2018 Governor’s Race: Show Me the Money

The race to replace Knoxville’s own Governor Bill Haslam started last year and even before that with one or two of the candidates.  The ads have now begun in earnest and the only folks really happy about that are in the media, particularly in television, because of the mass amounts of money that will be expended on advertising by at least 6 candidates.   Before August of this year, most of us are going to be sick of hearing about which Republican and Democrat can make Tennessee even greater in the future.  I don’t think we will see any of them touting the slogan of “making Tennessee great again.”  By any measure our state is in great shape, especially financially because our Constitution mandates a balanced budget.  If only the Founding Fathers had thought of that for our country, right? What is going to be interesting to watch will be the amount of money each of the six major candidates will pull out of their own pockets or pocketbooks to fund their campaigns.  The latest disclosures showed the following:  Republicans:  Knoxville’s Randy Boyd -$7.4 million but of that he has personally written a check for $4 million; 6th District Congressman Diane Black- $2.75 million of which she put in $1 million; Speaker of the House Beth Harwell “raised” $5 million but of that, she loaned her campaign $3.1 million and transferred $987K from her state House committee; businessman Bill Lee had  $3.5 million, $2 million of his own money.  On the Democrat side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean reported $2.6 million with a paltry $200K coming from his pocket.  Democrat House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh raised $800K with $500K being from him.  That already totals about $23 million “raised” with a tidy $11 million coming from the candidates’ bank accounts or their campaign accounts! What that likely means is Tennessee will see the most expensive gubernatorial campaign in our state’s history.  Does it matter? Does it send the message that only the wealthy and affluent can run for governor? Certainly a candidate has to be able to raise enough money to compete, to buy name identification if he or she doesn’t already have it and to pay for overpriced, out of state consultants who consistently assure their candidates they can’t win without buying more last minute ads and mailers.  And of course enough to pay the consultants a hefty fee.  Gone are the days where a candidate could give “stump” speeches at the courthouses and hope to win.  Even having grassroots organizations in all 95 counties no longer assure victory. It really is about the money and the ability to raise it, transfer it or write a personal check...

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“Democracy Is Not Your Plaything”

This is the title of an article in the Wall Street Journal recently written by Peggy Noonan who I consider to be one of the best and brightest.  She starts with, “Everyone, get serious.”  No kidding Peggy.  The 100 plus days that Donald J. Trump has been President of the United States have been nothing more than turmoil.  Whose fault is that?  It’s certainly both sides of the aisle at this point.  Noonan says “the sheer gravity of the drama will demand the best from all of us. Are we up to it?”  She also writes that “every new blunder, every suggestion of an illegality, gives them pleasure.”  The “they” in this case is the Democrats, the liberals, the media, you name it.  Perhaps everyone but those who voted for President Trump.  And perhaps even some of them are now doubting their votes.  Trump, who we all hoped would become presidential when elected, continues to tweet, boast, criticize, and blunder his way across the nation and now the world. Noonan goes on to pose the question that if Trump were to be removed as in impeachment, what would it say to the tens of millions who voted for him? ” Is democracy a con, the swamp always wins, you nobodies can make your little choice but we’re in control?”  But if he truly is not fit to be President, how much time do we let pass?  As she said, these are gut-wrenching questions and this is no time for blood lust and delight. “Because democracy is not your plaything.”  Indeed it is not.  Trump was legally elected, to the Democrat and liberals dismay.  Yes, the electoral college is the way we elect our presidents and until it’s changed, it will continue to be.  Republicans and Democrats who have represented us in Congress over the past several years can take a good portion of the blame for his victory.  The “forgotten people” who voted in 2016 were fed up with politics as usual and wanted a dramatic change in leadership.  They got it but now what do they do with it?  The hearings that will be held on Russian interference in the elections, Trump’s staff and or his own involvement, etc. will consume us for the next year or so.  In the meantime, what happens with governing the country?  What becomes of healthcare reform, tax reform, immigration policy?  Probably very little or no action.  We must get our focus on the really important issues that confront us but I don’t know how that happens with the current bloodsport going on in D.C.  Either Trump and his staff have to make a dramatic turnaround quickly or the leadership in the Congress...

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Trump Serves Useful Purpose

After watching the second GOP debate last evening I had an epiphany. I am delighted that Donald Trump is running for president as a Republican. Why you may ask? He’s brash, insulting to women, not quite ready for prime time on the issues and so many more phrases that I won’t even bother to list. But oh my gosh has he energized my party or what! Millions of Americans are watching eleven people stand on a stage for three hours talking about each other, how they look, where their families came from, and on occasion about issues that matter to most Americans. Why? Because they are waiting for The Donald to insult, demean or just insert his Gucci loafer into his mouth. This is great, right? It is because it finally has gotten the American people interested in the GOP primary. No more dullards citing statistics about the gold standard or the gross national product. This is entertainment television, made for prime time, voyuerism at its finest. And while I don’t think Trump will stand the test of time, it has certainly shone the spotlight on at least 10 others, one of whom will be our party’s nominee for president. I would also argue that Trump’s entrance has made all of them better candidates than they would have been otherwise. He sucks the energy out of every room he enters, including the debate stage and the others have finally figured out that they have to come ready to compete, stand toe to toe with him if they are going to survive and advance. Jeb!Bush was a much better candidate/debater last evening. Chris Christie may be back in the game. Carly Fiorina was masterful. Thanks to Trump, she had some great “gotcha” moments. Marco was even more energized. Thanks to Trump, the country stopped what they were doing and tuned into CNN. Who knew the conservatives knew how to find CNN! Thanks Donald, we are a better party with you in...

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What’s A Moderate Republican To Do?

I am getting daily calls from my Republican friends asking me who I am supporting for the GOP nomination. I tell them I haven’t decided and it’s still early. Next there’s the inevitable question- what about Trump? My answer? Don’t write him off yet, it’s still early. Has Trump gone from a novelty candidate to a serious candidate? He certainly is the darling of the drive-by media as Rush L. likes to call them. Why not? He’s colorful, quotable, and accessible. What’s not to love, right? But can he get the nomination and can he win in November, 2016? Who knows, it’s still early. I know this. Trump has certainly tapped into the “silent majority,” or the folks that are “mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.” Clearly that 25% and growing are all over Donald Trump and his brash behavior. They love that finally someone is speaking up and out about what they think. Someone who doesn’t care if he’s politically correct and doesn’t mind telling the news media to sit down and shut up. He’s all that and more. But it’s the more that worries me. Can he sustain his momentum? Will the media tire of the novelty and start digging through his closets and if so, what will they find? Can he grasp the serious policy issues, including foreign policy, and make me believe he is capable of serving as president of these United States. The other sixteen or fifteen if Gov Rick Perry is on his way out have to begin proving they can out-trump Trump. Thus far, no one has been able to do that. Bush appears professorial; Rubio-really love his patriotism and energy but short on experience (note, same as Barack Obama when he was elected); Dr. Ben Carson- I would want him for my surgeon, still unsure about my president; Ted Cruz- very bright but too far right for me; John Kasich- maybe-managed as Governor, served in the Congress, moderate; Carly Fiorina-smart, tough, maybe. Still early. Time will tell I suspect. Republican nominees usually are selected by default. Whoever has the money and the organization usually win out while the others disappear. At this stage, that would be Bush. We also tend to pick nominees who have paid their dues, who’ve toiled in the fertile political fields- Bob Dole, George HW Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Well wouldn’t it be something if this time we didn’t? What if the man who has never tilled one field except his own were to be sustainable until the end? Can you imagine a Trump v Hillary (or Biden or Sanders) campaign? The media certainly would have fun. Not sure about us moderate...

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WBIR: East TN Historical Society honors Jack Hanna

(WBIR) There are some remarkable people who grow up in here and go on to do great things, and one of those people happens to be everyone’s favorite animal man, Jack Hanna. The East Tennessee Historical Society honored Hanna as the East Tennessean of the Year. Hanna is a Knoxville native who worked at the Knoxville Animal Clinic and grew up to become one of the faces of animal activism. He’s become a regular on the morning show and late-night circuit, but hasn’t forgotten where he started.  Read...

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KNS: SRW & Associates celebrates 10 years

Energy, synergy and the creative process. Those are some of the reasons the independent public affairs and public relations professionals at SRW & Associates look forward to going to work in the morning. “We love having an office together,” says Susan Richardson Williams, who started the business 10 years ago after opening and managing the Knoxville office of The Ingram Group, a statewide public relations firm. “We could all work from home, but we like having an office together. It has worked really well for us.” SRW & Associates, located at 507 S. Gay Street, Suite 920, provides strategic counsel and services to major corporations, nonprofit Read the full story...

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