Democrat Mackler to run for Senate in 2020

Democrat James Mackler, who was pushed out of the Senate race in December 2017 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s entry into the race, tells Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press he plans to run the Senate again in 2020.

An announcement video suggests Mackler will run on an anti-Trump platform. “The 46-year-old says he’s not a politician and President Donald Trump is making life harder across Tennessee, citing health care, the tax law and the trade war,” according to the AP report.

Mackler is the first candidate to say he will run for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will decide about whether to mount a bid in the coming months, while newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Greene (R-Ashland City) has also been telling donors about potential plans to run.

 

Van Hilleary deregisters as lobbyist to take on Rose chief of staff role

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)

Former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, a former gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate in Tennessee, formally deregistered as a Washington lobbyist last week, Politico reported. Hilleary is now the chief of staff to newly elected Rep. John Rose (R-Cookeville).

Hilleary, formerly of Spring City, lobbied for six clients as a subcontractor to the Williams & Jensen firm. He terminated his registrations on Wednesday, Politico reported.

As The Tennessee Journal reported last month, Hilleary’s lobbying clients over the the past two years included the U.S.-Guatemala Business Council, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, News Media Alliance, Tennessee Valley Floating Homes Alliance, and Exxon Mobil Corp. More prickly, politically speaking, is Hilleary’s recent work on behalf of New American Economy, a group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to advocate for immigration reform.

Hilleary was registered to lobby on two Republican immigration bills that ultimately failed in the House in June. His client decried those measures (one of which was supported by President Donald Trump) as leaving “too many Dreamers in legal limbo” and threatening the economy by seeking drastic cuts in legal immigration.

Rose’s primary campaign against former Murfreesboro Judge Bob Corlew featured the Republican candidates trying to outdo each other on who could be the bigger supporter of Trump’s border wall and immigration rhetoric. “Stop the invasion,” demanded one of Rose’s online ads featuring images of menacing-looking gang members and a map suggesting the 6th District was about to be overrun.

Rose was sworn into office last week.

TNJ interview: Haslam discusses Cyntoia Brown decision

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Amazon will locate its East Coast logistics hub in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in an interview with The Tennessee Journal on Monday discussed how he came to the decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who will be released from prison after serving 15 years in August. Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed as a 16-year-old in 2004, after she had run away from home. She has said she acted in self-defense in shooting the man after she was forced into prostitution. Haslam said celebrity attention to the case led to his office receiving 100,000 calls from Brown’s supporters.

TNJ: How did you arrive at this decision?

Haslam: We have a lot of pardon and clemency requests in front of us, that’s really what I’m spending the majority of my last two weeks doing. So we wanted to be thorough on it. And No. 2, I think the thing that was so unusual about this was that, because it got such an extraordinary amount of publicity, we wanted to make certain we didn’t treat it any better or worse than any other case. We ended up getting 100,000 phone calls, which I think is the most that we’ve gotten on any issue. But while obviously that’s how democracy works, you don’t want to make decisions based on how many phone calls you get. So we wanted to set all that aside and say, what’s the right thing to do in this case? And in this case, it meant talking to everybody from her lawyers, to people who had been involved with her while she was in prison, to counselors who knew her, to try to make certain we were making the best decision.

TNJ: You had various options, you could have said she could have served 15, 20, 25 years or whatever amount of time.

Haslam: We thought about it a lot, and the governor does have incredible powers. You could say, I want her to be out in 15 minutes, or anything. I think you start out with, what’s the right thing to do, and what’s the best thing in her situation. For us, it was 15 years. A lot of people said, if that had happened today, she would have gotten 2nd degree, which would have been 15 to 25 years. And so that was one of the motivations of saying 15 years with 10 years’ probation.

TNJ: With all the celebrity attention, did that make it uncomfortable?

Haslam: There was so many cases that need that kind of review. But so many people follow Kim Kardashian, that if she tweets out ‘call the governor,’ we’re going to get a lot of phone calls. Or if it’s Rihanna, or Snoop Dogg, or whoever. For us it meant an added level of, let’s make certain we’re doing the right thing. And not penalizing because we had all these people calling us — we literally had people who couldn’t call here to get their TennCare dealt with because our phone lines were so full. So you don’t want to penalize her for that, but nor do you want to treat her any more special because 100,000 people called.

TNJ: Do you think there will be a political price to pay if you decide to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020?

Haslam: I honestly don’t know. Obviously there’s a lot of people who think it’s the greatest thing ever and some people who will be upset. I think you’ve got to shove all that aside. It’s part of why, when Corker’s seat came up, I said it’s just not right. Because I didn’t want to spend my last year-and-a-half as governor running for the Senate, and you couldn’t help but let things affect you. And that’s really why I said on this one, I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking about it until we get out of here.

Haslam grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown

Gov. Bill Haslam has granted executive clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who will be released from prison after serving 15 years in August.

“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said.  “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16.  Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.  Transformation should be accompanied by hope.  So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed as a 16-year-old in 2004. She had run away from home and told the Board of Parole earlier this year that she acted in self-defense in shooting the man after she was forced into prostitution. Without modifications to her sentence, Brown wouldn’t have been eligible for parole until after 51 years in prison. Efforts to free her have drawn the support of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and LeBron James.

The Board of Parole had split three ways in making their recommendation to Haslam: Chairman Richard Montgomery, a former Republican state lawmaker from Sevierville, and former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, a finalist for TBI director, called for her to be granted clemency; Gay Gregson and Zane Duncan said her sentence should be reduced to 25 years, meaning she would serve 11 more years in prison; and Roberta Kustoff, wife of U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis), and former Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) said clemency should be denied.

“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance,” Brown said in a release. “I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”

See the full releases from Haslam and Brown after the jump.

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Haslam names state park after Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville), left, and Gov. Bill Haslam attend an event at the state Capitol in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

 

Gov. Bill Haslam is renaming Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County after U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has announced he won’t seek another term in Congress in 2020.

Rocky Fork became Tennessee’s 55th state park when it opened in 2015. Alexander had been influential in securing more than $30 million in federal funding to buy the 15-square-mile tract to add it to the Cherokee National Forrest.

Here’s a release from Haslam’s office:

FLAG POND – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam by executive order has renamed Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County as Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park, honoring Tennessee’s senior senator for his record of service and commitment to preservation.

“Senator Alexander has spent a lifetime serving Tennesseans and promoting Tennessee to the world,” Haslam said. “He loves the state from Memphis to Mountain City. His roots are in East Tennessee, and it is fitting that this special place in this special state bears his name. Tennessee’s state parks are indebted to him and his service both as governor and as senator, and visitors to this state park will be reminded of his work every time they visit.”

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Lee makes 6 more Cabinet annoucements

From Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s transition office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced six appointments to his cabinet for the Department of Children’s Services, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the Department of Revenue and the Division of TennCare.

“The six individuals joining our cabinet represent each of our Grand Divisions and bring vast experience in their respective areas,” said Lee. “I am excited to work with this group and look forward to building solutions for our state.”

The Governor-elect named the following appointments today:

  • Jennifer Nichols – Department of Children’s Services
  • Tony Parker – Department of Corrections
  • Bob Rolfe – Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Dr. Jeff McCord – Department of Labor & Workforce Development
  • David Gerregano – Department of Revenue
  • Gabe Roberts – Division of TennCare

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Former Rep. Courtney Rogers to head Veterans Services in Lee administration

Gov.-elect Bill Lee has named former Rep. Courtney Rogers (R-Hendersonville) as commissioner of veterans services and Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes as the head of military affairs.

Here’s was he release from the Lee transition;

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced two appointments to his cabinet for the Department of Military and the Department of Veterans Services.

“We are pleased to add two experienced military leaders to our cabinet today,” said Lee. “Our veterans and active duty personnel will be in good hands with these appointments and I look forward to working with them.”

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First lady Crissy Haslam awarded medallion from national secretaries of state

First lady Crissy Haslam attends a portrait unveiling for Gov. Bill Haslam on Dec. 17, 2018, in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett on Monday presented First Lady Crissy Haslam with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Medallion Award for her work to support the Tennessee State Library and Archives and programs to increase early childhood literacy.

“Crissy Haslam has dedicated her time as Tennessee’s first lady to promoting the love of reading to children and families across the state,” Hargett said. “By creating and maintaining a variety of programs, she has continued to engage parents and children with high quality family reading selections, elevate the love of reading, and connect readers with their public libraries.”
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AG says Tennessee could legalize sports gambling without constitutional change

Tennessee could enact sports betting without changes to the state constitution, according to an attorney general’s opinion obtained by the Daily Memphian’s Sam Stockard.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s opinion is dated Friday but has not yet been posted to his website. It states that the General Assembly “may legalize the contest solely through legislative action without a constitutional amendment” as long as the sport is based on skill and not predominantly on “chance.”

The Shelby County Commission on Monday voted to add sports betting on Beale Street to its legislative agenda for the year.

Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee has said he doesn’t favor expanding gambling in the state.

Slatery’s opinion was written in response to a question by Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), who has said he is interested in pursuing legislation on sports gambling next session. Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) has already filed a bill seeking to allow sports betting.

Slatery’s opinion says betting would involve only “actual sporting events,” and not fantasy sports or amusement devices.

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

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville), left, and Gov. Bill Haslam attend an event at the state Capitol in Nashville on Dec. 17, 2018. (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.