Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Association in studio who discussed how his group is offering support and training to those people who would like to run for public office against well known RINOs.
Leahy: In studio, the founder and executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, John Harris. So, John, you had a really big turnout at your event Saturday in Lebanon. You raised a lot of money.
Harris: We did. We did. We were in a venue that was larger than half a football field.
Leahy: And you pretty much filled it up.
Harris: Pretty much. Between vendors, our firearm exhibitors, and the attendees at the event. We did spread things out because we were sensitive to COVID. We probably could have doubled the capacity. But we knew from last year that people wanted space between the tables, and so we spread things out.
Leahy: I showed the picture. We ran the picture of it at The Tennessee Star. They’re socially distanced.
Harris: We did. We were trying to be…
Leahy: You’re such a responsible guy.
Harris: As considerate of their concerns as possible. We didn’t want people not coming because of density.
Leahy: So it was your most successful fundraiser in the history of the organization.
Harris: It was.
Leahy: You’re going to take that money into the Legislative Action Committee, and then you’re going to use that to help candidates in the state legislature in 2022. Is that right?
Harris: That’s right. Unlike some national organizations we talked about earlier. All of the money that the TFA raises in its PAC stays in Tennessee and net of event expenses, the venue rentals, and whatnot it’s all used. We don’t have a bunch of people getting new suits and salaries.
Leahy: You don’t have a lot of it coming to the leadership. (Chuckles)
Harris: No, we don’t. We don’t have any of that. The leadership was there at 7:00 a.m Saturday morning, unloading a trailer.
Leahy: (Laughs) A little different than those national groups.
Harris: But it all goes to support conservative candidates. And we’re not just a GOP pep rally because we probably spend as much money targeting RINO Republicans in Tennessee. We do. We spend more money targeting RINO Republicans, and we do we ask for Democrats.
Leahy: Will some of this money be used in the primaries in August of 2022?
Harris: I would say the bulk of the money that we spend next year will be spent in the Republican primaries.
Leahy: Is there anybody out there who ought to be concerned right now? Cameron Sexton told us when the bill ran through the General Assembly on the governor that he was concerned that a third of the House Republicans would not support real constitutional carry. And if we can get challengers, we know who they are.
Leahy: You know who they are.
Harris: We know who they are. All we got to do is get the challengers lined up.
Leahy: That’s interesting, because people say, well, you know, if I were in the state legislature, such and such. The problem is to get somebody who will make a commitment of time and energy who’s a quality person to run. When you don’t make a lot of money in the state legislature.
Harris: No, you don’t. Not unless you’re not making a lot of money to start with. (Laughs)
Leahy: That’s a very good way of putting it. And mercifully here in Tennessee, it’s not a full-time gig typically.
Harris: Not typically.
Leahy: It starts in the session will start in January and ends in May or June.
Harris: They’ll have committee meetings throughout the year, but relatively few.
Leahy: And you know who you’re going to target.
Harris: We do. If we have viable candidates that we vet and go through our training, typically, if they’re not a seasoned legislator or officeholder, we’re willing to support them and run with them.
Leahy: And the challenge is really you’re not going to go after some of these RINO Republicans who are soft on this issue on the Second Amendment issues, unless there’s a valid challenger, right?
Harris: We’ve got a stewardship issue where we’re looking after the money that we have raised, and we’re not going to throw it away running billboards against someone that’s got a challenger that can’t win.
Leahy: If somebody’s out there listening and they are thinking, you know, I just might want to run. What should they do? Do they call you up?
Harris: Absolutely. They call me up. Myself or our director in West Tennessee, Richard Archie. We’re easy to find.
Leahy: Richard is great. The website is…
Harris: Tennesseefirearms.com. All spelled out, and they can get in touch with us there. And our social media page is running about 11,000 participants. Pretty good for a little state organization, and they can get us through it. We’re easy to find.
Leahy: Okay. So what’s the first thing you say when there’s somebody that says, I want to run against this RINO in a primary and the election is in August. Here we are in September. So you have eleven months. What’s the first thing you say to that person?
Harris: We want to know? And we’ll have a discussion with them about their viability as a candidate. Do they have a committee? Do they have supporters? Can they raise somewhere between 75 and $100,000 before they come to us and ask for money?
Leahy: They’ve got to be able to raise 75 and 100,000 on their own?
Harris: On their own.
Leahy: That’s a tall order for a first-timer.
Harris: When you look at the fact that a lot of these incumbents are sitting on several hundred thousand dollars that they’ve received largely from corporate donors and whatnot or pittance pay, so to speak. If the candidates can’t self-fund adequately, then they don’t have enough support in their community to viably win.
Leahy: So if there’s somebody out there who’s made money and they can put 75- 100 grand of their own money in that’s, in some regards, the easiest way to do it.
Harris: It is. It is. There’s a number of state legislators that I could rattle off that essentially self-fund. Some of them are Conservatives, and they’re rock solid, and some of them are RINOS that we’d be better off without.
Leahy: RINOs. Republicans in name only.
Leahy: Well, John, I salute you for 25 years of really good work.
Harris: Thank you very much.
Leahy: In a very important area. The country needs more people like John Harris.
Harris: It’s a great litmus test, this issue is. If they can stand up on this, they’ll get it right on most of the other issues.
Leahy: Come back again in studio and tell us how your progress is going with vetting candidates.
Harris: Thank you for the opportunity. I’d be glad to.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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