legislative campaigns

Who do you love? Top PAC donors of this election cycle

The doors of the state Capitol were closed to the public on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Political Action Committee giving to legislative candidates may be down in 2020 compared with the previous election cycle, but that doesn’t mean big money isn’t finding its way into the the campaign coffers and leadership committees of Tennessee lawmakers.

Through campaign finance disclosures running through the start of early voting on July 17, here are the top PAC and business recipients among state lawmakers, candidates, and leadership committees.

  1. MCPAC (Randy McNally): $510,380
  2. CAM PAC (Cameron Sexton): $385,287
  3. HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS: $334,500
  4. SENATE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS: $326,250
  5. TENNESSEE LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: $259,292
  6. SEXTON, CAMERON: $230,076
  7. ROSE, PAUL: $181,184
  8. JOHNSON, JACK: $147,950
  9. LAMBERTH PAC $138,000
  10. KEYPAC (Ken Yager):  $120,600
  11. REEVES, SHANE: $117,350
  12. LAMBERTH, WILLIAM: $115,750
  13. POWERS, BILL: $111,595
  14. TILLIS, RICK: $99,577
  15. FAISON, JEREMY: $97,750
  16. GARDENHIRE, TODD: $93,617
  17. SMITH, ROBIN: $90,550
  18. HAILE, FERRELL: $88,600
  19. LYNN, SUSAN: $86,550
  20. GANT, RON: $85,550
  21. DICKERSON, STEVEN: $82,150
  22. BELL, MIKE: $78,580
  23. HICKS, GARY: $77,408
  24. YAGER, KEN: $77,065
  25. BAILEY, PAUL: $76,100

The PACs and businesses that have given most generously are:

  1. TENNESSEE REALTORS PAC: $446,700
  2. WINE AND SPIRITS WHOLESALERS OF TENNESSEE PAC: $324,100
  3. TENNESSEE BANKERS ASSN PAC: $189,250
  4. TENNESSEE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: $164,710
  5. AMAZON.COM SERVICES LLC: $163,000
  6. TENNESSEE HIGHWAY CONTRACTORS PAC: $161,500
  7. JACK DANIEL’S PAC: $154,000
  8. FLEX PAC: $149,500
  9. INDEPENDENT MEDICINE’S PAC-TN: $146,250
  10. TN ADVANCE FINANCIAL PAC: $146,100
  11. BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF TN PAC: $134,600
  12. FEDEX CORPORATION PAC: $133,100
  13. CAM PAC: $129,817
  14. FRIENDS OF THA: $121,250
  15. AT&T TENNESSEE PAC: $117,650
  16. CORECIVIC INC. PAC: $115,750
  17. TENNESSEE HEALTH CARE ASSN PAC: $112,750
  18. TENNESSEE REYNOLDS AMERICAN INC. PAC: $105,750
  19. TENNESSEE EMPLOYEES ACTION MOVEMENT: $102,400
  20. HCA TRISTAR FUND: $101,900

Here’s who the TSEA isn’t endorsing in the primaries

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee State Employees Association has announced its endorsements in legislative primaries around the state. The TSEA gave the nod to the 11 incumbents running for re-election in the Senate and 58 sitting members in the House.

The group endorsed former Rep. Page Walley in the Republican primary for the open Senate 26 seat against former Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton. It also gave the nod to former Rep. Scotty Campbell over National Guard Lt. Col. Neal Kerney in the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville).

The list of members who did not receive a TSEA endorsement includes some prominent members like House Majority Leader William Lamberth, House Minority Leader Karen Camper, House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager.

The TSEA said further endorsements will follow after the primary.

The early voting period for the Aug. 6 contests begins on Friday.

Here’s the full list of incumbents who didn’t get the TSEA endorsement (for the ones who did, click here):

SENATE:

  • District 8: Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains)
  • District 10: Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga)
  • District 12: Ken Yager (R-Kingston)

HOUSE:

  • District 1: John Crawford (R-Kingsport)
  • District 5: David Hawk (R-Greeneville)
  • District 9: Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville)
  • District 10: Rick Eldridge (R-Morristown)
  • District 11: Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby)
  • District 12: Dale Carr (R-Sevierville)
  • District 21: Lowell Russell (R-Vonore)
  • District 26: Robin Smith (R-Hixson)
  • District 28: Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga)
  • District 29: Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah)
  • District 33: John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge)
  • District 39: Iris Rudder (R-Winchester)
  • District 41: John Mark Windle (D-Livingston)
  • District 44: William Lamberth (R-Portland)
  • District 46: Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon)
  • District 47: Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma)
  • District 50: Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville)
  • District 51: Bill Beck (D-Nashville)
  • District 53: Jason Powell (D-Nashville)
  • District 55: John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville)
  • District 58: Harold Love (D-Nashville)
  • District 59: Jason Potts (D-Nashville)
  • District 62: Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville)
  • District 68: Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville)
  • District 81: Debra Moody (R-Covington)
  • District 87: Karen Camper (D-Memphis)
  • District 89: Justin Lafferty (R-Knoxville)
  • District 92: Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg)
  • District 94: Ron Gant (R-Rossville)

Dunn won’t seek re-election to House in 2020

House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) presents school voucher legislation on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, the longest-serving Republican in the state House, says he won’t run for re-election next year. Dunn was the lead House sponsor of this year’s controversial school voucher legislation. He had already drawn a primary opponent.

“After the 2019 session was over, and we had passed Educational Savings Accounts legislation, as well as one of the most pro-life measures in the country, House Bill 1029, I decided it was the right time to conclude my public service on a high note,” Dunn said in a statement.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Representative Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) today announced he will not seek re-election to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2020.

Dunn currently serves as Speaker Pro Tempore — the second ranking member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. He recently was the acting Speaker of the House due to the resignation of the previous Speaker. Dunn was first elected to the General Assembly to represent the citizens of House District 16 in 1994, making him the longest tenured Republican House member now serving.

“After the 2019 session was over, and we had passed Educational Savings Accounts legislation, as well as one of the most pro-life measures in the country, House Bill 1029, I decided it was the right time to conclude my public service on a high note.”

Dunn said that he wanted to go ahead and make his plans known so that those interested in running for the seat could start making their own plans.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of our community for the past 26 years as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. I have reached a point in my life where it is time for me to seek new challenges. I am not sure what my future holds, but I look forward to many new and exciting adventures.”

During his tenure, Tennessee students became the fastest improving in the entire nation across math, reading and science. In 2019, Dunn championed an initiative that establishes the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program which gives students and their families the opportunity to select the school that most meets their educational needs.

Additionally, Dunn has been an unwavering and passionate voice for the Right to Life. He has fought to strengthen Tennessee’s pro-life laws in recent years and has strongly supported initiatives to protect unborn children and their mothers.  This year, the legislature passed one of the country’s strongest pro-life measures, House Bill 1029, which restores Tennessee’s pre-1973 pro-life laws when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Dunn was tireless in pursuing road improvements in the district, and he will leave office with major improvements to Emory Road in Powell, Highway 33 in Halls, and the I-640/Broadway interchange in Fountain City.

Dunn and his Republican colleagues have also cut more than $700 million in taxes since 2011, and they have supported a business-friendly environment that has led to statewide unemployment rates remaining near historic low levels.

“I will be leaving office with our state in a stronger position than when I first came to Nashville,” said Dunn. “We have vastly improved our education system, our state is ranked number one in fiscal responsibility, and, because of the conservative leadership, we continue to attract quality jobs.  I appreciate my colleagues for their friendship and for their dedication to the citizens of Tennessee. I represent the best people in the state and thank the constituents of the 16th House District for the opportunity they have given me to serve them and the great state of Tennessee.”

Bill Dunn is Speaker Pro-Tempore for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. Dunn is also a member of the House Calendar & Rules, Education, Government Operations, and Naming, Designating & Private Acts and Transportation Committees. He is also a member of the House Curriculum, Testing, and Innovation, and the House Infrastructure Subcommittees, as well as the Judiciary & Government Subcommittee of Joint Government Operations Committee. Dunn lives in Knoxville and represents Tennessee House District 16, which includes part of Knox County.

Voucher sponsor Bill Dunn draws GOP primary challenger

House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) presents school voucher legislation on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Bill Dunn, the lead House sponsor of this year’s school voucher bill, has drawn a primary challenge from Patti Bounds, a former teacher and Knox County school board member, Knox TN Today reports.

“I opened the bank account today,” Bounds told the publication.  “And now it feels real.”

Bounds opposes the “Education Savings Account” measure enacted at first-year Gov. Bill Lee’s behest. Dunn has been a longtime supporter voucher proposals. He has served in the General Assembly since 1994. He currently serves as speaker pro tem, the ceremonial No. 2 position in the House.

It’s on! Bounds vs. Dunn 2020

Dunn is the second incumbent to draw a primary opponent over the voucher issue. Freshman Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington), who voted for the education savings account bill, has drawn a primary challenge from Lee Mills, a former Shelby County GOP
chairman who opposes the measure..

 

Mostly status quo in Tennessee General Assembly

House Republicans lost seats in Knoxville and Nashville, but picked up a rural West Tennessee seat formerly held by a Democrat to leave them with a 73-26 advantage in the chamber. No seat changed hands in the Senate, where the GOP holds 28 of 33 seats. So it will be mostly be status quo ante when the General Assembly comes into session in January, other than a slew of new faces replacing retiring lawmakers.

(Note: this post updates the percentages of various races that didn’t have all precincts reporting late Tuesday night. None of the outcomes changed.)

Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) lost 55%-43% to Democrat Gloria Johnson, whom he defeated by about 300 votes two years ago in House District 13.

In the race to succeed House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in House District 56, Democrat Bob Freeman beat Republican Brent Moody by 2 percentage points.

In the race to succeed House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) in House District 82, Republican Chris Hurt beat Democrat Andrea Bond-Johnson 57%-44%.

Continue reading

Lee says he didn’t authorize mailer for Rep. David Byrd

Republican gubernatorial candidate appears in a state GOP mailer supporting controversial Rep. David Byrd of Waynesboro. Only problem is that Lee says he didn’t authorize it.

Lee was asked about the mailer in Williamson County on Tuesday, and said he did not know whether the photo was taken before or after sexual misconduct allegations were made public about Byrd. Two women said Byrd touched them inappropriately when he was their 28-year-old basketball coach, and a third said he tried to.

“I haven’t seen that picture, so I don’t know, and we didn’t authorize the use of that,” Lee said.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) called for Byrd’s resignation, but he is seeking re-election this year.

Continue reading

Races to watch on Tuesday

The Tennessean’s crack political crew has come up with 11 races to watch on Tuesday. Two are obvious (the Senate and governor’s races), but there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening down ticket a well.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

  • 7th Congressional District. Republican Mark Green vs. Democrat Justin Kanew are running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Marsha Blackburn. It seems unlikely that a Democrat would manage to pry this one loose, but it will be a good one to watch anyway as Green tries to work his way back up the political ladder after having to withdraw as President Donald Trump’s nominee as Army secretary. Green hasn’t been shy about talking up his prospects as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2020 — even if incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) runs again.
  • State Senate District 31. Incumbent Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) vs. Democrat Gabby Salinas. This is the race that has made Senate Republicans the most nervous this election. They’ve dumped in $300,000 to try to ensure the seat stays in Republican hands.
  • House District 13. Incumbent Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) vs. former Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). Yes, again. Smith beat Johnson by about 300 voters two years ago, and it could be just as close this year.

Continue reading

Democratic PAC makes last-minute TV buy in race for Harwell seat

The independent expenditure arm of the state House Democratic Caucus is making a last-minute television ad buy in support of Bob Freeman, the Nashville Democrat running to succeed retiring House Speaker Beth Harwell.

The Tennessee Tomorrow PAC is spending $77,325 on the ads to run between Saturday and Monday. The PAC’s largest funder is real estate mogul Bill Freeman, who has donated $200,000. The elder Freeman was an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in in Nashville in 2015 despite dropping $3.5 million of his own money into the race.

Bob Freeman faces Republican Brent Moody in the House District 56 race. Harwell was re-elected in 2016 despite the district voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the presidential election. The race to succeed Harwell is considered the Democrats’ best chance in their efforts to pick up seats on Tuesday.

The Tennessee Tomorrow PAC has raised $530,000 since the beginning of the third quarter. Besides Bill Freeman’s $200,000, other big donations include $50,000 from the Tennessee Education Association, $50,000 from Laroche Enterprises, and $20,000 each from Friends of Darren Jernigan, George Bright, Mike Stewart, and the U.S. Rep Jim Cooper’s PAC.

Republican mailers target Salinas, Johnson

Republican mailers targeting Democratic Senate candidate Gabby Salinas of Memphis use communist imagery including a hammer and sickle, while others aimed at Democratic House candidate Gloria Johnson in Knoxville arguably go even a step further by invoking former Volunteers’ coach Butch Jones.

The mailers are produced by Direct Edge Campaigns. They are aimed at propping up incumbent Republicans Brian Kelsey of Germantown and Eddie Smith of Knoxville.

See full pages of the ads after the jump.

Continue reading

Leatherwood nominated to succeed late Rep. Lollar

The Shelby County Republican Party has named former state Sen. Tom Leatherwood as the nominee to succeed to state Rep. Ron Lollar, who died less than a month before the primary election.

The decision was made by the three members of the county party’s steering committee who live in the 99th House District, The Daily News of Memphis reports.

“This is new to all of us,” Shelby County Republican Party chairman Lee Mills, who recused himself for the vote because he was also a contender for the nomination. “So it’s a little awkward. I don’t believe we’ve ever done this before.”

Leatherwood served in the Senate from 1992 to 2000, when he was elected register of deeds in Shelby County. He made an unsuccessful challenge to U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in 2008, saying that “too many Republicans got Potomac fever and became more self-serving.”

Leatherwood, who lost his bid for the Republican nomination for circuit court clerk in August, faces Democratic nominee Dave Cambron in the general election for the state House seat.