Former State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) and Murfreesboro businessman Shane Reeves have intensified their battle to win the Republican nomination in the 14th State Senate District special primary election to be held on January 25th, two weeks and two days from now in a spirited back and forth over the issue of legislative “per diem” reimbursements.
On Monday, Carr called on Reeves to disavow former State Senator Jim Tracy’s (R-Shelbyville) endorsement, in light of Reeves’ ‘Conservative Per Diem Pledge’ and Tracy’s acceptance of some $29,887.46 in total per diem reimbursements in 2017.
Carr asserts that Tracy collected over $200,000 in taxpayer reimbursements for travel to and from his home over the course of his career as a Tennessee state legislator.
“While he is at it,” Carr added, “I would expect that Reeves will be sharply criticizing State Representatives Pat Marsh and Rick Tillis, who received total per diem reimbursements of $21,017.52 and $26,880.16, respectively, in 2017. Will he reject their support for his campaign because they accepted the exact same per diem reimbursements that I did? If not, then he should explain his double-standard and hypocrisy in expressing outrage only when it fits his mudslinging political, “win at all costs” campaign.”
In and email exchange with The Tennessee Star, Reeves campaign manager Matt Herriman responded:
The bizarre, angry statement from the Carr campaign today seems to be written in desperation. We do find it a bit strange that Joe Carr continues to call attention to his past per diem abuse. That is not a winning strategy.
The real issue in this campaign is NOT about per diem’s. The real issue is Joe Carr’s past abuse of per diems when he served as state legislator. Here are the facts on Joe Carr’s per diem abuse:
- The Two Most Direct Routes Between Carr’s Home And The Capitol Are Under 50 Miles. “Carr lives within 50 miles of the Capitol by the two most direct routes from his home at 3750 Overall Road northeast of Murfreesboro, according to Google maps. One of them is 44 miles and the other 48 miles.” (Sam Stockard, “Womick Backs End To Free Lodging For Lawmakers Within 50-Mile Radius,” The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, TN), 1/26/13)
- Carr’s Longer Route Was 52 Miles, Keeping Him From Paying Taxes On His Per Diems. “That route covers nearly 52 miles, putting him outside the 50-mile radius and keeping him from having to pay federal taxes on per diems.” (Sam Stockard, “Womick Backs End To Free Lodging For Lawmakers Within 50-Mile Radius,” The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, TN), 1/26/13
- “Carr Received $59.40 In Mileage Reimbursement From The State, While Other Murfreesboro Legislators Receive $37.80 For Mileage.” (Sam Stockard, “House Speaker To Probe Per Diem Policy,” The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, TN), 10/16/10) “
We will let the voters decide what they think based on the facts.
The Star reported Saturday that, if elected, Reeves would refuse the “per diem,” or daily allowance Tennessee state legislators are paid.
Early voting for the January 25 Republican primary has already begun.
Reeves said in a statement released on Friday that his travel expenses to and from Legislative Plaza and his home in Murfreesboro should be his responsibility, not taxpayers’. “I am pledging today to make the ‘Conservative Per Diem Pledge’ and donate all of those funds back to the 14th district taxpayers,” he said.
The statement continued:
Lawmakers across Tennessee receive reimbursement for the expenses they incur for driving back and forth from Nashville and for nights away from home. Some lawmakers have been known to take advantage of the per diem system.
“One of the questions that I want to ask myself every day is, ‘What can I do today to ensure that I am being a good steward with Tennessee tax dollars?’ I have spent my entire life in business giving back time and money to causes that I believe in that are located in my community. It will be a great privilege to continue this philosophy as a state senator.”
Carr replied sharply, stating that Reeves’ ‘Pledge’ is “laughable,” and if he was sincere, he would not just refuse the per diem reimbursements, he would return the million dollar grant awarded to him in 2016 by then-Economic Commissioner Randy Boyd.
“But he’s a ‘conservative’ because he won’t accept about $20 a day in mileage reimbursement if he is elected? Shane could make 521 trips to Anchorage, Alaska — 4080 miles away, and warmer than Middle Tennessee today — and collect less mileage reimbursement than he got in his million dollar sweetheart deal from taxpayers! If Shane is really a conservative, he needs to return that million dollars immediately,” Carr continued.
Carr also pointed out when the per diem issue was first raised in 2010 that the most direct route between his residence and the Capitol was not the quickest.
“In January 2009, when the office of Legislative Administration asked Carr which way he would drive to the Capitol, he told them the shortest routes were plagued with construction, school zones and heavy traffic. Those routes included Murfreesboro Pike through Smyrna and I-24 by cutting through Murfreesboro,” Watchdog.org reported in October 2010, noting:
Instead, he said he’d take Lascassas Pike to State Route 840 before hitting I-24 up to Nashville. “It may not be the shortest, but it is the quickest,” Carr said.
The state OK’d the alternate route, even though it added almost 11 miles to his drive. “It’s not how you look at the map. It’s how he drives to get here,” said Connie Ridley, the Legislative Administration director who approved his path.
Carr said even if all the road construction work were clear, he’d still prefer his current route because it avoids several school zones that slow him down first thing in the morning.
The former state representative from Lascassas also took issue with a mailer sent by the Reeves campaign. “Despite the assurances made to me personally from both Shane Reeves’ father, former Murfreesboro Mayor Richard Reeves, and his campaign treasurer Teb Batey, that the Reeves campaign would not engage in the typical ‘negative attack ads,'” Carr said.
The winner of the January 25 Republican primary between Shane Reeves and Joe Carr will face Democrat Gayle Jordan, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in a special general election on March 13.
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