joe biden

State BlueCross stops short of sweeping donation ban

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The national BlueCross BlueShield Association made waves this week by announcing it would suspend political donations to lawmakers who objected to the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election as president.

“In light of this week’s violent, shocking assault on the United States Capitol, and the votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results, BCSBA will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy,” the federation of 36 independent BlueCross companies said in a statement.

Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee doesn’t appear to be taking the same blanket approach toward its PAC donations to state candidates.

“An internal committee routinely reviews any potential PAC contributions before they are made. As part of this process, the committee examines the actions and records of elected officials on a campaign-by-campaign and candidate-by-candidate basis to determine whether they’re consistent with our mission, beliefs and goals,” the company said.

“BlueCross, like many other companies, will continue closely scrutinizing PAC contributions. As we always have, we will continue to look particularly close at candidates who take positions that differ from their stated core values, and how their values align with our own,” according to the statement.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee PAC made $200,600 in state contributions during the last election cycle, of which $15,500 went to six Republicans who signed a Dec. 30 letter urging Congress to reject the presidential election results. A total of 18 representatives and five senators had signaled their support for the letter.

Blackburn, Hagerty to join effort to challenge presidential election

Bill Hagerty attends the Tennessee Republican Party’s Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on June 15, 2019. At right is U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Both Tennessee senators are joining an effort among 11 Republicans to challenge the outcome of the presidential election. While all allegations of voter fraud have been thrown out in the courts, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood and Sen.-elect Bill Hagerty of Nashville said in a statement they will oppose the certification of the vote on Wednesday.

“American democracy relies on the consent of the governed,” Hagerty and Blackburn said in a joint statement. “Allegations of voter fraud, irregularities and unconstitutional actions diminish public confidence in what should be a free, fair and transparent process.”

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R—Tenn.) along with Senators Ted Cruz (R—Texas), Senator Ron Johnson (R—Wis.), Senator John Kennedy (R—La.), Senator Mike Braun, (R—Ind.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Senator James Lankford (R—Okla.) and Senators-elect Bill Hagerty (R—Tenn.), Cynthia Lummis (R—Wyo.), Tommy Tuberville (R—Ala.) and Roger Marshall (R—Kan.) announced they will vote to oppose the results of the 2020 election. They are also calling for Congress to immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states.

“On behalf of Tennesseans, we are taking a united stand against the tainted electoral results from the recent Presidential election,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn and Senator-elect Bill Hagerty. “American democracy relies on the consent of the governed. Allegations of voter fraud, irregularities and unconstitutional actions diminish public confidence in what should be a free, fair and transparent process. Protecting the integrity of the electoral process is paramount to preserving trust and legitimacy in the final outcome.”

“For critical moments like these, the Constitution reserves the right to challenge the Electoral College results to members of Congress. On January 6, we will vote to oppose certification of the 2020 election results.”

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R—Tenn.), Ted Cruz (R—Texas), Senator Ron Johnson (R—Wis.), Senator John Kennedy (R—La.), Senator Mike Braun (R—Ind.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Senator James Lankford (R—Okla.) and Senators-elect Bill Hagerty (R—Tenn.), Cynthia Lummis (R—Wyo.) Tommy Tuberville (R—Ala.) and Roger Marshall (R—Kan.) released the following statement:

“America is a Republic whose leaders are chosen in democratic elections. Those elections, in turn, must comply with the Constitution and with federal and state law.

“When the voters fairly decide an election, pursuant to the rule of law, the losing candidate should acknowledge and respect the legitimacy of that election. And, if the voters choose to elect a new office-holder, our Nation should have a peaceful transfer of power.

“The election of 2020, like the election of 2016, was hard fought and, in many swing states, narrowly decided. The 2020 election, however, featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.

“Voter fraud has posed a persistent challenge in our elections, although its breadth and scope are disputed. By any measure, the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes.

“And those allegations are not believed just by one individual candidate. Instead, they are wide-spread. Reuters/Ipsos polling, tragically, shows that 39% of Americans believe ‘the election was rigged.’ That belief is held by Republicans (67%), Democrats (17%), and Independents (31%).

“Some Members of Congress disagree with that assessment, as do many members of the media.

“But, whether or not our elected officials or journalists believe it, that deep distrust of our democrat-ic processes will not magically disappear. It should concern us all. And it poses an ongoing threat to the legitimacy of any subsequent administrations.

“Ideally, the courts would have heard evidence and resolved these claims of serious election fraud. Twice, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to do so; twice, the Court declined.

“On January 6, it is incumbent on Congress to vote on whether to certify the 2020 election re-sults. That vote is the lone constitutional power remaining to consider and force resolution of the multiple allegations of serious voter fraud.

“At that quadrennial joint session, there is long precedent of Democratic Members of Congress raising objections to presidential election results, as they did in 1969, 2001, 2005, and 2017. And, in both 1969 and 2005, a Democratic Senator joined with a Democratic House Member in forcing votes in both houses on whether to accept the presidential electors being challenged.

“The most direct precedent on this question arose in 1877, following serious allegations of fraud and illegal conduct in the Hayes-Tilden presidential race. Specifically, the elections in three states—Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina—were alleged to have been conducted illegally.

“In 1877, Congress did not ignore those allegations, nor did the media simply dismiss those raising them as radicals trying to undermine democracy. Instead, Congress appointed an Electoral Commission—consisting of five Senators, five House Members, and five Supreme Court Justices—to consider and resolve the disputed returns.

“We should follow that precedent. To wit, Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states. Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.

“Accordingly, we intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed.

“We are not naïve. We fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise. But support of election integrity should not be a partisan issue. A fair and credible audit—conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20—would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President. We owe that to the People.

“These are matters worthy of the Congress, and entrusted to us to defend. We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it. And every one of us should act together to ensure that the election was lawfully conducted under the Constitution and to do everything we can to restore faith in our Democracy.

Check out these precinct-level maps of the presidential election in Tennessee

Our favorite political mapmaker Don Johnson has put his considerable talents to work with these maps of the presidential election in Tennessee based on the results certified by the state this week.

The level of support of for Republican Donald Trump is through the roof in much of the state. But the relatively small blue areas signifying support for Democrat Joe Biden still make up 1.14 million votes, showing how concentrated the state’s urban population is.

Here is another set of maps showing the changes in presidential party voting:

Keep up the good work, Don!

Alexander: 40,000 Tennesseans could receive COVID-19 vaccine in December

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) speaks at a Tennessee Titans event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee, says Tennessee is in line to receive enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate 40,000 people in December.

Alexander tells The Tennessee Journal he received a briefing from Moncef Slaoui, the head of the federal government’s coronavirus vaccine efforts, who said Tennessee could then receive enough doses for 50,000 people in the following month, and more beyond that. Slaoui told Alexander the majority of Americans could be vaccinated by the summer.

“It’s a spectacular achievement, which the president should be taking credit for — in a way that convinces people,” Alexander said. But the ongoing dispute over the presidential election results could hamper the rollout of the vaccine, he said.

“You don’t want to lose a day or an hour getting those 40,000 doses to Tennesseans because the transition was sloppy,” Alexander said.

Alexander expanded on his comments last week that Trump should be allowed to examine any claims of impropriety in the election results, noting that it took Democrat Al Gore 37 days to concede in 2000. But Alexander said there’s a limit to the strategies Trump should pursue in his effort to turn the tide against Democrat Joe Biden.

“There’s a right way to contest the election — others have done it — and there’s a wrong way. And the wrong way is this business of trying to get state legislators to send a substitute slate of electors,” Alexander said. “That really crosses the line.”

Alexander: ‘Very good chance’ Biden will be president

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) attends an event at the state Capitol in Nashville on Dec. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) says the Trump administration should unlock transition resources for Democrat Joe Biden.

“If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump Administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources, and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on day one,” Alexander said in a statement. “That especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution.”

Alexander’s former Senate colleague, Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga), also weighed in on Friday, saying Republicans have an obligation to “challenge demagoguery and patently false statements” in Trump’s election challenge:

Here’s the rest of Alexander’s statement:

Recounting votes and resolving disputes after a close election is not unprecedented and should reassure Americans that election results are valid.

Al Gore finally conceded 37 days after the 2000 election, and then made the best speech of his life accepting the result.

My hope is that the loser of this presidential election will follow Al Gore’s example, put the country first, congratulate the winner and help him to a good beginning of the new term.

The prompt and orderly transfer or reaffirmation of immense power after a presidential election is the most enduring symbol of our democracy.

24 of 27 Senate Republicans agree: Trump should challenge outcome

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

The Senate Republican Caucus is voicing support for President Donald Trump’s efforts to challenge his re-election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. A letter to this effect has been signed by 24 of 27 GOP members — all but Sens. Richard Briggs of Knoxville, Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, and Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

Briggs and Kelsey face potentially tough re-election campaigns in two years. Gardenhire just won another four-year term last week.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Tennessee Voters,

The Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus stands absolutely and unequivocally with President Donald J. Trump as he contests the unofficial results of the Presidential Election of 2020.

While this election may have been “called” by various media outlets, the election process is far from over. This election was extremely close in multiple states across the country. The coronavirus pandemic led to an extraordinary amount of absentee ballots and voting by mail. We believe that, due to unprecedented mail-in voting and razor-thin margins in multiple states, the ultimate result remains uncertain.

There have been reports of irregularities in many critical states such as Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Until these irregularities have been thoroughly investigated and court appeals have been exhausted, no winner should be declared.

This is not an unprecedented situation. In 2000, the Presidential election result was not clear until December 13. This was after several recounts and court challenges. President Trump has at least another month to contest this election through recounts and litigation, as Al Gore did. We support him in this effort to ensure the integrity of our election process is preserved.

This is an important election. There is no reason to come to a premature conclusion with this many lingering questions. While the results of most presidential elections are clear on or around election day, the results become official only when the presidential electors vote in December. President Trump has a right to challenge the results of this election until at least that point.

We support him in doing so and encourage all Tennesseans and Americans to be patient until the result of this election can be determined.

Sincerely,

/signed/

Lt. Governor Randy McNally

Jack Johnson

Ken Yager

Ferrell Haile

Paul Bailey

Mike Bell

Rusty Crowe

Becky Massey

Steve Southerland

Bo Watson

Janice Bowling

Joey Hensley

Ed Jackson

Jon Lundberg

Frank Niceley

Mark Pody

Bill Powers

Shane Reeves

Kerry Roberts

Paul Rose

John Stevens

Art Swann

Page Walley

Dawn White

Biden endorses Brashaw

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw has received the endorsement of her party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty, who has carried President Donald Trump’s endorsement since before he even officially entered the race.

Here’s the release from the Bradshaw campaign:

Nashville, Tenn. (Oct. 26, 2020) — After taking the stage in Nashville for the final presidential debate last week, former Vice President Joe Biden is lending his support to the state’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Marquita Bradshaw. 

“Marquita is a proven leader who will fight for the needs of working families — needs she understands because she’s faced the same struggles they have. I am proud to endorse Marquita’s candidacy for U.S. Senate,” Biden said.

Bradshaw is a working-class single mom from Memphis who has dedicated her life to advocating for environmental justice, workers’ rights, education reform, tax reform and trade policies that help local communities. She won the Democratic primary with a surge of grassroots support against a well-funded opponent with only $22,000 in her campaign budget.

Bradshaw’s people-powered campaign is now rewriting the political playbook in Tennessee with the state on pace to have its largest voter turnout in history. With another week of early vote still to go, more Democrats have already early voted in this election than in 2018 or 2016. Bradshaw’s campaign is proving that Tennessee is not a “red state,” but instead, a low-turnout state — a historic trend that this election is changing with nearly 1 million new active voters since 2018.

Bradshaw became an advocate for environmental justice after growing up near a military landfill that poisoned her community with the remains of chemical agents and nuclear weapons. Her volunteer advocacy efforts led her to a career as a paid organizer for labor rights. Like many Americans, she faced job loss and foreclosure during the Great Recession in 2008.

“I know what it’s like to be living one paycheck away from poverty, and to feel the crushing weight of student loan debt and medical bills, while trying to care for your family,” Bradshaw said. “There is so much divisiveness in this country, but at the end of the day, we all want the same things — wages we can live on, good schools for our kids, and communities that are safe and healthy. I look forward to working as a Senator with the Biden administration to accomplish this vision for our country together.”  

In just the last few weeks, the campaign has opened seven offices across the state and received key endorsements from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC, and held a virtual fundraising event with former presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg. On Tuesday last week, a telethon-style fundraiser hosted by Third Man Records featured performances by more than 50 musicians and artists. The average donation to Bradshaw’s campaign is less than $25.

Poll: Trump holds 56% to 42% advantage over Biden in Tennessee

Campaign signs outside an early voting location in Nashville on Oct. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican President Donald Trump leads Democrat Joe Biden by 14 percentage points, according to a new SurveyMonkey-Tableau 2020 poll.

The online poll of 4,642 likely voters had Trump with 56% and Biden with 42%. Trump won Tennessee 61% to 35% against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Among men, 65% preferred Trump, while 34% backed Biden. Women were split 49% to 49% between the two candidates.

Biden was ahead in Tennessee among younger voters (65% of those 24 or younger and 55% of those between 25 and 34), but Trump held a wide advatage among older voters (62% of those between 45 and 64).

Trump led by a margin of 70% to 29% in rural areas, though that advantage dropped to 53% to 45% in the suburbs. Biden led 60% to 37% in urban areas.

The poll is co-sponsored by the political news site Axios. But polling site FiveThirtyEight.com doesn’t hold the survey in particularly high regard, giving it a D-minus rating.

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.

Akbari to speak at Democratic presidential convention today

Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) takes a selfie with colleagues and Gov. Bill Lee before the start of the State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis is one of 16 speakers deemed rising Democratic stars scheduled to speak at the party’s presidential convention to nominate Joe Biden on Tuesday.

“Amidst all of the chaos and crises our nation is facing, Democrats are focused on finding new and innovative ways to engage more Americans than ever before—because that’s how we’ll mobilize the nation to defeat Donald Trump in November,” Joe Solmonese, CEO of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, said in a release. “The convention keynote has always been the bellwether for the future of our party and our nation, and when Americans tune in next week they’ll find the smart, steady leadership we need to meet this critical moment.” 

Akbari was elected to the Senate in 2018 after previously serving in the state House since 2013. She is the chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, former chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, and national treasurer of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. She also spoke at the 2016 Democratic convention in support of then-nominee Hillary Clinton.