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Witnesses Announced for Mid-Sept Criminal Justice Reform Hearing

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; August 26, 2014:

(NASHVILLE, TN) August 26, 2014 – Senator Brian Kelsey today released the names of the witnesses scheduled to testify regarding proposed criminal justice reforms in Tennessee. The hearing will occur before the Senate Judiciary Committee September 15 – 16.

“These experts will help us learn from other states how to best protect the public while saving taxpayer dollars. Our committee is privileged to partner with such talented witnesses in the effort to improve the criminal justice system in Tennessee,” explained Senator Kelsey.

The witnesses will provide testimony on the following three subjects: 1) Criminal Justice Reform: How we got where we are in Tennessee, 2) Criminal Justice Reform: What other states have done, and 3) Criminal Justice Reform: Suggested changes for Tennessee.

The scheduled witnesses for the hearings are as follows:

  • Sheriff Robert Arnold, Rutherford County
  • Beth Ashe, Executive Director, Tennessee Corrections Institute
  • Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper
  • District Attorney General D. Michael Dunavant, 25th Judicial District, Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy, and Tipton Counties
  • Paige Edwards, Tennessee Public Defender’s Conference
  • Rebecca Silber and Nancy Fishman, VERA Institute of Justice
  • Tommy Francis, Tennessee State Employees Association
  • Mayor Terry Frank, Anderson County, Tennessee
  • Commissioner Bill Gibbons, Tennessee Department of Safety
  • Mark Gwyn, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Marc Levin, Director, Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Mayor Mark Luttrell, Shelby County, Tennessee
  • John G. Malcolm, Director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
  • Richard Montgomery, Chairman, Tennessee Board of Parole
  • Justin Owen, President/CEO, Beacon Center of Tennessee
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Police Department
  • David Raybin, Esq., criminal defense attorney
  • Justyna Scalpone, Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender
  • Commissioner Derrick D. Schofield, Tennessee Department of Correction
  • Chris Slobogin, Professor, Vanderbilt College of Law; member, Tennessee Consultation on Criminal Justice
  • District Attorney General Barry Staubus, 2nd Judicial District, Sullivan County, Tennessee
  • Thomas E. Tique, Chief Deputy Attorney, Tennessee General Assembly Office of Legal Services
  • Commissioner E. Douglas Varney, Tennessee Department of Mental Health
  • Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee
  • Charlie White, Director, Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents
  • Judge John Everett Williams, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Haslam Creates Task Force on Sentencing, Recidivism

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; August 14, 2014:

Group to develop legislative and policy recommendations

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the formation of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism as part of the administration’s overall effort to reduce crime and improve public safety.

In June, the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet announced a partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice to review sentencing and correction policies and practices. The creation of a task force is the next step in that collaboration.

“We have put a strong emphasis on addressing some of our state’s toughest safety challenges head on, and the Public Safety Subcabinet is doing great work,” Haslam said. “This task force is a next step in making sure we have a comprehensive approach to public safety in Tennessee. I am grateful to the Tennesseans who have agreed to dedicate their time to these issues, and I look forward to their recommendations.”

Members of the task force include:

  • John Campbell, criminal court judge, Memphis
  • John DeBerry, state representative, Memphis
  • James Dunn, district attorney general, 4th judicial district
  • Tim Fuller, sheriff, Franklin County
  • Bill Gibbons, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
  • Mark Gwyn, director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Kim Helper, district attorney general, 21st judicial district
  • Torry Johnson, district attorney general (retired), Nashville
  • Brian Kelsey, state senator, Germantown
  • William Lamberth, state representative, Cottontown
  • Linda Leathers, chief executive officer, The Next Door
  • William B. Lee, chief executive officer, Lee Company of Tennessee
  • Jon Lundberg, state representative, Bristol
  • Mark Luttrell, mayor, Shelby County
  • Becky Duncan Massey, state senator, Knoxville
  • Gerald Melton, public defender, 16th judicial district
  • Richard Montgomery, chairman, Tennessee Board of Parole
  • Seth Norman, criminal court judge, Nashville
  • Bill Oldham, sheriff, Shelby County
  • David Rausch, chief of police, Knoxville
  • Derrick Schofield, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Correction
  • John Stevens, state senator, Huntingdon
  • Blair Taylor, president, Memphis Tomorrow
  • D. Kelly Thomas, court of criminal appeals judge, Knoxville
  • Doug Varney, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
  • Amy Weirich, district attorney general, Shelby County
  • Verna Wyatt, executive director, Tennessee Voices for Victims

The current sentencing structure in Tennessee has been in place for more than 20 years. An examination will ensure that the structure is in line with the variety and severity of criminal behavior. Establishing an effective set of sentencing laws can resolve inconsistencies and avoid discrepancies that compromise public safety.

The task force will receive assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections. Vera staff will conduct data and policy analysis; identify expertise and resources to support the work of the task force; facilitate meetings and assist in the development of the task force recommendations.

The Vera Institute of Justice is a national, independent, non-partisan justice policy and research organization based in New York. Vera has decades of experience partnering with state and local governments across the United States to improve justice systems.

The task force will submit its recommendations to the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet by June 2015.

The subcabinet was created by Haslam in 2011 and launched a multi-year public safety action plan in 2012. The group includes commissioners of the departments of Safety and Homeland Security, Correction, Mental Health, Children’s Services, Health and Military, along with the chairman of the Tennessee Board of Parole, directors of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, Office of Criminal Justice Programs, Law Enforcement Training Academy and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Montgomery Named Chair of Parole Board

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 1, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Richard Montgomery as chairman of the Board of Parole. Montgomery replaces Charles Traughber who retired last week after serving nearly 40 years on the board, much of that time as chairman.

“I am grateful for Chairman Traughber’s many years of service and dedication to our state,” Haslam said. “His experience and counsel was extremely helpful as we restructured the board to transition probation services to the Department of Correction to provide a more seamless and accountable process.

“Richard will do an outstanding job for the citizens of Tennessee in this new role,” Haslam continued. “His passion for the citizens and welfare of this state are well known, and he has the right balance of compassion and common sense to lead this important organization.”

Montgomery, 66, was appointed to the Board of Parole in January. Prior to that, he served 14 years in the General Assembly representing Sevier County. He served as chairman of the House Education Committee and was a member of other key committees including the House Commerce Committee, the Select Committee on Corrections Oversight, the Calendar and Rules Committee, the Joint Lottery Scholarship Committee, the Joint Education Oversight Committee, the Joint Workers’ Compensation Oversight Committee, and the Select Committee on Children and Youth.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to be selected by the governor to chair this important board,” Montgomery said. “I feel fortunate to be working alongside such dedicated and knowledgeable staff and board members. It is a tremendous privilege to be able to serve the citizens of Tennessee in this capacity.”

Montgomery is retired from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he was operations manager for UT-Battelle for 27 years. He has also served on the Sevier County Board of Education along with several other community boards.

A graduate of Hiawassee Junior College and the University of Tennessee, Montgomery received the Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award in 2012 from the Tennessee Business Roundtable. He also received the 2012 Leader in Education Legislative Award from the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. In 2010, he was named Legislator of the Year by the Tennessee Hospitality Association, and the Tennessee County Officials Association named him Legislator of
the Year in 2002.

Montgomery and his wife, Ann, live in Sevierville and have a grown daughter and son-in-law, Megan and Monte Miller, and a granddaughter, Josephine Clair.

McCormick: Lawmakers’ Travel Rules Need Changing

Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for lame-duck lawmakers taking out-of-state trips, says House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.

But he won’t ask outgoing legislators who traveled to Chicago this week for the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual summit to pay the bill themselves, he told reporters Thursday. The lawmakers are either retiring or have been booted by voters in the primary but still chose to take the publicly-funded trip, TNReport revealed Tuesday.

“I think the rules ought to be changed in the future, though,” McCormick said, although he didn’t say whether he would spearhead revising the practice.

“They’re on the way out. They’re not going to have much time to use their experience to benefit the taxpayers and their constituents,” he said. “But the ones that are there now, they did it under the old rules.”

When asked why the rule hadn’t been changed in the two years Republicans have been running the chamber, he said he “just wasn’t thinking.”

“If I lose a primary two years from now, I will not be going on trips,” he told reporters.

House Speaker Beth Harwell said she allows legislators to be reimbursed for one out-of-state legislative trip per year, and she has no problem sending retiring and outgoing lawmakers to the conference if that is the one they choose to go to.

“I don’t think in any way it was an attempt to misuse the system,” she told TNReport. “That was their one trip, and so that was decided many months ago by my staff. So, I’ll respect their decision as legislators that that’s they way they chose to use their legislative trip.”

The House and Senate speakers gave four retiring lawmakers the green light to get reimbursed for the trip, which could cost as much as $2,500 in registration, airfare, hotel stay, per diem and cab rides.

Those lawmakers are Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington. Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, was also approved to go on the trip, but said he decided against it after family emergency.

Both House Education Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, were in attendance at the conference, according to legislative staff, although both had lost their bids for re-election less than a week before in the primary.

Outgoing lawmakers can collect payments such as per diem and travel benefits up to the day before the November election. The state constitution outlines that members belong to the Legislature beginning the day they win the general election, and thus stop earning any compensation the close of day the on the eve of the election, said Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.

Retiring, Defeated Lawmakers on Taxpayer-Funded Getaway

Updated Aug. 7, 2012: Sen. Roy Herron called and said he had planned to attend the conference but decided against it due to a family emergency.

Six Tennessee legislators leaving the General Assembly this year are expected in Chicago this week on what could amount to a taxpayer-funded junket.

Four retiring legislators and two state reps who lost their bids for re-election in last week’s primary have given the state notice they plan to get reimbursed for attending the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in the Windy City that began Monday, a trip that could cost as much as than $2,500 in registration, airfare, hotel stay, per diem and cab rides.

They are Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, who lost their primaries, and retiring lawmakers Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap; Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.

One of the General Assembly’s highest-ranking Republicans says he trusts that the departing lawmakers have good reasons behind their decisions to make the trip.

“I know it will be beneficial to the others who attend to get the benefit of their wisdom and their years of service,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. “I think discretion is the better part of valor with these things, and obviously they’ve exercised their discretion and think it’s fine to go. I’m not passing judgment on it.”

Legislators are permitted to let taxpayers foot the bill for out-of-state legislative trips, complete with a per diem, travel and lodging expenses. Even outgoing lawmakers are entitled, said Connie Ridley, director of Tennessee’s office of Legislative Affairs.

“Members of the General Assembly serve as a legislator until the general election in November,” Ridley said in an email. “They are no longer eligible for compensation of any form the evening before the November general election.”

Richardson says she may have lost her primary election, but she still has legislative responsibilities to handle at the conference.

“I signed up because I am one of the representatives, there’s just a couple of us, who represent Tennessee on the Health Committee,” she said. “These are working committees where we share what we’ve done, and find out what other states have done and make policy recommendations for states. So, because I represent Tennessee on the health committee, I still need to come to the meeting.”

Attempts to reach Montgomery for comment were unsuccessful.

A handful of retiring lawmakers are also on the trip, including Naifeh and Faulk, according to their offices. Herron and Harmon’s offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Legislators can collect a $173 per diem each of the four days of the conference, for $692 total. Registration to the NCSL event ranges from $549 to $690, depending on when lawmakers registered for the conference online. Guests were encouraged to reserve rooms in downtown Chicago with rates ranging from $199 to $227 a night if locked in prior to Aug. 1. Lawmakers can also be reimbursed for airfare, which runs about $300 roundtrip, and cab rides, which average between $25 to $42 from the airport to the convention site.

If lawmakers decide against splitting hotels and cab fare, the cost to taxpayers could approach almost $2,500 for the four-day, three-night trip.

But no money has left the taxpayers’ pocket yet, Ridley said. Lawmakers will have to submit receipts to have their travel expenses paid for once they return, although the conference’s registration will be billed directly to the state.

While the practice is legal and learning how other state legislatures are tackling difficult policy issues is valuable, sending outgoing lawmakers on an out-of-town trip is still “questionable,” said Dick Williams, chairman of Tennessee Common Cause, a government accountability advocacy group.

“I have mixed feelings about the appropriateness of those going who will not be coming back, whether by the election or their own choice,” he said. “If they’re going to continue to do something in public life, they could make good public use of that.”

Here are the other 22 lawmakers slated to attend, according to the office of Legislative Administration:

House of Representatives

Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge

Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis

Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis

Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville

Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon

Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge

Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville

House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin

Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar

Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna

Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville

Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis

Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory

Senate

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville

Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis

Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis

Sen. Steve Sutherland, R-Morristown

Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis

Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson

Democrats Down a Few Incumbents, Too

Incumbent Tennessee Democrats evaded the kind of thrashing administered by legislative primary voters to their Republican counterparts. But they didn’t come away entirely unbloodied either.

Five incumbent Democrats were voted out of office Thursday. Among them were four who lost against fellow lawmakers who they were pitted against as a part of redistricting, and one culled by a Democratic challenger.

Heading into the November general election, the minority party now can focus on their an uphill battle trying to recover from two years ago when Democrats lost 14 seats in the House and one in the Senate.

“We’ve had a little dip in the road here and we need to make sure Tennessee stays focused on those three things, jobs, education and good fiscal management,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, who faces his own re-election challenger in November.

“We have some very good candidates. If people would just give them a look we could elect some and we can overcome the problems we had in redistricting and retirements,” he said.

GOP-directed redistricting earlier this year merged Democrat-leaning districts and resulted in the purging of four rank-and-file incumbent Democrats from Legislature. Other Democrats saw the writing on the wall and opted to retire this year in lieu of running uphill races against Republicans.

Of those ousted was Memphis Sen. Beverly Marrero, a high-ranking Democrat who had served the Legislature for the better part of a decade. She lost her seat to to Minority Leader Jim Kyle by 10 percentage points, a result of Republicans pinning the two against each other after Kyle asked that he be placed in Marrero’s district instead of that of neighboring Republican Brian Kelsey.

Also in Memphis, Rep. John Deberry outdistanced Rep. Jeanne Richardson while Rep. G.A. Hardaway beat out Rep. Mike Kernell, a veteran lawmaker whose career spanned four decades. Both races won on nearly 2-to-1 margins.

The race was even clearer in Chattanooga where Rep. Joanne Favors defeated Rep. Tommie Brown on an almost 3-to-1 margin, winning 3,957 votes to Brown’s 1,514.

But that wasn’t the last of the Democratic defeats Thursday. Longtime Nashville Rep. Mary Pruitt fell to challenger Harrold Love by a mere 41 votes.

The election isn’t over for Kyle and Favors, though, as they both face off against Republicans in the November election.

Even as Democrats lick their wounds, they’re hopeful general election voters will reject the victorious crop of conservative upstarts who picked off incumbent Republicans on Aug. 2.

“You don’t want to ever think negatively about your opponents getting beaten in the primary and all that, but the fact is this can only be encouraging to the general election on our side,” said Fitzhugh, adding the defeats will ultimately make for “a little different complexion on the ultimate makeup of the General Assembly.”

A GOP leadership crisis means opportunities for Democrats, Sen. Lowe Finney, the Democratic Caucus chairman, said in a press release Friday. “When you look at the number of incumbents unseated last night, it’s clear the Legislature will be a very different place next year,” he said. “I’m confident the Democrats can be very influential in that environment.”

Among the ousted GOPs were high-ranking leaders like Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart and Education Chairman Richard Montgomery.

But even as Republicans regroup after this week’s political upsets and await to hear if the results of close races will be challenged, they argue they still see Democrats as “at a severe disadvantage” in the general election, said state GOP Party Chairman Chris Devaney.

NFIB Picks Favorite Incumbents to Support In August Primary

Press Release from the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Chapter; July 6, 2012: 

NFIB Endorses Candidates in 5 Senate, 20 House Primaries

NASHVILLE, July 6, 2012 – The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee’s leading small business association, today said it has endorsed candidates in 25 state legislative primary races. The endorsements were made by NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members. State primaries are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 2, with early voting beginning July 13 and ending July 28. NFIB expects to announce general election endorsements later this summer. The general election will be held Nov. 6.

“NFIB supports candidates who understand how important it is to reduce burdens on small business,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee. “These candidates have consistently supported less taxation and have worked diligently to improve our unemployment and workers’ comp systems.”

Endorsements by Senate and House Districts (NFIB members bolded)

Senate District, Name

2, Doug Overbey

14, Jim Tracy

18, Ferrell Haile

28, Joey Hensley

32, Mark Norris

House District Name

2, Tony Shipley

5, David Hawk

6, Dale Ford

8, Art Swann

10, Don Miller

11, Jeremy Faison

12, Richard Montgomery

20, Bob Ramsey

22, Eric Watson

24, Kevin Brooks

27, Richard Floyd

31, Jim Cobb

45, Debra Maggart

48, Joe Carr

61, Charles Sargent

66, Joshua Evans

71, Vance Dennis

90, John DeBerry

96, Steve McManus

99, Ron Lollar

NFIB’s endorsement is critical to these campaigns. Small business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for actively recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to go to the polls. NFIB has pledged it will activate its grassroots network on behalf of these campaigns. NFIB’s political support is based on the candidates’ positions and records on small business issues.

VIDEO: Haslam Helping Maggart, Says GOP Key in Advancing His Agenda

Gov. Bill Haslam hasn’t thought much about what his perfect General Assembly would look like, but says there’s “no doubt” the scores of Republicans in the Legislature have helped him advance his agenda.

Despite political division between moderate and conservative Republicans on several hot topics this year, Haslam says more GOP members in the Legislature means his team will have an easier time passing much of his legislation, like they did the last two years approving civil service and education reforms.

“I’d love to say it’s all my wisdom, intelligent approach to legislation. But the reality is when you have more people that are on your side, things tend to go a little easier,” Haslam told reporters after speaking at the Digital Government Summit in downtown Nashville Tuesday.

Haslam is promising to pop his head in at campaign events for GOP incumbents this primary and general election season, including House Education Chairman Richard Montgomery of Sevierville and Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Brooks of Cleveland, who both have primary election challengers, among others.

The newest legislator on Haslam’s list of candidates to stump for is Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville. Maggart has become the target of criticism for helping derail legislation to allow workers to store guns in their vehicles on their employers’ parking lots. She faces off against fellow Republican Courtney Rogers, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel supported by the Tennessee Firearms Association, in the Aug. 2 primary.

Haslam said his support is not an attempt to block someone who may be more conservative from taking Maggart’s spot.

“I thought she did take a lot of unmerited heat. I think anybody who would question Debra’s conservatism I think is missing something,” he said. “This isn’t just about Debra. It’s about helping a lot of folks who we think can be helpful to us in the process.”

SCORE Tardy Turning in Teacher Evaluations System Review

The education reform group charged with grading the state’s new teacher evaluation process is turning in its homework late.

No, the dog didn’t eat their research paper. But the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, SCORE, wanted to take more time collecting data, officials said.

“Frankly, it’s that we had some additional inputs from people across the state over the last few weeks,” said David Mansouri, SCORE’s spokesman. “We feel like this is a really important document, and we wanted to make sure all those inputs were included.”

The report was originally due out June 1, but Mansouri and the governor’s administration say to expect it June 11.

The report is the result of feedback from some 27,000 educators, parents and experts from the business community along with state and national education groups through online questionnaires, roundtable discussions and sit-down interviews, said Mansouri.

The results of the study touch the future of job evaluations for some 64,000 teachers and thousands of principals and education staff as state officials expect the report will drive revisions to the system going into the 2012-13 school year.

House Education Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, met with SCORE CEO Jamie Woodson on Capitol Hill Monday but declined to comment on what might be in the report, saying there could still be changes before the recommendations go public next week.

Gov. Bill Haslam asked the group and the state Department of Education in December to start evaluating the teacher grading system. DOE’s report is due out June 15.

Although SCORE was commissioned as a third party to study the system, the organization played a key role in adding the new requirements to state law books in 2010. It was one of a handful of groups that developed ideas that helped the state win a $500 million grant rewarding education reform.

Haslam told reporters last week his administration plans to take the recommendations seriously, adding that asking SCORE to evaluate the system “wasn’t just a charade.”

“I’m firmly committed to the evaluation process. And for it to work, we need to make certain that it’s the best that it can be,” he said.

Teachers and administrators have complained the evaluations are time-consuming and said there’s not a good method to grade teachers in subjects not tested by the state, like music or early education. Teachers ratcheted up their concerns after the Republican-led Legislature last year required that teachers receive above-average evaluations to earn tenure, which offers job protection.

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has said he doesn’t expect any surprises in his department’s review of the evaluation system.

Governor Gearing Up to Help Favored GOP Candidates

Besides being a time to remember fallen soldiers, reopen swimming pools and enjoy a long weekend, Memorial Day also represents the unofficial start of campaign season.

Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll lend some of this clout this year to Republican lawmakers in legislative races who have helped advance his agenda.

“Obviously I’ll be a lot more active this fall in Republican races. I’ll also be a lot more active for folks that have worked really hard for us,” Haslam told reporters after a Memorial Day ceremony on Capitol Hill.

So, who is on that list?

“We haven’t gotten there, yet,” Haslam said, but added he doesn’t see himself pitching in on Democratic races for friendly Democrats.

Haslam’s support “will mainly be going to events and help,” he said, although the he did not rule out making political contributions.

So far, Haslam said he’s been to a campaign event for state Rep. Ryan Williams, a freshman legislator running against Democrat Thomas D. Willoughby, both of Cookeville. Haslam said he’s also planning to attend an event for House Education Chairman Richard Montgomery who is facing off against Dale Carr in the Republican primary election. Both are from Sevierville.

Haslam says he hasn’t sat down to figure out which races he’ll be helping, but said he didn’t think he’d be involved in races for open seats.