governor’s race 2018

Dean calls for local-option gas tax

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean speaks to a business group in Nashville on March 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean is calling for counties to be allowed the the option of adding a local surcharge to gas taxes collected by the state. Dean says much of those extra taxes would paid for by visitors and that the revenues would allow counties to fund specific infrastructure and transportation programs.

“Unlike my opponent, I believe passing the IMPROVE Act was the right move for Tennessee,” Dean said in a statement. “But we can’t rest; we can’t sit still. As governor, I’ll work with legislators to make transportation infrastructure an even better tool to add jobs and increase access to high-quality education and health care.”

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NYT on Black’s failed effort to land Trump endorsement

U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) speaks at a Republican event in Nashville on May 7, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

In a look at President Donald Trump’s influence over the outcome of Republican primaries around the country, the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman unearthed this nugget about U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s failed lobbying efforts in her bid for governor in Tennessee:

This year few Republican candidates, for example, were as aggressive in lobbying for Mr. Trump’s endorsement as Representative Diane Black of Tennessee, who came in third in her state’s primary for governor this month. She approached the president at a White House event, had some of his most high-profile congressional allies weigh in on her behalf, and even deployed some West Wing officials who are friendly to her.

But most of Mr. Trump’s aides wanted him to stay out of the race, and they were able to keep him sidelined in part by reminding him of what Ms. Black said after the video of Mr. Trump boasting about groping women was released in 2016 (“I would’ve yanked my son by the ear if he had talked that way when he was a teenager much less an adult,” she said at the time).

Black finished third in the GOP primary.

Lee agrees to 3 gubernatorial debates with Dean

Businessman Bill Lee speaks at his campaign headquarters opening in Franklin on Feb. 12, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican gubernatorial nominee has agreed to participate in three debates with Democrat Karl Dean in October.

Lee agreed to debate Dean in Memphis on Oct. 2, Kingsport on Oct. 9, and Nashville on Oct 12. Dean had also called several further debates and forums, but agreed to those three as well.

“I believe Tennessee can lead the nation and that means challenging the status quo and providing conservative leadership to keep Tennessee moving in the right direction,”  Lee said in a release. “I look forward to continuing to share my vision with Tennesseans on the campaign trail and from the debate stage this Fall.”

The Lee campaign noted that the Republican has already shared the state with Dean at eight previous forums, bringing the total joint appearances to 11 in which they will have been “able to share their respective ideas on the major issues facing our state.”

Dean launches first general election ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean has launched his first television ad of the general election campaign. Dean in the ad discusses his idea of “limitless libraries,” where students can get any library book delivered to their school.

“But we can do more,” the former Nashville mayor says in the ad. “How about skills training for any student who wants it? Or broadband everywhere? Or online access to doctors in big cities.”

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Lee campaign staffs up for general election

A release from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee:

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Tennessee Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Bill Lee announced four new hires to his campaign team today including Laine Arnold, Julie Hannah, Kim Kaegi, and Joseph Williams as the campaign expands communications, fundraising, and grassroots operations for the General Election.

“We are thrilled to have all of these talented individuals join the team,” said Campaign Manager Chris Devaney. “We are building on the momentum from our victory in the primary and with these staff additions, we will have the resources and team that will has Bill poised to win convincingly in November.”

The Lee Campaign named Laine Arnold as Press Secretary. Previously, Arnold served as the Press Secretary for the Randy Boyd for Governor campaign and the Communications Director for Battle Ground Academy in Franklin. Arnold will manage day-to-day media relations for the campaign.

In addition to coalition development, Bill’s campaign conducted an expansive and aggressive grassroots campaign in the primary election and to expand on those efforts in the General Election, Julie Hannah, former Chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party, is returning to assist in volunteer operations as the Special Projects & Grassroots Coordinator.

Longtime Republican fundraiser Kim Kaegi joins the campaign as a fundraising consultant who brings 30 years of statewide fundraising experience to the team. Kaegi has led successful fundraising efforts for multiple campaigns, including both Gov. Bill Haslam’s campaign and re-election bid.

Coming off his impressive campaign for State House District 56 this year, constitutional lawyer, former educator with Teach for America, and education advocate Joseph Williams is joining the campaign as the Director of Coalitions. Williams will lead coalition-building efforts and expand on Bill’s already existing coalitions on issues such as veterans, business leaders and political leaders.

Chattanooga mayor endorses former Nashville mayor for governor

A release from Democratic candidate Karl Dean’s campaign:

Today, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced his endorsement for Karl Dean for Governor. 

Dean joined Berke in downtown Chattanooga for a press conference where the announcement was made. Berke pointed to their shared experience of being mayors as the reason he’s supporting Dean’s candidacy.  

“Karl Dean’s bold ideas, thoughtful leadership, and common sense approach to solving problems made him an outstanding two-term Mayor of Nashville,” Berke said. “As our next Governor, I know that he’ll work harder than anyone to provide more opportunities for more people in our state to get better educations and build better lives. Tennessee deserves a Governor who will work for everyone, including the urban neighborhoods and rural communities that are too often forgotten by leaders on Capitol Hill. Karl has proven to us that he’ll fight for Chattanoogans and our neighbors. I’m proud to endorse him today.”

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Dean campaign announces ‘Educators for Dean’

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is announcing the formation of a “Educators for Dean” group as the Democrat moves in to the general election phase of the governor’s race.

Dean as mayor and in his time since leaving office has been a supporter of expanding charter schools in the city, a key factor in his failure to land the endorsement of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, during the primary (the group’s nod went instead to House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh). Dean is now trying to shore up support among public education advocates as he faces off against Republican businessman Bill Lee.

“Tennessee has made significant progress on public education under Governor Haslam and Governor Bredesen,” Dean said in a release. “We need to continue that progress by ensuring every community in Tennessee has the resources it needs to be successful. This includes raising teacher pay and better supporting the professional growth of educators so that we can be competitive in attracting and retaining the best and the brightest teachers.”

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Haslam goes to bat for Bill Lee in RGA ad

Gov. Bill Haslam espouses the virtues of Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee in a new ad released by the Republican Governors Association — the national group that Haslam chairs.

“We can trust him to make the right decisions, not the political ones,” Haslam says in the ad.

Here’s the script:

For eight years I’ve had the privilege of being your governor. Together, we’ve made a lot of progress. More people have jobs than ever before. Our taxes are lower, our students are improving faster than anywhere in the country. Tennessee is stronger than ever. Bill Lee is the right choice to take Tennessee to the next level. We can trust him to make the right decisions, not the political ones. He’s been doing that his whole life. I’m asking you to join me in supporting Bill Lee for governor.

The stiletto versus the meat ax in the Tennessee gov’s race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee won the nomination by “using a stiletto and not a meat ax,” Vanderbilt professor John Geer told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “And the Republican primary voters like a stiletto much more than a meat ax.”

Fred Davis, who was Lee’s media consultant, said the campaign used the fact that the candidate was little-known to its advantage.

“They’re not going to know him early,” Davis told the paper. “We couldn’t compete. But we knew we had the best candidate, the best person, the best heart. We knew that he would grow well on people. There’s only one day you win or lose. That was [Thursday]. It wasn’t Jan. 1. It wasn’t March 15.”

Davis was behind Bill Haslam’s ads in 2010, and in 2006 he produced ads for Bob Corker (and Jim Bryson). Davis was not Lee’s first choice, according to the Times Free Press, and he had earlier been rejected by the Boyd campaign. That was a mistake, Geer said.

“Boyd would have had a much better campaign had he had Fred Davis,” Geer said.

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GOP holds carefully choreographed ‘unity’ press conference

Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee speaks at a unity press conference in Nashville on Aug. 4, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican candidates gathered in Nashville on Saturday to profess unity among their ranks following a divisive primary season. The media event preceding a closed-door lunch hosted by Senate nominee Marsha Blackburn featured no speeches from the defeated gubernatorial candidates. No questions were taken and none of the losing congressional candidates were in attendance.

Putting a lid on the unsuccessful candidates avoided a repeat of the 2010 event in which losing gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp took some not-so-subtle swipes at the nominee, Bill Haslam. But keeping the defeated candidates from speaking their minds didn’t exactly project organic unity building within the ranks.