MURFREESBORO and NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Governor-Elect Bill Lee joined middle Tennessee grassroots conservatives, his base, at Christmas celebrations of groups with their hubs in Murfreesboro and Nashville.
The two groups called “Sentinels,” originally organized around the Heritage Action for America (HAFA) model of activism. Personal relationships with federal legislators are leveraged with tools like calls to Congress, Twitter and letters to the editor, using data and solutions from Heritage Foundation, so that Sentinels can hold their representatives accountable.
“Action” being an integral part of the groups’ very existence, Sentinel activities extend deeper into state and local arenas as well.
With 2018 being an election year, for one, and a number of other issues arising, it was a particularly busy year for Sentinels.
While the Murfreesboro and Nashville Sentinel groups are separate, they are not so much distinct as there is a fair amount of overlap, and the Nashville group could be considered a more recent extension of the more established and longstanding Murfreesboro group.
As independent thinkers and activists, it was not a group decision to endorse a particular candidate for governor in the August 2018 Republican primary. Without any obvious exceptions, however, Sentinels were behind Bill Lee and demonstrated that support through their promotion of Lee, putting out yard signs and working at polling locations.
Governor-Elect Lee has expressed his appreciation for the support and showed it by attending the Christmas parties of the two Sentinel groups. The overwhelming sentiment of the Sentinels was the graciousness of Lee and his wife, Maria, who joined the Governor-Elect for the Murfreesboro event.
As a testament to the relationships forged with elected representatives at all levels, the Murfreesboro Sentinel Christmas party was also attended by Congressman-Elect Mark Green, State Senator Shane Reeves, State Representative turned Senator Dawn White as well as State Representatives Tim Rudd and Mike Sparks. Metro Nashville Council members Jon Cooper and Steve Glover joined Nashville Sentinels for their Christmas party.
In addition to their efforts in support of Bill Lee, Sentinels did similarly for Marsha Blackburn leading up to the November general election through phone banking and putting up yard signs.
Two Murfreesboro Sentinels lobbied U.S. Senators on behalf of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and then were among the few who were personally invited to attend the actual confirmation.
Nashville Sentinels, in particular, were active in the fight to remove Megan Barry from the Nashville mayor’s office and then worked on the Carol Swain for Mayor campaign in the May special election to replace Barry. In less than two months, conservative Carol Swain took 23 percent of the vote against the more well-known and much better funded Vice Mayor David Briley in the increasingly left-leaning Davidson County.
Simultaneous to the special mayoral election, both teams worked independently and in conjunction with Americans For Prosperity-Tennessee to see the successful defeat of the $9 billion debacle of a Nashville transit plan.
More recently, Nashville Sentinels supported the Fraternal Order of Police in opposing Amendment 1 to the Metro Nashville charter establishing a citizen oversight board of Metro Police. In a meeting earlier this month at the Cordell Hull Building, Speaker-Elect Glen Casada reaffirmed to Nashville Sentinels that he would assemble a group of representatives with the qualifications to look into the oversight board.
In the upcoming legislative session, Sentinels will work on the second phase of a “party registration” effort. The first phase, which Sentinels not only supported but took an active role in, was a resolution by the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the Tennessee Republican Party encouraging the state legislature to close the primaries. The resolution passed with an overwhelming majority vote of 45 to 14 at the SEC’s organizational meeting on December 1.
Several Middle Tennessee Sentinels as well as conservatives around the state have expressed their excitement about Governor Bill Lee executing on the conservative agenda he laid out during his campaign and maintaining an ongoing dialogue.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.