Capitol View Commentary: Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, Feb. 12, 2010



By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

February 12, 2010


Tennessee's Governor's race is going for the gold…at least on the GOP side.

Knoxville Mayor and Republican frontrunner Bill Haslam has reportedly chosen the beginning of the Winter Olympics (February 12) to begin his TV ad campaign. And he's got plenty of gold to spend, with $4.23 million in cash as of the last campaign finance reporting date (January 15). And he likely can raise or give himself even more $$$ if he needs to down the road.

February 12 is Lincoln's Birthday but Haslam's TV buy is hardly inspiring much party unity. A spokesman for one of his primary opponents, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, told Andy Sher of THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE-PRESS (February 6): "No one questions that Mr. Haslam will have the money" to run ads….."the question remains whether he has anything to say." Ouch!

Another Haslam opponent, Congressman Zach Wamp, is even taking credit for the early Haslam TV push. In a campaign news release, Wamp said Haslam's early buy is a sign of "desperation", and an attempt to blunt the "rising momentum" of the Wamp campaign and to "buy the election." While he says he is "flattered" that Haslam is making his largest TV purchase in his congressional district (the Chattanooga area), this won't work says Wamp "because people are sick of big money and big special interests, like the oil companies, calling all the shots." Ouch, again! 

The Congressman's campaign has continued to talk about his opponent's TV buy (in itself an unusual campaign tactic), issuing another release (2/10) claiming that Mayor Haslam is boosting his state wide buy in reaction to Wamp winning a major straw vote in West Tennessee. Wamp says the ad costs and TV buy this month alone (February) will approach $1 million alone. Haslam's folks aren't talking about how much they are spending.   

They are saying this: "we're not surprised by the congressman's antics, but we are doing exactly what we planned well over a year ago." While I give Congressman Wamp a lot of credit for his ever-present moxy, I suspect the Haslam campaign is right. Remember, while mid-February might seem a bit early to begin your TV ads, this race is shaping up a lot like the one now U.S. Senator Bob Corker won in 2006. He too started his TV very early, and basically blew away the primary field, which, much like Congressman Wamp, Lt. Governor Ramsey and Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons in this year's GOP field, don't have the resources to respond, nor the pre-existing name recognition to overcome it.

So while a Ramsey spokeman told Andy Sher that Haslam is "trying to purchase a sugar high" in voter name identification", they really secretly wish they could do the same.

But in the meantime, all the Haslam opponents are all taking their best shot back at him through the news media with Bill Gibbons once again raising the issue of why Mayor Haslam will not disclose the sources of his income. Saying he is "astounded" and urging Haslam to "tell us your income right now," Gibbons added this during a recent joint candidate forum (as reported by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on February 12): "He has a TV ad claiming to be the man from Pilot Oil, and yet he wants to keep his Pilot Oil income a secret." Haslam officials say disclosure by the candidate might expose the income of other family members unfairly. 

This early TV buy does put some pressure on Haslam. He will now need to stay on TV until the end of the race. Going dark would only undercut whatever name recognition and support he build.  And it needs to be "good TV" (OK, I agree Bob Corker's drawl in 2006 got to be a bit much), so that voters remain engaged through a variety of (positive) ads. That's won't be cheap, but remember, Haslam has (and can raise or give himself) the money he needs.   

 I have seen the first Haslam ad. It is a very low key spot, seeking to briefly tell his life story and introduce him to voters (most of whom don't really know much about him or any of the other candidates for governor).

Some may be surprised that his family business, Pilot Oil, is mentioned straight out and prominently featured at the beginning of the ad. But rather than be defensive about being a part of "big oil," the spot instead shows Haslam's success as a businessman, traveling around the state, meeting and talking with people, opening "good" truck stops," picking up trash, stocking s lot of coolers." 

 The TV spot also claims Haslam helped create 11,000 jobs while a part of Pilot (inferring he can do the same for Tennessee as Governor). There is also a lot in the ad about the positive things Haslam claims to have done as Mayor of Knoxville. It's a very folksy approach, with a lot of pictures of Haslam talking with voters, going door-to- door campaigning. Almost always he is dressed casually and appears to be open to all. I suspect the message here is that he may be a multi-millionaire, but he still has the common touch.  Well, see how well it works along with other introductory ads that are soon to follow,       


It looks like Tennessee's "guns wars" are heating up again this year.

First, one of the lawmakers (Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville) who was heavily involved in efforts to allow gun permits holders to take their weapons into Tennessee restaurants and bars (which has been struck down by a Nashville Chancery Judge), now wants to get tough on bar and restaurant owners if they don't follow existing state rules that require at least 50% of their business to come from food not booze. Todd also wants to cut off all liquor sales after midnight.

Is all this a not-so-subtle effort to strike back at the many restaurant associations and owners across Tennessee who have opposed the guns in bars and restaurant legislation? But what it shuts down a lot of bars/restaurants in downtown Nashville, in Memphis and elsewhere across the state? What will that do to our economy and the state's deficit? Or do these lawmakers care?     

And then there is a federal lawsuit which has been filed by a man who brought an AK-47 handgun into Nashville's Radnor Lake State Park. Under a state law passed last year, guns are allowed in state parks. But according to an on-line article in THE TENNESSEAN (February 10) by Clay Carey, the man filing the lawsuit says a state park ranger "was unfairly harsh" in how he treated him, pointing a shotgun at him, handcuffing him and detaining him for more than three hours.

According to THE TENNESSEAN story, parks officials were quoted as saying they are "dismayed that someone would carry a weapon into a state park seemingly with the intent of testing authorities and the boundaries of the new gun law, while alarming others who want to enjoy the park." 

And so it goes.


Another hot legislative issue that could be coming to a ballot near you (at least here in Nashville) this August is a change in state law that would allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.

An effort to have the Legislature approve grocery wine sales outright has died in the General Assembly the last few years, and prospects to defeat the state's historically very strong liquor lobby on this issue don't look good this session either.

But according to THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL (February 10), a new bill  been dropped in the hopper. It would allow voters to decide on a county-by-county or city-by-city basis to allow the wine in groceries sales and that could position this proposition in a whole new light. "Let the people decide" is always hard to resist for lawmakers, although I am sure the liquor folks are working on coming up with good talking points for why that's a bad idea. Based on public opinion surveys I've seen reported, a referendum to allow wine sales might be hard to beat at the polls. Voters seem to want the convenience of being able to pick up wine when they also pick up that nice steak or piece of fish they plan to prepare for dinner that night, and they don't really care about how that might hurt the business model of the liquor industry of the state.   

 To be ready to go here in Nashville, the NBJ also reports that Metro Councilman-At-Large Charlie Tygard has a resolution pending in the Metro Council that would put the wine in grocery story issue on the ballot to be voted on as a part of  the regularly-scheduled August elections, if state legislators approve the idea.

Maybe they will, but I wouldn't uncork a bottle to celebrate just yet.  



As we mentioned in last week's column, the Bredesen administration does not intend to allow State House and Senate Republicans to just say no to some proposed fee and tax increases the Governor is suggesting to help narrow Tennessee's huge budget deficit.

The fees and taxes on such things as driver's license renewal fees and cable TV bills (and cable boxes) would raise a total of about $70 million. So if lawmakers won't do that, what do they intend to do asks the Governor? Make more cuts in higher education? Decrease funding somewhere else?

So far no new press releases from the GOP caucuses in either house in response, after they got out strong statements of opposition within hours after the Governor presented his budget during the State of the State" address.

It doesn't appear there will be any relief from increased state tax collections. While there were some positive signs, receipts for January (which covers the very important Christmas holiday shopping season) showed the state experienced negative growth for the 20th consecutive month!  

But so desperate are some of those who face serious cuts in this budget (such as hospitals who accept TennCare patients) they are now saying they are willing to be taxed in order to make up for their reductions. So far, I have seen no reaction to that offer by the Governor, I do recall a few years back federal officials rejected such a plan (calling it a sham tax: you pay the government, the government gives you the money back) and made the state repeal the tax and quit taking the money.   


I was going to write something this week about how nothing is getting done in Washington these days. But the two recent massive snowstorms up there pretty much beat me to the punch. At least the blizzards give the politicians something else to blame (besides each other) for nothing happening.

Congress went home early and with federal offices closed in D.C. because of the bad weather, it looks like they will barely return to their duties today (Friday) before the President's Day holiday sends them back out on another three-day weekend. Congress will stay out all next week (February 15-21)

Of course, it hasn't been beach weather here either. But thank goodness nothing on the level of what they are experiencing in the Mid-Atlantic states. We've had a couple of pretty significant snows hit us, and storms this past week have passed to both the north and the south of Nashville. Now there is talk of another potential winter weather situation coming in Sunday night and Monday, meaning school children may soon have even more "snow days" to make up later this year.

I've heard a news report that 48 of the 50 states now (as of Friday) have snow on the ground. Only Florida and Hawaii do not. It all adds up to one thing everyone in this country is likely to agree on: Can we please get to spring and warm temperatures soon! 


Our guests this week on INSIDE POLITICS are three of the courageous men who put their lives on the line as lunch counter sit-in protestors here in Nashville beginning 50 years ago this month. This city was one of the birthplaces for this kind of successful non-violent protest that not only led to change in Nashville but change throughout the country through the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Matt Walker (Fisk), Dr. Allen Cason, Jr. (TSU, then Tennessee A&I) and E. Rip Patton (also from TSU) were young students when the movement began. They were willing to be verbally abused, spat on, beat up, even arrested to achieve what today would be considered a social justice beyond dispute; the right to sit down at a lunch counter and be served a meal or drink regardless of the color of your skin.

It is fascinating to hear their first hand stories, as well as their insights about what happened a half-century ago. Here's something I had not ever heard before. The sit-in movement reached a climatic point on April 19, 1960. The home of the students' lawyer, Z. Alexander Lobby, had been firebombed. But rather than intimidate the students, it energized the community with an estimated 4,000 people marching on the courthouse to talk with then-Mayor Ben West.

It was during that conversation that the Mayor, in a response to a question, said that, as a man, he did not think it was fair to refuse to serve a person because of the color of their skin. It was a remark that helped break the impasse of the sit-ins and led to a plan that opened up lunch counter service to all at many downtown establishments.

For years the story was that Mayor West had perhaps been surprised by the question and answered from the heart. But according to our guests, Mayor West, before he met with the protestors, had also met with one of the main leaders of the sit-in movement, the Reverend C. T. Vivian, and he told the mayor want to expect. So perhaps Mayor West knew in advance what kind of questions would be coming.

You can see INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes Sunday morning at 5:00 AM on the main channel, WTVF-TV, Channel 5.

You can also catch the show on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS which can be seen on Comcast and Charter Cable channels 250, as well as over-the-air on NewsChannel5's digital channel 5.2. The show times are:

Fridays (February 12)………7:00 PM

Saturdays (February 13…..5:00 AM

Saturdays (February 13)….5:30 PM

Sundays (February 14)…....5:00 AM

 Sundays (February 14)…….12:30 PM 

You can also see excerpts of this and other previous INSIDE POLITICS shows here on the NewsChannel5 website.

One final note: the cause of social justice and fighting bigotry is one that never ends. Mayor Karl Dean should be commended for the manner in which he has responded to a recent disgusting and cowardly acts to vandalize the Al-Farooq Islamic Center here in Nashville. Visiting the Mosque with Police Chief Ronal Serpas the Mayor assured officials that the incident will be "fully investigated and that we will do all that we can to ensure it doesn't happen again. This act does not represent Nashville. We are a friendly and diverse city."

He's right, but unfortunately even 50 years after the heroic acts of those involved in the civil rights movement here in Nashville, not all our citizens live up to, or seem to even understand, the standards for basic human decency and respect.      

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