Trump-endorsed Lee says vaguely critical things about Trump style

Gov. Bill Lee and first lady Maria Lee appear with then-President Donald Trump after touring tornado damage in Middle Tennessee on March 20, 2020. (Image credit: State of Tennessee)

Gov. Bill Lee was endorsed for re-election by former President Donald Trump in August 2021, which might have gone a long way toward dissuading a major primary challenge.

But when Trump was announcing a renewed bid for president at his West Palm Beach, Fla., home on Tuesday, Lee was 170 miles away at a meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association in Orlando. Several elected leaders at the RGA meeting blamed Trump for the GOP’s disappointing showing last week’s congressional elections.

“Our children learn a lot by what we say and what we do. And they especially mimic and learn by how we treat other people,” The Washington Post quoted Lee as saying at one panel discussion. “And there is not much inspiring about the way we treat people in politics.”

Lee reportedly argued a return to a “degree of civility” would “inspire a group of voters” to vote for Republicans.

Here’s what Trump had to say about Lee in announcing his endorsement through his PAC last year:

Governor Bill Lee is an outsider who led the Great State of Tennessee through difficult times, without compromising his Conservative Values. Tennesseans enjoy more freedom than ever before. He fully supports Law Enforcement, Strong Borders, the Second Amendment, our Military and our Vets. Re-electing Bill Lee means putting America first. Bill has my Complete and Total Endorsement!

McNally nominated to another two-year term as Senate speaker

Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton await Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Senate Republican Caucus has nominated Randy McNally to another term as speaker.

McNally, a retired Oak Ridge pharmacist, first succeeded former Speaker Ron Ramsey in 2017. Some at the time saw him as a transitional figure, but he has since consolidated his leadership position in the upper chamber.

McNally served four terms in the state House before his first election to the Senate in 1986. He is a former chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

The full Senate will officially vote on the speaker in January. But with Republicans holding a 27-6 advantage, it’s largely considered a formality.

Justice Sharon Lee to retire from Tennessee Supreme Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court building is seen in Nashville on Dec.8, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Sharon Lee, the last remaining Democrat on the state Supreme Court, plans to retire from the bench next year, The Tennessee Journal has learned.

Lee was appointed to the state’s highest court by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2008. He had previously named the Monroe County native to the state Court of Appeals in 2004.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee in January named Sarah Campbell, a former associate solicitor general and special assistant state attorney general, to the Supreme Court. The remaining three justices, Jeff Bivins, Holly Kirby, and Roger Page, were appointed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The timing of Sharon Lee’s retirement will allow her to remain a member of the court through August 2023 while the application, gubernatorial nomination, and legislative confirmation process take place.

UPDATE: The Administrative Office of the Courts has made it official.

““Serving in the Tennessee Judiciary for the past 19 years has been the greatest honor of my professional life,” Lee said in a statement. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Tennesseans and have done my best to fulfill my judicial oath by upholding the state and federal Constitutions and administering justice faithfully and impartially.”

House Democratic leader Camper to run for Memphis mayor

Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) speaks to reporters on Nov. 25, 2018, after her election as House minority leader. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State House Democratic leader Karen Camper is joining the race to succeed term-limited Memphis Mayor Jim Stickland next year.

Camper joins a field that already includes Sheriff Floyd Bonner, school board member Michelle McKissack, County Commissioner Van Turner, and Downtown Memphis Commission CEO Paul Young.

Camper, an Army veteran, has served in the House since 2008. Since the mayoral election takes place next year, Camper wouldn’t have to give up her legislative seat to run.

New TNJ edition alert: Lee romps to win, Ogles flies under radar, Windle loses

Bill Lee takes the oath of office as Tennessee’s 50th governor on Nashville in 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Lee romps to 65% of vote to win election to second term as governor.

— Ogles’ under-the-radar strategy leads to easy 5th District victory.

— Legislative races: Dems and GOP fight to stalemate, independent Windle loses 17th bid for House.

— Slavery ban most popular as all four constitutional amendments OK’d.

Also: A new high-water mark for House Republicans, a mayoral election roundup, Eddie Mannis says Knox County GOP tried to “destroy” him, and Rep. Jason Zachary has had enough of Donald Trump.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Read Gov. Bill Lee’s victory speech here

Bill Lee speaks to supporters at his headquarters launch in Franklin on Feb. 12, 2018. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee won re-election on Tuesday over Democratic challenger Jason Martin. Here’s some of what Lee had to say to supporters after the Associated Press called the race:

I want to thank you and the people of Tennessee for giving me and Maria, the opportunity to serve again. Thank you.

In a republic, the people decide what happens by choosing leaders whose ideas they like the best. And tonight, and evidently, all across the country, the people have spoken clearly. And we are expecting to win by large margin. And while that feels good, it’s important, because what it means is that our ideas have resonated with people from one end of the state to the other. The people are trusting us to improve the economy. They’re trusting us to fight crime. They’re trusting us to have safe schools and schools that are successful. And we better not disappoint them. And we won’t disappoint them over the next four years.

Before I want to get into all of what I want to say tonight, I will say this: political people cringe when I say this, and when I decided — or was thinking about running a few years ago, the political experts said to me, you know, you can’t win a campaign without running negative ads. And I just have to say that our positive-only campaigns are now 2 and 0. Others will do the same across this country, our country could use it.

Thank you for your vote and for your confidence. And to those who did not vote for me, I want people to know that I take it very seriously the responsibility that I have to be the governor for all of Tennessee. Because we all do want the same thing. I’ve said a hundred times before, people want a good job and a good school for their kid in a safe neighborhood. And I wake up every day thinking about that. We’ve gotten a whole lot done in the last four years. But I decided to run again because I think we have a lot more work to do. And I thank you for giving me the chance.

You know, our economy remains very strong in this state in spite of the headwind, the national headwinds that have made it more difficult for Tennessee businesses and Tennessee families to be successful. But we have the leading economy of all states in America, and we’ve done so with the lowest tax burden on our citizens of any state in America. We’ve expanded our workforce — 75,000 jobs have been added since we came into office. We are at the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history, we have lowered the number of rural distressed counties from 15 to 10. And we’re not done.

We brought more vocational and technical and agricultural education into our schools and all of these things equate to one thing. And that is more opportunity for all Tennesseans. I’m very proud of the fact that we have made historic investments in our public education system, and we have passed teacher pay raises every year since we’ve been here. I’m also proud of the fact that we have given more school choices for parents who want something a little different for their kid. And I’ll remind you for the next four years —  and remind people all across the state — that those two ideas are not in conflict with each other. We can fund public schools and provide alternative opportunities for children at the same time if we are committed to funding students and not systems.

And as I watched these elections across the country, politicians from all stripes all across this country if they learn one thing from this election, it’s this: You pay a steep political price if you don’t pay attention to parents. And in this state, we have paid attention to parents, and we’ll continue to pay attention to parents going forward.

We’re also going to keep fighting crime, especially violent crime. While many cities in our country and states across this country have debated in the last couple of years whether to even fund their police departments, in Tennessee we’ve made a commitment to law enforcement. Tennessee has invested $100 million in local law enforcement agencies, we have doubled down on officer recruitment and training so that we can really fight crime at its source. And it’s starting to pay off. We have state troopers and patrol officers from all over the country come into this state. Because they understand that we are committed, and that we have their back.

As I think about our priorities over the next four years, I want us to talk about one other thing: We have got to tackle the issue of infrastructure. I hear about this every day, whether it’s at a political event, a campaign event, or at a meeting in my office. Or sitting around your dinner table, I bet you talk about the fact that there is too much congestion, too much traffic, and too many potholes. We are simply not building enough and maintaining enough roads in this state to keep up with the incredible growth that’s happening from one end of the state to the other. And it’s not just a big city problem, it affects everyone. Because investing in solving big city congestion drains funding away from rural communities. This is a problem that we are studying and we’re looking at ideas on how to solve this problem, you’re going to be hearing a lot more about that starting tomorrow even. But I’ll tell you this, we have a very strong budget in this state. And I commit to you that we will diligently work, tirelessly work to figure out a way to invest in our roads and bridges in this state without raising your taxes and without going into debt.

So we won’t continue to talk about what we’re going to do because tonight is really about celebrating. Thank you. Thank you for being here with us to celebrate, it’s about celebrating. It’s about thanking people. First I want to thank my campaign staff. You know who you are. Each one of you. You worked relentlessly over the past months. County captains, field staff, our volunteers. If you wrote a check to this campaign. If you put out a yard sign. If you came here tonight or came to an event. You made it look easy for us to win this campaign. But I know it wasn’t easy. So to all of you who worked so hard on on this campaign, and especially my campaign staff, I want to say thank you.

Majority of Tenn. lawmakers know their fate before polls even close

Lawmakers await Gov. Bill Lee’s arrival for his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Even before the polls close on Tuesday evening, more than half of state’s 99 House seats are already decided. That’s because the nominees in 54 House races don’t face any opposition, including 37 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

In the Senate, 17 of 33 seats are up for four-year terms. Of those, seven face no opposition.

Here’s the list of who will be elected as soon as the polls close (asterisks indicate non-incumbents):

Senate:

  • District 5: Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge)
  • District 11: Bo Watson (R-Hixson)
  • District 15: Paul Bailey (R-Sparta)
  • District 17: Mark Pody (R-Lebanon)
  • District 23: Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield)
  • District 27: Jack Johnson (R-Franklin)
  • District 29: Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis)

House:

  • District 1: John Crawford (R-Kingsport)
  • District 2: Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport)
  • District 3: Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City)
  • District 4: John Holsclaw (R-Johnson City)
  • District 5: David Hawk (R-Greeneville)
  • District 7: Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough)
  • District 9: Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville)
  • District 10: Rick Eldridge (R-Morristown)
  • District 11: Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby)
  • District 16: Michele Carringer (R-Knoxville)
  • District 17: Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville)
  • District 20: Bryan Richey (R-Maryville)*
  • District 21: Lowell Russell (R-Vonore)
  • District 22: Dan Howell (R-Cleveland)
  • District 23: Mark Cochran (R-Englewood)
  • District 24: Kevin Raper (R-Cleveland)*
  • District 28: Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga)
  • District 29: Greg Vital (R-Harrison)
  • District 30: Esther Helton (R-East Ridge)
  • District 35: William Slater (R-Gallatin)*
  • District 36: Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro)
  • District 38: Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown)
  • District 42: Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville)
  • District 45: Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville)
  • District 46: Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon)
  • District 50: Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville)
  • District 51: Bill Beck (D-Nashville)
  • District 52: Justin Jones (D-Nashville)*
  • District 54: Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville)
  • District 55: John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville)
  • District 56: Bob Freeman (D-Nashville)
  • District 57: Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet)
  • District 58: Harold Love Jr. (D-Nashville)
  • District 62: Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville)
  • District 65: Sam Whitson (R-Franklin)
  • District 66: Sabi Kumar (R-Springfield)
  • District 70: Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski)
  • District 72: Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville)
  • District 74: Jay D Reedy (R-Erin)
  • District 75: Jeff Burkhart (R-Clarksville)*
  • District 77: Rusty Grills (R-Newbern)
  • District 80: Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar)
  • District 82: Chris Hurt (R-Halls)
  • District 83: Mark White (R-Memphis)
  • District 84: Joe Towns (D-Memphis)
  • District 85: Jesse Chism (D-Memphis)
  • District 87: Karen D. Camper (D-Memphis)
  • District 88: Larry Miller (D-Memphis)
  • District 91: Torrey Harris (D-Memphis)
  • District 93: G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis)
  • District 94: Ron Gant (R-Piperton)
  • District 96: Dwayne Thompson (D-Memphis)
  • District 98: Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis)
  • District 99: Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington)

New TNJ edition alert: Lee floods the zone

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks to a Chamber of Commerce event in Memphis on Dec. 6, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Bill Lee floods the zone in re-election campaign over Democratic challenger Jason Martin

— A closer look at the seven most hotly contested state House races.

— It’s time for the second round of new interim campaign finance disclosures. Looks like some tweaks may be needed.

— Congressional race update: Dozens of voters were given the wrong ballots in Nashville, Andy Ogles gets fundraising help from GOP reps, Heidi Campbell shares sad family health news, Mark Green blasts voting problems.

Also: Kevin McCarthy’s joke about hitting Nancy Pelosi with a gavel doesn’t age well, Marsha Blackburn says Iowa visit doesn’t portend presidential bid, and the University of Tennessee reevaluates its peer institutions.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Thursday is the last day for early voting in Tennessee

Thursday is the last day for early voting for the Nov. 8 general election. The deadline comes as election officials scrambled to fix software mistakes that led dozens of Nashville voters to cast ballots in the wrong districts.

Through the first 12 days of early voting, 688,000 people had cast ballots. That’s up 52% over the same point in the last gubernatorial re-election year in 2014. But turnout is down 41% compared with 2018, which featured an open governor’s race and a competitive U.S. Senate contest.

Here’s a release from the Secretary of State’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, is the last day for Tennesseans of early voting for the Nov. 8 State and Federal General election.

“Time is running out for Tennesseans planning to vote early in the Nov. 8 election,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “I urge voters to take advantage of the last days of early voting to make their voices heard.”

Tennesseans can find early voting and Election Day hours, polling locations, view and mark sample ballots and much more with the Secretary of State’s GoVoteTN.gov website or GoVoteTN app. Download the GoVoteTN app for free in the App Store or Google Play.

Voters need to bring valid photo identification to the polls during early voting or on Election Day. A driver’s license or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Tennessee state government or the federal government is acceptable even if expired. A student ID or out-of-state driver’s license is not acceptable. For more information about what types of IDs are permitted, visit GoVoteTN.gov.

For election information voters can trust from the Secretary of State, visit GoVoteTN.gov and the GoVoteTN app, call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959 or follow the Secretary of State’s social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate.

Kelsey’s change-of-plea hearing set for Nov. 22

Sen. Brian Kelsey walks in the state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey’s change-of-plea hearing in the criminal case stemming from his 2016 congressional bid has been scheduled for Nov. 22.

Prosecutors last year charged Kelsey with orchestrating the illegal transfer of state campaign funds to a national conservative group to run ads supporting his run for federal office.

Kelsey, who had vociferously maintained his innocence in his few public comments since he was indicted, abruptly changed his tune last week by having his attorneys file a change-of-plea motion.
The move came a week after the guilty plea of co­defendant Josh Smith, the owner of a Nashville private club catering to GOP politicos. It also followed the previous weekend’s arrest of former Rep. Jeremy Durham on drunken driving charges in the city’s downtown tourist district. Durham, a Franklin Republican, is identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, and Kelsey has intimated his longtime friend and political ally was cooperating with prosecutors in the case.

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