NFIB endorses reelection of 18 incumbent Republican state legislators and two Democrats (including ‘black Republican’ Tate)

The National Federation of Independent Business’ Tennessee political action committee has endorsed 20 incumbent state legislators for reelection – 18 Republicans and two Democrats. Sen. Reginal Tate and Rep. John DeBerry, both of Memphis. NFIB typically only endorses incumbents.

The Nashville Post notes that Tate’s Democratic primary opponent, Katrina Robinson, was recently endorsed by Democratic state Sens. Lee Harris and Sara Kyle, also representing Memphis. And that Tate and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron were recently recorded at a legislative committee meeting joking about that unusual move and Tate’s status as “a black Republican.”

Two weeks ago, before a meeting of the Joint Fiscal Review Committee, seemingly not realizing the microphones were turned on, Tate laughingly complained to Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) about the lack of support he’s getting from fellow members of the Senate’s tiny Democratic caucus in his bid for a fourth term.

“The only thing they got on me is that they say I vote with the Republicans,” Tate said. “That’s the only thing they got on me. They say I vote Republican. … I told them I’m not white, but I’m a black Republican.” Then Tate and Ketron burst out laughing.

“You vote the way that you feel like you need to vote, not the way the party made you to vote, right?” Ketron replied after a brief exchange. “Because the Democrats are —”

“Full of shit,” Tate interrupted.

“They are,” Ketron replied. “And sometimes the Republicans are full of shit.” Ketron, the Senate Majority Caucus Chair, is not running for reelection and is instead running for Rutherford County Mayor.

… NFIB Tennessee state director Jim Brown said the PAC’s endorsement of Tate and DeBerry was based on their voting records on bills the advocacy group either supported or opposed, regardless of party affiliation.

“If they’ve been consistently voting with us, then we’re going to endorse incumbents,” Brown said, noting that he has a good working relationship with many Democrats to the left of the Memphis legislators. “There are other Democrats that we will be endorsing in the general election.”

Brown said some, but not all, of the endorsed candidates would receive donations from $500 to $1,000 from the PAC, but he did not expect it would be involved in get out the vote efforts until after the primary.

(Note: The Commercial Appeal has posted video of the Tate-Ketron conversation HERE. It appears to be no longer available on the legislative website.)

Here’s the NFIB press release including a list of all those endorsed:

NASHVILLE, June 13, 2018 – NFIB, Tennessee’s leading small business association, today said it has endorsed candidates in 20 state legislative primary races. The endorsements were made by the NFIB Tennessee Political Action Committee, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members.

State primaries are Thursday, Aug. 2, with early voting beginning July 13 and ending July 28. The NFIB Tennessee PAC plans to announce all statewide endorsements for the Nov. 6 general election later this summer.

“NFIB endorses candidates who strongly support small businesses and who are dedicated to protecting free enterprise,” said Jim Brown, Tennessee state director, noting seven of the 20 endorsed primary candidates are NFIB members. “These candidates have a proven track record of standing up for small businesses and promoting a positive regulatory, labor and tax environment for Tennessee’s job creators.”

The NFIB Tennessee PAC’s endorsement is important to these campaigns. Small business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for actively recruiting friends, family members, and acquaintances to go to the polls. NFIB has pledged it will activate its grassroots network on behalf of these campaigns. NFIB’s political support is based on the candidates’ positions and records on small-business issues.

Endorsements by Senate and House Districts (NFIB members bolded)


District, Name

2, Art Swann

27, Ed Jackson

33, Reginald Tate


District, Name

4, John B. Holsclaw Jr.

6, Micah Van Huss

8, Jerome Moon

9, Gary Hicks

11, Jeremy Faison

35, Jerry Sexton

40, Terri Lynn Weaver

43, Paul Sherrell

46, Clark Boyd

49, Mike Sparks

57, Susan Lynn

70, Barry Doss

75, Tim Wirgau

76, Andy Holt

83, Mark White

90, John DeBerry Jr.

92, Rick Tillis

Note: Previous post on Kyle and Harris endorsing Tate’s opponent HERE.

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