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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, August 10, 2018

Posted at 3:04 PM, Aug 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-10 16:04:46-04


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

August 10, 2018



The three defeated Republican gubernatorial candidates got together last Saturday (August 4) to show party unity in the wake of their fractious primary which Franklin businessman Bill Lee won.

Of course, the winning candidate spoke to reporters as did Governor Bill Haslam, Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker plus GOP State Party Chair Scott Golden.

The former candidates and some of their top aides did not speak or answer questions. And the media noticed.

If you believe a picture is worth a thousand words, click on the link below. Then take a look at the photograph that accompanies THE NASHVILLE SCENE’s reporting. The photo shows only Senator Corker and GOP Chair Scott Golden has anything close to a smile on their faces in the on-stage group shot, especially the three GOP gubernatorial candidates seen to the left between Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Senator Alexander.

OK, nobody takes a good photo every single time. But if the cut-line is correct, this photo was distributed by the Tennessee Republican Party! If that is what the state party sent out, I wonder how bad their other photographs of the group looked?

The unity event was also an effort to show party support for Republican U.S. Senate nominee and Congressman Marsha Blackburn. It is Senator Corker’s seat that is on the ballot, so his presence and comments would seem to show an effort to prove his endorsement is more than just words.

But then the campaign of Democratic Senate nominee and former Governor Phil Bredesen released this new on-line ad. It includes several prominent Republican political analysts and elected officials (and yes, Senator Corker is in the ad) saying nice things about Bredesen.

The Bredesen ad is creating controversy on its own sparking dueling editorials in the Chattanooga TIMES FREE PRESS. You can read those here and here.

Marsha Blackburn has finally begun her on-air TV campaign. Her first ad was unveiled the week of the primary vote. It seems to be a largely introductory/ biographical but with a little hint of the fight ahead.

I am sure there will be many more ads to come. On Election Night, I speculated Blackburn during the campaign would be back reminding her voters about the major role she is played in stopping a state income tax back in the early 2000s. Sure enough, it’s already part of her latest on-line digital ad.

Blackburn released her second TV ad on Tuesday showing her up close and personal with President Donald Trump when he was here in Nashville recently to endorse her candidacy at a rally at the Municipal Auditorium.

On the other side of the Senate campaign, Bob Corney, Phil Bredesen’s campaign manager has sent out a memo to advisors and interested parties (the media). It continues the Democratic analysis of the August Republican primary vote:

“Making matters worse for Marsha Blackburn is the fact that 25% of Republicans who voted in the Republican gubernatorial primary didn’t vote for her. This means that one-in-four of the most motivated Republican voters in Tennessee did not vote for Blackburn. It wasn’t lack of information or poor ballot position that hurt her; it was rejection by reliable Republican voters. “

Carney claims: The Washington status-quo is panicking” and warns Bredesen supporters “out-of-state dark-money groups have pledged to spend more than $8 million to beat us with negativity.”

From the other side, it seems efforts are already underway (and picked up by conservative media) to identify Bredesen as a very rich elitist. Here’s an article published on Tuesday by the WASHINGTON FREE BEACON and then picked up by the Tennessee Republican Party dubbing Bredesen as “Phony Phil.”

This line of attack was then picked up by the Tennessee Republican Party dubbing Bredesen as “Phony Phil.”

“Phil Bredesen’s continued hypocrisy exposes him for what he is: a phony,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden. “Tennesseans need a Senator who shares their values and will represent them – not out-of-state elites. Marsha Blackburn is the best choice for Tennesseans this November.”

Perhaps not surprisingly THE TENNESEE STAR publication is promoting the elitist story line concerning Bredesen.

Even Congressman Steve Cohen is getting pulled into the Senate race over some comments he made a few weeks back at a prayer breakfast in Memphis. He’s apologized but Republicans are not satisfied.

In the area of celebrity politics and fundraising, the Bredesen campaign announced this week that country music superstar Jason Isbell and Ben Folds will be headlining a fundraising concert event for the Democrat’s campaign at Marathon Village here in Nashville on August 20. There is even a commemorative poster available.

From all indications, it appears the Senate campaign is getting wound up for a contentious fall. Therefore, I hope you enjoyed this very brief respite from wall to wall TV political advertising. Yes, the Senate candidates are still on the air. And soon both gubernatorial candidates will be back too. As they get started back up in earnest, look for even more players (non-candidates/outside PACS) coming on the air too this fall.

In fact, it is already starting in the Senate contest with an outside group, Majority Forward Super PAC today (Friday) unveiling this ad in support of Bredesen.


Most analysts, including myself, think Democratic gubernatorial nominee, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, has a legitimate chance to win the November general election versus Republican Bill Lee. Dean won his party’s nomination very impressively August 2 with 75% of the vote. Tennessee Democrats are united and energized compared to the last several election cycles. However, based on the comparable size of the primary votes in both parties, the Dean campaign will need to pull in lots of independents and swing-vote Republicans to win.

Still you’d expect an upbeat tone from his campaign.

So why twice this week did I see fund raising e-mails from the Dean Team seemingly trying to convince their own supporters he has a chance.

Said the headline of one campaign solicitation:

“Karl can absolutely win this election” said the e-mail from Ann Davis, the candidate’s spouse.

Then from the candidate himself in a separate e-mail:

“When I say I’m going to do something, I follow through -- and I would not have gotten into this race if I was just running for the exercise. So when I say that I know we can win this race, I’m dead serious.”

OK, if you say so. We will soon find out. To start to build support the Dean campaign launched the establishment of an Educators for Dean group. Will the teacher’s organization, the Tennessee Association of Teachers support Dean in the fall? They endorsed his opponent Craig Fitzhugh in the primary.

The Dean campaign this week trotted out a potentially interesting strategy. Usually challengers in a race demand their opponent (the front-runner) join them for a series of debates. What Dean outlined in a fund-raising e-mail on Wednesday isn’t a debate or a demand to his opponent, but it’s headed in that direction. Here’s what he said:

“Later this week, we are launching a new campaign initiative and it is all about working together. We are inviting our opponent to join us in as many small- town squares, suburban neighborhoods and urban churches as possible to talk about the issues.

Whether it’s the fact that 11 rural hospitals have closed and we still haven’t expanded Medicaid or the reality that some communities in Tennessee are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, it’s clear that not every part of Tennessee is in the same place.”

This effort would seem to dovetail with Dean’s “Forgotten Tennessee” ads during the primary. Lee has talked quite a bit about the need to address rural and agricultural issues in the state, but not expanding Medicare which he opposes. So, is Lee likely to accept this offer from Dean? I doubt it. But how he declines it could be an important early moment in the general election campaign as both sides seek momentum and an advantage.

Meanwhile, in terms of outside dollars coming into the state and the governor’s race, it is already happening.

You might remember Governor Bill Haslam is chairman of the national Republican Governors Association. He convinced that group some months ago to put up several million dollars for TV ads to help the Republican nominee for governor in Tennessee.

Already the first ad in that effort is on the air. Governor Haslam himself is the narrator touting his own achievements the last eight years. Haslam then urges voters to support Bill Lee because he can be trusted to “make the right decisions not the political ones” and he will take the state “to the next level” and “make Tennessee stronger than ever.”

Lee does not speak in the ad. Are the Governor’s word alone enough to pass his legacy to Lee? Statewide, Mr. Haslam remains popular, but will his initial out-front role in the Lee campaign help unite conservative Republicans behind Lee? Governor’s

Interestingly, and continuing a “faith” trend from Lee’s primary campaign, some of the video is shot showing Lee in a church pew.

How quickly will Karl Dean get back on the airwaves? Will the Democratic Governors Association provide media dollars for him? Or is he on his own?


Upon further review, none of Tennessee’s statewide primaries was close.

We all knew Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen would easily win their party’s U.S. Senate nominations against largely unknown opposition. They did.

It was thought Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean would easily defeat Craig Fitzhugh. He did, and maybe by a wider margin that expected. In the last statewide numbers I saw, Dean prevailed by 279,324 to 72,263. That’s almost a 4 to 1 margin. Dean carried 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties with Fitzhugh prevailing in only six West Tennessee counties in and near his state legislative district.

Even the one statewide primary that was thought to be close, the GOP gubernatorial contest, turned out to be even more one-sided than it looked Election Night. In the final (if still uncertified) numbers, Bill Lee carried 68 of the state’s 95 counties (looking particularly strong in Middle Tennessee and in some parts of East and West Tennessee). Randy Boyd won 23 counties scattered in West, Middle and East Tennessee, while Diane Black carried just 4 counties, including the state’s largest county Shelby and some counties in her congressional districts. Beth Harwell carried no counties.

The final GOP vote numbers were:

Bill Lee 289,699

Randy Boyd 191,940

Diane Black 181,719

Beth Harwell 120, 910

So what does that work out to per vote per candidate? With overall spending in the governor’s race now over a record $50 million, TENNESSEE JOURNAL editor Erik Schelzig posted this calculation for a per vote $$ number for all the gubernatorial candidates:

Boyd $109

Black $76

Harwell $31

Lee $24

Dean $16

Fitzhugh $14.


The August primary is now in the rear- view mirror and the fall campaigns for U.S. Senate and the Governor’s chair in Tennessee are clearly gearing up.

To look at what’s happening, what it means and to reflect one last time on how we got to this point, we welcome Republican political analyst Debra Maggart and Democrat Larry Woods to INSIDE POLITICS this week. It’s a very interesting discussion. Join us!

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

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

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It was tense week in Nashville.

The ongoing TBI investigation of the second white officer- involved fatal shooting of a black man in recent months in this city exploded when the office of District Attorney Glenn Funk released a surveillance video of the incident. The idea to release the footage was to provide “transparency” to the investigation which reportedly will be complete in about two weeks.

I am not sure the video release accomplished its goal. Reaction from all sides was about as polarized as it gets. The shooting victim’s family, black community leaders, including the NAACP, all said the officer involved should be fired and arrested for murder. The Fraternal Order of Police complained the video release should have come after the full investigation was complete, so the video could be put in its proper context with additional background. The FOP claims it is a fact the person killed had a gun, was running from police and ignored calls to stop. The video is not clear enough to tell if the shooting victim had a gun. Police say a gun was recovered from the scene.

From the political side, Acting Vice Mayor Sheri Weiner (now in a September runoff race to continue in that office) urged a change in leadership at the top of the Metro Police Department as did State

Representative Harold Love, Jr. Love was also critical of the role of Mayor David Briley in handling the matter. THE TENNESSEAN quotes Love.

"It is getting harder and harder for those disparately impacted by law enforcement to pledge allegiance to a flag when there is no 'liberty and justice for all.' The shooting of Daniel Hambrick once again opens the decadeslong wound of the appearance of government-sanctioned murder."

Meanwhile, the Metro Council’s Minority Caucus which issued this statement:

“ The Nashville Davidson County Minority Caucus finds the homicide of Daniel Hambrick very disturbing. It is clear that Daniel Hambrick was not a threat to Officer Delke. The Minority Caucus sends its prayers and sympathy to the Hambrick family. The Minority Caucus demands that Officer Delke be placed on unpaid leave and have his gun and badge removed until the TBI completes its investigation. The Black members of the Caucus also support the creation of the Community Oversight Board. The Minority Caucus stands with the NAACP."

Mayor David Briley met with community leaders and held a news conference asking for patience and for folks to remain calm. Joining with Police Chief Steve Anderson the Mayor announced a comprehensive review of the Department’s policing policies. It appears such efforts have already been underway with the help of the New York University School of Law and its Policing Project. In fact some initial work began during the administration of former Mayor Megan Barry.

In a news release Mayor Briley said:

“The Policing Project has three basic principles that are appropriate for Nashville, Mayor Briley said. These include:

• Robust engagement between police departments and the communities they serve around the policies and priorities of policing;

• When possible, policing practices should be guided by rules and policies that are adopted in advance of action, are transparent, and are formulated with input from the public;

• Police departments should develop and use sound metrics of success that encompass all of the goals of policing, including community trust.

“I appreciate the Chief for agreeing to participate in the community process that I’ll be leading, with The Policing Project’s help, to change our policing culture,” said Mayor Briley.

“We need more accountability for what happens when our police officers are on the streets, and we need to do more, on the front end, to guide how we police the city and ensure that our officers have the best training possible for defusing tense and challenging situations,” he said.”

African American community leaders have been pushing for years for a community oversight board to provide transparency and build better relations with police. A petition drive has resulted in what could be enough signatures, now submitted for review to Metro officials, to force a November vote to create such a review board in the city’s charter.

Mayor Briley says while he supports the intent of the charter amendment effort, he has questions about the specific language and the plan proposed to create a review board that would be up for a vote.

Mayor Briley also said he plans to implement any recommended changes in policing policies through executive order not by council ordinance or referendum. Meanwhile Chief Anderson told THE TENNESSEAN he does not plan to set aside. He also said he finds the shooting video “very disturbing.” He has ordered a separate review of police policies regarding foot pursuits. You can find a link to the shooting video itself as a part of this TENNESSEAN story.

In the next few weeks we should learn both whether the charter amendment is a definite go to be on the November ballot, and whether the completed TBI investigation begins to bring some closure to this latest shooting incident. Meanwhile it seems likely the issues surrounding police race relations in Nashville continue to fester.