Leahy: All-star panelist Roger Simon with us. Roger, I want to elaborate on appointment made towards the end of that last segment.
And it’s about the Secretary of State, Tre Hargett’s statement issued by his his office yesterday afternoon about an hour after we reported that the three-year residency bill to be on a primary ballot in the U.S. House of Representatives had become law.
I’m going to read exactly what their statement was. And, Tre Hargett, I hope you’re listening because I am stating here right now that you have incorrectly made a statement after this law, and I’m challenging you, Tre Hargett, to come in to this program and defend your statement, which I am saying is factually incorrect.
Here we go. The first is a two-sentence statement. “The bill was not signed into law before the April 7th filing deadline.” That’s a true statement. “April 7th is the filing deadline.” This is not a true statement.
And this came from Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office. The requirement does not apply retroactively to candidates who met the qualification deadline at noon on April 7th. This is where the Secretary of State’s office, I think, knowingly made an incorrect statement because April 7th is not the qualification deadline.
The qualification deadline is April 21st, according to the statute. April 7th is the deadline for candidates who seek to be qualified to apply for their petitions. And the Secretary of State has two steps in the process.
First, the Secretary of State has to review all the signatures on the petition. They usually take 48 hours or so, and then they determine if those actually meet those petition filing standards.
Simon: I want to add to this that this has been known for some time, even to us newcomers in Tennessee, via your show and other things. We’ve known this. So therefore, why was it not known by the Secretary of State’s office?
Leahy: I think it was known.
Simon: Exactly. Obviously, it was known. Then the next question Sherlock would ask is, why this word salad?
Leahy: The word salad is basically so that, we talked about this before, so that Associated Press would take the statement and go with a headline claiming that the Secretary of State, with that statement, was saying that Morgan Ortagus is on the ballot.
Simon: Then the next thing that would happen is this would be accepted as the truth, and everybody would roll over.
Leahy: Yes. Now, we asked the Secretary of State some pointed questions. On February 18th, we asked the Secretary of State’s office, if the legislation currently pending before the General Assembly, passed and affected a candidate’s eligibility for the August primaries, what could the latest date for finalizing the ballot be?
Translation: What’s the qualifying deadline? Here was their answer on February 22nd. “If the legislation passes, whether it will affect the candidates for the August 4th, 2022 primary election depends on the enacting date chosen by the General Assembly. The April 21st, 2022 date to finalize the ballot will not be affected.”
The effective date was April 13th. The finalizing the ballot date is April 21st. So that is the statute. The qualifying deadline is April 21st, and the petition filing deadline – and Frank Niceley told us the same exact thing about this, and by the way, State Senator Frank Niceley told us the following: ‘Robby Starbuck and Morgan Ortagus were off the Republican primary ballot as soon as their bona fides were challenged before the Tennessee GOP by bona fide Republicans in the 5th district.
Those challenges were made well before the April 7th petition filing deadline. In addition, meeting that filing deadline does not mean you’re a qualified candidate. Let me repeat that. Meeting the filing deadline of April 7th does not mean you’re a qualified candidate.
The SEC members would need to vote to put them back on the ballot in order for them to be qualified. The Secretary of State and the governor have no control over what the SEC votes do. And by the bylaws, they have been removed from the ballot. They have an opportunity to be restored. (Simon laughs)
Simon: Bylaws are made to be broken, like most laws, unfortunately, and bylaws more easily than most. This is, I think, a teaching moment for all of us who are interested in politics, which means everybody, theoretically, because it’s going to affect you down the line.
Although in this instance, I will put a little asterisk on it. And here’s my asterisk. I don’t think the most significant thing in the world is who is going to be winning the Republican nomination for the 5th district.
I think my bet is that that person will win the election, and that person is not going to vote very differently one from the other, except for this guy Winstead, whose wife is a lobbyist for the Democrats.
Leahy: Yes. Kurt’s been on the program. We’ve talked to Kurt.
Simon: Did you ask about his wife’s lobbying activities?
Leahy: No. We’ll ask him that the next time he’s in.
Simon: That’s probably the most significant thing you can ask about.
Leahy: Got you. But you said who wins this primary is not the most significant thing to ask. What is the most significant thing to ask?
Simon: Whether the rule of law will be followed.
Leahy: There you go. Let’s talk about the rule of law. Whether or not the rule of law will be followed. To me, I look at this and the Secretary of State here, Tre Hargett, who, by the way, is hired by the Tennessee General Assembly.
Simon: Error. That is not a good thing.
Leahy: You’re not changing it. It’s in the Tennessee Constitution.
Simon: I know it is.
Leahy: You will not change it.
Simon: There are a couple of things in this constitution people should look at.
Leahy: I understand all these arguments. For instance, direct election of attorney general never going to happen here for any number of reasons. But I would agree with that. But the point is we have a Secretary of State, Tre Hargett, who, in essence, is saying …
Simon: He’s not responsible to the voters.
Leahy: No, even more. He’s saying that he apparently does not intend to enforce the law as passed by the Tennessee General Assembly. That’s what it looks like to me.
Tre Hargett, by the way, you are welcome to come in the program and defend yourself. But right now the statements from your office are confusing at best and conflicting at worst and disingenuous, perhaps, is maybe an even more accurate way to put it.
Simon: I’m not arguing with any of that. I think you’re right. But when you come back to the semi-defeatist statement that you made about not changing any of these Tennessee regulations, I think we should start thinking about that. The Secretary of State should be responsible to the voters. It’s a pretty big job.
Leahy: Folks, this promises to be a very lively segment with our good friend, all-star panelist, Clint Brewer. Clint, you are, in fact, a recovering journalist.
Brewer: I am.
Leahy: You are a public affairs specialist. And you know how people should communicate. I’m going to make a statement here about our Secretary of State, Tre Hargett.
And I’m going to say that he has really done a very poor job of communicating about whether or not he will enforce this new residency law, which became law yesterday afternoon after the governor refused to sign it or did not return it to the Senate after the 10-day period when it can go into effect without a signature.
And immediately, the Secretary of State issued a confusing statement that contradicted his own statements about the enforcement of this law that he made to us a couple of months earlier, issued it quickly.
We broke the story that it had become law about 3:00 in the afternoon, and by 4:00, they issued a statement to us about the law that we thought was contradictory and confusing. And we didn’t publish it because we asked them a follow-up question.
The Associated Press took it immediately and ran with it and I think inaccurately stated the position of the law, what the law meant.
Here’s what the Secretary of State’s office told us an hour after we reported the law was in effect. Remember what the law says. “In order to qualify as a candidate in a primary election for the United States Senate or from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a person shall meet the residency requirements for state senators and representatives contained in the Tennessee Constitution.”
That’s three years prior to qualifying for the primary ballot. This act takes effect upon becoming law. The public welfare requirement. So it became law yesterday, April 13th, and it went into effect.
And here was the statement. It was a pre-planned statement, obviously, because it was given to us. We didn’t publish it immediately because it was confusing and conflicting. The AP took it and published it right away, almost instantaneously, and gave an interpretation to it that claimed that it meant Morgan Ortagus would be back on the ballot.
They missed a lot, as did the Secretary of State. Let me just read this to you. “The bill was not signed into law before the April 7th filing deadline.
The requirement does not apply retroactively to candidates who met the qualification deadline at noon on April 7th.” So that’s what they communicated.
The AP took that to interpret Morgan Ortagus is on the ballot. That was very, very confusing, because we went back and said, well, look, the Republican Party bylaws, and your previous statements say April 7th is the petition filing deadline. It’s not the qualifying deadline.
The qualifying deadline is April 21st. Two candidates have been challenged, and have been removed from the Tennessee Republican Party ballot, Morgan Ortagus and Robby Starbuck. Given those facts with your interpretation of the law that you gave out an hour after the laws passed, stand.
And they responded in a way that didn’t answer that question. Here’s what they said: “We may have misunderstood your question. We thought your question was regarding if someone filed the petition in March and met qualifications when they filed, but before the qualifying deadline, the law changed. In that case, the person would not have been able to run despite meeting the petition requirements at the time of filing.
By statute, the party has until April 21st to inform the division of election who will be on the primary ballot,” conceding the point that the qualifying deadline is April 21st, not April 7th. Your thoughts about this communication mangling by the Secretary of State?
Brewer: Yes, I agree with you. It could have been clearer. I’m going to say that they’re in as confusing a position as the rest of us. Heretofore, to qualify to run for Congress, you had two barriers: One, you had to put in a qualifying petition, which is a fairly nominal number of signatures from people in the district that have to be verified as actual registered voters in the district.
Then you had to clear the party. The party had to let you on the ballot if it’s partisan. So there are two things. Now, in the middle of it, we’ve got a residency requirement, which to my knowledge, I think the only entity that figures that out now is the party apparatus, the executive committee, Secretary of State’s office.
I could be wrong. But in the petition filing, there is no paperwork requirement yet. Maybe there will be. There’s no submission that you have to make of documents or anything that actually could tell the Secretary of State’s office if you meet the new residency requirements.
Leahy: Yes. Within that. Yes.
Brewer: So where does the verification of residency reside in this new process? The law does not spell that out.
Leahy: It does not.
Brewer: The law does not say that the Secretary of State will do it. The law does not say that the executive committee will do it. So who does it? Is it only a question if someone challenges it? Otherwise, are both parties happy to just not ask the question?
Leahy: Let’s just go back a little bit on this. First, this April 7th petition filing deadline says you’ve got to file in order to be qualified, subsequently …
Brewer: You have to have a timely filed petition …
Leahy: Which has 25 signatures of people in the district.
Brewer: … by noon on the date.
Leahy: April 7th. Now, those petitions are actually reviewed by the Secretary of State’s office …
Brewer: Of course.
Leahy: … over like a 48-hour period. If they themselves then, after April 7th, issue a statement about which of those petitions allow somebody to go forward with the qualifying process …
Brewer: And to my knowledge, is there a deadline for doing that?
Leahy: For their response as to have you met the first standard to qualify, there’s not a deadline. I think by practice they usually get a response. Actually, there may be some still being reviewed by the Secretary of State’s office. They did respond.
Brewer: But it’s not in the statute.
Leahy: I don’t think it’s in the statute. But what is clearly in statute, by statute, the parties have until April 21st to inform the Secretary of State who’s on the ballot.
Brewer: That is the final hurdle to get on the ballot.
Leahy: And we’re continuing our discussion with Clint Brewer about the communication gaffe of Secretary of State Tre Hargett immediately after the enactment of the three-year residency requirement to get on the primary ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives.
They issued a very conflicting and confusing statement that the Associated Press immediately ran with and claimed that it meant that Morgan Ortagus is going to be back on the ballot. Associated Press got it wrong, and they got it wrong in part because of the screw-up by the Secretary of State’s office.
And we pressed them on that, and they kind of backed away from the April 7th deadline claim and reverted to the statutory requirement that April 21st is a qualifying deadline, which means the law went into effect before the qualifying deadline, Clint Brewer.
Brewer: I’m not sure your quarrel is as much with the Secretary of State’s offices as the AP. I mean, it is a nuanced situation.
Leahy: Now, that is exactly the case.
Brewer: Could the initial communication be a little more specific about April 7th versus the 21st? Sure. But I think what you’re seeing is the Secretary of State’s office operating with an abundance of caution since this is a brand-new law. There’s a residency requirement.
As we said in the previous segment, the law does not spell out whose job it is to determine the residency requirement or what the mechanism is to determine the residency requirement.
For example, if you enroll your kid in almost any school system in Tennessee, you can take them, you know, a utility bill. And so how do you establish what documents are acceptable? There’s a lot of questions that the law doesn’t answer.
And so if I am in the Secretary of State’s position, I’m thinking about the fact that there’s a deadline on the 7th that they control and there’s a deadline on the 21st that they don’t control. And so I feel like what they’re doing is from a legal standpoint, trying to limit their communication on the topic.
Leahy: Yes, I think exactly.
Brewer: You’re saying it’s a gaffe. I think it could have been clearer. But I do think there’s some intentionality to the Secretary of State’s office communication in this regard because the law is not entirely clear about who controls the final deadline.
It’s definitely the executive committee. I think this is a one-time event in that the laws passed, it’s put into effect after the filing deadline that leaves some gray areas. I’m not sure it’s a gaffe.
Leahy: I don’t think there’s any gray area.
Brewer: I don’t think it’s as much of a gaffe as it is sort of being intentionally cautious …
Brewer: … about what they’re saying. Maybe their attorneys have advised them to be that way.
Leahy: This is why you’re a good communications guy. If I were the Secretary of State, I would hire you immediately. (Brewer chuckles) Because you made the best out of a bad situation for that.
Brewer: I’m just trying to think through their burden in this situation.
Leahy: There are two elements to this. The first, where they made a big gaffe, was by reversing themselves on the issue of when the qualifying deadline was.
Brewer: Or did you just ask a better set of questions than the Associated Press?
Leahy: The Associated Press asked no questions.
Brewer: Well, that’s my point.
Leahy: In fact, it’s almost as if it was a coordinated effort between, oh, I don’t know, the governor, the Secretary of State, and the Associated Press to have a misleading headline. It’s almost as if.
Brewer: I can pretty much assure you that they do not all get together and agree to that.
Leahy: I didn’t say they got together. But a common goal was accomplished by like-minded individuals.
Brewer: What you’re seeing is, again, I think that given the situation, because some of these candidates whose residency is in question … I live in Wilson County.
Leahy: Morgan Ortagus’s residency timeline is not in question. She would be off the ballot.
Brewer: I mean the question in terms of the executive committee process.
Leahy: Well, that’s a separate issue. The executive committee is not about residency. It’s about meeting the standards of having voted three out of the four most recent primaries.
Brewer: Who has to figure out residency?
Leahy: The issue of residency is not before the Tennessee executive committee.
Brewer: That’s my point.
Leahy: The issue of residency is a separate lane. I think you’re right about one thing and wrong about another. The thing that the actual misleading statement from the Secretary of State’s office is to claim that the petition filing deadline of April 7th is a qualifying deadline.
The qualifying deadline and by statute is April 21st. We talked to State Senator Frank Niceley, who made that point. It’s April 21 is the qualifying deadline, not April 7.
Brewer: So in your mind, the Secretary of State’s office has from the 7th to the 21st to make some kind of ruling on each of these candidates based on residency?
Leahy: No, not at all. No. Let me tell you what my mind is thinking on it. I think it’s very clear that the qualifying deadline is April 21st.
It is after April 21st that it would be the job of the Tennessee Secretary of State to determine if a candidate meets those standards, if they were to be on by the state executive committee, which I think is in doubt at the moment.
But let’s go with that. So here’s what I would say. This is the Robby Starbuck argument versus the Morgan Ortagus argument. The standard on this, if you just take the way that they’ve approached others’ residency requirements in other cases would be the date upon which you registered to vote.
The legislature didn’t spell it out, but you would think, just by the way, that the Secretary of State has acted in the past, it would be the voting deadline.
Brewer: And the piece of code they opened up. Is there any reference in the election law to what establishes residency?
Well, we’ve been talking about Governor Billy’s statement yesterday about the termination of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the state’s former vaccine chief.
And there’s something wrong with the way he’s explained it, it seems to me. By the way, you can call in if you want to disagree or if you have any additional insight into this number.
So here’s the story. Actually, I’m reading the story from Newsweek about this and will elaborate a little bit on some of the headlines that you heard on the radio during the break.
Here’s how Newsweek reported it. Remember, Newsweek is part of The Daily Beast. It’s more of a far-left outfit. So take this with a grain of salt. But they have done the most comprehensive reporting that I’ve seen on this so far.
Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee defended the termination of Michelle Fiscus, the state’s former vaccine chief, who was removed from her duties last week.
Fiscus asserts her firing was due to the outrage of some GOP lawmakers over her handling of state outreach efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccines for minors, the Associated Press reported. Asterisk.
The Associated Press is far left right now. Just so you know. Lee did not provide answers when asked by reporters for the specifics of the firing of Fiscus.
“Government needs to provide information and education, provide access, and we need to do so to the parents of those children. That’s the direction the department took regarding individual personnel decisions. I trust the departments to make decisions consistent with the vision.”
I don’t think that’s exactly the truth. Look, we’ll try to reach out to the governor and get them to come out of the program and elaborate on this.
But I just read from you the mature minor doctrine that is currently on the website of the Tennessee Department of Health. And I’m just reading what it says.
Between the ages of 14 and 18, there is a rebuttable presumption of capacity, and the physical physician may treat without parental consent unless the physician believes that the minor is not sufficiently mature to make his or her own health care decisions.
That is the official current policy of the Tennessee Department of Health and seems to be not the policy that Governor Lee is claiming. Thursday is the first time that Governor Lee spoke out about Fiscus’s termination, and he said State Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey did not tell him the motivations behind her termination.
Okay, not paying attention to what’s going on at a very important issue, it seems to me. Here’s again how Newsweek represented it. Anger emerged from some Republicans after Fiscus distributed a memo earlier this year about the state’s mature minor doctrine that allows minors 14 and older to choose to become vaccinated without guardians’ consent.
From our reading of the mature minor doctrine, which is still today on the Tennessee Department of Health website, that is an accurate reading of what the Tennessee Department of Health doctrine is.
I don’t know if Governor Lee has read that or is aware of it, but he ought to be aware of his own policy in the Tennessee Department of Health.
And this is kind of from The Associated Press, now part of the story. Lee also came out in full defense of his administration’s rollback of outreach for childhood vaccines that have sparked national scrutiny alongside Fiscus’s firing over well. I don’t think it’s a rollback of outreach.
I don’t know if that’s actually true either, because we’ve got Kerry Roberts saying that’s how Newsweek describes it. But basically what they’re describing is a rollback, Kerry Roberts says they’ve agreed to stop marketing to minors.
I don’t know if they’ve stopped promoting the idea that parents should be involved in deciding whether or not to have their kids vaccinated for COVID-19.
I’ll get to my take on the science of this, by the way, in a bit. One online post featuring a photo of a smiling child with a bandaid on his arm said, “Tennesseean’s 12 plus are eligible for a vaccine. Give COVID-19 vaccines a shot.”
Earlier this year, Fiscus released a memo detailing Tennessee’s mature minor doctrine which traces back to a 1987 state Supreme Court case.
It led to a firestorm at a legislative meeting last month. Dr. Fiscus is accurate in describing Tennessee’s mature minor doctrine, right? It’s accurate.
Now whether or not she should have sent that out without reviewing it in detail with a general counsel, that probably is a matter of judgment.
Tennessee is one of five states where providers have the discretion to decide if a minor is mature enough to consent to vaccination without a parent according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which said 41 other sites require parental consent, and five others have a self consent age under 18.
Okay. So look, Governor Lee, despite all of this brouhaha, it does appear that the current doctrine of your government and your administration is to allow children as young as 14 to receive this COVID-19 vaccination without parental consent if the administering physician thinks that they are sufficiently mature.
That, Governor Lee, is your doctrine right now. I agree with the legislators who said that ought not to be the doctrine. But Governor Lee, maybe he’s not aware of that and he’s not paying attention to what the doctrine really is of his own administration.
Again, it seems like that to me. By the way, you can jump in on this topic. I would like to hear from you. GOP lawmakers said in a meeting Wednesday they have received private reassurances from Piercey and a governor’s office officials that the state Health Department of Education and 89 of 95 County Health Departments won’t be offering COVID 19 vaccines to minors without their parents’ permission. Okay, well, that’s an assurance.
But that assurance conflicts with the current mature minor doctrine (Chuckles) that is promoted as the Tennessee Department of Health website. What’s wrong with that picture, Governor Lee?
Apparently, he seems to be unaware of any of this. Not a good situation in my view. You got to be on top of it. And I would say the mature minor doctrine needs to be changed.
I’ll do this over the break and look into that 1987 Tennessee Supreme Court decision upon which apparently this mature minor doctrine is based.