NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Ball, Alexander Trying to Outdistance Each Other from Obama

Depending on who you talk to, both candidates for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seat up for grabs this year have a lot in common with Barack Obama.

Earlier this week the Tennessee Republican Party pitched out a press release painting a vote for Gordon Ball, the Democratic Party’s candidate for Senate, as a vote in favor of Obama’s “agenda,” which includes Obamacare, higher taxes, less restrictions on abortion, unions and gun control.

“Like many Democrats in Tennessee—and every personal injury lawyer I’ve come across—Ball will try to cloak himself with conservative rhetoric in order to win,” TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney said in a news release. “But the reality is: He’ll be one more vote for Barack Obama’s agenda.”

In Devaney’s telling, Tennesseans face a straightforward choice. They can send Alexander back to Washington so he can “defend us from President Obama,” or they can put the bat in the hands of Ball, who would be “Obama’s lapdog in the Senate.”

Ball thinks Team Lamar is overplaying just how dependably Alexander can be relied upon to take on the president. He launched the You-Love-Obama accusation right back at the third-term-seeking Beltway insider.

It’s Lamar Alexander who’s earned a reputation as one of the White House’s pet senators, having “voted with President Barack Obama 62 percent of the time,” a press release from the Ball camp indicated Tuesday.

Ball noted that’d he’d be starting with a clean slate if elected. “I have voted with (the president) 0 percent of the time,” he said. And he fashions himself as more middle-of-the-road than left-of-center. Ball compared his political leanings to those of Ned McWherter and Phil Bredesen.

Ball’s strategy of distancing himself from a president with whom he shares party affiliation looks to resemble that of Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, another upstart Southern Democrat looking to upset a GOP fixture on the national political scene. Grimes is running to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a recent TV ad featuring her shooting clay pigeons, Grimes also took aim at McConnell’s loyalty to University of Kentucky basketball and his knowledge of basic firearms safety. She also peppered the president. “I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA,” she said.

Grimes was the keynote speaker this summer at the Tennessee Democratic Party’s Jackson Day Dinner. Neither Ball, nor his opponent in the Democratic primary, Terry Adams, spoke at that event.

Ball and Alexander will get a chance to go mano a mano to hash out who’s more Obama-esque next month. Both have agreed to appear at an Oct. 16 state Farm Bureau candidates’ forum at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville.

Press Releases

Yes On 1 Campaign Announces Coordinators in Every TN County

Press release from the Yes On 1 Campaign; September 9, 2014: 

Nashville — Coordinators to win Amendment 1 have been announced in all 95 Tennessee counties according to Lorene Steffes, Coordinator for Community Education and Board Member of Yes on

“We are pleased to introduce the statewide grassroots leadership team which will guide our campaign to victory on November 4,” Steffes said.

“Yes on 1 is truly grateful to the women and men who have stepped up from every walk of life to provide county support and resources to spread the word about Amendment 1. With their help, Tennesseans are going to be well informed about our state’s heartbreaking status as an abortion destination and why we must vote YES in order to restore common sense protections in our state,” Steffes continued.

County leaders are working to coordinate local outreach including events, speaking, fundraising and get-out-the vote efforts. They will also serve as distribution points for yard signs and other YES on 1 materials.

“1 of every 4 abortions in our state is performed on a woman or girl from someplace else,” said Steffes. “We even lack the legal basis for licensing and inspecting facilities where abortions are performed. The severity of this matter has inspired these 95 leaders to step forward to win Amendment 1 in November, and we are grateful for their dedication and support.”

East Tennessee County Coordinators

Anderson County: Karen Vacaliuc
Bledsoe County: Bobbi Hurd
Blount County: Deb Maupin
Bradley County: Barbara Gilbert
Campbell County: Edwina Booth
Carter County: Jerome Cochran
Claiborne County: Alan Hall
Cocke County: Ashley Link
Cumberland County: Ann Sieffert
Fentress County: Kelly Goedicke
Grainger County: Marsha Sexton, Sharon Myers
Greene County: Nathan and Amy Holt, Donald and Georgianna Burchnell
Grundy County: Betty Cordes
Hamblen County: Logan Foshie
Hamilton County: Sharon White
Hancock County: Allison Gordon
Hawkins County: Tony Gordon
Jefferson County: Lori Wicker, Jessica Whitmill
Johnson County: Dan and Joan Pohlgeers
Knox County: Stacy Dunn
Loudon County: Kay Sheldon
Marion County: Candy Clepper
McMinn County: Ginger Malloy
Meigs County: Peggy Burnett
Monroe County: Sam Boone
Morgan County: Bob Brimi
Polk County: Patty Hensley
Rhea County: Lenita Sanders
Roane County: Judy Cooley
Scott County: Angela Morrow
Sevier County: Gene Williams
Sequatchie County: Debbie Chandler
Sullivan County: Dan and Joan Pohlgeers
Unicoi County: Dr. Charlene Thomas
Union County: Nathan Long
Van Buren County: Janet Burke
Washington County: Dan and Joan Pohlgeers

Middle Tennessee County Coordinators

Bedford County: Pam Cooper, Bobby Lemmon
Cannon County: Sharon Hay, Janet Paschal
Cheatham County: Jayne Cauthen
Clay County: Corrine Clements
Coffee County: Frances Arthur, Dr. Robert Reed
Davidson County: Christine Melton
DeKalb County: Jan Alexander
Dickson County: Kanda Mowbray
Franklin County: Yolande Gottfried
Giles County: Troy Heard
Hardin County: Tim Jerrolds, Sherry Schachle
Hickman County: Nelle King, Bonnie and Roy Crews
Jackson County: Beverly Crossman
Lawrence County: Clara Hollmann
Lewis County: Karen Rentschler
Lincoln County: Cheryl Albury
Macon County: Marcia Briggie
Marshall County: Sherry Ferguson
Maury County: Jack Coleman
Montgomery County: Regina Azzarra
Moore County: Marie Harmon
Overton County: Pastor John Copeland
Perry County: Melissa Goodwin
Pickett County: Sheila Donnelly, Nello Connor
Putnam County: Lois Irby
Robertson County: Susan Allen
Rutherford County: Gina Butterfield, Laura Newsom
Smith County: Ronnie Collins
Sumner County: Anna Anderson, Annette Carnes
Trousdale County: Juanita Pinzur
Warren County: Jeanne Ware
White County: Meagan Wilson
Wilson County: Trecia Dillingham
Williamson County: Erin Morel

West Tennessee County Coordinators

Benton County: Stephanie Daniel
Carroll County: Sue Crockett
Chester County: Lori Babin
Crockett County: Caren Jordan
Decatur County: Kurt Holbert
Dyer County: Peggy Eubanks
Fayette County: Pastor Ken Culver
Gibson County: Guinda Flippin
Hardeman County: Pat Pope
Haywood County: Melinda Chapman
Henderson County: Jenni Moffett
Henry County: Christi Cross
Houston County: Pamela Vance
Humphreys County: Martha Browning
Lake County: Dee Keissling
Lauderdale County: Barry Phillips
Madison County: Glen and Julie Gaugh
McNairy County: Jennie Graber
Obion County: Rhonda Moore
Stewart County: Angie Smith, Pamella Dill
Shelby County: Cathy Waterbury, Mae Yearwood
Tipton County: Diana Meinweiser
Wayne County: Chassity Martin
Weakley County: Beverly Carr, David Hawks

Press Releases

More that 260K Tennesseans Sign Petitions to Vote on Wine in Grocery Stores

Press release from Red White and Food; September 2, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 2, 2014) – Registered voters in 80 Tennessee municipalities will have the opportunity to vote Nov. 4 in referendums to allow the sale of wine in retail food stores, the Red White and Food campaign announced today.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the state’s retail food stores and for their customers who want to be able to buy wine while shopping for groceries,” said Susie Alcorn, Red White and Food campaign manager. “Our goal has always been to give Tennesseans the opportunity to vote on this issue, and now they will have that chance.”

Red White and Food, its retail partners, and citizen volunteers collected a total of 262,247 signatures statewide on petitions authorizing the wine question to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. The petition campaign began in mid-May, and the deadline for signature collection was Thursday, Aug. 21.

“Red White and Food would not have reached this important milestone without the support of our retail partners – including BI-LO, Food City, Food Lion, Kroger, Publix, Superlo Foods and Walmart,” Alcorn added. “Their dedication to collecting signatures in-store made all the difference in the success of this campaign. We’re grateful to the 262,247 Tennesseans who took the time to sign a petition and to the staffs of the state’s local election commissions who were tasked with verifying the signatures.”

Among the qualifying municipalities are Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County, Murfreesboro, the city of Memphis, Germantown, Jackson, the city of Chattanooga, Knoxville and unincorporated Knox County, and the Tri-Cities, including Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport. (A complete list of qualifying municipalities appears at the end of this document.)

“The massive amount of signatures collected during this short campaign is a testament to consumers’ desire to purchase wine where they shop for food,” said Steve Smith, president and chief executive officer of K-VA-T Food Stores/Food City, and board chairman of Red White and Food. “Our customers have been telling us for years that they want the convenience of buying wine at the grocery store. They made their voices heard in phase one of the campaign, and I hope that they will take that passion to the voting booth on Election Day. We will soon be gearing up for phase two of the campaign and getting all of our supporters to the polls.”

The campaign to place wine on retail food store shelves is not complete. Registered voters in qualifying communities must now vote on the wine referendum when they go to the polls during the general election. Early voting runs from Oct. 15 to Oct. 30, and Election Day is Nov. 4.

In the municipalities where the referendum is approved in November, retail food stores will be able to sell wine beginning July 1, 2016.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed the wine in retail food stores bill into law on March 20, paving the way for the Nov. 4 referendum in qualifying municipalities. In order to be verified by the local election commissions, petitions from each qualifying municipality had to carry valid signatures equal to 10 percent of the residents who voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Press Releases

Finney: Confident Dems can be ‘Very Influential’ in 2013

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; August 3, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — Democratic Caucus Chair Sen. Lowe Finney told reporters today to expect some surprises this November from this year’s slate of Democratic candidates for state Senate.

“We have very good candidates that know how to win races and talk about local issues that matter to local voters,” Sen. Finney said.

Sen. Finney said that Gov. Haslam will have to decide next session whether to focus on kitchen table issues like college affordability and jobs, or be weighed down by a Republican majority drifting further away from the mainstream.

“When you look at the number of incumbents unseated last night, it’s clear the legislature will be a very different place next year,” Sen. Finney said. “I’m confident the Democrats can be very influential in that environment.”

Transparency and Elections

If Haslam Wins, Expect to Hear Plenty More About Pilot Oil

Bill Haslam has a double-digit lead by almost every measure in the Aug. 5 Republican primary for governor.

The lone Democratic candidate, Mike McWherter, has already been making steady jabs at Haslam, as though the general election is already between the two of them.

Republican Zach Wamp says the state will be surprised and he will be the next governor, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey claims to be the only one moving up in the race.

But in the event that the polls are not wildly off base, it seemed natural to ask Haslam a simple question: Would he be ready for three more months of pounding about Pilot Oil?

Pilot is the Haslam family business, the string of truck stops that has made the Haslams a fortune. The company recently completed a merger with competitor Flying J to become Pilot Flying J, a colossus in the world of travel centers.

Haslam has been targeted for his involvement with Pilot from the start of the campaign — primarily for not disclosing his personal income from the business, which is classified as a Subchapter S corporation, which means its shareholders claim their gains and losses through their personal tax returns.

It’s also a status that allows a gubernatorial candidate to keep his income from the family business a secret if he wants to.

Haslam has done exactly that, insisting that since people already know about Pilot and that he has a stake in it, that’s all they need to know to make a judgment about it. While Haslam has endured near constant criticism from his opponents over the matter, he has not wavered on disclosure, the financing of the merger or any other aspect of his position about the company.

Wamp has especially been tough on Haslam for not disclosing his income from Pilot and laying to rest concerns about conflicts of interest.

McWherter has been just as keen on bringing up Pilot. From the day the Democrat announced his candidacy, he started hitting Haslam, first on Haslam exaggerating the number of jobs he had created. McWherter, like Republican candidates, said Haslam should disclose his income from the company. McWherter referred to Haslam as an oil sheik. He even criticized Haslam on the grounds that people don’t know how the financing was done on the Flying J deal.

So how about it, mayor? Ready for more? Three months more of the same thing?

“I am,” Haslam said. “And I guess the question I’ve always asked of everybody is: Are you guys saying you don’t want Pilot here?

“If they don’t think they want Pilot to be a Tennessee company and don’t want more companies like Pilot, they should say that, because I’m proud of Pilot.”

Yet with opponents in the race for governor talking about the importance of having strong businesses to bolster the state’s economy, Pilot has been a consistent issue in the campaign.

And McWherter has clearly shown he’s ready to repeat some of the same lines of inquiry and criticism should he and Haslam square off in the general.

Haslam said he finds the ill will directed at his family’s successful enterprise somewhat curious.

Pilot began in 1958 as one gas station in Gate City, Va. The company built a convenience store in 1976 and began transforming its other locations. A “travel center” debuted in 1981, and aggressive expansion of the company followed. With the merger of Flying J, Pilot Flying J became one of the 10 biggest privately held companies in the nation.

“I think anybody who is governor would be proud of Pilot,” said Haslam, adding that another fellow named McWherter — former Gov. Ned McWherter — seemed to be fine with the company.

“Mike’s dad was awful proud of Pilot and came and spoke several times to our group,” Haslam said. “And I’m not quite certain why all this hostility toward a company I think most governors of most states would be proud to have.”

Press Releases

TN Unemployment Down Slightly

State of Tennessee press release, 17 Dec. 2009:

Seasonally Adjusted Rate Down 0.2 Percentage Point from October

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development James Neeley announced today Tennessee’s unemployment rate for November was 10.3 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from the October rate of 10.5 percent.

“As the year ends, we’re seeing evidence the economy is bottoming out and beginning to show some modest employment growth, which is encouraging news,” reported Labor Commissioner James Neeley.

The November rate a year ago was 7.2 percent. The national unemployment rate for November 2009 was 10.0 percent, down from the October rate of 10.2 percent.

Major Changes in Estimated Nonagricultural Employment

October 2009 to November 2009

According to the Business Survey, 7,300 job gains occurred in retail trade; 1,800 in professional and business services; and 1,300 in health care and social assistance. Major employment decreases occurred in durable goods manufacturing, down by 1,800; arts, entertainment and recreation declined by 1,300; and mining and construction declined by 1,000 jobs.

Major Changes in Estimated Nonagricultural Employment

November 2008 to November 2009

Year-over-year increases occurred in health care and social assistance, up by 7,500; federal government increased 1,500; and local government educational services gained 1,100. Manufacturing decreased by 29,800 jobs; mining and construction lost 28,200; and trade, transportation and utilities declined by 23,300.