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Devaney: TNGOP a ‘Shining Light’ to Nation

A top Republican strategist says his party won big in Tennessee because voters are “gravitating to the message” Volunteer State GOP politicians communicate.

Now, Republicans in Tennessee couldn’t really ask to be in a better position to execute the policy measures they say will propel the state along a path of economic prosperity, fiscal responsibility and social conservatism.

“Tennessee, I think, is a shining light and an example across the country for what we can do,” Chris Devaney, chairman of Tennessee’s Republican Party, told TNReport.com.

In fact, Devaney said he sees no reason his party’s historic supermajorities in the House and Senate won’t continue to grow in 2014.

“It’s about job-creation and education … tax reform, legal reform, all of that, and people just keep gravitating to that message,” said Devaney, who added: “The Democrats, really, in this state have no message.”

Democrats certainly disagree with Devaney on the message issue, but Republican Party dominance at the polls speaks for itself. Bob Corker handily won re-election to the U.S. Senate, the GOP continues to hold seven of nine Congressional seats and in the statehouse have secured walkout proof majorities in both chambers.

Devaney said he did encounter one unpleasant surprise on Election Night. Mitt Romney may have won Tennessee by 20 percentage points, but nationally his Republican message didn’t resonate like it did here.

“I thought Romney would win and that we might pick up a couple of more seats in the House,” he said.

It’s likely that Devaney will be around for at least another two years. He is running for a third term as Tennessee Republican Party chairman. The party’s executive committee will make its decision at a Dec. 1 meeting, and party officials say they are not aware of any challenges to Devaney’s re-election.

That means that those who want to run under the Republican banner will continue to face a strict litmus test.

“We’ve got to make sure… that we have people who are sticking by the core principles,” Devaney said. “One thing I ask people when they walk in here is, ‘Are you for a state income tax?’”

If they are, Deveaney said, they won’t get a dime of state GOP campaign money.

“Second amendment, same thing, pro-life, same thing,” he said.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

Plumbers’ Union Lets Campaign Cash Flow, Racks Up $400K Debt

One of the most politically active labor unions in Tennessee is doubling down on the election this year, doling out more campaign cash than it did in 2010 or 2008, even as other unions have cut back on their political giving.

The Plumbers & Pipefitters Education Committee — the Tennessee union’s political arm — has given out $278,300 in campaign contributions so far in 2012, records show. That already has surpassed the $270,100 the union gave during the 2010 election season and the $245,440 it provided to politicians in 2008.

The Plumbers & Pipefitters union has even taken out hundreds of thousands dollars in loans — largely from Farmers & Merchants Bank — apparently to underwrite the union’s political payouts.

Records show the union’s political action committee has an outstanding loan balance of $398,971. Records show the committee taking out loans steadily for years. The last bank loan was for $70,000 received Oct. 12.

It’s unclear what this nearly $400,000 debt will mean for the union’s members.

And the election isn’t over yet. The campaign finance reports for the crucial last days have yet to be filed, so it’s all but certain that the Plumbers & Pipefitters will have far exceeded $300,000 in political giving by Election Day.

Spending more money on candidates this year was not deliberate, said former Secretary of State Riley Darnell, who serves as the union’s political adviser. There are simply more campaigns this year that the union has an interest in.

“We have a lot of candidates in support of working people,” Darnell said. “The need was greater.”

As far as the bank debt, Darnell said he couldn’t comment and that decisions such as taking out loans are made by internal union officials.

Plumbers & Pipefitters has long been one of the biggest political unions on Tennessee’s Capitol hill, frequently cutting five-figure checks to the state Democratic Party and giving large contributions to union-friendly candidates such as former state Sen. Jim Lewis, a Democrat running for a state Senate seat in District 16, which encompasses Marion, Warren and Coffee counties, and Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, a former Democratic House majority leader.

The plumbers are priming the political pump as other labor unions in Tennessee have curtailed their campaign donations.

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The Tennessee, later known as Mid-South, Carpenters Regional Council political action committee, for example, doled out $68,700 in campaign contributions in 2010. In 2012 that number has dropped to $28,960.

Tennessee’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers political action committee spread around $102,500 in campaign cash in 2010. This year, its campaign contributions are $80,700.

And the Tennessee Laborers PAC handed out $73,000 politicians in 2010. In 2012 that has shrunk to $45,500.

You can see the details of the Plumbers & Pipefitters campaign records, as well as all Tennessee campaign finance reports, by clicking here and using the state’s online search database.

The vast majority of union giving is aimed at Democrats and Democratic causes, though some union money is starting to trickle to Republicans. The carpenters union, for example, gave $500 to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s political action committee as well as $2,500 to the Tennessee Republican Caucus. The Laborers gave donations to Gov. BIll Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell’s PAC and state Sen. Jim Tracy from Shelbyville.

The Plumbers & Pipefitters’ giving has heavily favored Democrats.

The union’s escalation in campaign spending comes at a time when public employee unions in Tennessee are facing an increasingly hostile legislature. With Republicans controlling the governor’s mansion and both houses, unions have few seats at the bargaining table.

During the the 2011 legislative session, the Legislature passed efforts to curb union influence in state government and schools. Democratic state lawmakers reacted angrily, but they didn’t have the votes to thwart the measures.

Tennessee isn’t the only place where a union is placing big bets for Election Day.

In Michigan, not only are unions are working toward setting collective bargaining privileges in stone via a provision in the state Constitution, they are also trying to unseat a pair of conservative Justices on the state Supreme Court.

And nationally, the Service Employees International Union has emerged as the top outside spender on Democratic campaigns this year, surpassing even President Barack Obama’s main super PAC.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@TNReport.com on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

TNGOP Wants Turner to Apologize for Racism Remark

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party; Oct. 1, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney demanded an apology from House Democrat Caucus Chairman Mike Turner for echoing an identical claim he made two years ago, saying racism is the reason for Tennessee voters’ opposition to President Obama.

Turner’s comments came at the Tennessee Democrats’ state executive committee meeting on Saturday.

Turner said, “We’ve got a president up here whose color is not the right shade according to a lot of people, and they just hate him for that reason…I was talking to a guy this morning at a filling station and it didn’t matter what Obama did, he’s not going to like it because Obama’s an African-American. I told him, I said, ‘Look, he’s half white. You ought to like half of him anyway.’ These people are dead set against him for that reason, and that’s unfortunate. That’s very unfortunate.”

According to the Nashville Scene’s Jeff Woods, the “half white” comment drew nervous laughter among the Democrats’ committee.

“This is not the first time that Mike Turner has said something absurd, but this crosses the line,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.

Turner made similar allegations of racism against Tennessee voters back in March of 2010, saying, “All of a sudden, we have a black man elected president and everybody wants to start acting like something’s wrong with our country.”

Turner’s comments two years ago prompted Devaney to send a letter to Tennessee Democrat Party Chairman Chip Forrester, asking him to condemn Turner’s comments at the time. A response was never received.

“Aside from his own racially-insensitive joke about President Obama, for Mike Turner to once again accuse Tennessee voters for not embracing the President’s failed economic policies because of racism is nothing short of outrageous,” said Devaney.

“Tennesseans overwhelmingly reject this President based solely on his failed policies that have led us to more spending, higher debt, and 23 million Americans still struggling to find work. Saying that Tennesseans’ objection to the President is because of racism is a slap in the face to the integrity and morality of voters, and Mike Turner should be ashamed.

“As I did two years ago, I, once again, demand that Mike Turner immediately apologize for his irresponsible joke and outrageous claim about Tennessee voters. And I, once again, also call on the Democrat Party to publicly condemn Mike Turner’s comments,” concluded Devaney.

Kyle Laments ‘Barriers to Voting’ in TN

Press release from State Senator Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; September 28, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Voter participation in Tennessee is critically low, and the barriers to voting are too high, Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle said Friday.

“What’s the difference between a farmer in Iowa and a farmer in Tennessee? A farmer in Iowa can vote for president today,” Kyle said.

Early voting has already started in Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont and Virginia. Tennessee starts Oct. 17.

Only five states have lower voter participation than Tennessee, according to a Sept. 10 study by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. It recommends that state elections officials study a method for voters residing at a temporary residence to vote in statewide elections.

The report also looks at ways other states have modernized their elections with new methods for voting. Eight states allow same-day registration, others allow voting by mail and even voting by email, which is especially convenient for military personnel overseas.

“Tennessee, unfortunately, has instead set up new barriers making it harder to vote,” Kyle said. “On top of that, problems with county balloting systems are raising questions about the integrity of our elections.”

View the complete TACIR study here.

 

Ketron Praises Chancellor McCoy’s Decision to Uphold Voter ID

Statement from State Senator Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro; September 28, 2012: 

(NASHVILLE, TN) — “Yesterday, we had affirmation in state court, in addition to federal court affirmation in July, that Tennessee has the right to guard against voter fraud and ‘to secure the freedom of elections and the purity of the ballot box’ as our Constitution states,” said Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).

“It should not be easier to board a plane, buy a beer or attend a national political convention than to vote in Tennessee,” he added. “As U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said photo identification to vote is ‘amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.’”

“Our right to vote is one of the most sacred symbols of our freedoms. Many Americans and many Tennesseans fought and died for that right. Requiring a photo ID to vote will help maintain the integrity of elections in our state. This state court decision, like the earlier decision in federal court, supports that effort,” he concluded.

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NOTE: Ketron first introduced the voter identification law in 2006 after the trial regarding voting irregularities in Senate District 29. He was the Senate sponsor of Senate Bill 16 / PC 323 which implemented the law that was passed in 2011. He represents Marshall, Maury, Lincoln and part of Rutherford County in the State Senate.

Yager Rejects Dems’ Push for Hearing on Voting Irregularities

Statement from Senate State & Local Gov’t Committee Chairman Ken Yager; September 25, 2012: 

(NASHVILLE, TN), September 25, 2012 — “There are two state agencies, the Division of Elections and the State Election Commission, which are charged with the responsibility of reviewing this matter and making any recommendation for changes. These are the most appropriate bodies to review any issues related to the August election.”

“The State Election Commission is a bipartisan board whose members are appointed by the General Assembly as recommended by the Republican and Democratic caucuses. ”

“Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins requested an independent audit by the office of the Comptroller of Treasury to fully investigate the matter.”

“Both of these agencies are currently discharging their responsibilities fully and appropriately. I have confidence that they will make any changes needed after reviewing all of the facts; therefore, I see no reason to duplicate their work at taxpayer’s expense.”

TCA: Are Davidson Co. Elections ‘Borked?’

Newsletter from Tennessee Citizen Action; September 13, 2012: 

BORKED

According to the dictionary for geeks, something is “borked” when it doesn’t work correctly or misbehaves, generally due to negligence by the person(s) that are responsible for it.

So just how borked are elections In Davidson County? Well, we’ll know this afternoon [pdf] after the Davidson County Election Commission meeting.

See, after deciding last week to NOT use the problematic Electronic Poll Books in the November Election, it came to our attention that the Davidson County Election Commission (DCEC) will meet again today to reconsider using the malfunctioning machines.

If the DCEC decides to reinstate the EPBs in November then we will be left scratching our heads and wondering why?

As the world’s leading democracy, we can’t use machines that deny some residents the opportunity to participate equally in our democratic process.

Read the rest of the story… and then call or email the Davidson County Election Commission and ask them to stick with their original decision to NOT use the Electronic Poll Books in November.

Go here for more…

CITIZEN ACTION IN THE NEWS

State wants Davidson County Election Commission to ‘make a wrong a right,” WPLN, September 11, by Blake Farmer

Tennessee Citizen Action Raises More Questions, As Officials Reconsider Decision on EPBs,” Nashville Scene, September 12, by Steven Hale

Citizens’ group worries that problematic poll books will be used again,” Tennessean, September 12, by Brian Wilson

Davidson election leaders could reverse poll book vote,” WSMV-TV, September 12, by Cara Kumari.

Metro Councilmembers pull purse strings, ask for commission audit,” WPLN, August 30, 2012, by Blake Farmer

ALEC UPDATE

ECHOING ALEC’S PLAYBOOK, THE REAL STORY OF WALKER’s TORT “REFORM”: On New Year’s weekend in 2011, many Wisconsinites were focused on the Badgers’ return to the Rose Bowl or whether the Green Bay Packers would beat the Detroit Lions and get another shot to win the Super Bowl, but the incoming administration of Governor Scott Walker had other, bigger contests on its agenda. In mid-winter, while many in the state were worried about who would win or lose the big games, Walker’s team was preparing to change state law in numerous ways, including making it easier for corporations to win big cases and limit the damages paid if their products or practices kill or injure people in Wisconsin.

Walker, who had suddenly dropped out of college in his senior year at Marquette University, didn’t think up these changes to Wisconsin personal injury law all by himself. Key provisions of his “tort reform” package were previously drafted by lawyers or lobbyists for the global corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Read the rest…

ALEC UPDATE, PART 2

PROGRESSIVE STATES ACTION: “ALEC and its high-priced global public relations firm have begun to attack its critics.

Wisconsin legislators affiliated with ALEC are deleting public records related to the organization.

In just 25 days last year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker fast tracked his tort “reform” agenda through the legislature. Key parts of the package “were previously drafted by lawyers or lobbyists for the global corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council.” More

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: PROFITING FROM PRIVATE DOLLARS: For years, corporations have joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the opportunity to develop legislation that diverts public dollars into their corporate coffers. A new report by In the Public Interest, “Profiting from Public Dollars: How ALEC and Its Members Promote Privatization of Government Services and Assets,” exposes ALEC’s extensive privatization agenda.

The report details how private prison corporations, online education companies, health care corporations, and major industry players pay large membership fees to ALEC in exchange for valuable and unfettered access to state legislators. Corporations are able to work with ALEC lawmakers to craft bills that allow private control of public functions, and guarantee a steady stream of tax dollars to enhance profits.

Fitzhugh Talks of Dems Clawing Back In November

Craig Fitzhugh strikes a calm tone when talking about the prospects for the Democrats in the November election, even as new district lines drawn by the GOP point to a more diminished role for the minority party.

“We’re trying to claw back in with some positive people,” the House minority leader said. “We’ll just let the numbers fall where they are.”

We’re “certainly optimistic about holding our own, at least.”

The House is made up of 64 Republicans, 34 Democrats and an independent. However, seven Democrats are not running for re-election this year, leaving the seats open for Republican challenges in newly drawn districts that favor the GOP.

The magic number for the Republicans is 66 in the House, 22 in the Senate. If the party can gain two seats in each chamber, they’ll secure a supermajority that would allow them to press their agenda without the support of a single Democrat, rendering the minority party unnecessary. Voters will decide the winner of nine Senate seats. But with a wide playing field of 27 contested House races, the odds don’t look so great for Fitzhugh.

But he’s keeping his chin up.

“You have to keep your priorities, which are jobs, education and people,” said Fitzhugh, who said Democrats can still be effective under further GOP control. “Here before, the minority had been back there on the back row or something, every once in a while lobbing a grenade. That’s not the way we do it. We focus on facts.”

Fitzhugh is referring to the decades the Legislature was controlled by the Democrats, before a tidal wave in 2008 that gave the GOP control of both houses for the first time since Reconstruction. In 2010, the party won the governor’s mansion.

For the last two years, Democrats struggled to get the GOP to seriously consider any of their jobs bills. Only one measure passed.

The Democrats managed to help block legislation GOP leadership was not ready to go for, including a school voucher bill that would have allowed parents to apply the tax dollars that cover their children’s education to the costs of private and parochial schools in 2011. State officials are weighing whether to reintroduce that concept next year.

Fitzhugh said he plans on running for re-election to be minority leader. So far, no one has stepped up to challenge him.

Ramsey: GOP ‘United’ Behind Romney

Statement from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; August 31, 2012: 

The fall election season has begun. The Republican National Convention has concluded and the party has nominated two excellent men to lead it through November and beyond: Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan.

I was proud to represent both my party and my state as a Tennessee delegation co-chair in Tampa and witness the introduction of this great ticket to the American people. Our Tennessee delegation had a great time sharing stories and ideas with Republicans from across the country.

And then there were the speeches. So many different voices all coming together for one common purpose. Whether it was the foreign policy genius of Condoleezza Rice, the inspiring social conservatism of Governor Mike Huckabee or messages from the tea party delivered by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, all the speakers were united in reaching one goal: electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and ending America’s Obama ordeal.

As many of you may know I supported a different candidate in the primary. But after this past week and after studying the record of Mitt Romney, I truly believe we are united behind the best candidate to defeat Barack Obama.

The Obama campaign will try and paint Mitt Romney’s experience in business as a negative but I believe the American people will see through these transparent attacks. Mitt Romney has a story to tell and it is one of economic recovery.

For 15 years, Mitt Romney worked at a company that took failing businesses and turned them around. He described his experience in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

“I know what it takes to turn around difficult situations. And I will put that experience to work, to get our economy back on track, create jobs, strengthen the middle class and lay the groundwork for America’s increased competitiveness in the world,” Romney explained.

Mitt Romney, for lack of a better term, is a turnaround artist. That skill is the number one requirement to lead America out of the Obama recession.

I’m excited at the prospect of a president who has worked in the private sector identifying new ways to maximize resources and solve problems. I’m energized to support a presidential candidate who speaks from experience and with optimism about the possibilities of our free enterprise system in contrast to a President who belittles the efforts of small businessmen.

Mitt Romney’s competency as an executive leader was proven once again in his choice of a runningmate. Many urged Governor Romney to make a safe choice and choose a bland figure who would make no waves. He instead made a bold choice.

Paul Ryan is young, visionary leader of the intellectual Right and one who has been unafraid to stake out clear and definable positions.

The choice of an advanced thinker such as Ryan shows that Romney is concerned not just with the politics of getting elected but with the policy expertise needed to govern. In his speech in Tampa, Rep. Ryan revealed himself as the perfect compliment to Mitt Romney and showed that he is ready to serve on day one.

The choice the American people have been given is a stark one — and that is just how I like it.

On one side, we have a man who spent a career building success out of failure, a man who has turned around companies and saved jobs. On the other side, we have a man who has taken a recession and turned it into a near depression all the while telling individuals who have managed success in tough times that “they didn’t build that.”

These two visions of America could not be more diametrically opposed.

In Tennessee, Republicans have proven that conservative governance works. We have proven that you can shrink a budget’s bottom line, cut taxes and still provide high quality services. We have shown that a state that pays its bills on time can thrive — even in the Obama recession.

I see the same principles of conservative governance in the Romney/Ryan ticket. I look forward to seeing a change in the White House and cannot wait to see Mitt Romney make America’s economic comeback his turnaround masterpiece.

Senate Dems Question Big Increase in GOP Voter Turnout

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; August 29, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Democratic legislative leaders requested in a letter that state election officials delay plans to certify August primary results after alarming reports of voting machines that defaulted to the Republican primary ballot.

“Voting apparatus should never default to one party or another,” the letter states. “We join citizens around the state who now doubt the outcome of the August elections in Davidson County, and we demand a full investigation. We also demand that plans to certify the election tomorrow be suspended.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Lowe Finney, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh and House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner sent the letter to Secretary of State Tre Hargett Wednesday. An analysis of August turnout showed a 27 percent increase in Democratic turnout, compared to a 350 percent increase in Republican turnout.

“Frankly, it doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” the letter states.

The complete letter can be found here.