Last month, Randy Boyd, the former state commissioner of economic and community development, kicked off his campaign for governor. Boyd is best known for his philanthropy, ownership of the Tennessee Smokies baseball team, and as founder of PetSafe (the folks who make the invisible fence for your dog).
Media coverage is the lifeblood of any statewide campaign, and Boyd has proven skilled at getting it. While money can’t buy you love, money can certainly buy good publicity. Boyd has figured out that giving away a lot of money can bring a steady stream of positive media coverage for a nascent gubernatorial campaign.
Gov. Bill Haslam has announced a wide-ranging tax proposal that would add 7 cents per gallon on gasoline and 12 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. As part of the governor’s plan, the sales tax on groceries would be lowered by one-half a percent (a 50-cent decrease on a $100 grocery bill) and the Hall income tax decreased.
Most would agree that Tennessee’s bridges need work. Although our state ranks near the top of states in highway quality, we lie near the bottom in bridge health. In fact, one study by TRIP, a transportation research and lobbying firm, found that 19 percent of Tennessee’s bridges are “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” Supporters of the gas tax increase say that new revenue is needed to repair bridges and fund a backlog of state road projects. Also, they argue it’s only fair that drivers (who use the roads) pay for road improvements.
We all know that 2016 was a great year for Republicans (and a not-so-great year for Democrats), but let’s take a closer look at what happened and what’s ahead in 2017.
First, while the biggest political story of the year was Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, some observers were surprised by the size of Trump’s win in Tennessee. Trump won Tennessee by nearly 25 points – a higher margin than Mitt Romney’s 20-point win in 2012 and John McCain’s 15-point win in 2008.
State Republicans were relieved this month when Rep. Eddie Smith won re-election in state House District 13 by narrowly defeating Democrat Gloria Johnson.
It was a close race and Johnson was right not to concede on election night with so many provisional (paper) ballots pending. However, Johnson was wrong to seek a court order to try to obtain the names and addresses of provisional voters.
Singer and celebrity Justin Timberlake fell into controversy last month when he returned home to Shelby County to vote in the presidential election. Timberlake took a selfie in front of a voting machine and posted it to social media. Some folks were not amused.
Last month, Nashville approved an ordinance to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Nashville police now have the option of issuing a civil citation for marijuana possession instead of a criminal one.
With the party conventions concluded, and the Clinton/Trump race underway, it’s easy to forget there’s an election on Thursday.
In fact, if you had forgotten about this week’s state primary and county general election, you’re not alone. Early voting turnout was below average because there is no statewide non-judicial office (governor or U.S. senator) on the ballot. Competitive statewide elections encourage political advertising and voter interest. There’s none of that this year.