Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 6, 2012

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 6, 2012

CREATED Apr 6, 2012


By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

April 6, 2012



The qualifying deadline for political races always brings up some interesting story lines for the campaigns ahead. That sure is the case with the qualifying deadline yesterday (April 5) for those running in the August and November elections.

As far as the legislative races in Davidson County, you'll see a strong trend of members of the Metro Council trying to go to the Hill. At least four current council members want to be in the General Assembly (I heard several others thought seriously about it but did not file petitions). In some cases, those running are trying to take advantage of vacancies created by retirements of long time lawmakers (Bo Mitchell is seeking to take over Gary Moore's seat and Jason Potts wants to fill the seat held by Janis Sontany). Others are challenging incumbents, who themselves were once in the Council (Robert DuVall is taking on Sherry Jones and Darren Jernigan is running against Jim Gotto).

Why do Council members want to also serve on the state level? Well, I am sure they would tell you about their desire to continue and expand their service to the public. But it should also be pointed out that being a state lawmaker can be an ongoing career, while being a council member is limited to no more than two terms (8 years). By the way, Council members elected to the General Assembly can legally hold both positions at the same time. Over the years, many have done so. Gary Odom, Tim Garrett, Sherry Jones and Janis Santany come to mind).

Dual service is a lot of extra work and it hasn't been done much in recent years. But if these four council members are successful this August and November we could see several more folks doing double duty on each end of Deadrick Street downtown come next January.

There is also a bit of a council-flavor (at least former Council members) in the upcoming Metro School Board elections. According to reports in THE TENNESSEAN (April 6) Anna Page is taking on Will Pinkston, a former TENNESSEAN reporter and an aide to former Governor Phil Bredesen in District 7, while two former Councilmen, Bob Bogen and Eric Crafton will square off in District 9 (with four other opponents). The Bogen-Crafton race is a bit of rematch from some years ago when Bogen (long time MNEA Executive Director) ousted Crafton from his district seat largely due to voter unhappiness with the construction of a Super WalMart in the district.

There is even some council flavor to what may be the most interesting Metro School Board race where two incumbents have been thrown together in the same district (District 1). Sharon Gentry, the wife of Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry (who is also a former Vice Mayor and Councilman-At-Large) will be seeking to hold on to her seat against the dean of the School Board, Ed Kendall, who was brought into the same district with Gentry after the lines were redrawn.

Political comebacks and even revenge are potential themes in some of the upcoming races.

Over in Wilson County, former State Representative Susan Lynn will seek to return to the House seat she gave up two years ago to make an unsuccessful run for the State Senate. She will try to defeat Representative Linda Elam, a former mayor in Mt. Juliet. But Lynn may really have to defeat State Senator May Beavers, who bested Lynn in 2010 to keep the Senate seat. The two have a long history of not getting along politically.

Another political blood feud will have a re-match in the 6th District Congressional district. In 2010, now incumbent Congresswoman Diane Black defeated Tea Party favorite Lou Ann Zelenik by just a few hundred votes to win the GOP nomination and ultimately the congressional seat. The two have also continued to squabble in court since the election over some of the TV ads run in the race by Mrs. Zelenik.

Now Zelenik has moved to Wilson County to set up a rematch. She had to move because the redistricting of the 6th took out Zelenik's previous home (and political base) in Rutherford County, moving it to the 4th District. Zelenik says she feels good about her chances even with a re-aligned district, but clearly she will have to win this race "on the road" as the newly aligned district would clearly seem to favor the incumbent Black, whose base in the northern part of the district remains largely intact.

One last bit of a surprise in the final hours leading up to the qualifying deadline was the emergence of a Democratic candidate, blessed by party leaders, to take on Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker. Actress and anti-nuclear activist, Park Overall, certainly brings some celebrity (from her TV and movie roles) and perhaps some political moxie to the race. But her incumbent has a huge campaign war chest and enough personal wealth he can spend to make you wonder if this may be the toughest role Ms. Overall has ever taken on. An uphill battle is being kind in terms of the challenge she faces especially with this late a start to begin to raise her own funds and get her message out. Sacrificial lamb may well wind up being the outcome of this race for her.

The field for August and November is not completely set. Thursday, April 13 is the last day for those who have qualified to withdraw. But it looks like some interesting contests are already on the horizon even if the presidential campaigns will largely bypass the state and our one statewide race (Corker vs. Overall) will probably fail to gain much statewide visibility.


The budget bills are moving in both chambers. Many committees have shut down for good. That means lawmakers are winding up their work and getting ready to get out of town (for re-election or retirement) before the end of the month.

It's probably still a little early to assess the legacy of this General Assembly, but I must say while observing lawmakers from afar last week while I was off on vacation in Florida, I was struck how much our elected leaders looked and sounded more like a school board than a legislative body.

While some will maintain it's very important to do so, I have to wonder why our elected leaders feel compelled to pass bills to eliminate baggy pants, make sure our high school sex education classes emphasize abstinence (they already do I am told), or to allow questions to be raised in the classroom about evolution and global warming. Aren't these the roles of our educators and not our lawmakers to decide?

Now these bills are beginning to show up on the desk of Governor Bill Haslam for his action. He's getting some heat to veto the science bill (evolution/global warming) but so far he's says he is likely to sign it (he has until Tuesday, April 10 to decide). But in the meantime, the state's image may be taking a beating in the national media on the issue. I am sure that photo of the Governor alongside the 1925 Dayton TN Monkey Trial in today's (April 6) WALL STREET JOURNAL won't do much to help the state's economic recruiting of new businesses and jobs to come to Tennessee. And it probably won't help the national political aspirations the Governor reportedly has for his future.

But all this is somewhat "child's play" (if you'll pardon the pun), compared to the gyrations going on in the General Assembly regarding the most controversial measure of this term , the "guns in parking lots" bill. Caught between guns rights (the National Rifle Association) and private property rights advocates (all the major businesses and business groups in the state), GOP legislative leaders just want this bill to go away. And maybe it has.

House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters on Thursday (April 6) that the bill is dead, not because of anything she or her members have done, but because it will apparently not be set for a vote in the Senate (so what's the point of a House vote right?). Indeed, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, speaking along with Harwell at the 100th Birthday annual meeting of the Tennessee State Chamber on Wednesday, April 4 confirmed to the audience that no vote on the bill is scheduled in either house.

But Ramsey didn't say anything about the bill being dead. In fact, he mentioned several times how much he hoped, and how hard he is working, to come up with a compromise to help pass the legislation. He did say however it might be next year (and a new General Assembly) before that could happen.

The business leaders listening to the Lt. Governor (I was there) did not seem convinced or particularly supportive of any compromise and I doubt they appreciated the Lt. Governor seemingly scolding them several times during his remarks for being too concerned about this guns bill when there are so many other matters of more vital importance to business pending on the Hill. The business leaders again did not seem convinced.

But the "guns in parking lots" measure may indeed be dead for the year. It looks like the legislative clock will run out and that appears to be the overall strategy of legislative leaders. That way as few lawmakers as possible will have to vote this matter up or down and thereby invoke the wrath of either side.


So is the Republican presidential race finally all but a done deal for Mitt Romney? Or is Rick Santorum right that it's still just halftime in selecting a nominee with lots of action yet to come? Those are among the political topics we discuss this weekend on my INSIDE POLITICS show with my guests Chip Saltsman, a highly respected Republican consultant and analyst, and his Democratic counterpart, Nashville attorney Larry Woods.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on THE NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning on the main channel, WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5. We can also be seen on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS beginning at 7:00 P.M. tonight (Friday) as well as 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday and 5:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS airs on cable systems throughout Tennessee including Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!