Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

Sethi charges GOP establishment in Tennessee, DC sought to ‘scare’ him off of Senate race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi says in a new Facebook post that unnamed persons “at the highest levels of Tennessee and DC politics” sought to dissuade and even attempt to “scare” him out of running for Tennessee’s open seat.

The Nashville trauma surgeon, who ignored them and announced on June 2 his bid to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, specifically cites the National Republican Senatorial Committee as among them.

“I’ll never forget it — I was at my son’s 6th birthday party when I started getting texts and phone calls from people at the highest levels of Tennessee and DC politics,” Sethi writes in the post. “They were trying to talk me out of running — telling me I had no right to even run, that I would never raise any significant money, that I was wrong to even think of getting in the race.

“Even Mitch McConnell’s National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Washington DC called, which was weird, considering they’re ‘neutral’ in GOP primaries. It was like this all weekend: every few hours, someone trying to persuade me or scare me out of announcing.

After formally entering the race, Sethi said, “things quieted down some — until this last week. Our team announced last Wednesday that we had put over $1.5 million dollars in the bank. A great start.”

Sethi begins the post saying, “what I’m about to say might make some folks uncomfortable, but Tennesseans have a right to hear it. Part of why the GOP Establishment is powerful is because regular people don’t know how they really operate. I think Tennesseans should know what happens behind closed doors then make their own decisions.”

Sethi so far is the only major announced candidate, but U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty plans to announce after he officially leaves his post, which he hopes to do by the end of July.

Hagerty’s candidacy was announced earlier this month by his boss, President Donald Trump who also endorsed him and said he would do all he can to help him.

In the post, Sethi also describes his parents’ impoverished background in India where he said they “lost their homes because of sectarian violence. Despite this, they both went on to become doctors” and legally emigrated to America.

Haslam talks about Senate race, Gov. Lee, and UT in wide-ranging interview

Former Gov. Bill Haslam has tackled a wide variety of issues in one of his first extensive interviews since deciding against running for the U.S. Senate. In his sit-down with WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Haslam discusses how he came to that decision, as well as about his successor Bill Lee’s performance through the first six months of his time as governor, the ongoing saga surrounding the honoring of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Randy Boyd’s job as interim president of the University of Tennessee.

Take a look here:

U.S. Embassy: Hagerty to step down this month for Senate bid

(Photo credit: U.S. Embassy in Japan)

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who is expected to mount a bid for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate in 2020, is officially “in the process of resigning” his diplomatic post “later this month,” the embassy said Tuesday.

The statement comes days after President Donald Trump announced Friday via Twitter that Hagerty was running to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. Trump said Hagerty, a former state economic commissioner who ran a private equity prior to becoming a member of Trump’s presidential team and later his ambassador, has his full support.

The embassy did not say Hagerty planned to run for the Senate seat. Alexander along with fellow Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn are believed to be already privately making calls on Hagerty’s behalf and also plan to publicly endorse him when he makes his candidacy official.

Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi is the only major announced Republican candidate in the race so far. But Republicans U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Memphis and former state senator Jamie Woodson are also considering a bid

Nashville attorney and Iraq war veteran James Mackler has already announced for the seat.

Here’s the U.S. Embassy’s release:

U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty IV is in the process of resigning as Ambassador. He was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Japan on July 27, 2017 and will have served approximately two years.

Ambassador Hagerty is honored to have represented the President and the American people in his work to advance the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Pacific.

Upon Ambassador Hagerty’s departure, Joseph M. Young will assume duties as the U.S. Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

Will this Trump tweet clear the field for Hagerty?

Will this tweet from President Donald Trump cleat the Republican field for Bill Hagerty’s bid for the U.S. Senate?

Haslam announces he won’t run for Senate

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at an event at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville on Aug. 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Gov. Bill Haslam has decided against running for the U.S. Senate, according to a letter submitted to Tennessee Gannett newspapers.

Haslam said he came to the realization that following in the Senate footsteps of his mentors Lamar Alexander and Howard Baker was “not my calling fo the next period of my life.”

“Since leaving office in January, I have wrestled with the possibility of running for the United States Senate,” Haslam wrote in the letter. “I want to thank everyone who has encouraged me and helped me think and pray about this decision.”

“I also apologize to all those who think it has taken me an exceedingly long time to make up my mind!” he said.

The decision throws open the doors to a contested Republican primary. Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi is already in the race. Other potential candidates include U.S. Reps Mark Green and David Kustoff and U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty. Others could give the race a fresh look with Haslam on the sidelines, including two failed gubernatorial candidates from the last cycle: former U.S. Rep. Diane Black and interim UT President Randy Boyd.

UPDATE: Black is out. So is Green. Kustoff still considering.

Sethi to report $1.5M on hand for U.S. Senate bid

Republican Manny Sethi is expected to report $1.5 million on hand in the first campaign finance disclosure for his U.S. Senate bid.

About $542,000 comes from outside donors, while the remainder is in the form of loans from the candidate to stress his personal commitment to the campaign.

Sethi announced his Senate bid on June 3, meaning he had only 20 business days to raise money before the fundraising period ended. The Vanderbilt trauma surgeon is the only major Republican candidate to announce a bid so far for the seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) next year.

Others Republicans considering bids include former Gov. Bill Haslam, Ambassador Bill Hagerty, and U.S. Reps. Mark Green of Ashland City and David Kustoff of Memphis.

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 6, 2020.

 

10 most read TNJ posts of the year (so far)

A breakdown of the attendees at a closed-door meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos was the most read post on the TNJ: On the Hill blog in the first half of 2019.

Inspired — as always — by our friends at the Nashville Post, here are the 10 most read posts on the the TNJ: On the Hill blog through the first half of the year:

Read Carter’s letter to House chairs, vice-chairs

Rep Mike Carter is sworn in to the 111th General Assembly in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is the full text of a letter Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) has written to the chairs and vice chairs in his pursuit of the House speakership:

Dear Chairman:

I am sending this letter to each Chairperson and Vice Chairperson to state in writing that you will retain your current positions if I am elected Speaker. Our 2020 election cycle including President Trump will motivate our opponents and we must be careful to do nothing to give an issue in your race.

We will restore integrity, trust and confidence in the House by promoting the excellent work that each of you perform in your roll as a House leader. Your interest and desires to serve in a given area will be given great weight towards any additional assignments that will be made. Additionally, we will revert back to the long established House rules that vests the power in the members, not the Speaker.

My request to serve you as Speaker is not about me, it’ s about you. I promise to use the Speaker’s office to promote each of you as the “Elected Official” in your district. This will begin with fair treatment to all and retribution to none. You will be asked to vote your conscience and your district not what others tell you to do for their benefit, not yours. Threats and intimidation will not be tolerated. Every member earned the trust and the vote of their district and represents approximately 67,000 people. Your obligations belong to those constituents not the Speaker. To that end I pledge to make myself available at your request for public meetings to promote your leadership and to raise essential funds for your re-election efforts.

I am forming a Speaker’s PAC to be professionally managed and maintained to raise funds for your re-­election efforts. I pledge that none of the funds raised to will go to me or my campaign. The Speaker’s PAC will support members and approved candidates only.

Stability is a key factor in reestablishing the rightful position of the House of Representatives in its powerful constitutional role. We will reinstate long held rules in the House that promote the House as a whole and not the Speaker. With budget savings and continuing with the theme “you are the leader of your district,” we will place flat screens outside each office so you may develop a slide show to promote your district, introduce yourself to observers and constituents, and state your accomplishments for your district. This is but one of many ideas to promote you and your district.

Lets start now and work tirelessly so that at your retirement your constituents will say that their community, district, and state of Tennessee was improved since you served as their state representative.

I hope to meet with each of you soon to gain your advice and answer any questions you may have.

Respectfully submitted,
/signed/
Mike Carter
District 29

 

What’s happening with the Medicaid block grants? Lee still ‘exploring’

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on March 19, 2019, about his proposal to introduce an education savings account program in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is assembling a Health Care Modernization Task Force, but appears not to have decided whether to pursue a Medicaid block grant from the federal government, the Daily Memphian reports.

Lee told the publication that his office is putting together the task force made up of health care industry members, providers, and patients to come up with ways to cut costs and “increase access and affordability for everybody.”

The governor is still “exploring the idea” of block grants, he said at a recent event in Shelbyville.

“If we pursue [a block grant], we’ll be the first state in the country to do it,” Lee said. “And that is to take federal funding for our TennCare-Medicaid population and spend it in a way that allows us to do it more effectively in Tennessee than the way the federal government tells us we have to.”

 

House Minority Leader Karen Camper, who served on former Speaker Beth Harwell’s 3-Star Healthy Task Force, questioned the point of another group to study the issue.

“Now we are in a different General Assembly, with new leaders and a new governor. Not only have the players changed, but we are also working in the shadows of the Medicaid block grant waiver, which was passed by our General Assembly. We do not yet know the consequences of this legislation and how the federal government will respond to this waiver request,” she told the Daily Memphian.

 

Lee sets special session for Aug. 23

Gov. Bill Lee has scheduled the special session to replace House Speaker Glen Casada for Aug. 23.

The House Republican Caucus is scheduled to meet on July 24 to nominate the next speaker.