Contrary to some media reports, 3rd District hopeful and dairy farm magnate Charles "Scottie" Mayfield isn't being attacked by "Citizens for a Working America PAC," a pro-Romney super PAC based in Lancaster, Virginia.
No, Mayfield's hammering at the hands of $165,000 worth of independent attack ads comes from another, similarly named group called Citizens for a Working America Inc., which is also a pro-Romney PAC but is based in Beaufort, S.C. Subtle detail, big distinction. Both the Chattanooga Times Free Press (which has scrubbed the story from its site) and Knoxville-area ABC affiliate WATE incorrectly identified the PAC in question, attributing the outside spending against Mayfield to the Virginia-based group instead of the South Carolinian one.
Most Americans don't possess the finely tuned ear of, say, a Vanilla Ice to discern the subtle differences between the covert organizations raising gobs of money for and against candidates under the cloak of Supreme Court-sanctioned anonymity — which makes identifying them as accurately as possible all the more valuable in an era of darkness and nondisclosure.
With less than a week to go until Tennessee's Aug. 2 elections, Courtney Rogers and Debra Maggart, and their respective supporters, are bickering again — adding yet more weight to my theory that politics is just high school, with a whole lot of money and sporadic lawmaking.
Even without the National Rifle Association's considerable involvement, the House District 45 primary has been sufficiently feisty and delectably passive-agressive.
A personal favorite bit of the latter: "Let the record show that we have not made an issue of my opponent’s past failed business.” - from a Rogers release responding to chatter about a bankruptcy in her past.
So when the Rogers campaign issued a press release this morning demanding that Maggart apologize for "violating [Rogers'] privacy and subjecting her children to threatening and harassing phone calls" it was surprising in the same way it's surprising to see the Jackson's family drama playing out on the news. (Which is to say, it was not surprising.)
A couple weeks back, Pith noted the level of absurdity with which 6th District GOP hopeful Lou Ann Zelenik attacked her opponent, Republican Diane Black, for not voting hard enough to stop the crazy train of ObamaCare from going off the rails and murdering truth, justice and the American way with its socialist death panels. We thought Zelenik was just being Zelenik, had a laugh, and moved on.
In response, Zelenik's campaign manager, Jay Heine, sent Pith an email to inform us that were we were off base with our analysis. "I think you missed the point," wrote Heine. "What we were pointing out was that while Diane has voted to repeal Obamacare she has voted to fund it several times. Our point to the voters that overwhelmingly disapprove of Obamacare is that Diane is not really serious about repealing Obamacare because she continues to vote to fund it."
The debate has since been taken up (and hopefully shut down) by PolitiFact, which has deemed Zelenik's claims patently false, mainly because reality disagrees with her campaign claims.
This Week In The 'Drome: elation, arrests, collapses, Charles Nelson Reilly. You know, the usual.
Nashville vs. Philadelphia : It had been an off-season that was, at best, an ocean of doubt.
And then, suddenly, with one announcement, all the recriminations, all the screaming, all the fears the Nashville Predators would be relegated for eternity as a plucky farm team for their well-heeled, geographically-advantaged rivals, it all disappeared in a cascade of exclamation points and majuscular text.
The Predators stepped up and shelled out. Superstar defenseman Shea Weber, to borrow again from Jason & The Scorchers, is their golden ball and chain. And that dalliance with Philly? Well, it was just business.
The announcement came Tuesday afternoon: The team matched the massive 14-year, $110-million, bonus-laden offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers.
After Ryan Suter's departure and Weber's apparent willingness to do the same, Predators fans were trapped in a car, its throttle stuck and aiming to fly off the cliffs of despair. And then the front office yanked on the emergency brake. The car 180ed and now things don't seem quite so bad.
It's hard to overstate the importance here. Sure, Shea Weber is a first-class player and the team's captain. But perhaps more importantly, matching the offer shows the ownership — a mishmash of local venture capitalists and health-care millionaires; rich, but certainly not, say, Comcast-rich like the Flyers' Ed Snider — really is as committed as they insisted.
A hot day couldn't keep the crowd away from an impromptu plaza party disguised as a press conference — in true Predators fashion, it took place outside the Nissan entrance with gratis Hunt Brothers' Pizza with the principals sitting in front of a backdrop festooned — in a smirking bit of irony — with the logo of Comcast property Xfinity. The fans were there. The sponsors were there. The ownership was represented. And the message was they are all in this together, because it's going to take a fortune to pay Weber his salary.
Weber, though, wasn't there. Perhaps the team should have delayed the dog-and-pony show until the thoroughbred could make the long trip from the mysterious corner of British Columbia where he spends his summers. But coming as it did less than 24 hours after the team made the match official, the logistics wouldn't have worked out.
There are fascinating moral questions here about the nature of accountability and responsibility for one's actions and for the actions of others. When does nominal responsibility become ethical responsibility? Are we morally accountability for things that we put in motion but then step away from? These moral questions create a striking but so far untapped opportunity for the Obama campaign.
Over at the Huffington Post, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is raving about the success of Tennessee's education reform:
Tennessee — one of the first two states to win a federal Race to the Top grant — recently released an important report on the first year of implementing its new teacher evaluation system. The report found that after one year, Tennessee's students made their biggest single-year jump in achievement ever recorded in the state. That is a remarkable accomplishment.
Duncan acknowledges that the evaluation system isn't perfect: "Reforming antiquated practices for evaluating teachers is hard, ongoing work — work that is far from finished." Still, it's hard not to read his post and feel a little fist-pumping pride in Tennessee.
Until you read this editorial in The Daily News Journal—"Politicians tie teachers with rolls of red tape." From the title alone, you can guess that the DNJ is less about "woo, jump in achievement!" and more about "was this reform worth it since it created all this bureaucracy?"
The editorial reads:
Since El Jefe has offered a glass half-full for progressives hoping for the political resurrection of gun control, it falls to me to serve one half-empty.
Woods hypothesizes that, if House Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart is successful in fending off Courtney Rogers and, more importantly, a financial blitz from the National Rifle Association, that Democrats might actually get their political balls back on gun control.
I tend to agree. If elections in Tennessee and elsewhere start to expose the NRA as an overrated political power, then it would seem that politicians, on both sides, could start to break free of the Stockholm syndrome.
As Woods notes, a piece in today's Washington Post asks whether the NRA is overrated and identifies the Maggart-Rogers race as one in which the question is being tested:
How so? If Maggart and Tennessee's Republican legislators can cross the NRA and live to tell about it, that could embolden politicians around the country to do the same. Progressives are talking up limits on gun ownership again after the Batman movie massacre, but everyone in Congress is too afraid of the NRA. If Maggart survives her primary, then progressives can paint the gun lobby as a paper tiger and say, see, the NRA's not so tough after all. How's that for unintended consequences? We're not just making all this up. From today's Washington Post:
The fact remains that gun control legislation is going nowhere. But on the state level, some Republicans are testing the NRA’s power.
GOP leaders in the Tennessee legislature refused to move a bill to prevent businesses from banning guns on their property. A similar bill died in Alabama, and Georgia has resisted changes the NRA wants. Legislation to allow guns in bars in North Carolina is also stalled.
The NRA has put $75,000 behind a primary challenger to Tennessee state Rep. Debra Maggart (R) — more than the group has spent on many U.S. House races. State races are less expensive and less predictable than national ones. But the Aug. 2 result might give some hint of whether the group’s bite is as bad as its bark.
GOP congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik picked up three endorsements this morning from state legislators who represent a large portion of the 6th Congressional District in which she's running. Sens. Mae Beavers and Kerry Roberts joined Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny in endorsing Zelenik who, as you might have heard, is challenging U.S. Rep. Diane Black.
Zelenik was in Sumner County meeting voters at a polling location, according to a campaign representative, and thus was not there to receive their support in person — a disappointing fact to at least one reporter on the scene (this one) who showed up hoping to catch the enthusiastic candidate in person.
As they announced their endorsements one at a time, Matheny, Beavers and Roberts defended Zelenik against what they called "unfounded" and "malicious" attacks from the Black campaign. They also made note of Black's votes to raise the debt ceiling (suggesting, we suppose, that Black should have allowed the U.S. government to default on its loans) and fund Obamacare (suggesting, we suppose, that Black should not have voted for a three-week continuing resolution in March of 2011 that kept the U.S. government from shutting down).
With the Metro school board elections just over a week away, City Paper editor Steve Cavendish and All-Local-Everything reporter Joey Garrison got beyond the horserace with a wide-ranging discussion of Nashville's education landscape.
At the table: David Fox, former MNPS board chair; Jeremy Kane, founder and CEO of Nashville charter operator LEAD Public Schools; Beth Baker, H.G. Hill Middle School math teacher; Ron Woodward, principal at Maplewood High School; and Mary Catherine Bradshaw, the veteran MNPS teacher (formerly at Hillsboro, now at MLK Magnet High School) who is attempting to launch a charter school.
The discussion is thorough and informative throughout, covering issues from the unprecedented interest — financial and otherwise — in this year's school board races to Teach for America and (duh) charter schools. After the jump, an excerpt from the discussion touching on the state's new teacher evaluation system.
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