NewsChannel 5 +Inside PoliticsCapitol View Commentary


Capitol View Commentary: Fri., Sept. 28, 2018

Posted at 3:14 PM, Sep 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-28 17:04:17-04


By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company
September 28, 2018


Tennessee’s two U.S. Senate candidates held their first statewide live TV debate Tuesday night on the campus of Cumberland University in Lebanon. The one-hour verbal showdown was aired on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK and public TV stations across Tennessee. It was also sponsored by the U.S.A. TODAY NETWORK—Tennessee.

While there was much media coverage talking about “drama in the air” and how the candidates went after each other, I thought for the most part, Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn stayed with the issues and talking points they’ve been using on the campaign trail and against each other for months.
Now these two candidates disagree on a lot of issues and public policy so that brings some real contrast to the contest, for sure. But there were no new major attacks launched. In fact, I thought both candidates had a chance to escalate the rhetoric, but for the most part, did not do so.

Blackburn did seem more active, and on the attack, than Bredesen. The Congressman took the offensive and for the most part Bredesen let her. For what it’s worth, he called her “Congressman.” She called him ‘Phil, ” not Governor, the honorary title both moderators used.

Bredesen was more on the offensive on two issues that have been favorable to him, opioids and tariffs. But he continued to let Blackburn label him multiple times as “bought and paid for” by national Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and by other national Democratic leaders.. The former Governor did try to show he will be independent if elected by saying, for the first time, he would not support Schumer for Senate leader if he goes to Washington. 

But not responding directly to the numerous “bought and paid for” charges from Blackburn seemed like an oversight to me. Afterwards he explained to reporters that he thinks the charges seem silly. Maybe so. But in a political race, it’s not what the candidate thinks, it’s about what voters perceive and how they process campaign charges that matter.
I don’t think the debate likely made any major change in this neck and neck contest. But when they meet again to debate in Knoxville on October 10, will either change tactics or try something new to shake up the race in their favor?
It was interesting to note what TV ads both sides chose to run this week in and around the debate. Bredesen, again underlying his claim to be independent and not bound to party label, went back to the spot he ran earlier. It’s the one where he says he isn’t running against Donald Trump, that if the President has a good idea, he will support it. But if the President has a bad idea for Tennessee, he will oppose it. 
Bredesen this week also unveiled a new ad regarding President Trump’s tariffs. That’s obviously an idea Bredesen thinks is bad for Tennessee and he tries to outline the damage that the tariffs are already causing.
Marsha Blackburn this week stuck with her TV ad of Republicans who claimed they’ve voted for Bredesen in the past, but won’t this time because of hot-button issues like the Wall, tax cuts, Obamacare and Bredesen’s past support for national Democrats (Hillary Clinton).
I suspect the Blackburn camp thinks the ad is working, after all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. The Bredesen team has come with its own ad, full of Republican voters, who say they will vote for the former governor again, because he reaches across the aisle and can get things done.
The messages of those ads from both sides represent in a nutshell the essence and the contrast of these candidates and their race to replace Bob Corker in the Senate.
Here’s one last word regarding this week’s debate. Even when both candidates dodged a direct question asked about medical marijuana, their answers afterwards seem to show some divergence of opinion.

Looking ahead, with the controversial Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination approved in the Senate Judiciary Committee today (Friday) after some tumultuous hearings this week, the issue is now headed for approval by the full Senate as early as Tuesday. You can be sure the Blackburn campaign will turn up the heat on Bredesen to announce whether he supports the nomination or opposes it. So far, the Democratic candidate has declined to announce his decision although criticizing both parties for the “circus” atmosphere surrounding the confirmation process.


BREAKING: Late Friday afternoon, the Bredesen campaign released this statement from the candidate:
“I cannot understand why any Senator, or Judge Kavanaugh himself, would not want the FBI to research these allegations. If they are unfounded, as the Judge claims, the FBI can erase a permanent stain on his appointment and on him personally. If the allegations have substance, any Senator of either party should want to take them into consideration before deciding on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. I would feel exactly the same if it were a Democratic appointment under consideration."

Indeed, also Friday PM, the Republican leadership, at the request of two GOP Senators, have announced a one-week delay of the Kavanaugh nomination vote by the full Senate. That is to allow for an additional FBI investigation of the sexual assault allegations.

The Senate race continues to draw lots of national attention.

First, President Donald Trump is coming back a second time to campaign for and raise big bucks to help Marsha Blackburn. He will be in Chattanooga next Monday night (October 1). Vice President Mike Pence has also been in the state multiple times to help as have other high- profile Republican officials sych as Senator Marco Rubio.

It’s the kind of high-level support that you wouldn’t think would be necessary, particularly multiple times in a state with Tennessee’s recent deep-red history. But obviously, if the polls are correct, it is. 
The Tennessee Senate race is also part of an article by Nate Silver of the 538 website. The piece focuses red-state Senate race where ‘the fundamentals” ought to put the GOP candidate over the top. Here is a link to the full story.

Here is how Silver summarizes his thoughts on the Tennessee Senate contest where the polls show a very close race while the “fundamentals” of the state indicate as much as a 14% advantage for Republicans.
"What that means for Tennessee is that any poll showing Bredesen tied or ahead — and perhaps even behind by 1-2 percentage points — is good news for Bredesen, because the model expects the race to revert toward Blackburn based on the fundamentals. With every new poll, it weights the fundamentals less and less. With that said, Bredesen isn’t out of the woods yet..."
MSNBC is also weighing in. I found this story on line as a pop-up digital ad.

The Tennessee gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee, have their first of three debates beginning next Monday.
Lee continues to focus on his repeat, statewide, all -95-counties tour. I know it has created issues for some groups wanting to book the GOP standard bearer to speak because his campaign says he won’t be available on certain days every week in some parts of Tennessee all the way through Election Day.
The gubernatorial face-offs may in some ways be even more important for its candidates than the Senate debates. That’s because both Dean and Lee are not as well known statewide as Bredesen and Blackburn.  Lee has little government and political experience and Dean’s work as Nashville Mayor is not as well known outside Middle Tennessee. 
I am sure both candidates are (or should be) doing lots of debate prep. Dean, in particular, may be trying to figure what he can do to tighten up the race through the debate or other means. The two latest polls show the Democrat down 9 points to Lee. 
An interesting statewide poll of civic, business and media folks released today (Friday) mirrors Karl Dean’s challenge. Former NASHVILLE SCENE publisher Bruce Dobie has taken his Nashville City Poll and expanded it to include the four largest cities in the state. The results are consistent. A majority of those responding say they plan to vote for Dean. But they also say the expect Bill Lee to be elected governor. If Dean has any chance to win his campaign has to change that perception, especially among Dean supporters.

Here a link to the poll:
The Lee campaign has changed its TV ad (as of Tuesday). He’s gone from welding to explaining to voters he has the “experience that matters.” No doubt the ad tries to speak to Lee’s lack of government and political experience and position Lee’s life experiences as a plus.

For his TV, Karl Dean is still burning money to show how the state is missing out by not expanding Medicaid to provide more folks with health insurance coverage and keep rural hospitals alive.
Dean is also airing an endorsement/testimonial ad done by country music legend Emme Lou Harris. She says our state’s best governors have been mayors and voters have a chance to elect another great governor again in November.
My only critique of the ad is that the star never appears on camera. She is identified only once graphically near the beginning of the spot. While Emme Lou Harris is very well known, some may not connect her spoken voice with her name, especially without her face (which viewers might well recognize as much as her singing voice). Still it is a well- done commercial with some beautiful photography. 

I found some interesting information in a Dean fundraising e-mail. It focuses, as we did in last week’s column, about the increasing importance of on-line digital ads. The e-mail says in part:
“We’ve been spending the majority of our advertising budget on TV, but now that we’re in the home stretch, we need to invest in digital ads.
Not everybody gets their news from Good Morning Nashville these days. In fact, only 50% of Americans get their news from TV. Compare that to 68% who get their news from social media. We’re all busy, and more and more of us are relying on our computers or smartphones for news. Many young people don’t even watch TV at all!
So we need to spend more on digital advertising. That means Facebook, YouTube, and Google -- we want to make sure we reach every Tennessean when they open up their laptops or phones. Do you think you can pitch in to help?
There have been a handful of surprising primary results this year, in both parties. Those successful candidates had one thing in common: they didn’t underestimate the power of digital ads.”

Watch during your on-line visits and while browsing your Facebook feed to see what happens.

As we’ve already been discussing, it’s been another hectic week in politics here in Tennessee, and of course in Washington, as the mid-term elections draw ever nearer. The Brett Cavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, and the controversy surrounding alleged sexual assaults allegations leveled against him, continue to be the top news story in our nation’s capital.   
To help put the last few days into perspective, our guests on INSIDE POLITICS this week are Nashville attorney and Democratic strategist Larry Woods and conservative Republican analyst and once again, radio talk show host, Steve Gill.
Join us! This will be one big political hot-stove discussion.

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.

It is somewhat unusual that a Tennessee State House race sees a TV ad campaign.
But Nashville businessman Bob Freeman, the Democrat trying to replace Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell in the 56th District, says he is planning to put up ads in his race against his GOP opponent. Dr. Brent Moody.
The ad seems to use some of the same “reach across the aisle” message coming from Senate candidate Phil Bredesen. Here is the ad.
It is not clear how much of a budget Freeman to run his ad. Is father, Bill Freeman, certainly has experience in this area. He ran a bit of TV in 2015 in an unsuccessful effort to elected Nashville mayor.
I am told Dr. Moody is already airing an ad although I have not yet seen it.
Speaker Harwell had a lot to do with drafting the boundaries of her district and you can be sure she made it as majority Republican as she could. However, in a year where there have been signs in other elections that the Democratic vote be up in Davidson County, will the GOP majorities built in to the 56th be transferable to a new Republican candidate running his first race?   
Sources I have spoken to say, as of a week or so ago, Moody was holding a lead over Freeman in the mid-single digit range. Will the Freeman TV ads make a difference? 
Freeman is e-mailing out a link to his ad trying to raise money from his supporters. So far, I don’t see any indication in the FCC files that his campaign has placed an ad buy.

This week final legislative approval was given to the Music Modernization Act. It ‘s an important, long-overdue piece of legislative reform that will mean good news for our local music community, especially songwriters.
The Act now only needs President Trump’s signature to become law. The legislation is an example of how both houses of Congress and both parties CAN work together to get something done, especially if all the various business and other groups involved in the music industry can finally unite.
Here’s how a columnist in VARIETY has reflected on what’s happened.

Nashville is back on the edge in terms of racial discord.
For several weeks the community has been waiting to see the results of a TBI investigation into a Metro police officer involved homicide that occurred back in July. Up until this week, all that had been released of the probe was a video of the shooting that touched a community firestorm of controversy. 
Thursday a strong indication of what the TBI probe found apparently became public.  The Metro District Attorney’s office went to General Sessions Court where it obtained a criminal homicide warrant against the officer involved, Andrew Delke. He is the white police officer who shot a black man, Daniel Hambrick who was running from the officer. 

The D.A.’s request for an arrest warrant was originally declined by a local magistrate, but General Sessions Judge Michael Mondelli found there was probable cause and approved the warrant.

Officer Delke has turned himself into authorities and posted a $25,000 bond. He has also been decommissioned as an officer. His next court hearing is set for October 30.

Mayor David Briley issued the following statement. It seems to be supportive of the action to file charges. 
“In August, I spoke with Daniel Hambrick’s mother to express my condolences for her loss. I assured her that we would show respect for the life of her son, because his life mattered. At that time, Ms. Hambrick asked for justice for Daniel. The District Attorney’s decision to file charges in this case is a necessary step toward that end. 

I don’t control what happens in individual criminal cases, but I will continue to work toward creating a fair, open and transparent criminal justice system. This does not mean that every time an officer is charged with a crime or accused of misconduct, the officer will be found guilty. Metro-Nashville Police Officers put their lives on the line every day. It is an incredibly difficult job. I fully support our Police. However, officers will be required to account for their actions when they have been accused of misconduct. Put simply, we must have laws that are fairly, equally and transparently applied.”

District Attorney Glenn Funk issued this statement about his action to move forward on prosecution of this case.

"This morning (Thursday) I requested TBI Special Agent in Charge Russ Winkler to obtain a warrant charging officer Andrew Delke with criminal homicide.  The decision to institute charges by warrant as opposed to presenting the matter directly to a Grand Jury allows this case to be presented in open court in as transparent a manner as possible, because Grand Jury proceedings are secret and not open to the public. As this is a pending criminal case, I will have no further extrajudicial comments."
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued this statement about its involvement:
"We investigated this case as we do all others: We gathered relevant evidence, information, and interviews, compiled a detailed set of facts, and presented those facts to the District Attorney General for his further review and consideration.

Ultimately, it is the District Attorney General’s decision to determine the next step in the process, and for that reason, we would direct additional questions about General Funk’s decision – and this case – to his office."

The Tennessee ACLU issued its statement about the matter:
“The arrest of Officer Delke for the killing of Daniel Hambrick is a crucial first step in setting the wheels of accountability and justice in motion. Officer Delke must receive due process during the proceedings. However, the arrest in and of itself sends an important – yet all too rare – message to the community that nobody is above the law.”
Some Metro police officials and rank and file officers are likely to have a different reaction. Read again this statement in THE TENNESSEAN’s story.

“The homicide charge is a remarkable rebuke of a police officer in the line of duty, and it could put the entire Metropolitan Nashville Police Department on the defensive. No Nashville police officer in decades has been charged after shooting someone while they were on duty. The Fraternal Order of Police signaled it was ready for a tenacious legal battle, saying Delke was right to defend himself because he saw Hambrick holding a handgun during the chase.”

Defenders of Officer Delke say Daniel Hambrick he was just doing his job and was following his training. They say Hambrick refused calls from the officer to stop running. The Fraternal Order of Police posted this YouTube video strongly criticizing District Attorney Funk.

The move to seek a criminal homicide warrant also comes as Metro voters are set to go to the polls in November to decide whether to create an 11-member Community Review Board to investigate complaints against the police. That effort is also being opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police which has been in court trying to stop the vote, saying it was not properly approved to be on the ballot. But after losing in a local Circuit Court, and the State Supreme Court declining to take up the case, any judicial solution for the FOP will likely not be decided until after the November election.