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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, August 9, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, August 9, 2013

CREATED Aug 9, 2013


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

August 9, 2013



A Democrat may be finally emerging as a candidate to oppose GOP Governor Bill Haslam for re-election next year. Former Public Service Commissioner Sara Kyle of Memphis (wife of Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle) says she is considering the race (TENNESSEAN, August 6).

Those pushing her candidacy (and setting up a "Run, Sara, Run" Facebook page) point out she is the last woman to hold statewide office and the only Democrat to win a statewide race in recent years (since 1994) whose name isn't Phil Bredesen.

All that's true, but it's far from clear just how strong a candidate she could be. For one thing, if she's interested she'll need lots of money, which she ought to have started raising yesterday to counteract the deep pockets and built-in incumbent advantage Haslam might seem to enjoy. Of course, with the problems the Governor been dealing with lately involving cabinet exits; controversial state contracts and controversial advisors; along with the ongoing federal probe of his family-owned business, no one can say for sure just where Mr. Haslam will stand in terms of political strength come next fall. However, for now, it's probably safe to assume he will be very, very hard to oust from office.

Ms. Kyle's strength also needs to be proven. While she won her PSC seat in 1994 (the only Democrat to win that year), within a few months she was temporarily ousted when then-Governor Don Sundquist convinced a then Democratically-controlled General Assembly to abolish the PSC as an elected position and make the three seats appointed posts instead (one each by the Governor, the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House).

Kyle stayed on at the PSC through legislative appointment until this last spring when she resigned before her 2014 term expired. New legislation has further diminished the PSC's role in overseeing utilities so moving on likely made sense for her. But over the years Kyle's name has rarely surfaced as a possible contender for statewide office until now.

On the plus side, Kyle may have some remaining statewide chops (name recognition and support) coming from being the niece of both the late former Governor Frank Clement and the late former State Senator Anna Belle Clement O'Brien. She is the cousin of former Nashville congressman Bob Clement too (who also served on the PSC back in the 1970s). Kyle might attract some money as well from in and out of state from women's groups and others who like to see a female finally serve as our state's Chief Executive. It would appear all the major Democratic leaders in the state could unite behind her, although even though somewhat united, Democrats have still been losing in Tennessee.

Will it all add up to make a viable candidacy for Kyle? I would say, yes. Will it be enough to beat Governor Haslam? More than likely, I would say no. But she would seem to be the best bet the Democrats have as a candidate to this point, especially since Governor Bredesen is not interested.

Now, can the Democrats find anybody to oppose Senator Lamar Alexander? That's looking less and less likely with each passing day.


It looks like the old Saturn automotive plant is longer the red-headed step child of General Motors. The company announced this week it will invest $350 million to create or support 1,800 jobs at the Spring Hill facility south of Nashville. That will bring in the production of two more vehicle lines to the once-shuttered facility and keep a promise GM made to area UAW workers during contract negotiations back in 2011.

These jobs are in addition to the 800 announced earlier and will bring total employment to the plant back up to more than 7,000 (according to THE TENNESSEAN). With Volkswagen also deciding soon whether to expand its crossover vehicle production in Chattanooga or Mexico the state could be on the verge of another automotive boom, as Tennessee continues to challenge Michigan and Detroit as the country's automotive mecca.

It's not clear exactly when all these new jobs will be coming on line, but it does at least give Governor Haslam some political ammunition to argue his economic and tax policies have made Tennessee more attractive to attract, create and maintain jobs. That argument has been tough to make as Tennessee's unemployment rate has been above the national average for a while. Now I wonder if the Governor's campaign had any camera crews at the GM announcement for future use in its 2014 TV ads?


Governor Haslam says despite some rather mixed research results from a recent study done by Vanderbilt University about the long-term benefits of pre-kindergarten programs, he plans to recommend to the General Assembly that funding levels stay about where they are in the next state budget.

He's not saying anything about spending more money so Tennessee can qualify for a significant additional amount in federal aid from Washington and the Obama administration. Wait a minute, does that sound like a replay of expanding TennCare under the new health care law? Yeah, I thought so too.

Actually, the Governor may have a fight on his hands in his own party (they of the super majority in both houses) just keeping Pre-K funding where it is. Representative Bill Dunn of Knoxville has long been a Pre-K critic. Now in light of the Vanderbilt study, he says Pre-K is "all hype."

And you thought the General Assembly already sounded like just one big school board meeting?


It's been quite a week of major developments in the print media industry both here in Nashville and across the country. That includes more layoffs at THE TENNESSEAN as well as the end of the weekly CITY PAPER publication. Nationally, both THE WASHINGTON POST and the BOSTON GLOBE were sold for shockingly low prices setting up a new round of questions and concerns about the future of print journalism and other forms of media.

Our guests on INSIDE POLITICS this week to discuss these topics are Frank Daniels, Community Conversations Director of THE TENNESSEAN and Chris Ferrell, CEO of South Comm Communications which owned the CITY PAPER and other continuing local publications such as NASHVILLEPOST.com and THE NASHVILLE SCENE. Join us. It's a very interesting and insightful conversation.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. Our air times include 5:00 a.m. Sunday on the main channel, WTVF-TV NEWSCHANNEL5. We are also on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS at 7:00 p.m. Friday, 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday, and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel. Portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

And don't forget you can now watch INSIDE POLITICS in real time with live streaming video on NewsChannel5.com. That means if you have a computer and internet access, you can see INSIDE POLITICS anytime its airs on the PLUS. It no longer matters what cable or satellite service you have or where you live. Cool!


For now, it's among the most interesting, and perhaps the strangest news release I've received so far this 2014 election cycle.

It appeared in my e-mail box Monday (August 5) from the 4th District Republican congressional campaign of State Senator Jim Tracy. It announces the candidate will be throwing out the first pitch for this Sunday's (August 10) Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball's game between the Nashville Maroons and the Franklin Farriers.

What's strange about that? Well, it's not the 1860s uniforms and somewhat different rules base ball was played under in those days. It's not the period costumes some of the fans wear. It's not even the game itself. This is the 8th match this summer between the Maroons and the Farriers who square every other weekend. All that seems pretty cool to me

What strange is that the game is being played at the Bicentennial Mall State Park in downtown Nashville which is miles and miles from the 4th Congressional District. In fact, you can wonder if any of Senator Tracy's potential voters will even be there to cheer him on? The release I received was also e-mailed to dozens, if not dozens of media people all over the state. A later version omitted that and corrected a typo.

Throwing out the first pitch is a long-time baseball tradition and I can see from the release how honored Senator Tracy is to be asked to perform those duties and how much he loves the game, Frankly, some politicians I know are very leery of throwing out the first pitch or being recognized at ball games, because it's too just easy to get booed by the crowd (and many times that happens).

But then it dawned on me why that probably would not bother Senator Tracy. You see, before he went into politics and before he assumed elected office, he was for many years a basketball official, meaning he's been booed, cussed at, had his ancestry and eyesight questioned long before he cast his first vote or took a controversial stand on a bill.

Have fun, Senator! And maybe host a few of these vintage base ball games in your district next summer (say in Murfreesboro). Then you can actually shake hands and seek support from voters who can then support you in the August primary.


If money is the same as votes (they're not), Senator Tracy's incumbent opponent, 4th District Congressman Dr. Scott DesJarlais would seem to be in big trouble. He's way behind in funding compared to Tracy and State House Representative Joe Carr.

But Representative DesJarlais is not deterred and with Congress on recess he kicked off his efforts to win a third term in Washington this week with a rally in Winchester (TENNESSEAN, 8/7). He told supporters that his personal life issues from back in the 1990s are not a major factor in his re-election challenge. He says the reason his opponent (and the media) continue to bring it up is "because they certainly haven't found a way to attack me on what I stand for and how I do my job as a congressman."

He also got a round of applause for pledging to continue his fight against Obamacare (a refrain coming from just about every GOP member of Congress).

Actually both of DesJarlais' opponents are not pushing personal attacks much at all. They seem to think those issues work best on their own, that voters are aware of what happened with the Congressman and will (or have) made up their own minds about how to weigh it in casting their ballots. Besides it's still early. The election's not till next August.


It's a State Senate Democratic primary race, not a contest for governor. But I couldn't help but flash back to Lamar Alexander in 1978 when he walked across the state on his way to the Executive Mansion on Curtiswood Lane that year.

Now it's Metro Councilman Jason Holleman who plans to spend the next week walking 70-miles across the 21st Senatorial District in Nashville trying to convince voters he's the person to replace state legislative icon, incumbent Douglas Henry, who is retiring. Holleman is beginning his trek where he's not as well known in the district, over in Madison in East Nashville. Then he's walking through Inglewood and others parts of East Nashville, along with Donelson, Cane Ridge, 12 South and some other neighborhoods before getting back to his West Nashville Sylvan Park council district.

It's not just the distance Holloman has to deal with. His early fund raising dollars are also significantly behind his primary opponent, Jeff Yarbro, who almost upset Senator Henry in 2010. Holloman has overcome such a deficit before to win re-election in 2011 over a well-financed opponent who had support of Mayor Karl Dean and some other well-known Democrats. But as you can tell from the trek Holloman is making, the 21st Senatorial District is a very different political venue from what the Councilman or his opponent, have ever run in before. That includes Yarbro's 2010 race where the traditional Republican cross over vote for Senator Henry was greatly reduced because of a competitive Republican gubernatorial primary that year.


I just can't shake the habit.

Even over 13 months since my stroke, it seems sometimes when I exercise or just walk I really have to concentrate to make sure my left side (my left arm, my left foot, my left everything) does what it supposed to do. I tend to kind of zone off and go on auto-pilot I guess, and I don't realize I'm leaning left (once again) or not moving my left arm or picking up my left foot completely when I walk.

I've had some people ask why I am limping or leaning to the left. It's kind of embarrassing, especially when I don't recognize the issue until someone brings it up. So, if you read this, and/or you know me, you have my permission to bring it up, or give me a brief swift (verbal) kick to get me back on focus.

Thanks! I'm working on it and trying to get better (and I am better overall). But sometimes I think I'm more fully recovered than I really am, and so I need to stay reminded I am still a work very much in progress on some things.