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Here’s who the TSEA isn’t endorsing in the primaries

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee State Employees Association has announced its endorsements in legislative primaries around the state. The TSEA gave the nod to the 11 incumbents running for re-election in the Senate and 58 sitting members in the House.

The group endorsed former Rep. Page Walley in the Republican primary for the open Senate 26 seat against former Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton. It also gave the nod to former Rep. Scotty Campbell over National Guard Lt. Col. Neal Kerney in the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville).

The list of members who did not receive a TSEA endorsement includes some prominent members like House Majority Leader William Lamberth, House Minority Leader Karen Camper, House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager.

The early voting period for the Aug. 6 contests begins on Friday.

Here’s the full list of incumbents who didn’t get the TSEA endorsement:

SENATE:

  • District 8: Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains)
  • District 10: Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga)
  • District 12: Ken Yager (R-Kingston)

HOUSE:

  • District 1: John Crawford (R-Kingsport)
  • District 5: David Hawk (R-Greeneville)
  • District 9: Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville)
  • District 10: Rick Eldridge (R-Morristown)
  • District 11: Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby)
  • District 12: Dale Carr (R-Sevierville)
  • District 21: Lowell Russell (R-Vonore)
  • District 26: Robin Smith (R-Hixson)
  • District 28: Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga)
  • District 29: Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah)
  • District 33: John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge)
  • District 39: Iris Rudder (R-Winchester)
  • District 41: John Mark Windle (D-Livingston)
  • District 44: William Lamberth (R-Portland)
  • District 46: Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon)
  • District 47: Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma)
  • District 50: Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville)
  • District 51: Bill Beck (D-Nashville)
  • District 53: Jason Powell (D-Nashville)
  • District 55: John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville)
  • District 58: Harold Love (D-Nashville)
  • District 59: Jason Potts (D-Nashville)
  • District 62: Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville)
  • District 68: Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville)
  • District 81: Debra Moody (R-Covington)
  • District 87: Karen Camper (D-Memphis)
  • District 89: Justin Lafferty (R-Knoxville)
  • District 92: Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg)
  • District 94: Ron Gant (R-Rossville)

Prominent Tennessee businesses laud Lee effort to move Forrest bust

A group of prominent Tennessee businesses is lauding Gov. Bill Lee’s efforts to move the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest out of the state Capitol.

The Monday letter was signed by 34 companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Bridgestone, Cracker Barrel, FedEx, Google, HCA Healthcare, Nissan, Unum, Vanderbilt, and Volkswagen. The letter was also signed by Pilot Co., the truckstop chain controlled by the family of former Gov. Bill Haslam.

Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Governor Lee:

We, the businesses listed below, wish to applaud you and the State Capitol Commission for taking an important first step towards the removal of the bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest 
from the Tennessee State Capitol building.

This controversial bust was installed in the Capitol in 1978 despite widespread objections and remains a symbol of oppression for many Tennesseans. A statue of a man who was the first Grand Wizard of the
Ku Klux Klan should not be granted a place of honor in the State Capitol, a building that must remain a beacon of hope, liberty, and democracy.

As leading businesses and corporations in the state, we recognize our  obligation to stand for equality and justice — not just for our employees, but for all Tennesseans. Honoring those who propagated racism and prejudice only serves to further divide our communities and reinforce inequities in our society.

We strongly urge the Tennessee Historical Commission to vote for the prompt removal of the Forrest bust from the Tennessee State Capitol building and ask all Tennessee policymakers to consider additional avenues to recognize wrongs against the Black community and make racial justice a priority. 

Sethi blasts ruling by Trump-appointed judge who is son of RNC member

It didn’t take Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi long to blast a federal judge in Nashville for issuing a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the new abortion ban Gov. Bill Lee signed into law on Monday.

According to Sethi, “an activist judge barely waited until the ink was dry to promote his own pro-choice view.”

There’s two problems with Sethi’s logic. First, U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell was appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate on a 97-0 vote. And second, Campbell’s mother, Beth Campbell, is a Tennessee representative on the Republican National Committee and served as host to a Sethi fundraiser in Nashville in September.

Sethi wasn’t alone in in criticizing the judge. Rival Republican candidate Bill Hagerty also spoke out against the ruling.

Tenn. abortion ban in effect for less than an hour before it is halted

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A federal judge on Monday granted an temporary restraining order against enforcing Tennessee’s sweeping abortion ban less than an hour after Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law.

U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell, an appointee President Donald Trump, found  “plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the restrictions …  are unconstitutional under current law.”

“Like the Seventh, Eighth, and Fifth Circuits, this Court is bound by the Supreme Court holdings prohibiting undue burdens on the availability of pre-viability abortions,” he wrote in the ruling.

Read the order here.

The bill seeking to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected passed in a last-minute deal between the House and Senate the night the General Assembly adjourned for the year.  If any part of the bill was found to be unconstitutional, the law seeks to impose successive abortion bans eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of gestation. That “ladder” approach didn’t appear to keep most of the law from being enjoined.

 

Company tweet causes tempest in Tennessee Senate race

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 has resigned from the board of R.J. O’Brien & Associates over social media posts sent by the futures brokerage firm voicing support for the African American community and Black Lives Matter.

The National Pulse, a project of the American Principles Project, first wrote about Hagerty’s role with the company based on a financial disclosure the candidate filed with the Senate on Friday.

The company said in a May 31 tweet (since deleted):

R.J. O’Brien stands proudly with the African American Community in support of EQUALITY & PEACE. #BLACKLIVESMATTER

Rival Republican candidate Manny Sethi’s campaign quickly seized on the National Pulse item:

The Breitbart website quickly moved to publish Hagerty’s letter of resignation to R.J. O’Brien CEO Gerald Corcoran:

I cannot in good conscience remain affiliated in any way with the promotion of a radical political movement that seeks to use this moment to overthrow the government and usher in Marxism. This movement wants to rip apart the fabric of our country and destroy many aspects of what makes America exceptional. I vehemently oppose their calls for violence and relentless march towards socialism. Please accept this as my resignation from R.J. O’Brien effective immediately.

Unsurprisingly, the Sethi camp wasn’t impressed, issuing the following statement:

This is simple: Bill Hagerty has been making money from a company giving money to Black Lives Matter, while his campaign has been spending millions of dollars pretending to oppose Black Lives Matter. He only resigned once he was caught. He’s a hypocrite and a fraud, just like his buddy Mitt Romney.

Family of senator who led effort to place Forrest bust in Capitol supports its removal

The doors of the state Capitol were closed to the public on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The State Capitol Commission voted 9-2 to recommend removing the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the statehouse, clearing the first major hurdle toward getting the monument relocated to the Tennessee State Museum.

Forrest gained notoriety for his exploits as a Confederate cavalry general during the Civil War, but his prior career as a slave trader and his later leadership role in the Ku Klux Klan have long raised protests about whether it was appropriate for his likeness to be so prominently displayed at the Capitol.

While the bust was placed in the Capitol in 1978 at the behest of what was a rural Democratic majority in the General Assembly, Republicans have largely taken up the mantle of resisting its removal since taking over control. In the Senate, personal factors have come into play. The late Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) was instrumental in getting the bust placed in the Capitol in the 1970s. Henry, the longtime chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is revered by Republicans who served with him for his conservative approach to fiscal and social issues.

But Henry’s children and adult grandchildren wrote to the State Capitol Commission this week to urge the panel to move Forrest bust out of the building:

My siblings and I have debated the following question recently: would our father see the continued presence of the bust of Forrest as a benefit to the state of Tennessee? My brother Bob wrote to me, in a manner reminiscent of our late father, that he believes that our father would “concede posthumously, to its dismissal from the Capitol Building.” We, the undersigned, agree.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Commissioner Eley,

Hello. My name is Kathryn Henry-Choisser, and I am one of the late Sen. Douglas Henry’s daughters. It has come to my attention that the State Capitol Commission will be meeting on July 9th, and that the fate of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest is likely to be decided at that meeting. I, along with most of my siblings and a majority of the grandchildren of voting age, politely request that the statue be removed.

As you know, 47 years ago, my father first proposed that a bust of Forrest be placed in the beautiful Tennessee State Capitol. Funds were raised, a sculpture was created, and a few years later the bust was placed in a niche on the second floor of the Capitol. I feel confident that the placement of the sculpture caused anger, disappointment, and shock to many Tennesseans in 1978. Over the decades however, we have all been made increasingly aware of the pain and anguish this statue continues to cause. I believe that this pain and anguish can no longer be ignored. I also believe, as did my father, that lawmakers are held to a higher moral standard than the average citizen, since the lawmakers’ beliefs and the laws they pass have long term legal and ethical implications for the voters they represent. So I must ask you why – in the sacred halls where laws affecting all Tennesseans are passed – is this statue allowed to remain? How can the laws be trusted, the lawmakers themselves be trusted- if the presence of a man such as Nathan Bedford Forrest is allowed?

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Alexander opposes Trump move on WHO

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 is speaking out against President Donald Trump’s move to withdraw the United States’ membership in the World Health Organization.

Alexander (R-Maryville) is the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Pension, and Labor Committee. Here’s what he said on the WHO decision:

I disagree with the president’s decision. Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it. Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need. And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States. If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen.

While critics tend to label the retiring senator a moderate, FiveThirtyEight.com rates him among one of the more likely members to vote with the president at 90.3% of the time. Tennessee’ junior senator, Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, votes with Trump 91.9% of the time, according the site. Here’s where some senators rate in relation

  • Cruz (R-Texas): 92.4%
  • Blackburn (R-Tenn.): 91.9%
  • Scott (R-Fla.): 91.9%
  • Rubio (R-Fla.): 90.8%
  • Alexander (R-Tenn.): 90.3%
  • Cotton (R-Ark.): 87.7%
  • Graham (R-S..C.): 87.1%
  • Romney (R-Utah): 81.1%
  • Paul (R-Ky.): 69.6%

Internal polls give contrasting views of GOP Senate contest

Internal polling by Republican candidates Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi show a stark contrast in the state of play in the U.S. Senate race.

The poll by the Hagerty campaign shows the former U.S. ambassador with a wide lead, while the survey by the Sethi camp has the Vanderbilt surgeon narrowly behind with 11 days remaining until early voting.

The Hagerty poll has him with 45%, compared with 29% for Sethi, and 5% for George Flinn.

Sethi’s poll has Hagerty with 33%, Sethi with 31%, and Flinn with 6%.

The Sethi campaign said its polling number have improved dramatically since early June, when he was down 27% to 11%. The poll of 800 likely Republican voters was conducted by Victory Phones between June 30 and July 1. The margin of error is placed a plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The same pollster was used by Bill Lee’s successful gubernatorial campaign in 2018, coming within 2 percentage points of the outcome of that primary.

The Hagerty poll of 651 likely Republican primary voters was conducted by the Tarrance Group between June 28 and June 30. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Hargery survey found double-digit leads among primary voters in the Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, and Tri-Cities media markets and more than 50% those who have voted in four of the last four primaries.

Absentee voting well ahead of 2016 primary, nearing level of last presidential election

Secretary of State Tre Hargett speaks with Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) before Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Requests for absentee ballots are well ahead of the number cast in the August 2016 primary and are already coming close to matching the levels of that year’s November presidential election, according to data gathered by The Tennessean‘s Joel Ebert and Carmel Kookogey.

The Secretary of State’s office said it doesn’t keep track of absentee ballot requests, referring the newspaper to local election commissions. The newspaper contacted officials in all 95 counties. Eighty provided information on how many mail-in ballots had been requested as of last week, nine refused to release data, and six did not respond.

A judge last month ordered the state to allow anyone who fears infection by the coronavirus to cast absentee ballots. The state is appealing that ruling, but it’s unlikely the Supreme Court will decide the issue before the Aug. 6 primary.

About 57,000 absentee ballots had been requested as of last week. That compares with about about 12,000 for the August 2016 primary and 64,000 for that year’s general election.

A look at the percentage difference between absentee ballot requests this year and the number cast in August and November 2016 follows after the jump.

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Deadline to register to vote in Aug. 6 primary is upon us

Image: Secretary of State’s office.

Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote for the Aug. 6 primary.

Registrations can be mailed or handed in to county election commissions or submitted online to through the Secretary of State’s website. Choosing the online route will make first-time voters ineligible to cast absentee ballots.

Early voting begins on July 17.

This year’s primary election includes a hard-fought contests for the Republican nominations to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City). There’s also several open races and contested primaries for state House and Senate seats.