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Slatery a ‘Wonderful Choice’ to Replace Cooper: Bredesen

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, said he’d have preferred that the five members of Tennessee’s Supreme Court, composed of two Republicans and three Democrats, award Robert E. Cooper with another eight-year term as attorney general.

But Bredesen said the court wasn’t in a position to allow Cooper to continue serving as the state’s most influential government attorney. “I had hoped that he would be able to stay. As a practical matter, that was almost impossible with the changes that have taken place in the governor’s office and so forth,” Bredesen said following an event in Knoxville to promote Amendment 2.

“I am sorry Bob didn’t stay. But if he were not going to stay, this is a wonderful choice to replace him,” Bredesen said of the court’s selection of Herb Slatery, Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief legal advisor since 2011.

Cooper served as the Bredesen administration’s legal counsel from 2003-2006 and was campaign treasurer on Bredesen’s first gubernatorial run in 2002.

Bredesen’s comments indicated he isn’t inclined, at least publicly, to share in criticisms expressed by other prominent Tennessee Democrats, like House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and state Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron, alleging that the Supreme Court succumbed to partisan political pressure in selecting Slatery.

Fitzhugh issued a statement Monday charging that the court had “capitulated” to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and “the very special interest groups” that unsuccessfully campaigned this summer to replace the three Democratic justices initially appointed by Bredesen.

Herron’s statement said, “It appears to many that General Cooper’s party affiliation was used against him.”

Slatery won appointment over a field of seven other applicants, among them Cooper, Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts Director Bill Young, Republican state Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, former solicitor general Mark Fulks, Eugene N. Bulso, Jr, a Nashville business lawyer, Andrew Tillman, a former chancery court judge from the Upper Cumberland region, and Nashville attorney William Helou.

Ramsey issued a statement Monday hailing the court’s decision to appoint a Republican attorney general, who he predicted “will be a strong advocate for the people of Tennessee and a vigilant defender of Tennessee’s conservative reforms.”

The lieutenant governor had in fact indicated in comments to the media last week that “Bill Young may be handicapped somewhat because he at least has the impression that he’s Ron Ramsey’s candidate.” On Monday, Ramsey revealed he had met earlier with Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Justice Gary Wade “to bury the hatchet” with respect to the retention campaign fight, and also to lobby for “a more conservative AG.”

Cooper is in the processes of transitioning out of the attorney general’s office, a space he’s occupied since 2006.

Following a swearing-in ceremony for Chief Justice Lee in Knoxville Wednesday, Slatery told TNReport he’s in the process of preparing to move into his new role as attorney general. But he said a date hasn’t yet formally been set for when he will officially take over. “We’re are trying to figure that out right now. There is a transition and we want to be sure we leave my office (as the governor’s lawyer) in real good shape,” he said, adding that Cooper “continues to hold the office until the successor comes on.”

Regarding the allegations by Herron and Fitzhugh that the Supreme Court felt pressured to pick a Republican, Slatery said, “I am not going to be partisan, and they know that,” he said.

With respect to the court’s decision-making, Slatery said, “I don’t think it was a real political process.”

TNDP Chair Calls on Corker, Alexander to Vote to Overturn Citizens United

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; September 8, 2014:

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron released the following statement calling on U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to vote to stop the poisoning of our democracy by special interests and billionaires. Chairman Herron urged the senators to vote in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 19, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn recent Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC.:

“These recent Supreme Court decisions are endangering our democracy by opening the floodgates for billionaires and special interests to buy elections and politicians. No foreign corporation or billionaire should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to drown out the voices of our citizens. Our Republican senators should stand up for returning our democracy to the people.”

Kyle Seeks AG Opinion on Filling His Senate Vacancy

The Shelby County Democratic Party is preparing to select a nominee to fill the vacancy Memphis Sen. Jim Kyle’s departure from the state Legislature will create. But the outgoing upper-chamber minority leader has concerns about how that process will unfold.

On Friday, Kyle, who is retiring after 31 years in the Senate, requested that the state attorney general issue an opinion that sorts out the legal issues surrounding how to select a nominee to run as his replacement to the General Assembly.

Kyle’s request comes on the heels of Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron, a former state senator, telling local party officials that there was confusion about the local caucus process they’ve indicated they will employ to select the nominee. Herron has concerns about the timing of the caucus, who can vote at the caucus, whether the decision would be made by a majority or plurality of votes and whether it would be a public roll-call vote or by secret ballot, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Kyle won a Shelby County judgeship on Aug. 7. and will resign from the Legislature after he’s sworn-in on Aug. 29. However, state law doesn’t provide for a government-run open primary when the timing of a vacancy in the Senate occurs so close to voters going to the polls in November. Instead, officials from the county parties are authorized to choose nominees for the general election ballot.

Democrats such as Sara Kyle, Sen. Kyle’s wife, and former state Sen. Beverly Marrero, who Kyle defeated in the 2012 primary, have expressed interest in the seat. Additionally, current Shelby County Tennessee House members Antonio “2-Shay” Parkinson and G.A. Hardaway, may also be looking to move to the General Assembly’s upper chamber.

Following the GOP-led redistricting in 2011, Marrero and Kyle found themselves opponents in the 2012 Democratic primary. After her primary loss, Marrero told TNReport that she felt “betrayed” by Kyle’s request to Republicans that he be drawn into a race against her instead of State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TNDP Hoping for Gains in Nov. After Tea Party Losses in Primary

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; August 8, 2014:

Radical Republicans’ losses throughout Tennessee have opened doors for Democrats in November.

The Tennessee GOP has long held truth and reality in contempt, and Ron Ramsey’s reckless ploy to undermine the independence of our judiciary with hundreds of thousands of dollars in misleading attack ads was just the latest and most offensive example of this contempt. Tennesseans saw through the distortions and outright lies being pushed by the Lieutenant Governor, and a bipartisan majority voted to retain our eminently qualified Supreme Court justices.

Despite a slate of cherry-picked candidates, nearly half of the non-incumbents in the Republican Red to the Roots program managed to lose their general election race, and of the latest non-incumbent additions to the class, three out of four lost. Voters sent a clear message that the radical Tea Party Republican agenda has no place in Tennessee.

Democratic candidates up and down the ballot will continue to take the fight to Tea Party Republicans and continue to make plain that Tennessee values are Democratic values.  Democrats’ continued successes will lay the foundation for this November and beyond.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron made the following statement on the results of the August 7th elections:

“Yesterday’s election results show that Tennessee is a state that supports common sense values and rejects right-wing extremism.”

Volkswagen Announces New SUV Line for Chattanooga

Volkswagen has announced that Tennessee will be home to its new SUV production line, representing a $600 million investment in the Volunteer State that’s expected to generate 2,000 more jobs at the company’s Chattanooga plant.

The automaker’s decision, which includes plans to establish a new strategic marketing and research facility in Tennessee, comes on the heels of an announcement by the United Auto Workers union that it would be opening an office for a voluntary chapter at the Southeast Tennessee VW plant.

“The impact of this announcement goes far beyond the 2,000 new jobs because of the large multiplier effect of the automotive industry,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, in a press release, “and adding an additional manufacturing line and the National Research & Development and Planning Center sends a clear signal that Tennessee can compete with anyone in the global marketplace.”

The press release from the Governor’s office also notes that the state is providing a $165.8 million grant for site development, infrastructure, equipment acquisition and construction costs, as well as a $12 million grant for new employee training.

Volkswagen Group of America has agreed to waive certain tax credits related to its expansion as part of the incentive package.

And some other leaders in Tennessee auto manufacturing supplies — such as Kim Ketchum, Magneti Marelli’s corporate director of business development  or James Adams with eSpin Technologies, Inc. — echoed the Governor’s point that VW’s decision to increase production could create more demand for vehicle parts and positively impact other areas of auto manufacturing across the state.

Others have expressed hope that the expansion will lead to more emphasis on STEM education in the Chattanooga region.

Volkswagen has also named global works council chairman Bernd Osterloh to the board of directors for it’s American auto group.

Political leaders and industry groups lauded the German automotive group’s decision to expand.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, formerly Chattanooga’s mayor, reminisced about the day, “six years ago,” that he received a call from the Volkswagen board that Chattanooga was where they had decided to locate.

“Today’s announcement is a similar high point,” Corker said in a press release, “as VW’s significantly expanded presence means that thousands of more families will benefit from the good paying jobs being created at the plant.”

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron praised former state senate colleague and current Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, as well as other city leaders and VW employees, for bringing the expansion and jobs to the state.

“We commend the management and workers at Volkswagen as well as Mayor Berke and other city and county leaders who persevered and brought these jobs despite Republican threats, attacks, and interference with the rights of this company and its workers,” Herron said.

The UAW’s secretary-treasurer, Gary Casteel, issued a statement Monday to congratulate Volkswagen, its employees and Tennesseans on the automaker’s expansion, and thank Haslam for extending the necessary incentives to make the expansion work.

“State officials assured the public and Volkswagen employees that the decision on incentives for Chattanooga would not be related to whether workers exercise their right to join a union, and they kept their promise,” Casteel said in the statement, as reported by WTVC in Chattanooga.

In the statement, Casteel also alleged that the autoworkers union’s decision to expand to the Scenic City played a part in the decision of the automaker. “The fact that the new line is being announced four days after the rollout of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga reinforces the consensus that the UAW has reached with the company,” Casteel said.

The decision garnered national and international coverage from outlets such as the Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Automotive News.

Herron Looks Back to 1964 Civil Rights Act, Chides GOP Over Voter ID

Column from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron; July 2, 2014:

 This column originally appeared in The Commercial Appeal.

Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I was in elementary school and had no clue about the law that would drastically change daily life for African-Americans. I surely had no idea how it would improve life for white Americans like me.

This historic legislation outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin at “places of public accommodation.” The movie theater I frequented had to discard its “coloreds only” entrance and the segregated balcony. Restaurants where we ate had to let African-Americans out of the kitchens and into the dining areas. My future friends, like state Sen. Reggie Tate of Memphis, were no longer excluded from admission to the Mid-South Fair six days a week.

The new law gave the U.S. attorney general authority to seek redress when school boards deprived students “of the equal protection of the laws.” Two years later, my school in Weakley County, Tennessee, was desegregated. And for the first time, I began to spend time daily with African-American children. I had new friends in the classrooms, and the lessons went beyond reading and writing.

After signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson said to an aide, “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.” The president underestimated the political impact, which continues now two generations later.

In 1966, just two years later, the people of Tennessee for the first time popularly elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate.

In 1968, in Memphis, the sanitation workers went on strike and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was struck down. In Nashville the Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction. Then in 1970, Tennessee elected a second Republican to the U.S. Senate, throwing out Democratic Sen. Albert Gore Sr.

Despite the backlash, the Civil Rights Act changed customs and changed society. With those changes, what could not have been imagined in 1964 became reality in 2008: An African-American was elected president.

Yet some Republicans responded to this historic progress with crude jokes and racist appeals to fellow bigots. In just one of many examples, a Tennessee Republican state legislative aide sent e-mails caricaturing President Barack Obama’s official portrait as two cartoon eyes peering from a black background.

When in 2010 I ran for Congress, racism was too easy to find. I can still see the angry face of the man at the duck supper who responded to my handshake with “Lemme talk with you about your (N-word) president.” And the scowling man at the rodeo who snarled, “I don’t shake hands with darkies or Democrats — and they’re often the same.”

Thankfully, most Republicans are not racists. But while most Republicans would never discriminate, degrade or demean, their leaders’ legislative actions still repress voters and reverse progress.

All over the country, Republicans are pushing new impediments to discourage and decrease voting by minorities and low-income citizens. While Republicans say they oppose big and oppressive government, they rammed through Tennessee’s government ID law, now notorious as one of the nation’s most burdensome. Only certain government cards now are acceptable at the polls, after Republicans outlawed using a Social Security card or even photo ID cards from the Memphis public library or the University of Memphis. Those without a driver’s license – nationally, 25% of African-Americans – now must go to a driver’s license station, but fewer than half of our counties even have such a station.

Republicans claim these laws fight voter fraud, but instances of persons trying to vote while using someone else’s identity are almost nonexistent. And researchers at the University of Southern California showed strong evidence that “discriminatory intent underlies legislative support for (these new) voter identification laws.”

The first book of the Bible teaches, “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” God’s image does not have a color, but it does have a creed. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Galatians 3: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Our American ideals long have taught that we are one. The Great Seal of the United States proclaims “E pluribus unum” — from many, one.

But it was just 50 years ago today that statesmen and idealists and people of a deep faith in Almighty God and in America together created the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Let us celebrate their good work for justice and freedom. And let us carry on their good work, so all God’s children can live in peace and love in truth.

TNDP: Akbari Win in Memphis ‘a Rejection of Destructive Tea Party Agenda’

Statement from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron; November 22, 2013:

Memphis — Following the announcement that Democratic candidate, Raumesh Akbari, won the special election race for Tennessee’s open State House District 91 seat, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron released the following statement:

Representative Akbari has won a clear victory, but it’s the people of Memphis who are the real winners. Today Memphis voted for a candidate who is ready to fight for opportunity, fairness and people who work for a living.

Rep. Akbari’s victory is also a rejection of a destructive Tea Party agenda that hurts working families. Memphis voters sent a clear message that they want a representative who will be a problem solver and a strong voice against the extremism at the state capitol.

Following after Speaker Lois DeBerry is a huge challenge, but Rep. Akbari is enormously talented and exceptionally bright. This awesome young woman is worthy of the mission ahead of her and all of Tennessee will benefit from her gifts.

Herron Calls on GOP Lawmakers to Stop Their Own Pay During Shutdown

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; October 1, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron today called on Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Congressmen Stephen Fincher and Scott DesJarlais and other Republicans who shut down government to stop paying themselves.

“Congressional Republicans are cutting off the pay of almost a million U.S. workers, but continue to pay the least productive, most wasteful, least efficient and highly paid federal employees — themselves,” Herron said. “Because Congressional Republicans refuse to do their work, federal workers cannot do our work.”

On Monday, CNN host Ashleigh Banfield confronted U.S. Rep. Blackburn and another Republican Congressman, asking if they would forgo their $174,000 salary while other federal employees are being denied pay because of the government shutdown. Blackburn refused to answer and still has not answered.

Blackburn’s comment comes on the heels of her Tennessee Republican colleague U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher’s controversial quoting of the Bible when arguing against food stamps.

Herron said, “Why should the politicians pay themselves for refusing to take care of business while denying others’ paychecks for taking care of the people’s business? Congresswoman Blackburn has so far refused to say whether she will stop her pay, but Congressman Fincher has quoted 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and told her what she and he should do: ‘Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.'”

BACKGROUND:

CNN Host Asks GOP Representatives Whether They’d Give Up Their Salary During A Shutdown, Hilarity Ensues

ThinkProgress // Annie-Rose Strasser and Adam Peck // September 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

On Monday, CNN host Ashleigh Banfield confronted two Republican representatives – Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) – to see whether they themselves would be willing to forgo a paycheck in the event of a government shutdown, something nearly every other federal employee would be forced to do.

“So you are both paid $174,000 a year, and that is the salary,” she said, “Would you be prepared to add some rider or amendment on to a continuing resolution that would take you out of the essential services category and stop payment on your paychecks in order to get a continuing resolution through, and yes or no?”

There was a long pause before the two tried to pivot to a different topic. Eventually, Rohrabacher stepped in to say that members of Congress were treated the same as other federal employees:

BLACKBURN: We are waiting to see what they send back, and I hope that as you were running the countdown clock that you are I have two grandsons, and their share of the national debt is now over $53,000 each.

BANFIELD: No no no. I’m sorry. I asked a specific question, and there are a lot of the government workers going to stop receiving their paychecks, and a there are a lot of the military service members who are serving overseas who might be stopped being paid and veterans whose benefits will be affected. Would you –

ROHRABACHER: Let me answer that. Members of Congress should not be treated any differently than any other federal employee.

BANFIELD: Is that a yes?

ROHRABACHER: Whatever happens to us when it comes to what we get in benefits and whether it is retirement or health care and whatever happens to the average federal employee should happen to us, and that rule should not be changed.
If the government shuts down on Tuesday, all government employees who are considered “non-essential personnel” will be told to stop coming to work and, for the period they’re not working, they won’t be getting paid. Those federal employees also wouldn’t get back payment when the government resumed its work, unless Congress explicitly approved a bill saying they would. Members of Congress are considered “essential.”

TNDP: HHS Report Shows ‘Obamacare’ Costs Lower than Expected

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; Sept. 26, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As Republicans attempting to defund the Affordable Care Act march the country toward both a government shutdown and also a default on our obligations, the Tennessee Democratic Party touted new data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showing that Obamacare is working and will cost consumers less than anticipated.

“The new report found that health care rates in Tennessee will be affordable, especially with new help available for around half of Americans buying health insurance. The report found that here in Tennessee, a 27-year-old making $25,000 a year will pay $103 per month and a family of four making $50,000 could pay $128,” said Roy Herron, chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “The Affordable Care Act can help working families, but Republicans in Washington are trying everything to take affordable health care away, even if it means hurting our economy by shutting down the government and not paying our nation’s bills.”

The report found that in addition to lower premiums, Tennessee consumers will be able to choose from 59 plans and pick the one that works best for their family. These health care plans have no lifetime caps on care, end discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, and bar insurers from charging women more.

In contrast, the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a bill with the support of Republican Congressmen Phil Roe, Jimmy Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded and all those hard-fought protections ended.

To view the report with a breakdown of how the Affordable Care Act is helping Tennessee, click here.

TNDP Chair, House Minority Ldr. Condemn Lt. Guv Tweet on Syria, 9/11

Statement from Roy Herron, Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party; September 11, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron issued a statement Wednesday condemning a message broadcast from the Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey twitter page:

“Speaker Ramsey should fire whoever wrote such an outrageous, dishonest, misleading, incendiary, unpatriotic and dangerous attack on our nation’s president and on Republican leaders like Senators Corker and McCain and House Speaker Boehner and even the Military Leaders working with them. Many of us are unsure about how to proceed in Syria, but whoever wrote that Tweet dishonors the victims of 9/11 and our military men and women who are doing all they can to stop more children and parents from being gassed and killed.”

Statement from State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, Tennessee House Minority Leader; September 11, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. (September 10, 2013) – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh released the following statement in response from an offensive tweet from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey on the anniversary of 9/11:

“September 11th is a day when all Americans come together to remember a solemn occasion in our history. Instead of honoring those who gave their lives 12 years ago, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey decided to take the low-road and accuse our Commander-in-Chief of allying with the very terrorist who attacked our country.

“This divisive rhetoric dishonors the memory of those who died on this day. It is insulting to our President, to Senator Corker who shares the President’s position, to all Americans no matter their position on Syria and to the memory of those we’ve lost. Lt. Governor Ramsey is either grossly misinformed or he has decided to be a partisan, instead of a patriot. He should apologize immediately.”