Thursday, August 27, 2009


Questions Raised by Selections for Judicial Nominating Committee

The Judicial Nominating Committee, the unconstitutional device created by the General Assembly which will continue the tasks previously designated to the heavily political and unconstitutional Judicial Selection Committee, has been named by Speaker Kent Williams and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.

The selections were curious in many parts, but two primary questions are generated by these selections.

1) What was Kent Williams thinking? It has been no secret that Kent Williams and his family have been begging (in a disparaging manner, mind you) the Republican State Executive Committee to let Williams back into the party. In particular, the Speaker's sister, Judy Veeneman, engaged in an open e-mail discussion with several members of the SEC that undoubtedly hurt her brother's cause.

With regards to Williams, I have preached patience and reflection to some of the SEC members and fellow Republicans. In my view, Williams simply asking to be let back in after his treachery in January is laughable. It's like asking for forgiveness from your wife for forgetting your anniversary but showing up san flowers or chocolates. You say you're a Republican, Kent - prove it. By appointing Democratic committee chairs on the more important committees, you're down in the count. Which is why I was wanting to see what Williams did on Judicial Nominating. Surely, he would be able to pick a Republican slate that would help Republicans to at least have a chance of being elevated to the appellate bench (not that this would cure the nearly 40 years of liberal rule on the Selection Committee, but it would be a step in the right direction).

So how did Williams do? Referencing the background information from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, of the 8 members Williams selected, 2 were known Republicans, 3 were unknown or could not be easily determined by TCPR, and 3 were known Democrats. Some had given to such political moderates as Jimmy Naifeh and Randy Camp.

Williams failed, SEC. Let RNC Chairman Steele pour money into Carter County and take out the Democrat Williams. And have some cojones, House Republican Caucus, and let Williams caucus with the rest of the Independent Caucus in a phone booth on Broadway.

2) What was Ron Ramsey thinking? In full disclosure, I had applied to be one of Ron Ramsey's selections. Why? Because Ron Ramsey encouraged me to do so. It's also a great opportunity for public service that doesn't involve a commitment like relocation or abandoning my clients.

There were many great candidates for the positions. That being said, I am disappointed in a few of Ron's choices. Despite Ramsey telling a meeting of bloggers in Knoxville several months back that conservatives were needed on the Nominating Committee, Democratic contributor Jack Lowery was selected. That came as a surprise to me.

Probably most puzzling, though, given Ramsey's current position as a candidate for the Governor's Mansion, was his selection of political uberdonor Bill Young. (It's tough to tell, but Young might have contributed the most total money to politicians over the past few years out of the 236 candidates.) First, Ramsey had to know that Young's past financial support of Governor Phil Bredesen would not be looked at favorably by the conservative base of the Republican Party. That being said, Young's support has been almost entirely for Republican candidates, and the Bredesen contribution was the exception, not the rule.

The real concerns that Ramsey's primary opponents may seize upon are Young's occupation and Young's status as a "Ron Ramsey for Governor" contributor. Young is General Counsel for the most profitable non-profit corporation in the area - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. Obviously, I don't have to spell out the perception that many would have regarding these connections; I figure the Wamp, Haslam, and Gibbons campaigns can connect the dots for the voters there.

Overall, the selections were fine. The Nominating Committee is a great improvement over the Selection Committee that it is replacing. There are too many corporate attorneys for my liking; I prefer that those who are picking Tennessee judges to have been in a courtroom in the past decade. However, there are a few selections - as stated above - that are politically troubling given the dearth of possibilities that were available to Williams and Ramsey.

Will this keep Williams from getting back into the Republican Party? No, but it doesn't help his cause. Will this cause voters to pull the lever for Wamp instead of Ramsey? Who knows? Republicans I know are having a generally difficult time choosing a side in the Governor's race. Who knows what makes a difference when things are this close?

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