Shelby County Mayor Luttrell backs Boyd for governor

From the Commercial Appeal:

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell on Wednesday endorsed Randy Boyd in the Tennessee gubernatorial Republican primary election.

Standing next to Boyd at Evolve Bank & Trust on Poplar in East Memphis, Luttrell emphasized Boyd’s business background, emphasis on education and heritage in West Tennessee. Boyd, who formerly headed up state economic development efforts under Gov. Bill Haslam, was born in Knoxville but has family on this side of the state.

Luttrell said he and Boyd became friends as they worked together on development and education initiatives for Shelby County. Boyd, who resigned as commissioner of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to run for governor earlier this year, managed Haslam’s “Drive to 55” and Tennessee Promise education initiatives as an un-paid adviser.

“Randy Boyd is an entrepreneur who has a passion for education,” Luttrell said before quipping that they were probably the only two people in the room who knew the location of Fruitvale, a small town northwest of Jackson.

From the Boyd campaign

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A Beavers-Burchett alliance in 2018 GOP primary?

State Sen. Mae Beavers, campaigning for the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination, and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, a former state senator who says he’ll run either for the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate next year, got together at a Knoxville restaurant last week and said nice things about each other afterwards.

Excerpt from the Tennessee Star report, which says that the meeting “sparked discussions about a potential alliance in the August 2018 Republican primary between the two well respected independent minded conservatives.”

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Rep. Jimmy Eldridge eyes run for Jackson mayor

Republican state Rep. Jimmy Eldridge says he is “leaning toward” running to become mayor of Jackson in 2019, according to the Jackson Sun.

“I have the experience, I have the energy, I have the health,” Eldridge said in a phone interview. “I have desire to want to continue to serve. It’s not even in my thinking process to ever retire from political life as long as my health is good and my friends, family and community are encouraging me.”

Current Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist’s term runs through 2019 and he has not announced his future plans. Gist has served as mayor since 2007.  (Note: Gist defeated former state Sen. Lowe Finney in 2015, winning with just over 51 percent of the vote.)

Before being elected state representative in 2003, Eldridge, a Jackson native, served on the Madison County Court and Madison County Commission. In addition to his duties as state representative, Eldridge is the chairman of the House Consumer and Human Resources committee.

“I worked through the ranks,” he said. “I didn’t stop and wake up one day, serve on the county commission, and said, ‘Hey, I want to run for mayor.’ I’ve worked through the channels and I think that’s the proper way to do it.”

Eldridge has one more year in his term before his reelection campaign in 2018, one year before a potential mayoral run.  Eldridge said locally it is important the next mayor has a “strong” relationship with the General Assembly.

Columnist Victor Ashe: Pro wrestler a serious contender in Knox County mayor’s race

Glen Jacobs, perhaps better known as the masked professional wrestler “Kane,” is one of at least three Republicans running for the nomination as Knox County mayor and former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe writes in his weekly column – after an interview — that he’s a serious contender.

The GOP primary will be May 1, 2018. Besides Jacobs, Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones and County Commissioner Bob Thomas are running, says Ashe in the Shopper News column (which now also runs in the News Sentinel). County Commissioner Brad Anders is a possible candidate.

Jacobs has lived in Knox County in Halls for four years with his wife, Crystal, and two daughters, Arista and Devan, who are nurses… He owns an insurance and real estate company on Maynardville Pike. His wife runs the realty company.

…Jacobs compliments Mayor Tim Burchett (who can’t seek another term) for not raising property taxes and pledges “to hold the line on taxes” if he is elected mayor. He calls county Finance Director Chris Caldwell “a very smart guy.” He is conservative in his political views.

He said he has been looking for more than a year at running for mayor. He said “lots of people are tired of the status quo” and upset “that their voice does not matter.” He has been active in the WWE, which is the largest wrestling organization. He has been in active wrestling for 22 of his 50 years and won three world championships.

Bryan Hair is his campaign manager. He attends Gospel Baptist Church in South Knoxville. He feels he needs to raise $150,000 to $200,000 to run an effective campaign.

(Three waitresses asked for Jacobs’ autograph after he and Ashe talked in a restaurant, then four other people came up and did the same)… Jacobs has star quality his competitors can only dream about. Jacobs is a contender to be taken seriously.

Berke easily wins reelection as Chattanooga mayor

Former state Sen. Andy Berke easily won a new term as mayor of Chattanooga in a city election Tuesday, reports the Times-Free Press.

Voters cast 11,991 ballots in favor of Berke’s bid for re-election, sweeping aside Councilman Larry Grohn to a distant second with 4,941 votes, followed by former three-time city councilman David Crockett and architectural consultant Chris Long. Crockett and Long mustered 1,438 and 407 votes, respectively. The race also generated 95 write-in votes, although no write-in candidates have been certified.

“We’ve seen this city move forward over the last four years,” Berke said. “Clearly, people want us to build on the improvements we’ve made to public safety, economic development and investing in our young people. We’ve received a mandate to continue to push forward.”

Grohn said his campaign workers believed they had run the best race they could run, but that’s not the end of the story.

“We will continue to work towards a better Chattanooga in whatever ways we are led to do,” he said. “I congratulate Mayor Berke and certainly hope he fulfills the campaign promises he made.”

Burchett: God will decide next political race, if any

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who is barred from seeking another term in his current office, tells Georgiana Vines that he’s waiting for God to tell him whether to seek another elected position. The former state senator says he may not be rich enough to run for governor, but the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. is a possibility.

Burchett insisted Saturday that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do when his term ends (next) year.

“I’ll pray about it. When God tells me (I’ll know). He’s told me what to do all along. When I get the (answer), I will let people know,” he said.

…Duncan… Jr. has just been re-elected to his 15th term. He and wife, Lynn, downsized their home last speculation he may be retiring soon. Burchett said what Duncan does in two years will not determine what he does.

While Burchett’s name has come up as a potential candidate for governor, he says he doesn’t have the wealth needed to seek that position.

“Who’s going to raise my first $1 million? It takes money. I would be a grassroots type of candidate,” he said…  He said he has speaking engagements in Chattanooga in a few weeks. He also intends to attend Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony of state Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, as lieutenant governor (and)  recognizes his presence is likely to lead to speculation on his running for governor.

“I’ve spent 16 years in Nashville and know the game better than others. I think I could do a good job at it. I see the pitfalls of predecessors and I believe I’m someone who could improve on (Gov.)  Bill Haslam’s record.

Note: Jack McElroy reviews the possibility of a Duncan departure and possible successors in a column HERE. His bottom line:

But the safest bet may be that the congressman from Knoxville on Jan. 1, 2019, will be John J. Duncan, just as it has been since vinyl 45s of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were flying off the shelves of Knoxville record stores.

Karl Dean, eyeing run for governor, unapologetic about backing charter schools

The Associated Press’ Eric Schelzig reports on an interview with Karl Dean, former Nashville mayor, during his tour of the state to promote a new book and his potential run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Dean says he’ll announce a decision on the campaign in the first quarter of 2017.


The coffee-table book written with Michael Cass is titled “Nashville: The South’s New Metropolis,” and features vignettes, profiles and photos recounting the city’s growth in the last 25 years.

“I would argue our diversity has been a huge part of our success,” Dean said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The fact that people feel comfortable living here, they want to live here and they see us as a welcoming place has been a big part of our economic success and our rise to prominence as a city that is a destination.”

.. “Obviously Republicans have a lot of advantages (in the 2018 governor’s race),” Dean said. “Their domination of the state right now is probably unparalleled.”

But Dean notes that Tennesseans were willing to elect Republicans governors when Democrats held similar sway in the state Legislature, including former Govs. Lamar Alexander, Don Sundquist and Winfield Dunn.

“What I hear from lots of Republicans and Democrats is that they want somebody who is pragmatic, somebody who cares about growth, somebody who cares about what the people care about, which I think are jobs and a sense of opportunity,” Dean said.

“Nashville is a city of opportunity,” he said. “And Tennessee should be a state of opportunity.”

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Educator withdraws as Chattanooga mayor candidate, backs Berke opponent

Longtime educator Gail Francis has dropped out of Chattanooga’s mayoral race to support Larry Grohn’s bid for the seat, reports the Times-Free Press.

Francis was one of five candidates who qualified to seek the mayor’s seat, but she withdrew Thursday, the deadline to pull out.

Mayor Andy Berke, former three-time councilman David Crockett and businessman and former builder Chris Long remain in the race with Grohn, the councilman in District 4.

The Grohn campaign released a statement by Francis on Thursday.

“I had the opportunity to meet and speak to Councilman Grohn, and believe that the issues that are important to me, issues that pushed me into this race are issues that Councilman Grohn is standing on,” Francis said. “It is time for change in our city. It is time for action and a new direction.”

Grohn said he was honored to have her support, citing her work with Orange Grove, service on boards across the community and “a heart that loves our inner city and the drive to see the change we need.

Four challenging Chattanooga Mayor Berke’s reelection

Four people filed petitions to run against Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s bid for reelection next year, reports the Times Free Press. The qualifying deadline was Thursday and candidates have until Dec. 22 to withdraw their names.

City Councilman Larry Grohn, who has aggressively challenged the Berke administration on a number of fronts, is opting to run against Berke rather than seek reelection to his Council seat. He had announced his candidacy earlier.

“An entire generation of our city is in desperate need of education, opportunity, and hope,” Grohn said in released statement in November.

The Berke campaign has rebuffed Grohn’s attacks.

“One of our opponents is focused on using misleading claims to divide us, but the reality is Mayor Berke has spent the past four years changing the way our police department works with the community, reducing robberies and property crimes to an all-time low, and protecting women from domestic violence,” Tyler Yount, Berke campaign manager said in an email.

Berke faces three other challengers, including three-time former city councilman David Crockett, Chris Long and Gail M. Francis, former chair of the Sign Language Interpreting Department at Tennessee Temple University.

Charges dropped against man accusing mayor of adultery

A Chattanooga judge has dismissed domestic assault charges against Bobby Stone, who is husband to one of Mayor Andy Berke’s top advisers, reports the Times-Free Press.

After the hearing, Stone charged that his wife, Lacie Stone, was having an affair with Berke, and that Berke’s office had orchestrated a coverup. Bobby Stone filed for divorce later in the day on the grounds that his wife committed adultery.  

Both Berke and Lacie Stone have denied Robert Stone’s claims. Police have denied a coverup. 

Judge Lila Statom accepted District Attorney General Neal Pinkston’s motion to dismiss the charges after reading it this morning in Hamilton County Sessions Court.

The dismissal wraps up Robert Stone’s criminal matter, which began when Lacie Stone called Chattanooga Police Department chief Fred Fletcher and said her husband was trying to kill her in late May.

Concerned by the “unusual concerns” that Berke and Fletcher’s comments were raising, Pinkston asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to provide an independent look into how the police handled the case.

… (According to Pinkston’s motion) Lacie Stone said no assault ever happened. She gave a written statement to that effect and said she was concerned about “her job, the publicity this event may garner and allegations of extramarital affairs.”

She “wanted all this to go away,” according to Stacy Richardson, the mayor’s chief of staff, the motion says.




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

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