Hargett, Goins unsure of vote totals in Amendment 1 suit

State elections officials say they do not know how people who voted on the governor’s race voted on Amendment 1 in light of a lawsuit arguing that the constitution requires a vote on both to change Tennessee’s guiding document.

Elections Coordinator Mark Goins said compiling those numbers would require a “very tedious” manual recount, but said his office is researching what would be needed should the courts demand it of the state.

“I don’t think we ever get to that point,” said Goins, who said the state has interpreted the constitution the same way since it was rewritten in 1953. “The only difference here is you've got someone who's trying to get a federal judge to come in and overthrow what the people really want.”

Opponents of Amendment 1 — which gives abortion protections previously found in the constitution to the legislature — filed a federal lawsuit over the weekend charging the constitution requires voters to cast a ballot for both the governor’s race and an amendment in order for their vote to edit the constitution to count.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who oversees the elections agency, argues several amendments have been adopted in Tennessee since the constitution was rewritten in 1953 with little problem under the interpretation that skipping a vote for governor would not disqualify the amendment’s chances. No court case has opined on the issue.

“I can’t believe that we would tell Tennesseans that you can’t amend your constitution if you don’t vote in the governor’s race,” said Hargett, who is pictured here.

Nov 10, 2014 2:18 PM

Haslam defends supporters targeting legislators, denies involvement

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he had nothing to do with picking who his key supporters would target in this year’s Republican primaries, although he stopped short of denying any involvement with the group.

Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, called the governor a “traitor” this week in light of revelations a group of the governor’s key supporters teamed up to contribute thousands of dollars to unseat Republican legislators who butt heads with the governor.

Asked whether he denies Womick’s assertion that the governor had a direct hand in targeting lawmakers, Haslam said, “Again, I have folks who have supported us who are concerned about who gets elected to the legislature, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

Haslam said, “I didn’t select one opponent, I can assure you that.” He added he didn’t encourage anyone to run against targeted legislators.

“As you know, contests get very personal. And so you start to hear lots of conversation back and forth about who’s doing this or that, and you know, it’s not always accurate,” he said.

Womick penned a letter earlier this month calling out what he called the administration’s “treasonous targeting, in this month’s primary.”

A political action committee by the name of Advance Tennessee PAC targeted five sitting Republican legislators or aided their opponents in the August GOP primary election. The PAC’s organizers and donors includes supporters of Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell. The group hired a direct mail firm that has Bryan Kaegi, a fundraiser for the two high-ranking Republicans, as one of its principals. Contributors included board members of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, SCORE, which aligns closely with the governor’s education agenda.

The group, created the month before the election, spent nearly $140,000 on efforts to unseat Tea Party Republicans, according to campaign finance reports. Key targets included Sen. Stacey Campfield and Rep. Tony Shipley — who were both voted out of office — and Reps. Micah Van Huss, Courtney Rogers and Mike Sparks, who all won reelection.

Aug 29, 2014 12:03 PM

Ramsey licks wounds, Haslam looks to November

What to make of this month's Supreme Court retention
Aug 18, 2014 6:58 AM

Summerville wants out of GOP Caucus

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

Republican Caucus

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

Legislative Administration

Senate members

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.

Aug 11, 2014 10:30 AM

10 sitting legislators unseated in primary fights

Mix includes controversial lawmakers, GOP Caucus loyalists and longtime Democrats
Aug 8, 2014 2:43 PM

Ramsey explains why he's plugging money into Supreme Court fight

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

Dear Friend,

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
Lieutenant Governor
Speaker of the Senate

1 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN  37243
(615) 741-4524

Aug 1, 2014 1:48 PM

Ramsey gives $425K to anti-Supremes effort, justices top $1M in fundraising

Money race intensifies in battle over the bench
Aug 1, 2014 1:28 PM

Beck playing defense again a week before election day

More than a month after the Davidson County Election Commission voted unanimously to keep Bill Beck on the ballot calling complaints he lives in Sumner County "politically motivated," his Hendersonville neighbor says it's "absolutely not" true Beck lives in Davidson County, reports News Channel 5.

Jul 31, 2014 1:54 PM

Campfield uses state-paid constituent communications on TV ads

The state gives legislators thousands of dollars each year to cover the costs of communicating with constituents, and Sen. Stacey Campfield is the first to use that money to air "legislative updates" on cable TV, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

The money — $6,832 annually for state senators and $2,016 for reps — is typically used on postage and printing costs. Lawmakers tend to stockpile those dollars and either use them on mailers shortly before the elections or transfer funds to fellow legislators. While the state prohibits lawmakers from including political references or postmarking the communications fewer than 30 days from the election, critics argue the communications give incumbents an edge over political challengers. The Dean has more on who gave, who received, and how sitting legislators are spending that money.

Jul 17, 2014 3:36 PM

Survey: State's lawyers overwhelmingly recommend keeping targeted justices

Critics question objectivity of survey, lawyers
Jun 13, 2014 12:00 PM