Lonnie Spivak: New Bill Would Change the Nashville-Davidson County Mayoral Race Outcome, Could Favor Republicans

Lonnie Spivak: New Bill Would Change the Nashville-Davidson County Mayoral Race Outcome, Could Favor Republicans

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. – host Leahy welcomed Davidson County Republican Party Chairman Lonnie Spivak in studio to explain legislation that could give Republicans a chance at winning the Nashville mayoral race.

Leahy: We are having too much fun here. In studio with us, the chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party, Mr. Lonnie Spivak. There’s a possibility that everything you know about the Davidson County, Nashville Davidson County Mayor’s race, could change.

And that change agent is the Tennessee General Assembly. There is a bill there that would eliminate the runoff element of it. And now we’ve got eight or nine candidates that have declared. The election is scheduled for August 3rd.

The filing deadline is May 18th. And since the formation of the Metro government back in 1965 the mayor has always had to have won more than 50 percent of the vote. And the way it works is the first election is on August 3rd, the August election, if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two candidates meet in a runoff.

That’s been the way it’s been for a long time, and I think the past couple of races have had those runoffs. This year, however, that could change. Tell us what’s going on with the Tennessee General Assembly on that.

Spivak: The bill in the Senate is SB 1527 and the companion bill in the House is HB 1399. And what this bill will do is it’ll remove the runoff election element of local elections, and the winner would just have to win by a plurality vote.

Leahy: So for instance, let’s just say if this race, there are eight announced candidates right now. And let’s say the leading candidate gets 29 percent and the second candidate gets 27 percent and the third candidate gets 20 percent, and the rest are below that; in that scenario, in the current law, the 29 percent person and the 27 percent person will be the only two to make it to a runoff in September.

Spivak: Yes. That’s how it’s currently structured.

Leahy: But if this law passes the number one person in that scenario that got 29 percent, the plurality of the vote, that person would be the new mayor.

Spivak: And that this really. This bill, if it passes, will give Republicans are real shot at winning races in Davidson County and other large cities in Nashville, where the demographics currently work against us. It’s being slowed up in the Senate a little bit right now, so its passage is up in the air. It’s in the state and local government committees.

It was supposed to be brought up this week, but there were a couple of members of the committee out, so they deferred it to Monday. And so I really encourage people to contact the members of the state and local government committee and let them know that you would like for them to consider passing the runoff election bill. The language hasn’t been added to the bill yet.

It’s still just a caption, but we’ll need the committee to meet and add the language to the bill, so they consider it for passage. And in order for this to move forward, those steps need to happen. Or else we’re gonna be dead in the water and we’ll lose the best chance we’ve had in a hundred years of electing Republicans in the city of Nashville.

Leahy: Now we Republicans could probably get a candidate who gets 29 percent of the vote.

Spivak: Yes. Typically, we’re in the 23 to 27 percent of the vote, depending on how many candidates are in the race. If Republicans know that there’s a good conservative candidate in the race and they coalesce. There are enough Republicans in Nashville to get to the 35 percent mark. Donald Trump did very well in 2016 in Nashville. So we know the votes are here. We just need to get them to the polls.

Leahy: In this race now there are eight candidates. Five Democrats, two Republicans, one independent, I think, is what it looks like right now. Right now, yeah. Yeah. Sharon Hurt. She’s from the Council of Fred O’Connell from the council, Matt Wilshire, who’s been appointed. He’s a Democrat. Jeff Yarbro.

Spivak: Fran Bush.

Leahy: Oh, and then I guess Jim Gingrich. Carpetbagger.

Spivak: You like that word.

Leahy: I do. Because he is a carpetbagger, by any definition of the word. Jim, by the way, you’re welcome to come in. And then Fran Bush, a former member of the school board, a friend of ours who’s an independent, and then two Republicans, Natisha Brooks, who ran previously in the GOP primary and then Alice Rolli, Natisha and Fran have been.

Alice Rolli will be here a week from today. We’ll talk to her about it. But if you look at it either of those, let’s say of the conservatives, you might add or Republicans, you would add three candidates.

Alice Rolli, Fran Bush, and Natisha. Fran and Natisha, I think are gonna struggle to raise money. I think Al’s gonna raise some money. I don’t know exactly how much we’ll find out when she’s in, on Friday, but really right now it doesn’t look like to me, any of those three are in a position to win. Certainly in the runoff.

Maybe if they have this new law, and of course as the Davidson County Republican Party Chairman, you’re limited in what you can do in this race. Tell us about what Davidson County Republican Party can and cannot do in this mayoral race.

Spivak: I asked the state chairman Scott Golden on what the rules were in non-partisan races. There’s still a lot of ambiguity about how to handle nonpartisan races. From my aspect, there are, there is more than one Republican in the race, and it should be our position as the county party to pick between Republicans.

And so what I’m gonna be proposing to the board on the 28th is that we treat it as a partisan race that we use our PAC to run ads against candidates and ideas that we are against but really treat it as a partisan race. The ultimate decision will be up to the board, but that is how I hope to present things to the board.

It really puts us in an awkward position, and I don’t want the county party to be in a position and have a history of supporting one Republican when multiple Republicans are running.

Leahy: Yes. And that’s the situation here. And that is a very measured approach to it, and it makes a lot of sense. However, I will say that if you look at it, the opportunity here for if one single Republican candidate came out and everybody focused on that candidate and that candidate had money and was credible, I think that candidate would be able to, get up to 35 percent of the vote. And then if this law were to pass, Democrats’ heads would explode.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Lonnie Spivak” by Lonnie Spivak. Background Photo “Davidson County Courthouse” by euthman. CC BY-SA 2.0.


Guest Host Ben Cunningham and AFP’s Grant Henry Impressed With Tennessee Legislature, Encourage Citizens to Reach Out and Get Involved

Guest Host Ben Cunningham and AFP’s Grant Henry Impressed With Tennessee Legislature, Encourage Citizens to Reach Out and Get Involved


Live from Music Row Wednesday 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 Cunningham welcomed Grassroots Engagement Director of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee Grant Henry in studio to discuss the proficiency of the Tennessee legislature, getting involved, and grassroots training offered by AMF.

(Andrew Cuomo clip plays)

Cunningham: That was the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, trying to save his political career and life. Whether or not he will be able to is questionable at this point after the AG report came out yesterday. They didn’t charge him with anything. She’s leaving that up to the DAs.

I think there is one DA in Albany that is investigating, but the charges of sexual harassment or any criminal activity have not been brought yet. That was just a report which was pretty damning. And it’ll be really interesting to see how that plays out. He is trying to hold on.

I don’t know whether he will be able to at this point. There was some talk yesterday about impeachment proceedings. So real interesting, interesting political drama playing out there in New York and all among Democrats. (Chuckles) This is a Democrat state, and they will be hashing that out in the coming days.

It’ll be fascinating just as political bystanders to see what happens there. I think yesterday even the president said, yes, he ought to resign. So we’ll see what happens with that. We’ve got a little political drama playing out in Nashville.

Cameron Sexton, the speaker of the House, was on yesterday with us talking about the news conference that he and the governor and Jack Johnson and the commissioner of education had basically said to school systems, you guys got to get your act together and get kids back in school. There is a report that I guess it’s Speaker McNally.

Henry: That’s right.

Cunningham: In the Senate, it’s basically saying, hold on here. Let’s not rush into this. And that’s been fairly typical of the dynamic down at the legislature. Speaker McNally tends to be a little bit more of a slow walk on these kinds of issues and doesn’t join in sometimes.

But I think the governor is the one who calls a special session. So if he wants to call a special session, if these schools persist in masking up and staying remote. And the Democrats are really pushing back hard yesterday in Davidson County and Shelby County in saying we’re not going to go along with this, especially with the Delta variant.

So they were pushing back. It’s going to be really interesting to see how all that plays out at the legislature. The legislature is an interesting place. (Henry laughs) You’re down there a lot more than I am.

I used to be down there a lot, but I’m not. But you’ve got 132 people that you’ve got to kind of get going in one direction if you want to get something done. And, boy, it’s difficult to do sometimes.

Henry: Yeah, it absolutely is. And I will say out of the 132 people, I would say the overwhelming majority, if not every single one of them, that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with wants nothing but the best for the state of Tennessee. And I say that sincerely Ben, honestly.

I’ve lived and done politics in several other states. Kentucky and Virginia. I’ve been around a little bit doing the political thing and I will say wholeheartedly those folks that have a true servant mentality in Tennessee are unlike any others. They really want the best for their constituents, for their state, and they want to lead the nation in liberty principles.

I truly do believe that. It is somewhat perplexing that these two men are not necessarily on the same page when it comes to how to approach this particular problem. But what do I know? I’m some random guy in radio and these guys are actually up there doing the job.

So I don’t know. We read the headlines and we see what they are. But like you said, I think ultimately it’s up to the governor as to whether or not to call a special session if need be. And we’ll see how that happens.

Cunningham: And they do react to the citizens and to the pressure of citizens. And you can call their office anytime. They’re not in session now. But if you feel strongly about this, you can call or go to the legislative website.

We do have a really good legislative website, and it’s fairly easy to find legislation to research. And you can go to the Tennessee legislature. Just go to Google and type in Tennessee legislature, and you’ll go right to it.

But they’ve got a good search where you can do searches on past legislation, on the code, on just about anything you want to. I think Tennessee legislative website has won several awards and they deserve it. It’s just a good, fairly easy-to-use website.

And their cold hard reality is not very many people ever interact with elected officials. That’s the cold hard reality. And if you do choose to interact with them, you’ll have an influence because you’ll be one of a very few people that ever do that.

Henry: Statistically speaking, that’s accurate as well. I said it yesterday, and it bears repeating today. The adage goes, we don’t have a democracy. We have a democracy of those that participate. Now, I get it. We have a constitutional republic. But you understand what I’m saying?

Cunningham: Absolutely.

Henry: Unfortunately, Tennessee has the second-lowest voter turnout of any state in the nation behind, I believe, Louisiana. Thank goodness for Louisiana. But it goes to your point statistically.

If you are involved, if you call your legislators, if you send them an email, if you go up there and meet with them personally, if you set meetings with them out of session, your voice is thereby amplified that much more than it would be in any other state because so few people are involved in the political process in this state.

Cunningham: And it is even more so at the local level. You go to most county commission meetings and you’ll see. Unless there’s some hot button issue like a dump area. Or a tax issue or something like that. Or zoning. Typically, there are very, very few people sitting there in the audience.

And, boy, I mean, it just makes a huge difference. If you go to these meetings, and you go up to the county commissioners afterward, you talk to them. You can have an extraordinary amount of influence.

And if you want to run for office, the county commission area, or the school board for $3,000 or $4,000, you can win some of these local races if you’re very strategic about choosing races.

Because people peel off of these bodies fairly regularly at the local level. I don’t know the statistics. I would guess, though, the turnover at these local bodies is more than it is at the state and the federal level.

Cunningham: And if you want to run for county commission, three or four grand and some shoe leather will get you elected – and going door to door.

Henry: (Chuckles) Shoe leather. Which is no small thing. I met with a guy, had done some politics out in California, and he was telling me in the county that they came from just a city council race alone, you’re talking six figures at a minimum.

A minimum of six figures to run for the city council race out there. So a couple of grand here, plus hitting the pavement, knocking some doors, I mean, hey, you can be a major influence in your area.

Cunningham: And speaking of grassroots, the young man is sitting across from me, Mr. Grant Henry with Americans for Prosperity is the grassroots director of Americans for Prosperity. It’s a statewide group that advocates and lobbies for free-market principles and have done some really great things in this state.

And you guys are always at the legislature every year. We want to talk more in this segment and the next segment about what you’re doing. But just kind of tell us, what are you working on and how you are looking forward to the legislative session that will be coming up in January of next year?

Henry: So we have two main things, I think, prior to getting to the legislative year next year. Two main things we’re focusing on right now, one of which we covered extensively yesterday, the – stop infrastructure spending, both the $1.2 trillion and oncoming $3.5 trillion infrastructure package.

We really want to do as much as we can to stop that. And again, big thanks to Senator Blackburn and Senator Hagerty for standing strong here. If you want to thank them personally: 202-410-2685. That number is a switchboard that takes you directly to them.

And just say, hey, look, I appreciate you guys for standing strong, and stand strong even more in this upcoming reconciliation bill. We’re really trying to get the word out. Tag those folks on social media too.

Let them know that you’re there and that you’re supporting them. They like to see that. And they do check that stuff. I promise you. And another thing that we’re setting up over the upcoming months here, Ben, is some grassroots training. And it’s exactly like it sounds.

We can tailor this training to what your specific group needs or we have a baseline, what we call Grassroots Leadership Academy training. There’s a couple of different things I’m trying to set up across Middle Tennessee, some of the southern parts, Middle Tennessee, maybe even up in Davidson County, if we can get enough people there.

But it kind of trains you to do what I do for a living. Figure out how to break down governmental barriers, figure out how to create a cause, figure out how to find organic social change entrepreneurs, and move that up to the legislature.

If you want to figure out how to do that in your area, here’s my personal cell phone number: 615-330-4569. Give me a call or just shoot me an email. It’s Ghenry@afphq.org. Trying to set up those grassroots training seminars.

Cunningham: It’s a great way to get people kind of over the hump.

Henry: It’s free of charge, too. No charge to ya’ll.

Cunningham: A little bit of nudging to get people to that comfort level. And that’s what AFP does such a great job on. They can do anything they want to once you train them. You’re not trying to corral them into something.

Henry: We just want them to take part in the process.

Cunningham: Yeah, absolutely.

Listen to the full first hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.