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Capitol View commentary: Friday, July 12, 2019

Capitol View
Posted at 1:04 PM, Jul 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-12 14:04:42-04

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
July 12, 2019


This week on INSIDE POLITICS we continue our conversations with those who would be Nashville’s mayor.

We are featuring all four major candidates one more time, so voters can see and hear from them before Early Voting begins July 12 and before election day itself on August 1st.

Our guest this weekend (July 5-7) is State Representative John Ray Clemmons.

All these mayoral candidate interviews will air on NEWSCHANNEL5’s main channel in prime time on Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. each week.

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

Our first mayoral candidate guest was Dr. Carol Swain, a retired law and political science professor at Vanderbilt University. Her interview ran on the PLUS Channel June 21-23.

Because of severe weather coverage our conversation with her did not air in its entirety on the main channel on Friday night June 21. We are taping another conversation with her to air the weekend of July 19- 21.

Mark these dates down and tune in!

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.


Early voting began today (July 12) and continues through Saturday, July 27. It may be a slow start the first week because the only place open to vote is at the Election Commission offices in the Richard H. Fulton Metro office complex at the old Howard School. The 11 satellite sites across the county open on Friday, July 19.

The early vote has made up close to 50% to 60% of the total vote in recent elections, so candidates such as John Ray Clemmons are holding rallies to get their voters to the polls.

Clemmons’ first effort is a free concert at EXIT/IN Friday evening, featuring Alanna Royale and The Hardin Draw, and sponsored by EXIT/IN, The 5 Spot, Lovenoise Nashville, Banana Tapes, Darkhorse Theatre, Good Grip, and Lisa VanWye Vocal Studio. Clemmons is making a real push to get support from Nashville’s creative class. His other early vote effort is a teacher-led rally and march to the polls on Saturday afternoon, July 13. The campaign predicts hundreds of supporters will participate.

But the real question looming over early voting (and turnout in general for the August 1 election) is what will be the overall voter turnout?

Four years ago (2015) in the mayor’s race, the seat was open and there were seven major, well- funded candidates. The Early Vote was about 53,000 with total turnout including Election Day of 104,000. That’s a dismal 28.39 % turnout of those registered to vote (over 368,000).

The numbers get more dismal looking back historically. Here are the mayoral voter turnouts and percentages in the August elections dating back to the founding of Metro government in the 1960s (numbers are from the Metro Election Commission website):

1966 (Mayor Beverly Briley re-election) 103,950/ 59.66%/ total registered voters 174,231
1971 (Mayor Beverly Briley re-election) 115,319/ 56.08%/ total registered voters 205,623
1975 (Congressman Richard Fulton election) 99,474/ 56%/ total registered voters 177,666
1979 (Mayor Fulton re-election) 88,830/ 40.65% / total registered voters 218,936
1983 (Mayor Fulton re-election) 97,926/ 40.09%/ total registered voters 244,285
1987 (Congressman Bill Boner election) 149,609/ 55.12%/ total registered voters 268,714
1991 (Phil Bredesen elected) 113,272 / 42.84%/ total registered voters 264,411
1995 (Mayor Bredesen re-election) 68,664 / 25.30%/ total registered voters 271,450
1999 (Bill Purcell elected) 102, 146/ 33.98%/ total registered voters 300,583
2003 (Mayor Purcell re-elected) 61,820 / 19.11%/ total registered voters 323,438
2007 (Karl Dean election 101,041/ 30.14%/ total registered voters 331,902
2011 (Mayor Dean re-elected) figures not posted
2015 (Megan Barry election) 104,757/ 28.39%/ total registered voters 368,936

Here are my observations on the numbers listed. Not surprisingly, voter turnout is higher in years where no incumbent is seeking re-election. How will that work out for current Mayor David Briley even though he has served only about a year and a half in office, after succeeding Megan Barry who resigned in scandal?

Also notice that overall the range of turnout has not varied widely since the 1960s. Mayor Beverly Briley’s first re-election in 1966 sent just 103,950 voters to the polls in the general election (and only 101,223 in the runoff race he won over former Mayor Ben West). In 2015, Megan Barry’s August election brought 104,757 voters to the polls (and 110,894 when she defeated David Fox in a September runoff).

Even as the voter rolls have greatly expanded in recent years, the voter turnout for a mayoral race has never topped 150,000. The closest to that number are the turnouts in 1987 (149,031 in August and 148,161 in the September runoff). Those ballots also contained a horse racing gambling referendum in August and perhaps the most hotly contested mayoral runoff to date in September 1987 when Bill Boner defeated Phil Bredesen.

So why don’t Nashvillians vote in the mayor’s race the way they do in a presidential contest? In 2016, the last presidential race, Nashville voter turnout was 252,926 or 61.94% of the 408,343 folks registered.

You can make a strong case the Mayor and members of the Metro Council have at least as big an influence on our everyday lives as the President, maybe more.

But we sure don’t vote that way. I don’t expect that to change much this year either.


When you do go to vote either for Early Voting or Election Day, remember we are using new voting machines. Change always causes delay, so while it is not a long or complicated ballot, the wait times or the lines may be a little longer. Some will say that is a good thing since the new voting machines will generate page trail ballot that will work like this.


Just before Early Voting began, there was a final televised debate on Tuesday. It covered a number of topics but didn’t seem to create any new issues, controversies, divisions or opportunities for any of the candidates to build a clear advantage.


The law requires campaign financial disclosures from the mayoral and other Metro candidates as of the end of June.

Mayor David Briley continues to lead the field in fund raising. He has raised $1,004,037 in his bid for re-election, and his campaign collected $443,116 for the period ending June 30. The money has come from over 1,000 donors. A campaign spokesman says the Briley team campaign spent $419,000 this last quarter and still has nearly $450,000 on hand. The Briley campaign has not reported any loans.

Metro Councilman at Large John Cooper has filed documents with the Metro Election Commission showing he has raised $820,000 as of June 30. That includes personal loans to his campaign of $550,000, and total contributions from individuals of $265,000 of which $251,000 came from individuals in amounts larger than $100. The maximum individual contribution allowed is $1600. Cash on hand as of the end of June for the Cooper campaign was $143,312.89 after expenditures of $677,000+. Cooper was the last candidate to enter the field. Therefore, this is his first quarterly financial report.

Carol Swain reports $111,779.80 collected in the last quarter to go with $116,198.75 as a balance on hand going into the second quarter. Of her contributions $88,000 were donations of $100 or more. Her campaign spent $178,309.14 in the last three months leaving a balance on hand as of June 30 of $49,669.39. The Swain campaign reports no loans.

John Ray Clemmons reports $168,443.00 in contributions in the second quarter supplementing a balance of $109,227.77 on hand at the beginning of the reporting period. $1113,340 are contributions from individuals of over $100. The Clemmons campaign spent $157,666.13 between April and the end of June with an ending balance of $120,006.24. The campaign reports loans of $150,000 including $50,000 given during this reporting period. All are personal loans from the candidate.

You can see the reports of all the Metro candidates (mayoral, vice mayor and council), who gave them money, and how they’ve spent it at this link.

The Cooper use of over a half million in personal money (loans) brought a verbal barb from the Briley campaign: “It's clear that John Cooper thinks he can buy the mayor's office with the money he made as a developer. Voters want more than that. Nashville cannot be bought."

In fairness, Cooper did say that due to his late entry into the race, he was likely to be using his own money in his campaign, and that he would be his largest contributor. With $550,000 in loans out of $820,000 Cooper has raised, he certainly is.

The campaign disclosures raise one further question about Mayor Briley having about $450,000 still in the bank a month out. Is he saving it for something? Maybe a September runoff?

Here is NEWSCHANNEL5’s take on the campaign finance reports from all the mayoral candidates.

Here’s the take on the campaign disclosures from some other major local news outlets.

Here’s the way Steven Hale at THE NASHVILLE SCENE sees the mayoral races as we head into early voting.
Meanwhile, the owner of the NASHVILLE SCENE, Bill Freeman had some comments about an issue in the mayor’s race. Freeman, a 2015 mayoral candidate, has endorsed Briley. In this week’s edition of his publication, Freeman offered some positive comments about the Mayor’s controversial move to identify additional funds to allow the Metro School Board to give teachers and its other workers an additional 6% raise on January 1, 2020. That is in addition to a 3% rate hike they received on July 1. Freeman says Briley’s move is “proof he is working diligently toward improving Nashville’s future for everyone.”


As Early Voting begins the most significant endorsement this past week came in the struggle to win the vote in the black community.

Buffalo PAC, a Nashville political action committee made up of African-American business leaders, endorsed Mayor David Briley ahead of the Aug.1 election.

The group cited Briley's commitment to "equity for minority businesses" as the reason for the endorsement.

Another new PAC, the Nashville Justice League is joining with several other groups (including at least one business PAC) in not endorsing in the Mayor’s race although they are picking candidates to support in the council races.

And there was one other endorsement that finally came out Thursday. Here’s the headline:


Former Mayor Of Nashville: Briley Best Positioned To Bring Prosperity To City
All I can say is; you read it here first in Capitol View last week. Now the Briley team has sent out a news release after I first found it posted on the campaign’s Twitter and Facebook social media postings back in late June and last week.


With Early Voting starting, John Ray Clemmons has posted up his first TV ad.

Carol Swain has country music superstar John Rich giving her a fund- raising, ticketed concert on Monday July 15.

I have received several direct mail pieces from John Cooper. He is only mayoral candidate to send me anything so far. And he is running at least a couple of new TV ads.


Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat being held by current Senator Lamar Alexander. Alexander is retiring in 2020 and not seeking re-election.
Haslam made a similar decision in 2018 when the state’s other Senate seat held by Bob Corker fell vacant when the incumbent decided not to continue in office.

At that time in 2018, Haslam said he wasn’t running because he wanted to concentrate his efforts on his final months in office as governor. As for a race in 2020, after months of deliberations, Haslam announced in letter to Tennesseans that he shared through the statewide USA TODAY NETWORK Tennessee on Thursday: “The truth is, this has been the hardest vocational decision of my life…While I think serving in the United States Senate would be a great privilege and responsibility, I have come to the conclusion that it is not my calling for the next period of my life.

This is a difficult decision because I have loved my time in public service, and I believe so deeply in the importance of our political process.

I remain grateful for everyone who has allowed me to serve as a mayor and a governor and I look forward to serving our state and country in other ways.

Haslam’s decision is clearly a personal one and he deserves all the praise he is receiving across the state for his years of dedication to public service. He clearly would have been an excellent U.S. Senator. He remains one of the most popular political figures in Tennessee. He would likely have won any general election contest for Senator.

However, being the well-informed person, he always is, I am confident the former Governor understands he would also be seeking a Senate post through winning a Republican Party primary first. That presents a very different political situation. The party continues to be much more conservative than the political races Mr. Haslam won to be the GOP nominee for governor in 2010 and 2014.

In particular, the Tennessee Republican Party, like its national counterpart, is now the party of President Donald Trump, who will be on the ballot seeking re-election in 2020. When Mr. Trump won in 2016, he won despite many controversies including the Access Hollywood tape where he made comments that even his supporters admitted were unfortunate “locker room talk” about assaulting women.

At the time, Governor Haslam called for Donald Trump to step down from the GOP presidential ticket and be replaced by his running mate, now Vice President Mike Pence. That didn’t happen. Haslam then decided not to vote for Donald Trump and cast his ballot instead for another (undisclosed) candidate in November 2016.

I am told if you look at statewide polling, there is still significant unhappiness among some conservatives, Tea Party members and Trump supporters about Haslam’s anti-Trump actions. So much so, a U.S. Senate primary victory might be tough for him to achieve. As a moderate in his party, some GOP conservative activists have already saw him as a RHINO (Republican In Name Only) even before his controversies surrounding Trump.

This is not the primary reason the former governor is declining to run for an open U.S. Senate seat for second time in two years. But I am sure this matter informed his decision about how best to proceed.

His decision also opens the race for others to possibly jump into the contest.

As the week went on (Thursday), the potential field of GOP candidates drew surprisingly smaller with first-term Congressman Mark Green ruling out a race. Later a spokesperson for former Congressman and GOP congressional candidate Diane Black said she wasn’t running either and neither will Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

There is one other possible Senate candidate. She is long-time GOP state lawmaker and education activist, Jamie Woodson.

The one major GOP Senate candidate already in the race, trauma surgeon, Dr. Manny Sethi, is set to report his initial fund-raising numbers. It includes $1.5 million on hand, but that balance includes some significant personal loans to jump start his campaign.


As lawmakers prepare for their August special session to elect a new Speaker of the House to replace Republican Glen Casada who is resigning in the wake of multiple scandals, there is also a growing move to have lawmakers oust a former close ally of the outgoing Speaker , during the special session.

GOP Representative David Byrd has been dealing for several months with allegations the Waynesboro Republican sexually assaulted members of his girl basketball team when he was their coach over three decades ago

Now several prominent East Tennessee GOP leaders, former Congressman Zach Wamp and current Lt. Governor Rand McNally, say it is time for Byrd to go.

Even Governor Bill Lee is getting involved. He has not asked Representative Byrd to resign but reportedly has asked him privately not to seek re-election next year.

The Associated Press tells the story with a twist. AP says Byrd first denied the Governor asked him not to seek re-election. Then, an hour late, Byrd said he wanted to “retract,” his denial, adding his conversation with the Governor was “private.”

There have been calls to oust Speaker Casada from his Williamson County seat because of his scandals, although that effort seems to have lost steam.

The scandals surrounding Casado do seem to have hurt the Speaker’s large and influential political PAC in terms of new contributions since his scandals broke.

The race to be the next Speaker continues to develop with the current second in command, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn saying he is not seeking the position.

There are still six other House members seeking to be the next Speaker. One of them is Representative Mike Carter. The TENNESSEE JOURNAL blog reports on a letter he has sent out to House committee Chairs and Vice Chairs outlining how he will be different from Casada (without mentioning his name).


With rural hospitals across the state struggling to stay open (some have closed), what’s the update on the latest health care idea passed by the Republican Super Majority in the Tennessee General Assembly?

They want Tennessee to be the first state in the nation to go to a block grant program in place of the long-operating Tenncare program. Tt might mean less money to spend, but supporters claim it will be better spent with Tennessee officials making healthcare decisions, not Washington. So far, progress to move towards a block grant system has been slow.

Ironically, this week also came the news that the much- maligned (by the GOP) Obamacare program may be stabilizing in Tennessee. THE TENNESEAN reports BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, plans to reenter the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Nashville, Memphis and surrounding counties next year, providing another option for residents on Obamacare. Additionally, two other insurance companies that already offer Obamacare in these cities, Cigna and Oscar Health, are planning to significantly reduce the cost of their coverage plans.

There was still more news this week concerning government efforts to move ahead on significant and controversial programs. According to Governor Lee, Tennessee’s education saving accounts or vouchers program may be on track to begin in the fall of 2020, a year ahead of schedule.


It’s required by state law, so Governor Bill Lee is following the law.

But I think having an annual Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, along with oberving some other Confederate-related holidays each year, seems likely to stir up controversy.

Even before it has finished all its agreements with Metro Police on how to work on investigations into complaints lodged against Metro Police, the city’s new Community Oversight Board has launched its first probe into a matter, that at least on video tape, is creating concerns about how an officer handled his interactions with a women he stopped.
NEWSCHANNEL5 follow up report with interview with the woman involved in the police stop