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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, July 6, 2018

Posted at 1:12 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-06 14:12:12-04


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

July 6, 2018



This week on INSIDE POLITICS we conclude our series of interviews with the men and women who want to be our next governor.

Our final guest and gubernatorial candidate is Congressman Diane Black. She is on the ballot in the August 2nd Republican primary.

In a 4th of July holiday week when blazing heat and political fireworks have been the order of the day, this is an interesting time to have Congressman Black join us. While we are asking her many of the same questions on topics we’ve discussed with the other 5 candidates in the Republican and Democratic fields, we also will ask her to explain why she has gone on the attack recently against two of her GOP opponents for being “too moderate.”

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The GOP gubernatorial air wars continued this week.

Diane Black’s campaign doubled down with two new ads attacking both Randy Boyd and Bill Lee for being too moderate. The ad says Congressman Black is the only conservative in the race. You can watch those by clicking here and here.

The Black campaign this week also went after Bill Lee with a second, separate attack ad on the Franklin businessman. That matches in number the ads attacking Boyd alone. The latest Lee attack ad again focuses on his past support of Democrats but strangely leaves out his contributions to former Nashville Mayor (now Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Karl Dean.

There was also another poll released this week that shows the GOP primary is becoming a closer and closer three-way contest. Reports the NASHVILLE POST: a survey by the group Data Orbital has it a one-point race between Black and Boyd with Lee not far behind.

I cannot vouch for the validity of the new poll (or the one last week from THE TENNESSEE STAR) but also note the stunning number of undecided primary votes still up for grabs at almost 24%! Maybe that also helps explains the attacks by Black to capture those who haven’t made up their minds just a couple of weeks before Early Voting begins.

Meanwhile the Boyd campaign continues to strike back with an ad of its own (put up last week). It calls Black “D.C. Diane.” Among other things,the spot contains an early 2016 campaign interview Black did with Katie Couric. it seems to show the Congressman was not always a supporter of the proposed Trump Wall along the Mexican border.

To shore up his conservative credentials, the Boyd campaign this week went back to its basics, releasing another round of endorsements. Another two dozen local mayors and law enforcement leaders say they are for the Knoxville businessman. The announcement brings the number of county and city mayors statewide endorsing Boyd to over 120, along with over 50 local law enforcement leaders also advising and supporting Boyd.

For her campaign, Black picked up the endorsement of the American Conservative Union and from GOP congressional candidate State Senator Dr. Mark Greene. Lee picked up the support of frequent-conservative Tea Party candidate, former State Representative Joe Carr.

In the media, Team Boyd is having to deal with news stories about his business practices and campaign contributions. Here are a couple of stories done recently by THE TENNESSEAN and THE KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL.

At the same time, Bill Lee and Diane Black are also undergoing media scrutiny for state contracts involving their businesses or family.

As for the Black attacks on Lee, so far, his campaign has still not aired a TV ad response. This is so even as the Black campaign has widened its criticism of Lee’s support of Democrats in the past, which do appear to be true. Reports THE TENNESSEAN:

“Campaign finance records show Lee, as the owner of Lee Company, gave at least $1,000 to Bredesen's campaign for re-election as governor on Oct 5, 2005, $250 to (Mayor Karl) Dean's Nashville mayoral campaign in 2011 and $500 to (Megan) Barry's campaign for Nashville mayor in 2015.”

In its defense the Lee campaign responded to the paper:

“A Lee campaign spokesman said the donations were "business decisions" the candidate previously made for his company. The mayor of Nashville is a nonpartisan position.

"Bill has said repeatedly that like President Trump, businessmen have to make business decisions in their donations from time to time, and in instances like these, that is exactly what happened," said Chris Walker, an adviser to the Lee Campaign.

“Walker also noted that Lee also gave $1,000 to former state Sen. Jim Bryson as the Republican nominee in the 2006 race against the incumbent Bredesen.

Walker said Lee's record of political donations shows this and that the candidate "has donated over $160,000 to political causes and 99.993 percent has gone to Republican and conservative causes."

But Lee’s explanation is getting push-back from the right leaning news blog THE TENNESSEE STAR, which is also criticizing Lee’s support of Nashville State Senator Steve Dickerson.

One of next big tests for the gubernatorial candidates will be a measure of their financial support which will start coming into focus in the next few days. That’s when they must report how much they’ve raised and spent through June 30.

The Lee campaign seems to be the first to disclose, saying it gathered $400,000 in contributions during the second quarter and has $3.5 million cash on hand to fund to spend down the stretch towards the August 2nd primary.


Years ago, you could be put in jail for not paying your debts.

That’s not legal anymore, but the State of Tennessee has a law that can revoke your drivers’ license if you don’t pay court costs and other related fees.

Some say just such claim is in effect being put in jail because if you caught driving anyway you would be charged with driving without a license and put being bars. That would then the end of your job, your marriage, and maybe your life as you’ve known it.

Now a class-action federal lawsuit has been decided in Nashville that instructs the state to quit revoking licenses and restore those which have been taken away because of the not paying court fees.

The case could have national implications moving forward as other states have similar laws that could now also be declared unconstitutional.

THE TENNESSEAN has more background and details.

Here’s an update. A Thursday TENNESSEAN story announces the state says it will comply with the court ruling handed down by Judge Aleta Trauger and restore the driver’s licenses. But guess what As so often happens it seems, especially in government…not everyone has gotten the memo.

By the way the State estimates in the last few years at least 140,000 Tennesseans have had their licenses revoked because of non-payment of court costs and other fees.


The voters spoke on May 1st, overwhelmingly rejecting a big-ticket mass transit plan for Nashville. But the conversation about what we should do instead, continues.

The Beacon Center, a local think tank that opposed the plan, is now offering its own nine-part to address the issue, even though it's not clear to me just who is heading up an effort to fully explore what happens next, if anything, on this topic.

And there’s this more nationally-focused article from the GOVERNING publication. It has a decidedly negative view about whether Nashville is now losing its way in moving ahead.


With Early Voting beginning next Friday (July 13), retiring State Senator Thelma Harper has announced an endorsement for her successor.

It’s educator and community activist Howard Jones, Jr.

Says Senator Harper:

“I support Howard Jones because I know he will listen, be honest and work tirelessly with the community to continue to move the 19th District forward. I trust him to be our voice and to do what is right for the Men, Women & Children that he represents.

Throughout the years, I have watched Howard Jones care for the elderly in need. As an educator, he completely understands the issues and needs of our schools, teachers and students. As a private citizen, he has been a champion for providing re-entry services through affordable housing & employment to men & women after incarceration.”

The Harper endorsement is certainly a boost for his campaign, but Jones is an underdog facing State Representative and former Metro Councilmember Brenda Gilmore in the August 2 Democratic primary in Davidson County. Gilmore announced her candidacy months before Senator Harper announced she was retiring. So in that regard, the endorsement by Harper of Gilmore’s opponent is not a surprise.