Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

COVID diagnosis in Senate raises concerns (UPDATED)

The Senate meets in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A state senator has tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the special session and other lawmakers and staffers may have been exposed, The Tennessee Journal has learned.

UPDATE: Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) has confirmed he has tested positive:

“I was informed yesterday afternoon that I have tested positive for COVID-19.  I am quarantining at home with mild symptoms,” Jackson said in a statement. “I have received excellent care and am thankful for all of our health professionals who are on the front lines in fighting this virus.”

One further senator is believed to be in quarantine, while another is remaining on duty because he already had COVID-19. The office of legislative adminstration declined to confirm or deny any infections due to privacy concerns.

The incident comes despite enhanced measures the Senate has taken to try to fight the spread of COVID-19. The upper chamber has required social distancing between members in committees and on the floor while banning the public from its meetings. But nothing prevents lawmakers from congregating in their offices, elevators, or hallways of the Capitol complex.

At least nine House members have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

New charges filed against Democratic Sen. Robinson

The Tennessee Senate meets on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New charges have been filed against state Sen. Katrina Robinson. The Memphis Democrat was previously indicted on 48 federal fraud counts in July 2020 — 24 each of wire fraud and theft and embezzlement from the government. Robinson has denied wrongdoing.

Here’s the U.S. Justice Department release outlining the latest developments:

MEMPHIS, TN – Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson, 40, has been federally charged in a new case, along with two other co-defendants, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney announced the unsealing of the new federal criminal complaint today.

According to information presented in Court, the Healthcare Institute (“THI”) is a post-secondary educational provider located in Memphis, Tennessee. It purports to provide training programs for jobs in the healthcare field, including certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist, and licensed practical nurse. It was founded in January 2015 as a Tennessee for-profit LLC, with Katrina Robinson as director. THI received more than $10,000 in federal funds each year between 2015 and 2019. During that period, Robinson is alleged to have stolen, converted, and intentionally misapplied property of THI for her own use. As a result, on July 30, 2020, she was indicted in Case No. 2:20-cr-20147-SHL, which is currently pending trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/federal-grand-jury-returns-indictment-charging-tennessee-state-senator-katrina-robinson

The charges in this new federal complaint arise from a completely separate fraud scheme in which Robinson, Katie Ayers, 59, and Brooke Boudreaux, 32, are alleged to have conspired to use THI to defraud victim R.S. out of $14,470.00, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 and 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h).

As set forth in more detail in the complaint affidavit, while investigating the charges in the 2020 case, the FBI also uncovered a scheme in which the defendants convinced R.S. that Boudreaux, with whom he had an existing relationship, needed the money for tuition and expenses to attend THI. R.S. agreed and tendered $14,470.00 to THI for that purpose. In fact, the investigation revealed that Boudreaux was never a student at THI, and the conspirators split the money among themselves for their personal benefit and unjust enrichment.

If convicted, the defendants each face a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison followed by three years supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system. The case will be presented to a federal grand jury at a later date to consider an indictment against the defendants.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations of criminal conduct, not evidence. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and convicted through due process of law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris E. Cotten is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

Here is Gov. Bill Lee’s special session address to lawmakers

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters following his address to a joint convention of the General Assembly on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is the full text of Gov. Bill Lee’s speech to lawmakers Tuesday, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Lt. Governor McNally and Speaker Sexton, Speaker Pro-Tem Haile and Speaker Pro-Tem Marsh for the opportunity to convene on behalf of our students. 

I also thank Leader Johnson, Leader Lamberth, members of the education committee who have worked closely with us, and I want to thank all the members of the General Assembly. 

We have a shared belief that the foundation of our state is the strength of her people. 

As we approach the one year mark of managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Tennessee and facing the number of other challenges in this state and on the federal level, it’s a common refrain to hear “this is a historic time”, or an “unprecedented time” or “never before have seen a challenge of this magnitude.” 

In many ways, that’s certainly true, and I’ve found there has been no greater place for COVID to cause sweeping disruption than in our K-12 school system.

This disruption has left students to navigate unprecedented challenges without the routine of learning in a classroom, with classmates and a trusted teacher. 

We’re meeting today because it’s time to intervene for our kids who are staring down record learning losses, that in the short-term, mean an inability to read at their grade level or understand basic math. 

But in the long-term, those learning losses mean higher incarceration rates and poverty as adults. 

Our work here this week bears great significance on the safety of our neighborhoods and the prosperity of our state for a generation. 

Big challenges require decisive action, which is why we have agreed to meet this week in an extraordinary legislative session. 

We cannot wait, because our students cannot wait. 

It would be much simpler to hope or to assume that disruptions to school caused by COVID will just come out in the wash. 

But unfortunately, the data – the science – tells us that isn’t true. 

Data suggests there are very real consequences to keeping students out of the classroom for this long. 

Nationally, that looks like a 50% drop in reading proficiency and a 65% drop in math proficiency with third grade students. 

That sort of forecast is forcing an unacceptable future on our kids and it’s why we are proposing a series of reforms around learning loss and literacy. We are also proposing a pause around some aspects of accountability. 

These data points are important, and indeed we have used data to make all decisions impacting our schools. 

Months ago, when critics were loud and the scare tactics were louder with all the reasons why we couldn’t safely return students and teachers to the classroom, we traded that speculation for science. 

We followed that science down a path that would make us one of the first states in the country to get students and teachers back in the classroom this fall across 145 of our 147 districts. 

Tennessee has thus become a national leader in embracing the courage to get back in the classroom and show that it can be done. 

I commend those districts, those local leaders and educators for not settling for the path of least resistance and hiding behind month after month of virtual learning with no end in sight. 

Instead, we saw the vast majority of our schools, led by determined superintendents put in the work that was needed for one reason: their students were counting on them. 

And kids have a lot to say about in-person learning or the lack thereof. 

In a survey of more than 20,000 school kids across nine states, only 39% of students in grades 5 through 12 reported that they ‘learned a lot almost every day’ during the shutdown.’[1] 

64% of students overall reported experiencing distractions at home that interfered with schoolwork.

And worse so, Black and Latino students reported facing more obstacles to learning at home than white and Asian students.

Here’s the bottom line: you can’t say “follow the science” and keep schools closed. 

You can’t say “I believe in public education” and keep schools closed. 

And you can’t say you’re putting the needs of students first and keep schools closed. 

Kids do better in school: we know that – parents know that. 

That’s why I’m so proud of our districts who have kids in school, and to those who remain closed, I would offer this simple encouragement: follow the science. 

Getting kids back in the classroom is imperative. But the reality is that the impacts from COVID would require us to act urgently even if every student was back to in-person learning tomorrow. 

First, let’s talk about learning loss. 

Paired with a full return to the classroom, we are proposing a targeted intervention to reach those kids who are falling behind in reading and math. 

Existing laws have created an environment of too little, too late when it comes to helping kids before third grade. 

We are proposing a third-grade reading gate which means that we make sure students are prepared before we pass them through to the fourth grade. 

When we stop the cycle of passing without preparation, we give kids a better chance at succeeding in middle school and beyond. 

Our proposal also includes a full-time tutoring corps, after school camps, learning loss bridge camps and summer learning camps. 

Upon passage of our proposed legislation, we will be prepared to execute and administer these targeted interventions beginning this summer. 

Now, let’s talk about literacy. 

So much of our success in K-12 hinges on building better readers. When only 34% of Tennessee students are proficient or advanced readers by fourth grade, and that’s pre-COVID, something isn’t working and it’s time to get back to the basics. 

We need to teach our kids to read with phonics. 

It’s the way we learned to read. It’s the way we taught our kids. 

With this proposal, kindergarteners through third grade will be taught phonics as the primary form of reading instruction. 

And to make sure our progress is on track, we’ve developed a screening tool to help parents and teachers identify a struggling student more quickly. 

Simple methods like phonics serve our kids better – Commissioner Schwinn knows it and I know it and that’s what we’re going to use in Tennessee. 

We believe that these tools will work for our students but we have to have a clear picture of their starting point to get a window into the progress that they’ll make. 

So we will keep TCAP testing in place for the 20/21 school year so that parents and teachers know where students stand. 

However, there will be no negative consequences associated with student assessments so that the focus can remain on getting firm footing back in place after the uncertainty of time away from the classroom. 

To be clear: no teacher will be penalized due to test results this school year. But we’ll be relying on teachers and districts like never before to help us get these kids back on track. 

This approach isn’t going to be easy but as leaders we must do what it takes for our kids. 

We’re pursuing both bold interventions and a return to the basics and for any of these goals to come to fruition, we have to account for our teachers. 

We are proposing additional funding through both an appropriations bill this week and our upcoming budget to give a pay raise to every single teacher in Tennessee.

We are proposing to increase the salary component of our funding formula by 4%. This is not just about compensation – it’s an investment in better outcomes for our kids and we should all place an expectation on school districts that these dollars get passed directly to our teachers.

In the last decade, our students have made great strides in both reading and math and yet the events of the last year stand to threaten that progress. 

We aren’t where we want to be as a state but we have a tremendous opportunity here and now to not only stave off a monumental crisis but to forge a new path. 

Our new approach isn’t just about making up the losses.

These changes to our education system will actually educate our kids better in the future than we did before the pandemic. 

And that is a redemption story for our education system that will have ripple effects on our students’ lives for decades and well beyond the classroom. 

Thank you for your time today and careful consideration to each of these proposals. We should not miss this opportunity and together we’ll change the future of Tennessee. Thank you.

Tennessee senators praise Alabama HQ for Space Command

Republican Marsha Blackburn speaks to reporters at a Farm Bureau event in Franklin on Aug. 9, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee U.S. senators are praising the choice of neighboring Alabama for the headquarters of the new U.S. Space Command.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and Bill Hagerty (R-Nashville) say the decision to locate the headquarters in the Tennessee Valley will bring skilled jobs to the region. Huntsville is about 20 miles south of the Tennessee state line. A new Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing plant is also under construction in Huntsville. The $2.3 billion facility is projected to employ about 4,000 people once it goes online next year.

Here’s the joint release from Blackburn and Hagerty:

NASHVILLE, TENN. – Today, Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after the announcement that the United States Space Command will be headquartered in Huntsville, AL.  

“The new Space Command Center in the Tennessee Valley is an important investment in both the future of our military and in the skilled workforce of the region,” said Senator Blackburn. “This base will bring over 1,600 new jobs in the area and more as the command grows.”

“The new United States Space Command headquarters in the Tennessee Valley will be the primary entity for providing strategic direction to the U.S. military to deter space-based threats globally,” said Senator Hagerty.  “Space Command’s future headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, will bring hundreds of new jobs to Tennesseans and further our state’s rich history of contributing to our national defense.”

Dems’ effort to require face coverings punted in House

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democrats’ efforts to amend House rules to require masks be worn in committees and on the floor have been put off by the chamber’s Republican supermajority.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) made the motion on Friday, a day after House members had approved their rules for the 112th General Assembly. Speaker Pro Tem Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), who chairs the Rules Committee, said every member had been given the opportunity to suggest amendments when the panel met earlier in the week. No mask rule was introduced at that time, so Marsh made the motion to send Hardaway’s proposal back to the committee. It’s unclear when the panel will meet again.

At least nine House members have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. They are:

  • Bill Beck (D-Nashville)
  • David Byrd (R-Waynesboro)
  • Karen Camper (D-Memphis)
  • Kent Calfee (R-Kingston)
  • Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka)
  • Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah)
  • Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby)
  • Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville)
  • Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville)

All have recovered except Byrd, who at last report remained on a ventilator at a Nashville hospital.

Defeated lawmaker appears to pitch former colleagues on constituent service site

Need advice on how to keep constituents happy? Why not ask the guy who lost his primary by 15 percentage points in August? At least that’s what ex-Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) appears to be pitching in a mailer sent to former colleagues this week.

“My office used Happy Constituents for years,” says the mailer featuring Van Huss’ legislative portrait and describing him as a current state lawmaker. “Through the process, we learned what works and what doesn’t.”

Happy Constituents logo.

Happy Constituents’ website lists a 2014 copyright and a phone number with a Tennessee area code used by Van Huss’ re-election campaign last summer. But no business by that name is registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office (where it would otherwise be listed between two defunct companies, Happy Clowns and Happy Cottons).

Van Huss in a disclosure filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission last year only listed income from Marathon Strategies (along with fellow former Republican Reps. Matthew and Timothy Hill) and Airbnb.

Tim Hicks, a Gray developer, defeated Van Huss in the August primary, 58% to 42%.

Lee releases special session legislation

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is releasing the Republican’s package of bills to be taken up by lawmakers in a special session scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced special session legislation addressing K-12 student learning loss and the adverse effects on Tennessee students’ proficiency in reading and math after extended time away from the classroom due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of education and we are on the cusp of severe consequences for our students if we don’t act now,” said Gov. Lee. “Data suggests that Tennessee third graders are facing an estimated 50% drop in reading proficiency and a projected 65% drop in math proficiency and that is not an acceptable path for our kids[1]. I thank Lt. Gov. McNally, Speaker Sexton and members of the General Assembly for acting quickly on behalf of our students and taking up intervention measures during the special session.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that only 34% of Tennessee students are proficient or advanced readers by fourth grade. Research shows that students who do not achieve reading proficiency by third grade are more likely to drop out of high school, be incarcerated or experience poverty as adults.

In addition to learning loss interventions and accountability hold harmless measures, Gov. Lee will propose adding funding for teacher salaries.

“Educators across the state are working tirelessly to turn the tide for their students and help them regain critical math and reading skills,” said Gov. Lee. “We believe they should be compensated for their efforts and look forward to working with the General Assembly to provide funding for our teachers.”

Intervening to Stop Learning Loss – SB 7002

  • Requires interventions for struggling students including after-school learning mini-camps, learning loss bridge camps and summer learning camps, beginning summer 2021
  • Program prioritizes students who score below proficient in both reading (ELA) and math subjects
  • Creates the Tennessee Accelerated Literacy and Learning Corps to provide ongoing tutoring for students throughout the entire school year
  • Strengthens laws around a third grade reading gate so we no longer advance students who are not prepared

Building Better Readers with Phonics – SB 7003

  • Ensures local education agencies (LEAs) use a phonics-based approach for kindergarten through third grade reading instruction
  • Establishes a reading screener for parents and teachers to identify when students need help, well before third grade
  • Provides training and support for educators to teach phonics-based reading instruction

Accountability to Inform – SB 7001

  • Extends hold harmless provisions from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year so that students, teachers, schools and districts do not face any negative consequences associated with student assessments
  • Provides parents and educators with assessment data including TCAP testing to provide an accurate picture of where Tennessee students are and what supports are needed to offset any learning losses

Former commissioner reports Rep. Weaver to DC police

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) attends a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A former commissioner in then-Gov. Ned McWherter’s administration has reported state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) to law enforcement for taking part in Washington protest that turned into a riot.

“I respectfully inform you that Terri Lynn Weaver… was a participant,” Dudley Taylor wrote to D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee. “She posted photos and informed The Tennessean, the daily newspaper in Nashville, that she was ‘in the thick of it.’ She claimed to be a ‘patriot,’ of course.”

Contee in an email thanked Taylor for his report.

“I will ensure our FBI partners have this information,” Contee wrote.

Taylor is a Knoxville attorney who served as revenue commissioner for McWherter. He is also a former member of the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance and was the Democratic nominee in the open 2nd Congressional District won by Republican Jimmy Duncan in 1988.

Taylor wrote in his letter that if his report qualifies for a $1,000 reward, he will donate it to the family of the U.S. Capitol Police officer who was killed in the riot.

Here are Sexton’s House committee assignments

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) announced his committee appointments on Wednesday before the General Assembly adjourned its organizational session. Here they are:


  • Chair – Curtis Halford
  • Vice Chair – Rusty Grills
  • Mark Cochran
  • Barbra Cooper
  • Tandy Darby
  • Clay Doggett
  • GA Hardaway
  • Bud Hulsey
  • Chris Hurt
  • Jason Potts
  • Jay Reedy
  • Iris Rudder
  • Johnny Shaw
  • Chris Todd
  • Ron Travis
  • Dave Wright

Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee

  • Chair – Chris Todd
  • Mark Cochran
  • Tandy Darby
  • Curtis Halford
  • Bud Hulsey
  • Chris Hurt
  • Jason Potts
  • Jay Reedy
  • Johnny Shaw


  • Chair – Mike Carter
  • Vice Chair – Darren Jernigan
  • Rush Bricken
  • John Ray Clemmons
  • Michael Curcio
  • Rick Eldridge
  • Andrew Farmer
  • Johnny Garrett
  • John Gillespie
  • Bruce Griffey
  • Torrey Harris
  • Mary Littleton
  • Brandon Ogles
  • Antonio Parkinson
  • Bob Ramsey
  • Robin Smith
  • Mike Stewart

Civil Justice Subcommittee        

  • Chair – Andrew Farmer
  • Mike Carter       
  • John Ray Clemmons       
  • Michael Curcio 
  • Johnny Garrett 
  • Bruce Griffey    
  • Brandon Ogles  
  • Antonio Parkinson

Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee         

  • Chair – Mary Littleton   
  • Rush Bricken     
  • Mike Carter       
  • Rick Eldridge     
  • John Gillespie   
  • Torrey Harris     
  • Mike Stewart
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Hagerty names Jim Henry as state director

Deputy to the Governor Jim Henry speaks with Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) before Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Nashville) has named Jim Henry, a former top deputy to then-Gov. Bill Haslam, as state director. Michael Sullivan, a former executive director of the state Republican Party, will serve as deputy to Henry.

Here’s the full release from Hagerty’s office:

NASHVILLE – United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today announced the appointment of Jim Henry as his State Director and the appointment of the other dedicated public servants who will serve in his Tennessee state offices. The offices will be located in Nashville, Chattanooga, Cookeville, Jackson, Knoxville, Memphis, and Tri-Cities.

“Having Jim Henry, someone who has spent his career serving our state, as my state director will bring tremendous experience to our state team and will help ensure that Tennesseans know my offices are available to help in their communities,” said Hagerty. “The men and women who will make up these seven offices bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding of Tennessee-specific issues that will serve our state and our citizens well.”


Jim Henry will serve as State Director. Henry most recently served as the Deputy Governor and Chief of Staff to Governor Bill Haslam. He has served Tennessee as the Commissioner of Children’s Services, was the first Commissioner of the Department of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, and was the Republican Leader in the House of Representatives. Jim is also a past Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. He ran for Governor in 2002, and is a former mayor of the city of Kingston.

Michael Sullivan will serve as Deputy State Director. Sullivan most recently served as Hagerty’s Campaign Manager. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Tennessee Republican Party. He is a graduate of Hanover College and has worked in government and politics since 2007. His experience includes work in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. He moved to Nashville in 2011, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Preston Cooper will serve as Special Projects Coordinator. Previously she served as a Political Coordinator for Hagerty’s campaign, her first job in politics. She is a graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South. Cooper currently lives in Nashville.

Tammy Pierce will serve as Special Assistant to the State Director. Pierce previously served as Executive Assistant for Special Projects at the Tennessee Department of Child Services Institute. Prior to her work in the social services and government sectors, Pierce worked with Kenny Rogers and others in the music and entertainment industry. She has one son, a high school teacher and coach, and a daughter-in-law who is a registered nurse at Vanderbilt Hospital. Pierce is a fourth generation Nashvillian.

Braden Stover will serve as a Field Representative. Stover most recently was Hagerty’s Deputy Campaign Manager. Prior to that, he served as Director of Operations and Campaign Manager for Congressman John Rose. He is a graduate of Belmont University and currently resides in Gallatin with his wife Gracie

Rachel Jackson Jones will serve as a Constituent Services Representative. Jones has been a Registered Nurse since 1989. She has been a County Commissioner in Trousdale County since 2017 and was the first woman Chairman of the Trousdale County Republican Party. Jones is an active member of the Rotary Club and a member of the Hartsville Church of Christ. Jones is from Trousdale County, where she lives with her two daughters.

The Nashville office is located 3322 West End Avenue, Suite 120 and can be reached by calling 615-736-5129.


Stan Settles will serve as a Field Representative. Settles most recently served as Hagerty’s Chattanooga Regional Field Director. Previously, he was a Field Organizer for Congressman Chuck Fleischmann. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, where he was the Student Body President. Settles has worked on several local and state-level campaigns in the area. Settles moved to Chattanooga in 2016, where he lives now.

Tonya Johnson will serve as Constituent Services Representative. Johnson recently served as a Constituent Services Representative for 10 years in Chattanooga for Senator Lamar Alexander. She is a graduate of Bryan College. Johnson is from Chattanooga where she still lives with her husband and two daughters.

The Chattanooga office is located in the Joel E. Soloman Federal Building at 900 Georgia Avenue, Suite 260 and can be contacted by calling 423-752-5337.


Tanner Cox will serve as a Field Representative. He was most recently Campaign Manager for Congressman John Rose’s campaign. Previously, he was a Regional Field Director for Hagerty. He is a graduate of Tennessee Tech University. Cox is originally from Fentress County and lives in Cookeville.

Bonny Warren will serve as a Constituent Services Representative. Warren has 10 years of constituent service experience with the U.S. House of Representatives. Having previously worked in Tennessee state government, Warren has a background serving constituents. Warren lives in Cookeville with her husband and enjoys her large family.

The Cookeville office will be located in the L. Clure Morton Federal Building at 9 E. Broad Street, 3rd Floor and can be contacted at this time by calling the Nashville office at 615-736-5129.


Matt Varino will serve as a Field Representative. Varino most recently served as a Field Representative in Jackson for Senator Lamar Alexander. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi where he studied Political Science. He is married and has three children.

The Jackson office will be located in the Ed Jones Federal Building at 109 S. Highland Avenue, Suite 216 and can be reached at 731-664-0289.


Joe Bailey will serve as Regional Director. Bailey has most recently been managing his own consulting business. He was Vice Mayor for the city of Knoxville and a member of the City Council for eighth years. He is a veteran of multiple campaigns, including President Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984 and President Bush’s 1988 campaign. Bailey served in the Reagan and Bush administrations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy. Additionally, he worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Bailey lives in Knoxville with his son and two daughters.

Riley Lovingood will serve as a Field Representative. Lovingood has spent the past year working for Hagerty’s Campaign as a Regional Field Director in Knoxville. He recently graduated from the University of Tennessee where he was a football player. He received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee. Lovingood is an eighth Generation Tennessean originally from Hendersonville.

Keith Abraham will serve as a Constituent Services Representative. Previously he served as a Constituent Services Representative for Senator Lamar Alexander. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Abraham is from Knoxville, where he lives today with his wife and two daughters.

The Knoxville office is located in the Howard H. Baker, Jr. U.S. Courthouse at 800 Market Street, Suite 112 and can be reached by calling 865-545-4253.


Chris Connolly will serve as a Field Representative. Connolly was most recently a Field Representative for Senator Lamar Alexander. He was previously an aide to Congressman Stephen Fincher. He is a two-time graduate of the University of Memphis. Connolly is from Memphis and lives with his wife in Bartlett.

Mary Wooldridge will serve as Constituent Services Representative. Since 2011, Wooldridge has been a Constituent Services Representative for Senator Lamar Alexander. She was previously employed by BellSouth (now ATT) and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. Wooldridge attended the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College. She is a lifelong Memphian, where she lives with her husband. Wooldridge is the proud mother of two children and four grandchildren.

The Memphis office is located in the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building at 167 North Main Street, Suite 1068 and can be reached by calling 901-544-4224.


Nick Castle will serve as a Field Representative. Previously, he served as Hagerty’s Tri-Cities Field Director. He attended East Tennessee State University, where he studied history and political science. Castle is from Kingsport.

Tracie O’Hara will serve as a Constituent Services Representative. Previously, she served the First Congressional District for eleven years, working for Congressman Phil Roe. She resides in Jonesborough with her husband Scott.

The Tri Cities office is located in the Tri Cities Regional Airport at 2525 Highway 75, Suite 101 and can be contacted by calling 423-325-6240.