News

Nashville Doctor to Run for Harwell’s House Seat

Dermatologist Brent Moody has announced his candidacy for the Tennessee House seat in district 56 which is currently held by Speaker Beth Harwell, the Nashville Post reports. Moody is a skin cancer surgeon who currently serves as chair of the Tennessee Medical Association's PAC, but will step down from that position in order to run. He has named Bradley lawyer Austin McMullen as his treasurer.
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5 Emerge as Potential Candidates to Replace Harwell as Speaker

With Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell running for governor in 2018, five lawmakers have emerged as potential replacements for her as the leader of the House Republicans, The Tennessean reports. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk (R-Greeneville) and Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) have all confirmed that they will seek the gavel next year. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) has said he will consider the position, while Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City), who ran for speaker in 2016, said it’s too soon to make a decision.
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Senator’s Campaign Account Shows More Money Spent Than Raised

A recent finance report from Sen. Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) showed that her campaign spent more money than was available in the account, The Tennessean reports. Harper’s campaign shows $8,771 in expenses but only $7,637 in the bank. Such a discrepancy could mean the candidate is spending money the campaign never reported receiving on previous statements, an offense which could result in fines.
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Harwell to Run for Governor

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell has announced she will seek the governor’s office in 2018, the Times Free Press reports. She will face Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, Williamson County businessman Bill Lee and state Sen. Mae Beavers in the Republican Primary, which will be held next August. Harwell touts her “proven, practical results record” and nearly 30 years of legislative experience.
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Trump Taps Sen. Norris, 3 Others to Federal Bench

President Donald Trump today nominated state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Thomas L. Parker, William L. Campbell Jr. and Eli J. Richardson to serve as federal judges, The Tennessean reports. Norris and Parker were picked to serve as judges on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Trump nominated Campbell and Richardson to serve in the Middle District. Nominees must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before they can take their seats on the bench.
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Matheny Running for 6th District Congressional Seat

State Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma), who previously declared he would run for U.S. Congress only if incumbent Rep. Diane Black did not seek reelection, has announced he will run for the 6th District seat regardless, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Matheny said in a statement that he believes the “federal government must not be allowed to dictate Tennessee’s definition of marriage, our bathroom policies or the makings of a school lunch.” He promises to hire a full time staffer in Nashville to work with the Tennessee General Assembly on a day-to-day basis.
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Republican National Committee to Hold Annual Meeting in Tennessee

The Republican National Committee will hold its annual summer meeting in Nashville the year, the Nashville Post reports. The event will be held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel Aug. 22 - 25, and will welcome members, staff and party leadership. Keynote speakers have not yet been announced, but similar events this year have hosted big names, such as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
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Theft Case Dismissed Against Former State Rep. Curry Todd

The misdemeanor theft case against former State Rep. Curry Todd was dismissed on Friday, after the victim of the campaign sign theft, former State Rep. Mark Lovell, failed to show up in court, The Commercial Appeal reports. Todd faced charges of theft for allegedly stealing Lovell’s campaign signs during their battle in the Republican primary for the District 95 house seat. Lovell won the election but resigned from his seat early this year after being accused of sexual harassment.
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GOP Leaders Ask for AG Review of Metro Immigration Proposal

House Speaker Beth Harwell and state Sen. Jim Tracy are asking Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to issue an opinion on a proposal before the Nashville Metro Council that they say goes against a state ban on “sanctuary cities” passed in 2009, the Tennessean reports. Council sponsors Bob Mendes and Colby Sledge say that’s not the intent of their measure, which would prevent Metro from using public funds and facilities to enforce federal immigration law. "This bill would have us send a message to our immigrant communities that it is safe to engage with Metropolitan government for all the basic local government services that we provide," Mendes said.

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FEC Complaint Filed Against Kelsey, Other State Lawmakers

A complaint was filed today with the Federal Election Commission over the campaign finance practices of Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and five other state lawmakers, The Tennessean reports. The complaint comes after reports of potential wrongdoing involving money flowing in and out of Kelsey’s unsuccessful 2016 congressional campaign. Funds were allegedly funneled through what a Campaign Legal Center attorney called a “dark money daisy chain and straw donor reimbursement scheme” involving other state lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Glen Casada (R-Franklin). Kelsey denies any wrongdoing, calling the complaint a “frivolous attack.”
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Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Gerrymandering Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, The Washington Post reports. Should the Court find partisan gerrymandering in violation of the Constitution, it could have a revolutionary impact on the next reapportionment, which comes after the 2020 election cycle. The case comes from Wisconsin, where a federal court ruled that the state’s Republican leadership created a map so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections.
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Republican Kevin Vaughan Wins Tennessee House Special Election

In the special election to replace Mark Lovell, Republican Kevin Vaughan has beat Democrat Julie Byrd Ashworth to represent State House District  95, The Commercial Appeal reports. Vaughan, a member of the Collierville School Board, received 62 percent of the vote. Only 9.7 percent of the district’s registered voters showed up to cast their ballots.

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Rep. Scalise Critical After Shooting; Rep. Fleischmann Calls Scene a 'Madhouse'

House Majority Whip and Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition following surgery for a gunshot wound suffered at a congressional baseball practice earlier today, the Associated Press reports. Tennessee’s Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was at the field finishing practice with the rest of the team when the gunman began shooting. The Ooltewah Republican was not hit. “It’s just a madhouse here,” he said during a phone call from the scene. “It’s horrible. I’ve never experienced anything like that.” Read more of Fleischmann's account from The Tennessean.

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Nashville Lawyer Anne Davis to Focus on Dean's Campaign

Anne Davis, Southern Environmental Law Center’s Nashville office managing attorney, is leaving the position “to focus her energies on her husband Karl Dean’s campaign to become the next governor of Tennessee,” the Nashville Post reports. As SELC looks for a new local managing attorney, the head of SELC’s Asheville, North Carolina, office, D.J. Gerken, will serve as acting Nashville director. Dean, former mayor of Nashville, launched his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in February.

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Sen. Mark Norris Being Vetted for Federal Judgeship

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is being vetted for a federal judgeship in the Western District of Tennessee, The Tennessean reports. Norris has served in the General Assembly since 2007 and has also been “more than mulling” a gubernatorial bid. Were Norris to be named to the position, Sen. Bill Kentron, R-Murfreesboro, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, are seen as potential replacements as the Senate majority leader.
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Durham Receives Record $465k in Fines

Former state representative Jeremy Durham will pay more than $465,000 in fines for his hundreds of campaign finance law violations, The Tennessean reports. The fine is the largest in the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s 26-year history. Durham’s attorney, Peter Strianse, said he plans to appeal the action in front of an administrative law judge and called the fines “clearly excessive.” (Strianse was profiled today by The Tennessean for his role in many high-profile cases defending clients like Durham, Casey Moreland and Cory Batey.)
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Tennessee Congressional Races in 2nd, 3rd, 7th Districts Shape Up

Two Tennessee Democrats announced bids against Congressional incumbents this week, with a third mulling a potential run, the Nashville Post and Nooga.com report. A 64-year-old Knoxville psychologist, Joshua Williams, has announced his plans to seek the 2nd District Congressional seat currently held by Rep. Jimmy Duncan. Dr. Danielle Mitchell, a primary care and sports medicine physician in Chattanooga, will challenge Rep. Chuck Fleischmann for the 3rd District spot. Seventh District incumbent Marsha Blackburn of Franklin confirmed today her plans to seek reelection, while a Williamson County-based former Amazing Race contestant, Justin Kanew, has filed to run for Blackburn’s seat but hasn’t officially confirmed he will campaign against her. 
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State Lawmaker Under Fire for Potential Campaign Donor Issues

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is under scrutiny for potentially reimbursing donors from his failed Congressional campaign using cash from his state campaign account, The Tennessean reports. Kelsey allegedly funneled thousands of dollars from his state campaign to lawmakers that donated to his campaign for the Republican nomination for the 8th District U.S. Congressional seat. Kelsey and his colleagues deny any coordination or wrongdoing, but an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center said that the payment amounts and dates of transactions appear to be a "straw donor scheme" and could warrant a Federal Election Commission investigation.
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Green Will Not Enter Governor’s Race

Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, will not re-enter the Tennessee gubernatorial race, The Tennessean reports. The state senator said he will instead focus his efforts on Washington and providing “real help to President Trump.” Green initially said he would seek the office but put his plans on hold when President Donald Trump considered him for the role of Army Secretary. Green later withdrew his name from consideration for the position.
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Beavers Announces Gubernatorial Run, Green Could Follow

Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, announced over the weekend that she would be running for Governor, the Nashville Post reports. Beavers said her top priority as Governor would be “the terrorist threat from radical Islam.” Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, fresh off a waylaid attempt at a presidential cabinet position, may also be entering the mix for the GOP nomination, with reports of him contacting potential donors in recent weeks.
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SCOTUS Holds Caps on Political Contributions

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a lower court’s decision upholding limits on direct contributions to political parties, the ABA Journal reports. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted in dissent, indicating that on campaign finance cases, Gorsuch might lean as conservative as Thomas, who believes that all campaign finance limits should be subject to strict scrutiny.  
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Supreme Court Strikes Down N.C. Voting Maps

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional district maps in a ruling today, holding that the state had engaged in racist gerrymandering, CNN reports. Read the full opinion by Justice Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court's website. The N.C. legislature will now have to redraw the districts. The decision comes after a SCOTUS ruling last week held a lower court’s decision that the state passed a voter ID law that would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
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State Legislature Adjourns Until 2018

The Tennessee legislature adjourned last week concluding the first part of the 110th General Assembly. Out of the nearly 1,500 bills filed by legislators, many passed both the House and Senate and have either been assigned a public chapter or are in process of being assigned a public chapter. TBA members can look at the status of legislation by the category. The Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes January 2018 to wrap up the second half of the 110th General Assembly.
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SCOTUS Will Not Reinstate N.C. Voter ID Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has again declined to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law, NPR reports. The law, considered one of the strictest in the nation, was found by a lower court to have been intentionally designed to stop African-Americans from voting. The appeals court said the law would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” This is the second time that North Carolina Republicans have attempted to have the Supreme Court revisit the case.
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White House Panel to Investigate Voter Fraud

President Donald Trump signed an executive order today launching a commission that will review voter fraud, the Washington Post reports. The president’s “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” would examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration. It will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has alleged in the past that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the commission, saying it would lead to increased voter suppression into Republican-controlled state governments.  
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