Wilson County GOP primary battle erupts; Lynn challenges Elam to regain seat
By LAURIE EVERETT
The much watched political primary battle between two staunch Mt. Juliet Republicans is starting to sizzle with nearly two weeks left before the polls open on Aug. 2 and healthy early voting already in place.
Unflattering mailers and barbs are sparking the high-strung race between incumbent District 57 State Rep. Linda Elam and her predecessor and challenger Susan Lynn. There are mailers with terms like "power hungry" and "professional politician" slung at Lynn from a source Elam said was not her camp, and Lynn referring to Elam's "past troubles" related to "ethical, legal, and bad policies."
Elam has questioned if Lynn can legally run for the seat since redistricting has her residence outside the district at the end of the August General Election, with Lynn defending her campaign and going to great lengths to explain she feels Elam is misrepresenting the issue and that she can legally run and will move if elected.
In light of what has turned into a battleground with high stakes, Mt. Juliet News contacted both women and asked several questions. Here are their answers verbatim.
Challenger and former State Rep. Susan Lynn
1. Please give a little bio about your past government duties and a small bio about you personally.
I was elected to the Tennessee State House to serve District 57 at 38 years old after being a little bit of an activist and protesting the against the state income tax for three summers in Nashville with many of my fellow Wilson Countians. I served from 2002-2010. I am 100% pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and fiscally conservative. I’ve received the endorsement of the Tennessee Republican Assembly. My husband Michael and I have been married 30 years. We have two children; both are married to wonderful spouses. I am the regulatory compliance manager at Simplicity Creative Group – the pattern and trimmings company. We have over 20,000 products and my job is to make sure they comply with federal, state, and international laws and supply chain requirements.
2. Why did you decide to go for reelection to to District 57 State Rep seat?
In 2009, I declared my candidacy for the 17th District State Senate seat because the incumbent senator announced her retirement. Some ten months later when the incumbent reversed that decision, I found myself in an unfortunate primary that I did not want. While I did not reach an overall majority of votes my numbers were very strong within the precincts of the 57th district at 58 percent of the vote – and over 50% for the county. I was both surprised and honored to receive such a sound endorsement from the people of the district. The voters know me and my faithful commitment to them, and it is the voters that have urged me to seek public office again.
3. When did you decide to run for reelection? Did something prompt you?
Actually, many people in the district either thought I’d won the state senate race because they saw the vote total for the county or they knew I lost the Senate but thought I was still their representative. Like always, I’d receive phone calls and emails from people asking questions about legislation or for help and I’d have to tell them I’d lost. The conversations were always the same, great disappointment that I’d lost but also they’d marvel that there was simply no communication from the current office holder. It was many of these people that urged me to run and also others who saw what was done to me in the Senate race and felt that perhaps things were a little too contrived.
4. What are some of the issues that spurred you to run? (On radio you noted lack of ethics and unresponsiveness in current State Rep)
There are a lot of issues, all of which were well documented by your newspaper if not well known. First, my opponent’s poor support in the Primary; after serving 7 years in office she only received 37% of the vote in the Primary against two virtually unknown but very conservative candidates. This weak support may derive from several sources such as her long Democrat voting record and contributions to democrat candidates – while I was protesting against the income tax she was working in Democrat candidate Phil Bredesen’s campaign. Other possible reasons her support wasn’t very strong may be the many ethical, poor policy decisions and legal tangles by the incumbent while mayor; such as not disclosing her employment with developers with large projects before the planning commission and the pressure she applied for them – such lead to her official censure by the city council - who can forget the fire truck quid quo pro? Or her vote to hire ultra liberal, global warming activist Keith Bergman as the Mount Juliet city manager – or her vote to suffer the citizens of Mt Juliet with the traffic cameras – and then in what many believe was a strictly politically expedient move to get rid of them it was learned she hadn’t read the contract; revealing that either the city is tied to the cameras long term or the citizens would suffer a loss of $700,000. Lastly, the city was constantly embroiled in legal battles and lawsuits but none more memorable than when she sued the city of Mt. Juliet, the citizens really, in order to continue to serve as mayor and state representative at the same time even though 87% of the voters passed an amendment to the charter to disallow serving in duel offices – costing city tax payers more than $10,000 to defend her.
5. Elam has a mailer that states that you don't live in District 57. Please address this. You noted on radio that the new districts don't take effect until November 6. Please tell readers why it is ok that you are running etc.
I do live in the 57th District – Redistricting for the next district boundaries does not take effect until the conclusion of the General Election on November 6th. Upon winning the August Primary, my husband and I will relocate inside the upcoming boundaries. Voters should know that it was Linda Elam that drew my home out of the upcoming boundaries – the Speaker’s Chief of Staff and others informed me of this. But more than that – the Wilson County Election Commission approved me to be on the ballot – if I wasn’t legally eligible they could not have done so.
6. What are some of the things for which you are most proud during your 8 year tenure in District 57 seat.
I was a Republican in a legislature with a large Democrat majority but still I managed to get some very good conservative legislation passed. And the truth is that it was really the people rallying to support these measures – without them there is no other way such policy could have succeeded in that atmosphere. I really invite the readers to look at the Record page on my website because they will see an extensive list from keeping taxes low (we reduced the sales tax on food by a penny), to ethics reform, to more secure elections, improvements to education, fighting burdensome regulations, supporting the Second Amendment, and upholding Tennessee values. If I had to choose, the Health Care Freedom Act, The State Sovereignty Resolution which supported the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and defunding planned parenthood would really be the most memorable for me because these items and the time in which they passed really made Tennessee stand-out among the states and each was also what people in the district through their support helped pass.
7. Please talk about the illegal alien driver's license issue. Elam is inferring that you voted to give them driver's licenses. Please clarify for the readers.
Well, this statement political and untrue. I fought hard against the illegal alien driver’s licenses policy and I voted to get rid of the driver’s licenses and the driver’s certificates twice! In 2001, the Legislature passed a bill that enabled illegal aliens to get drivers licenses – reversing that bad policy was part of my first platform and the very first bill that I co-sponsored in the legislature. The Democrats would not let the bill pass but the anger of the people was rising so the Governor proposed taking the drivers licenses away and replacing them with a certificate for driving. His bill quickly advanced to the floor and we ran eight amendments to strip the certificates from the bill – it was a rough two hour floor fight! However, all of our amendments were defeated by the Democrat majority. In the end you have to cast a vote, and you have to be mature – to vote Aye, illegals lose their driver’s license but get a certificate. To vote no – illegals keep their licenses. The highest purpose was to strip them of their state sanctioned license. The vote was 96 | 2 | 1pnv. The senate vote was 32 |0 (Senator Beavers was absent that day). I voted for the amendments to take the certificates away but we lost – I voted Aye to take their driver’s license away with all of the other Republicans. Since Elam is criticizing this vote I can only assume she would have voted NO and allowed illegals to keep their licenses but that would have been a very bad vote because as it was we came back the next year with a bill to get rid of the certificates – this took us another three years to pass this.
8. Please address Elam's statement that government grew by billions during your tenure.
Again, this is simply not true. When I came into office the state budget was $9.8 billion– when I left eight years later it was $12.1 billion – hardly $10 billion.
She seems to be counting federal pass through dollars but these are federally mandated programs that Tennessee must administer and programs over which a state legislator has almost no to no control. The federal sums Tennessee received did grow considerably – they went from $7.4 billion to $12.9 billion.
Here is what concerns me about Linda Elam. In her very first year she voted to exceed our constitutionally mandated spending cap. States have a Constitutional mandate to balance their budgets including Tennessee – states cannot deficit spend. An additional protection in Tennessee is a Constitutional provision called the Copeland Cap – the Cap restricts the rate of growth of the state budget to the rate of the state’s economic growth – also known as the rate of personal income growth.
Unfortunately, this cap can be easily broken by the legislature through a simple majority vote at the end of the budget year when surplus revenue is tallied. Linda Elam voted to bust this spending cap by $250,000,000, overspending our state budget in just her first year in office. I never once voted to exceed this critical cap.
And if we wanted to get technical, the city budget grew from 5.4 million in Linda Elam’s first year in city government to 12.8 million at then end – more than doubling the entire budget.
But more than this, the former Mayor also voted in the legislature for a $257 million nursing home tax; $59 million to federal deficit spend on UI, $56 million in crony capitalism for a major corporation, and $500,000 of your tax dollars to the state of Virginia for a museum. Those are real votes – not politically twisted.
9. What are some issues you'd like to tackle if you get elected.
I am a great fighter for free enterprise because it’s a system where one can literally be born poor and rise to middle class or even become wealthy – it is part of what makes America great. I dislike burdensome regulatory laws that are geared to things other than securing health, safety or fraud prevention - a legislator simply shouldn’t be trying to micro-manage your life or business or the economy. And education; to become the best that you can be, you must be equipped through a good education – that is another area I support.
10. In your ad you mentioned Elam's past troubles, feel free to address that as well.
I think I mentioned them earlier but when I read quotes from Linda Elam such as “We can do whatever we want until a judge tells us we can’t” I become very disturbed. This was during a city business meeting. As legislators, we can’t do whatever we want – we have the federal and state constitution and a city charter that restrict us and that protect the rights of the people – all power is inherent in the people. But if not for those documents, sheer morals and ethics alone should restrict us from enacting whatever we want – the people should not have to sue in order to realize their rights.
Every election I knock on each voter’s door and ask for their vote – I enjoy these visits very much. My goal was to help people, preserve their constitutional rights, our Tennessee values and to keep them informed. I had a weekly newsletter, an informative website and blog. As I walk door to door I pray for the families as I do, I try to help them. I trust the voters and I know they know better than to believe my opponent’s mailers not only because they know me but because they know her too.
My commitment to the citizens of the 57th District is stronger than ever. I will run my campaign with the sort of ethics and integrity that the citizens deserve. And throughout my next term in the house I will remain as accessible as I have always been. I ask your readers for the honor of their vote to represent them again in the next General Assembly.
Incumbent District 57 State Rep. Linda Elam
1. Please give a little bio about your past government duties and a small bio about you personally.
I am a life-long Tennessean, and I grew up in Oak Ridge, I graduated from the UT College of Business Administration (B.S.) with honors in 1981. I graduated from the UT College of Law (Doctor of Jurisprudence) in the top 10% of my class in 1992. I was an Associate Editor of the UT Law Review, and was a published author in both the Law Review and the Banking Law Anthology.
I moved to Middle Tennessee in 1992 for a Judicial Clerkship with Judge Sam Lewis on the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
I have practiced commercial real estate law in both law firms and private companies.
I was appointed to the Mt. Juliet Regional Planning Commission in 2001, where I became Vice Chair in 2000 and Chair in 2002. I served in this capacity until late 2004. I rejoined the Planning Commission from 2009-2010.
I was elected to the City Commission in 2002 and was immediately selected as the Vice Mayor. I was elected as Mayor in 2004, and re-elected in 2008. As Mayor and Vice Mayor, I served on numerous local, regional and state boards and committees.
In 2010 I was elected as the State Representative for District 57, and am running for re-election to that office.
2. Why do you want to retain your District 57 seat? Talk about the percentages on the votes at the last election.
I have served the people of District 57 in a professional, level-headed manner as a State Representative. During that time I was able to collaborate with the Wilson County legislative delegation and my colleagues in the House to pass important legislation benefitting Wilson County and the State of Tennessee. I believe the District is best served by having a Representative who recognizes that the office is not about “them,” but about serving the people of District 57. I would be honored to have the opportunity to continue serving the people of this District. I don’t judge myself on percentages, but rather based on wins and losses. The fact is that I received over 17,000 votes in District 57 in 2010 and won going away.
3. When did you decide you wanted to run for reelection? Did a certain issue spur you to keep the seat?
I decided in 2011 that I would run for re-election. By working together with various Senators and Representatives, I was able to significantly impact important legislation that was passed this Session. I have often been complimented by other House members on my ability to disagree with a provision of a Bill while maintaining a cordial attitude. I believe there is much more that I can accomplish for this District and the State in the coming years.
4. Talk about the large endorsement in the House.
It is very unusual for a sitting House member to involve themselves in an on-going primary in another District. They never know which candidate they’ll be working with the next session, so they tend to stay out of things. In my campaign FIFTY EIGHT of my 63 Republican House colleagues, including the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader, agreed to support my campaign. This is unheard of! I was both honored and stunned. My colleagues knew who my opponent was when they agreed to support my re-election. A majority of them have worked with Susan Lynn in the past, and evidently it was not a pleasant experience.
Republican Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has publicly stated that he appreciates my strong conservative voting record and respects my service in the state house. He said “The folks who work with Linda Elam know her best, and I can tell you she is one of the finest legislators to serve Wilson County I’ve ever known. We need her back.”
5. Lynn on the radio talked about "lack of ethics" and "unresponsiveness" regarding you and that is why she wanted to run. Please address this.
I have no idea where Ms. Lynn gets the idea that I was unresponsive, since she has never tried to contact me while I am the State Representative. The hundreds of constituents who have received personalized replies to their letters and emails know better. I have spent many hours each week doing research and responding to citizen issues or complaints with State government.
My hard work and legislative efforts have led the Tennessee Right to Life Association to endorse my campaign, the Tennessee Eagle Forum to give me a 100% score, and the Greater Nashville Regional Council to name me as their Legislator of the Year.
6. You talk about in a mailer that Lynn does not live in 57th District, but she said she will move. Tell me how you feel about this and the legality of it all.
Every ten years the Federal government conducts a nationwide census. That information is then used to redraw district boundaries at the local, state and federal level, which happened at the beginning of the 2012 session of the General Assembly. By law, we are required to equalize the population within each district. Due to the rapid growth in West Wilson County, my District was one of the most heavily populated in the State. Thus, a lot of people had to be moved to other districts. This included removing five Sumner County precincts from District 57, as well as significantly re-drawing the lines within Wilson County. In the process I lost some of the more populated areas to the east (such as where Ms. Lynn lives), and gained a lot of new territory covering the entire northern portion of Wilson County and extending all the way to Carthage Highway.
Just because Ms. Lynn continues to say that she lives in District 57 doesn’t make it true. I obtained a registered voter list from the Election Commission. It clearly shows that Susan Lynn lives in District 46, which is represented by Mark Pody. If she wants to run for the House, that’s where she should do so.
I remember when the new districts were published that Ms. Lynn went on a rant on her Facebook page about having been drawn out of District 57. She said at that time that she could still legally run in District 57 (even though she was being moved to District 46), but she wasn’t sure the voters would like that. It is only recently that she’s started to insist that she lives in District 57. Evidently she’s decided that if she can confuse the issue enough then people will ignore it.
I issue a personal challenge to Ms. Lynn to settle this issue once and for all. I will appear any place in Wilson County at any time and display my new blue voter registration card, which indicates that I’m in District 57, IF Ms. Lynn will display her new blue voter registration card, which indicates that she’s in District 46. If it’s an issue at all, it’s easily resolvable. Let’s look at her new voter registration card.
7. You said in a mailer that Lynn voted to give licenses to illegal aliens. Is this accurate. Explain please.
My mailer said that Susan Lynn voted to give driving certificates to illegal immigrants in Tennessee. This was Senate Bill number 3430 and was passed on May 12, 2004. The record of this vote may be found on the General Assembly web site. If Ms. Lynn is afraid of her record, that’s not my concern.
At first she and her campaign called my mailer a “lie.” Only after she figured out that voters were paying attention did she go online and write a lengthy “explanation” of her vote WHICH SHE ACKNOWLEDGED making. Now she’s back to calling me a “liar” about something she’s publicly admitted.
8. Did the government grow by millions in Lynn's tenure?
Yes. My mailer to this effect includes a chart issued as part of the Tennessee Budget Summary. This is an official document, not something I compiled.
In 2003-2004 the State budget was $22,200,565,700. In 2010-2011 the Stare budget was $32,027,642,200. That’s a TEN BILLION dollar increase.
During her tenure, six thousand new employees were added to the State payroll.
9. You indicate that Lynn is power hungry? How so?
That is not a mailer I had anything to do with. It was published by an outside group without my knowledge. It did not come from my campaign.
I will say, however, that some people get to the Legislature and begin to like being catered to, being called “Representative” by everyone they see, having people listen when they speak, and having the power to manipulate things for their own purposes. I believe my opponent falls into this category. She has allowed her life and self-image to be shaped by this sense of entitlement. She can’t stand not being “important” any more, and she’ll do anything to get that back.
In 2008 when Kent Williams was elected as Speaker of the House, my opponent filed allegations of sexual harassment against him and made them public. Not long after, she withdrew her complaint and he appointed her to Chair a Committee.
As Chair of the Government Operations Committee she became angry with a State election commissioner and “subpoenaed” him to appear before her committee. He refused to attend the meeting. In an irresponsible act of vindictiveness she then placed the State Election Commission in “sunset” mode, which means it would cease to exist after a wind-down period. Only after her House colleagues challenged her actions and pointed out that without a State Election Commission there could be no further elections held in Tennessee did she rescind her actions. This entire episode was childish, petty and potentially very harmful to the State – all because someone refused to abide by her wishes.
10. What are some bills etc..you accomplished while in the seat.
I voted in favor of SJR 0221, which would allow an amendment to the State Constitution prohibiting an income tax in Tennessee.
I am very proud to have co-sponsored SJR127. This Resolution will place a question before the voters in 2014 asking them if they want to amend the Tennessee Constitution to state that it provides no further rights to an abortion than does the Federal Constitution.
I passed a House Joint Resolution 0614 that encourages Congress to return to a more original understanding of the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. If Congress would take this action, we could finally get the Federal government out of areas into which it has intruded without the Constitutional authority to do so.
I played a vital role in amending House Bill 2935, of which I was a co-prime sponsor, to require that non-lawyers and non-judges be appointed to the board that reviews ethical complaints against judges.
After receiving many expressions of concern from Chiropractors and Nurse Practitioners about House Bill 1896, I was able to have it amended to clarify the intent of the legislation. Many hundreds of jobs across the State were threatened by this legislation, and it would have led to needless and expensive litigation for years to come. By amending this bill and getting the rationale for the bill on record on the House floor, I was able to circumvent mass confusion throughout the pain management industry.
I helped pass the Tennessee Civil Justice Reform Act of 2011, which was a main focus of Governor Haslam in 2011.
11. What are you most proud of in your tenure.
I am most proud of my work on day-to-day legislation that will benefit the people of Tennessee. I am not flashy, and I don’t file a lot of attention grabbing bills – I just work hard to understand the issues and serve my constituents. My professional working relationship with my House colleagues and staff is gratifying – we work together on level-headed, common sense legislation without any drama. From what I have been told by MANY people, that is a drastic change for District 57.
12. Susan has said things about ethics and your past troubles. Please tell me how you feel about that.
I adhere to the highest of ethical standards, just as I always have. At one time some political opponents attempted to smear my name, but the people of Mt. Juliet saw through those attacks and elected me as their Mayor in 2008 and as State Representative in 2010. I am humbled by their trust in me.
If dredging up old, irrelevant topics like this is what my opponent chooses to run on, she’s free to do so. I prefer to run on my record; a record of which I am extremely proud.
13. Why should voters vote for Linda Elam
The people of Wilson County deserve responsible, level-headed, conservative representation in the House. That’s what they get with Linda Elam.
We need to retain an effective Representative, not bring back all of the public squabbling between the Wilson County legislative delegation. Our current delegation meets frequently to discuss local and state issues. We all pull together for the betterment of Wilson County. The people of District 57 deserve no less.
If there is anything else you'd like to add, please feel free. Please be concise because I just have so much room!
I am proud of my conservative voting record both in Mt. Juliet and at the Legislature. I run on my record of bringing jobs to Wilson County and helping to lower taxes in Tennessee by $600 Million this year, along with elimination of the gift tax, a reduction in the sales tax on food, and the phase-out of the death tax.
We did all that while adding $50 million to the rainy day fund, and we set aside an additional $107 million this year as an unspent balance.
This is a record of accomplishment that Wilson County deserves from its Representative!