The Tennessee Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education (TEA-FCPE), which is the PAC and political arm for the teachers’ union in Tennessee, has endorsed House Speaker Beth Harwell for the Republican nomination for Governor. The TEA’s PAC also endorsed House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in the Democratic Party primary.
Harwell welcomed the endorsement: “I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Tennessee Education Association,” Harwell said. “Education is my top priority, and as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, I have led some of our boldest reforms that resulted in Tennessee being one of the fastest improving states in education.”
“As a former teacher, I understand and value the work our educators do day-in and day-out, and I am grateful for TEA’s support,” Harwell went on to say. “As governor, I will continue to have an open door and listening ear for teachers and parents, always keeping in mind the best interests of students who represent the future of Tennessee.”
The endorsement of the liberal TEA will not play well for Harwell in a contested Republican Primary for Governor. A Tennessee Star Poll conducted a few months ago reveals that accepting TEA money and support may come at a high cost for candidates in Republican primaries. The Tennessee Star Poll was conducted by Triton Polling December 12-18, 2017 and included 1000 likely GOP Primary voters from across the state. Respondents were asked:
The Tennessee Education Association and National Education Association are unions that use Tennessee teachers’ dues to oppose the Second Amendment, support Planned Parenthood, and attempt to elect political candidates like Hillary Clinton. Would you be more likely or less likely to support a Republican candidate for the state house or senate who accepts money from these organizations?
Of those polled, 6.3% indicated that the TEA/NEA support would make them “more likely” to support a Republican candidate; 76.3% would be “less likely” to support such a candidate; and 17.3% were “not sure or didn’t know.” With such high opposition to TEA money and influence among likely GOP primary voters, Republican candidates who have accept financial support and endorsements from TEA can certainly expect their opponents to use that information in campaign attack ads — if they are considered to be competitive. With Harwell currently polling in low single digits, her Republican primary opponents will probably ignore her and the TEA endorsement.
The TEA/NEA use teachers’ dues money to almost exclusively support the Democratic Party nationally. The activism of the TEA/NEA nationally includes endorsements of candidates like Hillary Clinton, demonizing 2nd Amendment advocates, and supporting abortion with donations to Planned Parenthood. With Donald Trump having carried 92 out of 95 Tennessee counties in the 2016 Presidential campaign, and with over 60% of the vote in his column, the decision by Harwell to embrace support from the Hillary Clinton-supporting teachers’ union will almost certainly not move Republican primary voters her direction.
Tennessee Star political editor Steve Gill pointed out that “if Harwell is counting on the anti-gun, pro-abortion, pro-Hillary Clinton Republicans in the state to be her political base then the endorsement of the TEA reflects an strong attempt to appeal to that exact group. But, it is an extremely small base to work from and is highly unlikely to move her from single digit support into contention in August.”