Come November, the winner of the GOP primary for Beth Harwell’s District 56 seat will face off against Democrat Bob Freeman, son of wealthy real estate developer and former Nashville mayoral candidate Bill Freeman.
Republican primary opponents Nashville attorney Joseph Williams (pictured, right) and dermatologist Brent Moody (pictured, left) strike an interesting contrast to each other. One of the few things they do have in common is that neither has a voting record by which to evaluate where they will land on controversial issues like in-state tuition for illegal alien students, legalizing medical marijuana and infrastructure needs, when finally in office.
Brent Moody, M.D. is a Nashville dermatologist whose campaign’s statement to The Tennessee Star says that “Dr. Moody is the conservative, pro-life candidate interested in implementing principles that will benefit Tennessee – smaller government, cutting red tape and burdensome regulations, making sure that our government spends wisely, and fighting to ensure Tennessee is free of sanctuary cities. Specifically, Dr. Moody is focused on keeping Tennessee a low tax, pro-business State and making sure that tax payers are getting the full value for every dollar the government spends on their behalf, while continuing to responsibly grow our State’s economy and create jobs. Additionally, Dr. Moody has made it a priority to improve on education by identifying barriers that prevent children from being able to learn, and coming up with effective solutions.”
Moody, has been endorsed by State Senator Steve Dickerson, Majority Leader Glen Casada, and former Reagan economist Art Laffer. Walker Ferrell, former political director for the state GOP, is “helping with fundraising” which began shortly after Moody announced his candidacy in July 2017.
Dickerson, Casada, McCormick and several other House members were listed as “special legislative guests” for an October 2017 Moody fundraiser held at the Belle Meade home of Mrs. Colleen Conway-Welch who months later, hosted a fundraiser for Democrat Senate candidate Phil Bredesen. Politico described Republicans like Conway-Welch supporting Democrats as an example of “centrist Republicans tacit permission to break ranks.”
Conway-Welch also donated $2,700 to Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign.
Three of the six legislators listed on the Conway-Welch invitation are endorsing Randy Boyd for governor including Sen. Steve Dickerson. He is the physician-legislator who has promised to continue bringing bills to legalize medical marijuana. He supports in-state tuition for illegal alien students and was the only Senate Republican to oppose the state’s Tenth Amendment lawsuit against the federal refugee resettlement program.
Walker Ferrell, listed as the contact for the Moody fundraiser is married to Taylor who is part of Boyd’s campaign finance team.
In 2016, Walker and Taylor Ferrell were at the center of a pre-primary scuffle with a slew of state legislators. At the time, Walker was employed as the political director for the state GOP and Taylor was a contract employee with the state GOP. While both Walker and Taylor were employed by the state party, Taylor’s business Southland Advantage was helping three Republican challengers campaign against three conservative GOP incumbents.
All three of Taylor Ferrell’s candidates lost in their primaries.
Moody’s opposition, Joseph Williams, is a former school teacher turned constitutional lawyer.
Williams’ resume includes hands-on experience in Metro Nashville public schools teaching U.S. history and civics at Whites Creek High School. He attended Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate and was elected Student Body President. While earning his law degree, also at Vanderbilt, he led the Federalist Society and the Christian Legal Society.
Before launching his own small business, Williams worked as a lawyer for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the conservative Christian-based advocacy center whose chief counsel Jay Sekulow serves as a personal lawyer for President Trump.
The ACLJ was “founded in 1990 with the mandate to protect religious and constitutional freedoms.” Working to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the Center’s lawyers in 2012, represented the Committee to Protect America’s Border comprised of members of the 112th U.S. Congress, in support of the anti-illegal immigration law passed by Arizona.
The Tennessee Star asked Williams if there was any one particular case that he worked on while at the ACLJ that left the biggest impression on him. It turns out that it was the case which exposed the Obama IRS scandal for targeting grassroots conservative groups including Tea Party groups and several Tennessee conservative organizations:
The case I worked on the longest while at the ACLJ – from the time I was a legal clerk during law school all the way through my entire career there – is the one that left the biggest impression on me. I was on the team that handled the lawsuit against the Obama Administration for unconstitutionally and unlawfully targeting grassroots conservative organizations with the IRS. I got to work with dozens of organizations from coast to coast who love our country, love the Constitution, and want a government that works for the people, not against them.
Through this case, I saw how unelected bureaucrats can trample on citizens’ rights It’s why we need courageous elected leaders that will take their responsibility to the Constitution and our people seriously.
Four Tennessee organizations benefitted from Williams’ work on this case – the Mid-South Tea Party, Chattanooga Tea Party, Roane County Tea Party and Linchpins of Liberty which was one of the lead plaintiffs named in the suit.
Williams’ hands-on experience in a Nashville public school, experience launching his own small business and raising two young children, seems to be resonating with voters he is meeting while knocking on doors – “they’re looking for someone who has led a classroom and a school to shape education policy. They’re looking for someone who has started their own business in Tennessee to know which regulations and taxes to cut. They’re looking for a parent of young children to work towards making our neighborhoods safe. They’re encouraged by an opportunity to vote for a constitutional attorney who has fought for conservative reforms that protect our most fundamental rights.”
“Starting my own firm, I’ve come face to face with how senseless some of our regulations and tax structures can be.”
Williams brings another very personal perspective to the race – the needs and rights of individuals with disabilities. He grew up with a sister who has special needs and who, “fundamentally shaped who I am and how I interact with everyone.” His wife Palmer, an attorney who works in the field of international human rights, has used a wheelchair since an accident when she was a young child.
Moody has an outsized campaign chest as compared to Williams’ more modest finances. Whether money drives the outcome of this primary race remains to be seen.