On Monday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – the gentlemen chatted with Scott Golden, the newly re-elected Chairman of the Tennessee Republican party about who the Democrats have in Tennessee for a 2020 run and the current items on the table with the state legislature which Golden mentioned in particular towards the end of the conversation, the ability to make changes to the state constitution in regards to election reform.
He made news when he pointed out that the establishment of primary runoff elections would require more than action by the Tennessee Republican Party. At a minimum, the Tennessee General Assembly would have to pass enabling legislation, which the governor would sign into law.
Gill: Joining us on our newsmakers line today, the newly re-elected Chairman of the Tennessee Republican party, Scott Golden. And Scott, I asked you just before we broke, we want to talk about some of the other resolutions that the state executive committee passed over the weekend. But if you were on the other side, the cupboard’s pretty bare if you’re a Democrat looking to run somebody statewide. You’ve got liberal mayors in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Andy Berke and Madeline Rogero, you’ve got Kim McMillan who was the mayor of Clarksville got defeated in her re-election bid. Lamar Alexander’s up for re-election in 2020, and putting aside for a moment whether there may be a primary challenge there, who do the Democrats run as a statewide candidate?
Golden: That’s a great question for them, I, you know, and of course both the mayors of Chattanooga and Knoxville are on their way out so you know they’re, you know what happens is every time someone’s leaving the candidates behind them are saying “well let me tell you what was insufficient about their tenure right?. I want to be mayor of Chattanooga because Andy Berke didn’t do X.” So you end up going through a year of that process. So, yeah, I don’t know where the Democrats go. You know, they’re left with five state senators and twenty five state house members. And I’ll you know, of course…
Gill: And of course, Megan, I really love my security detail Barry, the former mayor of Nashville.
Golden: Yeah, I can’t imagine her selling to a statewide audience, well that was what I was going to say…out in the more conservative counties you know, we have started the process of picking up, all of the, you know we added nine new Republican county mayors of ninety five counties. So you know, I mean theoretically you could start looking at a mayor of Rutherford or Williamson county or Sumner county but their all Republicans now. So it’s, where do you go if you’re the Democrats? I guess there’s somebody out there that wants to do it. But you know, this is the problem that they have. They have a “macro” problem is that anytime you say that you are a Democrat you are associated with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama, Kamala Harris…
Gill: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Golden: Exactly, which apparently I saw yesterday that her election was equivalent to the moon landing. Somebody… (Inaudible crosstalk)
Gill: It was a big deal (Laughs)
Golden: Ah, yeah, yeah. You know, I hate it for the Democrats. You know, they did a great job in the nineties when they would say wait a minute I’m a ‘blue dog’ democrat so that means that I’m different than the national democrats. Well those days are done.
Gill: Yeah, there aren’t any of those folks left. Now and the Republicans got smart too. They elected conservatives to the state executive committee which is why you saw the executive committee over the weekend pass an effort to close the primary process. But the state executive committee passed another couple of resolutions as well that were kind of important.
Golden: Yeah, one of them was to raise, a suggestion, these are all suggestions to the state legislature. But to raise the number of signatures required to seek office. You know, when everybody went in to vote, you saw that there were twenty one independent candidates running for governor. So you had Karl Dean, Bill Lee, and twenty one people that no one had ever heard of before.
Gill: Because you only had to have twenty five names on a petition to run.
Golden went on to describe how this is unfortunate because a lot of these candidates want to see their name on the ballot or it’s a YouTube PR stunt. He added that it really takes away the focus from the people that are actually going to be making the decisions for the public’s lives. He went on to discuss the standard twenty five signatures required to run and by asking the legislature to fix that which will help serious candidates and he also proposed to have a new voter registration deadline thirty days before early voting instead of the general election.
Gill: Which makes sense.
Leahy: Makes sense.
Gill: That’s when the election really begins. What about runoff’s Scott? I mean, I don’t have a problem with the voter registration. I think a lot of Republicans, particularly conservatives have a concern that Democrats are crossing over. I see a bigger problem in terms of moderate Republicans winning elections because you’ll have a moderate run and three conservatives and they divide the vote and somebody becomes the Republican nominee with twenty seven percent of the vote. In a lot of other states you have to get fifty percent plus one, which then gives you a runoff were they, the best, or top vote getting conservative against a moderate in many cases, you then have conservatives having a chance to coalesce behind a conservative candidate. To me if you want to elect more conservatives, that’s the better route rather than closing off the primary.
Golden: You know again, we saw it in Georgia, I think, most notably in Alabama, where we you know saw, we lost, the Republicans lost a US Senate seat. They certainly have runoff elections. So for us in Tennessee I think that might require, certainly a statutory change but possibly even a constitutional change because you know the deadlines are sort of set when we have these elections. So then you would, look, I think this is the whole point of what the SCC was talking about over the weekend was we have had very little substantive election reform since, most of these laws were written in the early seventies. You’re looking at a half a century at where, even in the seventies you were writing names on a piece of paper and sticking them in a ballot box right? Now we’ve got electronic, there’s a lot more flexibility in what we can do on election. You know, its not quite as cumbersome and labor intensive to do a runoff election when you just enter in a computer program, and everybody shows up, presses a button and goes home. As it was maybe fifty years ago where you know, your dragging ballots and your counting them by hand. I think that was the whole message of this weekend’s meeting. Was, let’s take a look at how Tennessee does this. Are we doing it the best way possible and if not, let the legislature come up with a better model.
Leahy ended the conversation by questioning Golden’s previous statement regarding runoffs and clarified how Golden stated that he thought the runoff would require a statutory and constitutional change. Golden responded by explaining that in state law provisions of the state constitution, state law would be the necessary means to make a change. He went on to give examples of how and why constitutional provisions are necessary in election reform.
Listen to the full segment:
– – –