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Republicans Scheduled to Vote on House Speaker Nominee

Sweeping Republican gains in the Tennessee House of Representatives resulted from GOP candidates campaigning on conservative principles. And voters deserve someone overseeing the chamber who believes conservative priorities are now the people’s priorities, Rep. Glen Casada said Wednesday afternoon.

Under his direction, the House could be expected to approve or advance only that legislation rooted in core conservative values: reducing government size and spending, keeping state regulators out of the business community’s hair and stopping any new tax increases.

That kind of leadership isn’t for a moderate, Casada told TNReport on the eve of his party’s selection of a nominee for House speaker.

“Some people think that agreement is a greater good than getting your principles passed,” said Casada. “And I feel like getting my principles passed…is of greater value than getting agreement.”

Key party constituencies, like gun-rights advocates and Tea Party activists, have argued, too, that Rep. Beth Harwell, who is running against Casada, would be more likely to settle for compromise on issues of importance to them. Some conservative activists have also called for the caucus House speaker vote to be public, although the chamber’s party members have resisted that suggestion thus far.

But despite her moderate image, Harwell, a a two-decade House incumbent who led the TNGOP for four years, has herself advertised that she has no problem cutting Democrats out of the lawmaking mix for the next two years.

“Certainly in times past, we’ve had this mentality of a Democrat-Republican coalition, understandably so,” she told TNReport last week. “That day is over.”

Casada and Harwell say they would marginalize Democrats on legislative committees to reflect the heavy Republican majority in the chamber. And both pledge to support whomever the caucus nominates for the post — which in Harwell’s case seemingly constitutes an assurance that she won’t seek to leapfrog the party’s more conservative elements and reach out to Democrats for support on the House floor in January.

The new speaker will replace Rep. Kent Williams, a former Republican turned Independent who was elected into the leadership post with the help of Democrats in 2009. Both Casada and Harwell say that kind of backdoor surprise is not in the cards in 2011.

Thirty-three votes are required to win the caucus’ approval. The nominee is expected win election before the whole chamber in January with the entire party’s backing.

The GOP won a 64-34-1 majority at the general election earlier this month, essentially giving the party control of two-thirds of the chamber.

The nomination process was originally scheduled for the second week of December, but was moved up in an attempt to bond the party together sooner behind one central leader, Casada said.

Caucus members seem to know who they want to vote for, “so they might as well get it out of the way,” he said.

“Many, many in the caucus basically felt they had already made their mind up,” Casada said.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner says Republicans have their work cut out for them.

The party will soon realize they can’t keep all the groups that helped them into office happy, he said.

“I think you’ll see a lot of those groups complaining about a lot of things as we go forward, and it just tickles me to death,” Turner said Wednesday.

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Press Releases

TN Democrats: Republicans Should Return Brody Contributions

Press Release from the Tennessee Democratic Party, September 28, 2010

Tennessee Republican Campaign Contributor Accused of Massive Fraud

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said Republican lawmakers should return any campaign contributions they received from fellow Republican Ira Brody in light of allegations he bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from a former employer.

Brody had been a candidate for state treasurer after Republicans gained control of the General Assembly in November 2008. According to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, Brody and his family contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Tennessee Republican candidates over the last few years.

“I don’t see how any lawmaker could keep that cash knowing it may have been stolen,” Forrester said. “Tennesseans deserve to know their elected officials are not using stolen money to finance their campaigns. Any lawmaker who took a campaign contribution from Mr. Brody and his family should give it back immediately.”

Nashville television station WTVF Channel 5 reports that Brody has been accused of a massive fraud that “destroyed” Concord Capital Management by looting the company’s assets of “hundreds of millions of dollars.” The same report indicates Brody and his family appear to have given more than $200,000 to Republican candidates, including the Tennessee Republican Party.

According to state records and the Federal Election Commission, U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander received campaign contributions from Brody, as did state Sens. Ron Ramsey, Jim Tracy, Ken Yager and Delores Gresham along with state Reps. Joe Carr and Donna Rowland. Murfreesboro state House candidate Rick Womick also received campaign contribution from Brody and his family.

“Mr. Brody evidently tried to buy the state treasurer’s job with ill-gotten gains,” Forrester said. “We are fortunate he is not in charge of Tennessee’s revenues now.

“Most Tennessee voters cannot afford to make exorbitant campaign contributions like Mr. Brody did. Instead, many of us are struggling to make our mortgages, pay the bills and feed our families.

“It seems the state GOP remains out of touch with ordinary Tennesseans because they are too busy soliciting money from donors with deep pockets and special interests. We need our elected officials to focus on more ways to create better jobs for us and better schools for our kids,” he added.

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Press Releases

TNDP: Republicans Still Pitching ‘Failed Economic Policies’

Press Release from the Tennessee Democratic Party, Sept. 23, 2010:

Republicans from Washington, D.C., including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, are crisscrossing the state in an attempt to confuse Tennessee voters into believing the weak job market is a result of current economic policies.

“I’m confident Tennessee voters remember what got us into this mess in the first place,” Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said. “It was the failed economic policies of a Republican White House that was more concerned about helping the bottom line of its Wall Street and Big Business buddies.

“This Congress and this White House have turned things around for us. We’ve emerged from a deep recession, but we still have a long way to go before this economy churns out the level of jobs it was before George Bush took office.

“Tennessee Republicans like Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, along with Reps. John Duncan, Phil Roe, Zach Wamp and Marsha Blackburn, seem to have a memory block about what happened. They want to blame Democrats when they know full well it was their Republican leadership that nearly sent our economy into a ditch.”

Forrester pointed out that the entire Republican congressional delegation from Tennessee voted against the Recovery Act last year, a package that has committed $6 billion in federal funding to help the state create or retain more than 10,000 jobs and provide much-needed infrastructure improvements. Included in that funding package is $500 million in Race to the Top funds helping Tennessee complete a comprehensive reform of its schools.

“It is shameful that each of them has the audacity to come back home and take credit for the very projects they voted against,” Forrester said of the state’s Republican congressional delegation.

“Whether it’s a new $11 million school construction project over in Hamblen County or a $483 million investment at the Spring Hill General Motors plant to create 500 jobs, Republicans want to take credit for it. If that isn’t the ultimate example of hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.”

Forrester also called the Republicans so-called “Pledge to America” a gimmick that would send our economy into the same ditch from which we are now climbing out.

“They would rather continue to protect corporate loopholes and their Wall Street buddies than help ordinary hard-working Tennesseans find a job or send their children to a good college,” Forrester said. “Their pledge is nothing more than a gimmick. We cannot afford to go down that path again.”

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Press Releases

TNGOP: Democratic Chair Misleading Public About Primary Election Problems

Memo from Tennessee Republican Party; Aug. 23, 2010:

M E M O R A N D U M

TO: Tennessee Media

FROM: Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney

RE: Misleading Claims Made by TNDP Chairman

DATE: August 23, 2010

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester has made a number of misleading claims and accusations regarding this year’s primary elections. Essentially, Chairman Forrester has accused Republicans of conspiring to manipulate elections in order to secure wins. The fact is, Chairman Forrester has no evidence to support any of his claims and in fact was forced to admit in an article published over the weekend that most of the human error mistakes that occurred during the primary were made under the leadership of staff appointed and hired while Democrats controlled county election commissions across the state. According to the Tennessean:

“He conceded that some of the mistakes might have been made by people hired before Republicans came to power…” (“TN Dems claim GOP made errors in elections,” Tennessean, 08/21/10)

Now that Forrester has been forced to admit that his recent unfounded claims are nothing more than propaganda, I wanted to bring to your attention some important facts that will further dispel his misleading claims.

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“‘Secretary of State Tre Hargett and his election coordinator Mark Goins have continued to show their willingness to manipulate vote counts to keep their party in power,’ Forrester said.” (Press Release, 08/11/10)

FACT:

Chairman Forrester has zero evidence for any of these claims. In fact, his brazen attempts to smear the names of respected state leaders by making completely unfounded accusations is both reckless and irresponsible. These types of flagrantly false accusations have no place in Tennessee politics.

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“Reported election mishaps in Rutherford, Davidson, Hawkins, Maury and Shelby counties have revealed troubling problems in Tennessee and the Republicans responsible for conducting those elections, according to Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.” (Press Release, 08/19/10)

FACT:

Four of the five counties mentioned above have election administrators who were appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission. The fifth released a report naming a staffer responsible for a data entry error. That staffer was brought on years ago under a Democrat-controlled election commission.

Rutherford County – Former Rutherford County Democrat Party Chairman and current Rutherford County Election Administrator Hooper Penuel was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to reinstate election administrators appointed by a Democrat-controlled Election Commission. A Chattanooga Times-Free Press report showing he was one of those hires can be read here. Following issues that arose during this year’s primary in Rutherford County, multiple news reports highlight Penuel’s role in the situation: According to the Daily News Journal:

The commission voted on its early voting schedule based on the recommendation of Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel. Penuel said his advice was based on trying to save money because of budget restraints and early voting typically only having two Saturdays in its 15-day period and not three as it did for the past Aug. 5 election. ‘The three hours may follow me to my grave,’ Penuel told the commission. (“Election Commission admits early voting mistake,” Daily News Journal, 08/18/10)

Davidson County – Davidson County Election Administrator Ray Barrett resumed his role as election administrator in 2004, four-years prior to the county having a Republican-controlled election commission. According to a WKRN report:

Barrett has worked for Metro government for more than 50 years and spent 25 years with the election commission. He resumed the role of Election Administrator in 2004. (“Nashville Election Administrator Ray Barrett to resign,WKRN, 07/07/10)

Hawkins County – A report in the Kingsport-Times News confirms that Hawkins County Election Administrator Patricia Lumpkins was appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission and joined a class-action lawsuit to try and keep from being removed from her position in 2008. According to that report:

Following the November 2008 elections, there was a Republican majority in the Tennessee General Assembly, and new Republican-majority election commissions were appointed statewide… Some elections administrators didn’t go quietly, including Lumpkins, who joined a federal class-action lawsuit with other administrators in U.S. District Court in Nashville attempting to block their ouster. (“Tennessee high court opts out of elections administrator lawsuit,” Kingsport Times-News, 02/23/10)

A recent report that followed the August 5 primary elections highlights Lumpkins’ comments about her role in these elections. According to that report:

The county’s election administrator, Patricia Lumpkins, realized the error early, and the commission manually checked the votes… Lumpkins assures the public that the certification process she, her staff, and the Hawkins County Election Commissioners are going through is the best way to make sure all votes are counted, and accurate. (“The Hawkins County election glitch awards a different commissioner,TriCities.com, 08/13/10)

Maury County – According to records on file with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, Maury County Election Administrator Todd Baxter has been certified as an administrator since 1995. A call to the Maury County Election Commission confirmed he has been the administrator there for at least the past 12 years – meaning he was appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission.

Shelby County – A recent news article points out that the data entry mistake that caused problems was due to an employee by the name of Dennis Boyce and that Boyce was brought on staff a number of years ago under a Democrat-controlled election commission. According to the Memphis Flyer:

It may not be the final chapter in the “glitch” election of August 2010, but four members of the Shelby County Election Commission – two Democrats and two Republicans – formally underwrote and presented to the media on Wednesday their conclusion as to the cause of that glitch: human error, not political conspiracy or machine malfunction… The causative mistake, documented in a report prepared jointly by Meyers and Johnson, was a freely acknowledged one by the commission’s I T director, Dennis Boyce, a civil servant, who told commission director Rich Holden on the morning of election day, Thursday, August 5, that “he had made an error in selecting one of the data files” that were loaded into the Electronic Poll Book (EPM) used for voting that day… Giannini estimated that Boyce’s service at the Election Commission dated back at least nine years – which meant that he was hired during a period of Democratic control of the commission. (“Election Commission Rules ‘Human Error’ Caused Glitch, Clears Way for Certification,” Memphis Flyer, 08/19/10)

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“If we had those [optical scan] machines in place earlier this month and Republicans hadn’t fired so many experienced election administrators, we likely would not have encountered as many problems,” Forrester said. (Press Release, 08/19/10)

FACT:

Many of the issues that arose during voting have been attributed to human error, meaning the type of voting machine being used would not be a factor in whether or not these errors occurred.

Rutherford County – Election Administrator Hooper Penuel, appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission, admitted his human error. According to a news report:

The commission voted on its early voting schedule based on the recommendation of Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel. Penuel said his advice was based on trying to save money because of budget restraints and early voting typically only having two Saturdays in its 15-day period and not three as it did for the past Aug. 5 election. ‘The three hours may follow me to my grave,’ Penuel told the commission. (“Election Commission admits early voting mistake,” Daily News Journal, 08/18/10)

Davidson County – Election Administrator Ray Barrett, appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission, said a voting machine in one of the precincts was mistakenly not counted. According to the Tennessean:

An audit by the Davidson County Election Commission turned up a previously uncounted voting machine from one precinct, Election Administrator Ray Barrett confirmed this morning. (“Election audit drops Henry’s lead over Yarbro to 11 votes,” Tennessean, 08/16/10)

Shelby County – The Shelby County Election Commission has released a report citing human error as the cause for election problems during the primary. The staffer responsible was hired under a Democrat-controlled election commission. According to the Memphis Flyer:

It may not be the final chapter in the “glitch” election of August 2010, but four members of the Shelby County Election Commission – two Democrats and two Republicans – formally underwrote and presented to the media on Wednesday their conclusion as to the cause of that glitch: human error, not political conspiracy or machine malfunction. (“Election Commission Rules ‘Human Error’ Caused Glitch, Clears Way for Certification,” Memphis Flyer, 08/19/10)