Live from Music Row Friday 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. – guest host Aaron Gulbransen welcomed Davidson County Republican Party Vice Chair Bart Smith in studio to discuss the current state of the party and how to make it stronger.
Gulbransen: In studio, Crom Carmichael and we have the chairman of the Mission America Foundation, Aaron Spradlin, and we have the esteemed vice chair of the Davidson County Republican Party, Bart Smith, joining us.
Smith: Great to be here.
Gulbransen: By the way, I’ll be kind to Bart and Crom. Hey, Aaron, do you know the two things you cannot have or an attribute that you cannot possess or do and get elected in the state of Tennessee to office?
Spradlin: No, tell me.
Gulbransen: You can’t A, have a man bun, and B, wear eyeliner in your Instagram videos.
Spradlin: Oh, my goodness. You know what? You’re 100 percent correct. (Laughs)
Gulbransen: And both individuals that have those attributes were not elected anything yesterday. So there you go.
Carmichael: Wow. Who are those candidates?
Smith: I want to know about the eyeliner.
Gulbransen: Yeah, the eyeliner.
Smith: There are several women running in the race.
Gulbransen: Oh, I’m talking about a man wearing eyeliner. I will let you all do your research. You’ve seen these videos, but yeah. There’s a dude wearing eyeliner. And these are not the same people, mind you.
Carmichael: Was he a serious candidate?
Gulbransen: He was actually. He did pretty well.
Carmichael: He thought he should wear eyeliner because if you’re going to go on TV, sometimes they put a little powder.
Smith: That’s true.
Carmichael: So in my case, the glare on the forehead on the top of the head doesn’t blind the viewer. So is the eyeliner for that same reason.
Smith: I call it Guyliner.
Carmichael: Guyliner. Very clever.
Gulbransen: I don’t know if this is politically correct, but I would say more of, he’s a little bit of a fancy boy, kind of. I don’t know. Anyway, all right. All joking aside, Bart, we kind of got shellacked here.
Smith: Sometimes you need jokes at this hour after yesterday’s results.
Gulbransen: This is the day after election day. We’re all tired. I’m always froggy the day afterward.
Carmichael: What are your challenges truly in building Davidson County Republican Party? Because at this point, frankly, there isn’t one.
Smith: Well, I would disagree with that. I think it’s a slow build. If you look at the last time we were running elections, in many areas, we had no candidates whatsoever. So this time we managed to get judicial candidates.
We had Jeff Horowitz running for judge. We had Johnny Ellis as a write-in. And then in some parts of Davidson County, you could be mistaken for thinking that the big race was the school board races rather than the Fifth Congressional because there were posters everywhere for Todd Pembroke, Kelli Phillips, and the other candidates.
We actually had 200 vote watchers across Davidson County. So you’re seeing as kind of a slow build, the expansion of the party.
And they responded to the Democrats blowing $70,000 in the last week of the election in the county races with $10,000 of their own from the Republican Party, which they’ve never done before.
Carmichael: So what do you do at the local level? Let’s assume that the Republican Party is stronger than it was two years ago.
Carmichael: But it’s still incredibly weak.
Smith: It is.
Carmichael: What do you do in my lifetime? And as you can see looking across at me, that’s not going to be a super long time, but I don’t expect it to be super short. So let’s say 10 years.
Carmichael: What are you going to do? Because I’ve lived here since 1967. And the Republican Party in Davidson County has never been anything other than a very weak party.
Carmichael: What do you do to make it strong? What do you do?
Smith: They need to carry on with the operations developments that they’re doing, setting up standing committees to recruit members, to have a professional membership system, the bare bones of any kind of organization.
And they’re still doing that. Once you have that, you’ll have the cash flow coming in, and then you can start doing big plays to try and professionalize races. So that’s what we’re focusing on right now as a party in Davidson.
Carmichael: How do you do that, though? I understand that’s what you have to do, and we have not successfully done that in 40 years.
Smith: Well, a lot of it’s herding cats.
Carmichael: I know, I understand. So what do you do?
Smith: What you do is you need to get people into meetings and you need to have clear agendas. You need to have people working together rather than inviting, and then you need to be strategic and focus on what you can win first.
So if I’m going into this November, I’m looking at Michelle Foreman’s race versus Caleb Hemmer, and I’m saying, all right, well, Foreman’s votes when she really romped home last time, 5,500 votes for Foreman versus 5,200 for Hemmer. So if you want to have at least one state representative that can win covering Davidson County, we need to focus on that.
Listen to the interview:
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