The first decade of the twenty-first century is ending, and though there is no rule that says retrospectives must be timed to coincide neatly with flips of pages in man-made calendars, such is, in practice, when they are written. Following is a brief recap of Tennessee politics, from the perspective of one who, in late 2000, was just starting to pay attention. Continue reading
The Tennessee election season has entered its final weeks, and some citizens are just now getting around to paying attention. It’s a pity that they face a dearth of candidate appearances; and when they do hear from or about one, they might not be able to trust the information.
Republican House of Representatives candidate Charles Williamson, of “bison poop” fame, says he is not behind a recent round of negative robo-calls aimed against his Democratic opponent, incumbent District 51 Rep. Mike Turner. Williamson’s campaign says he “has held fast to a ‘no-mudslinging’ rule and demanded the same of his staff and volunteers. He has also promised no robotic telemarketing.”
“If voters get a call from my campaign,” Williamson says, “It will be from a real human who can answer questions and thoroughly engage in conversation. I hate robo-calls and they are not a part of this campaign plan.”
This year, voters are having a hard time hearing from candidates in another expected format. Yes, we’re talking about debates. In the Third Congressional District, Republican nominee Chuck Fleischmann is taking heat from the Democrat and from the independents for not agreeing to debate them. A second “LiberTea” debate will be held Saturday, October 16, at the Woodland Park Baptist Church site that hosted the first one. Unlike the first one, Fleischmann will not be there. Democratic candidate John Wolfe, and independents Mark DeVol and Savas Kyriakidis are expected to attend.
Voters in the Eighth Congressional District are missing out, too. Some place the blame on GOP nominee Stephen Fincher, and say he is the one avoiding his opponents in a head-to-head verbal contest. A debate that had been scheduled for today (Tuesday, October 5) at Union University in Jackson has been canceled, and is replaced with solo appearances by each candidate. At this writing, no other debates are scheduled in the district.
Gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam agreed to three debates against his chief opponent, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter; but additional events had already been planned, or were in the works, and Haslam has no plans to attend those. The Chattanooga Young Professionals chapter is putting on its second annual “Drink and Debate” on Thursday, October 14. According to the YPAC press announcement, McWherter is scheduled to attend, along with independent candidates Bayron Binkley, Brandon Dodds, Samuel Duck, David Gatchell, June Griffin (Prohibition Party), Howard Switzer (Green Party), and Carl Whitaker. (Note: Duck and Whitaker have recently dropped out and endorsed Dodds.) Unfortunately for YPAC, their first “Drink and Debate” was similarly lacking a key candidate: Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield had a conflict, which left Rob Healy and Thomas Smith II (who’s now on the ballot for governor, by the way, but apparently not debating) to bedazzle the curious yupsters.
Not to be left out, Democratic state Rep. Jimmy Naifeh is accused of ducking debates by his opponent, Jim Hardin, who said he is “far from shocked.” “I think the last thing Mr. Naifeh wants to do is have his liberal record questioned by the voters of the 81st District. He’s gotten away with being ‘Mr. Jimmy’ in Covington, Burlison, Stanton and Brownsville when he comes home and talks a good game, but the voters are starting to see that his votes in Nashville don’t line up with their values,” Hardin continued.
Of course, conventional political wisdom says that the frontrunner avoids debates while the challenger looks to gain ground by appearing on a shared stage. But how far does that logic go? And, as in the case of the Eighth District, what if there is no clear frontrunner?
Debates are by no means the only way for voters to vet candidates. In fact, they too often devolve into streams of talking points and petty finger-pointing. But even so, it seems that if one is certain of one’s ability to serve in the office, one ought to show voters the respect of attending, if at all possible. With just weeks to go before Election Day, I urge you to stay informed, even as some of the candidates try to sidestep you.
A televised gubernatorial debate has never happened outside a major metropolitan area, but in one week, a first-of-it’s [sic] kind gubernatorial debate will be held in Cookeville.
The reason for the change is to make sure the candidates know about the needs of small town Tennessee.
Today is the last day to submit written or video questions to be asked of the candidates. Visit the debate website for details.
Knoxville mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam today unveiled a new campaign ad aimed at his general election audience—in other words, not just Republicans—and it hails Tennessee’s two most recent Democratic governors along with the state’s current Republican U.S. Senators as leaders whom Haslam intends to emulate. Here is the ad script, courtesy of the campaign:
There’s no place like Tennessee. Mountains in the East, river in the West. Heartfelt music in every corner. Good people. Great leaders. Phil Bredesen, Ned McWherter, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker. People who take our natural good and give it a shine. There’s another good man from Tennessee. Thinks he can make a difference. Seasoned in the world of business. Created thousands of jobs. As mayor, led Knoxville to its best days ever. Sees Tennessee a few steps ahead of some. Plan’s right for the future. Brings us security, prosperity. Bill Haslam. Businessman. Mayor. A good man. The right experience to be Governor. Not for any part of Tennessee, but for the good of all Tennessee.
Governor Phil Bredesen and former Gov. Ned McWherter, both popular Democratic officials, have endorsed Haslam’s chief opponent, Mike McWherter, in the November election.
Haslam campaign manager Mark Cate said “Tennessee has been blessed with great leaders—statesmen—who rise above the fray during difficult times. Bill Haslam is that type of leader, and the combination of his public and private executive experience makes him uniquely qualified to govern in these challenging times.”
UPDATE: Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press got this reaction from the Mike McWherter campaign:
McWherter campaign spokesman Shelby White scoffed.
“It’s glaringly apparent that Bill Haslam is leaving out the eight-year term of (Republican) Gov. Don Sundquist in his new fluff piece,” White said. “He also fails to address the fact that his family strongly supported Don Sundquist and raised millions of dollars to support their quest for a state income tax.”
UPDATE 2: I found this quip by renowned political commentator A.C. Kleinheider on Facebook: “Let’s be honest. If Mike McWherter [weren't] the actual candidate running against him, even he would be thinking seriously about voting for Bill Haslam.”
I’ve just completed the guides for all congressional districts that have contested primaries today. The guides for Tennessee Governor, U.S. House of Representatives, state Senate, and Hamilton County races are all available in the left sidebar or via the menu bar at the top of this page.
I did not get a chance to finish documenting the primary contests in the Tennessee House of Representatives. At this point, I wouldn’t finish before the races were decided, so there’s that. It’s a shame, because there are some I wanted to highlight, like District 81, where Rory Bricco and Jim Hardin are vying to see who will take on former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh in November. There are also a few open seats, like District 18, where Rep. Stacey Campfield is running for the District 7 Senate seat. Three Republicans are running in the race to replace him: Steve Hall, Jonathan Katsiros, and Gary Loe. The winner will face Democrat Sam Alexander in November.
Other than state House, if you don’t see a district or office in the list, it’s because there is not a contested race on August 5. I realize that it’s more thorough to list all candidates, even when there is no opposition. I’ve taken the most practical approach I could muster, given time constraints. Thanks for understanding.
I’m cooking up a whole new approach for presenting this information for the November elections. Stay tuned, and thanks for your continued support.