Tag Archives: Mike McWherter

Remembering Ned Ray McWherter

Many across the state today are mourning former Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter, who passed away at the age of 80. The current governor, Bill Haslam, issued this statement:

This is a sad day for Tennessee. Governor McWherter was a true statesman who cared about this state and its citizens. He had a long and distinguished career in the legislative and executive branches as well as in business. I will always be grateful for his personal kindness to me and the wise advice he gave me during my first months in office. Crissy’s and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mike and the entire McWherter family during this difficult time.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey released the following:

Few men have meant as much to as many Tennesseans as Gov. Ned Ray McWherter. This state has lost a true statesman and a true original. My heart and the hearts of all Tennesseans go out to the McWherter family today.

Here’s a partial statement from Sen. Roy Herron, who is regarded by some as McWherter’s political heir. (Herron was first elected to the Legislature in the House seat held by McWherter before the latter became governor.)

Governor McWherter was our greatest governor during my lifetime, and I believe he was our greatest governor during Tennessee’s lifetime.

Governor McWherter led Tennessee to set records in the economy, job growth, education, building roads, criminal justice, healthcare, lowering taxes and debt.

While I certainly remember McWherter being in office during my first years in Tennessee, I was not a student of state government at the time. It’s too bad, because I likely could have learned a lot about the state’s politics from studying this apparent master.

Much more recently I met Mike McWherter, and the admiration he holds for his father was immediately recognizable.

My thoughts are with the McWherter family and with all Tennesseans as we celebrate the life of the departed.

More remembrances can be found at WBIR’s website.

Political phantoms

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.

Kilts optional

Post Politics linked to a timely reminder about the upcoming Highlands Debate in Cookeville.

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.

Latest Haslam ad ups Bredesen, McWherter

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.”

‘Curbing’ their enthusiasm: Vice President Biden rallies Tennessee Democrats

The conventional wisdom on midterm elections says it’s not going to be an easy year for Democrats in Tennessee (or many other places). But by all available accounts, there was no damper on the optimism at the state party’s annual Jackson Day fundraiser Friday night in Nashville.

The blogger at Dru’s Vues reported that no chickens were harmed in the making of the event: instead of the typical dinner, donors “paid top dollar to sit on hard metal chairs.” Party chair Chip Forrester said that the money saved on dinner would be put to use in funding campaigns.

Chas Sisk, Erik Schelzig, and Richard Locker each wrote stories about the fundraiser, which reportedly amassed close to $400,000 for the state party. Former Vice President Al Gore introduced current Vice President Joe Biden, who cheered on the three Democratic congressmen who are running for reelection. Gov. Phil Bredesen also spoke, along with Mike McWherter, who is running to replace him.

Tom Humphrey
Speak to Power
Andy Sher