Butt was unopposed, but her taking this position is another win for the conservatives. Might help take a little sting off Womick’s defeat.
Rep. Kevin Brooks turned back a spirited challenge from Jeremy Faison, 44-28.
In a close 38-34 vote that surprised many, Jeremy Durham has defeated Cameron Sexton for Majority Whip.
Durham is considered the more conservative of the two. Sexton was backed by several House leaders, which made many think he was a likely winner. But RTP has learned at least one House leader split off to support Durham. A crack in the leadership wall?
Unofficial results: 57-15. 1 not voting.
Congratulations to the Speaker.
RTP has learned there will be an attempt to change the bylaws to allow the reporting of votes totals for each candidate following the balloting tomorrow. Some say it is an attempt to embarrass Womick if he doesn’t win or make what they consider a good showing. That’s possible.
Bigger question is why now? Why didn’t Harwell want to make the votes public when she defeated Casada for Speaker four years ago? Casada and others have claimed privately for years that he only lost by one vote. Such a showing, if made public and if true, would have made Harwell vulnerable to a challenge two years ago.
Here’s a modest proposal from the gang at RTP. If you are going to change the rules, Beth, then why not make them retroactive to four years ago when it is said you escaped defeat by the skin of your teeth?
Here’s another proposal. Allow a representative of each candidate into the room to witness the count as it is being done. There have been persistent rumors about uncounted ballots on such things as “sense of the caucus” votes on major issues. We’re not saying we don’t trust this gang, but — we don’t trust this gang.
Some proponents are cloaking the proposed change, (which reportedly will be offered by Rep. Ryan Williams on behalf of leadership) as an effort at “transparency.” But with this crowd, you can be sure they are trying to rig the game — just like they do with bogus fiscal notes, flagging bills, not naming freshmen to subcommittees, etc., etc., etc., etc.
Silent Beth and The Midnight Mailer.
Attack piece on Womick linked to S.C.O.R.E. / Common Core and Advance Tennessee PAC.
Ever since Rep. Rick Womick decided to take on the Herculean task of trying to unseat Speaker Beth Harwell, the race has devolved into two distinct opposing strategies.
On one hand is Womick, the sharp-tongued former fighter pilot who takes no prisoners. To be sure, his sometimes prickly personality can be off-putting to the faint of heart, but most agree you know exactly where Womick stands, regardless of whether or not you agree with him. His strategy from the beginning has been to focus on what he believes is the governor’s meddling in legislative business and the House leadership’s abuse of procedures and rules designed to kill legislation they don’t like and to punish those who stray from the governor’s agenda. Womick seems particularly incensed by the attack on incumbent GOP caucus members by the Advance Tennessee PAC last August.
Contrast that with Harwell’s strategy which consists primarily of going stone cold quiet, commenting on nothing and pretending Womick doesn’t exist. The “Rose Garden” strategy is a common one for an incumbent. But such a strategy has its risks and the events of the last few days demonstrate why.
It started when the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate, tried to recruit people to run against Republicans who didn’t toe the governor’s line. After limited success, Cate – with the governor’s apparent knowledge and acquiescence – played a role in creating Advance Tennessee PAC, an organization created in Washington, DC designed to launch a last-minute attack on several incumbent Republicans in the primaries. After spending six figures, the PAC picked up just one House seat (which was off-set by the loss of two of the governor’s allies in other House seats).
But in the four months since the primaries, it has been Harwell’s actions (or as it were, inactions) that have been noticed by many legislators. Harwell has yet to say one word condemning the attack on her own caucus members. What’s more, Harwell has amassed a war chest of over $1.3 million and did not share one thin dime with any of the legislators who were attacked, before or after the primary. What’s more, Harwell spent only a paltry sum (less than 5%) on other candidates, leading many in the caucus to ask why she was always hitting them up for contributions to the caucus campaign fund while she was only donating $7,500 (0.5%) out of $1.3 million from her own campaign accounts.
Now comes the attack piece on Womick, of which Harwell – true to form – has remained silent. But unlike the anonymous faux “hit pieces” done on Harwell (whose supporters rushed to blame Womick without a shred of evidence), the attack-Womick mailers actually had a disclaimer. And that disclaimer leads back uncomfortably close to Harwell.
The mailer (pictured below) says they were produced by an outfit called Stand For Children (SFC). SFC was the creation of the husband of Marian Wright Edelman – a leading left-wing national activist who staked out a leadership position in the “childrens’ reform” movement in the 70s and 80s. Edelman was infamous for having received part of her education in the old Soviet Union before returning to America with her unique brand of liberal activism. One of the first SFC chapters formed by Peter Edleman was in Memphis, the location of the return address on the mailer attacking Womick.
The executive director for SFC is Betty Anderson, a well-known Democrat lobbyist who is the former wife of former Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. She is also the former asst. executive director of the T.E.A. at a time when the teacher’s union spent their entire budget trying to defeat Republicans in the legislature.
When you visit the Stand for Children website, one of the first things you see is their prominent and enthusiastic support for Common Core – hardly a position you would associate with any Tennessee Republicans other than Bill Haslam. One of the major financial supporters of SFC appears to be the Hyde Family Foundation (Autozone), who brags about the SFC on the foundation’s website at every opportunity. And who sits on the board of S.C.O.R.E., the Common Core front group created by Bill Frist? Why, none other than J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III.
Then it is only a hop, step and a click away to discover one of the largest contributors to the Advance Tennessee PAC that was used to attack incumbent Republicans was – ta da! – Pitt Hyde.
See how easy that was, kids? You too can play this game. Just get yourself a buttload of money, buy off a couple of front organizations, shill for Common Core and purchase for yourself your very own Speaker of the House (maybe “purchase” is too strong a word. How about “rent-a-Speaker?”).
Silent Beth has made it clear she wants to run for governor in four years, and she will need Pitt Hyde’s money to do that – even if she has to take a pit out of the hide of her fellow Republicans to get there, including attacking fellow Republicans and standing silently by while others do her dirty work.
Hell, who knows? With all these skeletons in the Speaker’s closet, maybe Cap’n Rick actually has a chance in Wednesday’s vote. But even if he gets beat by a few or a few dozen votes, he has let the back-stabbing genie escape when it comes to the bad treatment of his GOP colleagues by the governor and Madame Speaker.
And it’s going to be hard if not impossible to put that sucker back in the bottle after Wednesday, regardless of the outcome.
In a hilarious column in this weekend’s Tennessean, two Vanderbilt professors took what was already being considered a rather bogus poll and postulated what had to be a satirical assertion: Bill Haslam should be President of the United States.
After water-boarding the data and torturing the sample size to within an inch of its life, the two ivory tower academic prognosticators staked their obviously tongue-in-check claim to Haslam because he had a 70% approval rating (according to their own poll). In light of Haslam’s support for Common Core (a stance that may well keep Jeb Bush on the sidelines in 2016) or his public brain farts about raising the gas tax or expanding Obamacare, one is left with the sneaking suspicion the profs were pulling our leg when they took their poll, then extrapolated “President Bill” from the findings. Must be slow times at Vandy these days, what with final exams almost over and the Commodores not going to a bowl. When you are that bored, your mind starts to play tricks on you. You’ll do anything for laughs, like putting a whoopie cushion in the chair of the dean for Gender Studies.
It seems to us here at RTP there is precedent for wanting to be president (or governor, or senator) once you have achieved the magic number of 70% in a poll. Here are but a few examples of political chief executives who have ridden their 70% rating — all the way to disaster:
George Herbert Walker Bush – After Operation Desert Storm, Bush’s approval jumped way past 70% and climbed into the 80th percentile. A couple of years later, he was thrown out of office.
Don Sundquist – Like Haslam, Dandy Don won re-election with 70% of the vote. But Don then proceeded to alienate the entire state by proposing a state income tax. He left office as possibly the most reviled Tennessee governor in history, including Gov. Parson Brownlow.
Barack Obama – Entered his presidency with astronomical approval ratings near or surpassing 70% and is now nursing his lame-duck presidency right into the history pages of unmitigated debacles.
Haslam for President? Please… no more… stop it… you’re killing us……
Word from down in Rutherford County is that a mass mailing hit mailboxes this morning in Rep. Rick Womick’s district, directly attacking him for challenging Beth Harwell for Speaker of the House.
No word yet on who paid for or produced the mailings, or whether there is any identifying disclaimers. Earlier mailings and robo-calls with no disclaimers crudely attacked Harwell in what many believe was a thinly-veiled attempt to make it look like it came from the Womick camp. Womick vehemently denied any direct or indirect connection to the attacks.
Earlier this year, the Advance Tennessee PAC (with the support of administration officials) made similar attacks. Harwell refusal to comment on those attacks or support her fellow GOP caucus members was apparently one of the reasons Womick decided to enter the race for Speaker.
Stay tuned to RTP for more information….
Since several leadership positions in this week’s House GOP caucus elections are going unchallenged, some pundits are predicting few changes. But one name keeps drifting to the top of the endangered list.
Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Brooks (R-COG) is trying to hold off a spirited challenge from Rep. Jeremy Faison. Unlike some of the other contests, this one does not seem to break along ideological lines. Both men are considered to be on the more conservative end of the caucus, both have strong religious foundations, etc.
Where Brooks may have gotten himself in trouble is the perception that he has grown too chummy with the leadership clique and has been too passive when it comes to the establishment’s continued attempts at denigrating and marginalizing caucus conservatives. As one example, critics point to Brook’s failure to stand up for conservatives who were attacked by the Haslam/Tate-directed Advance Tennessee PAC, equating his silence with complicity in the sordid affair. Speaker Harwell’s silence on the attacks were bad enough, but having a conservative like Brooks clam up leaves some conservatives wondering whose side he is on.
Whether true or not, that perception has put some air under Faison’s wings. Conservatives are saying this race may be one of their best opportunities to display their displeasure with the way leadership is running the show.
Of course if Faison wins then allows himself to be co-opted, he can expect the same treatment next time around – but that would be cold comfort to Brooks.
Teacher’s union formula for success in Tennessee? Hire an Obama staffer to deal with the GOP Legislature.
Yeah, that’ll work.
It appears the T.E.A. simply cannot escape its past. After hiring the former head of the Alabama Democratic Party to a top post, they have now hired some guy named Drew Sutton to be their “legislative coordinator.” Here is all that GOP members of the General Assembly need to know about Mr. Sutton:
- Virginia Education Association — Union organizer and rep.
- Denver Classroom Teachers Association – Campaign Organization and Advocacy Specialist. Led the initiative to raise Colorado taxes by $1 billion dollars. It lost. Badly.
- Colorado Education Association — Government Relations Intern
- Obama Presidential Inaugural Committee.
- Field Organizer — OFA Colorado. The shock troops for the Obama political operation. When he was employed there, you could reach Drew at email@example.com.
- Operations Manager Apprentice, Sitel, Inc. – Best we can figure, this is a company that specializes in outsourcing U.S. jobs to overseas.
- John Sparks For State Senate – an Oklahoma Democrat
Whew! Seems ‘ol Drew has held more Democrat party jobs than Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton put together.
But RTP is nothing if not cordial to our foreign visitors from foreign lands. So here are a few tips to help Drew acclimate himself to the culture shock:
- Them’s are mountains in the background behind you on your LinkedIn photo, Drew, but they ain’t the Smoky Mountains. You might want to update your picture.
- Two out of every three people you meet on the street in Tennessee voted against your former boss – twice. You might want to scrape the Obama sticker off your Prius.
- It’s called “beer.” Not “lager,” not “ale” and not “stout.”
- “Rocky Top” is the state’s national anthem.
- “Rocky Mountain High” is an old John Denver song. Unlike Colorado, it is not the state’s drug policy.
- When you were in Colorado, your organization led the fight for a billion-dollar tax increase. Talk like that in these parts will get you a one-way Greyhound ticket to the state line.
- Despite what you have been told or understand, Bill Haslam is officially a Republican. We realize it’s easy to get confused.
Yep — Hire a bunch of community organizing, labor union, out-of-state Obama supporters to interface with the Republican super-majorities. That’ll work about as well as the last out-of-state Obama supporter who was hired to do a similar job — and we all remember Kevin Huffman.