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VOL. 133 | NO. 42 | Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Local Political Partisans Begin Looking Beyond Trump

By Bill Dries

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The founder of one of the city’s Trump “resistance” groups is among those looking for something beyond the resistance.

“We don’t want to resist Trump forever,” Emily Fulmer, the founder of Indivisible Memphis, told a gathering of 50 Friday, Feb. 23, at the National Civil Rights Museum under the “Take Back Tennessee” banner. “The goal is not to be in a state of resistance forever.”

Emily Fulmer, the founder of Indivisible Memphis, says it is time for the Trump resistance to move beyond resistance and make their case in the predominantly Republican suburbs. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

The groups include Memphis For All, a local chapter of Our Revolution, a national group established by U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders.

The discussions there and elsewhere on the county’s political landscape over a busy campaign weekend on both sides of the partisan divide point to movement beyond reaction to President Donald Trump.

They also are a reminder that there remains a wide ideological divide beyond partisan labels a year and four months after Trump won the White House, carried Tennessee and took its 11 electoral votes as Democratic rival Hillary Clinton carried Shelby County.

Rachel Knox of Memphis For All said the goal of the coalition in the upcoming county, state and federal elections this year is to “turn our resistance into persistence.”

“If we end up splitting our focus, we’ll end up not making an impact at all and we simply cannot afford that,” she said.

Less than 24 hours later, Republican contender for Tennessee governor Randy Boyd opened his Poplar Plaza campaign headquarters Saturday sticking with his themes of workforce development and completing post-high school degrees and workplace certification.

Boyd also continued to push the idea of career technical education (CTE) centers on or near public high school campuses.

Boyd’s most recent television ads, meanwhile, have been all about his conservative stands on social issues with no evidence of that emphasis in his stump speeches.

Republican contender for Governor Randy Boyd at the weekend opening of his Memphis campaign headquarters said his recent television ads on conservative values are a way of showing primary voters he shares their values. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

“A lot of the voters in the Republican primary want to know how I stand on some of the values issues,” he said. “I want to make sure that I let them know about those things. They know I’m one of them. But the reason why I’m running for governor is to make a difference in education, to bring better jobs to the state. They need to know that they like me, that we each share the same values.”

Calls for allegiance to Trump were a part of the speeches at Saturday’s Lincoln Day Gala that drew nearly 1,000 people at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis, including four of the five Republican contenders for Tennessee governor, Senate contender and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.

After the Lincoln Day Gala music video to the song “I Will Stand” about standing for the national anthem, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who is also a Republican contender for governor, asked all military veterans in the audience to stand.

Meanwhile, at a Midtown campaign fundraiser Thursday, state Sen. Lee Harris described his candidacy in the Democratic primary for Shelby County mayor as a referendum on Trump.

“One of the reasons why I’m running for Shelby County Mayor is because I don’t think we should have a mayor that supports President Trump,” he said.

But Harris says he is not looking to be the leader of a Democratic slate.

“I think the tip of the spear is the people,” he said later. “There are a lot of people in Shelby County that are ready to turn the page. We could be a progressive prosperous city with more unity. I’ll talk about that and see where it all lands.”

Harris said he believes candidates for county mayor on the Republican primary side of the contest should say whether or not they support Trump.

The Republican field includes Shelby County commissioner Terry Roland, who was Trump’s West Tennessee campaign manager in 2016 and spoke at Trump’s February 2016 rally in Millington.

But Roland has said the race for county mayor isn’t about Trump or Trump’s policies.

“We’ve been able to cross party lines,” he said. “We’ve been able to touch people where normally there was a problem of people working together.”

Harris disagrees, saying federal funding plays a significant role in what county government is able to fund.

“It’s pretty much a non-stop interaction,” he said.

Roland isn’t backing away from his support of Trump for president in 2016 – something he has touted among Republicans who supported other contenders in the 2016 Tennessee presidential primary.

Republican party chairman Lee Mills has said his local party’s goal is to “divorce” the local campaigns from Trump.

Fulmer also founded the Collierville Democratic Club after she and her family moved to the suburb in 2015 and found no Democrats on the ballot for local offices and district representatives there. She urged those trying to counter Trump and Republicans to take the fight to the suburbs, which are considered part of the largest Republican base of voters in any single county in the state.

Likewise, the city of Memphis represents the largest Democratic base of any single county in the state.

Fulmer was among those who campaigned for Democrat Julie Byrd Ashworth in the June 2017 special election for state House District 95. The seat was won by Republican Kevin Vaughan.

“And even though we didn’t win we found each other,” she said. “We found the Democrats. We found the progressives. If we are going to take back Tennessee, I really believe that we need to organize in every single place that has been written off as hopeless. We should never let a race or campaign go by without somebody that we can vote for on the ballot.”

At the Lincoln Day Gala, the passage of tax reform was highlighted by keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina as an example of how Republicans can expand their base nationally.

“If we as conservatives are focused on who we are, where we’ve been and where we want to take this nation, people will follow us,” he said. “The greatest challenge to the United States of America is we are questioning each other. We are questioning each other’s intentions.”

Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, the president of Our Revolution nationally, urged the partisans at the museum to “see each other’s humanity,” including Trump supporters.

“We can’t be at each other’s throats because of who we voted for in 2016,” she said.

She also cited political vitriol surrounding Trump’s election as president.

“We have allowed Trump to drive us further from each other,” she said, adding that Democrats should be focused on “shield building” for the “void” after Trump’s tenure ends.

Turner added Millennials are less attached to party labels and supporting a slate of nominees without question just because they are Democrats.

“Any blue won’t do,” she warned. “It’s got to be the kind of blue we want.”

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