Friday, January 13, 2012

The Coward Known As Jim Kyle

I had planned to blog about new Senate districts today, but instead I'm going to bitch for a few minutes about the imperial cowardice of Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle.

I do not live in Nashville, so I have rely on info from my political contacts inside the 440-loop. Today, I was particularly disturbed by a call I got concerning a new redistricing deal struck by Senator Jim Kyle late last night.

For weeks, Senator Jim Kyle has been looking for a way to revive his electoral prospects after Republicans did away with his district. He's spent a great deal of time drawing alternatives, supposedly preparing for a court case after the bill passed.

This all changed last night.

My sources inside the capitol tell me that Senator Kyle, the Leader of the Senate Democrats, yesterday struck a deal with Republicans to save his own ass. The catch? It was at the expense of one of his own caucus members, Beverly Marrero. The main stream media seems to think Republicans hatched this plan--not so say those inside the capitol.

Apparently, Kyle presented a map to his caucus today as the "Democratic Plan." This plan took Kyle out of the district he was placed in with Sen. Brian Kelsey and instead pit him against one of his own. Let me repeat, this was done by the Republicans at KYLE's request. Meaning, the Senate Democratic Leader was more concerned with saving himself, than helping his fellow caucus members.

Politicos will know that the main job of party leadership is to protect the members of their caucus. This often means they have to take tough votes, like Mike Turner did in the House, to save some of their members. Here, Kyle instead chose to abuse his position to screw a fellow Democrat. What's worse? Not one Democrat stood up for Senator Marrero. Instead, they each went along with the Kyle/Ramsey plan and passed his amendment by a voice vote.

To add insult to injury, Kyle then proceeded to vote "present" on the final redistricting bill, after railing against it for hours. Once the session was over, he then asked the clerks to change his official vote to "Yes", presumably as part of some deal with Ron Ramsey for drawing him back into a district. Apparently, Kyle lacked the balls to cast the vote in front of his entire caucus.

This absolutely stinks. Beverly Marrero is one of the few liberals we have in the Tennessee General Assembly. She's an advocate for women, gays, the enviroment, the arts and many other issues dear to a progressive heart. I am so disappointed that Kyle chose to put his own electoral prospects over that of the members he was elected to lead. It just goes to show what a typical, raw politician this guy is. He thinks he's entitled to a seat because he married a Clement and has been in office for 30 years. He's everything that's wrong with the Tennessee Democratic Party and I for one intend to make sure he stays in Memphis after the next election.  

Jim Kyle should resign as Senate Democratic Leader. He obviosuly doesn't have the testicular fortitude to lead and is more concerned with his electoral future, than the good of his caucus. Liberals and women around the state should be equally outraged at not only Kyle, but his fellow Senators who banded together to rid themselves of one of four women in their caucus. It's digusting and I'm truley sad for my party.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Redistricting: What This Means for the House

After looking at the map, I've gone through  each incumbent Democrat's district and spelled out what these new lines actually mean for their re-election chances. These opinions are my own, based on my knowledge of the state. I don't have any info other than what's on the GA's website. By my calculation, we have 4-net losses in the House. This, however, does not include possible pick-ups, which I will discuss in a future post. I will do the same for the Senate tomorrow.

From East to West:
(District numbers reflect the new numbering)

District 13: Harry Tindell
Rep. Tindell's district is still contained within Knox County, but he's lost a good portion of his people to fellow Democrat, Joe Armstrong. It looks like Tindell took in some of South Knox, which is not exactly D territory.
PREDICTION: Toss-Up (If Tindell runs)

District 15: Joe Armstrong
Rep. Armstrong's district is largely the same. He gets a boost from some of Rep. Tindell's Democrats, but they'd be hard pressed to screw the only AA rep in upper-east Tennessee.

District 28: Tommie Brown & JoAnn Favors
Reps. Brown & Favors (both D's) are hitched together in the new district 28. This Hamilton County district is overwhelminly African American, but only one of these two ladies will make it out of the primary. With Republican districts surrounding them, it's unlikely that one could just move over into another district and still win.
PREDICTION: Solid-D (Favors) w/ 1 net dem loss.

District 31: Jim Cobb & Bill Harmon
Reps. Jim Cobb & Bill Harmon are hitched together in the new district 31. Cobb, the Republican Chair of Government Operations, and Harmon, a Democrat & former Transportation Committee Chair with $156,000 in the bank, will both have plenty of money to fight out this contest. Harmon's former district had Grundy & Marion Counties, both traditionally Democratic, that are now gone. While the new district is Bledsoe (evenly split) and Rhea, which Cobb currently represents, plus Sequatchie (Harmon Country). My guess, Harmon is a tough SOB whose not afraid of a fight. This will be a tough race, but I'd rather be Harmon.

District 41: John Mark Windle
Colonel Windle, as he's known in most parts, got a pretty good deal. His district loses half of Fentress County, but gains all of Jackson County. Politicos may rember that Jackson County is one of very few to go for Barack Obama in 2008. That being said, Windle--who won re-election in 2010 while serving overseas--is a shoe-in for re-election this fall.

District 43: Charlie Curtiss
Rep. Charlie Curtiss' district loses eastern Putnam & VanBuren Counties, but gains all of Grundy. Grundy is solid-D territory and this should be good new for Rep. Curtiss, who's also a tough SOB and a hell of a campaigner.

District 44: Mike McDonald
Rep. McDonald is well-liked at home and in Nashville, but he got the screws put to him by fellow Sumner County represenative, Debra Maggart. The map apprears to draw McDonald out of the White House area (D's) and into some of Maggarts white-bread suburbia. This is not good for Rep. McDonald, who already reprsented a Lean-R district. He's a fighter, but this will be an up-hill battle.

District 50: Gary Moore
Rep. Moore, the new AFL-CIO President, has a fight ahead. The new map takes aways his white Democrats in north Nashville and dumps a whole load of Bellvue Republicans in the south end to make up the difference. (How nice of Rep. Odom-a Harwell ally-to give those to him!) It's an up-hill fight, but Moore will have the money and manpower of every union in the state behind him. He's not a quitter and I predict he'll be back.

District 51: Mike Turner
Rep. Mike Turner, Caucus Chairman and media darling, gets a sweet heart of a deal. He sheds his R's to the laughable Jim Gotto. In return, he gets East Nashville, downtown and Germantown. Absent a primary challenge, which would be ill advised against the liberal caucus chairman, he will be fine.

District 54: Brenda Gilmore
Rep. Gilmore's district moves around, but remains solidly democratic and about 60% African American. She' won't have any problem this fall.

District 55: Gary Odom
Rep. Gary Odom, the former House Democratic Leader, did very well in redistricting. He gave his Bellvue Republicans to fellow Democrat Gary Moore and picked up some liberal white folk around Hillsboro. Looks like his cozy relationship with Speaker Beth Harwell paid off for him, if not his fellow Nashville Democrats. Absent a primary challenge, he should be back.

District 52: Sherry Jones & Mike Stewart
Reps. Jones & Stewart are hitched together in what I believe to be the new district 52. The district is solid-D, but only one can make it out of the primary. My prediction, these two liberals work things out where one moves over to the newly formed district 59, which is being called an "opportunity district" because it has a 55% minority population, including about 18% hispanics.

District 53: Janis Sontany
Rep. Sontany gets really jossled around, but I still look for this to be a D district. It's got a lot of what looks like Nolensville, which should be good for her. She'll have to get aquainted with some new folks, but we'll hold the day.

District 58: Mary Pruitt
Rep. Pruitt, who narrowly defeated the young Democrat Stephen Turner in 2010, has an even more AA district than before. She loses downtown and Germantown to fellow Democrat Mike Turner, so I doubt she sees a primary challenge this time. Either way, the district is ours.

District 67: Joe Pitts
Rep. Joe Pitts, the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, is better off than he was before. Sharing Montgomery County with Ethics Committee Chairman Curtiss Johnson (R), means the two made a swap. Johnson gets Pitts' D's, while Pitts takes Johnson's R's. This should make 67 a solid-d, keeping the well-liked Pitts in his seat.

District 69: David Shepard
Rep. Shepard has a very good district. He loses the Republican parts of Dickson County, gains all of Hickman, then takes in the city of Columbia in Maury. This should boost both his D and African American numbers. He's a good fundraiser, a solid campaigner and a local business owner. He should be fine.

District 71: Eddie Bass & Vance Dennis
Rep. Bass (D) & Dennis (R) are hitched together in the new district 71. Rep. Bass is at a clear disadvantage here, having previouly represented Marshall & Giles Counties. This new district encompasses all of Hardin (Dennis' home) and Wayne Counties, while taking in the southern slivers of Lawrence & Giles (Bass' home) counties. My guess is that Eddie Bass, a former Giles County Sheriff, decides to go back to local politics. In the alternative, he could move to Marshall County and run in the newly opened district 92, which has no incumbent.
PREDICTION: Solid-R w/ 1 net-dem loss

District 74: John Tidwell
Rep. Tidwell is a happy-go-lucky guy, well liked by his constituents. He's a reliable D and gets a pretty good district. Houston & Humphreys are both D-counties, while the part of Montgomery he gains is about an even split. Tidwell should do fine, but he hasn't had an opponent in years. Time to dust off the campaign boots.

District 80: Johnny Shaw
Rep. Shaw is a real character and well liked at home. He survived a tough challenge in 2010 from a right-wing nut and should be safe in 2012. This district is federally protected under a 1990's court ruling that says you must have a majority-minority district outside the urban centers, so there wasn't much Republicans could do. If AA turn-out stays up, Shaw will be fine.

District 82: Craig Fitzhugh
Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, the House Democratic Leader and former Finance Chairman, faired pretty well in this process. His district sheds Dyer County (lots of R's) and picks up Haywood (lots of D's). Fitzhugh's home, Lauderdale, is the largest population center and went overwhelmingly for him in the 2010 cycle. Crockett County, home of Congressman Stephen Fincher (R), is in this district, but has the smallest population. Fitzhugh is liked at home and in Nashville. He should have little problem this fall.

District 81: Speaker Jimmy Naifeh
Speaker Emeritus Naifeh is the liberal lion of Tennessee. He's served for nearly 40 years, 18 of those as Speaker. On his way out, he managed to screw Jason Mumpower out of the Speakership in favor of the more moderate Kent Williams. In short, Naifeh is a legend that Republicans want to put to rest. By taking Haywood County from him and making Tipton County whole, they may do just that. The new district includes Atoka and Munford, two white-flight suburbs of Memphis, which gives the 81st a decidedly conservative bent. However, the County Mayor and Sheriff are Democrats, so nothing is impossible. Especially if Naifeh, a hard-nosed professional with money to burn, decides to stay in the race.

District 84: Joe Towns
Rep. Joe Towns has little to no change. He should coast to re-election.

District 85: Johnny Turner
Rep. Turner, widow of former Rep. Larry Turner and alleged cousin of Rep. Mike Turner, should be fine. Her south Memphis district is solid-d. She's already faced a primary challenge, so I don't foresee one in 2012.

District 86: Barbara Cooper & G.A. Hardaway
Reps. Cooper & Hardaway are hitched together in the new district 86. The western Shelby County district is composed mostly of areas previously represented by Cooper, including downtown, with just a single sliver drawn east to take in Hardaway's home. This will be a huge fight between the outspoken Hardaway & the equally tough Cooper. Either way, Dems hold the seat, but lose a D seat in the process.
PREDICTION: Solid-D (Cooper) w/  1 net-dem loss

District 87: Karen Camper
Rep. Camper is well-liked and works hard in her community. She's not paired with anyone else and should be fine, sans a serious primary challenge, which I find unlikely.

District 88: Larry Miller
Rep. Miller, the former State & Local Government Chair, should be fine. He gets jossled around a little, but nothing major.

District 90: John DeBerry
Rep. John DeBerry, a sponsor of legislation to ban gays from adopting in TN (sorry, that slipped out), did well in redistricting. He's not paired with anyone and gets some mid-town white D's. He should coast to re-election, unless the Shelby County Democrats wise up and find a primary challege for this DINO.

Distirct 91: Lois DeBerry
Rep. Lois DeBerry, who just recently beat pancreatic cancer for the SECOND time, will be safe after redistricting. Sources inside the capitol tell me she actually got to draw her own district, before any other member in Shelby County. She's widely known to be a mentor to Speaker Beth Harwell, having supported her charter schools bill while Dems where still in charge, and enjoys respect from both parties. She's a great lady and I know we'll see her back in 2013.

District 93: Mike Kernell
Rep. Mike Kernell still represents a majority African American district near the University of Memphis. He's the second most senior member of the House and I predict we'll see him in the General Assembly until they have to wheel him out.

District 98: Antonio "2-shay" Parkinson & Jeanne Richardson
Reps. Antonio Parkinson, a promising young African American, and Jeanne Richardson, a liberal GLBT/enviromental/children's advocate, are hitched together in this district. It is overwhelmingly African American and surely favors Parkinson. With mid-town now split to the four winds, Richardson is literally a woman without a district. While the district is solid-d, it will ultimately mean one less Dem.
PREDICTION: Solid-D (Parkinson) 1 net-Dem loss


I want to thank Sean over at Nashville for the 21st Century for his thoughtful response to my last post. I also want to say I agree with his sentiment that the two year term essentially allows us to give a progress report after every election. I think this is good and necessary if the Chair is to have any type of legitimacy.

I do take one issue, however, with his comments about people outside the I-440 loop. Sean asserts that people outside this loop don't really know or care what's going on with TNDP bylaws. I suppose this would include the EC members from East TN and West TN that I spoke with who are unsure as well.

I take issue here because it's indicative of broader attitude in the Nashville area. I have lived in all three grand divisions, in all of Tennnessee's 4 major cities and I have been active with those Democratic Parties. They are strong, they are active and they are where the action is. The decisions made inside the 440 loop have just as much--if not MORE--effect on them as democrats than they do on the Nashville area. Those outside areas are where we lost seats, those outside areas are were the majority of Democrats reside and those outside areas care just as much about whose running our party and for how long as those in Davidson County do.

I think this is a bad idea. I think we need input from our party chairs and volunteers, those people on the ground who do the actual work.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

4 More Years (For our next TNDP Chair that is)

I’ve had a chance to review the redistricting maps and I’m going to spend some time going through them. Once I’ve done that, I’m going to put up a post about what this mean for our numbers in the House & Senate.

Until then I want to talk about a small, intraparty matter that is flying under the radar.

Sources tell me that this Saturday, the TNDP Executive Committee will vote on a resolution to amend the party bylaws. This proposed amendment would change the term of TNDP Chairman from the current 2-years to a new 4-year term.

I am not a least not yet. While it seems innocuous on the surface, I can’t help but feel there's something else going on here. Why else is this being rushed & hushed through the EC (Executive Committee) meeting without any public input? I may be wrong, there may be no ulterior motives here, but no one I’ve spoken with on the EC can articulate for me why this change is needed.

Is it change for change sake? Is it financial? Is it to promote staff continuity? Is it part of the plan from “Big Change Strategies” that we shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for? Any of these could, in and of themselves, be a good reason for changing the term. However, sans an explanation from the TNDP, we just don't know.

And isn’t this just a little ironic? For weeks, the TNDP has railed about a lack of transparency in the General Assembly.  Yet  here we are three days from a vote that would restructure our party and no one outside the I-440 loop has any clue what the hell is happening. Serioulsy, we expect this from the GOP, but not our own party.

I encourage you to call your EC member and ask for an explanation. Find out why this is being rushed & hushed through without any input from the public. I'm not saying it's a bad proposal, but we need some sunlight to disinfect this process.

Side Note: I'm being told that the resolution would not be retroactive, so the next Chairman would be the first to serve the new 4-year term. In other words it would not extend the term of the current Chair, Chip Forrester.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ron Paul & Our Apathy Problem

I’m going to need the whiners to shut the hell up and get on the Obama/Democratic bandwagon.

Tonight, Ron Paul came within a hair of winning the Iowa Caucuses.


This is a man who wants to return to the gold standard, completely abolish the department of education and get rid of the Civil Rights Act. Really? Is this where we are as a country in 2011?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. No, we are not a far right, pseudo-libertarian country. Neither are we a far left, statist county. In truth, we are somewhere smack dab in the middle--a little socially liberal and a little fiscally conservative. (It’s practically a Donnie & Marie song)

So how did our centrist nation get to a point where an extremist like Ron Paul is a serious candidate for President? The answer, Democrats have gotten whimpy.

Those of us who four years ago travelled to Iowa, contributed or made calls to support our President. We were excited then, we felt like we had a real chance to change things and Obama was our man. We were successful and that inauguration weekend is one of my fondest memories.

But four years later, too many of us are turning into whiney little cynics, upset because Obama wasn’t quite as liberal as we would have liked.

Never mind that he passed healthcare reform. (It wasn’t single payers, so therefore not good enough.)

Never mind that he reformed Wall Street. (He didn’t get Elizabeth Warren the Consumer Protection appointment, so that’s a mute point.)

Never mind that he ended the war in Iraq. (Gitmo is still open, so that doesn’t matter)

Never mind that gay men and women can now serve openly in the military (he’s not publically for gay marriage, so he’s still too conservative)

Never mind that he kept the economy from dipping into the 2nd Great Depression. (He compromised on the Bush Tax Cuts, so he doesn’t really care.)

If I had a nickel for every whiney tweet, Facebook status or blog post I saw from a Democrat, criticizing the President/Democrats for not doing enough, I could quit my job and live off the interest. Seriously people, Obama is the most liberal President since FDR; he’s done more for progressive causes in 3 years than most Presidents could in two terms. Lay off the man, he still has to win those independents and he can’t kowtow to every cause you embrace.

I feel passionately about this because some of the worst offenders are 18-25 year old college students, who went for the President last time, but have by some miracle of Satan turned to Ron Paul in 2011. (My guess is they are seduced by his promise of pot and no more war, but I could be wrong.)

So I need everyone to put on their big girl panties, realize that politics is a full contact sport, that perfect should never be the enemy of good and get behind the President/Democrats. This same logic—just BTW—could apply to supporting our Democrats here in Tennessee, who face this criticism from the same group of people with even more fervor. We’re never going to have perfect, ideologically pure leaders. Get over it, get on board and work for the best option we have; that’s democracy. If you don’t, we’ll end up with Ron Paul and a world you REALLY won’t like.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tennessee Tea Party Swings....and Misses

My mother always told me that using profanity in an argument just means you aren't smart enough to make a relevant point. I'm not sure if THIS qualifies as profanity, but the point is the same.

Long story short, the Tennessee Tea Party (which I can't abbreviate because it would have the same initials as my blog) took a parting shot at Rep. Barney Frank today when they bid "good riddance" to the "perverted sodomite POS" from Massachusetts.

Really, tea baggers? Sodomite? I mean, as a long-time supporter of GLBT issues, I've heared a number of slurs tossed around-with more than a few references to incest and bestiality thrown in for kicks. But I'm not sure I've seen this word since I sat in the back row of the Baptist church. I don't mean to make light of the situation, but this shows just how out of touch these people really are. They can't articulate a policy difference with Rep. Frank, so they resort to name calling--really, really, hilariously bad name calling.

It was also my understanding that the Tea Party was focused on economics, not divisive social issues. So obviously their detest for Rep. Frank must have something to do with the economy....right? It couldn't be that the Tea Party are just a bunch of bigots using "economic issues" as a Trojan horse to get right wing nut-fuckers (sorry Mom) elected....could it? <Insert sarcasm here>

My point is this, these people are irrelevant. They are a Century behind to be hurling insults like "sodomite" at a well-respected, openly gay Congressman. That might fly in some sectors, but thanks to the efforts of groups like the HRC and TEP, it's no longer the mainstream. The very fact that this is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO laughable is a testament to how far we've come as a country. I know this tweet should make me mad or upset, but I am encouraged knowing this is just the last vestige of a dying issue. These people can't make a coherent point, so they've resurrected a King James Version of Insults for Dummies. They took a swing. They missed. And while GLBT rights are expanding across this country, the Tea Party will become more and more irrelevant.

Praise be to my “sodomite” loving God.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Statesmen, Not Politicians

Houston, we have a problem. It’s a ballooning national debt and the last, best hope—our illustrious supercommittee—has failed.

I am a member of the debt generation (now Betsy at TCP can speculate about my age, as well as my race andgender). Everything this current crop of leaders does will affect my tax rate, retirement plans, health care and overall financial stability for the rest of my life. Today, Senators from both parties showed complete disregard for this responsibility when they folded their tents and went home. Only the President, who promised toveto any legislation off-setting the automatic across the board cuts, showed concern for our plight today.
I am a Democrat, but I am as mad as I have ever been today. I don’t believe anyone in Congress wanted this committee to work; they just wanted talking points for 2012. Republicans wanted to cheer about how they kept Democrats from raising taxes and Democrats want to pontificate about how they protected Medicare from the evil Republicans. In reality, they all screwed my generation and my children’s generation when they couldn’t find a tangible solution for a very real problem.
If we’re going to solve his problem, each party and their respective bases are going to have to sacrifice. Below are some facts that each group needs to accept and act upon.


-Taxes are going to have to be raised.

Compared to other nations, we have a relatively low tax burden. Given that the general public is unwilling to give up things like public education, roads, armed forces, social security and Medicare, they need to realize they’re going to have to pay. We can’t keep taxes at the same rate and expect more services. This is a fact, accept it and move on.

-Defense spending has to be cut.

We live in a post 9/11 world where suicide bombers and airplanes are the new nukes. In this world, we can’t out arm our enemies; we have to out innovate them. This means shifting funding from the large military industrial complex to areas like technology & education. We don’t need all the old hardware—the outdated bombers, airplanes and weapons that politicians support just to keep jobs in their district. It’s a new world, we’re broke and this is throwing money down a drain.

-You’re going to have to piss off your base.

The Republican base believes that we can cut our way out of this problem, that the Bush Tax Cuts should be made permanent and that getting rid of corporate loopholes is tantamount to raising taxes and they are prepared to primary anyone who disagrees. If Republicans in Congress really want to solve the nation’s problems, they have to realize they’re going to piss off their base. In other words, they’ve got to put it all on the line and become statesmen, not simply politicians.

-Raising taxes on the top 2% isn’t going to solve the problem.

The problem is bigger than this group. To be sure, they need to pay their fair share, but so do the 46% of Americans who pay no federal income tax at all. Just like the TennCare reforms, we all have to put a little skin in the game. From raising taxes on the rich to doing away with education and child tax credits, we have to have a shared sacrifice to address a problem this large.

-Medicare and Social Security are getting reformed. Period.

I have paid into the system since I was 16, but I have no illusions I will receive the benefit of either because the baby boomers are going to suck it dry. (To be honest, it irks me that politicians think this group ought not have to share in the sacrifice, simply because they can out vote my generation at the ballot box.) The facts are these: both programs are headed towards insolvency. We have to raise the age to account for longer life expectancy, we have to means test it for benefits and we have to raise the taxable income cap.

-You’re going to have to piss off your base.

The Democratic base believes that taxing the rich is the main solution to the deficit problem, that Medicare and Social Security cuts are off-limits and that massive public spending projects will pull us out of this recession—groups like, labor unions and AARP stand ready to primary and Democrat who disagrees (a la Blanch Lincoln.) If Democrats in Congress really want to solve the nation’s problems, they’re going to have to ignore these interest groups and do what is best for the next generation, not the next election.

I am a Progressive Democrat, which means I believe in always moving forward. Sometimes moving forward means making hard choices, not putting them off for the next generation to solve. Tonight, the members of the super committee showed themselves to be regressive and worse—cowardly. This isn’t a political fight, it’s a very real discussion about how America will be handed off to the next generation—my generation. I hope and pray that someone in DC finds the guts to flip the bird to all special interest groups and do what’s right for the country, not just their party.