Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

Gov. Bill Haslam to give Senate bid ‘serious consideration’

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Ernst & Young will add 600 jobs in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam tells Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he was caught off guard by Sen. Lamar Alexander’s decision not to seek another term, and that he will give “serious consideration” about running for the seat.

“That’s obviously new news to me as well,” the Republican governor told the Times Free Press. “I will give it serious consideration and will have a better answer to your question in coming days. But for now this is a great time to honor Lamar.”

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke was coy when the paper asked the Democrat about whether he will run for the open Senate seat.

“There are many issues important to me that affect not just Chattanoogans, but Tennesseans as a whole. I am always looking for opportunities to focus on the issues that will help improve the quality of life in Tennessee,” he said.

Other potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin), who came in third in the Republican gubernatorial primary earlier this year; U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City); U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis); and Bill Hagerty, president Donald Trump’s ambassador to Japan and a former state economic development commissioner.

Sen. Lamar Alexander won’t run again in 2020

Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former governor and two-time presidential candidate, won’t seek re-election in 2020.

The decision will likely set off a mad scramble among Republicans seeking to succeed him in the Senate. Alexander’s planned departure follows a decision by Tennessee junior senator Bob Corker not to run again this year.

Corker released the following statement about Alexander’s decision:

One of the highlights of my time in the Senate has been working with Lamar Alexander. I often tell him he is the legislator of the decade because of the effective way he has worked across the aisle to pass legislation that directly affects the lives of so many throughout our state and around the country. As one of the finest statesmen our state has ever seen, Lamar will leave behind a remarkable legacy. I know he will press through the next two years with great vigor, and I look forward to all he will accomplish on behalf of Tennesseans as he completes his service in Washington.

Here’s what Gov. Bill Haslam had to say:

It is almost impossible to measure the impact of Lamar Alexander’s commitment to Tennessee.  His time as governor paved the way for the economic position we enjoy today as a leading state for business, and his educational reforms were ahead of his time.  As a senator, he has distinguished himself as a national leader, while always reminding everyone that our founders designed our government for most of the power to be delegated to the states.  No one has served our state longer as a governor and senator, and few, if any, have served it better than Lamar.

 

Vanderbilt poll finds strong support for Gov.-elect Lee

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee speaks at a rally in Franklin on Oct. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A new poll by Vanderbilt University finds Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee coming into office with support nearly rivaling that of outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam.

Here’s the release from Vanderbilt:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Governor-elect Bill Lee will enter office with a strong favorability rating of 57 percent, with only 22 percent of registered voters holding an unfavorable view, according to the latest Vanderbilt University Poll. The findings also suggest Lee will also find support for some of his initiatives, including expanding vocational training in the state. Meanwhile, health care has surpassed the economy and education for the first time in the poll’s history as Tennesseans’ chief priority for state government.

“Overall, we see support for an agenda that could work for our incoming governor,” said John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll. “Education and the economy are strong priorities, as well as immigration and infrastructure.”

“The one worry Bill Lee must deal with is health care, which has risen in importance to Tennesseans,” said poll co-director Josh Clinton, Abby and Jon Winkelried Professor of Political Science. “Although the two are related, health care now takes precedence above the economy to voters here.”

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Ag tech company Indigo bringing 700 jobs to Memphis

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Indigo Ag, Inc. President and CEO David Perry announced today that the agricultural technology company will establish the headquarters for its North American commercial operations in Memphis.

Indigo will invest nearly $6.6 million and create over 700 jobs in Memphis over the next three years.

“I’m extremely pleased to see Indigo create hundreds of corporate office jobs in Memphis with this expansion,” Haslam said. “Indigo is one of the fastest growing startups in the country, and the decision to make Memphis such a vital part of its future growth is a testament to Tennessee’s vibrant economy and skilled workforce.”

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Rose names former Rep. Hilleary as chief of staff

Former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary (R-Spring City), left, was named chief of staff for Rep.-elect John Rose (R-Cookeville), right. (Image credit: Rose’s office)

U.S. Rep.-elect John Rose (R-Cookeville) has chosen former Rep. Van Hilleary as chief of staff.

Hilleary (R-Spring City) represented the 4th Congressional District from 1994 to 2002. He vacated his seat to run for governor in 2002, but fell short to Democrat Phil Bredesen in that race. He came in third in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 2006, a race won by former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker.  Hilleary has since worked as a lobbyist in Washington.

“Having an experienced person like Van Hilleary agree to serve as my chief of staff will greatly benefit me and my constituents from day one,” Rose said in a release. “He will bring the Washington know-how to our team, but is not a Washington insider. He is my friend and I could not be more proud to have him on board.”

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Lee names 2 new Cabinet members, keeps 2 others

Gov.-elect Bill Lee has named new commissioners of the tourism and safety departments, while keeping the commissioners of financial institutions and tourism from predecessor Bill Haslam’s administration.

Here’s the full release from the Lee transition office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced four appointments to his cabinet for departments including Commerce and Insurance, Financial Institutions, Safety and Homeland Security, and Tourist Development. 

“I am pleased these four talented individuals have agreed to join my cabinet and lead these important departments,” said Lee. “Their experience and institutional knowledge will be invaluable as we build long-term solutions for our state.”

The Governor-elect named the following appointments today:

  • Julie McPeak– Department of Commerce and Insurance
  • Greg Gonzales– Department of Financial Institutions
  • Jeff Long– Department of Safety and Homeland Security
  • Mark Ezell – Department of Tourist Development

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Sheriff Jeff Long to be named Lee’s safety commissioner

Gov.-elect Bill Lee plans to name Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long as commissioner of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, a source close to the transition tells The Tennessee Journal.

Long, the Tennessee Sheriff Association’s sheriff of the year of 2013, will succeed David Purkey, who was named safety commissioner in 2016. Purkey, , a former state trooper and mayor of Hamblen County, had previously served as assistant commissioner since 2011.

Long succeeded former Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley, who had resigned earlier in 2008 as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in Davidson and Williamson counties over fraudulently obtaining prescription pain pills.

Long wrote in a 2017 letter to the editor of The Tennessean that he met Lt. Gov. Rand McNally (R-Oak Ridge) in the opening phases of Operation Rocky Top, in which the lawmaker wore a wire for investigators. “He placed his whole political career in jeopardy by having the strength to stand up for what was right,” Long wrote. “Operation Rocky Top would not have been possible if not for a man of high character and morality as Lt. Governor McNally.”

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Internal poll finds Alexander with 65% approval rating among Republicans

As U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander mulls whether to run for another term, his pollster has found that the incumbent is “in a strong position” to win the Republican nomination if he runs again. According to the internal poll memo obtained by The Tennessee Journal, Alexander has a favorability rating of 65% among Republican primary voters, compared with just 22% who view him unfavorably.

Alexander’s job performance was rated at 64%-27% among “very conservative” Republicans in the poll, while it was 73%-18% among somewhat and moderate Republicans.

Alexander has said he will decide before the end of the year whether to run again.

The survey of 600 likely Republican voters was conducted Nov. 26 through Nov. 29. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station show biggest population growth in state

The communities of Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station are experiencing the fastest population growth in the state, according to new Census tract data analyzed by the University of Tennessee. Nearly 6,200 people moved to the area between 2013 and 2017, a 19% increase.

Click on the map for a look at the top 20 population increases.

The statistics for the state’s nearly 1,500 census tracts show that 268, or 18%, showed significant population growth, while 90 tracts, or 6%, showed decreases.

 

Of the 20 fastest-growing tracts, 12 were in the Nashville metropolitan area. And the state capital region accounted for 46% of the tracts with population increases. The Memphis area accounted for 28 of the 90 tracts with decreases. Another 29 tracts posting population declines were located in rural areas.

 

 

Richardson named partner at McMahan Winstead lobbying firm

Anna Richardson will become a parter in the lobbying firm founded by David McMahan and Beth Winstead. Richardson joined the prominent contract lobbying outfit in 2011 after serving as a legislative staffer, including for newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin). The firm will be renamed McMahan Winstead & Richardson on Jan. 1.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE – McMahan Winstead today announced Anna M. Richardson will join David McMahan and Beth Winstead as a partner with the firm effective January 1. The firm will officially change its name to McMahan Winstead & Richardson on that date.

“Eight years ago, Anna brought her extensive legislative experience and legal expertise to our firm giving our clients unmatched representation in the Tennessee General Assembly. Her contributions have brought our firm to new heights,” said David McMahan. “Joining Beth and me as a partner is the next logical step for Anna and well-deserved. Our firm is built on honesty, loyalty and hard work. Anna displays all three on a daily basis. We could not be more excited about this new partnership.

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