Friday, September 30, 2016

Election 2016: Of Millennials and Dead Voters

The deceased rise again in a local debate recalling a 2005 special election here and in a new case of an alleged vote-fraud attempt in Virginia.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 9:53 AM

Debaters Roland and Cocke at East Memphis Rotary - JB
  • JB
  • Debaters Roland and Cocke at East Memphis Rotary


**ON MILLENIAL VOTERS: As more and more attention is focused on the matter of whether and how the nation’s millennials will vote for President, local spokespersons for both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, vented sorts of concerns with the attitudes of that youngest eligible part of the electorate, regarded by numerous commentators as a potential swing bloc in the election.

Speaking at the opening of the Memphis Hillary-for-President headquarters on Poplar Avenue last Saturday, 9th District congressman Steve Cohen worried out loud that youthful voters might keep their distance from the polls and thereby shirk their duty to the future. “Millennials need to wake up before they drown,” said Cohen, conjuring up a nightmare vision of melted polar ice caps and rising water levels.

Days later, Shelby County Commissioner and Trump campaign West Tennessee chair Terry Roland expressed a fear that voters in that age group lacked a sense of urgency about the specters confronting American in both the domestic and foreign spheres. “I’m more worried about the millennials than I am about China!” is how Roland put it in the course of a Wednesday luncheon debate before the East Memphis Rotary Club at trhe Racquet Club, in which Roland represented Trump and Democrat David Cocke did the honors for Clinton.


**ON FRAUD AT THE POLLS: As election day approaches, and with the courts paying increasing attention to the viability of voting laws, Roland has publicly reactivated the matter of fraud in his losing bid for the state Senate against Democrat Ophelia Ford in 2005.

In his debate with Cocke, Roland recalled the closeness of that special election, brought about when Ford’s brother, the long-serving John Ford, had to vacate his District 29 seat after being indicted in the Tennessee Waltz scandal. “She beat me by 13 votes, but we found 27 dead people that voted,” Roland said. “Mr. Trump is worried about legal elections. Now, if anybody wants to know about a crooked election, meet me after this is over with, and I can talk to you about it.”

In his turn, Cocke, who — as Roland had observed — represented Ophelia Ford in legal challenges stemming from the election outcome, took issue with Roland’s statement. “When we went through that entire process, instead of 27 dead people, they found two. And there were 14 votes in that election, they only found two discrepancies.” Those fraudulent votes were the result of ballot forgery on the party of two election-poll workers, Cocke said.

As it happens, neither debater would seem to be exactly right. Three election workers, not two, were eventually indicted for crimes associated with that election, and the number of purported dead voters listed in the indictment was 2, not 27. The discrepancy in Roland’s account may stem from the fact that the offenses occurred in Precinct 27-1.

A third forged ballot, linked to a voter who had moved out of the county but was still alive, was alleged in the indictment, bringing the total of demonstrably forged votes to 3.

Asked after the Rotary debate about the difference between the 3 fraudulent votes listed in the indictment and the 27 he claimed, Roland insisted that the number he gave was what turned up in a TBI investigation of the election but that only two were reported after the indictment of the poll workers was sealed.

But news reports of the time indicate that, when the indictment was unsealed for trial, then District Attorney General Bill Gibbons mentioned only the three aforementioned forged ballots, though 37 counts of various kinds, most of them felonies related to the intricacies of the attempted deception, were alleged against the indicted election workers.

Senator Ophelia Ford’s victory in that 2005 special election was first voided by the state Senate, but Ford, assisted by Cocke, sued and obtained a federal injunction overturning the Senate’s action and requiring due process through hearings. The Senate dutifully complied, heard testimony, and in April 2006 voted once more to void the election.

In the regular election cycle of 2006, Ford and Roland had a rematch, won easily by Ford.


**At the national level, the issue of “dead voters” is anything but dead, it would seem. Election officials in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and the FBI are investigating the possibility that almost 20 voter applications using the names of dead people have been turned in to the Harrisonburg Registrar.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Rockingham County Commonwealth Attorney’s office is investigating a claim by Harrisonburg Registrar Debbie Logan that “from 18 to 20 potentially fraudulent registrations” were turned in by a student member of a voter-registration group called “HarrisonburgVOTES.”

The newspaper quotes Logan as saying the potential scandal came to light when one of her employees noticed and flagged a new registration bearing the name of the late Richard Claybrook Sr., father of a well-known local judge

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Janis Fullilove: Shot at and Downed by a Memphis Policeman in 1968?

That’s what happened to her, the Councilwoman alleges to a shocked audience of local Democrats; it occurred, she says, while she, as a schoolgirl, was marching in honor of Dr. King after his assassination.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 6:04 AM



As described
Councilwoman Fullilove addressing local Democrats on Sunday night - JB
  • JB
  • Councilwoman Fullilove addressing local Democrats on Sunday night
 in a companion article, “Shelby Democrats Make Do on GOTV,” the efforts of local supporters of the Democratic presidential nominee included a Sunday night event — styled as an “African-American Rally for Hillary Clinton” — at Christ Missionary Church on South Parkway.

As noted in the article, the major theme of the event was to establish a meaningful connection between the civil rights struggle of half a century ago and the fight to elect Clinton, thereby to maintain and defend the gains from that era.

Virtually every speaker expressed some version of that theme, but no one did it so vividly and even shockingly as City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, who told a story that most, if not all, the members of her audience had not heard before, and which had apparently never before been related publicly in any form.

The kernel of that tale was Fullilove’s contention that, while a school girl marching in memory of the recently assassinated Martin Luther King in 1968, she was shot at by a Memphis police officer and left to lie helpless in fear on a downtown Memphis pavement.

Here is the story as she told it Sunday night:
“…I don't want to be long, but I think about 1968, and I was a young thing, 18 years old, attending the Booker t. Washington High School of leadership excellence. And when Dr. King came to Memphis, members of the NAACP — Jesse Turner, Maxine and Vasco Smith — they came and they embraced us and said, ‘We want you to be part of this movement because we’re doing this for your tomorrow. And I remember sanding on the stage of Mason Temple on the night that Dr. King had given his Mountaintop speech. And I remember how moved I was at 18 years old to hear that speech from this man, who thought enough of our sanitation workers to come to the city to mobilize us, to get what was done that was right to be done, and showed us how to do it.

“The next day, my grandmother and I had gone to Corondolet. That was like Target, and it was in the North Memphis area, and we were shopping, very quickly, because, she said, ‘Look, Dr. King is going to speak at 6 o’clock. We’ve got to hurry up in order to go home and go hear what he has to say. When it was around 3 o’clock that afternoon, we were shopping, and I went down another aisle, and I heard a white man say, ‘They just shot that nigger, Dr. King!’ It hurt me so bad, I ran to my grandmother, and she saw the look in my eyes and said, ‘What’s wrong?’ And said, ‘They’ve shot Dr. King!’ And she threw everything down that she had in her hands, and we went home, and everything was chaotic.

“When you talk about 'the winds were ranging,' well, the winds were ranging in the city of Memphis, they were raging, the storm was brewing, and it didn’t seem to get any better; we began to march, and we marched and marched, and I was shot at by a Memphis police officer, and I had a ponytail on the top of my head. And the bullet hole went through it. And as I was laying on the corner of Vance St., it was Vance and 4th, because no one would open their doors and let me in, and I didn’t know whether I was shot, I was just frightened out of my head, I just lay there and said, ‘Lord, have mercy! Things have got to change…..”


From there, Fullilove segued into a description of the Memphis she sees a half century later, in which “racism abounds…and people are brewing hatred by talking, ‘Let’s make American great again….”
Go here for more details from her story and the Sunday night pro-Clinton rally.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cohen Calls Presidential Race “Armageddon,” Says Trump in League with Russia

Keynoting a kickoff weekend for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, congressman addresses local Democrats.

Posted By on Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 7:53 AM

Congressman Cohen, flanked by Hillary Clinton cutout and local Clinton campaign co-chair David Cambron, fired up the troops at new Hillary headquarters on Poplar Avenue. - JB
  • JB
  • Congressman Cohen, flanked by Hillary Clinton cutout and local Clinton campaign co-chair David Cambron, fired up the troops at new Hillary headquarters on Poplar Avenue.


Shelby County’s Democrats may be —— for the moment, anyhow — lacking a formal local party organization (after the decertification of the Shelby County Democratic Party by state party chair Mary Maninci). But that fact apparently isn’t hindering their Get-Out-the-Vote efforts. 9th District congressman Steve Cohen kicked off several days of party GOTV activity on Saturday with a brief but fiery speech to supporters of Hillary Clinton’s presidential race at their new headquarters on Poplar.

“This is Armageddon,” Cohen told a sizeable crowd crammed into a meeting room at the headquarters. “We have a choice between a lady who wants to carry on Barack Obama’s legacy and …the most Neanderthal candidate we’ve ever had as the nominee of a major political party.”

Clinton’s opponent Donald Trump is “trying to win with lies and hate and misinformation,” and by “dividing people,” Cohen said.

Linking Trump to Russia, Cohen said, “We’re going to find out more and more about his contacts with Russia. We’ve never had a candidate in our history who owes so much, or any amount, for that matter, to a foreign nation. And particularly a foreign nation that is one of our most powerful enemies, or the antithesis of what America is about.”

Cohen said Clinton’s campaign was one of “looking out for America,” while Trump’s was devoted to “self-interest” and involvement with “oligarchs.”

He said that Clinton “will appoint a Supreme Court that will take us in the right direction,” defending the legacy of such landmark Court decisions as Brown vs. Board of Education on desegregation and Baker vs. Carr on one-person-one-vote.

She would further safeguard the environment, “protecting air and water and not making the Koch Brothers first,” developing “new forms of energy — sun, air, and not coal,” and taking action in the sphere of climate change. “Millennials need to wake up before they drown,” said Cohen, conjuring up a nightmare vision of melted polar ice caps and rising water levels.

Scoffing at various public criticisms of Clinton for faults of her own, Cohen said, “The perfect is enemy of the good. And I’m telling you, Hillary Clinton is very, very good.”

The congressman then extolled President Obama, who, he said, “has been spectacular,” making America “more the country it was intended to be than ever before.” Detailing his attendance, the previous day at the formal opening of the new Museum of African-American History in Washington, Cohen even had a kind word for former Republican president George W. Bush, who “did the right thing” in helping get that museum project started."

“And he’s for Hillary, too,” Cohen theorized about Bush, who is known to be among several notable Republicans giving Trump a wide berth in this election. That drew an appreciative laugh from his audience.

Other local events planned by the Hillary Clinton campaign include a Sunday night “African Americans for Hillary Rally” at Christ Missionary Baptist Church at 494 South Parkway East and a debate-watch party Monday night at the Trolley Shop Market, for the televised Clinton-Trump encounter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

County Commission Renews Power Struggle with Mayor Luttrell

Ordinance to be voted on Monday would impose stringent guidelines on administrative appointments, with new test case brewing on interim County Attorney Pascover.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 10:25 PM

Interim County Attorney Kathryn Pasocver's Day in Three Stages: L to r, with County CAO Harvey Kennedy, dealing with Commission questions; shmoozing with potential critic Terry Roland; and chatting up George Chism - JB
  • JB
  • Interim County Attorney Kathryn Pasocver's Day in Three Stages: L to r, with County CAO Harvey Kennedy, dealing with Commission questions; shmoozing with potential critic Terry Roland; and chatting up George Chism


The power struggle between the Shelby County Commission — or a substantial portion of its membership — and the administration of County Mayor Mark Luttrell goes on.

The latest installment, which generated a good deal of fire and fury, took place on Wednesday during a discussion of an ordinance that would subject the administration to new Commission guidelines in making interim appointments to a wide variety of positions.

Co-sponsored by Commissioner Terry Roland, a Republican, and Van Turner, a Democrat, the ordinance makes a point of affirming the Commission’s power to confirm such appointments and would establish a 90-day maximum as the time an interim appointee could serve in office before a vote of confirmation would be mandated.

Or, in the language of the ordinance, “The County Commission hereby deems 90 days as a reasonable time period for an interim to serve in such capacity before a nominee is to be presented to the County Commission for final confirmation….{i]mmediately upon the expiration of the interim division director’s appointment…a nominee to fill the vacancy for the aforementioned position shall be presented to the County Commission for consideration of confirmation to fill the vacancy.”

Said vote to confirm or deny would then require a simple majority of the Commission.

Harvey Kennedy, the Mayor’s CAO, immediately condemned the proposed ordinance as “totally unnecessary…an inappropriate intrusion into the Mayor’s appointive authority” and pronounced the 90-day limit provision “unreasonable,” especially given the time restrictions laid down by outside search committees.

Roland retorted that, as matters stand, the administration can prolong indefinitely the tenure of an interim appointee, especially if Commission confirmation came to seem unlikely, so as to “circumvent” the Commission’s authority. And he quarreled with the administration’s penchant for hiring on the outside. “Why do you have to go somewhere else to find somebody when you’ve got somebody that’s qualified?”

That was a tacit reference to the administration’s announced plan, as of two weeks ago, to engage Memphis lawyer Kathryn Pascover as an interim attorney. Toi the Commission, it seemed clear the administration would eventually propose her as permanent County Attorney —bypassing in the process Marcy Ingram, a longtime assistant County Attorney who, with fellow assistant Kim Koratsky, has been serving on an interim basis. A vacancy arose earlier this year when former County Attorney Ross Dyer was appointed by Governor Bill Haslam to a state appellate judgeship.

Roland suggested that Ingram had run afoul of the administration by preparing, at Commission request, a proposal for a ballot referendum enlarging the scope of the Commission’s advise-and-consent function to include dismissal of appointees as well as confirmation of their appointments. That proposal got a positive vote from the Commission.

The background of the newly proposed ordinance includes several other skirmishes already fought between Commission and administration — notably the matter of the Commission’s continuing desire to have its own counsel. That was something stoutly resisted on the Mayor’s side — although, after a good deal of tugging back and forth, the administration has reluctantly consented to former Commissioner Julian Bolton’s serving the Commission as a “policy advisor.”

Besides the independent-attorney issue per se, there have been numerous other points of contention between Commission and administration, many of them having to do with fiscal control. The professional background of Pascover, most recently associated with the Ford Harrison law firm, is one in which she has represented employers in a variety of labor-management issues.

When the administration tried to have Pasocver’s status placed on the agenda of the most recent public meeting of the Commission, enough Commissioners objected that it was kept off, and there was some subtle bargaining back and forth that resulted in Bolton’s being able to claim, for the first time, at least a modicum of pay for his assistance to the Commission.

In any case, the infighting goes on, and Pascover’s status is the latest test case. During some of the prolonged wrangling on Wednesday, Democratic Commissioner Reginald Milton said with an air of weary reluctance that he would vote for the ordinance but served notice that he was “at the end of my rope” with the “constant battle” between legislative branches.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” said GOP Commissioner Heidi Shafer apropos the need to establish checks and balances between the two branches, and she defended the proposed ordinance as a means to ensure that both branches, as well as the people themselves, were properly served. She argued further that, while the Mayor had the right to name his staff, the County Attorney should not, properly speaking, be regarded as a member of his staff but as a representative of county government as a whole.

Pascover acquitted herself with a fair degree of aplomb and diplomacy when various questions were posed to her from Commissioners — especially when Commissioner Mark Billingsley asked if the proposed ordinance required changes in the charter.

She headed off some brewing objections by saying she was “conflicted out” of answering because her own circumstances were at stake and that the legal staff was seeking outside counsel for advice, with an answer of sorts due on Monday, when the issue goes to the floor for a vote.

Tentatively, the Commissioners present for the committee meeting on Wednesday gave the proposal a 6-2 endorsement, with Commissioners Billingsley and George Chism voting no.




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rep. Durham Expelled from State House by 70-2 Vote

Action clears the way for legislature to pursue main purpose of special session, to amend a state law threatening $62 million in federal funding.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 8:10 AM

Durham in the dock of the House on Tuesday
  • Durham in the dock of the House on Tuesday

The first of two important objectives of this week’s special session of the General Assembly was achieved in Nashville on Tuesday — the formal expulsion from the legislature of  accused sexual predator Jeremy Durham.

Technically, the action against Durham, achieved by a 70-2 House vote in favor of expulsion, was an add-on to the special session, which had been called by Governor Bill Haslam to amend a new state law that had raised permissible alcohol-level units from youthful drivers and threatened thereby to cause a loss of $62 million in federal funding.

But the Durham matter dominated public attention and was acted on first.

Durham, a Republican from suburban Franklin, had represented House District 65 but had already been overwhelmingly defeated in the August 4 primary election by political newcomer Sam Whitson after widespread publicity about improper behavior toward women working in Legislative Plaza, culminating in a state Attorney General’s report alleging 22 known cases.

That report had followed year-end disclosures in the Nashville Tennessean of untoward activity by Durham, resulting in his forced resignation from a position as GOP legislative whip and later in his ousting from their party caucus by House Republicans, after the House’s minority Democrats and state Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini had begun making Durham something of a negative cause célèbre.

In particular, Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, under persistent challenge by the Democrats for alleged inaction, assumed an increasingly aggressive posture toward Durham and, after public circulation of the AG’s report, banished Durham from Legislative Plaza except during actual sessions, removed his office to an adjoining building, and prohibited any interactions of his with female staffers without third-person supervision.

Meanwhile, Governor Haslam, state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, and other leading Republicans joined Harwell in calling for Durham to resign from the legislature.

Not even Durham’s defeat by Whitson quelled the furor, inasmuch as the defeated one-term representative still remained eligible for a modest annual state pension. That fact was the proximate reason for the expulsion action, which GOP state representative Susan Lynn of Mt. Juliet announced that she intended to introduce on the special session’s first day.

Somewhat unexpectedly on that first day, various Democratic House members, including Memphians G.A. Hardaway and Larry Miller, joined Republican Rick Womick in raising objections to the expulsion process, based on various procedural issues and a professed concern for due process.

From the Democrats’ point of view, that was a strategy designed to prolong discussion of the Durham matter — and the consequent embarrassment to Republicans, whom Democrats intended to charge with negligent oversight and early attempts to suppress awareness of Durham’s derelictions. The strategy was amended overnight, however, as public reaction to it seemed clearly averse.

On the second day, key Democrats like caucus chair Mike Stewart of Nashville joined with Republicans in making something of a prosecutorial attack on Durham, who made an effort, for at least the first hour of the Tuesday session, to defend himself, though without specifics and without offering credible reasons why he had failed to offer evidence in his own defense during the Attorney General’s investigation.

State Rep. Johnnie Turner of Memphis provided one of the signal moments of Tuesday’s session — and a turning point of sorts — when she eloquently contrasted the plight of Durham’s female victims with what had been abstract debate about legal niceties and the format of the expulsion process.

Though there were a fair number of absentees from the expulsion vote and several members abstained from voting, Durham in the end had only two votes against his expulsion — Republicans Courtney Rogers of Goodlettsville and Terri Lynn Weaver of Lancaster — and the 70 votes to expel him were four more than the two-thirds figure of 66 needed.

In apparent anticipation of the result, Durham had already departed the chamber and the Capitol building. His chapter of the special session was over — along, it would seem, with his public career.


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Monday, August 29, 2016

County Commission Takes First Step Toward Power-Sharing in Hiring and Firing of County Attorney

Luttrell offers mild protest to measure, which will be imbedded in a referendum, presumably on the November ballot.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 4:45 PM



Mayor Luttrell during debate not the power-sharing measure - JB
  • JB
  • Mayor Luttrell during debate not the power-sharing measure
For some time, various members of the Shelby County Commission have been trying to wrest a share of control over various local governmental prerogatives that have hitherto been the exclusive province of the County Mayor. Most of their efforts have concerned expanded  fiscal oversight of this kind or that. But one of them falls directly into Mayor Mark Luttrell's prerogatives of appointment.

This was an ordinance, sponsored by outgoing chairman Terry Roland, amending the Shelby County charter to "require the hiring appointment and dismissal process for the County Attorney to consist of a recommendation from the County Mayor with the concurrence of a resolution of the Board of County Commissioners."

It would fall short of allowing the Commission to hire its own lawyer, a continuing and so far thwarted desire, but it would give the body a share of the process, one which, Roland said during debate, would tend to make the process "independent" and pave the way for further expansion of Commission wherewithal in the future.

In the end, the ordinance, during its third and final reading on Monday,  would gain the required 9 votes from the 13-member body, the number needed in order to qualify as a ballot referendum, presumably in November.

In a brief debate on the matter, Mayor Luttrell had said he would give the ordinance "serious consideration," and did not object to submitting the matter tthe people for a vote, but made it clear he preferred that it not pass. He compared the appointment of a County Attorney to the appointment by the President of the United States of an Attorney General and said he thought the processes should be similar.

Both Reaves, who wondered about the efficacy of submitting the matter to the people via a referendum, asked, "Does this really matter to Joe Blow?", and Chism, who thought the ordinance fell short of actually giving the Commission any power and was therefore somewhat pointless, voted no, as would Steve Basar who merely said he would "agree to disagree" with advocates for the measure.

Commissioner Heidi Shafer, along with Roland a prime supporter of expanding the Commission's piece of the action, made it clear that the ordinance was a direct result of the long-standing quarrel over the Commission's wish to have its own attorney. "If we had our own staff, this would not need to be implemented," she said. And she added,  November would be "a good time to be engaged."

Luttrell reacted, somewhat obliquely, to what Shafer said (and others had implied in previous debates) by saying, "Some comments have been made regarding the Mayor's influence on relations between the County Attorney and the Mayor." He denied siding with the County Attorney's office against the Commission and said he had "taken pains" to avoid that circumstance.

Monday's action comes in the aftermath of the resignation of former County Attorney Ross Dyer, who vacated the position following his appointment to a state appellate court. It was during Dyer's tenure that tension first flared over the Commission's wish to have his own attorney to render independent advice.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dyer consistently offered opinions that the County Charter made no allowance for the Commission's hiring of its own attorney.

In the interim, ssistant county attorneys Marcy Ingram and Kim Kuratsky are, in effect, alternating in the role of provisional County Attorney.















Friday, August 26, 2016

Haslam, in Memphis, Suggests Calling Special Session

Governor says bill raising blood-alcohol levels for young motorists must be amended, or state could lose $60 million in federal funds.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 11:28 AM

Governor Haslam
  • Governor Haslam

Governor Bill Haslam, in Memphis on Thursday to visit Winridge Elementary School to klick off a statewide tour of K-12 public schools, said he would call a special session of the legislature to look into amending a DUI law passed in the last session that raised permissible alcohol levels for 18- to 20-year old motorists.

The National Highway Safety Administration has announced that the state is liable to lose 8 percent of its federal highway funding annually, or $60 million, as a result of raising the alcohol blood level from .02 per cent to .08 for the affected youthful motorists. The higher amount is in violation of the federal government’s zero tolerance policy for the 18-to-20 year-old group.

“$60 million is too much money to give up,” Haslam told reporters. Noting that members of the state’s congressional delegation are negotiating with the federal government for some sort of compromise on the funding matter, the Governor said the legislature would have to act if those efforts failed.
As of now, the change in funding is scheduled to begin in October.

• The Governor also said, “I’m not a fan” of efforts to decriminalize recreational marijuana use, when asked about a pending ordinance before the Memphis City Council to allow police to give misdemeanor tickets rather than to make felony arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Haslam said, “I do think there are people spending more time in jail than they need to,” but he said outright decriminalization would not be a “helpful signal” in a state where drug abuse remains a problem.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Shelby County Democratic Party Decertified

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 4:13 PM

State Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini has, in the wake of the dispute between the TNDP and the Shelby County Democratic Party over the correct procedures for dealing with ousted former SCDP chairman Bryan Carson, officially decertified the local party.
TNDP chair Mancini
  • TNDP chair Mancini
 
Mancini took the action in a letter to current Shelby County Democratic Party chair Michael Pope.

In claiming the right to decertify the party, Macini cited  "Article III Section 2(f) and Article VII Section 1(a)(3) of the Tennessee Democratic Party Bylaws," which, she said, give her the power "to develop and monitor a minimum set of requirements that must be observed by a state sanctioned certified County Democratic Party."

Although Mancini did not specify particular reasons for her action, she has been at a standoff with the local party's executive committee over the Carson issue. The SCDP executive committee has declined — by virtue of a 10-10 tie in voting on the matter — to ratify a payback agreement reached between Mancini's office and SCDP chairman Pope, allowing Carson to pay $6,000 to the party at the rate of $100 a month in order to satisfy the local party's claims of financial irregularities during Carson's chairmanship.

A strong component of the Shelby County committee's membership has pressed for sterner action against Carson, contending that he embezzled at least $25,000 in party funds that cannot be accounted for. And a majority of the committee voted last week to declare Carson non bona fides as a Democrat, an action that Mancini claims the local party lacked sufficient grounds or legal underpinning for.

The Carson affair is but the most glaring example of discord between the local party and Mancini, who expressed displeasure that the SCDP has incurred substantial fines for late and insufficient financial disclosures to the state Election Registry, both during and after Carson's chairmanship.

Even beyond the financial issues, the SCDP executive-committee membership has been seriously divided on matters of organization and leadership, and some current and former members have openly invited an action like that which Mancini has now taken, as a prelude to starting the local party over again from the ground up.

One such was veteran blogger Steve Steffens of leftwingcracker.blogspot.com, who in a post on Mancini's action said in part:  "Today, TNDP Chair Mary Mancini did what we have been urging her to do, decertifying the Shelby County Democratic Party, sending it to a farm where it could run and play with other defunct institutions.  It had ceased to function as a political organization a long time ago, unable to deal with the Bryan Carson situation...."

Alvin Crook, president of the Shelby County Young Democrats, responded to the surprise new development by noting that his own organization still maintained full legitimacy and pledging to work with state party officials in rebuilding efforts locally. Crook said the YDs would also be holding a press conference on Saturday, time and place to be announced.

Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, wasted no time in commenting on the new development in Democratic ranks, issuing the following statement:

"With allegations flying that $25,000 from donors has gone missing, the TNDP's answer is to simply sweep the issue under the rug. That's inexcusable. A proper and transparent investigation needs to be conducted immediately and, if necessary, charges should be filed. Shelby County deserves better but this whole episode is just another example of the Democratic Party's long tradition of corruption."

Below is Mancini's letter of today, addressed to  SCDP chair Pope, conveying the news of her action and the reasons for it.
2016-08-18_TNDP_SCDP_Decertify_Letter.pdf  
More information to come:

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Kustoff v. Flinn Backstory

Though it was not so obvious publicly, with 13 candidates running, the two campaigns saw themselves engaged in a two-person race.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 10:46 AM



There are some interesting backstory twists to the 8th Congressional District Republican primary just concluded, in which former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff
Kustoff (l), Flinn
  • Kustoff (l), Flinn
beat fellow Shelby Countian George Flinn and 11 others.

People in the Flinn camp were still seething over a late Kustoff ad which accused broadcast executive/radiologist Flinn of having supported “a Democrat” in a prior election. The unnamed Democrat was Shea Flinn, the doctor’s son, who many years ago ran an unsuccessful race for state Representative and later was appointed to an interim position as state Senator.

Shea Flinn, now a vice president of the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce, still later was elected to two terms as a Memphis City Councilman. He was also a member of the inner circle in his Council colleague Jim Strickland’s successful campaign for Mayor last year.

The fact that Strickland was, before his election, the law partner of David Kustoff created an odd and somewhat ironic overlap in the congressional race. But there were many other such overlaps, such as the fact that many of Kustoff’s chief fund-raisers — notably Mike Keeney, Mitch Graves, and Billy Orgel — also had served Strickland in that capacity.

The two campaigns also employed Steven Reid of Sutton Reid, a Memphis-based political consulting firm, though Kustoff’s chief strategist was Chip Saltsman, who had been campaign manager for the presidential campaign in 2008 of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who endorsed Kustoff in the congressional race.

A further connection between the Strickland and Kustoff campaigns was that they shared the same pollster, Patrick Lanne of Public Opinion Strategies, a firm based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Although the fact never surfaced publicly, Lanne’s polling for Kustoff had, until the week or two before the election, showed a consistent lead for Flinn in the 13-person 8th District race — as did Flinn’s own polling. Flinn’s campaign loan to himself of $3 million had also allowed the Memphis physician to advertise not only more consistently than other candidates but in more places throughout the district (e.g., in the Paducah, Kentucky, media market).

As Kustoff put on a well-funded late rush, the congressional race became, basically, a two-person affair between himself and Flinn, whom he was able to surpass only at the end of the race, and mainly through his edge of 4500 votes over Flinn in Shelby County (as against a mere 2500-vote margin in the district as a whole).

The ‘Flinn-supported-a-Democrat’ ad was a late thrust, and the Flinn campaign had only a day or so to counter it, with a fresh ad of their own, pointing out the family relationship between the two political
Flinns. The Flinn campaign’s bitterness over the Kustoff ad was paralleled to some degree by a Kustoff supporter’s observation that in Flinn’s response ad, he had made a point of calling himself a Christian.

(Kustoff is Jewish, and, if he is successful in November, as is expected against the Democratic nominee Rickey Hopson, a political newcomer, Memphis would have not only two congressmen for the first time since 1994, the city would have two Jewish congressmen, the other being Steve Cohen, a Democrat, in the 9th District.)

In any case, though few outside the two campaigns were aware of it, the showdown between Flinn and Kustoff overshadowed other candidates in the campaign’s late stages, notably Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, an early leader in the race, and state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown, who had been expected to contend.

Kustoff Edges Flinn, 11 Others in GOP 8th District Race

In other results, Curry Todd loses reelection bid for his House seat, Stanton holds on as General Sessions Clerk.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 1:25 AM

8th District GOP winner David Kustoff, flanked by wife Roberta and his children and by his mother Sharon, greets supporters at victory party. - JB
  • JB
  • 8th District GOP winner David Kustoff, flanked by wife Roberta and his children and by his mother Sharon, greets supporters at victory party.

On his second try, lawyer David Kustoff, a former U.S. Attorney for Shelby County, has won a congressional seat.

Kustoff, who ran second to Marsha Blackburn in a multi-candidate race for Congress in the 7th District back in 2002, finished ahead of 12 other candidates in the Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District, which has been reapportioned to take in much of the same territory that Kustoff ran in before.

Although Kustoff will have to face a Democratic opponent, Rickey Hopson of Arlington, winner of the Democratic primary over Gregory Alan Frye (2595 votes to 1736), and several independent candidates in the November 8 general election, victory in the GOP primary is tantamount to winning in the 8th these days and in much of the rest of Tennessee, as well.

Kustoff received 16,505 votes, for 27.3 period of the total district vote, while businessman/physician George Flinn finished second with 13,956 votes or 23.1 percent. Third place went to Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, 10,597 votes and 17.6 percent of the total. State Senator Brian Kelsey, with 7,806 votes and 12.9 percent, and Jackson businessman Brad Greer, with 6,807 votes and 11.3 percent, came next.

In Shelby County, the order of finish was Kustoff, Luttrell, Kelsey, Flinn, and Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood.

Speaking to joyous supporters at the Marriott Hotel on Poplar Avenue Thursday night, Kustoff professed himself “humbled” by the opportunity to serve the 8th District and reminded the crowd that he had another election to run in the general.

He said he had run “for all the right reasons,” mentioning among them a concern for public safety and national security, maintenance of America’s southern border, and countering “wasteful spending.”

Kustoff’s greater edge over Flinn within Shelby County, some 4500 votes, as compared to 2500 over the runner-up in the district as a whole, was clearly the key to his victory; his Shelby County totals owed much to the winner’s long-term service in Republican Party ranks and a resultant hold over local party activists.

Kustoff has also long been prominent in state GOP ranks, having been Tennessee campaign manager for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.

In the late stages of the campaign, Kustoff and his supporters went on the attack and generated some controversy, as with a late ad from a PAC friendly to Kustoff that accused Flinn of having once backed a “Democrat” for office. With less than a day to respond, Flinn pointed out in an ad of his own that the Democrat in question was his son, Shea Flinn, who served a brief appointive term in the state Senate and was elected twice to the Memphis City Council in non-partisan elections.

In other contests:

*Incumbent Steve Cohen, with 35.628 votes, well over 80 percent of the vote, easily dispatched three opponents —Justin Ford,4164; M. LaTroy Williams,1453'; and Larry Crim, 407 —in the Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District.

*Incumbent state Senator Sara Kyle, with 7603 votes,  defeated former Senator Beverly Marrero, with 2478 in the Democratic primary for Senate District 30.

*Plagued by late publicity accruing to his arrest for stealing opponents’ yard signs, District 95 incumbent state Representative Curry Todd, with1493 votes,  was easily beaten in the Republican primary by Mark Lovell, who had 4437 Other candidates were Diane George, with 1149 and Dana Matheny, with 833.

*Incumbent state Representative Johnnie Turner, with 3352 votes, beat challengers Keith Williams, with 1259and Felicia Irons, 546, in the Democratic primary for House District 85.

*Larry Miller, Incumbent state Representative in District 88, with 2794 votes, turned away Stephen Christian, with 697, in the Democratic primary.

*John DeBerry,  House District 90 incumbent, with 2727votes, edged out challenger Tami Sawyer, with 2088.

*Dwayne Thompson's 1481 votes won over Earl LeFlore's 983 in the Democratic primary for House District 96 for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Steve McManus, who defeated challenger Price Harris with 2717 votes against 877 in his primary.

*Incumbent Antonio Parkinson easily defeated Johnnie Hatten, 2676 to 926, in the Democratic primary for House District 98.

*Valerie Smith, a recent gubernatorial appointee to serve as Circuit Court Judge in Division III, defeated Michael G. Floyd, with 51,300 votes to 22,712,  but another appointee, Chancellor Jim Newsom, was the victim of a vote split in the race for Chancellor, Part III, his 23,850 votes losing to challenger Joe Jenkins, with 20,431. David Ferguson was a third candidate, with 18,056.

*Despite fears of his supporters that a stiff GOP turnout in the 8th District congressional race might aid Republican challenger Richard Morton, General Sessions Clerk Ed Stanton Jr., the Democratic incumbent, was able to prevail, with 45,432 votes to Morton's 28,121. Independent William Chism had 5493.

*Incumbent Stephanie Love, with 3232 votes, defeated Sharon Field, with 2242, in the District 3 race for the Shelby County Schools Board.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Candidates Pulling Out the Stops

Some call on ex-presidential candidates for backup, amid charges of campaign skullduggery and one bona fide arrest.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2016 at 7:42 PM

flinn_complaint.jpg

Late developments in various legislative races and one intensely contested congressional race are heating up beyond even what your sorely taxed thermometers are showing.

*The latest flare-up in the 8th District congressional race is a contention by the George Flinn campaign that one of Flinn’s GOP primary foes, former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, is behind a series of attack ads which, among other things, accuse Republican Flinn of (horrors!) having supported a Democrat in a previous election campaign.

That Democrat, of course, is Shea Flinn, currently a vice president of the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce and a former city councilman who did in fact enjoy support from broadcaster/physician George Flinn — who happens to be Shea Flinn’s father.

That the two have maintained close family relations while differing significantly on political matters has never been exactly a secret.

The younger Flinn, Jackson radio talk host Frankie Lax, and John Niven, a campaign aide to George Flinn have all pointed to Kustoff as the source of the series of attack ads, and Lax has cited documents relating the attack ads directly to an advertising agency controlled by family members and associates of former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who is supporting Kustoff in the 8th District race and has actively campaigned for him.



Kelsey and Santorum in Collierville - JB
  • JB
  • Kelsey and Santorum in Collierville
*Meanwhile, Kustoff is not the only 8th District candidate leaning on support from a former Republican presidential candidate. State Senator Brian Kelsey was accompanied on a district tour on Tuesday by former Pe nnsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, runner-up to Mitt Romney in the GOP primary contests of 2012.
At Collierville, end stop on the tour, Santorum, who emphasized his conservative position on social issues during his run for the presidency, vouched for Kelsey as someone of similar views and as a fiscal conservative as well.



*And, according to state Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Republicans have mounted misleading primary campaigns against two incumbent Democratic House members running for reelection.

Speaking to reporters in Memphis, Stewart pinpointed the Rev. Keith Williams, whose opposes state Rep. Johnnie Turner in District 85, as a faux Democrat who has failed to vote in Democratic primaries in a series of recent election and did not vote in either general election campaign waged by President Obama. (Williams has also benefited from name confusion with Memphis/Shelby County Education Association CEO Keith Williams, Stewart noted.)

Stewart also charged that Republicans are backing the Democratic primary campaign of Johnnie Hatten, a charter school/ASD advocate who in the District 98 race is challenging state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a consistent critic of the ASD and other educational initiatives pursued by the administration of GOP Governor Bill Haslam.



*Finally, GOP state Representative Curry Todd, the District 95 incumbent who has been accused by primary opponents Diane George and Mark Lovell of stealing their campaign signs but has either denied doing so, despite apparent photographic proof of the fact, or maintained he had permission to remove the signs, was arrested this week by Sheriff’s deputies for — yep, stealing opponents’ yard signs.

Todd, his pickup, and its contents in June
  • Todd, his pickup, and its contents in June

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Here's Hillary!

One week after Republican nominee Donald Trump hurled his defining acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton answered for the Democrats.

Posted By on Sat, Jul 30, 2016 at 9:01 AM

JB
  • JB

PHILADELPHIA -- She was swathed in white, with all the multiple-choice symbolisms that go with that fact, pant-suit or not.

She began her speech of acceptance with thanks to daughter Chelsea, who had introduced her, and with courtesy nods to the two male Democrats who had preceded her in the presidency, which, as her party’s formal nominee, she now hopes to achieve herself:
Her husband Bill, “my Explainer-in-Chief….the Man from Hope,” and Barack Obama, “the Man of Hope.”

Both had apotheosized her — former President Clinton on Tuesday night of the Democratic convention now ending with (literally) blazes of glory, current President Obama on the next night, when he told the teeming audience of delegates and spectators and the millions watching from elsewhere, electronically, that no one, “not Bill, not me,” had ever come to the presidency better prepared than her, Hillary Clinton.

And she thanked her chief rival for the nomination:

I want to thank Bernie Sanders.

Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.

You’ve put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong.

And to all of your supporters here and around the country:

I want you to know, I’ve heard you.

Your cause is our cause.

Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.

That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.


Nor did Hillary Clinton omit from her attention the remaining obstacle to her quest — Donald J. Trump, the outspoken billionaire developer and celebrity who had, out of nowhere, come to bear the standard of the opposition party, the very patrimony of which she would deny him:

He’s taken the Republican Party a long way … from “Morning in America” to “Midnight in America.”

He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.


“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against.

But we are not afraid.

We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.



She would, in her speech, associate herself with all political callings:

I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

For the struggling, the striving and the successful.

For those who vote for me and those who don’t.

For all Americans.



But there would be yet another nod to Sanders, the “democratic socialist” who had run her so close and whose call for a political revolution had mobilized millions of potential cadres for the November election. There was no doubt that her rival had basically co-authored a party platform that would, as she said, “help working people in our country get ahead and stay ahead.”

Further:

Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!

We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt.



And even further, after she’d laid out a program of further governmental incentives. How would she pay for them?:


…[H]ere’s how: Wall Street, corporations, and the super rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes.

Not because we resent success. Because when more than 90 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, that’s where the money is.


Her motto of the day, and perhaps of the campaign to come, was “Stronger Together.” Over the next few days, in this space and in the Flyer issue of August 4, we’ll take a more detailed look at how Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first woman nominated for President by a major party, how her convention went, and what she intends to do if elected.

And we’ll make comparisons to how her opponent, Donald Trump, got to where he is, as well, to what he intends to do, and more about his prospects, going forth from his own convention.

Meanwhile, here are two looks from Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the first a spirited performance by Katy Perry, the second Hillary Clinton and friends in the post-speech celebration:






 








Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bernie vs. Protesters

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 8:00 PM

img_5607.jpg
Bernie Sanders has been addressing Democratic delegations on behalf of Hillary Clinton. In the street, supporters repurpose the progressive Senator's campaign rhetoric: It's not him, it's us.

This video juxtaposes Sanders' message with images of protests beyond the convention perimeter.


Sen. Bernie Sanders Addresses Tennessee Democrats

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 6:22 PM

img_5794.jpg
Senator Bernie Sanders dropped in on a joint breakfast for Tennessee, Michigan, and Minnesota delegations.  


Streets of Philadelphia — DNC, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 4:05 PM

CHRIS DAVIS
  • Chris Davis
While speeches were being made inside Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center Bernie Sanders supporters and Black Loves Matters protesters marched took to the streets to make some noise. This is what it looked like. 
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