Brian Kelsey

New TNJ alert: Here come the subpoenas, slammed doors, and divining rods

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

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

— It’s subpoena time in the federal probe that ensnared ex-Rep. Robin Smith. At least three lawmakers and a legislative staffer are set to appear before the grand jury next week.

— Lee’s budget amendment signals the end is near for this year’s legislative session.

— Legislative roundup: Terri Lynn Weaver slams the door after failing to get a second, Indian gaming proposal stalls, the legislature grabs the authority to name six of nine members of the state Board of Education, and it won’t get any easier for minor parties to get on the ballot.

— Andy Ogles jumps into 5th Congressional District race, but his campaign infrastructure has yet to catch up.

Also: Jason Hodges welcomes the FBI to the Capitol, indicted Sen. Brian Kelsey honored as a “public-spirited citizen of the highest order,” Tennessee could grow by 1 million residents in next 20 years, and the state GOP asks for cash for a new computer.

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

Or subscribe here.

Hagerty, Blackburn endorse Taylor’s bid to succeed Kelsey (UPDATED)

In a somewhat unusual move, Tennessee U.S. Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn are making endorsements in the Republican primary to succeed indicted state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).

Hagerty (R-Nashville) tweeted Wednesday morning that he is backing Brent Taylor, a funeral home operator who recently resigned as chair of the Shelby County Election Commission. Blackburn (R-Brentwood) is also endorsing Taylor, per a news release.

Kelsey announced recently that he won’t seek another term in the Senate to pursue an “exciting change in my personal life.” Kelsey is awaiting trial in January 2023 on federal criminal charges related to a failed bid for Congres in 2016.

Another announced candidate in the District 31 race is Brandon Toney, a Germantown nurse practitioner who has called Kelsey “embarrassing for all of us.” Former Shelby County Probate Court Clerk Paul Boyd has also expressed interest in running for the GOP nomination. House Commerce Chair Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville) was heavily encouraged to run for the seat before Kelsey’s retirement announcement, but decided to run for another term in the lower chamber.

Indicted senator cites ‘exciting change’ in personal life in deciding agaisnt re-election bid

State Sen. Brian Kelsey denies wrongdoing in a video conference call following his indictment on Oct. 25, 2021. (Image: screengrab from call)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican awaiting a federal criminal trial related to campaign fundraising during a 2016 congressional bid, announced he won’t seek re-election to the General Assembly this year.

“I will not be running for reelection due to a recent, exciting change in my personal life,” Kelsey wrote on Twitter. “And I look forward to spending more time with my family.”

Kelsey initially vowed to seek a rapid trial in hopes of clearing his name, but was later granted a yearlong delay.

After arguing in favor of the state’s school voucher law in a Supreme Court challenge last year, Kelsey was notably not among the speakers when the case was reheard before the state’s highest court last month.

New TNJ edition alert: The dead bill file, Lamar gets Senate nod, likely candidate for Kelsey seat

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

This week’s Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

— Short-term rentals, food trucks, cockfighting, and landfills: Lawmakers start to clear decks as session’s final stretch looms.

— Political roundup: Lamar gets nod for vacant Senate seat, Kelsey seat gets new challenger, Warner faces primary showdown from new Williamson County side of district.

— Going Canadian: Politically connected bank gobbled up for $13.4B.

Also: Cothren seeks to plead the Fifth in campaign finance probe, Casada chides Registry over ‘bias,’ Tennessee liquor stores pledge to remove Russian booze from shelves, and Gardenire calls for a “kilt-raising party.”

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

Or subscribe here.

New TNJ edition alert: Congressional redistricting on tap, Robinson seeks to avoid prison time

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), left, walks to look at a proposed House redistricting map on Dec. 17, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

It’s The Tennessee Journal’s first print edition of the year! Here’s what’s in it:

 — House to release congressional maps, but Senate mum on plans.

— Nashville is reportedly a finalist, but how far will mayor push for convention if GOP breaks up his brother’s U.S. House seat?

— From the courts: Robinson lawyers argue loss of Senate seat would be punishment enough for fraud conviction; Kelsey can’t use money campaign fundraiser to pay defense attorneys.

— State casts doubt on whether pharmacy benefit manager bill does what sponsors said it would do.

Also: Boyd runs Antarctic marathon, ECD halts China recruiting, Tennessee Waltz figure rejected for Memphis job, and Faison’s referee pantsing.

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

Or subscribe here.

Tenn. lawmaker indicted on federal campaign finance charges is asking for donations

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, attends a Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville on April 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) recently got his federal trial on campaign finance charges moved until January 2023. Then he started going about the business of raising money for his re-election bid next year.

“The Liberals have found an opponent to run against me!” Kelsey says in the fundraising appeal. “This race is the number one target for Democrats in the state of Tennessee and last election we won by only 51-49%!”

Kelsey makes no mention of his legal issues in the fundraising email.

Prosecutors allege Kelsey funneled money from his state account through other political action committees to a national conservative group to spend on radio ads in support of his ill-fated 2016 congressional bid. Kelsey has denied the charges and denounced the case as a political witch hunt.

It remains to be seen how enthusiastic potential donors will be about giving money to the indicted senator, especially when campaign finance disclosures due at the end of next month will reveal who has contributed to the embattled lawmaker.

Here’s the invite to Jan. 4 the fundraiser:

Kelsey gets yearlong delay for federal campaign finance trial

State Sen. Brian Kelsey denies wrongdoing in a video conference call following his indictment on Oct. 25, 2021. (Image: screengrab from call)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) has been granted a yearlong delay before the start of his federal campaign finance trial.

Originally scheduled to begin next month, U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw ordered the proceedings to be re-set for Jan. 23, 2023. The motion to delay the case was made by Kelsey’s legal team and unopposed by the U.S. attorney’s office or codefendant Josh Smith.

The attorneys for all parties met with Crenshaw behind closed doors for 45 minutes on Monday morning while Kelsey and Smith urgently whispered to each other in the courtroom that was devoid of spectators other than two reporters. Upon ending the in camera meeting, the public portion of the hearing lasted about 10 minutes to formalize the new trial date, which Crenshaw described as a “firm.”

As previously reported in this week’s Tennessee Journal Kelsey attorney Paul Bruno said in a legal filing he faced a conflict with the original Jan. 18 court date because he is scheduled to go to trial in a quadruple homicide case in Nashville the following week. Bruno added the government has already provided “a significant amount of discovery” in the case and indicated more would be forthcoming. Given the volume of materials in the case, Kelsey and his legal team did not believe they had enough time to prepare for a trial next month.

Prosecutors say Kelsey funneled campaign funds from his state account through other political action committees to the American Conservative Union, the Washington-based organizer of CPAC conferences. The bulk of the money was then allegedly spent on radio ads supporting Kelsey’s unsuccessful bid for the 8th Congressional District in 2016. Kelsey has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has claimed to be the subject of a political witch hunt.

New TNJ edition alert: Supreme Court finalists in their own words, Little Debbie lawsuit

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

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

— We spent two days at judicial selection hearings so you didn’t have to. Here’s what the finalists for the Supreme Court had to say about legislative intent, their judicial role models, and the significance of the Federalist Society.

— Little Debbie snack maker files lawsuit to block new Pharmacy Benefit Manager law championed by House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

— Of the state’s 15 largest counties, all but two are moving to partisan school board nomination contests.

— Indicted senators update: Kelsey seeks delay for federal campaign finance trial, prosecutors seek to seize Robinson property following conviction.

Also: The state’s revenue collection surge continues, racial tension on the MTSU board, and a difference in perception about automotive incentives in the Beacon Center’s Pork Report.

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

American Conservative Union releases ratings of Tenn. lawmakers, makes no mention of legal issues

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

The American Conservative Union, which is mentioned in several not-so-subtle ways in the federal campaign finance fraud indictment against state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), has released its latest ratings of Tennessee lawmakers — including of the aforementioned Kelsey, who gets an 85.

“From protecting the Second Amendment to banning Critical Race Theory in schools, it is no surprise that Tennessee, led by a great governor in Bill Lee, once again scores among the most conservative state’s in the country,” Matt Schlapp, the group’s chairman, said in a release.

Kelsey is accused of funneling money from his state account through two other PACs to the American Conservative Union, which then spent money on ads supporting his ill-fated congressional bid in 2016. Kelsey has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The ACU scored 84 roll call votes as part of its ratings, including bills banning government vaccine passports, changing certificate of need rules, making Tennessee a gun rights “sanctuary state,” banning students from participating in sports not corresponding to the gender listed at birth, opting out of federal unemployment benefit enhancements, and banning “critical race theory” in schools.

Here are the ratings:

SenatorPartyDist.20212020Lifetime
Akbari, RaumeshD2923%38%29%
Bailey, PaulR1587%79%87%
Bell, MikeR980%75%85%
Bowling, JaniceR1683%75%85%
Briggs, RichardR778%71%80%
Campbell, HeidiD2026%n/a26%
Crowe, RustyR381%75%82%
Gardenhire, ToddR1073%75%82%
Gilmore, BrendaD1928%29%25%
Haile, FerrellR1883%71%86%
Hensley, JoeyR2882%62%85%
Jackson, EdR2783%76%85%
Johnson, JackR2384%75%88%
Kelsey, BrianR3185%77%87%
Kyle, SaraD3027%28%31%
Lundberg, JonR485%77%85%
Massey, BeckyR679%76%79%
Mcnally, RandyR578%72%85%
Niceley, FrankR881%79%81%
Pody, MarkR1782%n/a85%
Powers, BillR2283%76%79%
Reeves, ShaneR1485%76%84%
Roberts, KerryR2587%79%89%
Robinson, KatrinaD33n/a†n/a38%
Rose, PaulR3283%79%83%
Southerland, SteveR181%71%83%
Stevens, JohnR2483%75%89%
Swann, ArtR283%n/a81%
Walley, PageR2678%n/a78%
Watson, BoR1185%76%87%
White, DawnR1385%76%90%
Yager, KenR1279%74%82%
Yarbro, JeffD2128%38%36%
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New TNJ edition alert: Kelsey hires new legal team, Griffey confirms departure, Sethi a no-go for Congress

Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and state Sen. Brian Kelsey’s new lawyer.

In this week’s edition of the print edition of The Tennessee Journal:

— Kelsey’s new legal team previously represented a certain mayor and some high-profile murder defendants. Trial has been scheduled for January.

— The uncertainty principle: Rising inflation complicates revenue projections.

— From the campaign trail: Griffey confirms departure from state House, Sethi won’t run for new-look 5th Congressional District.

— Fallings out: New books detail ousters of NRA lobbyist, Trump’s defense secretary.

Also: Miss Tootie passes away, Biden names Memphis attorney to 6th Circuit and Sewanee president to ambassadorship, the megasite loses its Memphis designation, and Lee rolls out the red carpet for out-of-state law enforcement.

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