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.
Live from Music Row Thursday morning onThe 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 all-star panelist and The Epoch Times’ editor-at-large Roger Simon in-studio to discuss the status of the Tennessee state three-year residency bill and the AP‘s false interpretation of where it stands.
Leahy: We are joined in-studio by a good friend, all-star panelist, my former boss at PJTV, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and senior editor-at-large for The Epoch Times – and I forgot, mystery novelist, author, Roger Simon. Good morning, Roger.
Simon: Good morning. I actually got up early this morning because I knew there was big news in Tennessee.
Leahy: So here’s the news I’d like to get your comment on. First, yesterday afternoon we broke the story that the three-year residency bill to be a candidate on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives for the primary ballot was enacted into law, because Governor Lee sent, unsigned, the law back to the Tennessee Secretary Senate clerk.
Simon: Why did he do it that way? We should get into that.
Leahy: We’ll get into that in just a minute, and then literally within one hour, the Tennessee Secretary of State, this is our lead story at The Tennessee Star.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett – Tre, I’m talking to you – offered conflicting comments on whether he will enforce the residency law and remove carpetbaggers Morgan Ortagus and, most likely, Robby Starbuck from the Tennessee 5th Congressional District GOP primary ballot.
Roger, the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, had a spokesperson tell the Associated Press this after we reported that the law was in effect because 10 days had passed and he hadn’t signed it and they hadn’t vetoed it. This sounds eerily like, oh, I don’t know, a statement that was made by Morgan Ortagus’s campaign recently.
Simon: I thought you were going to say Kamala Harris.
Leahy: Yeah, either one. I can’t tell the difference these days. ‘We feel the voters are best able to determine who should represent them in Congress.
Well, Governor Lee, if you had the courage of your conviction, you would have vetoed the bill. But why didn’t you veto the bill? Because it would have been overridden easily.
Simon: Easily. But there’s another thing, everything is going on below the surface here. This is a kind of dirty politics as practiced in Tennessee, but also in New York and California. And regrettably, virtually every other state, maybe save Florida, because they have a governor with a spine.
Leahy: I think you’re going to say something else. The spine is good, though. Get the point across. (Laughter)
Simon: Thank you. It’s a family show.
Leahy: It’s interesting that the AP quickly jumped into the fray to tell us this law was invalid when, of course, it’s premature in the extreme. But the AP, I will say to everyone out there, do not think of it as an even-handed institution. It is quite in the hands of the liberals.
Leahy: It’s far-left.
Simon: And it’s gotten worse and worse over the last few years.
Leahy: And the Secretary of State’s office issued a confusing statement that conflicted with their previous comments right after we broke the story.
The AP jumped off that statement. I’ll read the statement. The first statement, again, they issued a subsequent statement that conflicted with the first statement.
Simon: Like Kamala Harris?
Leahy: There you go. They said, “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.”
That was all they said. The AP took that and ran with it and said, their headline said, “Trump–Backed Candidate on the Ballot.” No! Wrong interpretation, AP.
But they hung it on this inconsistent and false statement actually issued by the Secretary of State’s office. Trey Hargett, I just said that, and you can come in and try to defend that statement, but it is a false and misleading statement.
Simon: I’m going to be the nasty guy here. There’s been a little bit of nasty. I’m going to go further. Here’s the thing. When you look at politics, you should always look at the politics behind the politics.
What’s going on here is what I will call fear of the most powerful politician/non-politician in the state of Tennessee, a man named Ward Baker. I like Ward Baker, personally. He’s a political pro. He’s a very charming guy, very smart.
Leahy: You brought up Ward. Let me just say very smart guy. He’s a personal friend of mine as well. I like Ward, but he plays hardball.
Simon: He plays hardball, but that’s his job. He’s paid by candidates to get them elected. He’s done a good job with Marsha Blackburn, Mike Pompeo, and people outside.
Leahy: And Bill Hagerty.
Simon: Nashville figures and state figures, anyway.
Leahy: What do you see? Because these are your words, not mine. But we’ll comment on it.
Simon: He figures beneath the surface of this, and that is all of these people from the governor to Hargett to the Speaker of the House, all these people have their eyes on a higher office. That shouldn’t be news to anybody out there.
But that’s what the truth is, and they’re playing this whole game. First of all, they’re afraid that they don’t want to go on the wrong side of Ward because they need Ward down the line, or they don’t want Ward against them.
Leahy: That may apply to some, but not all. But we’ll talk about that.
Simon: I’m just giving you my way of looking at this.
Leahy: Since we’re talking about Ward we probably got to get him on the show and discuss these things and other things. Ward, I’ll call you.
You’re welcome to be on the show. He’s actually offered to be on the show. So we’ll have him discuss it. Some of the things that you are attributing to him, I don’t know if they actually …
Simon: I think it’s fear of him. That’s a different thing.
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 Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett to the newsmakers line to discuss the mechanics of the HR1 bill and the letter written by 15 other Republican secretary of states to Congress in order to stop it.
Leahy: Come Carmichael in studio. And on the newsmaker line with us right now, the Secretary of State for Tennessee. And I’m going to add this, I think one of the best Secretary’s of State of all 50 States in the country. Tre Hargett, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.
Hargett: Well, good morning. Thank you for having me this morning.
Leahy: So HR1, the federal government is trying to tell states how to run their elections. What do you think of that?
Hargett: Well, I’ve signed on to a letter along with 15 other Republican secretary of state asking Congress to not pass a piece of legislation that really is just an overreach and would take away the state’s constitutional authority to set the time, place, and manner of elections.
Leahy: That’s a very clear constitutional overreach by the Congress of the United States. It has passed the House. What’s going to happen with it in the Senate? What kind of response has your letter gotten?
Hargett: Well, we’re not sure what’s going to happen in the Senate. It feels like it’s falling on partisan lines, but we’re hoping some common sense will reign in the U.S. Senate. and I’m hopeful that your listers, who feel so led will contact friends and relatives and other states and ask them to contact their U.S. Senators to make sure they’re going to vote consistent legislation.
Leahy: When I look at who is on the bubble on the Democratic side, two names come to mind. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kirsten Sinema of Arizona. Are those the two senators who have not made a public statement on this or who are in doubt in the U.S. Senate?
Hargett: I don’t know. I haven’t seen a lot of public statements on either side. Of course, in Tennessee, Senator Blackburn and Senator Haggerty had both express their opposition to the legislation. But, you know, things have been pretty quiet on the Senate side. I think they’ve been focused on some other issues. And so perhaps they just haven’t felt led to make statements yet.
Leahy: Why is this bill so bad for Tennessee?
Hargett: Well, great question. And so there are several things I think are just bad for Tennessee. And one of them is it allows ballot harvesting across the country. And you remember a congressional race in North Carolina just a couple of years ago, they had to be thrown out because of ballot harvesting. And a lot of people don’t know what ballot harvesting is.
But that is whenever someone else goes out and collects ballots from other people and then wants to turn them in mass. And the real risk here is that someone could change your ballot or they could just not turn it in. And that’s what happened in North Carolina. The person knew that the ballots were from people who weren’t supporting their candidate.
They collected the ballots, didn’t turn them in. And it was a close race and It made a difference. In Tennessee, our law right now says you have to turn in your own ballot. You have to mail that back in. So you’re not supposed to mail somebody else’s ballot back in or pick it up and put it in a dropbox or anything like that?
Leahy: That’s a good law.
Hargett: The HR1 one would make it where we can’t ask for a photo ID at the polls anymore.
Carmichael: In Washington, the Senate version of HR1. I guess they call it the Senate version. It’s not HR1. It’s S1.
Hargett: It’s S1. That’s correct.
Carmichael: But S1 can’t pass in the Senate unless there are 60 votes unless they overturn the filibuster.
Hargett: Well, that’s right.
Carmichael: In the filibuster kind of the first line of defense? And then Mitch McConnell has said that if the Democrats attempt to overturn the filibuster that he’ll invoke the quorum rule, and he will just tell Republican senators to stay in their office and not go to the Chamber.
Hargett: Well, those are certainly the options. I would leave that to Leader McConnell to determine what the best way to handle that is. I think the best thing, though, for us right now is to start making senators aware of the issue and how we feel about it before it gets too late. And it gets any momentum. Let’s squelch it right now.
Carmichael: Yeah. The Democrats seem to be determined to use their power to insulate themselves against political losses in the future. It’s just really quite mindboggling. Do you have that problem with Democrats here in the state? Or is it because the Republicans have such large majorities that you’re able to work with Democrats, at least to some extent? Democrats in Washington don’t seem to want to work with Republicans.
Hargett: With a few exceptions, I have good working relationships with the Democrat side of the aisle.
Carmichael: That’s good.
Leahy: That’s very Tennessee. You’ve been in office for how long, Secretary Hargett?
Hargett: I’ve been in office for 12 years.
Leahy: 12 years, and no scandals of any significance while you’ve been in office. Thank you for your service, Secretary Hargett. And thanks for joining us. Come back in the studio sometime If you will.