Justin Wilson

Wilson won’t run for another term as comptroller. Is the fix in for Mumpower?

Comptroller Justin Wilson, second from right, presides over a State Funding Board meeting on Jan. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

With about a month left in his term, Comptroller Justin Wilson has made the surprise announcement he won’t seek a seventh term. Wilson, who was first elected to the position after Republicans gained an overall majority in the General Assembly in 2008, said he is endorsing his longtime deputy Jason Mumpower to succeed him.

“While the decision is yours, I am pleased to offer Jason my full and wholehearted endorsement to serve as Tennessee’s 35th Comptroller of the Treasury,” Wilson said.

While Wilson’s support for Mumpower is unsurprising — the two often parade around the legislative office complex in matching costumes — the last-minute timing is causing some gnashing of teeth in the Cordell Hull Building. With the holiday season upon us and the ongoing pandemic wreaking havoc on government activities, the deck will be stacked against any other candidate trying to drum up support for a rival bid.

A joint convention of the House and Senate elects the comptroller, meaning the lower chamber, where there are 73 Republicans, has the numerical advantage over the 27 GOP senators.

Here is Wilson’s letter to lawmakers:

Dear Members of the 112th General Assembly,

I write to you today with a tremendous sense of pride. Tennessee is doing just great.

For the last 12 years, I have commended you, the General Assembly, for your focus on the fundamentals of our financial strength. Our state continues to provide essential services to Tennesseans while remaining committed to low taxes, low debt, and strong financial management.

Tennessee’s fiscal stability has proven critically important as we have dealt with the economic challenges and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

Tennessee is well positioned for the future. As I have contemplated my own future, I have determined that now is the time for me to step aside. Although it has been my wonderful privilege to serve as your Comptroller, I will not seek a seventh term.

The General Assembly will have an important choice to make in January. I have encouraged Deputy Comptroller Jason Mumpower to seek election to the Office. While the decision is yours, I am pleased to offer Jason my full and wholehearted endorsement to serve as Tennessee’s 35th Comptroller of the Treasury.

Jason is the right person to lead our committed effort to provide independent audits, objective research, and most of all, conservative fiscal management. I know he cares deeply about our state and the Comptroller’s Office. Please join me in supporting Jason as Tennessee’s next Comptroller.

I do believe our Office is carrying out its mission to Make Government Work Better. It is a joy and an adventure to serve our state.

Sincerely, Your Beloved,

/signed/

Justin P. Wilson

Tennessee money cop Justin Wilson dons money suit

Comptroller Justin Wilson enters House budget hearings on Dec. 17, 2019 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)State Comptroller Justin Wilson drew less attention at House budget hearings on Tuesday for what he said than for what he wore. Wilson and his deputy, former Rep. Justin Mumpower, donned matching suits with $100 prints on them.

Mumpower wore a tie with the same pattern on it, but the self-proclaimed “beloved comptroller” resorted to his old reliable Grinch tie.

Nashville mayor blasts comptroller’s letter as ‘political document’

Nashville Mayor David Briley is blasting a letter from state Comptroller Justin Wilson‘s office questioning the city’s finances as “essentially a political document.” The letter, Briley said, was instigated by Councilman John Cooper, his opponent in Nashville’s mayoral runoff next month.

“It’s my understanding that Councilman Cooper and his conservative, Republican friends on the council solicited it,” Briley said in a candidate debate Monday evening. “So he certainly should know a fair amount about it.”

The comptroller is elected by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which has a long track record of nullifying ordinances enacted in the heavily Democratic city.

Cooper, the brother of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), called the letter a “big wake-up call” as Nashville’s debt has doubled over the last four years.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Cooper said. “It’s not Republican and Democratic — I’m, of course, a long-time Democrat myself — it’s dollars and cents. Are we being well-managed? Are we on it?”

Briley cited the city’s strong credit rating from Moody’s as an objective seal of approval for the Nashville’s finances.

“Our finances are, in fact, under control,” he said. “And when the final budget is assessed at the end of this year, you’ll see that our fund balances are actually up over last year.”

The runoff is on Sept. 12. Early voting is underway and runs through Sept. 7.