legislative campapaigns

Rep. Joe Pitts won’t seek reelection in 2018

News release from House Democratic Caucus

NASHVILLE — Clarksville Rep. Joe Pitts has announced that he will retire from the State Legislature after the end of the 110th General Assembly in 2018.  In a letter to his supporters, (see attached), Pitts said, “It’s time for me to step aside and allow another citizen legislator to experience the excitement of helping their constituents…some of the finest people anywhere.”

Continue reading

On ‘double dipping’ legislators & a Barney Fife impersonator

Tennessean reporters Joel Ebert and Dave Boucher sorted through campaign account spending by 131 legislators last year and packaged the findings into two Sunday stories:

A “double dipping” report declaring that “dozens” of legislators spent money from their political funds that appear to coincide with legislative work days when they also get paid an automatic “per diem” expense allowance by the state — $198 last year, increased to $204 this year for those living more than 50 miles from Nashville. The expenditures were for things like food and gas. The per diem payment specifically includes the cost of meals and gas would presumably be covered by the 47 cents per mile legislators get for driving to and from the Capitol.

There was another $189,700 in total unitemized spending “that may have been paid for by state funds”   on per diem days. State law lets legislators report spending of less than $100 without giving specific dates and locations where the money went.

A listing of some interesting expenditures – top billing given to former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey paying a Barney Fife impersonator $1,000 to appear at a party after Ramsey announced he would not seek reelection. He also paid $1,400 to an Abraham Lincoln impersonator appearing at a farewell event following last year’s legislative session.

Among other examples: Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, spent $346 on “meals and entertainment” in a visit to UT Knoxville on the first day of football practice; Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, spent $137 on a wedding gift; Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, a minister by profession, had $2,500 in unitemized expenses that included travel to two church conferences; and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, spent “more than $16,000 of campaign money to pay for car washes, vehicle registration tags, SiriusXM Radio fees, oil changes, Christmas gifts, MTSU basketball tickets and an alumni membership to MTSU.”

Earlier this year, an audit of former Rep. Jeremy Durham’s campaign finance account by Registry of Election Finance found 690 possible violations of state laws, including about $7,000 that suggested “double dipping” on per diem days.

“There needs to be some way to review current practices and see if it’s a repeated problem or one or two people out there,” Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday.

“I tend to think when you have more than a couple of examples of something that feels like it needs to be reviewed, then it is time to take an overall look at how things are working.”

Rundown on final (unofficial) TN election results in key races

President

Donald Trump 1,519,926, 61.06%

Hillary Clinton 868,853, 34.90%

Gary Johnson, Independent, 70,266, 2.82%

(County-by-county results, HERE.

U.S. Congress

All incumbents reelected, along with former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, GOP nominee in the 8th Congressional District seat vacated by Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher. District-by-district results HERE.

State Senate

Republicans maintain 28-5 control in the state Senate. Closest races were those won by Republican Sens. Steve Dickerson of Nashville (results HERE) and Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga (HERE.)

(Times-Free Press story on Gardenhire’s win HERE; TEnnessean story on Dickerson win HERE.)

State House

Republicans picked up two seats previously held by Democrats, both in fairly rural areas, while losing one seat in suburban Shelby County previously held by a Republican. That will give the GOP a total of 74 seats in the House versus 25 for Democrats. The last session began with Republicans holding a 73-26 majority.

The turnover seats:

-House District 43, where Republican Paul Sherrell defeated Rep. Kevin Dunlap, D-Sparta. (Results HERE)

-House District 69, where Republican Michael Curcio defeated Democrat Dustin Evans to win the seat previously held by retiring Rep. David Shepard, D-Dickson. (results HERE.)

-House District 96, where Democrat Dwayne Thompson upset Rep. Steve McManus, R-Cordova, with 14,105 votes to 13,754 for the incumbent.

Some other House races of note:

-House District 13, the closest race in the state, where Republican Rep. Eddie Smith of Knoxville triumphed over former Rep. Gloria Johnson. Smith got 11,160 votes; Johnson 11,006. (News Sentinel story HERE.)

-House District 56, where House Speaker Beth Harwell won reelection over Democrat Chris Moth, 21,041 to 15,201. (Nashville Scene story HERE.)

-House District 74, where Republican Rep. Jay Reedy of Erin defeated Democrat Andy Porch, 11,256 to 8,013. (County-by-county results HERE.)

-House District 41, where Democratic Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston survived a challenge from Republican Ed Butler, 12,230 to 10,008. (County-by-county results HERE.)

Harwell running scared?

House Speaker Beth Harwell reports spending $181,366 on her reelection campaign in October while the Tennessee Democratic Party chipped in $20,000 to help her opponent, Democrat Chris Moth, who reported October spending of $115,460.

That would indicate Democrats — along with Harwell and Republican allies including Gov. Bill Haslam, who has gone with her on door-to-door campaigning and appeared in her TV commercials –  think the House speaker is seriously at risk in next week’s general election.

For comparison, Harwell spent just $8,111 in October of 2014, when she also faced Moth and wound up beating him handily. She has faced several controversies since then that Moth has sought to exploit – ranging from the Jeremy Durham sexual harassment scandal to Harwell’s refusal to back Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan.

Figures from the pre-general election reports filed Tuesday and covering the period Oct. 1-29:

-Harwell reported $25,030 in contributions while spending the $181,000 – including $134,000 on TV ads. She reported spending $56,000 previously, bringing her total for the reelection campaign to about $238,000 since the August primary. The speaker still has plenty of money, having stashed cash for years in her campaign account, and reported a balance of $954,495.

-Moth reported receiving $49,581 in contributions during the period, including $20,000 from TNDP. His spending included about $100,000 on campaign ads. Moth had previously loaned his campaign $100,000, but had reported only about $11,000 in expenditures since winning a contested primary in August. He reported a cash-on-hand balance of $31,547 for the closing days

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.