State House Representative Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) announced in late October that after two decades of service, he would not seek re-election in 2018. The decision came after long-time conservative activist and firebrand Rebecca Ann Burke declared her intent to challenge him for the State House District 61 seat.
This week, fellow Republican and current Williamson County Commissioner Jeff Ford announced his candidacy to replace state Rep Sargent – a move met with a vigorous response from Burke.
“Mr. Ford presents himself as a conservative, but he is looking like anything but. He is willing to cut deal with members of the Swamp, the GOP establishment, to further his campaign. He has placed his campaign in the hands of a local political operative that the media reports has a history of hiding donations to use against strong, conservative candidates,” she said, adding that Ford does not live within the boundaries of District 61.
Burke is referring to Gregory Gleaves of the political consulting firm, DirectEdge, who has reportedly skated a little too close to the ethical and legal bounds.
In August 2016, Rocky Top Politics detailed evidence of Gleaves’ efforts to disguise money donated by political enemies to defeat conservative incumbents in the Tennessee General Assembly. The clandestine donations were funneled to a shell direct mail company based in a non-descript house in West Virginia. The article documents hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Gleaves.
“The hiring of Gleaves to manage Jeff Ford’s campaign causes me to question Jeff’s judgement and his claims to be a conservative candidate. He seeks help from ‘the other side’ that has ballooned the growth of the State’s spending, underfunded our schools, and sought to defeat elected officials who disagree. Is Ford really a conservative or is it any bedfellow will do to get elected?” Burke said.
Rebecca Ann Burke’s work to ‘clean up’ the Tennessee Republican Party is well known.
While serving on the Party’s Board of Directors, she famously bucked the establishment, demanding that integrity be restored in primary elections. She revealed to the Party’s board that staffers of the GOP were entangled in opposition campaigns against conservative incumbents in the Tennessee General Assembly who had opposed Medicaid expansion and the growth of State government spending.
Burke also led her fellow conservative caucus colleagues in calling for the resignation of then State Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes for reassigning presidential delegates to political allies, robbing delegates who earned the seats in public election of the right to serve. Haynes later resigned.