News

U.S. Rep. Cohen Announces Re-election Bids for 2020, 2022

Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen announced today that he will run for re-election in both 2020 and 2022, The Commercial Appeal reports. Cohen was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 after 24 years in the Tennessee State Senate. He previously was a Shelby County commissioner. He won his seventh consecutive term in the U.S. House in November with around 80 percent of the vote.

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Corker Aides to Form Public Affairs Firm

Two top aides to retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker are setting up a public affairs and government relations firm in the new year, the Nashville Post reports. Corker Communications Director Micah Johnson and Chief of Staff Todd Womack will launch Bridge Public Affairs, with offices in Chattanooga, Nashville and Washington, D.C. Johnson joined Corker’s staff shortly after graduating form the University of Tennessee in 2010, leaving only briefly to work on Marco Rubio’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. Womack has worked with Corker for his entire tenure in the Senate and served as his communications director when Corker was mayor of Chattanooga.

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Bill Lee Plans Jan. 19 Inauguration

Governor-elect Bill Lee has announced the schedule for his inauguration next month, The Nashville Post reports. The events will mostly be held on Jan. 19, beginning with a worship service at the Ryman Auditorium followed by the inaugural ceremony at Legislative Plaza at 11 a.m. The oath of office will be administered by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins.
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Haslam Considers 2020 Senate Bid

After yesterday’s announcement that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will retire at the end of his current term, Gov. Bill Haslam said he is considering making a run for the seat, The Tennessean reports. “Obviously, you want to think seriously about an opportunity like that," Haslam said. "It's too important of a role and I care too much about the future of our state and country to not at least seriously consider it." He did not provide a timeline on when he might reach a decision.
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AG Opinion Could Pave Way for Legal Sports Betting

A recent opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has created a path for legislation to allow gambling on sporting events, The Daily Memphian reports. The opinion, issued Dec. 14, says the General Assembly “may legalize the contest solely through legislative action without a constitutional amendment” as long as the sport is based on skill and not predominantly on “chance.” Sen. Brian Kelsey, who is considering legislation related to the matter, said that if allowed, sports betting should be limited to the four largest cities in Tennessee.
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U.S. Sen. Alexander Will Not Seek Re-election in 2020

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced today that he will not seek re-election in 2020, The Tennessean reports. The former Tennessee governor and U.S. Secretary of Education was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002. He currently serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. His retirement will set up the second battle for an open Senate seat in the past two years.
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5 Qualify to Run for Senate District 32 Special Election

Four Republicans will face off in a special primary election next month for the state Senate seat most recently held by former Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, The Commercial Appeal reports. Former state Rep. Steve McManus, former Shelby County commissioners George Chism and Heidi Shafer, and Covington businessman Paul Rose will compete in the Jan. 24 Republican primary. Eric Coleman of Bartlett was the lone Democrat to file candidate paperwork for the seat before the deadline yesterday. The general election is slated for March 12. 
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Akbari Eyes Voting Rights Restoration for Low Level Felons

New Tennessee Senate Minority Chairman Raumesh Akbari said she is planning to sponsor legislation this session that would automatically restore voting rights for people with low-level felony convictions, The Daily Memphian reports. Akbari said the proposed legislation, the wording of which is still being finalized, would ideally set up a referendum similar to the one in Florida, where voters passed a measure that would enable 1.2 million individuals to vote again. The bill could be a part of Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s promise to make criminal justice reform one of his priorities next year.
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Questions Over 'Ballot Harvesting' Surface Following 2018 Vote

An investigation into voting irregularities in a still-contested North Carolina U.S. House race is drawing attention to a widespread but little-known political tool called ballot harvesting, the Associated Press reports on WMC Action News 5. The practice of collecting absentee ballots that had not been turned in has long been used by special-interest groups and both major political parties. But this “voter service” can be corrupted when the harvested ballots are not turned in or are opened and altered before being cast.

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Governor-elect Names Alvey as Legislative Counsel

Governor-elect Bill Lee has selected Nashville attorney Liz Alvey to serve as Legislative Counsel in his new administration, TNJ: On the Hill reports. The Nashville School of Law graduate has worked with the Tennessee State Senate since 1999, having served as the senior policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris since 2007. In addition, she has held leadership positions in the Southern Legislative Conference and the Council of State Governments.

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House Democrat Staffer Resigns After Questionable Checks Discovered

A staffer who assisted in financial payments from the House Democratic Caucus has resigned after being accused of writing an unknown number of checks to himself and cashing them, WSMV reports. New House Minority Leader Karen Camper confirmed that her longtime staffer, Derrick Tibbs, resigned yesterday, after Caucus Chair Mike Stewart alerted Camper to questionable checks that had been written. Stewart said once the internal investigation is complete, and if Tibbs is found to have committed a crime, he should be charged.

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Johnson Chosen for Senate Majority Leader

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, was elected to serve as the next majority leader for Tennessee Senate Republicans, The Tennessean reports. Johnson, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, beat Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, to earn title as the upper chamber's No. 2 leader. Johnson replaces former senator Mark Norris, who left office to take a federal judgeship.
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Former State Rep. McManus Confirms Bid for Norris' Senate Seat

Former state Rep. Steve McManus today confirmed he will enter the race for the vacant 32nd District Senate seat to fill two years remaining in the term of Mark Norris, who left the post to take a federal judgeship, The Daily Memphian reports. McManus, a Republican who moved to Collierville two years ago after losing a re-election bid to Democrat Dwayne Thompson in House District 96, picked up qualifying papers from the Shelby County Election Commission on Monday. State records show he has more than $140,000 in his House campaign account.
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Former Nashville Mayor, Congressman Richard Fulton Dies at 91

Richard H. Fulton, the former Nashville mayor and congressman, died last night at 91, The Tennessean reports. Fulton began his service in the Tennessee State Senate in 1956 and was elected to U.S. Congress in 1962 after a memorable and contentious primary, in which the first results had to be tossed out and voted on again. An ardent supporter of civil rights, he was one of just seven Southern Democrats in the House out of 87 to vote for the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Fulton was the second mayor of Davidson County's metropolitan form of government, serving for 12 years from 1975 until 1987. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
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Tennessee Congressman-elect Green Elected President of GOP Freshman Class

U.S. Congressman-elect Mark Green (R-Clarksville) was unanimously voted president of the Republican freshman class this week, The Nashville Post reports. He will lead 30 Republican freshmen in the U.S. House of Representatives starting early next year.
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Wiseman Tapped as Governor-elect Lee's Chief Counsel

Memphis attorney Lang Wiseman will serve as deputy to the governor and chief counsel for Governor-elect Bill Lee, The Daily Memphian reports. Wiseman's appointment was announced on Tuesday alongside a number of other senior staff and cabinet positions. Wiseman will be stepping down from his role on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees to take the job. The founder of Wiseman Bray PLLC, he also currently serves on Gov. Bill Haslam’s Council for Judicial Appointments and is vice chair of the Advisory Commission to the Supreme Court on Rules of Practice and Procedure.
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New Minority Leader First African-American to Hold Position

Tennessee House Democrats have chosen Rep. Karen Camper for Minority Leader, making her the first African-American to hold the position, The Tennessean reports. The Memphis legislator replaces former leader Craig Fitzhugh, who chose not to run for reelection this year in order to run for governor. Camper, a retired U.S. Army chief warrant officer, was first elected to the legislature in 2008. Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, will continue in his position as Democratic Caucus chairman.

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Republicans Name House Leaders

In addition to the nomination of Glen Casada as new House Speaker, Tennessee House Republicans named a number of other leadership positions for the next session, The Nashville Post reports. Rep. William Lamberth of Cottontown was tapped to succeed Casada as majority leader, while Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville was nominated as speaker pro tempore. Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville was chosen as caucus chair and Rep. Rick Tillis of Lewisburg was named majority whip.
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Casada Elected Republican Nominee for House Speaker

State House Republicans today selected longtime Franklin lawmaker Glen Casada to be their nominee for the chamber's next speaker, The Tennessean reports. Casada was chosen over Reps. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, and David Hawk, R-Greeneville. His election comes eight years after he lost his bid for speaker to Beth Harwell, who resigned from her seat to run for governor this year. A tea party favorite, Casada was viewed as the most conservative choice for the position.
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Former Senate Minority Leader Ben Atchley Dies at 88

Former state Sen. Ben Atchley, who served as Senate Minority Leader during his time in the legislature, died yesterday Knoxnews reports. He was 88. A veteran of the U.S. Navy and a former Southern Bell lineman, Atchley was first elected to the Tennessee House in 1972 and to the Tennessee Senate shortly after in 1976. Nicknamed "Gentle Ben," he retired in 2004 after serving 32 years with a reputation of resolving differences between lawmakers. A graveside service will be held at New Prospect Presbyterian Church Cemetery, 4920 Prospect Rd. in Knoxville on Sunday at 1 p.m. Following a graveside service, the family will receive friends at Graystone Presbyterian Church, 139 S. Woodlawn Pike, from 2:30 p.m., with a Celebration of Life service to follow at 4 p.m. Memorials may be made to Graystone Presbyterian Church or the charity of your choice.
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Covington Businessman Enters Race to Replace Norris

Covington businessman Paul Rose will join the race for the 32nd District Senate seat vacated by Mark Norris, The Daily Memphian reports. Rose, 65, owns a construction company and is a Republican from Tipton County. His announcement sets up a potential four-way race for the job, with three others mulling a run for the seat that Norris only officially resigned last week. Gov. Bill Haslam has yet to officially call for a special election to fill the final two years of Norris' term.
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Attorneys Graduate TBA’s First Public Service Academy

The first class of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Public Service Academy graduated this weekend in Nashville. The program was designed to support lawyers who intend to seek local public offices such as city council, county commission and school board. The bipartisan group of lawyers from across the state trained on topics including messaging, budgets, field strategy and social media for their future campaigns. Many also announced their intent to run in their upcoming municipal elections in 2019. See photos here.
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Vick to Chair Bass Berry's Government Advocacy Group

Bass, Berry & Sims announced today that Erica Bell Vick will serve as chair of the firm’s government advocacy and public policy practice group, The Nashville Post reports. Vick succeeds Richard “Dick” Lodge, who will retire at year’s end. Vick will advocate for clients’ business interests before the Tennessee General Assembly and before various executive branch departments, agencies and commissions of state government.
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Hargett: Norris Replacement Likely to be Filled Via Special Election

State Sen. Mark Norris’ legislative seat will likely be filled by a special election, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said this week, The Commercial Appeal reports. Norris was confirmed last week to fill a vacant federal judgeship in West Tennessee. Norris has not technically resigned from his current seat, which must be done in order for Gov. Bill Haslam to call for a special election. In the extremely unlikely case that Norris were to resign prior to Election Day, it would create a write-in contest to fill the seat on the Nov. 6 ballot.
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TBA Public Service Academy Holds First Session

The TBA’s Public Service Academy met for the first time this weekend, with a bipartisan coalition of 29 attorneys from across the state gathering to learn the basics of running for local elected office. On Friday, former state senator and current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Doug Overbey, spoke about his experiences campaigning and holding elected office. On Saturday, former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell spoke to the group about his life as a mayor and former legislator, as well as the importance of attorneys choosing a life of public service. The class heard further presentations about fundraising, building a campaign team, crafting their campaign message and more. They will reconvene again Nov. 9-10 in Nashville for another weekend training.
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