Two days after voters overwhelmingly agreed to replace him in the state legislature, Sen. Jim Summerville is calling it quits as a Republican.
In an email sent Saturday morning, the one-term state senator from Dickson told GOP Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron he will finish out his term as an independent.
August 9, 2014
Senator Bill Ketron, Chairman
5 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
By certified mail
Dear Senator Ketron;
For the weeks remaining in my term, I shall be serving as an independent member of the Senate. Please accept my resignation from the Republican caucus, effective immediately.
I will not be attending any of the caucus's social, fundraising, or business events, which seem to me indistinguishable functions.
As the caucus's e-mail simply adds to the clutter in my box, kindly ask Ms Yearwood to delete my address.
Very truly yours,
Mr. Speaker Ramsey
Mr. Russell Humphreys
Although Summerville is best known for his comment that he didn’t “give a rats ass what the Black Caucus thinks” about a report in 2012 regarding grade changes at Tennessee State University — which led to a demotion from chair of the Education Subcommittee — Summerville attended most caucus meetings last year.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s political action committee gave Summerville $6,000 for his reelection bid, which included cutting a $5,000 check in early July. The sum amounted to almost a third of Summerville’s fundraising this election cycle.
Summerville won the seat in 2010 in an upset by defeating longtime Democrat Doug Jackson. This year, he was one of 10 legislators to lose their seats in Thursday’s election. Kerry Roberts, who served in the Senate until he was drawn out of the upper chamber through redistricting, won the Republican nomination for Summerville's seat and will face Democrat Tony Gross in the general election. Other losses in the upper chamber include Sens. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey plugged $425,000 into a group rallying to unseat three of the Supreme Court's Democratic appointments after three months ago saying he would limit his involvement to spreading the word, not spending money.
He sent this letter to supporters early this morning explaining why he changed his mind. The message came from his "Ron Ramsey for Tennessee" political operations, although it lists his legislative office address and phone number at the bottom.
Vote Replace: A conservative cause
If you’ve been following the state Supreme Court election, you know that for the first time in decades, Tennesseans are learning about our Supreme Court through the constitutionally-required election process.
You may remember that I began an educational effort to make sure that voters, victims-rights advocates and members of law enforcement knew an important election approached. My goal was to have an engaged and informed electorate so the retention ballot would be a real election rather than a coronation, as in years past.
At that time we knew, based on decisions the Court had made, that their judicial philosophy did not fit the values of most Tennesseans. I believed my role would be limited to raising awareness about the importance of Supreme Court elections.
Today, we know far more about our Supreme Court. Despite asserting that they are nonpartisan, their campaign team is made up entirely of Democrats - and not just any Democrats. Liberal Democrats with direct ties to Obama, Harold Ford Jr., and state Democrat Party chairman Roy Herron.
While their campaign is run by Obama liberals, their fundraising efforts are being executed by trial lawyers who have a vested personal interest in the outcomes of Supreme Court decisions.
The Tennessee Forum, an organization started to oppose Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and fight a state income tax, is doing exceptional work on this replacement effort. They share the same conservative principles and mission as RAAMPAC, the organization I started over a decade ago to push the legislature in a more conservative direction.
RAAMPAC has always been about more than just obtaining numerical majorities -- it has been about promoting the conservative cause. I cannot in good conscience sit on the sidelines while Obama operatives distort the record of this liberal Supreme Court and attack the reputations of those who oppose them.
My cause is the conservative cause. And the place for conservatives to be is fully behind the effort to replace a Supreme Court that is out-of-touch and out-of-line with Tennessee values.
That is where I am. If you have already voted REPLACE, thank you. If not, I hope you will join me in voting to REPLACE Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade.
Ronald L. Ramsey
Speaker of the Senate
1 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he doesn’t understand Gov. Bill Haslam’s complaint that pushing voters to remove three Supreme Court justices would confuse voters when poised with a decision over how the state should pick judges.
“I cannot connect the dots on that one,” Ramsey told reporters after a Building Commission meeting at Legislative Plaza Thursday. Urging people to vote to remove Democratic judges “legitimizes the retention election process,” he said, “and in my opinion, in the end, will actually help the amendment pass, not hurt the amendment.”
Ramsey’s office produced a 31-slide document — during off hours on personal computers, he said — painting three justices appointed by Democrats and the Democratic appointed attorney general as soft on crime and bad for businesses. His office has distributed the presentation to business leaders, victims rights advocates and Republican circles in light of judicial retention elections in August.
Haslam said Wednesday the push could “muddy the waters” on constitutionalizing much of the state’s existing process for picking judges which he argues keeps politics out of the judicial system. Voters will weigh in on that decision in the November election.
“For those that argue that partisan elections taint the judiciary, then they’ll have to argue the day before yesterday there were hundreds of elections that were tainted across this state. That’s not true,” said Ramsey, referring to the contested lower court judicial elections Tuesday.
“I mean, these are partisan elections. They’ve always been partisan elections. Either you have your head in the sand or you’re being hypocritical if you say partisanship has never been in judges’ elections,” he said.
Asked if he thought he was being fair to those judges by rehashing old cases, Ramsey said it's his job to enhance arguments for the side he’s on, not defend the side he’s pushing against. He said he also found fault with Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, but those two judges are retiring this summer.
“If they were here, we wouldn’t have them retained, either. But they’re not any more,” he said. “They’re not on the ballot this time.”
The five-member Supreme Court now consists of three Democrats and two Republicans. After the August election, the court is expected to appoint the state's attorney general. A shift in the makeup of the body could lead to justices appointing a Republican attorney general.
“Everything we do here is an election issue," said Ramsey.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office has created and shared with business leaders and various stakeholders a 31-slide presentation laying out why they should push out the three Democrats serving on the state’s highest court.
The presentation has been shown to several groups of people beginning early this year, including business leaders, victims rights advocates, and “anybody interested in the Supreme Court and how retention elections work,” said the lieutenant governor’s spokesman Adam Kleinheider. The slides lay out an argument for voting out the three Democratic Supreme Court Justices, which could then lead to replacing the court’s appointed attorney general, Bob Cooper, with someone more friendly to GOP and business issues. Find the slides here.
Led by Ramsey, Republicans have begun eyeing the Supreme Court as a target in this August’s retention elections. Ramsey’s office gave the documents to NewsChannel 5’s Phil Williams, said Kleinheider, who added that the document was created by staff on off hours. Although Williams asked for the presentation via an open-records request, the office disagreed that the presentation was a public record and denied the request but separately gave Williams the document anyway, he said.
“Don’t go out here and tell me that this is a nonpartisan group and that there’s never been politics involved," Ramsey told Williams in an interview. "There has always been politics involved.”
In a final decision on a bill that has rocked headlines out of the General Assembly all year, House Speaker Beth Harwell changed her vote from an abstention to a no.
The speaker from Nashville said she ultimately decided to vote against the guns-in-parks bill Thursday because local governments should have control over what is allowed on their property.
“I think there’s still a lack of clarity on where guns can actually be where children are, but most importantly, it was the issue of local control for me,” Harwell told the Post after the House voted 62-25 to allow guns in all parks except within the immediate vicinity of school-sanctioned events and in parks owned by schools. The measure officially takes the authority to ban guns in parks away from local governments.
She abstained from voting in March when the bill first came through her chamber. Lawmakers thought then it would be their only vote, but two days later the Senate added a dramatic Democratic amendement to allow guns in the Capitol Building, Legislative Plaza and other downtown state buildings — setting in motion the need for a conference committee. Here is a copy of the conference committee report.
Harwell said she hoped when lawmakers ironed out differences between the two bills, they would have fleshed out some of her concerns. However, Harwell never publicly voice that issue, telling reporters after her initial abstention she didn't want to vote against her fellow Republican sponsoring the bill and "I didn’t necessarily have a problem with the bill but you have to listen to the will of the people who sent you and my district doesn’t want them."
The main concern after the final vote Thursday — taking power away from local government, which was the crux of the bill — was never a debatable issue for Republicans who drove passage of the bill on largely partline votes throughout the legislative session.
Harwell was one of six Republicans who refused to support the bill in Thursday’s vote. Also breaking from the party-line vote were Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, and Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, also voted no. Abstaining were Reps. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville; Art Swann, R-Maryville; and Mark White, R-Memphis. Democratic Reps. Kevin Dunlap, D-Rock Island; and John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, voted in favor.
The Senate later voted 26-6 to allow guns in parks, sending the legislation on its way to the governor who has voiced concerns on the legislation but has not threatened a veto. The vote fell on party lines with two Republicans — Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville and Doug Overbey of Maryville — voting against.
“I think we have a pretty good balance in this state over where people want to be and it does concern some to have (guns) where kids are. To be honest with you, I don’t have a problem with that because they have a gun carry permit but we try to reflect what a majority of people want and that’s what we did,” Ramsey said.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told the Nashville Post he's is uninterested in holding legislative hearings on the Haslam administration's controversial VW incentives. House Speaker Beth Harwell said she was willing to have the hearings, until learning Ramsey doesn't want to go along.
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS