Capitol View Commentary: Friday, June 1, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - CAPITOL VIEW

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

June 1, 2018

IT’S COMING DOWN TO CASES EARLY IN THE TENNESSEE SENATE RACE; BASKING IN THE GLOW; KARL DEAN ON INSIDE POLITICS; COMING UP; A COUNCIL AFFAIR; A HIT TO OUR “IT”-NESS; SCOOTER WARS;

IT’S COMING DOWN TO CASES EARLY IN THE TENNESSEE SENATE RACE

It is still more than five months before Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn and former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen square off for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat now held by the retiring GOP Senator Bob Corker.

Yet already this past week with another visit to Nashville by President Donald Trump (his third in less than 18 months), the high national stakes of this Senate contest were on display. When you bring out the “big dogs” politically this early to raise money and rally the base, it is clear this is a very close race and for Blackburn to win in this deep-red state, she must depend on President Trump to make it happen.

Trump gave a rather meandering speech to 5,500 enthusiastic supporters at the just over half-filled Municipal Auditorium (crowd size estimate from the Nashville Fire Marshal). He did list his ongoing “greatest hits” achieved as President since taking office. These rallies seem to be his political life blood, as he takes his strength by holding sessions like this across the country every couple of weeks.

Mr. Trump also tested out some new takes on issues such as immigration, the wall, gangs, and why Republicans need to get out and vote (so Democrats don’t win). Surprisingly as the President went through his litany of successes, the issue that seemed to get the least amount of applause from his adoring audience was the recent round of tax cuts enacted by Republicans in Washington, along with repealing and replacing Obamacare. Given what happened in 2017, it’s hard to figure why the President brought the health care issue up again, or why the tax cuts got so little positive reaction.

Trump did give Marsha Blackburn an endorsement, but he didn’t dwell on her a lot as a candidate. As usual, Trump’s remarks focused more on himself and why he needed candidates like Blackburn elected to pass his agenda in Washington.

The President did go hard after Bredesen. At first, he acted like he didn’t know him. “Have you ever heard of this guy,” Trump asked the audience? Then he quickly gave his own answer by calling the former Nashville mayor and Tennessee governor “an absolute tool of Chuck Schmur, Nancy Pelosi” and other national Democratic leaders.

Actually, the President knows quite a bit about Phil Bredesen. THE TENNESSEAN reports in a leaked tape from the fundraiser for Marsha Blackburn prior to the rally, Mr. Trump described the former governor this way:

“Bredesen is a tough opponent who has led Blackburn in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.

“It’s close. It’s very close. She was down by a little bit a couple of months ago, now she’s pulled even. We’re in a very even race."

During the rally, the President also tried out a potential nickname for the Democratic Senate candidate, “Phillary.” That’s trying to tie the Tennessee Democrat to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who Bredesen supported financially in 2016. But “Phillary” didn’t get much crowd response, so the President didn’t say it a second time. Maybe it will re-appear a in tweet storm one day in the future? Maybe other GOP surrogates will try it out some more? Or, is it back to the nickname drawing board?

By the way, the Blackburn campaign has already posted a 90-second ad on you Tube containing Trump’s comments about Bredesen. You can watch it here.

As for Bredesen, he tried to stay above the fray, releasing a statement through a spokesperson that repeated, almost verbatim, one of his campaign ads:

“Governor Bredesen has made it clear that if President Trump proposes something that’s good for Tennessee, then he’ll support it. Likewise, if the president suggests something that’s bad for Tennesseans, then he’ll oppose it. That’s what senators ought to do. Bottom line: Phil Bredesen is an independent thinker with a proven record of working with Democrats and Republicans. In Washington, he’ll vote in the best interests of Tennessee and Tennesseans.” – Alyssa Hansen, press secretary

It appears President Trump’s comments will fire up his conservative base of supporters in Tennessee and likely help Blackburn. But how will his comments about Phil Bredesen play with independents, more moderate Republicans and others who liked Phil Bredesen as governor? The outcome of the race in November could rest on the answer to that question.

Is this the first of still more campaign trips to Tennessee for the President this year? I would guess yes and maybe next time he’ll also promote the GOP gubernatorial candidate as well?

BASKING IN THE GLOW

It appears most, if not all, of the four major Republican (err, Conservative) gubernatorial candidates made the rounds campaigning among the Trump crowd while they waited in the rain to get inside the rally. As best I can tell, only Congressman Diane Black got a brief shout out from the stage from the President.

Meanwhile one of Black’s chief rivals, Knoxville businessman Rand Boyd is running a TV ad saying he and President Trump “have a lot in common” and not only because they are “conservative businessmen, not career politicians."

Randy Boyd wants to “disrupt government” in Nashville, the way President Trump has in Washington? He wants to “drain the swamp” in state government the way the President is trying in Washington?

The ad is in some ways surprising since some conservative elements of the Tennessee Republican Party remember Boyd as a “Never Trump” advocate during the 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign. So far, his opponents such as Black are not counterattacking Boyd on the matter, but two political pundits on both ends of the state, Jackson Baker of THE MEMPHIS FLYER and Frank Cagle of the KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL see some inconsistencies in the Randy Boyd in his TV ads and the Randy Boyd who served as Economic Development Commissioner and chief advisor to current governor Bill Haslam. These are both very interesting reads. You can read them by clicking here and here.

Diane Black did not release a new TV spot this week (which is a little rare for her this cycle). But through her attorneys she is trying to get an attack ad against her removed. The commercial is from the same PAC (Tennessee Jobs Now) that attacked her in radio spots earlier this year. Black got one of those radio commercials removed from the air and is seeking to do the same thing with a Knoxville TV station about the new spot. Here’s an article about what is going on in Knoxville and the ad.

By the way, I have seen this same TV attack ad against Black airing in Nashville. I have seen no information about whether there are efforts to remove commercial in this market. The leaders of the Tennessee Jobs Now PAC have admitted they support Randy Boyd. Boyd is not mentioned in the ad.

Diane Black made news in another, likely unexpected, way this week. A tape recording of her recent appearance before a pastors’ group found her saying that the “root cause” of the ongoing rash of mass shootings at schools is due to pornography and other societal ills. The story even went national to THE WASHINGTON POST.

Elsewhere on the gubernatorial media front this week, the Beth Harwell campaign is finally airing its first ad on broadcast TV. Earlier spots praising her work in the General Assembly aired back in the winter. But they were produced by a controversial PAC that some thought had too close of ties to Harwell’s campaign although nothing came of formal complaints about it to state election officials.

The first Harwell ad is, not surprisingly, introductory in nature. If you think you might have seen the commercial before, that’s very possible. The spot has been on Facebook in paid advertising and on cable channels for a few weeks.

Why did the Harwell team take so long to roll out all of its paid media efforts? She told me on INSIDE POLITICS a few weeks back it was all part of her plan to run a winning primary race. With all the other Republican gubernatorial campaigns having run multiple ads already, we’ll soon see if she’s right or very far behind.

Republican Bill Lee is now getting support from a new independent super PAC that began airing a radio spot praising him in Knoxville.

Here’s what the ad says:

“Conservative Outsider” Transcript:

"Bill Lee is a conservative businessman, not a politician.

Lee has created over 1,000 good-paying jobs for electricians, pipe fitters and plumbers.

Now, this successful businessman and seventh-generation Tennessean is running for governor.

Bill Lee knows how to create jobs and solve problems, and its starts by making state government more accountable.

Bill Lee will fight for term limits for the state legislature and he’ll pass a five-year lobbying ban for former lawmakers to stop the influence peddling in Nashville.

And Bill Lee knows the importance of hard-work and personal responsibility.

As our next governor, Lee will require able-bodied TennCare recipients to work for their benefits.

Term limits and lobbying ban for politicians.

New work requirements for TennCare recipients.

Better paying jobs and opportunities for all Tennesseans.

Bill Lee is the successful businessman and conservative outsider we need.

TENN Values PAC paid for and is responsible for the content of this advertising. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

KARL DEAN ON INSIDE POLITICS

This week on INSIDE POLITICS, we once again continue our conversations with those who would be our next governor. Our guest is former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

He is running for governor in the Democratic primary on August 2

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 NEWSCHANNEL5.com. 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.

COMING UP

I have a serious family matter to deal with, so there’s a good chance there won’t be a CAPITOL VIEW column produced the next two weeks (June 8 and June 15).

No, the problem is not my health.

If my family issue is ongoing, I am honored that NEWSCHANNEL5’s Rhori Johnston will be the guest host on INSIDE POLITICS on June 8. He is scheduled to interview Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd.

I hope to be available to host INSIDE POLITICS the weekend of June 15.

A COUNCIL AFFAIR

With David Briley now elected to serve as Mayor of Nashville until August of 2019, voters must decide who will be Vice Mayor.

That’s right. Briley is the elected Vice Mayor from the public’s vote in 2015. He must officially resign that post to be sworn in as mayor. And with more than year still left in that term of office, there will need to be an election held to select someone to serve out that time as the presiding officer of the Metro Council.

The current word is the vice mayor’s vote will be held with the already scheduled August 2 election. But that’s what local officials said about filling the mayoral vacancy that occurred in early March when Megan Barry stepped down following a sex scandal.

The State Supreme Court ruled otherwise requiring the May 24 special election where Briley won the post. Will there need to be another law suit and a special election again? Stay tuned.

One thing does seem clear about selecting a new vice mayor. Everyone expressing interest is already in the Metro Council. Here’s THE TENNESSEAN’s rundown of potential candidates (and its not a short list).

Races for vice mayor have always been like this. In the 55- year plus history of Metro government, with the exception of the first Metro Vice Mayor George Cate, all the rest have been current or previous members of that 40- member body when elected to the post.

As for a large field seeking to run, why not? The field is often crowded when the seat is vacant (although Briley had just one opponent in 2015). It’s also a free race for those running, meaning they don’t have to give up their current council posts which aren’t up for election until August of next year.

A HIT TO OUR “IT”-NESS

Nashville took a hit to its “IT” ness this week with the announcement that the wildly popular Swedish furniture company IKEA will not be building a new retail store in Antioch.

Local officials and residents have been lusting after such a development for years, especially since both Atlanta and Memphis have an IKEA, but we don’t.

The decision to drop the Nashville store has nothing to do with what a wonderful city we are, officials say. IKEA is re-evaluating adding stores versus concentrating more on on-line retailing.

Meanwhile the larger development of which IKEA was set to be apart of, Century Farms, says its $1.7 billion project remains a “fait accompli” regardless of the IKEA decision. Reports THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL.

I suspect Nashville will face another day of disappointment soon when we don’t make the next AMAZON HQ II list. Frankly, many Nashvillians weren’t sure they wanted that ultra- massive project here. Regardless, we ‘ve got way too much going on in this town to let any retailer’s change of plans rain on our parade for long.

In that regard, Mayor David Briley had some good news to release this week (and given the challenges he’s faced the last few weeks, he could use some good news). Nashville’s unemployment rate at 2.2% is the lowest ever in the city’s history and the lowest in the nation among our 51 largest metropolitan areas.

But if you are looking for workers in Nashville, this extremely low unemployment rate doesn’t make things easy to make hires. It may continue to raise concerns about why such a booming city is having budget issues to fully fund schools or provide previously promised pay raises.

SCOOTER WARS

Another sign of Nashville’s growing pains is the now escalating war between Metro government and the new company that has come to town in the last few weeks to is provide motorized Bird scooters for transportation, especially in the downtown area. The scooters are aimed at providing ‘last mile” transportation on commutes or when a distance is too long to walk.

After an exchange of letters, statements in the media, and a deadline for the company to quit operating, the city has now begun confiscating the electronic scooters they are finding along sidewalks or elsewhere in the right of way. Well over 100 scooters have been seized and more sweeps are expected.

All this comes as proposals are being pieced together in the Metro Council to regulate the scooter craze which seems to be growing in popularity in urban areas across the nation.

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