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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Following Primary, Alexander Emphasizes Moderate Credentials

Having sufficiently stressed his conservative credentials to stave off a Tea-Party challenge from his right, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is looking now to win support among moderate liberals and centrists.

The two-term incumbent has released what he hopes will be a growing list of endorsements he’s picked up from the ranks of Democrats and independents.

Included in what he’s calling “Tennesseans for Alexander” are Democratic notables like former U.S. Rep. John Tanner and the longest-serving member of the Tennessee General Assembly, state Sen. Douglas Henry.

Also on the list are several current or former mayors, as well as former University of Tennessee Football Coach Johnny Majors and Rochelle Stevens, an Olympic gold medalist.

Alexander’s Tea Party-backed primary opponent, state Rep. Joe Carr, criticized Alexander as being too moderate.

During his campaign Alexander did his best to highlight his conservative endorsements and credentials, as well as his opposition to President Barack Obama‘s policies.

Now, though, Alexander looks to be shifting toward his “consensus-building politics” mode.

Not everybody who bought into Alexander before is buying in this time, though.

Alexander’s Democratic opponent in the November general election, Gordon Ball, a Knoxville attorney, has previously allowed his name to appear on a “Tennesseans for Alexander” list, a decision that Ball now calls “a huge mistake.”

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Press Releases

Ramsey: The Conservative Case to Replace the TN Supreme Court Justices

Letter from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; August 1, 2014:

Dear Friend,

If you’ve been following the state Supreme Court election, you know that for the first time in decades, Tennesseans are learning about our Supreme Court through the constitutionally-required election process.

You may remember that I began an educational effort to make sure that voters, victims-rights advocates and members of law enforcement knew an important election approached. My goal was to have an engaged and informed electorate so the retention ballot would be a real election rather than a coronation, as in years past.

At that time we knew, based on decisions the Court had made, that their judicial philosophy did not fit the values of most Tennesseans. I believed my role would be limited to raising awareness about the importance of Supreme Court elections.

Today, we know far more about our Supreme Court. Despite asserting that they are nonpartisan, their campaign team is made up entirely of Democrats – and not just any Democrats. Liberal Democrats with direct ties to Obama, Harold Ford Jr., and state Democrat Party chairman Roy Herron.

While their campaign is run by Obama liberals, their fundraising efforts are being executed by trial lawyers who have a vested personal interest in the outcomes of Supreme Court decisions.

The Tennessee Forum, an organization started to oppose Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and fight a state income tax, is doing exceptional work on this replacement effort. They share the same conservative principles and mission as RAAMPAC, the organization I started over a decade ago to push the legislature in a more conservative direction.

RAAMPAC has always been about more than just obtaining numerical majorities — it has been about promoting the conservative cause. I cannot in good conscience sit on the sidelines while Obama operatives distort the record of this liberal Supreme Court and attack the reputations of those who oppose them.

My cause is the conservative cause. And the place for conservatives to be is fully behind the effort to replace a Supreme Court that is out-of-touch and out-of-line with Tennessee values.

That is where I am. If you have already voted REPLACE, thank you. If not, I hope you will join me in voting to REPLACE Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade.
Sincerely,

Ronald L. Ramsey
Lieutenant Governor
Speaker of the Senate

1 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-4524

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Press Releases

TRA, TN Conservatives Call on Lawmakers to Oppose ‘Commie’ Core

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Assembly; October 29, 2013:

(Nashville, TN October 31, 2013) — The Tennessee Republican Assembly (TRA), along with other conservative leaders across the State of Tennessee, has called for Tennessee legislators to oppose the continued implementation of the Common Core Federal Mandates in Tennessee due to concerns about these Federal standards and specific concerns about $700,000 recently spent to send Tennessee school principals to China to learn teaching methods that will be applied in our local Tennessee schools.

“We are already seeing the negative effects of Common Core Federal Mandates in our schools, and now we will have thinly veiled socialist and communist agendas promoted with Tennessee tax dollars,” noted Sharon Ford, President of the Tennessee Republican Assembly.

Ford cited the recent expenditure of $700,000 in “Race to the Top” money spent through Vanderbilt University to send 18 elementary, junior high and high school principals to China as an example of wasteful spending that is fueling a destructive agenda for Tennessee schools.

“The Chinese Communist system does not value personal freedom and liberty, nor does it promote the free market system that is the backbone of American prosperity,” Ford pointed out. “China is neither as diverse nor as open to creativity and free speech as the U.S. It is not a political or cultural system we should replicate in Tennessee schools. When we see spending like this it underlines how Common Core can be called “Commie Core”.

“We will see more examples of the liberal, anti-American agenda that is at the heart of Common Core Federal Mandates as more classroom assignments and testing materials are examined,” Ford noted. “Tennessee legislators need to follow the money and demand accountability in how our education dollars are spent, particularly when we see our money being used to instill anti-American campaigns in our classrooms.”

Letter to Tennessee General Assembly

Re: Opposition to Common Core Federal Mandates in Tennessee

Dear Members of the Tennessee General Assembly:

The Tennessee Republican Assembly, along with other individuals and groups listed below, are joining with other concerned Tennesseans and national leaders and groups like the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, the California Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, American Family Institute, the Campaign for Liberty, Concerned Women for America, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Rick Perry, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, and others. Notably Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, both Republicans, have already paused implementation of Common Core Federal Mandates in their states and Florida Governor Rick Scott and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal seem prepared to follow their lead.

There are numerous problems with the Common Core Federal Mandates, particularly here in Tennessee. Recently, $700,000 in Tennessee taxes funded through Race to the Top, was spent through Vanderbilt University to send eighteen Tennessee elementary, junior high and high school principals to China to learn how to teach the “Chinese way”. The Chinese Communist system is not one that values personal freedom and liberty, nor does it promote the free market system that is the backbone of American prosperity. China is neither as diverse nor as open to creativity and free speech as the U.S. It is not a system we should replicate in Tennessee. And some people wonder why Common Core is sometimes called Commie Core?

Support for this kind of wasteful spending and potentially harmful education “reform” scheme is simply not acceptable to most Tennesseans and we call on you our Tennessee Legislators to immediately express your opposition to Common Core Federal Mandates in clear and direct terms. This topic will be a top political issue in the next election cycle and we believe that the waste of taxpayer money on promoting the Communist Chinese education system in Tennessee will be something voters will strongly oppose.

Thank you for your service in the Legislature and we hope you will more fully investigate the truth about Common Core Federal Mandates as soon as possible.

Sharon Ford
President, Tennessee Republican Assembly

Ben Cunningham
Nashville Tea Party

Laurie Day
Education Matters

Julie West
President, Parents for Truth in Education

J. Lee Douglas
Founder, 9-12 Project

Brenda Causey
Concerned Women of America

Rachel Welch
Putnam County GOP Chair

Sherrie Orange
Secretary, Freedom PAC

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Press Releases

Carr: Alexander’s Record ‘More Liberal’ Than Cooper’s

Press release from the Joe Carr Campaign for U.S. Senate; August 26, 2013:

Murfreesboro, TN—Rep. Joe Carr criticized Senator Lamar Alexander’s liberal voting record today. Alexander, responding to a question from Knoxville’s WBIR, said “I hope Tennesseans will look at me and the score card…”

“I hope Tennesseans take Senator Alexander up on that offer and examine his scorecard,” Carr responded. “They won’t like what they find. The scorecard reflects what we’ve been saying: Alexander is ranked the third most liberal of Tennessee’s eleven member delegation, with an unacceptable 41% conservative voting record.”

“Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper scored higher than Alexander. That’s very troubling to conservatives, and they realize it’s time to make a change in leadership. You also have to consider that the average Senate Republican has a 67% conservative voting record. I don’t think Tennesseans are going to let Senator Alexander get away with calling himself a conservative when he is that far below average,” predicted Carr.

According to Heritage Action for America, Alexander earned a dismal 41% conservative score based on his voting record, falling below Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper from the 5th Congressional District.

Congressional scorecards from conservative organizations Club for Growth and Madison Project demonstrate a similar liberal voting pattern.

“Senator Alexander has missed several opportunities to lead as a conservative. Instead he’s sided with liberals time and time again. Whether failing to stand with Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee on defunding Obamacare, voting to give amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants or voting with President Obama 62% of the time—Lamar has lost touch,” Carr said.

Rep. Carr, a 1981 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, is a business consultant who helps companies become more energy efficient. Additionally, he and his wife Ginny own and operate Cedar Snag Farms in Lascassas.
He was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 and currently serves as Chairman of the Local Government subcommittee. He is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, a member of the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Right to Life, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and the MTSU Blue Raider Athletic Association. He is also an accomplished private pilot and member of the Aircraft Owners & Pilot Association.

Rep. Carr and Ginny, married for 30 years, have three children: Erin, Joe Jr., and Maddie. Ginny and Joe also have a grandson, Colby. Carr has lived in Rutherford County since he was a young boy and his family roots go back five generations in Rutherford County. Joe, Ginny and Joe Jr. are members of Believers Chapel in Murfreesboro.

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Press Releases

TN Tea Party, Conservative Groups Ask Alexander to Retire

Open Letter to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, from Tennessee Tea Party/Conservative Groups; August 14, 2013:

Nashville, TN – Twenty prominent tea party and conservative groups in Tennessee have signed a letter asking Senator Lamar Alexander to retire. The letter was authored by Republican activist Matt Collins and circulated amongst tea party and conservative groups across the state.

Below is the text of the letter:
___________________________________________

An Open Letter To Senator Alexander

Senator Alexander,

You have served a long and marked career. You have been a part of the Tennessee political scene for as long as most of us can remember. You have worked for Howard Baker, Winfield Dunn, served as Governor, were appointed to be the Secretary of Education of the federal government, President of the University of Tennessee, were a serious contender for the nomination of the Republican Party for President, and of course you are currently serving as a United States Senator. Your life-long career in government service is noteworthy.

During your tenure in the Senate we have no doubt that you voted in a way which you felt was appropriate. Unfortunately, our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous. America faces serious challenges and needs policymakers who will defend conservative values, not work with those who are actively undermining those values. Quite honestly, your voting record shows that you do not represent the conservative values that we hold dear and the votes you have cast as Senator are intolerable to us. Furthermore we have serious doubts about your ability to fix our problems since you have played such a significant role in creating them.

The Little Plaid Book you authored contains very sage advice on politics. Rule #297 is especially important because you advise anyone running for office to “Serve two terms, then get out.” Are you willing to follow your own advice, or will you fall into the mire of hypocrisy?

As you are likely aware, there have been polls conducted that show your vulnerability. While no viable contender has yet emerged, it is becoming more probable with each passing day that one will rise to the challenge. When a serious contender eventually does enter the race, the moment their fundraising capability makes them a viable candidate, your re-election is in serious jeopardy.

Therefore, we urge you to conclude your long and notable career by retiring with dignity instead of fighting against a serious conservative primary challenger who would expose to all Tennessee voters the actual history of your voting record.

Sincerely,

Sevier County Tea Party
Tea Party of Lincoln County
Gibson County Patriots
Benton County Tea Party
Carroll County Tea Party
Jackson Madison County Tea Party
Dickson County Tea Party / 912 Project
Obion County Tea Party
Stewart County Tea Party
Tennesseans for Liberty (Madison County)
Volunteers for Freedom (Henry County)
We the People (Tipton County)
Rutherford County Tea Party
TN 9-12 Project
Caney Branch Tea Party
TN Republican Assembly
Smoky Mountain Tea Party Patriots (Blount Co)
McMinn County TEA Party
North Sumner Tea Party
Tennessee 8th District Tea Party Coalition

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Featured

The Winding Political Path of Gerald McCormick

The first powerful person to help Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick in a political campaign was the governor at the time — Ned McWherter, a Democrat.

That’s because McCormick was a Democrat, which might surprise many followers of the Republican lawmaker, who has emerged as one of the key voices on Capitol Hill.

It was 1992, and McCormick, a Chattanoogan, a University of Tennessee graduate and a Gulf War veteran, was running for the first time. He lost. After his defeat, Republican organizers in Chattanooga, including Zach Wamp, told McCormick a lot of the positions in McCormick’s message sounded like they belonged in the Republican Party. Wamp should know. He had once been a Democrat, a Jimmy Carter supporter.

“It was true. I was a very conservative Democrat,” McCormick said.

So McCormick became a Republican.

“They invited me in. I did it and have not regretted it since. They opened their arms up. The Republican Party in Hamilton County in particular has been really good to me,” McCormick said.

“I saw Governor McWherter several years ago when I was elected to the Legislature. I reminded him who I was. He said, ‘It’s really good to see you. Glad to see you made it to the Legislature finally.’ I said, ‘Governor McWherter, I just want you to know I did make it to the Legislature, but I was elected as a Republican instead of a Democrat.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘Well that’s all right. Everybody has to be something.'”

McCormick said he felt more comfortable with a limited-government philosophy, and he notes Ronald Reagan, also once a Democrat, is another example of switching to the Republican side. McCormick said he believes former Democratic Gov. Buford Ellington — elected to the office twice, serving from 1959-63 and 1967-71 — would probably have had a hard time today being a Democrat.

McCormick had been campaign chairman for Republican Rep. Bobby Wood of Harrison, and when Wood retired from his seat after 28 years, McCormick ran for it and was elected in 2004. He has since climbed to one of the most powerful positions in the state.

He began to see trends turn Republican in the Legislature after the 2006 election. He had been the assistant majority leader and wanted to run for speaker this year, but after gauging his level of support and recognizing that others, like eventual Speaker Beth Harwell, had more seniority, McCormick went for the majority leader’s position successfully. At 49, he now guides a Republican contingent that includes moderates and conservatives, not an easy mix to control.

In a wide-ranging, hour-long conversation with TNReport.com, McCormick talked about the collective bargaining issue that became so prominent in the General Assembly this year, the changing roles of the majority and minority parties in the Legislature, his personal background and his thoughts on Gov. Bill Haslam.

Repeatedly in the interview, McCormick spoke of the heavy responsibility of being the majority party in governing and said the voters could “pitch us out” as fast as they threw the Democrats out of power.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, in a separate interview with TNReport, said, “I think Gerald did a really good job this year. It was his first term, as my first term as minority leader, we were sort of muddling through together.”

Fitzhugh said he particularly appreciated the way McCormick handled the contentious issue of extending unemployment benefits, an issue Democrats felt strongly about.

Fitzhugh did refer to McCormick as “mercurial” and even compared him to temperamental House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. McCormick readily admits he will mix it up with the best of them.

“Rather than ‘mercurial’ I would say ‘passionate,'” McCormick said. “Mike Turner is the same way. He’s a very honest person. If he’s mad at you, he’ll let you know. I’m the same way. I feel like people need to know. If you’re upset with them, it’s better just to tell them and have the discussion right away rather than letting it fester.

“That’s been my approach to life. It usually works. Sometimes it backfires a little, and sometimes maybe I should count to 10 before I say something.”

McCormick was one of the most notably irritated Republicans on the tumultuous day in 2009 when Rep. Kent Williams, a Republican from Carter County, made a deal with Democrats that resulted in Williams being elected speaker of the House.

“I shared my feelings with Speaker Williams at the time,” McCormick said. “It’s not personal. It’s really not. He broke his word, and he affected a lot of people’s lives.

“We had people who had literally rented apartments on the idea that he was going to vote with the majority and elect Jason Mumpower speaker. We had people who had quit jobs and moved up here, and he didn’t tell us the truth. I thought he needed to hear it very soon and very decisively that I disagreed with what he had done.”

McCormick said he and Williams are on good terms now. He even messaged Williams a happy birthday last month.

McCormick said while he and Fitzhugh have policy differences that Fitzhugh has been very effective for the Democrats, particularly on budget issues.

McCormick admitted he did not foresee the collective bargaining bill — which diminished the Tennessee Education Association’s power to negotiate for the state’s teachers — as becoming the dominant issue it was this year.

“In a broad philosophical sense, I don’t think government employee unions ought to be negotiating with other government employees with the taxpayers’ money,” McCormick said.

“Having said that, I’ve never said that on the campaign trail before and have never been elected on that basis, so I tried to take it slow and analyze it as we went along. In the end, we probably did the right thing, in that we lessened the influence of the teachers’ union over education policy while still keeping the teachers involved.”

The Legislature wound up with a “collaborative conferencing” law that watered down the TEA’s power.

The bill on collective bargaining was resented by teachers who crowded the halls of the Capitol and marched on Legislative Plaza this year.

“I’m surprised at how the volume has turned down so soon after we passed the legislation,” McCormick said. “We had a lot of noise in the beginning. As more people understand it, I think they have become accustomed to it and are more comfortable with it.

“Really the only people who are bitter about it are the union activists, who quite frankly did a better job of taking care of themselves than they did the average teacher out there in Tennessee.”

McCormick said the teachers union had become “virtually a financial arm of the state Democratic Party.”

Times have changed substantially since 2004 in terms of Republican strength in the General Assembly.

“It’s a lot different being in the majority,” McCormick said. “Now, you have the responsibility of actually governing. When you’re in the minority, you don’t, and you can pretty much throw grenades and see where they land and not have to worry about implementing the policy. Now, if we come out for a policy, we actually have the votes to pass it, and we have to make sure it’s a responsible policy and one that we can implement.”

He understands the Democrats’ predicament.

“You have to remember they were in the majority for a century or more. They’re not used to not getting their way,” he said.

“Most of the time we could ignore them. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, on a number of levels. They got elected by the people of Tennessee, too. From a practical standpoint, if they get up and walk out, we won’t have a quorum. I don’t think they’re going to do that, as long as we treat them fairly.”

He remembers quite well another time and another political landscape at the Capitol.

“When I started out, Jimmy Naifeh was the speaker of the House. Quite honestly, I couldn’t imagine a situation where anybody else was the speaker of the House,” McCormick said. “He was so dominant, and so effective, not necessarily doing what I wanted him to do, but the trains ran on time when he wanted them to.”

McCormick was a nuclear, biological and chemical specialist in the Gulf War. A sergeant, he was sent to the war soon after the Iraqis invaded Kuwait. Because of his area of training, which came at Fort McClellan in Alabama, McCormick saw some of the planning for the war and was in one of the first units to go, spending about six months there.

A native of Jackson, McCormick grew up in Memphis, went to Germantown High School and attended the University of Tennessee, where he met his future wife, Kim, a Chattanoogan. Upon graduation they moved to Chattanooga. McCormick admits he got homesick for Memphis in college and wanted to go to Memphis State, now the University of Memphis, but his mother insisted he stick it out at UT, where he took a lot of political science and history courses.

He has worked a lot of jobs, including roofing and fast food. He picked up garbage on the side of the road while with a temporary employment agency. He eventually worked for the Hamilton County assessor of property, where he was trained to be a commercial real estate appraiser, and he transitioned into being a real estate broker and developer, his current profession.

When he’s not working on real estate projects, McCormick is in a position now in Nashville that puts him on the front line of government power, including leadership meetings with the governor.

“I’m very impressed by a number of aspects of Governor Haslam’s style of operating. No. 1, I think he is absolutely completely honest. I don’t think we will ever see any kind of a personal scandal or a political scandal surrounding Bill Haslam,” said McCormick, who had supported Wamp in the Republican gubernatorial primary last year.

“He acts in a small group exactly how he acts in a big group. He’s a very nice, decent person.”

He cited an example of Haslam’s style, where McCormick was making points about the political aspects of a specific issue.

“He cut me off. There were about four of us in the room,” McCormick said. “He pointed to each one of us, and he said, ‘What’s the right thing to do? What’s the right thing to do? Don’t worry about the politics of it.’ I think he really believes that.”

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Press Releases

TCPR Releases Updated Legislators’ Guide

Press Release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Jan. 12, 2011:

Think Tank Releases Second Edition of its Legislators’ Guide to the Issues; Policy guide offers free market recommendations on dozens of topics

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Center for Policy Research today released the second edition of its Legislators’ Guide to the Issues (pdf). The guide is a 90-page resource for state lawmakers as they confront various policy issues during the 107th General Assembly. A complimentary copy of the guide was provided to every state legislator.

“We are proud to provide a comprehensive policy guide to lawmakers for the second straight General Assembly,” said Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “No other publication offers a better roadmap to a freer, more prosperous Tennessee than our Legislators’ Guide to the Issues.”

The guide also contains citations to additional resources that lawmakers, the media, and citizens alike can use to educate themselves on a range of policy issues.

The first edition of the Legislators’ Guide was essential at promoting common sense policy solutions in the state. The General Assembly advanced legislation related to nearly one-quarter of the 43 proposals in the first guide.

“Our first Legislators’ Guide served as an invaluable tool for state legislators, and we are confident that the new-and-improved guide will serve members of the 107th General Assembly well as they conduct the people’s business,” said Owen.

An electronic copy of the Legislators’ Guide to the Issues can be found online at: www.tennesseepolicy.org or downloaded here. Those wishing to purchase a hardcopy can do so by emailing info@tennesseepolicy.org or calling (615) 383-6431.