By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence Public Relations
July 27, 2007
And so we are down to our final days before the August 2 Metro elections.
The last of close to 50 mayoral candidate forums has finally been held.
Our TV sets, mailboxes and increasingly our telephones are being jammed by last minute messages from the candidates.
Public polls by the media (all with varying questions about their methodology and therefore their results) continue to elicit strong and differing opinions about what the true state of the contest is.
And already early voting has brought out significantly higher numbers of voters than eight years ago in 1999, which is the last time the mayoral race did not include an incumbent.
But do those higher numbers mean a greater turnout than eight years ago (100,000) or do they just reflect the increasingly popularity of early voting? In the November 2006 election in Nashville, for example, early voting was close to 50%. If that's the case this year, we may not make 100,000 especially if the weather is bad August 2. It looks like early voting which ends Saturday July 28 will bring at least 40,000 or maybe 45,000 to the polls. We stood at just over 37,000 as of mid-day Friday. The question is will another 60,000 voters or something less turnout on Election Day itself?
Before we take a more in-depth look at all of that, as well as the final pre-election campaign finance disclosures by the mayoral candidates, perhaps a little history is in order.
Below is a look back at past Metro mayoral races. I delivered this in a speech to the Nashville Exchange Club on July 24. The research I did (thanks to the Metro Election Commission and the Metro Archives) turned up some very interesting things, including the fact that if we vote around 100,000 in 2007 that's about the same amount of folks that voted way back in mayoral elections in 1966 and 1971, when Nashville was a much different and smaller city with many fewer registered voters.
So what is it about this election and local government in general these days that doesn't seem to engage local citizens' attention? It's the part of government that most impacts our daily lives, yet voter turnout is always larger for state and national elections, especially for President.
I am sorry this speech is in all caps. I needed it in large type so I could read it properly when I gave the address. Like the rest of me, my eyes are not as young as they used to be J
REMARKS TO EXCHANGE CLUB/JULY 24, 2007
IN JUST A FEW SHORT DAYS ON AUGUST 2, WE WILL FINISH THE CURRENT VOTING FOR MAYOR.
ALREADY WE ARE CASTING BALLOTS AT A RATE QUITE A BIT HIGHER THAN EIGHT YEARS AGO WHICH IS THE LAST TIME THIS SEAT WAS AN OPEN RACE WITHOUT AN INCUMBENT.
THROUGH MONDAY JULY 23, 22,163 PEOPLE HAVE VOTED EARLY.
IN 1999, THE TOTAL NUMBER WHO VOTED DURING THIS ENTIRE SPECIAL PERIOD WAS JUST 18,000. SO WITH 5 DAYS MORE OF EARLY VOTING TO GO, YOU CAN SEE WE WILL BE MUCH HIGHER THAN BEFORE.
DOES THIS MEAN OVERALL TURNOUT WILL BE HIGHER THAN 1999, WHICH WAS 100,000? MAYBE, ALTHOUGH EARLY VOTING SEEMS TO BE INCREASING IN POPULARITY WITH EACH PASSING CYCLE AND CAMPAIGNS SEEMED TO BE GETTING BETTER AT IDENTIFYING AND GETTING THEIR VOTERS TO THE POLLS EARLY, SO TURNOUT IS STILL TRICKY TO READ.
THEREFORE WHILE I BELIEVE WE WILL HAVE AN OVERALL TURNOUT AT OR ABOVE 100,000, I AM NOT SURE IT WILL BE MUCH MORE THAN THAT AND THAT DEPENDS ON THE WEATHER.
SO HOW DOES THIS FIELD OF CANDIDATES STACK UP AGAINST PREVIOUS FIELDS WHO'VE RUN FOR MAYOR OVER THE PAST 44 YEARS?
I'D SAY PRETTY WELL.
I'VE HAD THE HONOR AND PRIVLEDGE TO MODERATE 5 MAYORAL FORUMS WITH THESE GENTLEMEN AND ALL OF THEM ARE VERY CAPABLE AND EXPERIENCED PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND CANDIDATES.
IN FACT, WHILE SOME FOLKS HAVE TENDED TO DENIGRATE THIS FIELD OF CANDIDATES, I THINK IT IS THE DEEPEST WE'VE EVER HAD IN TERMS OF POLITICAL EXPERIENCE.
LET'S COMPARE THEM WITH SOME OF THE PREVIOUS CHOICES WE'VE HAD FROM WHICH TO SELECT A MAYOR.
THIS ELECTION IN TERMS OF ITS FIELD OF CANDIDATES REMINDS ME OF BOTH THE 1971 RACE AND THE CONTEST IN 1987.
THIS YEAR WE HAVE A FORMER CONGRESSMAN, A FORMER METRO PUBLIC DEFENDER AND LEGAL DIRECTOR, THE VICE MAYOR AND TWO AT-LARGE COUNCIL MEMBERS.
ALL FIVE OF THEM HAVE BEEN ELECTED COUNTYWIDE AT LEAST TWICE.
COMPARE THAT TO 1971 WHEN WE HAD INCUMBENT MAYOR BEVERLY BRILEY SEEKING HIS THIRD AND FINAL TERM, ALONG WITH COUNTY PROPERTY ASSESSOR CLIFFORD ALLEN (WHO WAS LATER CONGRESSMAN), VICE MAYOR JERRY ATKINSON, TRUSTEE GLENN FERGUSON AND METRO COUNCILMAN CASEY JENKINS.
ONLY JENKINS HAD NOT BEEN ELECTED BEFORE COUNTYWIDE, YET HE USED PUBLIC DISCONTENT OVER THE BUSING ISSUE TO COME OUT OF NOWHERE ELECTION DAY AND BECOME THE ONLY MEMBER OF THE METRO COUNCIL EVER TO REACH A MAYORAL RUNOFF WHICH, OF COURSE, HE LOST TO MAYOR BRILEY.
THEN THERE'S THE EPIC MAYORAL CONTEST WE HAD IN THIS COMMUNITY TWENTY YEARS AGO IN 1987.
LIKE THIS YEAR, IT WAS AN OPEN RACE WITHOUT AN INCUMBENT. MAYOR RICHARD FULTON WAS LEAVING OFFICE AFTER THREE TERMS.
WE HAD NINE TOTAL CANDIDATES IN THAT FIELD, INCLUDING SEVERAL WHO HAD BEEN ELECTED COUNTYWIDE OR TO THE COUNCIL. THERE WAS A CONGRESSMAN, BILL BONER, A GENERAL SESSION JUDGE, GALE ROBINSON FROM A LONG-TIME PROMINENT POLITICAL FAMILY, BETTY NIXON, A METRO COUNCIL VETERAN. AND THEN THERE WERE THE PROMINENT BUSINESS LEADERS LIKE EDDIE JONES, HEAD OF THE NASHVILLE CHAMBER AND FINALLY, A FELLOW NOBODY KNEW THEN, BUT WHO WE WOULD COME TO KNOW VERY WELL IN THE YEARS TO COME...SOMEONE NAMED PHIL BREDESEN WHO WAS LATER OUR MAYOR AND NOW IS OUR GOVERNOR.
THAT RACE HEATED UP AS THE SUMMER WENT ALONG, ESPECIALLY WITH HORSE RACING ALSO ON THE BALLOT. IT ENDED WITH A RUNOFF BETWEEN BILL BONER AND PHIL BREDESEN, WITH BONER WINNING IN A RACE THAT POLARIZED THE COMMUNITY BOTH POLITICALLY AND GEOGRAPHICALLY. IT IS ALSO A RACE THAT MARKED BOTH THE END OF AN ERA IN NASHVILLE POLITICS AND A BEGINNING OF A NEW ONE THAT STILL IMPACTS OUR CITY TODAY.
WE'VE HAD OUR CLOSE MAYORAL ELECTIONS OVER THE YEARS. BESIDES 1987, THERE WAS THE FIRST MAYORAL RE-ELECTION CONTEST IN 1966. INCUMBENT MAYOR BRILEY FACED A FORMIABLE FIELD, INCLUDING BEN WEST, THE LAST MAYOR OF THE OLD CITY OF NASHVILLE TRYING TO MAKE A POLITICAL COMEBACK, AND VICE MAYOR GEORGE CATE.
WHEN THE BALLOTS WERE COUNTED ON ELECTION NIGHT, LESS THAN 6 THOUSAND VOTES SEPARATED ALL THREE CANDIDATES OUT OF 100,000 CAST. BETWEEN BRILEY AND WEST FOR THE TWO RUN OFF SLOTS, THE MARGIN WAS JUST 318 VOTES. NO WONDER, GEORGE CATE'S ENDORSEMENT OF BRILEY IN THE RUNOFF (WHICH CHRIS CLARK SAYS WAS HIS FIRST BIG SCOOP WHEN HE CAME TO NASHVILLE) WAS SO CRITICAL TO MAYOR BRILEY WINNING HIS SECOND TERM.
THEN THERE'S THE 1971 RACE. THIS TIME AGAIN JUST OVER 100,000 FOLKS VOTED, AND ABOUT 1,200 MORE HAD GONE FOR TRUSTEE GLENN FERGUSON, WHO WAS THE FAVORITE OF THE TENNESSEAN NEWSPAPER, INSTEAD OF CASEY JENKINS, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FERGUSON IN THE RUNOFF....AND PERHAPS NASHVILLE HISTORY WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY DIFFERENT TOO.
IF THERE IS ONE OTHER WORD YOU CAN USE TO DESCRIBE OUR METRO MAYORAL POLITICS OVER THE PAST 44 YEARS, IT IS: STABLITY.
WE'VE HAD JUST FIVE MAYORS SINCE METRO BEGAN WAY BACK IN 1963. THEIR TOTAL YEARS IN OFFICE WOULD LIKLEY BE EVEN LONGER IF MAYORS BREDESEN AND PURCELL HAD DECIDED TO SEEK A THIRD TERM. OF COURSE, NOW VOTERS HAVE OFFICIALLY DECIDED TO LIMIT FUTURE MAYORS TO JUST TWO TERMS OR EIGHT YEARS.
STILL WE'VE NEVER HAD AN INCUMBENT MAYOR DEFEATED FOR RE-ELECTION AND ONLY ONE HAS SERVED LESS THAN 2 FULL TERMS. IF THAT'S NOT STABILITY OVER NEARLY A HALF-CENTURY OF LOCAL POLITICS, I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS.
IT WILL BE THIS LEGACY THAT ONE OF THESE GENTLEMEN WILL INHERIT IN A FEW SHORT WEEKS (MY REMARKS WERE MADE BEFORE A MAYORAL CANDIDATE FORUM). WITH THE HELP OF FOUNDING FATHERS LIKE CECIL BRANSTETTER AND GEORGE CATE WHO ARE WITH US TODAY, METRO GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN A GRAND EXPERIMENT THAT HAS WORKED FOR NEARLY A HALF CENTURY. ONE OF THESE MEN WILL BE THE NEXT LEADER TO TAKE OUR CITY FORWARD.
ALREADY ALL THESE CANDIDATES HAVE BEEN TRIED AND TESTED OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS. IF NOTHING ELSE, THEY'VE ATTENDED CLOSE TO 50 MAYORAL FORUMS, WHICH BE A RECORD NUMBER OF SUCH GATHERINGS, ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS OF VARIOUS GROUPS ABOUT THEIR STANDS ON THE ISSUES OF THE DAY.
PLEASE THANK THEM FOR JOINING US TODAY AS WE BEGIN OUR FORUM WITH THEM.
SO WHERE ARE WE NOW....THE MONEY
There's a saying in politics.
"Never let them see you sweat."
When I moderated the Exchange Club mayoral forum the other day, I thought I saw Bob Clement sweating just for a moment.
In the midst of his answer to my question about how he felt about media coverage of the mayoral campaign, Clement expressed his displeasure with candidates who loan or give their campaigns lots of their own money rather than raising it from others the way he's done.
Previously, when I've asked Clement campaign officials about the money both Karl Dean and David Briley (and now Howard Gentry) have given their campaigns, they declined to comment.
Why make a statement now? Could it be that Clement, as the front runner in the race since it began, is now looking in his rear view mirror and becoming concerned about the rise of Karl Dean in the polls (even leaving aside the recent media polls and their methodology issues, one of Clement's closest supporter has told me Dean is definitely moving out of the pack and has clearly risen into second place). Dean supporters say polls showing him in a dead heat with Clement or even slightly ahead are accurate with their own internal tracking, although they admit they have questions about how those media polls were conducted.
For now, this complaint by Clement about how some of his opponents are funding their campaigns is no more than a brief comment at a forum. I am told there are no TV attack ads or news releases in the can about this subject. Karl Dean, who spoke right after Clement at the forum, did not take the bait to respond (he said what he's said before that he got in the race late, is not as well known as others and will do whatever it takes to have a chance to win). So far, the media is not making much of deal about the matter either. Will any of this change with these new financial disclosures? Will it change if there's a runoff between Clement and Dean?
I guess it could since Dean has now disclosed that he has given his campaign a total of $950,000 of his own money out of just $1.4 million raised and spent. In fact, Dean reports that he had less than $9,000 in the bank on Monday, July 23, the last day of this reporting period. But no need to fear Dean will run out of money before the August 2 vote. He has given his campaign another $250,000 to tide it over.
Here are how the final pre-election money numbers stack up (and no, it's not a mistake that the guys who've raised and/or spent the most money seem to be first and second in most people's analysis of the race):
Clement $1.4 million
Dean $1.4 million (including $950,000 of his own funds)
TOTAL RAISED (JULY 1-23)
Dean $356,000 ($325,000 of his own funds given to campaign)
Briley $62,000 (no additional money from the candidate)
Gentry $53,696 (including $23,000 loan from the candidate)
TOTAL SPENT THIS PERIOD (AMOUNT REMAINING)
Dean $396,809 ($8,973 but candidate gave another $250,000 to campaign on July 24)
Clement $383,403 ($548,278)
Dozier $120,000 ($83,000)
Briley $244,000 ($33,000)
Gentry $141,169 ($44,016)
You can see from the numbers that outside of his own personal contributions, Dean's fund raising has gone into the tank the last few weeks, with just $31,000 coming in from supporters not named Karl Dean. That's the least amount of money raised of any of the candidates this reporting period. Is it a good idea for Dean to rely so heavily on personal financing? Doesn't it send a funny message? But does he have any choice if he wants to win?
And he's spending his money almost as fast as it coming in. But not all is lost for Dean. In fact, this could be just a taste of what will happen if there is a runoff between Dean and Clement. Dean can not only give himself lots more money if he needs to, he will likely benefit from those who will now come off the sidelines to support him and/or protect themselves and cover for their previous contributions to Clement by now also giving to Dean (all this to protect their future access to Metro government). Nevertheless, Clement still has about $550,000 to spend in the runoff and he can get more too. But can he get enough to continue to be able to compete with Dean?
The last time we had a situation like this in Nashville was in the 1987 Boner-Bredesen runoff. Bredesen had unlimited personal resources to spend, which put a lot of heat on Boner. There is one advantage Boner had then which Clement won't have now. There was no limit on personal contributions then. Now there is a limit at $1,000. In many ways, Boner was able to neutralize Bredesen's money with large contributions from major supporters. Clement won't be able to do that and may not be able to find enough individual donors at $1,000 each to make up that difference. So, again, will Clement make Dean's money an issue in the runoff?
And if there is a runoff between the two, what will be their points of difference now that the race is down to a final two? What will be their ACT II with the voters? In particular how will they attract the Briley, Gentry and Dozier voters who will hold the keys to victory? And how will they make themselves different but still avoid possibly turning off voters if they go negative?
WHAT'S HAPPENED.....WHY THE RACE HAS TIGHTENED
Political races always seem to tighten towards the end.
Until the last few weeks, Clement clearly was well ahead in this race. Even an internal Dean poll released back in June showed him at 29% and Dean at 12%. It appears to be about that time that the Clement campaign decided to wait on its TV ads (not starting its spots until the July 4th holiday or less than 2 weeks before early voting began). That was to save as much money as possible for the coming runoff. Some Clement folks say that was the plan all along and maybe it was. But is there any second-guessing now as Dean moves up and Clement seems to be flat or declining slightly in the polls? Clement reportedly is increasing his TV ad buy some in these final days but is his TV doing much good for the campaign? Can it help keep him in first place August 2? Should it be dumped, changed or tweaked for the runoff?
When the WSMV poll showed Dean slightly ahead, it was apparently the Clement campaign that leaked a poll it had showing Clement still in the lead but only by about 7-8 points now. But even that didn't stop the questions about the race because THE CITY PAPER then did its own poll with SURVEY USA, which pronounced the race even closer, in fact a dead heat.
Momentum in politics can be a hard thing to measure accurately and an even harder thing for an opponent to stop. These media polls, even if they are not completely accurate, have given Dean the appearance of having the "Big Mo" (momentum) in the campaign. It's probably too late and too risky for Clement to launch a media attack on Dean before August 2. So instead Clement has gone back to lots of retail, old fashioned politics to solidify and activate his base of supporters, with hand shaking tours of Rolling Mill Hill, NES, and other Metro offices as well as working hard and paying personal visits to local labor halls, senior centers, even riding new mass transit Music City Star which Clement helped create. He's also spending considerable time visiting and campaigning in the minority community, despite the apparent strength there of his rival, Vice Mayor Howard Gentry. Finally, according to one Clement source, his campaign is working the early vote, not only offering rides but with volunteers staffing every early vote site all day, every day looking for any last minute undecideds. There probably aren't many, at least not among those voting early, but I guess anything gained is a plus.
One of the recently released media polls (SURVEY USA/CITY PAPER) showed Gentry in a surprisingly strong position to possibly make the runoff. Maybe that's why he made the recent large personal contribution to his campaign. But as those who did the poll pointed out, Gentry's recent poll numbers are due largely to how the SURVEY USA poll is weighted. It's based on minority turnout being 20% or one out of every five voters. Usually minority turnout is about 12% to 15% in local races, although it was quite a bit higher last November with Harold Ford, Jr. making his race for the U.S. Senate. That's apparently why SURVEY USA did the poll at that higher level of black voter turnout.
Can Howard Gentry turn out that level of support August 2? If he can, he has a shot at the runoff. Maybe we will get an early clue if several of those 60-plus black ministers who endorsed the Vice-Mayor, preach on that topic during their services this coming Sunday and/or Wednesday night.
The same is true of Buck Dozier. If his base of city employees (fire & police) and his church vote turn out stronger than usual, he could surprise. Grassroots campaign are often hard to gauge especially in a low turnout race so that keeps Dozier a little bit of a wildcard right up to the end.
But the odds seem to favor a Clement-Dean runoff after August 2.
What about David Briley? Well, he's put up a third TV ad that has the candidate in a town hall format with supporters. He again addresses the illegal immigration issue, but not in the dark tones that caused some problems and questions about a previous ad. Briley also is working his grassroots hard, getting supporters to write 15,000 postcards, telephone 7500 voters and knock on 1500 doors. But will it be enough?
Briley has been on the receiving end of the campaign's first attack video in recent days. Actually what was posted on YouTube about a week ago is more of a power point presentation that criticizes Briley for "ducking" and not voting on a large number of important bills and resolutions that came before the Council over the last few years. Does an attack like this indicate someone thinks Briley still has a chance to get into the runoff? All the other campaigns deny they had anything to do with it and there is no polling, media or from a campaign that shows Briley in striking distance. Given the new opportunities afforded to citizens with outlets like YouTube, it may just be some one who really doesn't like Briley for some reason and just waited or couldn't get his power point done any earlier in the campaign.
Nevertheless, there has now been a response You Tube attack video/power point posted. It blames the Dean campaign directly for the first YouTube attack and then proceeds to attack Dean, especially for some liberal-leaning, soft on crime comments he's reportedly made over the years.
While all the candidates have been on their best behavior with each other during this election (and they should be commended for that), it's pretty clear there's a lot of negative, bad stuff brewing among their supporters which is starting to bubble to the surface in these final days. Look for some potential volcano type explosions come the runoff.
And speaking of the runoff, if either Briley, Dozier or Gentry do somehow make the field, they better start raising money pretty quickly if they want to compete with either Clement or Dean. Their last money report looks a little lean. They would get that "second chance", cover my options money that I talked about with Dean, but given their lack of reserves and inability to self-finance it won't be easy for them.
On the other hand, if they don't make the runoff, it doesn't appear anyone is leaving the field in real bad debt. I guess David Briley didn't hock his house after all (or at least not yet).
One more piece of Metro history: We've had 5 mayoral runoffs (1966, 1971, 1979, 1987 & 1999). In all of them, the candidate who finished first in the general election has always held on and won the runoff. No come from behind victories, at least so far, although obviously with only 5 elections to review, that's hardly an overwhelming number even if it does cover 44 years. But "Big Mo" in the runoff will definitely go to whoever finishes first August 2 and history says, so far, that's the best way to the mayor's office.
I've mentioned several times my questions about the methodology of these mayoral public polls commissioned by media outlets. The concern is the telephone lists being used to select respondents and then how they are qualified as registered and "likely voters" (that's term used by THE CITY PAPER about its poll.)
According to the information on its website, SURVEY USA buys telephone lists to use with its work, not voter lists. My understanding is that even though several screening questions are asked people on the phone to see if they are registered and plan to vote, enough people may not tell the truth, and that could impact the validity of the survey results, especially in a multi-candidate, low turnout race like this.
Besides, there are voter lists readily available where there is a much higher assurance that those being called are indeed voters and that they have voted frequently in the past and therefore are quite likely to vote again in this race. So while SURVEY USA is a highly respected polling and research firm, I'd just feel better about its results in this race had it used a voter list and had it not used such a high minority voter sample, which probably tended to distort the results of all the other candidates in the race to some degree. It doesn't mean the poll is completely wrong it's just that I would be most comfortable in fully buying into the survey results if those items were better addressed.
HOW HAS HE DONE IT.....
So how has Karl Dean made his move?
Well, all his personal money, his TV ads and direct mail have sure helped. So, obviously, has his endorsement by THE TENNESSEAN (now becoming a trifecta of print media endorsements with support from THE NASHVILLE SCENE and a co-endorsement with Gentry by THE CITY PAPER). In fact, Dean is airing yet another TV ad featuring the glowing words of his TENNESSEAN endorsement editorial. It seems to have even led Bob Clement, in one of his direct mail pieces, to quote from the same editorial to point out the nice (but brief) mention it made about him ("Bob Clement...has brought a thoughtful, serious approach to the race".)
In an era when newspaper endorsements have clearly declined in importance, why is THE TENNESSEAN's support so important? I think in this particular case, it came at a time when voters, especially the so-called progressive ones who make up a lot of the paper's readership, were trying to make up their minds about whether to vote for Dean or Briley. That, say Dean campaign sources, along with his TV campaign ad that heroes Dean's work to close down illegal massage parlors and crack houses seem to help him break out with voters.
I've told you before I think there were also some subtle but effective changes in his TV ads. First, the early ads had the candidate doing too much in delivering all the narration on camera. The "It's All Connected" and his campaign theme of a "bridge" didn't seem to working well. In addition, he didn't always look good in the ads. The most recent spots now feature a narrator talking about Dean and he looks much better in these ads.
And here's a different for Dean and for whoever is in the mayoral runoff field. How do you get out the vote again on September 11 when at least 24 of the 35 district council races countywide will have already been decided in the August 2 voting? It's a burden that will be almost entirely up to the mayoral candidates as there probably won't be a runoff race for vice mayor and the at-large race rarely turns out a large number of voters.
More on that next week when we see how the mayoral candidates did August 2 and how that compares to where the council runoff races are (or are not).
We'll talk some more about the mayor's race and about campaign polls this week on INSIDE POLITICS. My guest is MTSU professor Dr Sekou Franklin. We will also quiz some Nashville state lawmakers, including Majority Leader Gary Odom and former GOP State Party Chair Representative Beth Harwell about Governor Bredesen's recent large pay raises for his cabinet members.
Lawmakers, it seems to me have been somewhat quiet on this matter. We'll see how Harwell and Odom feel and what they have to say about the controversy. We will also have some taped comments from the Governor himself taken from when he met with reporters a few days ago.
INSIDE POLITICS will air again this week on the main channel (WTVF-TV, Channel 5) at 5:00 AM Saturday (July 28) and also throughout the weekend on NewsChannel5 Plus, Comcast Channel 50. Friday evening (July 27) we will be on at 7:00 PM. Saturday (July 28) we air at 5:30 PM on the Plus. Then we have three show times on Sunday (July 29): 5:30 AM, 12:30 PM and 9:30 PM. Watch us!
WHAT'S IN THE MAIL....
If you are like me, your mailbox has been full to overflowing with all the direct mail (usually oversized postcards) coming from candidates.
A couple of them caught my eye recently. That includes some pieces mailed out by a couple of young, new at-large candidates trying to make an impression with voters. I am talking about Brady Banks and Peter Westerholm. Both mail pieces were reasonably well done, but unlike the other major at-large candidates such as Ronnie Steine, Tim Garrett, Richard Exton and Megan Barry, who got out campaign mail earlier in the cycle and are now sending out reminders, I didn't get anything from these guys until now, well into the early voting period. Now I suspect that has to do with money...specifically not having enough to send out a general mailing until now.
Since you can vote for up to 5 folks in the at-large race, these mailings may still help Banks and Westerholm pick up some last minute support from voters looking to fill out their slates. So better late than never, although being a bit late with your direct mail hurts candidates more these days especially with the increasing popularity of early voting.
The other direct mail piece that really caught my eye and my curiosity was one that came from at-large candidate (and current Bellevue councilman) Charlie Tygard. It's quite a bit different from the others. It's a tabloid newspaper-size piece, headlined "Election Guide Davidson County August 2007" with a sub-headline that reads "The Most Important Election in Nashville History." At first, I thought it was from the Election Commission, especially with the early voting calendar and the list of vote sites on the front. It was only after I looked carefully that I found it was from the Tygard campaign. Is that a good idea to make voters have to hunt to find out who sent them this campaign mail? And, like some other candidates, it's also postmarked from out of county (Franklin).
But I would encourage you to read through the piece. Not because it has lots of stuff promoting Tygard ‘s candidacy, but because there is a fascinating full-page piece inside where the mayoral candidates answer questions about their favorite places to eat, the most important position in Metro a mayor is responsible to appoint, their favorite movies, bands, books, music, places to visit and don't miss events in Nashville. They even are asked what household chore they least like to do, how they relax, even what was their first car? It's hilarious and even insightful to read and compare the differences. It is particularly surprising to me that the candidates (and their staff) took the time to fill out and send in the information, especially to another campaign.
With all the people still asking me who to vote for in the Mayor's race, maybe this will give those still searching that final inspiration needed to identify the candidate of their dreams. Or maybe not J
Tygard's at-large campaign is also getting some visibility because he is using some of his old campaign signs that say "Re-elect" Tygard. Of course, Tygard has never been an at-large councilman. He's served as a district representative. Some say the candidate may be trying to mislead voters. I doubt that. He's probably just trying to save some money and re-use his old signs. But the "re-elect signs could come back to haunt him in another way, especially if he gets elected. Tygard is term-limited from running again for his district seat. Does that mean (as some claim) that he also can't go directly to an at-large without at least sitting out a term? That's never been litigated because no one ever done it. If Tygard (or any of the other current district councilmen running at-large) are successful, you can bet there will be legal action. And if so, some sharp lawyer may try and take that "re-elect" signage and make a big deal out of it as a part of his or her case.
Former Tennessee Democratic Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Harold Ford, Jr. is not finding the love he expected here in Nashville the next few days. Ford is now the head of the national Democratic Leadership Council and he thought all his party's major presidential candidates would be coming to the group's annual convention here in town.
But that's not happening. Only former President Bill Clinton, the potential First Man for the leading Democratic candidate Senator Hillary Clinton, is coming in to speak on Monday (July 30). Maybe while he's here I can clear up a little mystery. I have been asking prominent Democrats when I've seen them, who is likely to be heading up Clinton's efforts here in Tennessee. After all, our presidential primary is just a few short months away in February. I've gotten several stares, frowns and quizzical looks, but no can give me an answer. Maybe with the former President in town, things will become a bit clearer.
Meantime the political star of Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper continues to rise. The Democratic Leadership Council has named him the "New Democrat of the Week" for his work on federal budget issues, in particular for hosting the bi-partisan "Fiscal Wake Up Tour"in Nashville recently. A news release from Cooper's office says the Congressman's nickname on the Hill is now "Mr. Fiscal Responsibility". That's not exactly the catchiest or sexiest of political monikers, but one, I guess, a self-proclaimed policy wonk like Cooper can appreciate.
It appears his congressional colleagues also appreciate Cooper, naming him to chair a newly created House Armed Services Committee panel which will examine the changing responsibilities of our armed forces. That is likely to also give Cooper an increasingly important role in the ongoing debate about what to do in Iraq and in general about the ongoing war on terror and national security.
While Cooper will have some good things to talk about with his constituents when he comes home soon for the August recess, his Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are so far not that lucky. They only have an increase in the minimum wage to show for their efforts so far since they took over control of Capitol Hill in January. They seem to be scrambling to come up with a package of various items they can at least begin to push through the legislative process before they go home. That includes implementing all the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, new lobbying and ethics rules and an expansion of health insurance program for the children of the working poor. But given their inability so far to cobble together any bi-partisan support for their programs (so they can overcome filibusters and threatened presidential vetoes), the outcome for success remains at best, uncertain...and Congress, as a body, remains even more unpopular than the President. It appears they did get the Senate to pass the 9/11 bill by a margin that would be veto-proof, but the children's health insurance plan is bogging down big time over how it will be funded and a potential veto.
Congressional leaders seem to have also decided that if they can't pass comprehensive immigration reform, they'll try to pass some of the items individually and maybe that will help them when they go home on recess. And so the Senate is approving still more money for the large and long fence to be built along the Mexican border and even more funds to hire more border guards (even though officials have not been able to hire the border employees already authorized by Congress).
And then there's the increasingly ugly fight between lawmakers and the White House over executive privilege, the separation of powers and more particularly, Attorney General Gonzalez. Just when it appears this controversy was fading away, it has erupted with an even greater vigor, with words being thrown around like perjury and contempt of Congress along with the White House vowing it won't let the Justice Department prosecute any cases brought forth by Congress. And that would include how to handle the most recent summons from Congress for top White House aides like Karl Rove and others to testify before Congress.
All of this is likely to generate a lot more political heat than light, with no resolution in sight except through a long court battle that would be fruitless because it would extend well beyond the term of this administration and of this Congress. Meanwhile, the image of Washington as a place where nothing gets done because of constant gridlock and partisanship just continues to grow.
THE BEST-LOOKING ON THE HILL
Despite all this ongoing controversy and partisanship, the folks inside the Beltway still have time to decide the really important stuff....like who are Capitol Hill's Most Beautiful People.
This beauty pageant of sorts was conducted by THE HILL newspaper as a way of shaking up the image of Capitol Hill (oh, really?). Nominations could be submitted by anyone (including self-nominations) and the winners could be anybody on the Hill from lawmakers to staff to Capitol Hill police. The paper then apparently picked the top 50.
Among the ten most beautiful named by the paper (in fact the most beautiful woman ranking only behind Representative Brad Ellsworth from Indiana) is Crystal Hayslett, an aide to Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander. She is also a former Miss Tennessee contestant.
Yet another week of the popular political "waiting and guessing" game of when will Fred Thompson officially announce for President. Now my sources say nothing is likely to happen until maybe mid-September.
Given all the sudden staff changes, shakeups, defections (whatever you want to call it) in the last few days in the Thompson effort, a little more time to pull things together might be a good thing. There is also a lot of speculation going on about what the fledging Thompson exploratory committee will report to the IRS the end of this month about how much money it has already raised. Some media are speculating it won't be a number that will look very good compared to the other established campaigns and that fund raising overall for Thompson is not going as well as expected.
So even while Fred Thompson continues to act like he is "the un-candidate", his campaign group is starting to look very much like some of those other GOP hopefuls: full of in-fighting, leaks, a scandal from time to time and more than a little confusion. There are also tongues wagging that some of the Thompson staff turnover was instigated by the candidate's spouse. First, she's just a trophy wife, now she's calling the shots, huh? The Thompson group has so far not handled these "bumps in the road" about staff changes very well, giving some conflicting and changing responses to reporters. I guess it's not just about "testing the waters" and getting your sea legs to raise money when you run for President. It also seems you need a little time to get ready to handle that first big campaign communications and media crisis.
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