OFF THE RECORD: Has Governor-Elect Bill Lee Already Breached His ‘Contract with Tennessee’?

During his campaign for governor, candidate Bill Lee released his “Ten for Tenn” plan that he called his “contract with Tennesseans.” He was very specific about his view that this somewhat detailed plan of action was a “contract.”

“As a CEO, it is important to set the vision for my company, and I believe it is just as important to set the vision for the state as governor,” Lee said in a statement announcing his agenda, sent out as a press release by his campaign on July 3, 2018. “‘Ten for Tenn’ is my contract with Tennesseans, and I look forward to working to enact my conservative vision for Tennessee.”

Lee tweeted about his “Ten for Tenn” contract with Tennesseans two days after he announced it, July 5, 2018, just one month before the Republican gubernatorial primary.



The Lee plan listed ten general agenda items that ranged from rethinking public education and “getting tough” on the state budget, to pursuing term limits and creating a new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The link on his campaign site, which used the url: when the plan was first announced in July, now no longer takes you to his “Ten for Tenn” plan.

That page has vanished.

Clicking on that url today just forwards you to the main campaign website url,, which simply thanks voters of Tennessee for his election.

Fortunately, The Tennessee Star saved the list when we first reported on the announcement back on July 5:

1. Foster an Environment Where Jobs Continue to Grow
2. Rethink Public Education with Major Vocational Reforms, Real School Choice, and Civics Education
3. Stand up for Rural Tennessee by Expanding Economic Opportunity and Winning the War On Opioids
4. Get Tough on the State Budget by Making Government Smaller and More Efficient
5. Ensure New Voices in Nashville by Passing Term Limits and the Challenging the Influence Culture of Insiders
6. Create a New Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
7. Make Government More Accessible, Open, and Accountable to Taxpayers
8. Protect and Defend a Culture of Life
9. Defend Our Constitutional Liberties Without Compromise
10. Enforce the Rule of Law on Immigration

The Tennessee Journal also published an article on July 5 about Lee’s “Ten for Tenn” contract with Tennesseans, which included the full Lee campaign statement on the contract, which included the same ten agenda items identified in The Star article.

A quick glance at the Governor-elect Bill Lee transition page, that contains the new agenda of priorities in place of his “Ten for Tenn” indicates that it is already down to only NINE separate items.

Enforcing the Rule of Law on Immigration is gone. (#10) And contract item #6, creating a new office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, has apparently been replaced by Transportation and Infrastructure. (Apparently the road builders are a more powerful lobbying group than the faith-based community.)

His new agenda doesn’t include his previous pledge to pass term limits and “Challenging the Influence Culture of Insiders”. (Contract item #5.) Instead, he has lobbyists actively helping him select who will serve in the senior positions in his Administration and Cabinet. (The bureaucracy is pretty powerful, too.)

Stopping the opioid epidemic is now a stand-alone item rather than being lumped with rural economic development, which is now two items: Growing the Agriculture Economy and Supporting Our Rural Communities. And he has replaced a promise to get tough on the state budget by making the government smaller and more efficient (contract item #4) with promoting a “healthier Tennessee.” Does that mean another Haslam-like attempt at expanding Obamacare as the healthcare lobbyists who are already feeding at the Bill Lee trough start showing their clout?

Lee also now includes a priority of making neighborhoods safer through enforcement of the “rule of law” and criminal justice reform, which apparently means release of more felons from prison to get them back on the streets — and probably voting again. No mention of that “rule of law” meaning dealing with illegal aliens and addressing sanctuary city policies that he touted during the campaign and in his “contract.” Nor does his “new” list of priorities include any reference to protecting the “culture of life.” (Contract item #8.)

And while education remains a key part of Lee’s agenda, the “school choice” portion has disappeared – along with any mention of “civics education” that was part of his “contract” with Tennesseans. Oh, and item #9 – Defending our Constitutional Liberties – is missing as well.

So, to recap, Bill Lee’s self-described campaign contract with Tennesseans” contained TEN items. SEVEN of the itemized provisions of his “Ten for Tenn” promise have already been abandoned from his list of “priorities” (#s 2,4,5,6,8,9,10) and he hasn’t even been sworn in yet. Even IF he keeps his word on the other three promises he made as a candidate, isn’t a meager 30 percent performance of a contract a pretty clear breach?

And some wonder why The Tennessee Star keeps pointing out that “personnel is policy.”

As we start to see the new priorities produced by his Administration, the product of Lee’s flawed personnel choices will become more abundantly clear to those who bought into his “contract with Tennesseans.”









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21 Thoughts to “OFF THE RECORD: Has Governor-Elect Bill Lee Already Breached His ‘Contract with Tennessee’?”

  1. […] at the Tennessee Star are asking whether Lee has already breached the contract – and for good reason. Let’s start with almost every appointment he has made so […]

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  2. […] at the Tennessee Star are asking whether Lee has already breached the contract – and for good reason. Let's start with almost every appointment he has made so far is of […]

  3. Ron W

    “First, there is a record of conservative governance while holding public office.”

    Stuart, does that mean a lower public office than the one a candidate seeks? Or else, one could never seek office with that standard unless you have an acceptable “entry level” public offices.

    Also, with many supposed conservative holders of public office, I wonder what it is they seek to conserve. For me, it must be the principles of the Republic enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and adhering to the wording of their State or U. S. Constitution to which they take an oath to uphold. (Ask any candidate or office holder if they have read their State and U.S. Constitution) One need not be a holder of public office to meet that requirement. In fact, there are many holders of public office who evidently do not understand or care about those first principles or adherence to “the Supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI, Section 2). I prefer a faithful Constitutional, novice office holder over a derelict “conservative” who conserves something other than their Constitutional oath of office. An example is first time public office holder and U.S. Senator, Rand Paul, one of the very few Constitutionalists in that supposed “esteemed institution”.

    1. Stuart I. Anderson

      The three ways of establishing one’s bona fides as a conservative when running for public office are, 1) previous record in public office, and/or 2) a record of public advocacy for conservative causes or conservative candidates, and/or 3) a record of significant, consistent contributions to conservative candidates. BILL LEE COULD MEET NONE OF THOSE TESTS! At least not in a manner commensurate with the importance of the office he was seeking to launch his political career. Therefore, for a conservative to vote for him was out of the question as far as I was concerned when he was running against a Diane Black who had a proven record establishing herself as a conservative. A tepid conservative, but nevertheless a conservative. To call her a “swamp” something or other was the type of mindlessness that brought us Bill Lee – the Paul Karps of this world will have eight years to mull that one over.

      Each one of the three tests stand on their own and together establish one as a conservative. If I were running for office, to take one frightening example, though I never held public office, and my public advocacy is limited to commenting on blogs, but I assure you, with a small fraction of the financial resources of a Bill Lee or Dr. Sethi I can give the public a list of significant, consistent contributions made exclusively to the most conservative candidates going back every election to Marsha’s first run for congress against Bart Gordon (1992?). Every conservative could vote for or against me but there would not be the slightest doubt that I was a conservative. That’s all I ask for and that’s what I look for when a candidate asks me for my vote. The higher the office, the more impressive should be the conservative resume. We have a race for an open U. S. Senate seat coming up, hopefully conservatives will focus on the candidates background and ignore the stupid campaign adds and pay only passing attention to the campaign promises (e.g. Ten for Tenn) so we can do better in August 2020 than we did in August 2018.

  4. Donna Locke

    What a shock. Another liar. Well, Happy New Year, anyway. My New Year’s resolution is to stop commenting, so this may or may not be it.

    1. Ron W

      Donna, All I ask is for our elected officials to be good employees and obey their job descriptions, that is, the wording of the State and U.S. Constitutions. I had to do that in my employment working UNDER delegated authority. I expect the same of our employees working under our delegated powers. And they can all keep a copy with them making it easy. Otherwise, failure or refusal demonstrates them to be derelicts–or worse.

  5. Paul Karp

    You are a good man
    But you seem to like career politicians.
    Are you really a conservative ?
    Or an establishment conservative?
    Because you sound like one

    1. Stuart I. Anderson

      Funny, Heritage Action, Club For Growth, Conservative Review, the House Freedom Caucus et. al. don’t seem to subdivide conservatives between “real conservatives” and “establishment conservatives.” I’m not being negative, it’s simply that you have come up with your own subclassifications of conservatives that hasn’t seemed to have caught on as yet.

      Instead of going to the trouble of establishing meaningless subclassifications of conservatives why don’t you try it my way. Those Republicans who want the party to be nothing more than the political arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are probably “centrists,” or at best “tepid conservatives.” Those with a Heritage Action score of over 80, they are “solid” conservatives. Those who suddenly appear out of nowhere with no record in public office, no record of advocacy of conservative causes and/or candidates, no record of significant, consistent financial support of conservative causes or candidate are NO RECORD CANDIDATES who should be shunned by ideological conservatives every time until those big buck guys with political ambitions learn that before you run as a “conservative,” you better have an impressive record of supporting our underfunded conservative candidates..

      Whether or not someone spent their career in public office is one of those irrelevancies that only serves to distract. It’s their voting record in the legislature, their advocacy of small government/fiscal discipline if they are executives over their career that counts. Paying attention to how long someone has been in public office or where is a distraction that causes you to get excited by phony posturers like Bill Lee who only serve to embarrass and disappoint conservatives, in Lee’s case even before he assumes office.

  6. 83ragtop50

    My, oh my. So the real Mr. Lee has shown himself. It sure sounds like the second verse of Haslam to me. What a pity.

  7. lb

    I held my nose (again) and voted for him. Anyone who didnt realize he is NOT a Conservative, he is a slick, lightweight rino just like haslam. He is making the same rookie mistake President Trump made by allowing the professional “consultants” and lobbyists to staff his Administration. It was a disaster for PDT, hopefully it wont be a disaster for Lee but at least we have an agressive new Speaker and Legislature who will (hopefully) curb his worst impulses. That being said, these are the same jokers who pushed thru the Gas Tax so who knows?

  8. Stuart I. Anderson

    I understand the centrist Republicans who just want someone to make the trains run on time, so to speak, and aren’t really concerned where the trains are coming from or, incredibly, where they are going, can still be enthusiastic about Bill Lee. To conservatives who voted for Lee, however, when a proven tepid conservative like Diane Black was available what is done is done as they settle in preparing for another eight years of the Haslam administration they grew to dislike so much so long as they are prepared to say NO to another No Record Candidate with a lot of money with which to blow a lot of smoke.

    By the way, I hear that Manish “Manny” Sethi wants to be a U. S. Senator, a Republican U. S. Senator from Tennessee wouldn’t you know. Ever heard of him? Me neither. Probably one heck of an orthopedic surgeon which is an honorable profession, sort of like owning a mechanical contractor company. Will you be ready this time conservatives? I certainly hope so!

    1. Ron W

      Yes, I worked with him at Vanderbilt and had political discussions with him. He generally agreed with me and I am CONSERVATIVE of the principles of the American Revolution stated in the Declaration of Independence and the WORDING of the Constitution and ALL of the Bill of Rights according to their historical and grammatical contexts. I regularly send him instructive emails that are in accordance with the principles of the American Revolution and that our elected officials are OUR EMPLOYEES working UNDER delegated powers to which they take an oath to OBEY!

      1. Stuart I. Anderson

        Thanks Ron. At least the Doctor will have shown some interest in politics before running for one of the top political positions in our government. That alone gives him better credentials than Bill Lee had before he bamboozled so many conservatives to vote for him.

        We shall see if there isn’t someone who runs with more impressive conservative credentials than Doctor Sethi. In the meantime, by all means please continue sending those “. . .instructive e-mails. . . .” With the money an orthopedic surgeon can accumulate, the fact that so many conservatives seem to be so inexplicably willing to vote for a No Record Candidate when a proven conservative alternative is available, and the fact in a crowded field it only takes about 35% to win in this no runoff state, I don’t doubt that Manny Sethi may very well be our next U. S. Senator.

        1. Ron W

          Stuart, I agree. I voted for Diane Black in the primary. I did vote for Lee over Dean.

        2. Ron W

          And re: my friend Dr. Manny Sethi, you may want to check out his his book “The American Dream In Tennessee” which talks about how his faith has guided his life and his non-profit Healthy Tennessee which has cared for thousands across the state using the power of local communities- applying real life “conservative credentials”

          1. Stuart I. Anderson

            OH NO, NOT AGAIN, NOT SO SOON! I swear its Groundhog day again, and again. Some rich guy comes out of nowhere with no political background but a record of giving blankets to the poor in winter, and a fist full of heartwarming ideas, a regular Nobel Peace Prize winner but conservatives will really hate him and I can name the reason right now BILL LEE!!!!!
            Ron, please, tell the good Doctor that bit has been tried once and it worked but after two years of the Lee administration THAT DOG WON’T HUNT!!!!

      2. Judith aturner

        But do you think he listens?

        1. Ron W

          Judith, Dr. Sethi was already there with conservative credentials. We discovered we were like-minded through political discussions. IMO one of the best senators is another physician- surgeon, Dr. Rand Paul. And “conservative” is an adjective. My view is to elect people who will CONSERVE the wording of the Constitution so that the government obeys it, being relegated to only operating according to its enumerated delegated powers and not violating or infringing any of the Bill of Rights according to their plain wording according to the rules of English grammar!

          1. Stuart I. Anderson

            It is precisely those “conservative credentials” that I hope every conservative joins me in examining should Dr. Sethi decide to enter the race so we avoid choosing yet another No Record Candidate. Conservative credentials can be established in three ways. First, there is a record of conservative governance while holding public office, which I assume Dr. Sethi has never done. Second, insofar as the Doctor is an accomplished surgeon I assume he is well out of puberty so since he wants to begin his political career as a U. S. Senator, he should be able to recount many years of public conservative advocacy in support of conservative causes and candidates. Third, the Doctor obviously has enough money to seriously fund a state-wide race so I assume that he will be able to present a formidable list of his significant political contributions over the years made almost exclusively to our perennially underfunded conservative candidates.

            I don’t think these credentials are too much for a conservative to expect from a man who will suddenly appear who wants to become one of the 100 most powerful individuals in this country. If he is unable to satisfy one or more of these three tests I’m sure by August 2020 conservatives will have a candidate of this open Senate seat who will.