As Governor-elect Bill Lee has assembled his Cabinet, Red Nation Rising TN has waited patiently and attempted to give the incoming Governor a chance to populate his Cabinet. Many of us, in fact, were primary election supporters, “rallying the troops” for Bill Lee. While realizing the importance of selecting conservatives to high-ranking positions within the Lee Administration, we intentionally did not pass judgment until a clear trend developed. Instead, we began to search for information to substantiate what began as rumors of negative interviews of conservatives applying for Lee cabinet positions.
While other pundits have offered earlier and louder criticism of the Transition Team’s personnel decisions, we needed to feel confident that any such concerns were justified. However, with only a few positions remaining, an obvious trend has developed and it’s not looking too good for the grassroots conservatives.
We subscribe to the motto that “personnel is policy.” We are painfully aware that the General Assembly can pass as many immigration laws, tightening as many loopholes as it wants, but none of it will matter if, like the current administration, the Lee Administration does not enforce the laws on the books.
The selection of so many Haslam holdovers (held over from Bredesen) and chamber of commerce types leads many working class grassroots conservatives to raise an eyebrow of concern. While many such candidates may be fine individuals, the chambers of commerce have supported causes such as in-state tuition for illegals, Obamacare Expansion, increasing taxes and keeping common core in our classrooms. Additionally, as Nashville’s Amazon deal revealed, the Chamber of Commerce has been inserted into the role of “negotiator” with taxpayers monies. While this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “business friendly environment” it comes at the expense of tax paying citizens, with no accountability.
Thus far from the incoming Lee Administration is nothing even remotely related to the “clean slate candidate” we came to embrace in the primary season. In short, what we see unfolding is, the very thing most voters were trying to avoid … a round of Haslam 2.0. Governor Bill Haslam refused to endorse President Donald Trump (even calling for his withdrawal), attempted to expand Obamacare, defended common core, spending more and more tax monies on TNReady, or as most parents, teachers and students call it, TNnotReady. Moreover, while sitting on a multi billion dollar surplus, he raised our taxes on gasoline and has placed five year “seals” on the details of how the people’s monies were spent, in the name of “business friendly” negotiations.
While Democrats may call Tennessee a “red” state, conservatives see it as a purple state, just pretending to be red. Many have become dissolution and have grown weary of not having their voices heard, let alone represented.
Even from a political power-building perspective, the Lee Administration carrying such a high number of Haslam holdovers defies logic. Some of Lee’s most influential appointments have gone to former Haslam appointees (many of whom did not successfully secure their positions until very late in Haslam’s tenure, after better-qualified individuals left the posts).
The only appointee, thus far, capable of claiming any demonstrable commitment to conservative governing principles is Veterans’ Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers. However, even with the Rogers choice, the alternative for the “conservative outsider” governor, was rumored to be the husband of a lobbyist. To Lee’s credit, he made the sound decision and chose Rogers.
It remains a topic of dialog, as to whether or not Lee’s adviser’s are being mindful to safeguard their boss’s “conservative outsider” mantra, by which he was elected, in a landslide victory. As has been reported by The Tennessee Star previously, Lee’s chief operating officer is none other than long-time Democrat Butch Eley, who contributed to Democrat Phil Bredesen just last year. Premise considered, one of reasonable mind might suggest that extra attention be applied to insure that at least some conservatives populate the Governor Elect’s Administration.
Maybe this doesn’t bother everyone. But what message does it send to so many common sense conservatives who embraced the “conservative outsider” pitch that Bill Lee sold in the primary? The entire reason such a pitch was so effective is because those same conservatives feel they get burned every single election. Moreover, they do not feel represented by their own State party.
Even when such troubling details emerged, RNRTN did not go running for the exits. We watched and waited, encouraging Lee’s team that conservative voices be given a chance to lead. Surely, we thought, Mr. Lee would realize that his team appeared light in those conservative voices. And while we did not immediately jump to criticize the incoming governor, we began to make inquiries, gather information and grow deeper in our concern.
We recognize that many will correctly indicate that choosing a team is not always the easiest task. However, it appears, to even those of us viewing from the “cheap seats” that while Lee’s team has been courteous enough, they’ve been outright dismissive to the idea of conservatives serving in high-ranking positions.
The Lee team looks primed and ready to select the former deputy mayor, Christe Branscom, a Liberal from Knoxville. This is a tough pill to swallow when one considers that a qualified conservative candidate, who has served Mr. Lee well, both on his campaign team, and his transition team, stood firm for him when influential party folks were telling donors to steer clear during the primary.
We call on the Lee Team to find places in the Lee cabinet for individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to conservative principles. While there are not many positions left, we ask our future governor to select common sense conservatives to those positions that remain.
Bill Lee cannot be in thousands of different places simultaneously. That’s why he must choose people who fit his governing philosophy. We are still undecided whether Mr. Lee has intentionally kept conservatives out of his cabinet or if such an occurrence is more a function of having delegated to the transition team. Regardless, the buck stops with Bill Lee.