Capitol View Commentary: Friday, May 25, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - CAPITOL VIEW

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

May 25, 2018

MAYOR BRILEY WINS OFFICE IN SURPRISINGLY STRONG SPECIAL ELECTION VICTORY; THE GOVERNOR SAYS IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON; STILL DON’T MESS WITH THOSE STATUTES; CORKER NOT GOING DOWN UNDER; ON THE GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN TRAIL; TEACHERS AND STATE EMPLOYEES ENDORSE; INSIDE POLITICS; A NEW BRDESEN TV AD; IF YOU FEEL A DRAFT YOU MUST BE READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL;

MAYOR BRILEY WINS OFFICE IN SURPRISINGLY STRONG SPECIAL ELECTION VICTORY

You can stop calling him the acting mayor or the accidental mayor.

David Briley is now Mayor-elect of Nashville.

He’s been voted to stay in office by the people, garnering a near landslide majority (just under 55%). It came in a special election held yesterday (Thursday) to serve out the remaining 15 months in the term of former Mayor Megan Barry, who resigned in disgrace in early March.

Briley’s victory came in well above the 50% plus one vote margin he needed to avoid a runoff election. In fact, he beat his closest opponent, former conservative commentator and Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain by a well more than a 2 to 1 margin (54.5% to 23%). The rest of the field of 12 opposing Briley couldn’t get much above 5% each, with several others garnering less than 1%. Metro Councilmember At Large Erica Gilmore and State Representative Harold Love, Jr. seemed to underperform finishing each around 5%.

By my look at the election returns, Mayor-elect Briley carried all 35 Metro Council Districts. In some areas his support was overwhelming. He got over 80% in District 18 including the Vanderbilt, Belmont, Eakin School area and he received about 75% of the vote in District 6, the lower East Nashville area which includes several historic neighborhoods.

Yet Briley’s victory is at odds with the street talk going on in many political circles in recent days that he would not be strong enough to avoid a runoff. The theory continued that being forced into an additional election. even if he prevailed, might leave Briley too weak to run the city or win for a full four-year term as mayor next year.

I suspect those calculations are under further review now if they haven’t been trashed.

Briley had several big advantages in his race especially in fund raising. He garnered over $700,000, more than all the other mayoral candidates combined. But Briley has also faced serious political headwinds since taking office. That includes a loss of trust in government from the Barry scandal, the lopsided rejection of the multi-decade, multi- billion- dollar transit plan by voters just off three weeks ago, and a very difficult city budget plan the mayor proposed that axed a 3% cost of living raise for city workers and funded only $5 million of $40 million in additional funds requested by schools.

Many said the backwash from the transit vote would hurt Briley in particular, but apparently it did not. Why? Well as I have said before in this column, the transit plan got creamed at the polls because the dominant progressive voter base in Nashville was split. Some thought the plan did nothing to address affordable housing or gentrification, and they hated raising the sales tax to fund it. That division along with the 25-30% of the traditional conservative vote in Nashville killed the transit plan.

However, when it came to selecting a mayor, the progressives came back together. They like Briley’s low- key style particularly to bring stability back to the Courthouse. Besides Mayor Briley is seen as a true progressive and those voters were frankly frightened by what they heard and knew of other candidates in the mayoral field, especially Swain and her yard signs, which seemed to pop up everywhere (including in some illegal places). How else do you explain the transit plan going down by well over 60% on May 1, and then voters giving Briley, the only candidate who supported the transit plan, nearly 55% of the vote a little over three weeks later?

The challenges continue for the Mayor-elect Briley. The budget is still to be decided along with a property tax hike some Metro Councilmembers are proposing but Briley opposes. He will likely face some potentially better-funded and more experienced opponents next year. But he faces all that from a much stronger political position, including having changed one long- time political maxim in the Briley family.

His grandfather, Beverly Briley was the first mayor of Metro Nashville, serving 3 terms from 1963 to 1975. The first Mayor Briley is still considered one of our best leaders. But he never won office without having to survive a runoff contest. Now his grandson has won that same office without the extra election, and David Briley won with an unexpected strength not many were predicting.

THE GOVERNOR SAYS IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON

I told you last week I doubted Governor Bill Haslam would veto the new sanctuary cities bill passed by the Legislature.

He didn’t.

But he didn’t sign it either, allowing the measure pass into law without affixing his name.

In the end, Mr. Haslam said the bill had "stirred up on both sides what I think is some irrational fear" and that "the best thing is to move on."

Tennessee already has a law banning so-called sanctuary cities. It is not clear such cities exist in Tennessee. Still lawmakers felt they needed to strengthen the existing law.

Reported THE TIMES FREE PRESS about what Governor Haslam said and his administration believes on this issue:

“He (Haslam) said critics are wrong in saying it amounts to a “mass deportation” measure. And proponents are wrong, the governor said, when they claim Tennessee has “sanctuary cities.”

… The law says local governments would be required to comply with federal immigration detainers, without requiring warrants or probable cause, for the potential deportation of people who were arrested on other charges and found to be in the U.S. illegally.

But Haslam’s deputy counsel, Todd Skelton, told reporters the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s current policy requires probable cause and a warrant for detainers.

… “If we vetoed this bill, I’m relatively confident there would at least be a special session. If not, it would be one of the first items that would be discussed in next year’s session,” said the governor, who leaves office in January.

But he said he wouldn’t sign it because that would mean he believes Tennessee has an “issue” around sanctuary cities, which he said it does not. Lawmakers several years ago passed a law banning them. The new legislation provides more details.”

Reaction among lawmakers broke down although party lines. Said Republican Lt. Governor Randy McNally: “I believe Gov. Haslam made a wise decision allowing this legislation to pass. There are no sanctuary cities in Tennessee and his action today assures that remains the case. As a supporter of the bill, I believe this is a good result for all.”

But several immigrant groups sharply criticized the Governor’s action: Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, blasted the governor for not vetoing the bill, calling the measure “dangerous and misguided.”

“[H]e caved to the most extreme fringe of the electorate,” Teatro said. “He chose hate and fear over good governance.”

STILL DON’T MESS WITH THOSE STATUTES

Governor Haslam did sign into law a bill that would further tighten the restrictions and penalties for cities or others who would move Civil War statues or other historic artifacts without state permission.

Lawmakers were outraged a few months ago when the city of Memphis sold a local park to a newly-formed not for profit group, which in turn removed two Confederate statues. Convinced the city had violated existing law, they were stunned to learn from other state officials (and most recently by a Nashville judge) there had not been any violation of law. Still lawmakers stripped some funding in the state budget for Memphis’ up-coming bi-centennial and they passed this new law, which THE TENNESSEAN explains in this article.

CORKER NOT GOING DOWN UNDER

Retiring Tennessee U.S. Senator Bob Corker has turned down an appointment by President Donald Trump to be the U.S. Ambassador to Australia.

"I had a number of conversations with both President (Donald) Trump and (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo," Corker told THE TENNESSEAN. "At the end of the day though … it just felt like it wasn't the right step. ... I shared with them there may very well be some other task down the road that they may need me to tackle on behalf of our country."

Corker’s plans after leaving office in January of next year remain indefinite. He has not completely ruled out seeking the 2020 Republican nomination for President against Mr. Trump, which would continue his

rather bizarre relationship with the White House which at times has been friendly, at other times the two men have been in a major feud.

ON THE GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN TRAIL

It is a single campaign poll. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a counter-attack by Congressman and GOP gubernatorial candidate Diane Black. An internal poll “leaked” to NASHVILLE POST shows Black with a double- digit (13-point) lead over her nearest challenger Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd.

Boyd recently told a group of his supporters that Black’s negatives among voters are so large the Tennessee GOP would be making a big mistake to have Black as their gubernatorial nominee. He said the party might lose the governor’s chair to likely Democratic nominee, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

Boyd’s team at first denied making the comments. But when a recent poll from Vanderbilt University echoed Black’s negatives and said they might be “baked in” with some voters, Team Boyd then confirmed his comments.

Of course, the Black team was not buying any of it, and this “leaked” internal poll might well be their response in terms of where the August 2 Republican primary stands. But remember, no campaign has ever a “leaked” poll that makes its candidate look anything but good. Here is how THE POST is reporting the story.

So how are the other GOP candidates reacting to this Black poll? Well two of them, Randy Boyd and Bill Lee are launching new all-95-counties statewide tours to talk to voters. Sure, they did the same thing months ago when they first began campaigning, but I guess there’s still time to go again from Mountain City to Memphis, so why not?

Besides, the same PAC group that has been attacking Diane Black with negative radio ads periodically this year, moved to TV this week.

Here’s the ad and an article with more background.

It should be noted that Black defends her votes on drivers licenses saying she worked and voted to repeal the laws after 9/11. 

Finally, as he told us last week on INSIDE POLITICS, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee is back on the air with his latest TV ad.

Entitled “Serve”, the spot clearly has the strongest religious overtones of any ad I have seen this election cycle. Given the politically conservative nature of the Volunteer State I expect the commercial will be well received. How many voters will be convinced to vote for Lee remains to be seen. But if the others start fighting among themselves? 

TEACHERS AND STATE EMPLOYEES ENDORSE

Tennessee’s Teachers Association and the organizations that represent state workers have endorsed gubernatorial candidates. Both endorsed the same ones, House Speaker Beth Harwell in the GOP primary and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in the Democratic primary, with both votes on August 2. 

INSIDE POLITICS

This week on INSIDE POLITICS, we planned to continue our conversations with those who would be our next governor.

Our guest was set to be State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh.

But he had to cancel due to a family matter.

Fitzhugh is running for governor in the Democratic primary on August 2. We are rescheduling him for next month.

In his place this week, we give an encore presentation to one of most unique recent shows.

Our guest on Inside Politics is Stephen Strang, author of "God and Donald Trump". Strang maintains the election of Donald Trump to be President was “prophesied” and says he was chosen by God to lead the nation through a time of crisis. Watch us tonight at 7 on NewsChannel 5 Plus for this interesting conversation.

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.

A NEW BREDESEN TV AD 

There is not much doubt in my mind that so far Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former governor Phil Bredesen has run some excellent TV ads to re-introduce himself to voters and position himself to have the very strong showing that is reflected in the polls.

Now he has a new TV ad out to further refresh his messages. This time the ads talk about jobs and the economic challenges facing Tennesseans, Bredesen touts his own record and says he thinks Tennessee can show the way to fix Washington. 

Bredesen has not completely forgotten President Donald Trump, who visits Nashville next week to promote and raise money for Bredesen’s rival, Republican Senate candidate and Congressman Marsha Blackburn. So this ad, which Bredesen has run before, will stay on his digital platforms. 

IF YOU FEEL A DRAFT YOU MUST BE READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL

Nashville continues to grow in stature as a world and nationally-recognized sports city.

Next April, the Music City will host the National Football League Draft, one of the premier off-season events conducted by any professional sport.

City officials have been trying to get the NFL to bring the event here for years even before it became a yearly traveling affair. After all, we’ve already hosted the NHL Draft and its All-Star Game along with a Women’s Final Four, numerous SEC basketball tournaments, Davis Cup Tennis and other sports events.

We have proven we know how to plan and pull off major events and how to have a party (although handling all the police and other overtime for the city is becoming an issue).

It appears when Tennessee Titan fans jammed downtown 20,000 strong a few months back to see the team’s new uniforms unveiled that convinced NFL leaders to come here, along with the thousands downtown last year to celebrate the Predators magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

But really maybe the difference (or not) is our city’s creative star power portrayed in thee promotional videos produced to bring the NFL Draft here by the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. 

Despite all the hoopla, here are some of the potential serious media and economic impacts of the NFL Draft coming to town, again courtesy of the Convention & Visitors Corp.

“The 2019 NFL Draft is expected to draw approximately 20,000 to 25,000 out-of-town visitors, which will generate a significant number of hotel bookings. It is anticipated that the three-day event will be broadcast on four networks, which will generate substantial national marketing for the city.”

“At the April 2018 draft, which was held in Dallas, more than 2,000 credentialed media covered the event and over 45 million broadcast viewers watched it over the course of three days on three national networks.

Philadelphia hosted the 2017 NFL Draft and reported $56.1 million in direct spending and $7.9 million in state and local taxes. Attendance over three days was 250,000, representing 42 different states. The room nights sold figure was 18,991.”

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