Friday, August 15, 2014

Sara Kyle Will Apparently Contest Marrero for Husband Jim Kyle’s Senate Vacancy

Matchup would rekindle longstanding Kyle-Cohen feud; county Democratic executive committee will choose nominee on September 4.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 12:18 AM

UPDATE: Correct date of nomination meeting is Thursday,August 28, at 6 pm. at IBEW Hall

Although former state Senator Beverly Marrero has gotten off to a good start in a quest to fill the Senate seat which Chancellor-elect Jim Kyle will be vacating, she is about
Sara Kyle with husband Jim during his abortive 2009 gubernatorial race
  • Sara Kyle with husband Jim during his abortive 2009 gubernatorial race
t to acquire a potent rival.

The Flyer has confirmed that Sara Kyle, former member of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and the current District 30 senator’s wife, will also seek the, Democratic nomination for the soon-to-be vacancy.

That nomination will be made by members of the Shelby County Democratic executive committee, apparently at the committee’s next regularly scheduled meeting of September 4 (See UPDATE above for correct date.) The nomination process will be according to statute 2-14-202 © 3 of the Tennessee code, which reads as follows:

“If a vacancy as described in subdivision (d) (1) occurs after the sixth Thursday before the primary election, the members of the county executive committees who represent the precincts composing such senate district may nominate a candidate to appear on the November election ballot by any method authorized under the rules of the party.”

That formula will require some sorting out, since the membership of the Shelby County committee is determined by state House District, not state Senate District, but in the essence members representing House districts, any part of which are contained in or overlap with Senate District 30 will be eligible to vote.

In any case, this method — cumbersome or not — is “…unless instructed otherwise by State Coordinator of Elections …how we have been advised to proceed,” according to an email dispatched by Norma Lester, Democratic member of the Shelby County Election Commission.

In other words, no appointment, interim or otherwise, by the Shelby County Commision, and no special primary followed by a special general election. Another condition of the election process would reportedly require that any member of the state House now appearing on the November general election ballot would have to remove his or her name to become eligible for the Senate seat.

That provision would seem to give pause to two members of the state House from Shelby County who are known to be considering a try for the Senate seat. They are G.A. Hardaway, state representative for District 93, and Antonio “Two-Shay” Parkinson in District 98.

Parkinson is currently unopposed on the November ballot, but Hardaway has a Republican opponent, Colonel G. Billingsley, who in the event of Hardaway’s removal from the ballot, would win the seat by default unless Democrats organized a massive write-in campaign.

In any case, Sara Kyle has let friends know she’s in the race and won’t be persuaded out by the fact that Marrero has begun to pick up endorsements, including one from Deidre Malone, recently the Democratic standard-bearer for County Mayor.

Marrero is also sure of all-out support from 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, her longtime friend and political ally. A Marrero-Sara Kyle contest would, in effect, be a continuation by proxy of a blood feud that has existed for years between Jim Kyle and Cohen, who served uncomfortably in the state Senate together for years as fellow Democratic caucus members but whose relationship was always frosty and characterized by a sense of rivalry.

After then state Rep. Carol Chumney won a City Council seat in 2003, Cohen backed Marrero to oppose Jeff Sullivan, a Kyle aide, in the resultant pecial election to replace her.. That contest, which resulted in a Marrero victory, was no-holds-barred and included a Cohen call to prosecute Sullivan for early-voting for himself in a precinct where he did not reside.

After the Republican-sponsored redistricting of 2011, Jim Kyle and Marrero found themselves in the same district as election opponents, rekindling the feud. Kyle won that one.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

County Commission Gives Tentative OK to Broadened Non-Discrimination Policy

Two transgendered witnesses testify as General Governent committee approves explicit language on sexual orientation; Mulroy's residency resolutions break even.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Transgendered witnesses Kal Rocket(left) and Ellyahanna Hall meet with media after Wednesday's committee session. - JB
  • JB
  • Transgendered witnesses Kal Rocket(left) and Ellyahanna Hall meet with media after Wednesday's committee session.

In a General Government committee meeting Wednesday which saw mixed results in the matter of defining residency requirements for sitting commissioners, the Shelby County Commission gave preliminary approval to another carry-over matter — that of explicitly including gays and transgendered persons within the compass of the Commission’s formal non-discrimination policy.

A resolution that Commissioner Steve Mulroy succeeded in getting passed in 2009 had barred discrimination against employees on the basis of “non-merit factors.” On Wednesday, Mulroy tried again, with the help of two transgendered witnesses — Kal Rocket (aka Kal Dwight), who had made the passage from female to male, and Ellyahanna Hall, whose gender-identify change was from male to female.

Both had undergone surgery to complete the change of gender, and both, as Rocket testified to the Commission, had also completed a full agenda of approved counseling. The two also told the commissioners of various difficulties they had encountered in social and employment situations and in complying with a unique Tennessee statute that allows a change of name on state-recognized official forms and documents but prohibits a change in the gender that appears on one’s birth certificate.

That circumstance made it necessary to make verbal explanations in applying for jobs and in other formal situations, said Hall, adding, “ I always carry my papers with me” She said her current job was a comfortable fit, but her preceding one had not been one because of the gender issue.

After a debate in which only two commissioners, Republicans Chris Thomas and Terry Roland, demurred (with Roland saying that he was not biased but followed what he saw as the will of God ad was against giving anyone “special status”), the committee approved the newly changed resolution 5-2.

If approved by the full Commission on Monday, the county’s non-discrimination policy will now read (with added language indicated by italics) as follows:

"There shall be no discrimination in the County employment or personnel or in the promotion or demotion of County employees because of religion, race, color, sex, creed, national origin, political affiliation, age, handicap, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, familial association(s), or other non-merit factors.

Residency issue; In a wide-ranging debate that skirted the edge of the recent Henri Brooks controversy and, a time or two, plunged directly into it, the General Government Committee approved one resolution by Mulroy establishing “guidelines” for determining the validity of commissioners’ residence and rejected another, which would have required a “residency certification form” to be completed by all Commission members.

During the debate, committee chair Justin Ford, whose own residence has at times been an issue, discreetly stepped aside, allowing Commissioner Mike Ritz to moderate. The change was efficacious, in the sense that Ritz is known for keeping a tight rein on debate, especially when it produces controversy.

And there was some — mainly coming from Commissioner Walter Bailey, who was a stout ally of Commissioner Brooks during all the recent hearings, on and off the Commission, regarding whether Brooks’ seat should be vacated because of her apparent non-residency in her district.

Bailey made the flat assertion that the Commission had “no authority” to prescribe such guidelines, citing a ruling made last month by Chancellor Kenny Armstrong striking down the action by County Attorney Marcy Ingram of declaring Brooks’ seat vacant after an investigation and preparing the way for Commission action to name someone else to the seat. He said he proposed resolution smacked of a “witch hunt.”

After a good bit of back-and-forth between Ingram and Commissioners Bailey, Mulroy, and others, the kernel of Armstrong’s ruling, which had been that the County Commission, rather than Ingram, was the appropriate “tribunal” to declare a seat vacant, and which was apparently at variance with Bailey’s interpretation, was ultimately accepted.

In the debate, Commissioner Roland voiced his disdain for arguments that “it doesn’t matter where you live.” If that were so, he asked, “Why do we have districts?”

On the matter of the resolution’s wording, Commissioner Sidney Chism cited what he saw as the ill treatment he’d received during a recent ethics complaint against him because of vague language in the county’s governing conflicts of interest (in his case, concerning federal wraparound funds which he’d voted ongoing to a day care center run by his family) and said the Commission should be in a position to make a decision.

Mulroy’s resolution, as originally written, applied the “sleep test” (i.e., where one customarily domiciled for the night), but Commissioner Heidi Shafer objected to that as “overthinking” and too controlling and argued instead for evidence, in the form of utility bills and the like, similar to that used by Shelby County Schools and other districts in determining students’ residence.

Mulroy agreed to accept the amended language suggested by Shafer, and the resolution received a favorable recommendation by a 5-2 vote.

The other resolution by Mulroy regarding a certification form was not as happily received, with Commissioner Thomas, on one hand, calling it a “great idea” and citing the actual incidence of “dishonest” representations of residency and Bailey denouncing such allegations as “outrageous.”

In the end, he committee’s recommendation was negative, by a vote of 3 to 5, with Commission chairman James Harvey pointedly abstaining.

Both resolutions will be acted on again on Monday. It remains to be seen if Brooks, who was the unspoken focus of Wednesday’s debate, will be present for that meeting, which will be the final one for her and several other term-limited commissioners. Brooks has not attended a Commission meeting since it became an acknowledged fact that her seat would not be legally vacated.

Corker, in Memphis, Hints at a Presidential Race in 2016

“It’s an appealing thing to think about,” the Senator acknowledges in speech to the Economics Club

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 1:16 AM

Steve Bares, Economics Club president; the Senator; and co-hosts for the Corker Q-and-A David Cocke and John Ryder - JB
  • JB
  • Steve Bares, Economics Club president; the Senator; and co-hosts for the Corker Q-and-A David Cocke and John Ryder

Tennessee has had its share of presidential candidates – on the Democratic side, there have been names like Kefauver, Clement, Gore; on the Republican side, Baker, Alexander, Thompson.

Now comes another one thinking about it — name of Corker.

The junior U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker, has the bug. No doubt about it. Speaking to the Economics Club in Memphis at the East Memphis Hilton Wednesday night, Corker fielded a series of questions ranging across the spectrum of public issues — from the minimum wage to Wikileaks to the chaos of Iraq and the threat of Putin — and finally was asked the key question by John Ryder, a Republican, who shared hosting honors for the affair with Democrat David Cocke.

What were the chances, asked Ryder, that “someone who is fiscally conservative, knowledgeable about foreign affairs, perhaps from the southeast corner of this state” might be able to make a successful run for the presidency?

After a burst of bona fide spontaneous applause for the audience, Corker — recently returned from Southeast Asia and embarked now on a statewide tour — recalled what happened in the Middle Tennessee town of Lawrenceburg on Wednesday morning, when, as he was operating on limited sleep from the night before, “somebody asked that same question, and I gave a stream-of-consciousness answer.”

He undertook to frame a more orderly answer for the Economics Club members.

The Senator, a prominent member of the Senate Banking,Housinhg, and Urban Affairs committee and the ranking Republican member of the Foreign Relations committee, began by sounding a note that was simultaneously modest and ambitious.

“There’s an order of magnitude difference between being a United States
Senator and being president,” he said. It was “an honor to be in the Senate,” he went on, but “If you care deeply about the country and you really want to see something happen, to create change and bring about a vision for Tennesseans and things you want to see for our country…it’s an appealing thing to think about.”

Corker said his wife had never “taken to Washington,” so “that would be a really big hurdle.” And there was another caveat.

“Think about the way I answered questions today,” said the Senator, who indeed had been more than usually forthright.. “That’s exactly the way I’d talk about it on the Senate floor, exactly the way I’d talk about it at a Town Hall meeting. In this polarized world of winning a primary and an election…I don’t know.”

He went on: “It’s something that every Senator has thought about, but I promise you that I’m not one of those Senators that wakes up every day and, while shaving, thinks, ‘I’m looking at the next President,,,,I hope that, on our side of the aisle, there’s a consensus candidate who has an outstanding name recognition around our country and, because of their strength, is able to address the issues in somewhat the same manner that I just did. In an honest way.”

Would he himself rule it out? “No.”

Corker's take on some of he issue he was asked about:

The Ukraine – “The Russian population is so energized by what Putin is doing that it’s almost a horse that it’s difficult for him to get off, but at the same time, the policies that he’s put in place are going to do long-term damage to Russia…. We’ve waited too long to push him back strongly and again let it go way too far….This could undo 60 years of U.S. policy. There ae real concerns in Eastern Europe and in the NATO alliance. We waited way too long to put tough sanctions in place.”

The Israeli-Palestinian confrontation in Gaza: "I’m hopeful about the new cease fire…I’d love to see a log-term solution. Israel wants to demilitarize Gaza, but I think that’s easier said than done …In the long run, we’ve got to have a two-state solution."

Iraq: The Senator cited “a petty tough exchange” with President Obama on the eve of his recent foreign trip. He recalled having written the authorization for use of military force in Syria. “The President all of a sudden turned and decided not to pursue it.” That had a lot to do with what happened in Iraq, he said. In Syria, ‘we told them we would support them with arms, but we never did."

Corker said he had visited refugee camps and was “embarrassed for our country” by the hundreds of thousands Thad had died. The Snowden Case and WikiLeaks: “I care about civil liberties [and] don’t want the government snooping on us, but this was a really big deal….Snowden really hurt us in world relations.” The Germans “couldn’t believe that America was spying on the Chancellor {Angela Merkel]...listening in on her cell phones.” They “found some intelligence operatives that had infiltrated the government….That really soured the Germans on Americans. They expected that from the Chinese and Russia. Not us.”

Tax reform: “The solution [to the incidence of American companies going abroad] is to revamp our tax code….Some of my friends [propose a} Hotel California, where you can check in, but you can never check out. But we need a territorial system where big companies are not moving overseas.”

The Senator noted the importance of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and cited his proposal for a raising the gasoline Tax “6 cents next year and 6 cents the year after.” That, he said, would “completely pay for our road program” and would be “the most conservative way to raise revenues.” Income taxes could be offset “to make it revenue-neutral.”

Immigration: Corker said the Senate had been able to find 68 votes for a bill after the add-on of an amendment offering “border security on steroids,” but that “the House has just not been willing to take it up. If he House could pass something, we could conference.”

The minimum wage issue: The Senator said he wasn’t sure that raising the minimum wage was the right solution but noted he was “the only Republican in the Senate to vote to proceed to debate” on the issue. It was “perfectly ridiculous that every other senator on our side of the aisle was not willing to debate,” inasmuch as “that would get us into A conversation” on increasing the national standard of living.

On his vigorous (and improper, said his critics) opposition to the UAW’s bid to represent Volkswagen workers at Chattanooga: The Senator said he was well acquainted with CEOs and CFOs”up and down the ladder“in VW’s foreign and domestic operations, and “I thought my job was to understand where the center of gravity was” so as to ensure that “we got this additional announcement” of S.U.V. production at VW’s Chattanooga plant, including a Research and Development operation.

“I don’t want to sound audacious about this, but I just know it. If the election in February [resulting in a narrow defeat for UAW] had turned out any other way, the announcement would not have happened, the expansion would not have occurred, and we would not have had the additional 2000 jobs. But again, the workers voted, they decided, I just happened to stand up as a former mayor, as someone who knew a few things….I’m not a guy that just got off the last turnip truck. I wasn’t doing that without having some incredible insights into where the company was.”

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Malone suggests Marrero as State Senate Replacement for Judge-elect Kyle

Local Democratic executive committee will apparently make a nomination for the November ballot; Other names in play: Mulroy, Hardaway, Sara Kyle.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Beverly Marrero - JB
  • JB
  • Beverly Marrero
Beverly Marrero, the former state Senator who in the Democratic primary of 2012 was out-voted by Senate colleague Jim Kyle in the newly gerrymandered District 30, may have another opportunity to serve in the Senate if she wants to, and all indications are that she does.

Kyle’s victory in a race for Chancery Court Judge in the county general election just concluded will result in his resigning the Senate seat, creating a vacancy.

Marrero can almost certainly count on an endorsement from Steve Cohen, the newly renominated Democratic incumbent in the 9th congressional District and a longtime supporter of hers, and Deidre Malone, the recent Democratic nominee for Shelby County Mayor in the recent general election has announced her support of Marrero for the seat.

Malone professed herself to be “110 percent” behind Marrero. “She understands the Senate,” Malone said. “She’s been there and, with the majority Republican legislature, we need seasoned individuals in our state positions. My hope is that she’s going to run ad go up there and represent us well, particularly with Amendment One` on the ballot.”

Amendment One is one of four constitutional initiatives passed by the General Assembly for the November statewide ballot and would significantly curtail women’s ability to seek and arrange abortions. The proposed Amendment begins with the words “Noting in this Constitution secures or protects the right to an abortion” and secures the legislature’s right to “enact, amend, and repeal statutes” relating to abortion.

Apparently it will be the province of the Shelby County Democratic executive committee to appoint a nominee, in the expectation that Governor Bill Haslam will set a date for a general election to fill the vacancy. All indications are that he will set the election for November 4.

Another name that had surfaced as a potential candidate for the seat was that of outgoing County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, who is term-limited on the Commission and will leave that body at the end of this month.

Mulroy had been approached, he said, by several colleagues about an interim appointment to the District 30 seat, should one be called for before the party executive committee might make a nomination, but Mulroy has professed uncertainty about seeking it for several reasons, including the fact that he is at present not a resident of District 30.

Other names mentioned in relation to the vacancy include those of state Representative G.A. Hardaway and former Tennessee Regulatory Authority member Sara Kyle, wife of Senator Kyle.

Here We Go Again: There’s Still a Race On in the 9th?

Bergmann vs. Cohen, really? Well, it appears both sides are taking it seriously, at least for the record.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 7:13 AM

Republican Charlotte Bergmann (right, foreground), here with boosters (including former  Ambassador and presidential candidate Alan Keyes, 2nd from left) will try again in he general election against incumbent Steve Cohen, newly victorious in the Democratic primary. - JB
  • JB
  • Republican Charlotte Bergmann (right, foreground), here with boosters (including former Ambassador and presidential candidate Alan Keyes, 2nd from left) will try again in he general election against incumbent Steve Cohen, newly victorious in the Democratic primary.

For what it’s worth, there’s still unfinished business — technically, at least — the 9th Congressional District, where incumbent Steve Cohen compiled a 2 to 1 win last week over challenger Ricky Wilkins.

In today’s email is a press release entitled “Super PAC Behind BEAT LAMAR/ Launches BEAT STEVE COHEN,/ Endorses Charlotte Bergmann,” the first few paragraphs of which read as follows:

Spring Hill, TN—The Real Conservatives National Committee, the Spring Hill, Tennessee Super PAC behind the BEAT LAMAR project, announced today that it is launching a second new project, BEAT STEVE COHEN, and is endorsing Charlotte Bergmann, the Republican nominee who is challenging Representative Cohen (D-TN) in the Ninth Congressional District general election this November.

Michael Patrick Leahy, who organized BEAT LAMAR, BEAT JIM COOPER, and now BEAT STEVE COHEN, said "Steve Cohen is an amnesty supporting Democrat who represents the interests of crony capitalists who want lower wages, and not the residents of the 9th Congressional District, who want real jobs and better wages. Steve Cohen is supposed to represent Memphis, Tennessee. Instead, he represents Washington D.C. lobbyists and Silicon Valley billionaires who want open borders. His support for those policies actively hurts the personal economic interests of every voter in the 9th Congressional District.”

"The Real Conservatives National Committee is pleased to announce our endorsement of Charlotte Bergmann, Congressman Cohen's challenger in the November general election," Leahy said.

The decision to endorse Charlotte Bergmann, the uncontested winner of the August 7th Republican Congressional primary in the 9th Congressional District, was made after Lindsay Krout, the Memphis team captain for BEAT LAMAR, vetted Ms. Bergmann in an informal but hard hitting question and answer session held last Friday…

Meanwhile, is Cohen blowing off this renewed challenge on behalf of a general election opponent he beat in 2010 in his overwhelmingly Democratic district by a 3 o 1 margin (the same ratio of Cohen’s victory in 2012 over Republican George Flinn)?

He is not. Here is his own email release in yesterday’s email, followed by a renewed appeal for donations to Cohen’s reelection campaign:

Please Keep Your Cohen For Congress Yard Sign Up!

Thank you for your support in the Democratic Congressional Primary last week. I appreciate your support and your confidence in me and my work.

We still have a Tea Party Republican opponent in the November General Election. So I ask you for another favor: Please keep your yard sign up until after the General Election. Or if you prefer, you can put the sign in your garage until around October 1 and then get it back out.

I thank you for your ongoing support.

As always, I remain,

Steve Cohen


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Democrats’ Dilemma: Part One — Decline in Tennessee

Posted By on Sat, Aug 9, 2014 at 12:36 PM

The August 7 elections on the local scene reconfirmed what has been the eclipse of Democratic Party fortunes in the state as a whole. We begin an examination of the reasons for this development and possible ways for the party to reestablish itself , both in Shelby County and in the state— and thereby revive the two-party system.

Part One, "How Tennessee Turned Red," outlines the timeline of the Democratic decline in Tennessee as a whole and its replacement by the Republican Party as the state's party of choice.

Subsequent articles will examine the status of the local Democratic Party and future prospects for both the local and the state party.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Déjà Vu Election: Cohen Breezes, GOP Repeats Countywide Romp of Four Years Ago, and Appellate Judges Hang On

Assessor Johnson is lone Democratic winner for county office; few surprises in judicial races; Kyle, Kernell win their races; statewide, Lamar Alexander wins, with Democrat Gordon Ball edging Terry Adams to set up fall Senate race.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 8, 2014 at 7:23 AM

A newly victorious Congressman Steve Cohen takes one of many congratulatory phone calls he received Thursday night. - JB
  • JB
  • A newly victorious Congressman Steve Cohen takes one of many congratulatory phone calls he received Thursday night.
Shelby County’s Democrats began the election year with a determination to avoid the Republican sweep in countywide races that embarrassed and disempowered them four years ago and left many of them claiming election fraud at the hands of the GOP or the Election Commission.

Now, four years later, the same result has occurred — a Republican sweep, this time with federal election monitors on hand to guard against any tampering — and the local party is going to have to ponder that old chestnut so often attributed to Einstein or Churchill or some other historical eminence — the one about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Whether that’s “insanity,” as postulated in the familiar old saw, or ideological weakness, or organizational incompetence, or bad luck, or just what, Democrats took another licking in the election of August 7.

In the end, the only Democratic winner for county office was the same respected office-holder whose victory two years ago had given hope of breaking the losing streak — Cheyenne Johnson, the Shelby County Assessor, who handily defeated the largely unknown Keith Alexander.

The Democratic nominee for Shelby County Mayor, Deidre Malone, ran creditably, it seemed, but never gained traction against Republican incumbent Mark Luttrell, who won with relative ease.

It was the circumstances of two key races that, months ago, had seemed possible rallying points, which insured the continuation of Republican dominance in local relations. “Judge” Joe Brown, the celebrity D.A. candidate who had been counted on to provide a boost for the ticket, and Juvenile Court Clerk aspirant Henri Brooks, who had begun the campaign year with laurels and concluded it in largely self-inflicted adversity, were both embarrassing losers — to incumbents Amy Weirich and Joy Touliatos, respectively .

Though Johnson was the only Democratic winner, several other party candidates managed respective outcomes in the mid- to high 40-percent change — including Criminal Court clerk Wanda Halbert, loser to the GOP's Ridchard DeSaussure; Circuit court Clerk candidate Rhonda Banks, beaten by incumbent Jimmy Moore; and Probate Clerk candidate William Chism Jr., loser to incumbent Paul Boyd.

Incumbent Republican Sheriff Bill Oldham beat Democrat Bennie Cobb, 60-40; GOP County Clerk Wayne Mashburn beat Democrat Charlotte Draper and independent Isaac Wright, with 54 percent; and incumbent GOP register Tom Leatherwood had irt over Coleman Thompson, 58-42.

One problem for the Democrats may have been that the local intra-party race that had seemed capable of driving some significant vote for the party — the 9th District congressional primary pitting four-term incumbent Steve Cohen against his latest challenger, lawyer Ricky Wilkins — saw a repetition of what is now a familiar pattern, Cohen winning with ease.

Despite generating what had seemed more interest at the grass-roots level than any of the last few Democratic primary challengers, Wilkins was beaten two-to-one, having failed to generate a protest vote or any anti-incumbent response of any dimension. His chances of doing a reprise in two years or mounting a race for City Mayor next year took a corresponding hit.

Cohen, on the other hand, emerged even more obviously than before, as the closest thing local Democrats have as a party leader for the long run. But another potential party star for the future, City Councilman Lee Harris, was headed for Cohen's old venue in the state Senate, having romped to victory over incumbent Ophelia Ford and Rickey Dixon in a District 29 race.

Though news of Ford's abysmal attendance record in the General Assembly, coupled with the electorate's memory of her serial embarrassments there, had seemed to make her defeat — the first by a member of the Ford political clan seeking reelection — certain, her 3rd-place finish, a shade behind Dixon, was unexpected.

In other local races, most of the outcomes in judicial contests were expected ones, with most incumbents being returned to the bench. The victory of state Senator Jim Kyle in the race for Chancery Court, Part Two, opens up his legislative seat for what could be an interesting local competition, with an opportunity for a new Democeatic face to emerge.

In what was not a partisan race per se, though it was undoubtedly affected by results elsewhere, longtime Juvenile Court magistrate Dan Michael, whose support was anchored in the GOP, defeated City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon, who had harbored crossover hopes.

In contested races for the Shelby County School Board, incumbent Chris Caldwell edged out Freda Garner-Williams in District 1; Stephanie Love beat two opponents in District 3; Scott McCormick romped over David Winston in District 5;Shante Avant easily beat Jimmy Warren in District 6y; and former longtime state Representative Mike Kernell beat two opponents in District 9.

Statewide, appellate judges, notably Supreme Court Justices Gary Wade, Connie Clark, and Sharon Lee, all targeted in a purge campaign by GOP Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, swept to victory in retention races, as did Governor Bill Haslam in the GOP primary.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander scored a Republican primary victory, too, though he netted only a bare majority of the total vote in his race, with Tea Party challenger Joe Ca rr, who campaigned almost exclusively in Middle Tennessee, relatively close behind with 40 percent and Memphis physician/businessman George Flinn trailing in 3rd place.

. Democrats had a real barn-burner in their primary for U.S. Senator, with Gordon Ball overcoming Terry Adams in a down-to-the-wire race involving the two Knoxville attorneys. The two Democrats were virtually tied until late returns opened up Ball's victory margin a bit.


9th District, U.S. Congress: Steve Cohen 45,366, 66 percent; RickyWilkins 22,311, 33 percent; Isaac Richmond 872, 1 percent

Shelby County Mayor: Mark Luttrell (R), 90,470, 62 percent; Deidfre Malone (D), 52,376, 36 percent; Charles Nelson (I), 1,633, 1 percent; Leo Awgowhat (I), 0.3 percent

Shelby County Sheriff: Bill Oldham (R), 83,622, 59 percent; Bennie Cobb (D), 57,205, 41 percent

District Attorney General: Amy Weirich (R), 94,248, 65 percent; Joe Brown (D), 50,161, 35 percent

Shelby County Assessor: Cheyenne Johnson (D), 77,782, 56 percent; Keith Alexander (R), 57,002, 41 percent; John C. Bogan (I), 4,018, 3 percent

Criminal Court Clerk: Richard DeSaussure (R), 73,484, 53 p
ercent; Wanda Halbert (D), 65,588, 47 percent

Juvenile Court Judge: Dan Michael 67,917, 54 percent; Russell Sugarmon, 58,065, 46 percent

Shelby County Trustee: David Lenoir (R), 74,947, 54.99 percent; Derrick Bennett (D), 54,404, 39.91 percent; David K. Kemp (I), 6,9067, 5.07 percent

Circuit Court Clerk: Jimmy Moore (R), 74,785, 54.50 percent; Rhonda Banks (D), 62, 370, 45.45 percent

Juvenile Court Clerk: Joy Touliatos (R), 80,161, 56.97 percent; Henri Brooks (D), 53,776, 38.22 percent; Morrie E. Noel, 6,685 (I), 6,685, 4.75 percent

Probate Court Clerk: Paul Boyd (R), 72,114, 52.73 percent; William Chism Jr. (D), 64,501, 47.17 percent

Register of Deeds: Tom Leatherwood (R), 80,453, 57.78 percent; Coleman Thompson (D), 58,741, 42.19 percent.

Shelby County Clerk: Wayne Mashburn (R), 74,956; 54.26 percent; Charlotte B. Draper (D), 58,9862, 42.68 percent

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Bogus-Ballot Controversies Rage on Election Day

Former congressman attempts to halt questionable "Ford ballot," while Shelby County Democratic Party editor changes party's endorsements to suit herself, in 25,000 editions.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 7, 2014 at 6:08 PM

The supposed "Harold Ford Sr." ballot
  • The supposed "Harold Ford Sr." ballot

As rain clouds threatened to dampen what was already an unevenly distributed turnout on August 7, election day — one tilted toward the suburbs and the county’s Republican constituency — two new bogus-ballot controversies threatened to further divide the already roiled corps of local Democrats.

One issue was what purported to be a sample ballot with candidate recommendations from Harold Ford Sr., the former congressman and long-time political broker whose issuance of election-day sample ballots during his political heyday "Ford ballots," they were called) influenced the results of many an election.

This poster-sized ballot was emblazoned with the name and portrait of Ford Sr. and was reportedly issued by son Isaac Ford and perhaps other members of the extended Ford political clan, including Justin Ford, a nephew of the former congressman and a member of the Shelby County Commission.

But this new version of a "Ford ballot" was apparently wholly unauthorized by Harold Ford Sr. himself, whose attorney, David Cocke, was in court on Tuesday trying desperately to halt distribution of the ballot through an injunction. (Results of that legal effort unknown as of this posting.)

Among the beneficiaries of the apparently counterfeit ballot was 9th District congressional candidate Ricky Wilkins, who is attempting to upset incumbent Steve Cohen in the Democratic primary. But the ballot also confers its endorsement on leading Republicans like Governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.

Another ballot controversy erupting on election dayinvolved the distribution of some 25,000 copies of the official newspaper of the Shelby County Democratic Party by the paper’s editor, Lexie Carter. The paper contained what was represented as the party’s official endorsement ballot, but several of the endorsements made and confirmed through numerous meeting of the SCDP’s executive committee had been changed, replaced with the names of candidates favored by Carter

Examples of candidates on the official endorsement list who were replaced by Carter on what she put forth as that list were Probate Judge candidate Danny Kail, replaced by incumbent Judge Karen Webster, and Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee, replaced by candidate Kenya Brooks.

When news of the substitutions were publicized in a Facebook post, a lengthy thread developed, with hostile back-and-forths between Carter and numerous local Democrats who accused her of willfullymisrepresenting the party’s will and perpetrating damage on candidates endorsed by the SCDP.

Carter insisted that she was the legal owner of the newspaper and was within her rights to make the changes.

Asked what the party's options were regarding the changed ballot, party chairman Bryan Carson said he had no immediate answer but that the issue was serious and would be taken up after the election.

For obvious reasons, that response is unlikely to satisfy anyone whose election prospects end up being damaged by the unauthorized changes.

More as this story develops.

Lexie Carter's transformed version of the SCDP endorsements
  • Lexie Carter's transformed version of the SCDP endorsements

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pics from the August 7 Campaign Season

A photographic miscellany of fair things and foul, to jog your memory (or help you forget)

Posted on Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 5:44 PM

How It Looked: Pics from the Campaign Season
Separated at Birth 2: Getting Some Help from Above 'Howdy, Bro!' Bringing It Talk About Coattails!.... A Little Help from His Friends... Bolstering Justice(s) Lending a Hand

How It Looked: Pics from the Campaign Season

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Sorry, Ricky, the Washington Post Says Isaac Richmond is the Real Challenger in the 9th

Posted By on Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Dr. Isaac Richmond
  • Dr. Isaac Richmond

We’re not making this up; the Washington Post, long regarded as the nation’s leading political newspaper, ignores Ricky Wilkins, the chief opponent to incumbent 9th District congressman Steve Cohen in Thursday’s Democratic prijmary, in its Wednesday “Post Politics” column and focuses instead on Dr. Isaac Richmond, who is also on the ballot; what do they know that we don’t know?

— More Tennessee: Three House primaries to watch: In the 3rd District, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R) faces venture capitalist Weston Wamp (R), son of former Rep. Zach Wamp (R). In the 4th District, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) has been outspent by his primary opponent, state Sen. Jim Tracy (R). Tracy fell short of beating DesJarlais in 2010. And in the 9th District, Rep. Steve Cohen (D) faces pastor Isaac Richmond (D) in a race that hasn't had anywhere near the racial undertones that have marked previous challenges to Cohen.

Dr. Richmond, director of the Memphis-based Commission on Religion and Racism, is perhaps a more deserving candidate than the local media (ourselves included) have so far indicated, but this is one instance in which we have to challenge the long-established wisdom of the Post.

And we’d be greatly surprised if the ever-active local corps of Wilkins media-watchers don’t get on the phone to Washington pronto — if they haven’t already.

Adams or Ball: Tennessee Democrats Have a Viable Choice for U.S. Senate

Each promises a return to bedrock party values and an optimism about the fall campaign.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 7:04 AM

The term “embarrassment of riches” is not something that has been applied to the Democratic Party’s candidate lineup in a while — and definitely not in Tennessee, where the party has been brought to the edge of extinction.

But it actually applies to the circumstances of the Democrats’ U.S. Senate primary, featuring two candidates that almost nobody had even heard of a year ago. Not outside of Knoxville, anyhow, and maybe not even there.

But Terry Adams, the Knoxville lawyer who was quietly recruited as a comer by surviving members of the seriously mauled Tennessee Democratic Establishment a year or so ago has proved to be just that in his grueling, under-funded Senate race.

And Gordon Ball, also a Knoxville lawyer, has quickened the hopes of state Democrats, as well —conjuring up a vision of a self-funder who, while still unmistakably a Democrat, can appeal to the state’s centrists.

Both have been virtually omni-present in Memphis, which they see as are a key to victory in the Democratic primary. Both are likable in close-up situations and have demonstrated an ability to connect with ordinary Tennesseans on the stump. Either would make a respectable Democratic candidate, and, depending on what happens in the Republican primary, either might have a chance of pulling off an upset.

Adams  addressing Germantown Democrats - JB
  • JB
  • Adams addressing Germantown Democrats
One of these two will be eliminated when the votes are counted Thursday, and, despite some grumbling among their respective partisans, either should be able to unify the state’s Democrats against (a) a wounded Lamar Alexander, roughed up in his primary by yet another Tea Party challenge to a GOP incumbent; or (b) the godsend of Joe Carr, should that back-bench thumper actually turn out to have the winning lottery ticket.

(If Lamar should coast to victory, as he always has in the past, that’s another matter)

But here was Terry Adams, speaking to the Germantown Democratic Club week before last, and wondering out loud if Tennesseans were offered a choice between Lamar Alexander, “a servant of Wall Street,” or “Terry Adams, who will be a fierce advocate for Tennessee’s Main Street.” He asked his listeners, “If we give Tennessee that choice, who do you think they will choose?”

He got the expected answer, in a chorus, and continued: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is serious business. It’s one thing to get elected. It’s a whole different thing to govern. We’ve got to get started. This country’s $17 trillion in debt. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is disappearing. Ladies and gentlemen, our democracy is being hacked! It’s been hijacked! It’s been held back by millionaires, by corporations, and by special interests….”

All this in a gathering rhythm, a rising momentum, but In a soft, reasonable voice that sounds urgent rather than bombastic. The man can speak. And in his insistence that Democrats don’t have to tone down their message or try to accommodate some vague center, he is a veritable populist and a throwback of sorts to the days when the party’s orators used to fill up town squares with calls for remedial action to benefit the common man.

He is a veteran, able to connect to traditionalists with a message that the men and women who have served in uniform are victims of “catastrophic” neglect. And he believes that Democrats can still win in a red state that is getting redder. “I’m telling you, ladies and gentlemen, this is what we have to do. We Democrats have to work together. We have to get out and vote. 1.1 million people voted for the president in 2008. If the same 1.1 million people get out and vote in this election, we’ll beat Lamar Alexander by 200,000 votes, and we don't have to compromise our principles!”

Ball on the stump - JB
  • JB
  • Ball on the stump
Gordon Ball, too, has the common touch. Lean and white-haired, he has a vague resemblance to Jimmy Carter and the same air of folksiness that elevated that unknown Georgian to national prominence.

After first proclaiming to an audience at Bolivar, “I’m Gordon Ball, and I’m going to be your next United States Senator,” he wastes no time in relating what his audience may heard about the hugeness of his success as a lawyer to the details of his upbringing: “I grew up in a one-bedroom house trailer in Cocke County, Tennessee. My dad was a moonshiner, and at the time I was born he was a house guest of the federal government.

“Since '75, when I graduated from law school in Memphis, I’ve been trying to solve people’s problems, and I’ve lived my life and my legal career by one thing an old farmer said to me ne time. We were doing a film, and he looked right in the camera, and he said, ‘Where do the little people go for justice? Well, that’s what my life has been about.”

Like Adams, Ball is able to represent himself as a throwback to historic Democratic values, and can do so visually, having thrown some $400,000 of his own money into a series of television ads. If Terry Adams can bash corporations verbally, Ball can boast of having taken it to them in a series of class-action suits.

He can sit down with a table-full of labor representative, as he did recently in Memphis, and talk about strategies for raising the minimum wage. For environmentalists, he has the tale of how, “over and over,” he sued the paper companies that had dumped waste into the Pigeon River of his native East Tennessee and forced them to pay for cleanup.

Both Adams and Ball are in sync with contemporary Democrats on issues like women’s rights and support for gays. Both are for raising the minimum wage and for expansion of Medicaid and protection of Medicare and Social Security from privatization schemes.

They differ on two issues that Adams has tried to underscore — Ball’s support for the construction of the Keystone pipeline and his proposal for a flat tax that Ball says would simplify and streamline the tax code and that Adams says would raise taxes for working people and the middle class and lower them for “millionaires like himself.”

Adams expresses concern also about Ball's former support of Republicans like Alexander and Governor Bill Haslam (both of which actions Ball has since renounced and apologized for). He says that their differences on the score of tax policy are so great that he’s not sure he could support Ball if he latter should become the nominee. Ball says only that he intends to “support the Democratic nominee.”

But there seems little doubt that most Tennessee Democrats who dream of reclaiming their party from its fallen state would have little difficulty coalescing behind the winner of a Democratic primary that has showcased both men as viable campaigners, willing and able to make an aggressive race in the fall.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

DOJ Agrees to Send Federal Monitors for Thursday's Election Here

Department responds to requests from Meyers of Election Commission, Democrats on Shelby County Commission, Cohen, et al.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Robert Meyers
  • Robert Meyers
The U.S. Department of Justice has responded affirmatively  to numerous calls for federal monitoring of Thursday's Shelby County general election and federal and state primaries, the Flyer has learned.

Robert Meyers, chairman of the county Election Commission, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the DOJ would concur with requests for federal monitors from himself, from the Shelby County Commission, from 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, and from other officials.

The County Commission on Monday voted to request such monitors by a 7-0 vote, all Democrats voting aye and all Republicans abstaining.,

In a speech to the Memphis Rotary Club on Tuesday, Meyers had said that he, too, was willing for federal monitors to come. "We have nothing to hide," he said.

Meyers said he had requested the monitors during a phone call at 9 Tuesday morning to the office of Ed Stanton, U.S. Attorney General for the Western Division of Tennessee.

He said that a representative of the DOJ Civil Rights Division confirmed dring a 4 p.m. conference call with himself and Election Administrator Richard Holden that representatives of the Division would monitor the August 7 election.

"I was pleased to learn that the DOJ would come down and monitor the election. I believe this further supports our continued commitment to transparency," Meyers said, in language similar to that which he used in his Rotary speech.

More details as they are learned.

"Open Door" the Key to GOP Success Statewide, Claim Ranking GOP Officials

Haslam, Alexander, Fincher hit Bartlett as last stop on state barnstorming tour.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 10:59 AM

L to r: Fincher, Haslam, Alexander - JB
  • JB
  • L to r: Fincher, Haslam, Alexander

Appearing at a rally in Bartlett’s Freeman Park after a long day of barnstorming through the state, three of Tennessee’s major Republican office-holders — Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, and 8th District congressman Stephen Fincher — expressed satisfaction with the large Republican turnout in early voting statewide.

“There’s been a lot of debate about whether we should have closed primaries,” Haslam said. “The more we’ve opened our doors, the more success we’ve had. To have 750,000 to vote in the Republican primary, I think, is an extraordinary accomplishment.”

The same tack was taken by Alexander, the only one of the three with significant GOP primary opposition (in the Senator’s case from state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas and physician/businessman George Flinn of Memphis.

Asked about a charge by Carr that Flinn’s presence in the race was in collusion with Alexander so as to draw anti-incumbent votes away from Carr, Alexander answered, “Dr Flinn has a chance to run, and it’s a free country. All of us do. As the governor was saying, we have an open primary, and as a result of our open door, we have many candidates….The result is a larger Republican Party, a more conservative party, and a more successful Republican Party.”

Fincher, who has several opponents, acknowledged that he hadn’t seen many of them on the stump. Nor has Haslam been sorely troubled by his nominal opponents. The governor’s concerns seemed clearly to lie more with the result of judicial retention elections, particular as regards the three state Supeme Court Justices — Gary Wade, Connie Clark, and Sharon Lee — who have been targeted by a well-funded campaign against their retention spearheaded by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.

Asked about TV commercials favoring retention that quote him as warning of “danger” in the anti-retention campaign, Haslam said that his worries run more to the effect of the campaign on the ultimate passage of Amendment #2 on the November election ballot, which revises the current method of selecting appellate judges but leaves the appointive power in the governor’s hands.

Wade, Clark, and Lee campaigned in Memphis this past weekend and were welcomed at several stops with support from local officials, including 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, a Democrat, and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, a Republican.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

WTF? LaTroy, You Got Some (More) ‘Splainin’ to Do!

A faux TV endorsement shows up on the streets as well; Cohen calls Monday morning press conference to discuss.

Posted By on Sun, Aug 3, 2014 at 11:23 PM

M. LaTroy Williams, the sometime politician who seems to be shifting his focus from perennial — and unsuccessful — runs for office to behind-the-scenes string-pulling, may have taken election-year chutzpah to new levels.

Williams, who most recently lost the Democratic primary for Trustee to Derrick Bennett, has spent much of the last few months recruiting candidates for the “ballot” he has put out in advance of the August 7 election.

  • Williams
Like several other local entrepreneurs, Williams, in effect, offered candidates space on a sample ballot to pass out to voters— so long as the included candidates were willing to pay for the privilege.

Like the other sample ballots of this sort, Williams’ contains the word “Democratic” in its title, though it has no relationship, formal or informal, to the Shelby County Democratic Party, the Tennessee Democratic Party, or the National Democratic Committee, In 2010, the Shelby County Democratic Party was forced to seek a legal injunction against Williams for sponsoring such a ballot.

Williams has taken the Art of the Faux to new heights, however. As the proprietor of something called “The National Democratic Party U.S.A.”(again, no relation whatsoever to the Democratic National Committee) Williams concocted a TV commercial that began running last week announcing en endorsement of lawyer Ricky Wilkins in the Democratic primary for Congress in the 9th District.

Fine, so long as anyone seeing the commercial realizes that the “National Democratic Party U.S.A.” is basically M. LaTroy Williams.

Over the weekend, the masquerade took on another dimension, however, as the “National Democratic Party U.S.A.” took his — er, its — campaign to the streets with sizeable signs endorsing both President Obama and Wilkins but laid out in such a way as to suggest that it is President Obama who is endorsing
Wilkins – the same President Obama who has certifiably endorsed incumbent congressman Steve Cohen.

To wit:

Cohen has called a press conference for 10:30 Monday morning to review the matter.

The congressman’s office has issued a press release regarding “deceptive campaigning” by Williams that “benefits” candidate Wilkins (though the release does not attribute Williams’ actions to Cohen’s opponent, whose name is misspelled on the faux "National Democratic Party" banners).

As the release goes on to say:

The deceptive campaign tactics include:

•A television spot that has aired on at least one station that falsely implies that it is an endorsement of Ricky Wilkins by the Democratic National Committee
•Signs placed in various locations around town that falsely imply the endorsement of Ricky Wilkins by the Democratic National Committee and President Barack Obama
•A ballot that candidates, including Ricky Wilkins, pay to have their name on that Williams’ poll workers pretend is an official Democratic Party endorsement list
Congressman Cohen will discuss the ongoing effort to combat the deceptive practices carried out on behalf of the Ricky Wilkins campaign.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

AFSCME Local 1733 Board Agrees: No Endorsements in the 9th

Agreement comes after Thursday night meeting at union headquarters; signs like the one shown here will disappear, and legal action may be directed at unauthorized billboard on Covington Pike.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 11:03 PM

Soon to be a thing of the past - JB
  • JB
  • Soon to be a thing of the past

It’s a compromise solution that would make King Solomon proud. The Flyer has learned that the executive board of Local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has reached agreement on the matter of endorsing a candidate in the 9th District congressional primary.

Afer meeting for several hours at AFSCME headquarters on Beale Thursday night, the board agreed that neither Steve Cohen, the Democratic incumbent, nor Ricky Wilkins, his challenger, will be endorsed by the Local during the current primary, which will end next Thursday, August 7.

After August 7, the board will meet again to decide on the matter of endorsing the primary winner, whether Cohen or Wilkins, with the likelihood that the winner will be formally endorsed by Local 1733 at that point. In the meantime, Cohen retains the endorsement and financial support he has already received from AFSCME’s national board.

Reportedly, all members of the seven-member board, including Local 1733 president Janice Chalmers, agreed on this solution.

But there’s still a problem to be resolved. A billboard — one of those with alternating messages — has materialized on Covington Pike bearing the message that Wilkins has been endorsed by president Chalmers.

Chalmers had acknowledged on Wednesday that she had agreed to endorse Wilkins prior to a press conference announced Monday night by the Wilkins campaign and scheduled for Tuesday morning at AFSCME headquarters.

Apparently after hearing from Cohen, however, representatives of the national union contacted Chalmers and, in her words, "caused me to cancel Local 1733's participation in the press conference.”

Wilkins and a group of supporters went ahead with the press conference in the absence of anyone from AFSCME, and Wilkins , who blamed that absence on “bullying" and “intimidation” by Cohen, continued to claim that he had been endorsed by the Local.

That issue seems to have been rendered moot by the board’s Thursday night agreement that there is, for the moment, no endorsement of either candidate by Local 1733, and there won’t be one until the primary is over. Chalmers is said tc have concurred with that decision.

But the billboard is a red flag. At the board meeting, after two members had reported seeing it on Covington Pike, the entire board, including Chalmers, reportedly agreed that the sign was unauthorized and should be removed, inasmuch as it used the union’s name without formal approval.

No one knew who had paid for the sign or arranged for it to be displayed on Covington Pike, and several members discussed the option of bringing charges against whoever was responsible for erecting the sign.

In the meantime, the small yard signs supporting Wilkins that someone had planted in the grounds around the AFSCME building before Tuesday’s abortive press conference will be removed, one board member said.

Plans are to meet with the media on Friday to explain further details.

Meanwhile, additional information will be posted here as it is learned.


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