NewsChannel 5 +Inside Politics


Capitol View Commentary: July 19, 2019

Capitol View
Posted at 8:05 PM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 21:05:23-04


By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

July 19, 2019



This week on INSIDE POLITICS, we conclude our series of interviews with those who want to be Nashville’s Mayor.

Our guest is Dr. Carol Swain, a retired law and political science professor at Vanderbilt University

We’ve already had all four of the major mayoral candidates on this program earlier this year.

But we wanted to give our viewers one more opportunity to see and hear from the mayoral contenders before Early Voting ended and before Election Day which is August 1.

Dr. Swain, in fact, was our first guest in this latest candidate series back in June, but storm coverage that Friday evening preempted our interview airing on the main channel of NEWSCHANNEL5.

So, we invited her to come back!

All these mayoral candidate interviews have aired on NEWSCHANNEL5’s main channel in prime time on Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. as well as several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS.

Mayor David Briley’s interview aired the weekend of June 28-June 30.

Metro Councilman At Large John Cooper was our guest July 5-7

State Representative John Ray Clemmons joined us July 12-14.

Tune us in for the Carol Swain interview this weekend. We hope you have found these mayoral conversations interesting to everyone and informative to voters as you decide your choice for mayor.

As always, INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday;

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday;

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

One option for those who can’t see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted the week after the program airs.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my Facebook page as soon as it is available, usually on Monday or Tuesday.


As Early Voting concluded its first week, there were still endorsements being announced for two mayoral candidates.

John Ray Clemmons continued his near sweep of endorsements by labor organizations. Only the Fraternal Order of Police is supporting another mayoral candidate, John Cooper. The latest labor group to back Clemmons is the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 492.

“John Ray Clemmons is the only candidate for Nashville's Mayor who took time to meet us and then put forth a plan to improve the lives of the creative class,” said Darryl Wilson, President of IATSE Studio Mechanics Local 492 in a Clemmons campaign news release. “Film and television production should be a major industry in Nashville, and we thank him for his embrace and dedication to the creative communities. Creative folks know John Ray will work to improve not only our quality of life but that of every Nashvillian."

Clemmons in recent days has put a major emphasis on reaching out to Nashville’s creative class. That included releasing a plan to strengthen Nashville’s entertainment industry, reestablishing the Metro Nashville Film and Television Commission, legalizing home studios, increasing media arts education in MNPS, and preserving Music Row.

Representative Clemmons other labor-related endorsements include the Central Labor Council of Nashville & Middle Tennessee, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, United Campus Workers of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council, Communications Workers of America Local 3808, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 429, Heat and Frost Insulators Local 86, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 233.

Mayor David Briley received the endorsement of Nashville state legislator Bon Freeman. He is the son of Bill Freeman, a Nashville businessman, media mogul, major national Democratic fund raiser and a 2015 mayoral candidate. The elder Freeman has also endorsed Briley.

So like father, like son? In effect yes, although the younger Freeman made it a point not to run as his father’s son last year when the Democrat won Nashville’s most Republican leaning legislative seat formerly held by House Speaker Beth Harwell. To my knowledge, Freeman is also the first member of Davidson County’s State House delegation to endorse anyone in the mayoral contest.

“I have no doubt that David Briley is the right person to lead Nashville right now,” Freeman says in a Briley campaign news release. “We are at a critical moment, and our mayor has been steering us in the right direction since coming into office. He needs another four years.”

The Freeman endorsement is the latest of a number of high-profile political and civic figures endorsing the incumbent Mayor. They include Phil Bredesen, Howard Gentry, Brenda Wynn, Pat Shea, Bishop Jerry Maynard.

The local Fraternal Order of Police is not a fan of Mayor Briley. This week, the union, which has endorsed John Cooper for mayor, sharply criticized the Briley city operating budget that went into effect by default on July 1st. It became law because the Metro Council could not agree on its own plan. The FOP has paid for billboards and issued a scathing statement, calling Mayor Briley’s spending plan "a potential public safety crisis."

Newschannel 5 reports the FOP claims the Mayor’s budget is “a shell game.”

Mayor Briley’s strongly disagrees with the FOP’s allegations.

John Cooper has a fundraising event being held for him on Monday. It will be at the late John A.’s Restaurant in the Music Valley area. A Facebook posting by a family member of the legendary John A. Hobbs, who recently passed away, says this:

“John A’s Restaurant is sponsoring a fund raiser for John Cooper for Mayor. John is a long-time friend of the Hobbs family. We feel as though he is the only choice for Nashville’s future. He has the experience, the knowledge and the fortitude to take Nashville to the next level. He is dedicated to working for the people of Nashville. We have funneled enough money to the downtown area. Now it is time to take care of the surrounding areas and the Davidson County taxpayers.”

In case you’ve missed any endorsements that you care about, THE NASHVILLE SCENE has a pretty good summary list.

As for the Carol Swain campaign she is conducting her on air TV campaign differently, focusing on short :15 second ads running primarily in the morning news programs.

As for Early Voting, turnout has been dismal so far. That is to be expected when the only site open is at the offices of the Metro Election Commission. Voter numbers will rise significantly beginning today (July 19) with the 10 satellite locations throughout the city opening their doors. Early Voting continues every day except Sundays through July 27.

Voter turnout has a long way to go. Through Thursday just over 2,000 voters have cast ballots. Out of over 400,000 registered voters, that is not a big number at all, especially with early voting usually representing about 50% to 60% of the total turnout. Can you say apathy?

As we head into the final two weeks of this campaign, I still don’t see or observe a lot of excitement about this mayoral race or for any of the candidates. Normally low -key elections favor an incumbent. Will that be true for David Briley even though he has been in the city’s highest office for only a year and a half? Will he win outright in August or face a runoff with one of his opponents in September? And if there is a runoff, who might join Briley: John Cooper, Carol Swain or John Ray Clemmons?

THE NASHVILLE SCENE offers some thoughts about the race and its seemingly slow pace as we enter the final two weeks.

There has been a real dearth of any kind of public polling in the mayor’s race, even leaked polling information from the campaigns, which would likely be biased.

Bruce Dobie’s Power Poll, which tries to capture the opinions of where the city’s social, media, political and business movers and shakers view local and state races, has been out in the field on-line.

The Power Poll certainly doesn’t represent all parts of Nashville’s electorate. But here is what the responses to the Poll’s questions looked like late Thursday morning just a couple of hours before the survey was concluded.

Whom are you voting for in the Aug. 1 election for mayor?

Preliminary Results

• David Briley: 225 (54%)

• Carol Swain: 12 (3%)

• Don't know yet: 38 (9%)

• John Cooper: 115 (28%)

• John Ray Clemmons: 26 (6%)

Who do you think will place first in the election?

Preliminary Results

• David Briley: 343 (82%)

• John Cooper: 51 (12%)

• Don't know yet: 20 (5%)

• Carol Swain: 2 (0%)

Who do you think will place second in the election?

Preliminary Results

• John Cooper: 275 (66%)

• Carol Swain: 25 (6%)

• David Briley: 50 (12%)

• Don't know yet: 45 (11%)

• John Ray Clemmons: 21 (5%)

Do you think one of the candidates will capture over 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff?

Preliminary Results

• No: 276 (66%)

• Don't know yet: 52 (13%)

• Yes: 88 (21%)

If the Power Poll respondents are correct, the August 1st election will result in a September runoff between Mayor David Briley and Councilman At Large John Cooper. From the poll, even Briley supporters anticipate that outcome. Stay tuned!


The Metro Council has decided to once again to allow electric scooters to operate on the streets (and/or the sidewalks) of Nashville. The latest bill to regulate the controversial service passed the Metro Council Tuesday night by a vote of 29-0 with 4 members abstaining.

The new law significantly decreases the number of scooters allowed in service and eventually will cut down the number of scooter companies allowed to operate here from 7 to 3.

There are other detailed regulations and other changes mandated in the new law as outlined in a TENNESSEAN article:

Starting immediately, riders and non-riders alike can expect to see 50% fewer scooters on city streets.

There will also be no scooters rides after 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Other changes include:

Capping the number of operators currently in the city.

Creating "slow zones" downtown, on Metro greenways and in Metro parks.

Two full-time employees per 100 scooters from each operator to rebalance scooters, address blocked sidewalks, respond to complaints and place scooters in Metro-provided corrals.

Requiring a 120-minute response time to all scooter parking complaints.

Requiring all operators to pay up to $10,000 for Metro to put up signs throughout the city, as well as fund an American Disabilities Act complaint hotline that would require any ADA-related issues to be resolved in 30 minutes.

Mandating companies to provide "reasonable" helmet and other safety education activities, as well as report to Metro's Traffic Licensing Commission and Metro Council's Public Safety Committee.

Mayor David Briley had recommended a brief ban on scooters until and unless better regulations and a plan for a fewer number of scooters and companies was worked out. But the Council has decided to go this somewhat different route. Some council members already maintain the scooter situation is getting better. Others are not so sure and there is a bill for a total scooter ban pending final action in the Council next month if needed. The last meeting of this Metro Council term is Tuesday, August 20.

In the category of misery loves company, here’s the latest round up of headlines and story links from all over the nation and the world as the electric scooter craze continues to unfold:

Great Britain--YouTube star killed in the UK’s first fatal crash involving an electric scooter

BBC News-- E-scooter crashes spark call for new rules

Milwaukee--- Electric scooters are legal in Wisconsin. Here is what you need to know.

Paris----- Paris clamps down on electric scooters as law of the jungle rules

Europe--- Electric scooters have arrived in Europe — and a lot of people there hate them too

Chicago--- Experts weigh environmental impacts of Chicago’s electric scooter program

New York--- New York is poised to legalize electric scooters and bikes

Latin America--- Electric scooters zip into traffic chaos in Latin America

Wichita---About 2,000 rides taken in first 24 hours of electric scooters in Wichita

Washington-- Usain Bolt’s Scooter Company Obtains Permit To Operate In D.C.


While disgraced Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada is set to finally resign his post on Friday, August 2, he is not giving up his seat in the lower chamber representing Williamson County. Nor he is likely to be ousted by his colleagues when they hold a special session next month near the end of August to elect a new speaker.

The process to select a new speaker begins next week when the Caucus of the Republican House Super Majority convenes to pick its nominee. Whoever is selected will be a mortal lock to become the new head of the House when the special session convenes.

There is now a candidate seeking to replace or defeat Casada in the next election in 2020, depending on whether the incumbent runs. Brad Fiscus is a member of the county School Board. In overwhelmingly Republican Williamson County, Democrats never win elections. Independent candidates don’t either. But Fiscus thinks that the way he should run.

Every week it seems there is a new development about Glen Casada that keeps things stirred up.

This week is no exception based on this story from NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES. It says Casada wants to get out of paying alimony to his ex-wife because he can no longer afford it.

And to stir things up even more, how about this TENNESSEAN article which indicates there are no rules saying Glen Casada can’t pay alimony out of his PAC funds.

As GOP lawmakers began to meet privately this week with Speaker candidates, the importance of money or campaign contributions from Speaker want-to-bees to their colleagues is being discussed. Outgoing Speaker Casada successfully used his political PAC to garner support to gain his Caucus nomination to head the House, especially among freshman lawmakers. Now at least one speaker candidate is giving out campaign contributions too.

Finally in the never-ending Casada saga, the investigation of the Speaker’s alleged effort to frame a civil rights leader is in court. Activists want the special prosecutor appointed in the case removed because of his anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and racially insensitive views.


Is there a potential scandal unfolding involving former State Senator, now Rutherford County Mayor, Bill Ketron and his daughter, Kelsey? An investigation is under way involving possible insurance fraud.

Here are the headlines and story links that have been appearing more and more in the news in recent days about this situation.

Tennessee GOP official Kelsey Ketron accused of 'fraudulent' practices, ordered to stop selling insurance

More customers come forward and accuse Murfreesboro insurance agent Kelsey Ketron

Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron's insurance company office searched by police

County commissioner calls for special meeting on Ketron insurance fraud case

What we know about the Ketron insurance fraud investigation and lawsuits

Mayor Ketron is also in some difficulty over non-payment of some state campaign finance fines. The State Attorney General is threatening to sue Ketron over his inaction.

Late in the week came news a sitting State Senator, Dr. Joey Hensley (R) of Hohenwald, has been accused by state medical officials of prescribing controlled substances to his family members and an employee with whom he was in a “personal relationship.”

The charges may affect Hensley's medical license but they are not criminal allegations reports THE TENNESSEAN.


With former Governor Bill Haslam declining to run for the open U.S. Senate seat held by Tennessee’s retiring Senior Senator Lamar Alexander, other potential candidates are announcing their plans for the 2020 election.

Even though President Donald Trump scooped the candidate on his own potential announcement with a tweet last Friday, it has now been announced, current U.S. Ambassador to Japan and former Tennessee Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty is leaving his overseas post. That move would open the way for him be a candidate in the Republican Senate primary in August of next year.

But stepping down from his ambassadorship has not yet been coupled with an announcement by Hagerty he is running for Senate.

It has long been thought Hagerty would run for the Senate post, but only if Haslam didn’t. I’d say most likely he will enter the race despite his continuing radio silence on the topic.

Meanwhile, former governor Haslam gave an extended interview to WBIR in Knoxville discussing further his reasons not to run. He commented as well on a variety of other topics.

The Republican Senate primary is just over a year away, but already things are heating up.

There are charges coming from Dr. Manny Sethi, the one announced Republican candidate, that the GOP establishment in Tennessee and DC have sought to ‘scare’ him off of the Senate race.


Even as he enters his final year and a half in Washington, Senator Lamar Alexander is active in trying to improve health care transparency. More specifically, Senator Alexander this week introduced bi-partisan legislation that seeks to guard against surprise hospital and other medical bills.

Also in the area of health care this week, Senator Alexander says he sees hopes for the future of rural hospitals in Tennessee and across the nation. He says his optimism comes from a new federal rule proposed by the Trump administration.

Back in Tennessee, the news is not as good about dealing with the problem of failing public schools. Even as Governor Bill Lee is moving forward to start his controversial education saving or voucher program a year early, the state’s current effort to resurrect failing schools, the Achievement School District, is failing students instead, according to a new report.


Last Friday afternoon when I included the breaking news in this column that Governor Bill Lee was going to follow the law (as has his predecessors for years) in signing an annual proclamation to celebrate the birthday of controversial Confederate Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest, I knew it would create an uproar.

It sure did, even maybe even more than I anticipated.

The Governor has gotten tons of criticism and political heat from Tennessee and all over the country in the media. Here is a sample.





NY TIMES Columnist Paul Krugman

Even a conservative like Senator Ted Cruz criticized Governor Lee’s action as “wrong.”

When the onslaught began to subside early this week, the Governor modified his first remarks when he said had not even looked at changing or repealing the law requiring him to annually issue the annual Forrest proclamation (and two others honoring General Robert E. Lee and Confederate States President Jefferson Davis).

Governor Lee now says he will work with lawmakers to change the law although it is still unclear if his repeal effort will include not only the Forrest proclamation but the ones for Lee and Davis as well.

So far legislative leaders say they are open to consider change. Rep. William Lamberth, the House Majority Leader and a Republican from Sumner County, said he fully supported Governor Lee's announcement. He said if the governor wishes to go forward with the plan, he would be happy to file a bill in the House for consideration. A spokesman for Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally said the Senate leader would talk with Lee about the proposed change of law. "Lt. Gov. Randy McNally is open to having the discussion on changing the law," said Adam Kleinheider McNally's communications director.

The less than complete endorsement by legislative leaders to support a repeal shows Governor Lee may face a tough task to get the law off the books. It will be even tougher to remove the bust of General Forrest that sits in the hallway outside the legislative chambers in Nashville.

A few years back after the mass shooting of black church members in Charlestown, S.C., both then Governor Bill Haslam and then U.S. Senator Bob Corker called for the bust to go and be placed in a museum. But that effort failed. That’s because doing so faces an even harder road to be successful. It includes approval by both houses of the Legislature and the Tennessee Capitol Commission. The last time the Commission considered the matter, it didn’t even get a second for discussion.

Governor Lee has been evolving in his position on the Forrest bust. At first, he said it was part of the state’s history. Lee felt that even though the bust represents a difficult period, it shouldn’t be abandoned.

More recently, the Governor has said if the bust stays at the Capitol, it should be put into historical context, although he has yet to elaborate on exactly what that context might be.

All the national news outlets, which ran the critical stories about Governor Lee signing the Forrest proclamation, have now run more favorable articles about his shift in position. Confederate symbols are becoming a recurring challenge for Governor Lee. Earlier this year (February) , he had to explain some college yearbook photos of him at an Auburn University fraternity event back in the day. He was wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform.

When the pictures went public, Governor Lee said: "I never intentionally acted in an insensitive way, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that participating in that was insensitive and I’ve come to regret it.”

The Forrest and other Confederate holiday celebrations, along with the Forrest bust in the Capitol, represent still more challenges for the Governor to deal with regarding this still evolving national issue.


Most Democratic presidential candidates come to Nashville to raise campaign funds.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Butigieg raised money for the local party, not himself, when he came here this week. He held a rally here too. His fellow Democratic rival, former congressman Beto O’Rourke was here for a campaign stop recently. Others who have visited include former Vice President Joe Biden in May (to raise funds), U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in April and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

That’s a pretty good level of activity for Democratic candidates in a deep red Donald Trump state. Maybe theses visits will help the Democrats in garnering delegates when Tennessee holds its presidential preference primary in May. If they are still in the race by then.

Butigieg brought something to town the others didn’t. More money. In fact, he raised more $$$ than any of the dozens of Democrats in the field this past quarter. Can he sustain it?

Here is a sampling of coverage of Mayor Pete’s visit to the IT City.



Butigieg also picked the endorsement of State Senator and longtime friend Jeff Yarbro. Both attended Harvard but not at the same time.


For those of us of a certain age, the summer of 1969 (fifty years ago), was a magical one.

It was the Age of Aquarius and of Woodstock. It brought the devastation of Hurricane Camille and the inspiration of man landing on the Moon.

As for myself, I had just graduated from high school. Awaiting the beginning of classes at Peabody College in the fall, for the first, and only time in my life, I lived away from Nashville for three months (June-September).

I was in Atlanta attending Career Academy, a trade school. That’s where I learned to pass the 3rd-Class License exam. The license is what the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) mandated for anyone working on the air in radio to have posted at the station they worked.

More importantly for me that summer, being on my own for three months was a valuable opportunity to grow up, to learn how to wash and dry my own clothes, to open my own checking account, to get to and from to class every day, even live in the “hippie district” of Atlanta in a boarding house called Amherst Hall. I also worked part-time at a McDonald’s in the Buckhead neighborhood.

I had a wonderful summer. I got to see my first Major League baseball game and later that summer broadcast an MLB game (Braves vs. Dodgers) as a part of my broaditcast school training.

My fond memories include working at McDonald’s that magical July night of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t much business coming in the doors. People were home watching TV and waiting for that first moonwalk. Those of us working that night at the Buckhead Golden Arches weren’t all that concerned we would miss anything. That is until it was announced the moon walk was being moved up to earlier in the evening. Bring in a TV set for us to watch we warned the store manager, or we’ll shut down the restaurant and watch the moon walk where we live.

The manager didn’t do what we requested. So, we did close the store early. I rode the bus home and watched Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” in the TV lounge of my boarding house.

Like almost everyone else that night, I jammed the long -distance telephone lines. You couldn’t call direct in those days, you had to use an operator, if you could get one on the line that night instead of a busy signal. On this historic evening, everyone was trying to contact family and share the moment with their loved ones. For me that meant my Mom and Dad, my brothers and sisters, my Nashville girlfriend too.

July 20, 1969 was a singular once-in-a-lifetime experience to share and cherish, for and with everyone alive that night, even if you were hundreds of miles from home.

Another memory I have from Apollo 11 came a few days earlier on the morning of July 16th. That’s when the crew blasted off from Cape Kennedy. We were producing real-time radio newscasts that morning. It was part of the mock broadcasts we did in our training at Career Academy.

I was excited pulling together the wire copy, writing the story and broadcasting the news of the Moon launch. I guess it was the first time I ever covered a “breaking news” story, and one we all knew had historic impact. I still get that same kind of excitement every time I am in the NEWSCHANNEL5 studios Election Night or there is a major political story unfolding. For me, Apollo 11, and that whole summer I lived on my own in Atlanta, was my personal “one small step” leading to a “giant leap” towards my becoming an adult.

I will never forget it.

Maybe you’ve forgotten those special moments in mid-July 1969. Maybe it occurred well before you were born. Regardless, look back and relish some special highlights of that time from CBS News and the legendary Walter Cronkite.

Finally, if you are or grew up Cronkite fan like I did, you will really enjoy this TENNESSEAN op-ed.


Summer schedules means we won’t be producing a new INSIDE POLITICS show next week (July 26-28). Instead we will air an encore presentation of a previous program still to be determined.

I also will not be publishing a Capitol View column next week.

I will see you all Thursday, August 1. Be with us for NEWSCHANNEL5’s best-in-Nashville coverage of the Metro general election.

It will be another historic, breaking news kind of night.

It’s Election Night!

In my professional life, it’s always my favorite night of the year!