U.S. Senate race

VA doctor accused of violating Hatch Act as 2014 TN candidate for U.S. Senate

A Veterans Affairs doctor is accused of violating the federal Hatch Act during a failed 2014 campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, including promoting his campaign during visits with at least one patient, reports The Tennessean.

Choudhury Salekin violated the act 15 times, according to a release from the Office of Special Counsel (see below)…. It could not immediately be confirmed if Salekin was still working at the Murfreesboro VA facility. A message left for Salekin seeking comment was not immediately returned Wednesday evening.

Note: Salekin, one of eight independent candidates on the ballot, received 787 votes statewide in the Nov. 4, 2014 general election – won by Alexander with 850,087 votes with Democrat Gordon Ball runnerup with 437,848 votes, according to official returns posted on the Division of Election website.

Press release from U.S. Office of Special Counsel

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has filed a complaint for disciplinary action with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) against a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctor, charging him with 15 counts of violating the Hatch Act.

While an employee of the VA’s Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (in Murfreesboro), the doctor ran as an independent candidate in the 2014 partisan election for the office of U.S. senator from Tennessee. According to OSC, the doctor promoted his candidacy by distributing business cards featuring the VA’s official seal and touting his campaign video, which was available on his campaign website and on YouTube.

The video included a testimonial from a patient he had treated at the VA. OSC also alleges that the doctor encouraged several VA colleagues and at least one patient – during a medical consultation – to watch his campaign video. He also solicited campaign contributions both online and in person and invited at least one patient, also during a medical consultation, to a campaign event.

The Hatch Act generally prohibits federal employees from being candidates in partisan elections – even as independent candidates – and from knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions from any person, at any time. The Hatch Act also prohibits employees from using their official influence as government employees to affect the result of an election. Finally, federal employees may not engage in any political activity while on duty or in the federal workplace.

According to OSC’s November 17, 2017, complaint, the VA doctor had received guidance from the VA’s acting general counsel outlining each of the Hatch Act’s restrictions.

OSC’s complaint asks the MSPB to find that the doctor engaged in prohibited political activity as charged and to order appropriate disciplinary action. Penalties for Hatch Act violations range from reprimand or suspension to removal and debarment from federal employment.

“Federal employees should remember their restrictions under the Hatch Act,” Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said. “Those who have questions should contact the Office of Special Counsel or their relevant agency officials for advice.”

…The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. Our basic authorities come from four federal statutes: the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. OSC’s primary mission is to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially whistleblower retaliation, and to serve as a safe channel for allegations of wrongdoing. For more information, please visit our website at www.osc.gov.

Peyton Manning: No to Senate race, yes to Alzheimer’s research

Football star Peyton Manning told a Nashville sports radio station Wednesday that he won’t run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, according to the Associated Press.

“I certainly have an interest in politics and in our country,” the former NFL and University of Tennessee quarterback told WGFX-FM. “I just have zero interest in being a politician.”

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Speculation begins on candidates to succeed Corker

Sen. Bob Corker’s announcement that he won’t seek reelection in 2018 is likely to touch off a multi-candidate melee among Republicans who would like to succeed him. It has certainly touched off a lot of instant media speculation.

At the top of the instant speculation list is Gov. Bill Haslam, a Corker friend since their college days who, since we’re speculating, might even get the retiring senator’s endorsement. Haslam will be finishing his last year in office in 2018 and has been vague on future plans.

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Corker announces he will NOT seek reelection

News release from Sen. Bob Corker:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement.

“After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018.

“When I ran for the Senate in 2006, I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving for more than two terms. Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult. But I have always been drawn to the citizen legislator model, and while I realize it is not for everyone, I believe with the kind of service I provide, it is the right one for me.

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Facebook page urges Green to run against Corker

A Facebook page has been set up under the title “Draft Mark Green to run for U.S. Senate in 2018” and The Tennessean quotes Rick Williams,  “a tea party-aligned conservative activist,” saying he was one of several people who helped form a group of the same name.

“It’s a group of conservatives from across the state,” Williams said, adding that he and others in the group were supportive of Green’s bid for governor and Army secretary. Some who are part of the online group were among the signatories of a letter encouraging Green to run for governor.

“A lot of us don’t see Bob Corker as supportive of the president as he should be,” Williams said.

The page also gets a mention in rambling Jackson Baker post, wherein the Memphis Flyer sage — also citing Williams as a source — notes that other names mentioned as possible Republican opponents for Corker include Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, State House Representative Andy Holt and Americans for Prosperity Tennessee state director Andrew Ogles.

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Haslam: ‘I am not calculating running for the Senate’

Gov.  Bill Haslam says he expects Bob Corker to run for reelection to the U.S. Senate next year and speculation about his own future, including a bid for the seat, has been “way overread,” reports the Times-Free Press.

“They just said what are you going to do next? I said I have no idea,” Haslam told reporters during a “town hall” meeting (in Cookeville) to promote his proposed IMPROVE Act, which seeks to increase fuel taxes for Tennessee transportation projects while simultaneously cutting non-highway taxes in several areas.

Haslam, who is term limited and will leave office in January 2019, was asked at this week’s Tennessee Press Association and The Associated Press meeting about what he intends to do when his term ends.

“They said, well, you didn’t rule out running for Senate, and I said I have no idea what I’m going to do,” the governor said. “So I am not calculating running for the Senate.”

Asked if Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, has indicated what his future plans are, Haslam said, “my assumption is that he’s going to run for the Senate again. I haven’t heard anything from Sen. Corker that made me feel like he was going to do anything except that.”

… Since November elections in which Republicans maintained their Senate majority and Corker kept his prime spot as chairman, the senator has been vague about his political future and the possibility of running again for Senate or running for governor.

“I just don’t want to go down the path of starting bringing in options,” the former Chattanooga mayor said in a December interview… “What we do is something we’ll be thinking about over the course of the next several months.”

The newspaper further reports that Andy Ogles, Tennessee director of Americans for Prosperity, “didn’t exactly quash” speculation that he will run for the U.S. Senate next year, acknowledging “there has been  speculation along those lines” and adding, “We’ll have another conversation in a few months.”