Summerville Booted as Chair for Comments to Black Caucus

State Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, doesn’t “give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.” That is what he told Memphis state Rep. Barbara Cooper via email Wednesday in response to her report from the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators criticising the probe of a state university for changing students’ grades. Response was swift on Thursday, TNReport says, when Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham stripped Summerville of his chairmanship on the Higher Education Subcommittee. On Friday, Summerville resigned from the Senate Education Committee, the Commercial Appeal reports and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said Friday that he has been asked to take over as chairman of the subcommittee, the Tennessean reports in its In Session blog.

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GOP Panel to Hear Vote Challenge

A special panel of state Republican Party executive committee members was to meet behind closed doors this morning to consider a challenge to a legislative primary race. The six-member subcommittee appointed by Chairman Chris Devaney was to evaluate the challenge brought by Shirley Curry, who wants to overturn her four-vote loss in the House District 71 primary. Adam Nickas, executive director of the party, declined to elaborate on the reason for the closed hearing or the basis for Curry’s challenge. The panel is expected to make recommendations to the full executive committee on Sept. 5. The News Sentinel reports

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LAWPAC Makes Campaign Contributions

LAWPAC -- the state legislative, independent, multi-candidate, political campaign committee for Tennessee lawyers -- has made contributions in 15 races this fall. At left, LAWPAC treasurer Allan Ramsaur (left) joins LAWPAC executive committee chair Nathan Ridley (right) in presenting a check to Tennessee Senate candidate Phillip North. See a complete list of candidates supported by LAWPAC this fall.

LAWPAC Makes Initial Contributions For Fall Campaign

LAWPAC -- the state legislative, independent, multi-candidate, political campaign committee for Tennessee lawyers -- today made known its contributions in 15 fall legislative races. In 10 of the 15 races , the candidates receiving contributions are lawyers. The group also made donations where candidates are law students, serve as key legislative committee officers, have relatives who are lawyers or take into account the views of lawyers on critical issues. See the full list of candidates supported by LAWPAC this fall.

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Both Sides of Aisle See Changes

Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, leaders of their respective parties talked together recently about changes for both parties, acknowledging the Republican majority in the Senate has seen some difference from within the last year. “This a typical trajectory, if you will,” Norris said. “The larger your majority grows, the more likely you are to have different opinions." Meanwhile, Kyle said Democrats have to get better at being the minority party and remember that Republicans became the majority in the state House and state Senate based on being an effective minority. The Daily News Journal has more

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John Ford Released from Prison

Former Tennessee State Senator John Ford, 70, was released from a federal prison in Mississippi today. Ford, who has been behind bars since 2007, is now at a half-way house in Memphis, NewsChannel 3 reports. He was convicted for his role in undercover investigation called Operation Tennessee Waltz. He was serving 19-and-a-half years following separate corruption convictions in Memphis and Nashville, but an appeals court threw out the Nashville conviction, which shaved several years off his sentence.

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GOP Reconsiders Closed Primaries

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports today that several state Republican leaders – upset over reports that Democrats voted in their party primary earlier this month – are reviving a previously shelved effort to require party registration and closed primaries for future elections. State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and Mark Winslow, a member of the Republican State Executive Committee, confirmed that they met Tuesday with House Speaker Beth Harwell to advocate the idea. Harwell, a former state party chairwoman who has opposed closed primaries, said she is looking into the issue.

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Failed Senate Candidate Files Suit Seeking New Election

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Larry Crim filed suit in federal court today asking that the recent primary win by Mark Clayton be voided and a new primary ordered. Crim claims the Tennessee Democratic Party and its chairman Chip Forrester – who have disavowed Clayton -- failed to weed out the candidate before the race. According to Crim, under the party bylaws, Clayton is not eligible to run as a Democrat because he has not voted in enough Democratic races. The suit asked for an emergency hearing on the motion tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. in federal Judge Kevin Sharp’s courtroom. The Nashville Scene has more

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Haslam Backs Harwell as Hints of Challenge Emerge

Gov. Bill Haslam says he is backing current Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, in her bid to keep her leadership role amid news that Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, might challenge her for the top job. According to WPLN, a bid by Matheny risks pitting more conservative House Republicans against the moderate Harwell, who has raised the ire of gun-friendly lawmakers by limiting the amount of time the House has spent on gun bills.

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Clayton and Campfield Team Up

Mark Clayton, who was disavowed by the state Democratic Party after winning the Senate primary, held a news conference in Nashville today with an unlikely companion. He and Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield teamed up, with Campfield telling reporters that he had previously tried, but failed, to recruit Clayton to run as a Republican. Campfield is the sponsor of a bill seeking to bar teaching about gay issues; Clayton found disfavor with his party over his anti-gay stance.  The News Sentinel has the story

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Study on Voter ID Fraud Turns Up Few Cases

A group that's part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education focused on investigative reporting, analyzed 2,608 alleged election-fraud cases back to 2000 in all 50 states. In all, they found just 10 cases of voter impersonation. In Tennessee, the study turned up 14 total cases of reported fraud since 2000, none of which were cases of voter impersonation. The city of Memphis filed a lawsuit last week challenging the state's voter ID law on constitutional grounds. The Nashville Scene has more

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Courthouse Room Named for Former House Speaker

John T. Cunningham was honored Sunday when a Community Room in the Montgomery County Court House was dedicated to him. Cunningham served as Speaker of the House and, subsequently, county judge for Montgomery County.  Read more in the Leaf Chronicle

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6th Circuit: Put Green and Constitution Parties on Ballots

A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Thursday assures that Green Party candidates will have a place on Tennessee's November general election ballot in several races. State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said the court ruling came following a request for an expedited ruling on two issues in a lawsuit brought by the Green and Constitution parties challenging the state's ballot access. The News Sentinel has more

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Memphis Files Direct Challenge to Photo ID Law

The city of Memphis is now mounting a direct challenge to the state’s voter photo identification law claiming the law adds a qualification beyond what is required in the state constitution. Attorneys for the city filed a motion Tuesday in federal court to amend their original suit, which sought approval for using photo library cards as valid voter identification. The new claim argues that Article 4, Section 1 of the Tennessee Constitution prohibits the imposition of additional qualifications beyond those enumerated: that voters be at least 18 years old, residents of the state and the United States, and registered in the county where the election is held. The Memphis Daily News has more

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Clayton Threatens FEC Complaint Against Party

Mark Clayton, presumptive Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, has called on Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester to resign or be dismissed from his post for refusing to support a party nominee and using party resources to attack “a duly elected nominee.” The Democratic Party has disavowed Clayton and was pursuing options this week for invalidating his primary win and holding a new election. Clayton said that if Forrester is not out of office by Monday, he plans to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. The News Sentinel reports

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Kernell Leaves 'Dream Job' After 38 Years

Rep. Mike Kernell talks with the Memphis Daily News about his 38 years in the House, calling it "a dream job." Kernell lost in last week's primary to fellow Democratic incumbent G.A. Hardaway. “We just flat ran out of money,” Kernell said. The District 93 race was where local election officials first acknowledged voters received incorrect ballots. By some estimates several hundred votes were affected. But with Hardaway's unofficial margin exceeding 1,000 votes, Kernell said he is unlikely to challenge the result.

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Former Sen. Ford Out of Prison This Month

Former state senator John Ford should be released from prison later this month after more than four years behind bars, his brother, Edmund Ford Sr., said today. The Memphis Democrat reported to prison on April 28, 2008, following a bribery conviction. He is expected to be released to a halfway house in less than two weeks, his brother said. Read more in the Commercial Appeal

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Casada to Support Harwell for Speaker

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, told the Associated Press that he won't make another run for Speaker of the House despite the defeat of seven Republican House incumbents in last week's primary races. "Beth's done a good job and I will be supporting Beth for speaker next year," Casada said. Casada was considered the favorite for the speakership after Republicans picked up 14 seats in the 99-member chamber in 2010. But Harwell, a former professor and state Republican Party chairwoman, won the caucus nomination in a secret ballot. The News Sentinel reports

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Commission Asks Legislators for All Correspondence on School Issue

Lawyers handling the Shelby County Commission's municipal school-district lawsuit have asked the entire Tennessee legislature for "all communications or letters," including e-mail, regarding the consolidation of the city and county schools and the creation of new municipal school districts. The request by lawyers from the Baker Donelson law firm includes communications from "any citizen, constituents, residents or anyone else," legislative administrators said today. The request is not a subpoena but legislative officials said they are complying and sent a letter Friday to all 132 members of the General Assembly and their aides asking them if they had anything they felt fell under the scope of the request. The Commercial Appeal has more

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Election a 'Mixed Bag' for Challengers

Thursday's state legislative primary results likely signal more infighting among Republicans in the next two-year legislative term, particularly between the GOP's pro-business and tea party wings in the House, the Commercial Appeal argues. The paper calls the results "a mixed bag" for more conservative challengers.  Read its election follow-up

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Mallicote May Contest Primary Results

Tennessee 2nd House District challenger Ben Mallicote said today he hasn’t ruled out contesting his narrow loss to incumbent state Rep. Tony Shipley in the Republican primary by 11 votes, the Times-News reports. Tennessee law does not permit a recount, only a “contest” which may only be filed by a candidate or the incumbent office holder, according to Sullivan County Elections Administrator Jason Booher.

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Gray to Face Williams; Phillip North is Nominee

Primary election coverage in Friday's issue of TBA Today contained two inaccuracies. Thomas Gray in the 4th District will face former Speaker and Independent candidate Kent Williams. The story also incorrectly identified Phillip North, Democratic nominee in the substantially redrawn Senate District 20 in Nashville. We regret the errors. Review the corrected results

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More Lawyers in House Assured; Senate Suffers from Retirements

With results in a couple of races still uncertain, one thing is clear about the next General Assembly: there will be more lawyers in the House. In the Senate, retirements left a big gap to fill.

In the House, there will be at least five lawyers and possibly as many as nine when the legislature returns in January. Four incumbents -- Craig Fitzhugh, Mike Stewart, Vance Dennis and John Mark Windle -- are expected to return after receiving their party's nod. Linda Elam is the only incumbent lawyer who did not qualify to return.

Mike Carter will represent Ooltewah after claiming the Republican nomination there and Jeremy Durham will represent a portion of Williamson. Neither face Democratic opposition. In the 4th District, Thomas Gray was unopposed in the Republican primary and has no Democratic opponent. He will, however, face former Speaker and Independent candidate Kent Williams in the general election.

One race between Steven Glaser and William Lambert will feature a faceoff between two lawyers assuring a sixth seat. Sevierville lawyer Andrew Farmer is the Republican nominee in the heavily Republican 3rd District.

In the Senate, three incumbent Republican lawyer lawmakers -- Doug Overbey, Ken Yager and Mark Norris -- should return, along with Democratic Leader Jim Kyle, after each won their party races. With the retirement of Mike Faulk, Andy Berke, Roy Herron and Joe Haynes, the number of lawyers in the upper chamber will decline by at least one. Lawyer candidates Tim Barnes, John Stephens and Phillip North all face what are expected to be hard fought fall campaigns to keep the body close to what it was in 2012.

Read complete legislative results and other election news now

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Five State Democrat Incumbents Lose

Among Democrats in the state House, at least four incumbents were unseated, mostly due to redistricting that pitted incumbents against each other. In Chattanooga, Rep. JoAnn Favors defeated Rep. Tommie Brown. In Memphis, Rep. John DeBerry defeated Rep. Jeanne Richardson and Rep. G.A. Hardaway defeated Rep. Mike Kernell. And in Nashville, Rep. Mary Pruitt defeated by Harold Love Jr. by just 40 votes. In the Senate, Jim Kyle defeated colleague Beverly Marrero. Humphrey on the Hill has a wrap-up

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Maggart, Other House GOP Incumbents Defeated

In the 24 races where Republican state lawmakers were facing challenges, at least seven incumbents were defeated. They included two members of the House leadership: Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, who was beaten by challenger Courtney Rogers, and Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery of Sevierville, who was narrowly defeated by Dale Carr. Other Republican incumbents defeated were Jim Cobb, of Spring City, who was bested by Dayton businessman Ron Travis; Linda Elam of Mt. Juliet, who lost to former Rep. Susan Lynn; Dale Ford of Jonesborough, who was defeated by James "Micah" Van Huss; Julia Hurley of Lenoir City, who was defeated by Kent Calfee of Kingston; and Don Miller of Morristown, who was defeated by Tilman Goins. Humphrey on the Hill has a wrap-up.

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