Tag Archives: Phil Bredesen

What you won’t hear in Gov. Haslam’s “State of the State” address

For Haslam...a lot is better left unsaid.

For Haslam…a lot is better left unsaid.

Tonight, Gov. Haslam will deliver his “State of the State” address. I expect it will go a lot like last year’s address, keying in on education and fiscal restraint. He might say something about Tenncare expansion, but if he does, it will only be to say we can’t afford to take a couple of years of free money to care for 180,000 people in our state…because, you know, free money from the Feds is too costly when you’re terrified of the Lt. Governor.

Haslam will have to face the fact that revenue collections are $171m short for the first 6 months of the year. That’s a lot of scratch any way you slice it. Perhaps this isn’t the economic miracle that he thought it was.

Of course, lower tax collections means the Governor has an excuse to cut necessary services. Every year he’s been in office he’s directed all departments other than education to cut an arbitrary 5% from their budgets…all while lowering taxes on folks who make their money through investment income.

All of this fits neatly into an ideology that’s centered around the”haves” and “can’t haves”…a worldview the Governor doesn’t explicitly articulate, but one he is a studious acolyte of.

But there’s so much more you won’t hear from the Governor.

Giving our money away to other states

Giving our money away to other states

You won’t hear that his Tennessee plan for Medicaid Expansion is a plan in name only, or that, as of today he’s surrendered $85,000,000 of Tennessean’s Federal Tax dollars to other states because he thinks a health insurance plan based on Republican ideology, and authored largely by the Heritage Foundation, aka Obamacare, is a clunker.

You won’t hear about government contracts he supports with a company he formerly invested in, or that an audit calls that same contract into question, or that when he tried to get more government money for his former investment he was told no by members of his own party.

You won’t hear anything about any of these issues, or the contract he gave to his Finance Commissioner’s former employer, or the contract General Services awarded to Enterprise-Rent-a-Car after hiring one of its former execs.

You won’t hear him talk about his economic development plan that includes paying $100,000 per job to a company that gave over $36,000 to his campaign, and is represented by his under the table paid “advisor” Tom Ingram.

You will hear how he’s running state government like a business…he just won’t mention that business is his family business, Pilot Flying J which is under Federal investigation for defrauding clients.

I mean, there’s a whole page of questions and an hour long special to boot.

But despite all this graft, regular Tennesseans must suffer cuts because a state with one of the lowest tax burdens on the wealthy in the nation must find more ways for them to accumulate wealth so…they will “create jobs” even though business leaders say tax cuts don’t create jobs, and so does a study from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

You probably will hear him crow about education, but he won’t mention the reforms he’s taking credit for were first offered by a Democratic President, and put into action by a Democratic Governor.

You won’t hear him talk about our poverty rate that is higher than the national average, or our jobless rate is higher than the national average.

You won’t hear him talk about any of these things because he doesn’t have to. This is just another victory lap in a life of victory laps for a Governor that likely won’t have anyone running against him in the fall, and that feels he can act as he pleases, so long as it doesn’t raise too much of a stir so as to damage his widely held image as a “moderate”.

So enjoy the kabuki theater that will be tonight’s State of the State address, which will be aired online and on your local PBS station.

It’ll be a doozie…I’m sure.

Morning Coffee – Surrender? No Surrender? Edition

This may be the end of MCS as we know it, and I'm fine with that.

In this season of giving, I’ve decided that a current events version of “The Night Before Christmas” is in order. To that end, I offer the following…

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the County,
Leaders in the east were assessing their bounty,
The Legislature won by the right wing with care,
In hopes that a Special School District would be there.

The schoolchildren enjoying their Christmas break,
Awaiting decisions that deciders will make,
And I at my computer trying hard to remember,
All the information concerning surrender.

Out in the City there had been such a clatter,
Somehow Mr. Pickler didn’t see what was the matter,
He thought SSD was a forgone conclusion,
And didn’t consider the current resolution.

Ambition became his great miscalculation,
The consequence of which is consolidation,
When what to his wondering eyes did appear,
But the MCS board, whose votes were all clear.

The resolution’s sponsor, Martavius Jones,
Brought the specter of merger which chilled Pickler’s bones.
More rapid than eagles, the vote count it came,
And they voted aloud as they called them by name.

The ayes had Hart, Webb, Gatewood and Jones,
Kenneth Whalum and Williams comprised all the noes,
There were still some votes, whose fate were in question,
Mallott, and Warren and Patrice Robinson.

The vote was all set, it was on the agenda,
But nobody knew if they would approve surrender,
So up to the boardroom the Commissioner they flew,
Voting the fate of the district, and Kriner Cash too.

Ok, that’s all I can write right now. We’ll find out how it all turns out this evening and maybe I’ll be able to finish this epic.

Now, on to the Coffee!

The Bredesen legacy parade continues on the menu today, Blame storming.

It’s been two years since the Coal Ash Spill in Kingston, TN and the EPA rules are still uncertain, as is the result of the numerous lawsuits that begin next year

Over the weekend the US Senate voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. One former Marine from the Mid-South plans to re-enlist. Also check out this post from Grand Divisions regarding the votes of Tennessee’s Senators and the state of equality in Tennessee. Good stuff.

Spygate: Memphis Police Department Edition.

As I mentioned in the opening, the vote to surrender the charter happens tonight at 5:30. David Waters at the Commercial Appeal says we need to focus on helping our students by helping our teachers. I couldn’t agree more. Also, Smart City Memphis is looking at achievement gaps.

Over the weekend there were several blog posts and Op-Eds about the issue. Here’s a short rundown:

MCS Board Member Jeff Warren offers Let’s get MAD about our schools face-off.
Over at vibinc I talked about the trust issue, as well as some of the other issues ultimately asking the board to surrender.
Steffens also had a similar, though decidedly more pointed argument.

There are several others. As I re-find them I’ll update the post.

Regardless of your faith, Ricky Gervais has A Holiday Message for you.

And finally, Memphis says goodbye to a journalistic icon. Over the weekend WREG’s Norm Brewer lost his battle with cancer. Thoughts and Prayers go out to the family.

Have a good day out there. Do something unexpectedly nice for someone if you have the chance. It’ll make you feel good.

Morning Coffee – The Tale of Two Returns Edition UPDATED

Keith Olberman and Conan O'Brien are back on the air

For reasons I’m not so sure about, I’ve been looking at the media page on HuffPo a lot over the past several days. In the process of doing this, I realized that last night marked the return of Conan O’Brien to late-night television after a long and winding journey.

I don’t really watch late-night tv, but watching the build-up to Conan’s return has been interesting. From a purely PR perspective, I don’t think anyone has taken lemons and turned them into lemonade quite as well as he has in recent memory. I have no idea what the ratings were last night, but here’s the liveblog of the premiere if you’re interested.

The other return that’s going to be interesting is that of MSNBC personality, Keith Olberman. Olberman’s absence has been just a few days long, but in that time nearly half a million people have signed a petition in support of him. Trace has a good rundown of what all happened at Newscomahere.

Ok, on to the coffee…

Rich dude is handed a get out of jail free card because he’s rich. Of course there will be civil litigation, but should wealthy people be able to just write a check when they leave someone for dead? I don’t think so.

I don’t know what kind of head injury is required to serve on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but I suspect it involves leaving your head up you rear too long. The court that’s so full of conservatives it scares the Christian Coalition ruled that a cheerleader who pressed rape charges against a school athlete must cheer for said athlete. WTF? Oh, and she also has to pay the court costs for the defense.

One of the funniest lines ever.

Blame storm rising. According to Governor Phil Bredesen, the blame for the losses last Tuesday lies squarely with the White House.

Today at 3:30 the Memphis City Council will hear the first reading of the proposed Employee Non-Discrimination Ordinance. Here’s a link to the agenda.

In other news, the Shelby County Commission, yesterday, voted to decline funding for a Head Start program. WTF? I find it VERY strange that Wyatt Bunker and Terry Roland voted for this, but Brooks, Burgess, Chism, and Ford voted against it. (I’m not surprised at all that Heidi Shafer voted against it).

And finally, another poll that makes Memphis look bad. Apparently we’re ugly and dumb but make some badass ‘cue. Cutting funding for Head Start isn’t gonna make us any smarter any time soon.

Ok, get out there and do something constructive with your day, like watch the leaves fall. Going to work is for suckers!

Update: We just learned of the passing of State House member Ulysses Jones. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

Morning Coffee – Speaker Fight

Casada and Harwell in Battle for the gavel

Just because the elections are over doesn’t mean all is lost for political junkies like myself. Even though my junkiness hasn’t been expressed to it’s fullest potential as of late, nothing gets my motor running quite like a power struggle, and that’s exactly what we seem to have in the wake of the Republican wave that swept over the state last week.

House Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada and former TNGOP Chair Beth Harwell are in a pitched battle for the gavel.

You may remember Casada from this post in response to a boneheaded comment from Casada that people should just “get out there and get a job”. That’s right. This guy wants to be in charge of the State House of Representatives.

The Tennessean’s “In Session” blog posted a letter to the House Republican Caucus by Harwell on Friday. For his part, Casada has been making his case to colleagues as well.

Who will win? Who knows. I don’t have any particular insight into the minds of the House Republican Caucus, so it seems like a wait and see until the caucus gets together on December 8th.

On to the coffee!

The Nashville City Paper looks at the coming thundering herd of Republicans to the State Capitol and the challenges they face… like redistricting.

Speaking of redistricting, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey says Northeast Tennessee is safe from too many changes. That means West Tennessee is screwed.

The Rutherford County Daily News Journal is reports on the Democratic Party’s way forward. Thankfully there’s little blame-storming…for now.

The Commercial Appeal looks at the impact the wave may have on Shelby County. It’s gonna be a weird one for us, no doubt.

In the wake of the election, Governor Phil Bredesen is looking to his future in the Solar biz. To that end, he is defending his investment in his new venture as “nothing improper”. If it walks like a duck….

Reclusive Leftist is talking about feminism and the deletion of the word sexism in the definition. Key phrase:

It’s fascinating the extent to which women have been shamed out of even claiming a movement to address sexism. We just aren’t allowed to have that. Too strident. Too pushy.

Stands, applauds…

The Memphis City Council will conduct its first reading of the Employee Non-Discrimination Ordinance on Tuesday, the West Tennessee Liberal reports. Hopefully it won’t be marked by the shenanigans the last first reading brought forth.

And finally, a shout out to the University of Memphis Mock Trial Team, of which I am a member.

This weekend we went to St. Louis to compete in the Sixth Annual Billiken Barrister Tournament sponsored by Saint Louis University and won 5th place overall, as well as individual awards for Kim Marking, who received a Best Witness award, and Allen Porter was recognized with an attorney award. I’m really proud of our team and look forward to more success in upcoming competitions.

Alright, get out there and do something with your day for chrissakes…and I’m not talking about work. You know, do something productive! 😉

Morning Coffee – You Put Your Left Foot In Edition

That IS what it's all about

During our long break, I’ve had some time to think about what’s going on with all the dissatisfaction from voters out there.

For over a year we’ve been hearing about the Tea Party and whatnot, as if that’s the only political movement that’s energized in the nation. Certainly there’s some evidence out there that shows conservatives are energized this year. That’s not particularly unexpected. When one party takes the White House, the other party typically gets fired up to wrest control. 2002 was a notable exception, primarily because of 9/11, but by and large, the rule holds true.

But is all this supposed energy really widespread support, or a refutation of the status quo articulated through voter outrage? That’s a question that likely won’t really be answered until November.

Chris Clizza at the Washington Post reported last week that voters don’t really like either party. From my perspective, both parties, particularly in the federal government, have become agents of the status quo, which, by the way, hasn’t been too kind to average folks, rather than advocates for their constituents. It’s no wonder people feel disillusioned.

In this environment, the reality is that people want reform more than they want “same” regardless of what the much more vocal opponents of reform would have you believe.

A recent AP poll on healthcare bears this fact out. By a 2-1 margin more Americans think the landmark healthcare reform should have gone further. While this particular issue may not resonate with Tennessee voters, chances are we can apply the same kind of benchmarks for voter dissatisfaction with “same” here as nationally.

There are other issues feeding into this feeling of a need for reform. Unemployment is SUPER HIGH and not likely to decrease that much for several years. This means that people are suffering far more than they were even in 2008. The fact is, income disparity is at the highest rate it’s been since the Great Depression. Furthermore, those heralded “Bush Tax Cuts” that Republicans are running on, turn out to have sucked about $2.7 TRILLION from total income in the US. For some point of reference, $2.7 trillion is about 21% of the total federal debt and about half the debt that the Bush administration ran up in it’s eight years in office.

So what do voters REALLY want? In 2008, Obama ran on “Hope” and “Change”, but neither of these things are necessarily what voters were really asking for…”REFORM”. However, Obama can’t be blamed for the lack of comprehensive reform on many issues, nor can he be held accountable for a recalcitrant US Senate, which is where progress goes to die it seems.

The largest burden Obama bears is that he hasn’t used his bully pulpit effectively to provide direction and reframe the debate in a way that serves his mission of “Hope” and “Change” which can manifest itself as “reform”. Until he learns this lesson and uses his political power to at least try to reframe the debate he’ll continue to see downward pressure on his job performance.

The other side of this is the people who are currently running for re-election, those congress-critters. It’s not really fair to paint all 535 of them with a broad brush as agents for “same”, but there are enough of these “same agents” out there that a whole bunch of them are going to suffer defeat.

This is not a “Pro-Republican” year, but an anti-incumbent year. People want to see clear distinctions and effective solutions, and when they don’t they disengage. In both Federal and State elections, the lack of clear contrasts between the various parties and real solutions on key issues that impact voters (jobs, economic development, education) will ultimately hurt members of the party which is perceived to hold the power. In Federal elections this means that Democrats will suffer. In State elections it SHOULD mean that Republicans, who hold majorities in both the State House and Senate will suffer. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for several reasons.

First, Democrats held solid majorities in the House and Senate until quite recently. Most Tennessee voters are relatively disengaged from state politics as they don’t dominate the media the same way national politics do. Taking that into account, I would wager that if you conducted a “convenience store poll”, which is unscientific, but I think, a good indicator of how engaged regular folks are, few would know that Republicans hold the majority in Tennessee.

Second, a Democrat has held the highest position in the land for the past 8 years in Tennessee. This further feeds the perception that Democrats have been in power even though they haven’t necessarily had control of the legislative agenda over the past two years. This isn’t Phil Bredesen’s fault. He didn’t create the national problems that are impacting us stateside, however, because people see executive power as ultimate control, it feeds the perception that Democrats are the problem.

Third, and this is something I’ve been preaching for years now, from a practical perspective, voters perceive little difference between many state Democrats and Republicans. The absence of these clear distinctions, as I’ve stated before, puts negative pressure on Democratic candidates which translates into what we saw in the August elections here in Shelby County… an energized right and an absent left.

With just 36 days to go until election day, if Democrats don’t get it together and start drawing clear distinctions between themselves and their Republican counterparts and providing solutions they’re going to suffer dire consequences that will likely result in decades of life living in the shadows of political power. This isn’t about “Hope” or “Change”, it’s about “reform”. Democrats have to re-form the way they do business with their constituents and re-connect with them to re-gain their trust, ultimately showing them they are not the agents of “same”.

Same ain’t working for anyone right now. It’s past time we recognized that and acted on it. Old habits die hard, and barring some divine intervention, so will a lot of longtime legislative careers.

I, and many other people, have been preaching this since the after 2008 state legislative losses that gave Republicans the State House and solid majorities in the State Senate, but few have actually listened. I’m not sure why I’ve gone to all the trouble to put this out there again, but here it is. Same will give you a more devastating repeat of 2008.

While many current elected officials won’t be around in 20 years to feel the effects of this election, I (God willing) will. This isn’t about running to the left, or right or anything like that. In fact, I think we need to stop quantifying things in this manner. It’s about being trusted advocates for the people rather than trustees that assume to know what’s best. It’s about educating your voters instead of trying to justify your votes. It’s about flipping the relationship between representative and constituent around from the plantation mentality scenario that currently exists between many elected officials from both parties and their constituents.

Voters don’t need their current representatives as badly as those representatives need the voters. That’s reality. If something doesn’t give, a lot of people are going to find this out the hard way come November.

Ok, I think I’ve stepped in it good enough for a Monday morning. On to the Coffee!

I can’t wait to see someone try and sneak up on the “Stealth Tax”. Since when was closing a loophole a bad thing? Since the world went mad.

Bill Haslam’s pick for President in 2008 famously said, “Bomb, bomb, bomb…bomb, bomb, Iran.” Tom Humphrey reports on Haslam’s Iran Connection and other developments in the Tennessee Gubernatorial race.

With all the racket about the Murfreesboro Mosque, it’s good to see some sanity brought into the conversation. And right here in Memphis, no less.

The City Paper in Nashville looks at the race for State House District 60.

Southern Beale on privatizing libraries, and Andy Meek on Shelby County libraries that are privatized.

Who left West Tennessee out of the electric car?

Finally, the debate over Metro Government rages on in Shelby County. In this episode, black political power is the topic of the day.

Have a great day out there. Not sure if I’ll be able to do this daily, but I promise to try and get at least a couple a week until my schedule calms down.

Morning Coffee – Election Investigation Edition

Looks like we’re going to have a full on investigation into what happened on election day in Shelby County.

Shelby County DA Bill Gibbons asked the TBI to look into “criminal” violations. Congressman Steve Cohen has also sent a letter to the USDOJ to ask for an investigation of the issue. Last night, over 200 people gathered at the IBEW hall in Midtown Memphis to sign affidavits about “voting irregularities”. Despite assertions from the Shelby County Election Commission that voters were not turned away, there have been plenty of reports of people being turned away at the polls or threatened of voter fraud charges.

That ain’t cool.

From my perspective, it’s better to err on the side of caution. If a registered voter shows up on election day, chances are they didn’t take time out of their day to vote twice. Just give them a provisional ballot, and if they did vote twice, deal with the legal issues on the back end. Turning people away at the polls gives the impression that there’s something unseemly happening, not only to the person affected, but also to the other folks in the line.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that the Election Commission came up with a wholly different process for people affected later in the day. I understand the desire to give the impression that “it’s been fixed”, but once the election starts, the rules shouldn’t change mid-way through. That actually makes the problem worse. By trying to “fix” it, there’s an impression of a cover up.

The Election Commission keeps pointing to the 210 provisional ballots cast as an indication of how small the problem is. But they don’t talk about all the people that cast “fail safe” ballots (like Bill Gibbons) on the paperless machines after the problem was realized.

Nope, a situation like this DEMANDS a paper trail. If they didn’t have enough provisionals, then that’s another planning problem. A little extra paper costs a whole lot less than the cost to voter confidence, or a new election.

It may be months before we find out what really happened and how many people were effected. In the mean time, if you experienced problems at the polls, please let someone know by coming to this meeting at AFSCME Union Hall, MLK Center, SE corner of Danny Thomas and Beale Street on Friday at 3pm.

Ok, on to the Coffee!!!

Don’t piss off Phil.

The debate on Gubernatorial debates is on. McWherter has agreed to as many as 15, Haslam says three is enough. Why is Haslam scared of going head to head with McWherter?

In Shelby County, the Metro Charter has been filed with the proper authorities, now comes the conversation, the campaign, and ultimately the vote.

Smart City thinks, we’re a lot more together than we know.

Jackson Baker takes a final look back at the election.

And Reginald Milton thinks the criticism of Van Turner has been a bit overblown.

Ok, have a great day!

Gov. Phil Bredesen Does Not Approve Of Arizona Trip

From WKRN:

Several state Republican lawmakers are planning a trip to Phoenix later this month to present the resolution they passed in support of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law.

Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen told News 2 he wished they weren’t taking the trip and also said, “I don’t think it puts Tennessee in the best possible light.”

The governor made the comments after Republican representative Joe Carr, who sponsored the Tennessee resolution, and state Senator Bill Ketron, announced plans late Monday to “personally deliver” the legislation to Arizona governor Jan Brewer.

The lawmakers plan to make the delivery July 30 and “attend an educational seminar which details provisions of the new law.”

From an economic standpoint of bringing in new industry, these legislators apparently didn’t look at the big picture, just the soundbites they will get until August 1.

Morning Coffee – Jackson Day Impressions Edition

As promised here are my impressions from the annual TNDP Jackson Day event that was held Friday night at Belmont University.

First of all, I want to congratulate the volunteers and staff of the TNDP for again exceeding expectations. After last year’s event I was wondering how they would manage to reach that high bar again.

While I generally preferred last year’s format and timing to this year’s, I also understand the technical and logistical challenges of having a sitting Vice-President at your event. Remember, I did this kind of work for over a decade. I’ve had to coordinate with scheduling offices and the Secret Service before, and while they are always professional and courteous, it can be a difficult balance to meet their needs and the needs of your event. Considering all this, I think they did a fine job of both.

Ellyn and I arrived a little late due to the early start time of the event. Congressman Lincoln Davis was speaking about retiring Congressmen Tanner and Gordon. His time at the podium was nearly over by the time we got seated, but from what I could tell he gave a rousing tribute to the retiring Congressmen. I don’t always agree with Davis’ votes, but in the several times I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak he has a presence and command of the stage that is hard to ignore.

Next up was State Senator and 8th Congressional District candidate, Roy Herron. Herron is a consistently good speaker, and even though I’ve heard more about his old red truck more than I care to, I’m sure there were many, particularly from the middle and eastern parts of the state that haven’t heard that speech. Herron gave us five reasons to support his bid to replace retiring Congressman John Tanner. In keeping with his consistent small town preacher style, the speech was full of humor and energy.

Herron was followed by an introduction by Congressman Jim Cooper and a tribute video to Governor Phil Bredesen. Bredesen focused on the accomplishments of his administration and the need to continue and expand these policies by electing Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Mike McWherter as well as a Democratic majority in the state legislature in the fall. This was one of the better speeches I’ve heard Bredesen deliver, and was a good introduction for the next speaker, Mike McWherter.

McWherter focused on his consistent theme of attracting and keeping small businesses in the state to provide good paying jobs to Tennesseans. He took aim at the Republicans running in the race. A more thorough account of that can be read here, as well as a short video clip of the speech.

After a brief musical interlude by Grammy Award winner Rodney Crowell, former Vice-President Al Gore took the podium to introduce Vice-President Biden. Gore really set up Biden’s speech well by giving a brief overview of the indictment of the Republican leadership that held power from 2001-2008. Biden, for his part, continued this indictment and expounded on it in a way that only Biden can. I think the most powerful part of his speech was when he recounted a conversation that he and his father had before they moved to Delaware when he was a child. This conversation is being played out over and over again as people struggle to find work in an economy that has just recently started to find it’s way out of decline.

You can read more about Biden’s speech here and here. Also there’s more coverage of the event here and here.

Of course the TNGOP laid out the welcome mat for Biden, as did 7th Congressional District Representative Marsha Blackburn.

Like I said, it was a nice, well organized and attended event. Kudos to all those who helped make it happen.

OK, go get you some coffee…

Tom Humphrey spent some time on the campaign trail with Mike McWherter.

Some state colleges are predicting record enrollment this fall.

The Commercial Appeal profiles the race for the 5th district of the Shelby County Commission.

Have a good day!

Gaile Owens Death Sentence Commuted

Gaile Owens via Friends of Gaile

In a move that many likely find surprising, Governor Phil Bredesen has commuted the death sentence of Gaile Owens. Here’s the Nashville City Paper with the coverage:

Calling the case “complex and emotional,” the governor cited the “extraordinary” sentence rendered in the case and the fact that Owens had accepted a conditional plea agreement prior to her trial.

“Nearly all the similar cases have resulted in life-in-prison sentences,” Bredesen said, pointing to the evidence of abuse by Owens’ husband, Ron.

Bredesen announced that Owens will further receive 1,000 days of sentence credit — “considerably less” than she would have earned had her original sentence been life imprisonment — and will be eligible for parole in late spring 2012.

Owens’ case has generated a great deal of attention because of the unusual circumstances of her plea deal: She and Sidney Porterfield, the man she hired to kill her husband, were both offered life sentences in exchange for guilty pleas. Owens agreed. Porterfield reneged.

Later, as claims of spousal abuse emerged, further questions were raised about the fairness of Owens’ capital sentence, especially in the wake of the Mary Winkler trial — in which Winkler claimed a long history of abuse prior to killing her husband. Winkler was sentenced to 67 days in a mental health facility.

I’ve written about this case a couple of times, but even though our coverage has been far from comprehensive even though this is something that I’ve been watching pretty closely over the past few months.

I’m glad Governor Bredesen did the right thing, and totally agree with what GoldnI says here:

No one questions Gaile Owens’ guilt, she admitted as much. But it’s clear that the prosecutors in this case did not act in good faith, and the comparison between her treatment and that of Mary Winkler was simply too stark to ignore.

The Shelby County Election Outlook

Shelby County has two more elections this year (hopefully) and after the dismal turnout in the May 5th election, and voter fatigue in general, how Big Shelby turns out in August and November could have a huge impact on the future of the state.

I understand that most folks don’t care much about the party process or primaries in general. General elections in Shelby County typically turn out 3 times more voters than primaries.

The upcoming primary for state and federal office August 5th is likely to be an exception to the rule on low turnout primaries. The big race is between Cohen and Herenton, with Shelby County Mayor’s race falling a distant second. The Cohen/Herenton match-up is dominating local media, with the down ballot races as filler. Chances are turnout will be as big as some past general elections, particularly since this IS effectively the general election for the top 3 races. Whoever wins the 9th district Democratic Primary will be the next Congressman from Memphis.

Which brings me to a thought that I’ve been kicking around for some time. What happens here in Shelby County in November? As John Branston noted back in May, we’ve been electioned to death in Shelby County, and with Governor’s race being the only real race of consequence in November, turnout is a big question mark.

In the 2006 election some 280,000 Shelby County voters participated. In 2008, the number was around 404,000. The difference between those two elections and the upcoming 2010 election is who was on the ballot. In 2006, Memphis’ own Harold Ford Jr. was running for Senate. In 2008 it was a Presidential year that led to the election of the nation’s first African-American President. Since 1998 Gubernatorial elections have turned out around 100,000 fewer voters in Shelby County than Presidential elections.

No one expects a repeat of the huge turnout we saw in 2008. The question is whether or not we’ll even rise to 2006 levels or not.

The last Gubernatorial election that didn’t have another statewide or Presidential race on the ballot was 1998. That year only 158,000 voters in Shelby County voted. What’s interesting is that the number of active registered voters in Shelby County is relatively unchanged since 1998.

John Jay Hooker’s low budget campaign had a lot to do with the depressed turnout in 1998, but my point still stands: turnout is lower in Gubernatorial years, even lower when there’s not another race to spark interest, and even lower when the electorate has had an election every time they turn around.

Shelby County consistently delivers over 60% of it’s vote to the Democratic candidate. So winning Shelby isn’t that big of a deal. How BIG you win in Shelby, however, could be a big deal. There are basically 100,000-150,000 votes in play here. For Democratic candidates, these aren’t votes you necessarily have to win, these are votes you have to turn out. Looking back at the 2002 Gubernatorial election, the margin of victory was about 50,000 votes, but if you back out the Shelby and Davidson County numbers, you see that they erased a statewide deficit of over 16,000 votes to lead Phil Bredesen to a decisive victory.

That may not happen if the electorate isn’t excited about the campaign, and I can tell you, they aren’t right now.

There’s a growing feeling in Shelby County that we’re being taken for granted. That feeling was expressed recently by News Channel 3 reporter Mike Matthews.

In a series of tweets to his 800 followers, mostly Memphians, the veteran reporter made some observations that have had political observers talking for the last couple of days.

I wonder if Democrat candidate for mayor Mike McWherter is planning on visiting Memphis anytime soon. I know he’s unopposed, but hey…(Source)

McWherter not coming to Memphis, Ramsey’s not mentioning Memphis in his speech, indicatiions are some use Memphis for votes and little else.(Source)

Say what you want, but Haslam has been to Memphis a lot, and Zach Wamp mentions how important Memphis is in other sections of the state.(Source)

And finally, in response to one of his followers…

@Querb He was here 3 months ago, huh? Wasn’t Jim Kyle still in the race 3 months ago? He’ll show up after the primary, looking for votes.(Source)

The problem isn’t that we have a bad candidate or that we don’t have a primary. The problem is that we’re only hearing from the people we don’t want to vote for (Haslam and Wamp primarily) and we just want to know our guy is in the game and interested in the future of Shelby County.

For a lot longer than 8 years Big Shelby has felt like the red-headed stepchild of Tennessee politics. There is not another county like us in the state. We are unique, and because of that uniqueness, we feel we get treated differently, and not a good kind of different.

14% of the state’s population lives in Shelby County, but 25% of that population is poor. Over the past 30 years we’ve seen a hollowing out of our city’s core, and very little of anything in the way of economic development outside of the usual suspects that dominate our employment base. We keep hearing we’re on our way to be the Detroit of the south, but we don’t hear much of anything in the way of solutions from local leaders or help from the powers that be in Nashville. This feeling is only compounded by the situation that is currently surrounding The MED.

We feel ignored, but we’re not unique in that feeling. All across West Tennessee cities and counties feel ignored by Nashville. While huge strides have been made in population growth and economic development in East and Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee feels like it’s been left to wither on the vine by folks that just don’t understand us.

The difference between Shelby and the other 20 counties in West Tennessee is the potential of our political impact. No Democrat in a statewide election can win without us. That’s the reality. But we have to be inspired to show up to deliver the votes, and that’s just not happening right now. Add that to the voter fatigue and general sense of malaise and it spells disaster for Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, Mike McWherter. Haslam and Wamp understand this, which is why they’ve spent so much time and so many resources here. Their appearances and the build up of their campaign organizations in Shelby County are both about their looming primary, and a recognition that firing up their base here now will likely pay off in November.

The absence of any McWherter campaign structure in Shelby County just reinforces the feeling that once again we’re being taken for granted, or worse, forgotten.

There’s little doubt in my mind that McWherter will win Shelby County. That’s not in question. The question is by how much, and how many votes will be delivered. The answer to that question will likely decide the outcome in this statewide election.