Capitol View Commentary: Friday, November 3, 2017


By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations

November 3, 2017



A poll released this week by Middle Tennessee State University brings insights and a bit of murkiness in analyzing both the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in Tennessee next year.

Tom Humphrey has the details on what the poll found and how the candidates in the race stack up. Keep in mind regarding the Senate race, the MTSU survey does not include former congressman Stephen Fincher who announced while the poll was in the field. It does include former Governor Phil Bredesen who has not announced a decision on running. Also remember this survey is based on candidate approval numbers only, not who do you plan to vote for next year. That does make a difference. Read more here.

As for my take on the poll, I am not surprised to see Blackburn as the strongest GOP candidate in the Senate field. She would be even if Fincher had been included. As for the Senate Democrats, it is also not surprising to see Bredesen strongly in the lead for that party’s nomination even before he declares he is a candidate. What is interesting to note is that the approval survey shows Congressman Blackburn and former Governor Bredesen in a statistical tie (37% to 34% Blackburn) head to head among all voters surveyed. The margin for error in the poll is plus or minus 4%.

As for the governor race’s approval numbers, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, as expected, holds a strong advantage with Democrats over State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. What has to hearten the Dean team is that his approval numbers head to head among all voters surveyed are tied or ahead of the three top GOP contenders, State House Speaker Beth Harwell, Congressman Diane Black and Knoxville business and former state ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd.

As for who has the most favorable numbers with GOP voters concerning their gubernatorial candidates it is all but impossible to say. Black (33%) and Harwell (32%) are all statistically tied and Randy Boyd is not far away at 27%. Again, the margin for error is plus or minus 4% margin in the MTSU poll.

What is clear among GOP voters in the MTSU poll is that the two other gubernatorial primary candidates seem to be lagging behind. Mae Beavers is at 15% favorability and Bill Lee at 10%. That would seem indicate they both have some work to do if other polls reflect similar results.

But that’s the point. This is just one poll and one on favorability, not who will you vote for next August or November. So enjoy reading it, but don’t take it as gospel on where the races stand. THE TENNESSEE JOYRNAL does report at least two other polls that show a strong lead for Blackburn in the Senate race.



Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn seems to have another potential controversy on her hands. Via Tom Humphreys and TALKING POINTS MEMO:

“U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn once brought an avowed neo-Confederate secessionist she’d known for decades to deliver the opening prayer for the House of Representatives, according to Talking Points Memo.

Blackburn, who is currently running for the Senate, invited the Rev. David O. Jones, a Tennessee pastor and Christian home-school program head who says he’s known her since the late 1970s, to give the opening prayer for the House in 2004.

Jones, who has long advocated southern secession, told TPM this week that while slavery was abhorrent it was “basically cradle to grave security” for many southern blacks… When Blackburn invited him to Congress, Jones was in the middle of a long tenure heading the Tennessee chapter of the League of the South — an explicitly secessionist group that has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2000 because of leader Michael Hill’s racist comments as well as its ties to co-founder Jack Kershaw, best known for serving as the lawyer for Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin and erecting a statue outside Nashville of the Ku Klux Klan founder, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

…“Marsha is appalled by saddened by the actions and words of these hate-filled organizations. Marsha has not seen Rev. Jones in over a decade and was not aware he was affiliated with this organization,” Blackburn spokeswoman Andrea Bozek told TPM in an email.

Blackburn walked away and ignored TPM’s question about Jones after saying hello as she entered the House floor on Wednesday afternoon.

Jones agreed it was possible, even probable, that Blackburn wouldn’t have known about his views, and while he thought he had last seen her six or seven years he agreed a decade might well have elapsed. But his description of their “moderately close” earlier relationship suggested closer ties than Blackburn wants to acknowledge now.”



Out on the campaign trail itself, Diane Black continued to go after Randy Boyd.

A news release from her campaign seemed to charge Boyd with not being conservative enough as a Republican. The charges from the Black campaign are:

“Randy Boyd said supporting Donald Trump would be “anathema” to him.

Randy Boyd made the largest donation in history ($250,000) to Conexion Americas, a group associated with La Raza, whose co-founder helped organize the anti-Trump #INDIVISIBLE campaign.

Randy Boyd is a “staunch supporter” of common core.

Randy Boyd donated $3,800 to a Democratic candidate for the state Supreme Court.

Randy Boyd was appointed by Barack Obama to an education board that worked to provide free community college to illegal immigrants.”

This week Boyd ended a statewide run across the state so a spokesman for the Black campaign added this political jab:

“With a conservative record almost as short as his shorts, it’s no surprise Randy Boyd is trying to run from his record. With his biggest supporter, Jeb!, coming to town, Randy! is trying to hide his moderate record of opposing Trump, supporting illegal immigration, supporting Common Core and supporting Democrats. He’ll have to run further West than Memphis to hide the truth from Tennesseans.”

As for Boyd, I have not seen any response from him about the latest Black attack. However, Tom Humphrey reports this tidbit:

“Politico has a blurb in a roundup of political notes quoting Boyd’s reply to a question on whether President Donald Trump or Sen. Bob Corker is doing the best job for Tennessee:

“I don’t know the answer to that. I will make this comment. I wish that Howard Baker or Ronald Reagan were still around. I mean remember Ronald Reagan had something called the 11th Commandment and the 11th Commandment was I say no evil to Republicans,” Boyd said, going on to say “For me, I’m going to be just focused on Tennessee.”

The Black campaign also spent some time this week touting a favorable tweet about the Congressman from President Donald Trump who praised her efforts as House Budget Chair to pass a budget in the House that has now opened the door for consideration of the GOP tax cut/ reform bill unveiled this week. More on that later. The President also gave Black a verbal “shout out” sound bite during the unveiling session of the tax plan at the White House. You can be sure that will show up in a Black TV ad soon.

Another seemingly unrelated development on Capitol Hill this week might also have had some GOP gubernatorial overtones. House Speaker Beth Harwell joined Lt. Governor Randy McNally in announcing that when the General Assembly moves into its new offices and committee rooms in the remodeled Cordell Hull building in the next few weeks, those with state permits to carry firearms can pack their heat when they visit lawmakers.

In the past that has not been allowed in the Legislative Plaza due to security concerns. Now the new security measures available in the new Cordell Hull building are apparently sufficient to allow guns to be carried by permit holders there.

Speaker Harwell has sometimes been criticized for not being strong enough on gun rights. This latest move would seem to give her campaign and supporters some political ammunition to argue to the contrary. After all, this GOP gubernatorial primary continues to be a contest over who can prove they are the most conservative.

By the ways, guns will still not be allowed in the State Capitol. That’s Governor Bill Haslam’s decision and he has indicated in the past he does not believe fire arms are appropriate there.



First it didn’t happen in some state parks.

Now the University of Tennessee-Knoxville has become the latest state agency to say thanks but no thanks to Governor Bill Haslam’s efforts to privatize some of the facility management services on campus.

The Governor obviously was not pleased with the decision and offered this future challenge to educators for not adopting the privatization plan to save funds:

“We continue to support this concept (privatization) and look forward to seeing how these universities work to keep tuition and other fees low for our students and families.”

But both some state lawmakers and the Tennessee Employees Association hailed the move by UT:

State Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville: “I was proud to work with the employees at the University of Tennessee to fight the possibility of outsourcing. After numerous discussions with stakeholders and town hall meetings, I agreed that it would not be good for the community or the University. I am glad that Chancellor Davenport reached the same decision. This is an excellent day for our city and our University.”

“This is great news for the state employees who work in the UT system, especially as we begin the holiday season,” TSEA Executive Director Randy Stamps said. “This entire outsourcing process has caused a great deal of anxiety for higher education state employees who have faced the possibility of changing employers, changing insurance plans, losing benefits, potential job relocations, and an unknown future once the dust settles. The cost savings just aren’t significant enough to justify the associated risks. We applaud the many campus staff who invested countless hours of work studying and evaluating the outsourcing plan.”



Mayor Megan Barry is our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week.

She joins us at a very busy, and crucial time for her administration with a final vote set for next week on the Metro Council approving bond funding for the $275 million major league major soccer stadium to be built at the Historic Fairgrounds.

Lots of last minute questions are arising over the demolition of some current buildings at the Fairgrounds (which will require a two thirds Council vote) and a 10-acre mixed use project that

developers want to a part of their lease with the city. Meanwhile some councilmembers want more guarantees that the lease payments from the developers will be there regardless and not leave taxpayers on the hook for the bonds.

There are also questions arising over the Mayor’s 5.2 billion transit plan which was unveiled in recent days. The proposal is not set to go to the Council until last this year with a voter referendum in May 2018 if Council approves. But given the details of the plan (everyone is a traffic engineer) and the size of the tax increases involved, it is not surprising the discussion has already begun in earnest across Nashville.

So join us. I hope it will be a lively and informative discussion.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include 7:00 p.m. Friday; then 5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday; and 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. New shows are posted the week after they air on The Plus.

By the way congratulations to Mayor Barry for the national award she has just been presented.The ATHENA National Leadership Award is given to nationally known women leaders who have achieved the highest level of professional excellence, have contributed personal time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in her community and actively assisted others, particularly women, to realize their full leadership potential.

Past recipients include Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Astronaut Sally Ride. That’s a pretty impressive group.



As a native Tennessean I have never been prouder of my state, and, in particular, the residents of Shelbyville and Murfreesboro for standing up against hate last weekend.

They joined with Governor Bill Haslam and law enforcement officials in those communities and others across Tennessee in letting white supremacists know they are not welcome here. To see those hate mongers outnumbered at their rallies and so frustrated by their reception from the community, they cancelled their event in Murfreesboro, was truly a wonderful development to behold, even if it cost taxpayers an extra $100,000 for security. I guess it’s the unfortunate but necessary cost to protect

everyone’s First Amendment rights while also keeping the public safe, so we don’t become the next Charlottesville.

The biggest tragedy was for the high school students who lost their chance to compete in the venerable Contest of Champions being held at MTSU. Punishing students is terrible. But what can you expect from haters. Go away and don’t come back. Better yet, get a life and understand love does trump hate at least in the Volunteer State.



The House Republicans have released a 439 page bill to cut taxes and “reform” the federal tax system. With that much verbiage to digest you can be sure folks will looking closely at the good they can find to support and of course, the devil in the details. That would include the limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes and on home mortgage interest that is already sparking opposition even from some Republicans.

In that regard, what retiring Tennessee Senator Bob Corker will do could be critical to the tax bill’s chances in the Senate, especially given the GOP’s narrow majority in the upper chamber (52-48). Here’s Senator Corker’s statement in full about the House tax bill issued on Thursday. It reads to me that Senator Corker remains to be convinced to support the measure, which could the last chance in 2017 for congressional Republicans and President Trump to score a major legislative victory. Here is the Corker statement.

“I have a great deal of respect for the tax-writing committee in the House and appreciate the hard work its members have done to produce this piece of legislation,” said Corker. “Throughout my time in public service, I have been a strong advocate for pro-growth tax reform and, like my colleagues, am excited about the possibility of producing the biggest tax rewrite since 1986.”

“That said, I cannot stress enough that what I care about is doing this right and implementing sound policy,” continued Corker. “As I have made clear from the beginning of this debate, it is my hope that the final legislation – while allowing for current policy assumptions and reasonable dynamic scoring – will not add to the deficit, sets rates that are permanent in nature, and closes a minimum of $4 trillion in loopholes and special interest deductions. I appreciate the work the Senate tax-writing committee is doing to finalize legislative text and look forward to the debate ahead.”

This is also the week in Washington that the Russian effort to influence the 2016 election became very clear and real (not fake). Facebook, Twitter and Google are now admitting that millions of Americans saw both free content and paid ads that came from Russian bots, fake accounts and other efforts to spread fake news and propaganda from a foreign country and from one of nation’s long time adversaries.

This was also the week the criminal probe of the Russia matter as it involves the Trump presidential campaign, staff and the Trump White House saw its first indictments returned and one guilty plea entered in the federal courts. Not surprisingly, reaction was split along party lines with Republicans pushing efforts that there also needs to be renewed investigations of Hillary Clinton and the Obama

White House regarding uranium sales to Russia and about who paid for a controversial dossier into alleged activities involving Mr. Trump and the Russians prior to the 2016 election cycle.

What happens next? Well probably more indictments by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and more calls for more investigations. And so it goes in Washington.

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