Capitol View Commentary: Friday, August 25, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company

August 25, 2017

SENATOR MAE BEAVERS GOES ALL IN; SHARPENING THE RHETORIC; THE CURIOUS MR. CORKER; PARK PRIVATIZATION CAN WAIT; REV. BILL BARNES; CONGRESSMAN JIM COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS

SENATOR MAE BEAVERS GOES ALL IN

After 23 years in the Tennessee General Assembly (13 years in the State Senate), Senator Mae Beavers is resigning her seat effective September 1. The move is so she can concentrate full-time on her run to be the Republican nominee for governor in 2018.

The announcement was rumored in the last week or so, and would appear to be aimed primarily at boosting her fundraising opportunities. Being out of the legislature, she will not be barred from fundraising next year (beginning in January) when lawmakers return to Nashville for their annual session. Two other candidates, Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell and Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh still face the ban. But their fundraising capabilities and access to resources appears to be much stronger than Beavers’. She reported raising only $37,000 during the last reporting period earlier this year. That’s a $$ number which is woefully short of what she’ll need with several of her opponents raising and poised to spent millions.

In that regard, Tom Humphrey has some even more interesting information about how Senator Beaver is bolstering her campaign staff and advisors, a sign that she either has or thinks she can raise the funds run an effective statewide campaign.

Reports Humphreys based on a Beavers campaign news release:

“Beavers also announced key additions to her campaign organization saying, “I’ve been blessed to be able to assemble a top-tier team of conservative talent.”

Emerging Horizon Group will helm the campaign as general consultant. The group’s principal, Mike Shirley, has worked with the National Rifle Association, the Republican National Committee, Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, and Dr. Kelli Ward’s closely watched primary challenge against John McCain in 2016. Stephen Sebastian, who most recently worked with former South Carolina Governor and now Congressman Mark Sanford, will serve as lead consultant on the race.

Osborne, Shell, & Miller Advertising, which will coordinate messaging and advertising for Beavers, has run more than one hundred political campaigns in Northeast Tennessee including Congressman Phil Roe’s historic upset victory in 2008, the first time in 58 years an incumbent congressman had been toppled in a Tennessee primary. Heavily outspent, Roe overcame a 43 point deficit in the polls in the final 5 weeks of the campaign to become the 1st District’s sole successful primary challenger since 1930 who had not previously held the seat.

The Hines Digital team will handle online fundraising, advertising, organizing, and social media. Hines’ clients have included Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, the Young Republicans National

Committee, Young Americans for Liberty, and the Republican parties of California, Florida, Maryland, and Wyoming, Theresa May’s campaign for Prime Minister, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Before becoming a Republican, Hines helped develop Howard Dean’s pioneering digital strategy in the 2004 presidential race.

Capital Square Funding Group, whose team members have worked with Ron Paul, Chris McDaniel, Ted Cruz, and Roy Moore in various capacities, will be assisting Beavers with fundraising.”

Beavers has now clearly expanded her “conservative grassroots campaign” strategy. How well her new strategy and new team of consultants will do remains to be seen, with fundraising remaining the biggest question mark.

But Beavers has perhaps the closest affinity to the Trump, Tea Party wing of the GOP in Tennessee. With more resources, and effective messaging, she may prove to be a potentially stronger candidate than previously expected. This may also delight Democrats, some of whom think having such an arch-conservative as Beavers as the GOP nominee, might heighten the possibility of a GOP voter split in the fall.

Beavers’ resignation does mean a special election will be called by Governor Bill Haslam later this year to fill her seat. It appears a new Senator will be selected and sworn into office before the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

SHARPENING THE RHETORIC

We mentioned in a recent column how the GOP gubernatorial candidates have begun throwing some initial barbs at one another. Some in the media are picking up on that too.

Frank Cagle is a former editor, Republican activist and columnist for the KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL. Here’s a link to one of his recent columns that I am sure Congressman Diane Black isn’t pleased to read or to see circulated across the state. Too clueless to be Governor? Ouch!

One interesting note to add: While I was linking this column, the Knox News website played me a paid on-line ad touting Diane Black for Governor. I know equal time doesn’t apply but that sure is a little weird political karma.

THE CURIOUS MR. CORKER

Senator Bob Corker told reporters in Nashville this week that his office has been inundated with critical calls after he questioned President Donald Trump’s temperament and current capabilities to handle the nation’s highest office.

He says he is not backing off his previous support of Mr. Trump. As reported by WPLN and Tom Humphrey on his TENNESSEE JOURNAL BLOG:

“People expect a president to grow in his office and to step up, and I hope that’s going to be the case,” he said.

Corker said he spoke up, though, on behalf of those in the Trump administration who agree change is needed.

“The things that I say, I say hopefully to influence him and to influence the people around him,” Corker told reporters. “I’m aware of many frustrations internally and, look, there’s such a great opportunity.”

But on Thursday, the White House hit back. It came during the daily media briefing session. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as quoted by CNN: “I think that’s a ridiculous and outrageous claim that doesn’t dignify a response from this podium.”

Before today (Friday) President Trump had not personally responded to Mr. Corker’s critical remarks, but now he has. Quoting THE WASHINGTON POST:

“Trump said Friday morning on Twitter, “Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in '18. Tennessee not happy!”

Meanwhile both POLITICO and THE NASHVILE POST report that Corker and Trump previously had a shouting match during a telephone call back when Congress was debating those Russian, North Korean and Iranian sanctions. It’s a bill that lawmakers ultimately forced the President to sign because it had veto-proof support in both houses.

What about Senator Corker’s own political future especially in light of President Trump’s and the White House comments this week? The Senator has filed the papers needed to run for re-election next year but he has made no official announcement he’s running.

Then there’s this new poll conducted by a Democrat-leaning polling company that finds Corker’s approval rating at just 34%. A few weeks earlier there was another poll from the right-leaning TENNESSEE STAR on-line publication. It also showed less than good approval numbers for the incumbent. But as you can read from this link, the Senator’s staff and even other pollsters have serious doubts about this latest poll.

As always, the proof will be in the political pudding. If Corker’s job approval numbers are this bad (or are even getting worse after his recent comments about President Trump and the President’s Twitter retort), then a well-funded GOP primary candidate ought to emerge to challenge him. If not, then rumors of Senator Corker’s demise might fall in “the greatly exaggerated” category as Mark Twain once observed.

Already in the wake of the Senator’s critical comments of President Trump, there are media reports of potential candidates taking on the incumbent Senator. They include former State Representative Joe Carr, who ran a competitive primary campaign against Senator Lamar Alexander in 2014, but has stumbled badly since in running for both party leadership and for Congress (against now gubernatorial candidate Congressman Diane Black). Other folks rumored to be looking at taking on Corker are the Tennessee leader of Americans for Prosperity, Andy Ogles, and State Representative Andy Holt, neither of whom has ever run a statewide race.

But media speculation is not an announcing your candidacy. Let’s see who actually gets in to take on a well-financed incumbent Senator. And let’s see when the Senator finally confirms and announces he is seeking another six year term in Washington. In the meantime one would-be Corker challenger Joe Carr has now publicly criticized Corker over his comments regarding the President. According to the Associated Press:

“It is time Tennessee had a senator who believes in the virtues of what makes America great and is willing to fight for it,” former state Rep. Joe Carr said in a Facebook post. “We need a senator who will fight alongside President Trump not fight against him.”

Like Trump’s initial remarks, Carr said both sides were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, describing the clashes as “hate on hate.”

As for Senator Corker, I have seen no response from him or his office about the President’s tweet. Maybe as a sign of “business as usual” and ‘no hard feelings on my end,” I did receive a news release Friday afternoon from the Senator’s office. It is headlined: Corker Applauds Trump Administration Financial Sanctions on Venezuela.

President Trump has been verbally feuding with several congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The number of Senators involved in the verbal back and forth became even larger this week when Mr. Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t approve funding for his Mexican border wall. That brought this response from Senator Alexander:

“The last time the government was shut down, it hurt small businesses all over East Tennessee at peak tourist season for people coming to the Great Smoky Mountains,” Alexander said after a Tennessee Restaurant Association meeting in Nashville.

“I wasn’t elected to shut down the government,” he said. “I was elected to make it run for the benefit of tax payers. I’m sure that’s what we will do.

September could be a very difficult month in Washington when Congress returns.

PARK PRIVATIZATION CAN WAIT

For Governor Bill Haslam this was another great week to announce new jobs coming to Tennessee which is already enjoying its lowest unemployment rate since those records have been kept.

But not all the news is great for the Governor. The administration is leaving one of Mr. Haslam’s major efforts for the next governor to figure out.

After years of discussion and controversy, the Haslam administration is dropping plans to privatize the management of some state parks. THE TIMES FREE PRESS says the announcement came during a legislative hearing on the Hill. You can read more on that by clicking here.

And so it ends, for now, with more of a whimper than a bang. Let’s see what the gubernatorial candidates have to say about the privatization issue now that it’s being left up to them to decide what should be done.

REV. BILL BARNES

The Reverend Bill Barnes was talking about the desperate need for affordable housing in Nashville, when that was not the cool thing to do like it is today.

He was talking about combatting the scourge of poverty and the need for civil rights for all, when nobody much listened.

But he never stopped trying to bring change to our city.

He was the Founding Pastor of a racially diverse United Methodist congregation in the Edgehill area during the 1960s, when “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was a movie not a sign of social change.

He helped preserve the African American neighborhood that surrounded his church, during a time when city leaders thought it was better to bulldoze affordable housing stock and let relocation and “urban renewal” bring so-called change and improvement, when it did not.

Even when we passed from our midst this week at the age of 86, on the same day when we briefly lost the sunshine in our city because of the Great Eclipse, you could see, even in the totality of darkness, that Bill Barnes’ efforts had not been in vain.

Nashville’s Patriarch of Affordable Housing lived long enough to see the city create a multi-million dollar fund in his name (The Barnes Fund) to provide resources and encourage the public, private and independent sectors to make affordable housing opportunities a priority not an afterthought.

Yes, the city has many miles to go before we see the progress needed. But Bill Barnes inspired us to begin that journey. Hopefully in his honor, we who knew him and loved him will help complete his legacy and see that his vision for Nashville moves closer to reality.

I had the great good fortune to serve with Bill on the boards of social service agencies such as Project Return, The Neighborhood Resource Center, The Council of Community Services and Affordable Housing Resources of Nashville. That last agency was a pioneering non-profit that operated by in the late 1980s and 90s just trying to put the issue somewhere on the community’s radar screen.

Bill, more than anybody else, got that done.

Rest in peace, my friend. Nashville is in your debt.

CONGRESSMAN JIM COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS

As usual in August, Congress is in recess, and out of Washington. That means we get the chance to visit with our local representatives while they are back home in their districts.

One of those Tennessee House members is Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper.

He’s our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week.

So much to discuss, so little time. There’s the “nothing getting done” mess in Washington and the political train wreck looming when lawmakers return next month to deal with appropriations, the budget, tax reform, health care and an increased debt limit. And there’s President Trump’s new plan to win the 17 year old war in Afghanistan while he tries to unite the country despite the continued controversy over his comments regarding the tragedy in Charlottesville.

And that’s just a sampling of what we talk about and what’d ahead in September.

Watch us!

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