally endorsed Hagerty on Wednesday afternoon.

“I fully support Bill Hagerty for the United States Senate, because I need a true Tennessee conservative to stand with me to protect our Tennessee values,” Blackburn said in a statement.

Paul campaigned with Sethi in Murfreesboro over the weekend, while U.S. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is coming to Middle Tennessee on behalf of Hagerty this week.

“Bill is a strong conservative leader and a trusted friend to President Trump. We need Bill in the U.S. Senate,” Cotton said in a Hagerty release.

(The Cruz announcement on Sethi follows.)

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