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Tracy, Desjarlais Lawyer Up, Sherrell Preps for Nov.

Several days after Tennessee voters cast their ballots in party primaries and local elections, the Republican nominee to represent the state’s 4th Congressional District in November is still up in the air.

The race between Jasper physician Scott Desjarlais, a two-term incumbent, and Shelbyville state Senator Jim Tracy is so close — less than 50 votes separate the challenger from the incumbent — that both candidates have declared themselves the winner, and have sought legal counsel.

Sen. TracyTracy, an insurance agent and two-and-a-half term state senator, announced his candidacy in January 2013 in the wake of the revelation in fall of 2012 that Desjarlais, the pro-life doctor and GOP nominee for the U.S. House seat, had in the past had sex with patients and later pressured one to get an abortion.

However, Desjarlais did well with rural voters, who seemed more inclined to consider his voting record than his troubled past when it came to casting their ballots, according to the Associated Press.

According to unofficial election totals from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, Desjarlais came in with 34,787 votes, and Tracy had 34,752 — a 35 vote difference.

scott desJarlais  pic mugFourth Congressional District provisional ballot voters had until close-of-business Monday to make their way to their local election offices with a proper form of identification to ensure that their votes count, though it could be several days until the total vote tally is completed, according to the AP.

Only two provisional ballots were approved by Grundy County Election officials Monday night, one for each candidate, the Times Free Press and AP report.

Bill Green, the state executive committeeman for Tennessee’s 16th Senate District — which includes Coffee, Marion, Franklin, Grundy and Sequatchie Counties, told TNReport Monday that he had not been in touch with anybody else on the executive committee about what they’re going to do once the provisional ballots are counted.

Calls to both the Republican State Executive Committee’s National Committeeman John Ryder and National Committeewoman Peggy Lambert to discuss what to expect after the provisional ballots are certified and counted were not immediately returned Monday afternoon.

Because they are committed to neutrality in primaries, officers for the Tennessee Republican Party “cannot speculate” about the outcome of the 4th District race, said TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney in e-mailed statement.

“According to state law, any Republican election contest would have to be submitted to the Tennessee Republican Party, acting as the State Republican Primary Board, within 5 days after election certification,” Devaney wrote. “If an election contest is received, the Primary Board would consider all arguments regarding a contest in a just and fair manner.”

Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Lenda Sherrell, who faced no opponent in the primary has been readying herself to face her GOP opponent in the general election, “whoever it is,” reports the Times Free Press.

Additionally, Desjarlais is a finalist in liberal comedian Bill Maher’s “Flip a District” campaign, in which the HBO talk show host will attempt to flip a district by using his show to place an incumbent member of Congress under a large degree of scrutiny.

TNGOP to Schools: Ignore ACLU on Prayer Suit

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; October 10, 2013:

Dear Superintendent:

One week ago, you likely received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN). The message is the latest yearly missive sent out by the far-left organization meant to intimidate Tennessee students and high school athletes from exercising their First Amendment rights.

The group behind the letter misses a very basic principle about the First Amendment: It was written—not to protect government from religion—but to ensure religious freedoms are not violated by the government.

Moreover, the ACLU-TN willfully misrepresents a point highlighted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case it cites. The Court has found:

“(N)othing in the Constitution…prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday.” Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 313 (2000).

When it comes to this issue, we stand with families across Tennessee who want to protect expressions of faith in the public forum and the precious freedoms we all hold dear.

It should be noted this is a Tennessee issue, not a partisan one. My colleague who leads the Tennessee Democratic Party, Roy Herron, was actually the first individual to lay out this position. In an opinion piece he authored as a State Senator about this very issue for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Herron wrote, “The Constitution does not require government hostility to religion.”

He wrote this to give a public explanation for the Tennessee Student Religious Liberty Act. The law was meant to “prevent government discrimination against religion, and to see that students’ existing constitutional rights are honored.” Essentially, the law enshrines the Court’s finding in Santa Fe here in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Legislature further clarified what is permissible in Tennessee schools recently with the passage of a law that ensures “school administrators may not prohibit personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are initiated by students.”

Obviously, the ACLU-TN is using scare tactics and the implied threat of litigation to stamp out the First Amendment rights of students. Not only is this a transparent political stunt, it is a misreading of the law and misunderstanding of Tennessee’s unique spiritual heritage.

With a new week of football games set to kick off, we write today to tell you we stand with you and the millions of Tennesseans who want to express their rights and not cower to the liberal self-interests of a leftwing organization.

Respectfully,

Chris Devaney
Chairman
Tennessee Republican Party

Former TNGOP Chair Named to TN Economic Council on Women

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; September 16, 2013:

(September 16, 2013, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today appointed Robin Smith of Hixson to the Tennessee Economic Council on Women.

“Robin Smith is the kind of strong conservative woman who can serve as a true role model for all women in Tennessee,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “A skilled advocate for free markets and economic growth, I look forward to her ideas on how to use the council to empower our state’s women economically.”

“Robin Smith has been a passionate advocate for women’s economic advancement in our state for years,” said Speaker Harwell. “I am excited that she has agreed to serve to further the economic betterment of women, children and families in Tennessee.”

Smith graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a degree in nursing and is certified in project management through Stanford University.

Smith served as the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. During her tenure, Tennessee Republicans gained majorities in both houses of the General Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction.

A former Tennessee Human Rights Commissioner, Smith currently serves on a variety of boards and writes a weekly column for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Smith is founder and head of Rivers Edge Alliance, a management and consulting firm and is currently a partner in SmithWaterhouse Strategies, a public affairs and public relations agency.

“I’m grateful to Lt. Governor Ramsey for offering me the opportunity to serve our state,” said Smith. “I look forward to working on behalf of women across the grand divisions of Tennessee to promote free market, pro-growth policies that lead to economic empowerment for women.”

The Tennessee Economic Council on Women is a state agency created under TCA § 4-50-100 in 1998 to assess economic status of Tennessee women. The Council’s mission is to develop and advocate for solutions to help women achieve financial independence and economic autonomy.

SC’s Sen. Scott to TN Republicans: Show Voters ‘How Much We Care’

The Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner Friday night saw the ballroom at Nashville’s new Music City Center packed with a who’s who of state GOP-ers from up and down the ticket including Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander and seven members of the state’s U.S. House delegation.

But the big draw of the evening’s program — part award ceremony for local party stalwarts, part partisan pep-rally — was a fresh senator from another southern red state, Tim Scott from South Carolina.

In a recent letter to the Tennessean, state Republican Party Chair Chris Devaney called Scott as a “rising national star,” praising him as “refreshing voice of principle who is guided by an unyielding faith in God and rock-ribbed Republican values of less government influence and individual liberty.”

In his keynote address Friday, Scott, who served as U.S. congressman for two years before being tapped by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to fill a vacant Senate seat in January, struck an optimistic note, predicting political gains in upcoming elections. But Scott told the crowd Republicans need to reach out and connect with citizens to find success in the ballot box.

“Where we are as a country, it doesn’t look very good. I understand that we have major challenges in this nation but I also understand that the greatest days of America is ahead of it,” Scott told the audience. “I think we can win back the Senate in 2014, we have a grand opportunity in front of us and America will give us an opportunity to lead again in the Senate.”

“There are a couple things that we have to remember in order to get there,” he continued. “The first thing is this, that America, they want to know how much we know but they want to know it after they understand how much we care. Our ability to achieve success in the Senate and maintain the House will be our ability to communicate our message effectively.”

Sen. Scott also predicted a Republican return to the White House in 2016, saying it would be a “wonderful day” after “eight long years of President Obama” and earned cheers with a crowd-pleasing attack on the Affordable Care Act, which he charged was “eroding the very foundation of freedom as we know it in health care.”

“I think we ought repeal Obamacare today,” Scott said to heavy applause. “The employer mandate is not enough, the individual mandate would not be enough,” he continued, referring to two requirements of the law, the first of which the Obama administration has recently said it will put off enacting for an extra year.

Scott also claimed that the ACA “adds $800 billion of new taxes and new responsibilities on the back of everyday citizens,” and argued that the new law “takes away the very precious relationship between a doctor and a patient.

Scott is currently campaigning to keep his Senate seat for another two years in a 2014 special election that will determine who gets to serve out the remaining term of his predecessor Jim DeMint.

Devaney: TNGOP a ‘Shining Light’ to Nation

A top Republican strategist says his party won big in Tennessee because voters are “gravitating to the message” Volunteer State GOP politicians communicate.

Now, Republicans in Tennessee couldn’t really ask to be in a better position to execute the policy measures they say will propel the state along a path of economic prosperity, fiscal responsibility and social conservatism.

“Tennessee, I think, is a shining light and an example across the country for what we can do,” Chris Devaney, chairman of Tennessee’s Republican Party, told TNReport.com.

In fact, Devaney said he sees no reason his party’s historic supermajorities in the House and Senate won’t continue to grow in 2014.

“It’s about job-creation and education … tax reform, legal reform, all of that, and people just keep gravitating to that message,” said Devaney, who added: “The Democrats, really, in this state have no message.”

Democrats certainly disagree with Devaney on the message issue, but Republican Party dominance at the polls speaks for itself. Bob Corker handily won re-election to the U.S. Senate, the GOP continues to hold seven of nine Congressional seats and in the statehouse have secured walkout proof majorities in both chambers.

Devaney said he did encounter one unpleasant surprise on Election Night. Mitt Romney may have won Tennessee by 20 percentage points, but nationally his Republican message didn’t resonate like it did here.

“I thought Romney would win and that we might pick up a couple of more seats in the House,” he said.

It’s likely that Devaney will be around for at least another two years. He is running for a third term as Tennessee Republican Party chairman. The party’s executive committee will make its decision at a Dec. 1 meeting, and party officials say they are not aware of any challenges to Devaney’s re-election.

That means that those who want to run under the Republican banner will continue to face a strict litmus test.

“We’ve got to make sure… that we have people who are sticking by the core principles,” Devaney said. “One thing I ask people when they walk in here is, ‘Are you for a state income tax?’”

If they are, Deveaney said, they won’t get a dime of state GOP campaign money.

“Second amendment, same thing, pro-life, same thing,” he said.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

Huckabee Extols State Leadership Under Republicans

It’s time for Republicans to take the wheel away from President Obama and make this country run more like Tennessee, said former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

“President Obama has said he’s really looking forward to buying one of those Chevy Volts when he leaves office. Now I think we ought to take up a collection and get him one in November,” Huckabee joked at the reception of over 1,000 people gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center’s Presidential Ballroom.

The theme of Saturday night’s $250-a-plate annual Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser focused largely on ensuring Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes the Oval Office from Obama and the already GOP-heavy state Legislature wins super-majority dominance.

Huckabee, who has been eyed as a possible Romney running mate, outlined several “defining moments” for Republicans as they fight to take over the White House. Among them was Obama’s recent announcement that he supports gay marriage, the result of the Supreme Court’s decision last month to uphold health care reforms under Obamacare and the president’s comment earlier this month that business owners didn’t build their companies.

The former presidential candidate and Arkansas governor turned Fox News Channel personality told the crowd the president’s comment was insulting, and added that Obama “has never signed the front of the paycheck, only the back of one.

“He stood and insulted every hard-working entrepreneur and business person in this country, and said if you have a business, you didn’t build it,” Huckabee said. “They risk everything they had from their past as well as their future to go into an endeavor that they dreamed of doing. And not just the people who built great, big, huge companies. But let us never forget that business people are the folks who drive trucks with the lettering of their business on the side because they’re plumbers and electricians and they work on air conditioning units.”

But Tennessee isn’t without a fair share of disagreement and disunity amongst Republican who differ on political priorities and directions the state should take under GOP dominion.

County chapters recently passed resolutions chastising Gov. Bill Haslam’s decisions, ranging from failing to support gun rights legislation to letting his administration employ a Muslim woman and several openly gay workers.

A conservative-friendly Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial criticized Tea Party activists for getting hung up on culture-war issues that make them look like “racists, homophobes and bigots.”

On the other hand, there’s indeed plenty of room for improvement within the Haslam administration, suggested the editorial: “Reasonable conservatives have dozens of reasons to be disappointed in Gov. Haslam’s short tenure. From failing to cut wasteful spending to proposing to expand several failing programs, Haslam has fallen short of what many conservatives expected from a Republican governor.”

Senate Republican Caucus chairman Bill Ketron believes everything will come out in the wash.

“I think the political process is working,” said the Murfreeshboro lawmaker, who added that he expects more counties to join the chorus by passing similar resolutions. “I think each local GOP office in every county is expressing their feelings and I think it’s my job to listen to their concerns and then investigate.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, on the other hand, is encouraging the locals to clam up and even take back their rebellious sentiments. “I guess this is the growing pains that we’re going to learn to do now that we’ve become the dominant party in the state, that there will be fractions at times, and we’ll all need to come together at election time,” he said.

The governor was noticeably absent from the baked chicken dinner, but sent along a video address in his stead, which included him bragging about everything from reducing several taxes to reforming education and state employee hiring practices in the last two years.

“I say all this for a reason. It matters who we elect,” said Haslam. “We believe we can educate our children better. We believe we can give you a customer friendly government at a low cost. And we believe we can improve the environment for businesses to go and create jobs.”

The biggest applause came as the state’s General Assembly leaders took the stage, two Republicans who boasted about legislation they’ve been able to make into law under GOP leadership.

“Fellow conservatives, in this election, the American dream is at stake,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. “This election defines whether or not this nation is restored to its greatness by returning domestic issues back to the state and local governments where they can be efficiently and effectively run, or do we choose to descend into further crisis while we allow the federal government to continue to grow and expand.”

Ramsey agreed.

“I do believe we are an island of sanity in a nation that has gone crazy,” said the Blountville Republican. Ramsey challenged the party to win the additional Republican House seats needed to guarantee veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly.“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the state of Tennessee,” he said. “You think we’ve done a lot so far? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

TNGOP: ‘Economic Drought’ Continues

Statement from the Tennessee Republican Party; July 6, 2012:  

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement on the June unemployment report, which shows the unemployment rate remaining at 8.2%-

“Today’s jobs report shows that we remain in an economic drought, and it’s clear that Obama’s destructive policies have failed to provide much-needed relief for so many families.

“As President Obama’s first term winds down, the choice becomes more clear- either month after month of 8% or higher unemployment with President Obama or a real jobs plan with Mitt Romney that will get people back to work.”

TNGOP: Ruling On Health Care Will Rally Tennessee Republicans to Oust Obama

Statement from Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney; June 28, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on ObamaCare:

“Getting rid of ObamaCare is now in the hands of the American people, and we can accomplish that by electing Mitt Romney President in November. Today’s Supreme Court decision will increase the determination of Tennessee Republicans to defeat President Obama and put an end to his reckless policies that have failed to address the economy and are only making things worse.”

Harwell’s End-of-Session Recap

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, Posted the Following Letter on Facebook, June 3, 2011:

The first session of the 107th General Assembly adjourned late Saturday night, May 21st, after we aggressively worked the last several days to finish our business. We have a long list of accomplishments to point to, proving that it does matter who governs.

Governor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and I were united in our belief that in order to make government sustainable, we had to transform the way we did business. We made significant progress this year reducing the size of government, paving the way for job creation, and reforming education.

In addition, we adjourned earlier than we have in the past couple of decades. Compared to last year, our early adjournment saved taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in legislative operational expenses. We have shown that we take the responsibility of governing very seriously, and we will stay true to our principles as we do so.

Our top priority was a balanced budget with no new taxes or tax increases. This year’s budget is $1.2 billion less than last year’s. This includes $82.2 million in specific recurring reductions. The budget also fully funds education, and tucks money away in the Rainy Day Fund for the first time in three years, raising it to $327.7 million.

We had many accomplishments this year, including but not limited to the following:

  • Tort reform – Republicans have also fought for years to see passage of comprehensive tort reform legislation, and this year we were successful in passing a bill that will pave the way for jobs in Tennessee. This legislation will create an environment of predictability and certainty for businesses as they look to expand.
  • Tenure Reform – Our goal is to make sure our teachers are equipped with the best tools possible to educate Tennessee students. We want an effective teacher in front of every classroom, and we want those who are excelling to be rewarded. This proposal is absolutely key to education reform.
  • Charter Schools – Charter schools have a proven track record in Tennessee, and I am delighted that we are giving this opportunity to even more students. Every student in the state of Tennessee deserves the very best we have to offer in education, and charter schools play a huge role in reaching that goal.
  • Collaborative Conferencing – The legislature also acted on a bill that repealed the Education Professional Negotiations Act and moved to a collaborative bargaining process that will open a direct line of communication between teachers, administrators and school boards.
  • Reduction of Meth Amphetamines – We are always trying to stay one step ahead of those who manufacture meth, which is destroying our communities. Utilizing this tracking system will curb the ability of criminals to obtain key ingredients for meth, while not increasing the burden to consumers who need pseudoephedrine.
  • Election Integrity – To ensure the integrity of our elections, the legislature passed a bill to require photo identification to vote. This measure will reduce voter fraud, and make every vote count.
  • SJR 127 – The constitutional amendment will restore the right of Tennesseans to repeal or enact laws governing abortions within federal limits through their elected representatives.
  • E-Verify – This bill helps to ensure that those working in Tennessee are here legally. Illegal immigration has a large financial impact on taxpayers, and this legislation will address this problem.
  • Elimination of a dozen subcommittees – The principles of a limited and more efficient government were a priority this year. To that end, I eliminated a dozen subcommittees that I felt were duplicitous, a reform that helped us to work more efficiently.
  • Elimination of redundant committees – In times of economic hardship, taxpayers demand and deserve state government to be streamlined. To that end, we eliminated 11 “oversight” committees that duplicated the work of standing committees, saving taxpayer dollars.

We started this year with a Republican governor, and strong majorities in both chambers–for the first time in the history of our state. We set forth ambitious proposals for job creation and better schools, and due to the hard work of each state representative, we have done that. This was a very successful year.

As always, I appreciate your support. It was an honor to serve as Speaker of the House, and experience that was both humbling and rewarding. Thank you for placing your trust in me, and let me know if I can ever do anything to assist you.

Sincerely,

Beth

MTSU Poll: Tennesseans Don’t Like Teacher Tenure; Split on Eliminating Collective Bargaining; Favor Wine in Grocery Stores

Press Release from the Middle Tennessee State University Survey Group, March 2, 2011:

Obama would lose to a Republican opponent, but his low approval rating has stabilized

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Tennesseans take a dim view of teacher tenure but show no consensus on whether to do away with collective bargaining power for teacher unions, the latest MTSU Poll finds.

Fifty-four percent of state residents choose the statement, “Tenure makes it hard to get rid of bad teachers” as most representative of their viewpoint, while 29 percent choose the alternative statement, “Tenure protects good teachers from being fired without just cause” as most indicative of what they think. Sixteen percent say they don’t know, and the rest decline to answer.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of Tennesseans favor “eliminating the ability of teacher unions in Tennessee to negotiate with local boards of education about teacher salaries, benefits and other employment issues.” But a statistically equivalent 41 percent oppose such a move, and a substantial 22 percent are undecided.

“Compared to public opinion about teacher tenure, public opinion about collective bargaining for teacher unions seem to be still taking shape in Tennessee,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll. “The people most likely to have any opinion at all on the collective bargaining issue are also, based on other measures in the poll, the ones most likely to be politically active and politically knowledgeable. They probably are creating a framework for the debate and soon will start contending with each other for the support of those who are undecided.”

Conducted Feb. 14 – 26, 2011 by Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication, the telephone poll of 589 Tennessee adults chosen at random from across the state has an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. Full results are available on the poll’s website, www.mtsusurveygroup.org.

The poll also finds President Obama currently trailing whoever the Republican 2012 presidential nominee might be. Thirty-one percent of Tennesseans say they would vote for Obama if the election were held today, but a 48 percent plurality say they would vote instead for “his Republican opponent.” 14 percent say that they don’t know who they would vote for at this time, and 6 percent volunteer that they would vote for neither candidate.

The downward slide in Obama’s approval rating among Tennesseans seems to have leveled off, though, according to Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll.

“The president’s approval rating stands at 39 percent in Tennessee, a possible uptick from his 35 percent approval rating in our Fall 2010 poll,” Reineke said. “But, of course, he’s still down quite a bit compared to his 53 percent approval rating in the Spring 2009 MTSU Poll.”

In other findings, three in four Tennesseans considers illegal immigration a “somewhat” or “very” serious problem, and a 42 percent plurality describe as “about right” the new Arizona immigration law’s requirement that police making a stop, detention, or arrest must attempt to determine the person’s immigration status if police suspect the person is not lawfully present in the country. Another 25 percent say such a law “doesn’t go far enough,” and 28 percent say it “goes too far.”

Additionally, 55 percent characterize as “about right” the Arizona law’s requirement that people produce documents proving their immigration status if asked by police. Twenty-three percent say that aspect of the law doesn’t go far enough, and 17 percent say it goes too far.

Meanwhile, closing the Tennessee’s projected budget gap could prove politically difficult for state lawmakers.

A 52-percent majority of state residents think dealing with the budget gap will require either cutting important services (16 percent), raising state taxes (6 percent) or both (30 percent). Despite these attitudes, though, Tennesseans show little support for cuts to any of five of the state’s largest general fund budget categories. Only 25 percent of state residents favor cuts to TennCare, 14 percent favor cuts to K-12 education, 24 percent favor cuts to higher education, and 17 percent favor cuts to children’s services. Cuts to a fifth major budget category, prisons and correctional facilities, drew the most support (44 percent), but the figure is still well below a majority.

Asked about gun regulation, Tennesseans divide essentially evenly on whether laws governing the sale of guns should be kept at their current levels (43 percent) or made more strict (41 percent). Similarly, 45 percent of Tennesseans say they would support a nationwide law banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips, defined in the poll question as those that hold more than 10 bullets. But a statistically equivalent 42 percent say they would oppose such a law.

In still other poll findings:

  • Sixty-nine percent of Tennesseans favor letting food stores sell wine.
  • A 50 percent plurality think Congress should repeal the health care law.
  • Support remains high for the religious rights of Muslims.
  • Tennesseans think neither President Obama nor Congressional Republicans are doing enough to cooperate with each other.
  • More Tennesseans approve than disapprove of new governor, legislature, but many are undecided.

For over a decade, the Survey Group at MTSU has been providing independent, non-partisan and unbiased public opinion data regarding major social, political, and ethical issues affecting Tennessee. The poll began in 1998 as a measure of public opinion in the 39 counties comprising Middle Tennessee and began measuring public opinion statewide in 2001. Learn more and view the full report at www.mtsusurveygroup.org.