Sethi breaks cover, endorses Hagerty

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

Forty-nine days from his disappointing showing in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi is breaking his silence and endorsing former Ambassador Bill Hagerty.

Sethi was a no-show at the state Republican Party’s traditional “unity rally” following the bitter primary campaign. Some of the ill will appears to have faded with time.

“The odds we faced were very difficult, but we stretched the campaign to 12 rounds, went toe to toe with a well-funded opponent, and won the hearts of 250,000 Tennesseans all across the state who placed their trust in me,” Sethi said in an email blast to supporters. “We had a grassroots team second to none, great senior staff leadership, and we kept the campaign clean and focused on the issues.”

Here’s the full email from Sethi:

My friends,

First of all, from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for standing with me in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. It was indeed an honor to run for public office, but most importantly, to meet folks from all walks of life who love this country and will continue to fight for the freedoms we value. Since August, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and have been reminded that there is nothing more important in life than faith and family. Of course, my children miss rolling on the Big Orange RV, but they are certainly happy to have their dad back home.  

Elections are tough and not for the weak, and while we came up short,  I am so proud of what we accomplished together. The odds we faced were very difficult, but we stretched the campaign to 12 rounds, went toe to toe with a well-funded opponent, and won the hearts of 250,000 Tennesseans all across the state who placed their trust in me. We had a grassroots team second to none, great senior staff leadership, and we kept the campaign clean and focused on the issues. As my daddy would say, “Not bad, not bad at all.”

Our conservative cause remains just as true today, as it did over a year ago when I decided to run for the Senate. The one amazing thing that stands crystal clear after all the television ads and rallies, the child of two immigrants from India, who grew up in rural Tennessee and ran for the United States Senate on the Republican ballot, was able to write a chapter in the book called the American story. We should never lose sight of reaching for the top and capturing our dreams. In the weeks ahead, regardless of what the media and the Democrats try to portray about our country, just remember we are Americans — we make no apologies on who we are and what we stand for because we are the greatest country in the world.

Our way of life is literally on the ballot in November, and now more than ever, it is critical that we stand behind and strongly support our Republican candidates. We must re-elect President Donald Trump, and we must elect Ambassador Bill Hagerty, who has served our state and country well, for the U.S. Senate. Our future is in our own hands, I know you will do your part. For me, this wasn’t my place in time to be in public office, but my resolve is not shaken, and my spirit is not broken, so let’s work together to ensure victory for all Republicans on November 3rd. Our future depends on it.

God Bless,

Dr. Manny

Farmer challenging Lamberth for majority leader

Reps. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), right, and Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) speak before a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville) is challenging Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) for the position of House majority leader this fall, according to a letter to colleagues obtained by the The Tennessee Journal.

Farmer and Lamberth were two of four Republican attorneys first elected to the House in 2012 (the other two were Rep. Mike Carter of Ooltewah and disgraced former Rep. Jeremy Durham of Franklin). Farmer won the District 17 seat following Republican Rep. Frank Niceley’s election to the state Senate, while Lamberth was elected the District 44 seat vacated by the retirement of Rep. Mike McDonald (D-Portland).

Lamberth won the chamber’s No. 2 leadership position in November 2018 in the same caucus election that saw Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) nominated for what turned out to be a truncated speakership.

Here’s Farmer’s letter:

Dear Members,

As most of you know, I have been considering the opportunity to run for a caucus leadership position. Realizing the challenges of the upcoming session, I am ready to work with you to face those challenges to make a positive impact on our great state. After much prayer, deliberation and discussion with my wife and family, I have decided to announce my candidacy for House Majority Leader.

Our caucus benefits from a wide range of abilities, viewpoints and experiences among the members. As Majority Leader, I will work to help every member effectively represent their district. We all deserve to make a difference, and that is only accomplished when all of our voices are heard. We only reach our full potential when we recognize the wisdom of our constituents who put us here in the first place. After more than a decade as an attorney I have experienced the challenges that individuals, businesses, and families face. I have learned that listening and understanding their needs are always the first step in helping. By applying those same principles we can make the upcoming session both exciting and productive.

I appreciate the support that so many of you have already offered and I look forward to meeting individually with each one of you to discuss how we, together can reach new heights as a unified caucus. I am respectfully asking each of you for your support and vote.

Sincerely,

Andrew Farmer

Report: Democratic congressional nominee bounced checks to Biden, state party

Christopher Hale, a candidate for the 4th Congressional District who won the Democratic nomination despite fraud allegations dating back to his time as the head of a Catholic nonprofit in Washington, bounced checks to presidential candidate Joe Biden and the state party, according to the Tennessee Lookout.

According to Lookout reporter Nate Rau, Hale bounced a $2,000 check to attend a Biden fundraiser last year. Another $2,500 to the Tennessee Democratic Party didn’t clear in July 2019. Haile issued a series of denials about failing to cover his checks. He told the Lookout he had been invited to the Biden fundraiser by host Bill Freeman without being required to pay. He said he was unaware of a problem with the check to the state party.

After losing a previous bid for the Democratic nomination in the 4th District, Hale proposed launching a political action committee to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support campaigns. While he did found the Our Tennessee PAC, it has since shown no fundraising activity, according to campaign finance reports.

State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said Hale told her he planned to raise between $150,000 and $200,000.

“He told me, and he told a lot of people, he was going to raise all this money and he never did,” shesaid.

Read the full report here.

Lynn’s QAnon posts raise concerns with campaign donor

Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) hugs a colleague at GOP caucus meeting on July 24, 2019, in Nashville while Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), right, looks on.. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State House Finance Chair Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) tells the Associated Press she doesn’t support QAnon conspiracy theories even through she posted the group’s slogan on her social media accounts.

A spokeswoman for Brown-Forman, the corporate parent of Jack Daniel’s, told the AP’s Michael Kunzelman it wouldn’t have donated to Lynn had the company known of her QAnon postings.

“Now that our awareness is raised, we will reevaluate our criteria for giving to help identify affiliations like this in the future,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Conway said in a statement.

Other corporate donors like Amazon and Walmart didn’t respond to the AP’s request for comment.

The AP describes QAnon as being based on “the baseless belief that President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.” QAnon has been linked to killings and attempted kidnappings..

According to the AP account:

“This is the United States of America, and I am absolutely free to tweet or retweet anything I want,” she said. “I don’t understand why this is even an issue. Believe me, I am not in the inside of some QAnon movement.”

But in October 2019, Lynn retweeted posts by QAnon-promoting accounts with tens of thousands of followers. One of the posts she retweeted praised Trump and included the hashtag #TheGreatAwakening, a phrase commonly invoked by QAnon followers.

[…]

In April, Lynn updated her Facebook page with a cover photo that included a flag with stars forming a “Q” above the abbreviation “WWG1WGA,” which stands for the QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all.” In May and June, Lynn punctuated several tweets with the same abbreviation.

And when a leading QAnon supporter nicknamed “Praying Medic” tweeted the message, “Is it time to Q the Trump rallies?” Lynn responded, “It is time!” in a May 31 tweet of her own. 

Lynn said she viewed “Where we go one, we go all” as a “very unifying slogan” and didn’t know it was a QAnon motto. However, a handful of Facebook users who replied to her updated cover photo in April commented on the QAnon connection. The flag is no longer her cover photo but could still be seen in the feed on her page on Friday. 

Read the full story here.

Alexander supports effort to promptly vote on Ginsburg replacement

U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) attend a Tennessee Titans event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)


U.S. Sen Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) wants to promptly take up the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nomination to succeed the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg even though he was among Republicans who argued against taking up Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination to fill a high court vacancy in 2016.

“No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican President’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year,” Alexander said. “The Constitution gives senators the power to do it. The voters who elected them expect it. Going back to George Washington, the Senate has confirmed many nominees to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year. It has refused to confirm several when the President and Senate majority were of different parties. Senator McConnell is only doing what Democrat leaders have said they would do if the shoe were on the other foot.” 

“I have voted to confirm Justices Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh based upon their intelligence, character and temperament. I will apply the same standard when I consider President Trump’s nomination to replace Justice Ginsburg,” he said.

Here’s what Alexander said in 2016:

Tennessee reaction to passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday was met with condolences from across the country and within Tennessee.

While most delivered laudatory commentary about Ginsburg’s trailblazing career, Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Bill Hagerty wasted little time in calling on President Donald Trump to quickly nominate a conservative replacement on the nation’s highest court. Senate Republicans in 2016 famously refused to take up then-President Barack Obama’s nomination to succeed deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in February of that year, because of the upcoming election.

Here is some reaction from Tennessee officials:

President Donald Trump can — and should — nominate a constitutionalist to fill this Supreme Court vacancy; the future of our nation for generations to come depends on it.” 

— Republican U.S. Senate nominee Bill Hagerty of Nashville.

Justice Ginsburg was a smart, talented trailblazer who paved the way for women in the judiciary. She worked hard to achieve prominence on her own merit, and I thank her for her service to our country. 

— U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood)

She made a major difference in the lives of all Americans, but particularly in the lives of the young women who just want a chance to compete on a level playing field and pursue their dreams.

— U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis)

Justice Ginsburg brought decency, intelligence and principle to the Supreme Court. Her life inspired many Americans, especially young women. Her service to our country deserves great respect.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville)

The Nashville Post’s Stephen Elliott dug out some comments from Alexander dating back to political fight over the 2016 Supreme Court vacancy:

Letting the mask slip: Lee defends lack of face covering for Trump boat rally

(Image credit: Bill Hagerty campaign)

While Gov. Bill Lee has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate, he has been a prominent proponent of using face coverings to help stem the spread of COVID-19. But the governor was put on the defensive by a photo posted to social media by Bill Hagerty showing the Republican U.S. Senate nominee living it up at a Trump boat rally with Lee, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and state Sen. Janice Bowling.

“There are circumstances where I don’t wear a mask because I don’t feel I’m at risk in that situation,” Lee said. “But, yeah, I felt safe. And when I don’t, I wear a mask.”

The Lee administration is spending more than $4 million through the end of the year on its “Face It” multimedia ad campaign to urge mask usage.

“I think Tennesseans need to know, and they hear me every day and they see me in masks every day,” the governor said at a press conference this week. “They watch what we say and what we do. I think it’s really important that I think it’s very serious.”

About 3,000 people attended the 400-boat rally, according to the The Herald Chronicle.

Buttigeig endorses Bradshaw, Harris

Pete Buttigeig (Photo credit: Win the Era)

Former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigeig is endorsing Tennessee Democratic candidates Marquita Bradshaw for U.S. Senate and Torrey Harris for state House.

Bradshaw was the surprise winner of the Democratic nomination in August over Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee favorite James Mackler, who ended up finishing third.

According to a Buttigeig statement posted by his Win the Era organization:

Marquita Bradshaw has spent her career advocating for her community and connecting with people around shared policy outcomes. These efforts are now the cornerstone of her groundbreaking, inspiring campaign. She knows first hand that policy should reflect the lived experiences of the people they are designed to help. She will bring this same perspective to the halls of the Senate and I’m excited to support Marquita in her historic run to represent the hard-working people of Tennessee.

Harris won the House District 90 nomination in Memphis after the state Democratic Party booted longtime state Rep. John DeBerry from its primary ballot due to his propensity of voting with Republicans on issues ranging from abortion to school vouchers.

Here’s what Buttigeig had to say about him:

Through Torrey Harris’ tireless work as a community advocate, he has modeled a willingness to listen, empower, and serve. That is exactly the type of leadership this moment demands and I’m proud to support his campaign.

Meanwhile, DeBerry was endorsed by the Americans for Prosperity and Republican U.S. Senate Bill Hagerty got the nod from the National Federation of Independent Business.

According to NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin:

Bill Hagerty has a true understanding of the challenges our members are facing. We have no doubt that he will be an excellent champion for them in the Senate, and we are pleased to endorse him”

Americans for Prosperity endorses ousted Democrat DeBerry

The political arm of the conservative Koch network is endorsing state Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis in his bid to hold on to his state House seat after being booted from the Democratic primary ballot over his propensity of voting with Republicans on issues ranging from abortion to school vouchers.

Rep. John DeBerry.

Americans for Prosperity Action adviser Tori Venable said in a release that DeBerry “exemplifies the very best Tennesseans look for in a legislator, someone who is principled and not afraid to put party loyalties aside to do what is right for his constituents.”

Republican lawmakers passed a new law after DeBerry was removed from the Democratic ballot to allow him to run as an independent in November.

“Rep. DeBerry understands we need to make students the center of our education system, not buildings and bureaucracies,” Venable said. “Now more than ever, we are seeing how our education system locks students in a one-size fits all setting that doesn’t provide the flexibility to help students and families meet their needs.”

Torrey Harris won the Democratic nomination in House District 90 following DeBerry’s ouster.

During last month’s special legislative session, DeBerry was cheered by House Republicans following an impassioned speech in favor of legislation aimed at cracking down on unruly protesters camped outside the state Capitol. The bill passed 71-20, with only one other Democrat voting in favor.

District 90 Democratic nominee Torrey Harris charged “DeBerry and other like-minded Republicans” with targeting the protesters because they had embarrassed them. Harris said he couldn’t understand why an African-American lawmaker from Memphis would vote to punish protests in response to an unarmed black man being killed by police, saying it “defies logic to me and reeks of Republican Trumpism.”

Hargett says it will be ‘surprise’ if full results available by end of Election Day

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)

Secretary of State Tre Hargett says it will be a surprise if full results are available by the end of Election Day, according to reporter Hank Hayes of the Kingsport Times-News.

“We’re going to see a spike in absentee ballots. I don’t know how heavy that will be,” Hargett said. “I hope I’m pleasantly surprised like I was in August, when 95 counties had their election results done by midnight.”

The Secretary of State’s office has taken to the courts to try to fend off efforts to expand access to absentee voting during the pandemic.

Early voting starts on Oct. 14 and runs through Oct. 29. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. Mail-in ballots must be received via the Postal Service by Election Day in order to be counted.

Hayes pressed Hargett on his plans after the election.

“We’re trying to run an election 50 days from now,” Hargett said. “I am going to ask the legislature to re-elect me for another four-year term in January. I’ve got a lot of work to do. We still see a lot of areas where we think we can do better in. That’s what I’m focused on.”

A joint convention of the General Assembly will vote on the next four-year term for the Secretary of State in January. Hargett, a former state lawmaker, was first elected to the job in 2009. He got into some hot water in 2014 after a staffer reserved a website for a potential gubernatorial bid.

Hargett acknowledged to WTVF-TV at the time it might not have looked good, but said the site had been reserved to protect him from someone else grabbing it. He later announced he wouldn’t run for governor.