The first financial disclosures in the governors race show Republicans outraising Democrats by a better than 3-to-1 margin, and just about everyone agrees the GOP fundraising lead reflects expectations theyll win the election. In other words, Republicans are revved up and Democrats are downcast about 2010.
While both points may be true, we don't think you can draw those conclusions from the disclosures. All they prove is this: Bill Haslam is a very wealthy man, and our political system is badly broken.
Haslam took in nearly $4 million, four times his nearest competitor. Almost everyone is putting their money down on Haslam, betting that he'll win because he's already loaded. It's a proud new tradition in Tennessee. Like Phil Bredesen, Bob Corker, Bill Frist and Karl Dean, Haslam could self-finance his campaign if he chose to do so; therefore, he won't have to. That's the way campaigns work now. Money is so important that qualifications to hold office don't really matter much anymore.
Haslam himself has an exceedingly thin life story as child of privilege, truck stop manager and mayor of Knoxville. He's fuzzy about what he'd do as governor too. He wants to improve schools. That's about all we know. Who cares? He's rich. And he didn't even earn his money. (Daddy did it for him.)
Is this any way to pick a governor? Surprisingly, the legislature has a better idea. We're talking about the measure enacted this year calling for the 2010 Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominees to debate in all 95 counties.
Suddenly, voters personally could eyeball the candidates and decide for themselves who is the best. TV ads would lose importance and so would money. The candidates actually might have to learn something about the issues. The proposal, sponsored by our buddy Rep. Frank Niceley, urged the two political parties to schedule the debates. Predictably, the party chairs have been totally non-committal. It's such a great idea that it will never happen.
We have learned two things about Roy Herron from the way he handled his campaign financial disclosure, his first official act as a candidate for governor:
(1) He's a sneaky little devil who doesn't mind misleading the public, and
(2) He's got a rat in the campaign of his Democratic rival, Mike McWherter.
Regarding the latter point, how else would Herron know for a fact that McWherter was about to announce raising $650,000 for his campaign? Herron's spy nailed it and tipped Herron, leading the state senator to announce not $356,000, which is what he actually raised—or $608,000, which is what he raised counting the cash transferred from his Senate campaign—but "more than $650,000." To make it to that magic number, Herron had to count roughly $40,000 from his Senate account that he'd already spent on campaign expenses.
According to the Registry of Election Finance, Herron contends he spent that $40,000 not on gubernatorial campaign costs—that would be illegal—but on generic consulting fees that could have been attributed to a Senate campaign if he was running for that office again. Which he isn't. Whatever.
A little too obviously, Herron was trying to snooker the media into reporting that he'd matched McWherter's fundraising. It worked for a little while too. To help in this deception, his flack, some twerp named Michael Lamb, refused to call back reporters on the day of Herron's press release, the better to avoid answering pesky questions.
Blogger Sean Braisted calls it "creative accounting that would make an Enron executive blush" and predicts reporters will give closer scrutiny to what Herron says in the future. That's a polite way of saying that we now see Herron as a snake and can't wait to slap him around. The Scene is proud to go first.
No guns allowed
Since her husband was shot to death in a Nashville sports bar this spring, Nikki Goeser has become the public face of the NRA's campaign to make it legal for Tennessee's licensed gunmen to go armed into drinking establishments. She contends that if she'd only had a gun with her at Jonny's Sports Bar, she could have saved her husband's life.
Well, it turns out that even the folks at Jonny's apparently don't buy the NRA's logic. The Nolensville Road bar is one of many that have posted signs banning handguns on their premises. We called Jonny's and asked to speak to the owner or manager. The guy who came to the phone confirmed Jonny's has banned guns but wouldn't talk about it. He said other media outlets know Jonny's has banned guns but have agreed not to report this news for reasons that escape us.
"We put the signs up," he said, "but I don't want to be quoted at all."
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