During the campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor, Ron Ramsey was the favorite of most organized tea parties. Some tea party members have continued to express doubts about Haslam and there has been some talk about launching a write-in campaign for Susan Lynn, the conservative House Member who lost her bid for the nomination for a State Senate seat in the recent election. That efforts seems to have fizzled.
Recently Mark Skoda and a delegation of Memphis tea party activist , met with Mayor Haslam and Mark Skoda came away impressed and ready to get on board for Bill Haslam. Mark Skoda is a Memphis tea party leader, a radio talk show host and co-founder of the National Tea Party Federation. Below is his report of his meeting with Bill Haslam, published on a 9-12 Project email list.
I wanted to update you on my meeting with Bill Haslam. We met here in a Memphis and his wife and West Tennessee campaign manager were present. I had several people from our Memphis TEA Party group along with our 9th District Congressional Candidate, Charlotte Bergmann. The meeting lasted about 50 minutes due to a commitment he had in Nashville with Ron Ramsey.
The meeting was extremely friendly and open. I asked him to address four key issues: His participation in the Mayor Bloomberg’s effort “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/home/home.shtml ; a TN state income tax; his disclosure of his interests in Pilot Oil; and his views of addressing the Healthcare Freedom Act and the expansion of the Federal government.
He offered a substantial defense of his views and was unequivocal in the right to keep and bear arms as defined by the 2nd Amendment. He indicated that he, along with 700 other mayors, had joined Bloomberg’s coalition when it appeared to be focused on fighting crime and ensuring that guns didn’t get into the hands of criminals. He reiterated his views that the coalition was going in the wrong direction and that he did indeed remove himself when it appeared to be detrimental to his 2nd Amendment views and those of Tennessee. And while the political reality was clear, he again reiterated his views that he would support fully our rights and would not abridge the Constitution in any way.
In the matter of the state income tax, he again stated he would not support and indeed would oppose any efforts to establish a state income tax. I pointed out that the stimulus dollars would expire at the first of the year and that TN would be in a terrible hole from the point of view of our budget. He recognized that and stated he felt we could reduce the size of government while focusing on growing jobs and therefore the tax base. He saw no other way, given our state requirement to balance our budget. His business experience and the realistic perspective about the budget allowed for no other alternative. And he understood that he would work with Ron Ramsey to accommodate the reduction of the budget to meet the balance budget requirements of our state. However, without growth, the state would need to make some difficult choices to meet those reductions in spending.
On disclosure, he pointed out that he has disclosed more about his personal financial position than others in the past and which is required by law. He also stated that his interest in the family business is the source of his wealth and he was not hiding anything relating to this fact. And indeed, while many attempted to make an issue of this, he was of the opinion that he had been forthcoming in this matter.
Finally, he was most explicit about the need to reject the expansion of the Federal government. The need to push back on healthcare, immigration and Federal largesse were all points he brought forward in the discussion. I pointed out that the next governor would need to be absolute in resisting the enticements of the Federal government and the expansion and control of Tennesseans. He understood this fact and was adamant that Washington was broken and that the governors needed to take a stand. He also pointed out that being a part time legislature, our state government was already functioning more efficiently than most.
I told Bill that I appreciated sitting across the table from him with his wife present. She being from Memphis, I was also pleased that she could hear from Charlotte Bergmann who pointed out the problems facing our county and our city. I believe that both he and his wife recognized the emotional turmoil of this campaign and the need to meet their political rhetoric with actions that reflected his promises. He was direct, unapologetic and most friendly. At no time did I feel that he was condescending or placating me and my team. This was a business discussion and a heartfelt defense of the issues.
In closing, I can say that at the very least, he reiterated his official positions. He did so with honesty and forthrightness. He is an extremely charming man with a clear vision for the state and a recognition that he will need to prove out his positions over time. However, he was absolute in affirming those positions and his conservative bonafides. I told him we would be there holding him and our other legislators accountable. I closed by thanking him and indicating I would publish this note of our meeting. However, I have to say that being able to look across the table and have a direct and forthright meeting of the minds was most heartening.
I will not say that one meeting makes the case. However, for me, it went a long way to moving me from sitting on the sidelines to becoming an advocate for Bill Haslam and the changes necessary to achieve success in our state. I believed him and will work to hold him accountable to his representations. In that context, I will also support him during November and will ask my members to do the same. And in the end, each person and Tea Party leader will need to make their own assessment and take decisions accordingly. I am not asking you to support him from your respective organizations. I did however tell Bill that I would share my views with the group and the perspectives from this meeting.
In this, I have done what I promised. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or wish to discuss this further.
Mark A. Skoda