Press Releases

Alexander, Ball to Appear at TN Farm Bureau Candidate Forum

Press release from the Lamar Alexander Campaign for U.S. Senate; September 17, 2014:

Lamar Alexander’s campaign for re-election today released the following statement from the senator on the Tennessee Farm Bureau candidate forum scheduled for Oct. 16:

“I have accepted an invitation from the Tennessee Farm Bureau for a candidate forum at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. This will be a good opportunity to remind Tennesseans that my opponent is just one more vote for Barack Obama’s agenda, and that a vote for me is a vote for a new Senate majority that will lead the country in a different and more conservative direction.”

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McWherter on the Attack

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike McWherter doesn’t know for sure which Republican he’ll face in November, so just for good measure he fired criticism at all three Friday night.

However, he paid special attention to Bill Haslam, the target of McWherter’s first and last jabs during a speech at the state Democratic Party Jackson Day gathering at Belmont University in Nashville.

“We need more than a candidate with a lot of cash but no substance,” McWherter said, which was an obvious reference to wealthy Knoxville mayor Haslam, whose Republican foes have used the same approach.

McWherter, who owns a beer distributorship in Jackson, picked up on the same themes being used in the competitive Republican primary when he spoke to the crowd. McWherter is the only Democrat in the gubernatorial race, making him a sure winner in the Aug. 5 primary.

But McWherter didn’t stop with the GOP front-runner.

“Frankly, I don’t think Tennessee’s working families have any idea what that 20/20 Vision is about, nor do they want to give Washington the boot when they’re down here trying to help our flood victims.”

That last reference was to Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s campaign theme, which has had mixed reviews. Ramsey’s ads emphasize his black boots and how he wants to give Washington the boot and do things the “Tennessee way, not the Washington way.”

McWherter is not the only person to question Ramsey’s campaign theme in light of the state relying on federal disaster assistance after the historic May floods. Ramsey, whose campaign theme and logo were established long before the flood, has said the two matters are apples and oranges and that the flood is not a fair analogy.

The reference to a 20/20 Vision is about the campaign of Republican U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, who has said he is the only candidate with a clear vision, based on defined goals in business, education, health and safety.

But McWherter came back to Haslam.

“One thing I definitely know. The voters in Tennessee are not going to support a guy who is going to price-gouge them when they are at their most vulnerable,” McWherter said.

That line was about a settlement made by the Haslam family business, Pilot Corp., in 2009 regarding alleged price gouging on gas prices in 2008 in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

Pilot was among 16 companies and individuals to reach a settlement with the Tennessee attorney general. The price-gouging issue has been raised before in the campaign and is getting greater attention lately as the primary date approaches.

McWherter took a slap at Haslam when he began his campaign April 1, saying Haslam wasn’t being truthful about how many jobs he had created at Pilot, since the company’s workforce had grown by merger, not by simply hiring more people. Pilot within the last month merged with Flying J to create Pilot Flying J, which makes it one of the top 10 biggest privately owned companies in the nation. Pilot is known for its travel centers along roadways.

But along the line of jobs, McWherter reiterated on Friday his intention of giving Tennessee businesses tax breaks if they create jobs.

“It makes common sense. If you create jobs, we’ll give you a tax break. We have to look after our own,” McWherter said.

McWherter was introduced to the crowd by current Gov. Phil Bredesen, and McWherter was still crowing about the fact Bredesen recently held a fundraiser for McWherter in his home, considered an extraordinary step by Bredesen and his wife Andrea Conte.

McWherter, noting a tribute to retiring Democratic congressmen Bart Gordon and John Tanner minutes earlier, said he wasn’t going to let them fully retire since he knew where they lived and he would seek their help and advice.

McWherter then said, “Governor Bredesen, there’s no question about the fact I know where you live, because you had a fundraiser for me at your home. I know the code to the gate. I’ll be over there all the time.”

Bredesen recently gave McWherter a public endorsement.

Bredesen, who drew boisterous applause from the crowd, was introduced by 5th District U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, who reminded the audience of Ned McWherter’s eight years as governor and Bredesen’s eight years coming around the eight years of service of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist.

“They don’t even want to mention that guy’s name,” Cooper said, referring to Republicans’ dislike of their own governor’s efforts to enact an income tax in the state.

As for Bredesen, Cooper said, “He helped restore confidence in our great state’s government.”

McWherter will face the Republican nominee Nov. 2. Several independent candidates are running in the general election as well.

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Ramsey’s Balancing Act Takes Up Two Stages

When you’re the Speaker of the Senate, it’s not like you can skip out on your job for a day and nobody’s going to notice.

It doesn’t take long to see that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s legislative role is both an advantage and a disadvantage in running for governor when the General Assembly is in session.

Tasked with conducting the Tennessee Senate’s daily political business to the general satisfaction of his legislative colleagues, the press and the public, the Blountville Republican must also invest the energy necessary to get his name and message out where the likely GOP primary voters are.

Foremost in juggling the facets of his self-imposed predicament, Ramsey said he’s trying to “make sure I don’t miss any sessions.”

“I’m in Nashville Monday afternoons, Wednesday mornings and Thursday mornings. But I am traveling here in Middle Tennessee some on Tuesdays and obviously on the weekends,” he said recently.

Ramsey is in the thick of the Republican primary for governor, where the main opposition is Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga and Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons. Under no circumstances does Ramsey want to be away from the Capitol when key legislation he could be charged with implementing and executing as governor comes up on the Senate agenda.

“It’s tying me down some because I want to be doing the people’s business,” Ramsey said. “I want to make sure we’re balancing the budget without raising taxes. We’re going to do that. It’s still pretty well flexible where I can get out in the collar counties around Davidson County.”

Fortunately for Ramsey, though, he really doesn’t have to go far from the Capitol to locate some prime vote-hunting grounds. This year the “collar counties” surrounding Nashville — most notably Sumner County, Rutherford County and Williamson County — are the central battleground in the four-man Republican field for governor, primarily because none of the candidates are originally from Middle Tennessee.

The political landscape wasn’t always that way. In recent years, the growth of population in the collar counties surrounding Nashville has been significant, and it has especially been so for the Republican Party.

“When I became caucus chairman of the Republicans, Republicans had one of the six state Senate districts around Davidson County. We now have five of the six,” Ramsey said. “That just shows you the trend that’s going on, especially in the Republican primary.”

The situation might even be considered a geographic advantage for Ramsey, who among all the candidates is in some ways closest to “home” in Nashville. Gibbons and Haslam have to work Middle Tennessee from opposite ends of the state.

Wamp has to spend a lot of his time working in Washington, D.C. Not only is the nation’s capital one of the last places rank-and-file Tennessee Republicans are likely looking today for political leadership on issues of state concern, it’s many more miles away from Nashville even than Sullivan County.

None of this is unusual, though: It’s an election year, which means all public officials who are running for new jobs are in a constant state of juggling responsibilities. And it’s one reason state legislators are hopeful the session won’t last too long, since they want to be on the campaign trail.

Another factor for members of the General Assembly is that they may not raise money for their state campaigns while in session, which puts Ramsey at a disadvantage alongside state Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, who was the last of the current Democratic gubernatorial field to announce his candidacy.

Just as being lieutenant governor can boost the visibility of Ramsey working on state business, Kyle can make a similar claim. Kyle was quite visible as a workhorse on education reform in the special session called earlier this year by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. Actively handling important legislation can be as important as making campaign stump speeches.

Other Democratic gubernatorial candidates are Mike McWherter, a Jackson businessman, and Kim McMillan, a former House majority leader.

One drawback to being in the legislature is the law that prohibits legislators from raising funds during the session. As long as lawmakers are at work, they must refrain from accepting campaign donations, at least until after May 15. The prohibition does not apply to opponents who aren’t in the General Assembly.

Lawmakers who are running for federal office, however, may raise money during that time, which applies to state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, and Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin. Herron is running for the retiring U.S. Rep. John Tanner’s seat in the 8th District, while Tracy and Black are both among candidates for the 6th District seat being vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.

But just as important to remember is that in an election year, it’s not exactly everyone for themselves. A lot of networking goes on, which means candidates help other candidates. Such an example could be found last Wednesday night when Ramsey appeared at a gathering for Dustin Dunbar, who is running for Williamson County commissioner in Spring Hill.

“He and I are good friends. We’ve worked together on several projects in the past,” Dunbar said. “I told him I’d be running for county commission here in Williamson County, and I would definitely appreciate his support. By having the support of those state-level leaders it’s definitely beneficial for somebody on the county level to have some cooperation from people on the state level, because there is so much interaction we have.

“I would say he supports me in my efforts, and I support him in his efforts.”

As if to prove the point of all the interaction, Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie addressed the crowd at the Spring Hill event and said he would introduce all the politicians in attendance but it might take an hour, so he called for applause for anybody running for office or currently serving. Dinwiddie introduced Ramsey, and the lieutenant governor introduced Dunbar to the crowd.

“Obviously, if I’m standing in front of a crowd I always want to remind people I’m running for governor,” Ramsey told the group. “I want to just bring that up.”