Tennessee Star Report Exclusive: Williamson County Democratic Chair Holly McCall on Her Bid for State Party Chair

On Friday’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 – Gill and Leahy spoke to Holly McCall, Williamson County’s Democratic Party chair and discussed her thoughts on the Democratic Party’s current national narrative about her grass roots movement to replace current Tennessee Democratic Party State chair Mary Mancini.

They continued the discussion about the Democratic image challenges McCall faces and her position on how to turn things around.  At the end of the segment, McCall touches upon the difference between Southern Democrats and the rest of the country and how the message needs to be talked about sanely and found it unfortunate that some Democrats were unwilling to speak to The Tennessee Star.

Gill: We talked yesterday with incoming house speaker Republican Glen Casada and today we thought we’d give you the flip side with Holly McCall who actually ran against Glen Casada for that state house seat in Williamson County a couple years ago. She is the chairman of the Williamson County Democratic Party and wants to be chairman of the Democratic Party for the state of Tennessee. Mary Mancini has held that position I guess the last four years and Holly has said she wants to bring some new blood, and maybe some new tactics to play since Democrats again ran their best statewide candidates we’ve seen in decades. Well funded, and Karl Dean and Phil Bredesen a lot of their self-funding made them able to communicate broadly. And yet the Democrats fall push for gaining seats in the state house and the state senate provided a net gain of one state house seat which changed I guess the dynamic from Republicans having seventy-five out of ninety-nine seats to seventy-four. I guess Holly that’s your case. We’re not winning and we need to change the you know, the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator, and the head coach if we want to get back on track.

McCall: Spoken like a true UT fan Steve Gill. How are you this morning gentlemen?

Gill: Doing good. Good to have you with us.

Leahy: Good morning Holly.

McCall: I’m glad to be here.

Gill: How do you change things up in the Tennessee Democratic party when the national Democratic party keeps moving so far, so extreme to the left. I mean you’ve had Democrats win in Tennessee who were basically conservative southern Democrats and what the Democrats it seems to me have lost to me in Tennessee is those rural and suburban conservative to moderate Democrats because the party nationally has moved so far to the left. How do you reverse that trend in one state?

McCall: Well it’s not going to be easy. And you’re absolutely right. I suspect if I do win I will be no favorite of the DNC because their messaging is killing southern states. I think Georgia is doing a little bit better than we are but I actually look to the Republican party in Tennessee (scoffs) strangely, maybe as a model for success because growing up here in Franklin, Tennessee. I remember when Williamson county was not always as red as it is. It was more of a 50/50 county and Republicans were very smart about building from the base. It took them twenty years to take off. County commission seats and border Mayor Alderman and here we are today. So, one of the first things I propose is really going back to that like, hyperlocal grassroots strategy.

Gill: But don’t you have to have issues as the focus? I mean to me it seems that the Democrats in Tennessee the last twenty thirty forty years they were gun owners, proponents of the second amendment, they tended to be more pro-life than pro-abortion. They tended to be in favor of lower taxes not higher taxes. And again when you’ve got the got the Democratic Party nationally and in the state moving to the left where LGBTQ issues matter more than farming issues, it’s kind of hard to get those conservative Democrats back in the fold.

McCall concurred adding that messaging is the toughest issue the Democratic Party faces and that it hasn’t been focused on enough. She noted that a private citizen reached out to here upset about the position on coal because they work in coal,  and that there are still many Tennessee conservative Democrats that are unhappy with the national message. McCall quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt by citing “a chicken in every pot” and that the Democrats need to focus more on economic issues and medical care.

Leahy: Holly, this is Michael Patrick Leahy question for you. When will the election be held for the state Chairmanship?

McCall: It is January 12th, so a week from tomorrow this all goes down.

Gill: I mean I know how in the Republican party you’ve got the state executive committee that votes so you’re really just catering to you know sixty to ninety voters who are really going to determine this. Not the broad brush of Tennessee Democratic party voters across the state.

McCall: Yeah, and that’s pretty much how ours is done too, which makes it tough. I think it’s seventy-two voters total. You’ve got the sixty-six members of state executive committee and then the ex officio, house caucus chair, city caucus chair, Democratic women, young Democratic college, Democrats. And it makes it a tough sell because I’m really bonding and I know people coming to the show, there’s a lot of grassroots support for some change. You know Mary Mancini’s a fine person but after four years when you lose lose lose there’s going to be a movement. But you know the executive committee sees one side and there are some people or a lot of people who are very pleased with the way things are going.

Gill: Please count me among that because I’m very pleased with how ya’ll are doing it.


McCall: We should probably get a clip of that and shop it around (Laughter), but yeah I mean it’s like in any race. Mary’s got the power of incumbency on her side and she’s built some strong relationships but it’s still going to be a tough sell but I think it will be very close.

Leahy: We certainly hope, that, we have conflicting feelings here Holly. You know, you talk to us, and you’re a sane and rational person.

McCall: Well thank you.

Leahy: You know, Mary doesn’t talk to us. Nor does her spokesperson. He just says bad words about people like us and so we’re conflicted. We’d be able to have you on and talk to you periodically but we like how poorly they’re doing. And we want Mary Mancini to continue.

“This is part of what I think is wrong with America these days. Like we definitely don’t talk to each other”, confessed McCall. She went on to describe how people and her personal friends that are Republicans don’t talk to each other based on party politics and that there is no way people could be convinced that Democrats are sane if they don’t come on the Tennessee Star or talk to other people. She added that it made her sad that the Tennessee Star was unable to talk to more state Democrats often.

Gill: When you look at part of your challenge, I think Holly, is you look at the national Democrats. You look at the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ‘s who are getting all the limelight. Look at this new Muslim woman elected from Dearborn, Michigan to lead who goes on screaming, apparently after telling her son the same story that they’re going to impeach the mf’er in the White House. When that’s what people see and hear from the Democrats at the national level, how do you convince them that Tennessee Democrats are more sane than what they’re seeing at the national level?

McCall: I don’t have all the answers. And that’s tough. And there are a lot of media outlets not just like FOX is telling one side of the story but MSNBC and CNN they’re telling the same story so it’s pretty hard to escape that and that is a huge challenge. Like I had not heard that she used that language which I find appalling you know.

Gill: What’s worse she claims she was telling her young son that that’s what they were going to do. She was just recounting it to Moveon.org so this is how she apparently talks to her kids. If this is how Democrats talk to their kids and this is, by the way, is a woman who paraded around whose an anti-Semite whose anti-Israel, anti-Jew and on election night paraded around with a Palestinian flag rather than an American flag. Again, I don’t know, if ya’ll paid me huge consulting fees Holly I would have to tell you I may have to turn down the gig because I don’t know what the answer would be. How do you overcome letting Maxine Waters and Talib and Ilhan Omar and these others? They are capturing the spotlight and how do you convince people in Tennessee that ya’ll aren’t crazy when all they’re seeing at the national level is crazy?

McCall: You know I don’t have the answer for that.

Gill: Even if ya’ll were paying me a lot of money I wouldn’t have the answer for you either. (Chuckles)

McCall: Truly. Southern Democrats have always been different from Democrats then the rest of the country. And I think you can reconcile being progressive as I said, I think progressive values are more about giving people rights and that’s also the right to get healthcare etc. But I think it’s going to be tough for us to get that reconciled because you’re correct. People do see what’s being aired nationally. And I got some calls during the Kavanaugh hearing, I got a call from a gentleman who said: “Well I voted Democrat before but I can’t vote Democrat because I don’t like what I’m seeing on TV.” And let me be clear, I am a yellow belly Democrat. I think I might have voted for a Republican once in my life. But I do…

The conversation ended with McCall stressing that she truly supports Democrats yet is realistic about the huge issues she faces and believes that the national message needs to be changed. Gill agreed to say that the Democrats need to get back to the message. He also reiterated that people need to stop calling one another names and instead start talking to one another about the messages (i.e. healthcare, etc.) to talking about the messages.

McCall did elude to the idea that the President needs to pull back his Twitter language in order for us to get anywhere with the Democrats and their name calling.

Listen to the segment, starting at about the 9 minute mark:


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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Hollie McCall” by Hollie McCall.
Background Photo “Williamson County Courthouse” by Ichabod. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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