Capitol View Commentary: Aug. 8, 2008 - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Aug. 8, 2008

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CAPITOL VIEW

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

August 8, 2008

Here's a scoop I don't think you've seen or read anywhere else in recent days.

Metro Government has sent out directives to all city agencies asking them to cut their current budgets another 3%.

This is a required mandate for local government agencies and a request (pretty please, can you help us) to all the state constitutional offices funded by the city. Everybody but Metro Schools is apparently included.

Remember many of these Metro departments already made cuts during the budget approval process last spring. It will be difficult, especially for some of the smaller agencies, to make more reductions without looking again at possible layoffs. For the major departments like police, fire or public works, a hiring freeze could be the result at least temporarily.

Bottom line, Metro has not found the bottom of its tax revenue slide because of the weakened economy. This additional reduction is the next step to keep the city in the black. And it's only the second month of the new fiscal year. 

 INSIDE POLITICS

This week on INSIDE POLITICS we focus on the new Metro School Board. That body had five of its nine members selected by the voters on August 7. It is interesting to note that at a time when there is so much community controversy and concern over the state of public education in Nashville (i.e., the state's takeover of schools because of No Child Left Behind, hiring a new Director of Schools and the controversial new school rezoning plan could land Metro back in federal court and reopen its old desegregation case), all 3 incumbents running were re-elected (Ed Kindall, Gracie Porter & Mark North). And, I think,  you could make a good case that the two incumbents who did not seek re-election (George Thompson & Marcia Warden) could have won additional terms had they decided to do so.

As it is, Alan Coverstone and Sharon Gentry will be new Board members. We talked with them and two of the incumbents (Kindall & Porter) to get their thoughts about how this newly-elected School Board will be able to come together and address all these issues. We invited Mark North to join us as well, but unfortunately he had a conflict with a scheduled court date for a legal client.

It's a good discussion about the challenges facing public education in Nashville. And even if you don't live in this city, I think you will find it a very compelling show since many communities across the state are likely to face similar situations in the coming years as No Child Left Behind is fully implemented.

You can see INSIDE POLITICS every weekend on the NewsChannel5 Network.

Friday, August 8      7:00 PM     NewsChannel5 Plus Comcast Channel 50

Saturday, August 9   5:00 AM & 5:30 PM NewsChannel5 Plus

Sunday August 10    5:00 AM WTVF-TV, NewsChannel5

Sunday August 10     5:00 AM & 12:30 PM NewsChannel5 Plus

THE AUGUST ELECTION

As we've said before, the August 7th primary election in Tennessee was, with a few exceptions, one of the quietest ones ever. But a couple of those exceptions are worth noting.

First, we had three incumbent Congressmen in our delegation who seem to face serious challenges. It turns out, with some effort, 7th District Congressman Marsha Blackburn and 9th District Representative Steve Cohen won their races by decisive margins, but 1st District Congressman David Davis was not so fortunate, becoming the first incumbent Tennessee congressman to lose a bid for re-election since 1974 (38 years ago) and the first to lose in a primary since the 1950s (according to THE TENNESEE JOURNAL).

Davis will be replaced by Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe, who lost a crowded primary race to Davis two years ago. This time Roe seemed to take advantage of voter anger over high gas prices (Roe did TV attack ads saying Davis took too much campaign money from oil companies).  Does that mean this is an issue other candidates can try and take advantage of this fall against incumbents?

The most likely person to try and do that is Nashville attorney Bob Tuke who won the Democratic nomination to take on Republican U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. Tuke has already been blaming Alexander for high gas prices and you can expect to see and hear more of the same going into the fall campaign. But will Tuke have the money and resources he will need to make his charges stick and resonate with voters? Tuke deliberately spent as little money as possible to win the nomination (and it resulted in a rather lackluster margin of victory).

In fact, perhaps the most memorable part of this primary Senate race was the astounding second place finish (38,911 votes) of Gary Davis, a little-known Nashville investor, who reported spending little or no money on the race and who got no media coverage.  How could that happen? Well, here are a couple of educated guesses.

Davis' last name is the same as the 1st District Republican congressman David Davis and the same as 4th District Congressman Lincoln Davis (who easily won re-nomination). If you look here on the NewsChannel5 website at the statewide map of the results of the Senate race (county by county) you will see Gary Davis carried several counties in both the 1st and 4th Congressional districts.  So maybe that bit of voter confusion helped Gary Davis pick up some votes he otherwise wouldn't have received. Also, since his name was second on the ballot, he could have picked up some extra ballots too, as voters, not having any strong allegiances to (or knowledge of the candidates) just picked out a name. One clue that this could have been a factor is the fairly strong showing (4th place) of an equally unknown candidate, Mark Clayton, who was listed first on the ballot (in alphabetical order).  It has been shown in several studies that candidates with names that come early in the alphabet get more because of the fact that sometimes voters just don't want to wade through all the names and just pick somebody.

 But I am sure there will other conspiracy theories out there too. That Republicans crossed over to pick the weakest candidates they could find to create embarrassment and to make Senator Alexander's re-election job a bit easier.

I doubt that. It could have happened in some very isolated instances I suppose. But in the hotly contest 1st District Congressional race, why would Republicans sit out their own primary? For that matter, why did Democrats voting in the 1st District confuse this Davis with the Republican congressional candidate from that area?  This kind of confusion makes more sense in the 4th District, where at least Congressman Lincoln Davis and Gary Davis were both running in the same primary.

But then none of this voter confusion makes much sense when you look on the NewsChannel5 election map in West Tennessee, where Gary Davis also carried counties in both Marsha Blackburn's district and John Tanner's congressional district.

Add it all up, and I guess I have to admit, I really have no definitive explanation of why this happened. It's just one of those election flukes that come along every so often to make political analysts like me look a little dumb (not that that's all that hard to do) J.

Meanwhile, regardless of who he is facing this fall, Senator Alexander sent a little love note to his opponent, with an Election Day news release announcing the support of  50 of the state's 99 county mayors, including both Democrats and Republicans. 

Finally, there is the Democratic Primary race for Clarksville's State Senate seat. Despite having a huge advantage in money, incumbent Senator Rosalind Kurita appears to have barely hung on to her post with a 19-vote margin over attorney Tim Barnes (that explains why she went so negative in the final days of the race).  A recount of the votes seems almost a foregone conclusion, but the real question is:  If Kurita is finally declared the winner, will it make any difference in State Senate politics next January when General Assembly returns to elect its officers for the new term.

It was Kurita crossing-over to vote for Ron Ramsey to be Lt. Governor two years ago that put her in hot water with state Democratic leaders. It's why Former Speaker John Wilder, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and Nashville Senator Thelma Harper, all openly supported Tim Barnes and worked hard to defeat Kurita.

After barely surviving, will Kurita now toe the party-line? I doubt it. Kurita has a well-earned reputation for being a maverick. Remember for years, she pushed a smoking ban on the Hill back when that was not popular at all. Besides, her vote may or may not matter in the race for Lt. Governor next year, depending on how the balance of pending Senate races turn out in November. But here's something else to consider: What if Barack Obama is elected President and Governor Phil Bredesen joins his cabinet, this vote for Lt. Governor could actually be to fill out the rest of the Governor's term until the August, 2010. Although if Bredesen left earlier in December or January, Ron Ramsey would already be Governor and the Senate's decision would be to select only a new Lt. Governor.  Stay tuned.

ENGLISH FIRST

Election Night August 7 was probably the best of times and the worst of times for Bellevue Councilman Eric Crafton.

On the positive side for him, only about 25,000 people voted in the county general election. That means Crafton will now only need about 2,500 signatures to put his English First charter amendment on the November ballot. Metro law requires the signatures of only 10% of voters who participated in the last general election to put Charter questions on the ballot. That qualifying number was over 10,000 before the August 7 elections, now it's a number Crafton probably already has easily in hand. The Metro law needs to be changed to make sure we are voting on important issues that have enough community support to make an election meaningful. I suspect there is enough support for English First regardless, but the standards still ought to be higher and more consistent, so it doesn't vary so widely between election cycles.

The bad news for Eric Crafton was the vote by the current Metro Council and Mayor Karl Dean in opposition to his English First efforts. The memorializing resolution passed by an overwhelmingly vote by the Council has no legal impact. It merely expresses the feelings of the members on this matter. Nevertheless, we can hope it is a sign that the political and business leadership in the community will finally step up and speak out on matters like this, something that's been missing the last few times we've have destructive charter issues like this before the public.  

PLAY BALL?

From what I've been reading and hearing, the approaching end of the current baseball season for the AAA- Nashville Sounds (and it has been a dreadful season on the field) could be the end for the franchise in Nashville after 31 seasons.

Efforts to extend the lease at ancient (in baseball stadium terms) Greer Stadium are stalled over who should pay for needed repairs so the facility meets the Americans with Disability Act. But there's enough bad blood between Metro and the out of town ownership to make any new agreement, especially a long term one for a new stadium pretty unlikely right now. 

So will another team come in? Will a last minute settlement be reached with the city and the team? Is it two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with nobody on base with the home team trailing and the bottom of the order at bat?

I know Mayor Dean is a big sports fan, especially baseball ( the Red Sox) but does his administration really want to have to deal with another pro sports franchise issue?

THE LULL

The Olympics are beginning. A long time political operative told me recently that he always advises his candidates to be wary of trying to compete against the Olympics. The public has its mind elsewhere for the next couple of weeks and trying to compete with that may not be a good idea.

So I guess that's why, Democratic nominee-to-be Senator Barack Obama is taking a week off for a family vacation. I think he and the campaign need a break. His efforts seem to have grown a little stale since he returned from Europe. He needs to find a new spark (and decide on a running mate) while he's gone I think. It looks like his Hawaiian trip means he is giving up coming to Tennessee (remember the Gore fundraiser and the other events being tentative planned for here in Nashville the week of August 11). It doesn't make Tennessee look like it will be in play at all this fall in the presidential race, which surely must disappoint Senate candidates like Bob Tuke.

But when you see the magnetic pull of candidate Obama (being able to sell out a 75,000 seat NFL stadium in Denver in less than a day) for his acceptance speech later this month, you know he is still a force to be reckoned with this fall. It appears the campaign of his opponent GOP nominee-to-be Senator John McCain thinks his efforts to paint Obama as an empty "celebrity" is working. He's putting out even more TV and internet ads that touch on the subject, including one some critics say try to make Obama "the anti-Christ."

I am not so sure this tactic will work long term for McCain. But at least it has poured some new life into the "celebrity" career of Paris Hilton and made her put out her own political ad, where, for just a moment, I thought she made some sense, which means I have been watching way too many political ads. J

So now it's time for a break....the Olympics, and then the really big shows....the political conventions. 


NewsChannel 5 thanks Pat Nolan for providing this column every week. Mr. Nolan's commentary reflects his own opinions, not those of the NewsChannel 5 Network.  Comments about Capitol View should be sent to Pat Nolan directly via email at pat.nolan@dvl.com .

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