Fitz who?

Or, the A-B-C’s of primary voting

Of course you and I know who Rep. Craig Fitzhugh is, the banker from Ripley whose tenure in the House of Representatives spans a couple of decades, and who currently serves as House Minority Leader.

Fitzhugh formally announced his bid for Governor of Tennessee over the weekend, meaning that he will now want to make sure that he’s doing everything he can for the next year to be name-recognized by a whole lot of Democrats.

The same is true for former Nashville mayor Karl Dean, Fitzhugh’s primary rival—and for U.S. Senate candidate James Mackler, for that matter.

Why is everybody always picking on Democrats with this bit of unsolicited advice, and not dishing it out equally to Republicans?

Well, surely you remember the Mark Clayton and Charlie Brown episodes. (Me, not so much, on the latter; embarrassingly, I had to use a web search engine to recall Brown‘s eminently memorable name.)

For a variety of reasons, the GOP has had a much easier time of late making sure that its top-tier candidates are top-of-mind among its primary voters. Democratic Party voters have instead gone with top-of-the-list, alphabetically.

I mean, Mark “I’ll Have Another” Albertini could have run as a Democrat and gotten picked. (Not actually true; in 2006, the incumbent was Gov. Phil Bredesen, whose name, come to think of it, starts with an early letter, but who nevertheless kept all 95 counties in the Dem column.)

So even though Dean has raised a considerable amount, and Fitzhugh likely will be no slouch either, there is precedent for cautious diligence to make sure someone with a last name starting anywhere between A-C doesn’t come along and upset the order.

Republicans who perennially worry about Democrats crossing over and voting in their primary should be wary too: what if, unwavering from their penchant for voting the phone book, Democrats were to accidentally boost Beavers over Black and Boyd? It could happen.

Posted in Humour, TN Gubernatorial Elections, U.S. Senate Elections Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Logos, slogans, and no-go’s

As the race to become the next Governor of Tennessee reached the one-year mark from the primary elections, U.S. Rep. Diane Black became the latest Republican to join businessmen Randy Boyd and Bill Lee, Sen. Mae Beavers, and House Speaker Beth Harwell in the contest. Rep. Judd Matheny promptly made it official that he is running for the Sixth Congressional District seat currently held by Black.

So far, only former Nashville mayor Karl Dean has officially filed in the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary, although House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh may run as well.

Since we are still in the early days when only politics nerds pay attention, it’s fitting that a couple of writers have paid attention to what the candidates’ design teams have come up with for logos, and what their slogans are might well have been.

Freelance photographer and former Tennessee Republican Party communications director Bill Hobbs penned a (mostly?) satirical set of slogans for the GOP candidates.

– Randy Boyd, former Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. whose campaign slogan is, “Because Haslam Can’t Run Again.”
– Bill Lee, businessman, founder of the Lee Company, whose campaign slogan is, “Another Wealthy Business Guy – Like Haslam, But From Middle Tennessee! – With No Previous Political Experience – Like Trump, But Without The Foul Mouth and Odd Twitter Fetish!”
– Mae Beavers, State Senator, whose campaign slogan is “Eek! Gays!”
– Beth Harwell, Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, whose campaign slogan is “Finally, I’m Actually Running for Governor.”
– Diane Black, U.S. Representative, whose campaign slogan is, “I’m One Of You. Except With A 20,000-Square-Foot House.”

What slogans would you assign the campaigns? What’s Karl Dean’s slogan?

The Nashville Scene‘s Steven Hale ranked the logos of all six, and the results could surprise you. Or not. My favorite parts of Hale’s post center on tri-star treatment.

But wait, there’s more! Beavers tweeted a different logo Wednesday afternoon—and it comes with a slogan (“Holding The Line,” for anyone who can’t see the logo due to being dammed by Beavers). (You can see it here.) What does that do to the rankings? And is it better or worse than the other one?

Ending as we started with serious campaign news: earlier this week, U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr. announced that he is not seeking re-election. This removes a significant hurdle for Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, whose upcoming announcement on Saturday presumably is about this.

Posted in TN Gubernatorial Elections, U.S. House Elections Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Getting hotter in Knoxville

For longer than your correspondent has called Tennessee home, the Second Congressional District has been represented by the second John Duncan in a row, causing one family’s hold on the seat to span more than 50 years. The majority of voters okay with this arrangement might well have continued on the same path someday with John Duncan III, but there’s been a snag in the works. (HT Humphrey)

Enter Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, whose affability and skill might overflow the constraints of his public service to-date, which comprises two paltry terms in countywide office and his previous statehouse stints. Burchett surveyed a horizon rich with higher office opportunities—an open gubernatorial spot, a U.S. Senate seat whose incumbent hasn’t publicly committed to running for re-election, and…the U.S. House of Representatives? Sure, why not? It’s just a half-century dynasty.

Besides, the contest for governor has already started in earnest, with fellow East Tennessean Randy Boyd out front in the money race. And even if U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s favorability has flagged a bit among likely GOP voters, winning a statewide primary against other challengers and a two-term incumbent is no easy task.

However, as a friend points out, Duncan has skills of his own, to say nothing of his aforementioned tenacity. Consider this recent maneuver. It’s bacon, wrapped in an unassailable coating of help for veterans, and tied up with a bow from a president who, though he may be embattled in Washington or New York or San Francisco or many, many other places, enjoys persistent support from his base.

Former and future congressional candidate in the neighboring Third District, Weston Wamp, tweeted his encouragement to Burchett this week.

Additional open displays of support are sparse at this point, but we might keep our eyes on the Knoxville area as things progress. And yes, there is a Democrat running for this seat as well.

Posted in U.S. House Elections Tagged with: , , , ,

Brooks is done

A small list of House seats that will not have an incumbent in 2018 added one member yesterday, when Rep. Harry Brooks announced that he is retiring from his District 19 seat. Brooks also donated his campaign treasury contents to four Knoxville area schools.

The Knoxville Mercury alludes to a News Sentinel report that Knox County Commission chair Dave Wright had earlier expressed interest in the seat.

Brooks was first elected in 2002.

Posted in TN House Elections Tagged with: ,

SCOTUS decision to take up gerrymandering case draws applause, but wait

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case (Gill v. Whitford) challenging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering should be a hopeful signal to everyone—well, except hardline, win-at-all-cost partisans.

Unfortunately but predictably, I’m finding some short-sighted takes on this news. “Democrats should be cautiously very happy with this,” gushes The Fix’s Aaron Blake.

In The Atlantic, Vann Newkirk’s slightly steadier hand warns that the Court will not have decided whether there is merit to hear the case until after a hearing.

The more stridently left-wing Think Progress engages in a bit of breathless pleading for Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to stay on the Court “just a little longer” to avoid, as they would describe it, decades of doom.

Writing in Western Journalism, Randy DeSoto flips the perspective to argue the same point but sympathetic to the GOP: “[T]he Republicans have more at stake” with this case, even though there is a case against Democrats in Maryland participating in the same thing.

Granted, it was the GOP that recently got good at drawing lines for their advantage, and capitalized on that edge. We don’t have to look anywhere outside Tennessee to find this out. The current supermajorities in both House and Senate are not exclusively indebted to the 2011 redistricting, but it can’t have hurt. And it’s likely we haven’t reached the end of how it will play out. The Tennessee Democratic Party is clearly squeezed into narrower confines.

But a focus on that is missing the larger point. There is no convincing me that any other party, given the opportunity, would not do the same thing. That is why this is an important case.

David Savage quotes Trevor Potter, former Republican chair of the Federal Election Commission, in the Los Angeles Times:

“The threat of partisan gerrymandering isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an issue for all American voters,” he said. “We’re confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Supreme Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

The Texas state legislature faces multiple legal challenges to its district maps, for racial gerrymandering in addition to the partisan flavor. The rich tapestry of interlocking issues could explain the Dallas Morning Newsanalytical approach to reporting on Monday’s announcement. To my eye, Jamie Lovegrove’s piece carefully treads among the facts about which party has current complaints, without giving in to angst or defensiveness on any side.

Bottom line: The benefit from the reform that’s needed is not for the party that is currently on the outs. Voters need protection from being “cracked” and “packed” into districts by partisan puppeteers. I’m fully aware that there is no ideally “pure” way to do this: an independent redistricting commission would inevitably be chosen and staffed by political people. But it can get better than it is.

And instead of cheering the news, Democrats should soberly reflect on the fact that a partisan gerrymandering ban would also apply to them, when the pendulum swings their way.

Posted in Commentary, Election Laws Tagged with: , ,