VOL. 133 | NO. 133 | Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Diane Black Proud of Unfavorable Ratings With ‘Far Left’
By Bill Dries
Republican contender for Tennessee governor U.S. Rep. Diane Black drew the endorsement of the American Conservative Union as she spoke at the national group’s Memphis forum Monday, July 2, on jobs and the economy.
Black shared the stage at FedExForum with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, who defended his recent call to raise rents in public housing as a way out of poverty.
Before the forum, Black was asked about the idea and told reporters they would have the chance to ask Carson himself about the idea.
Republican contender for governor Diane Black got the endorsement of the American Conservative Union Monday, July 2, headed by Matt Schlapp, right. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
In the four-way primary race for governor to be decided in the Aug. 2 elections, Black and former Tennessee Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd have been locked in a battle that in recent weeks has moved to attack ads.
Black has called Boyd and Franklin businessman Bill Lee moderates. Boyd’s ads have been critical of Black for being a politician and question her conservative credentials and votes.
State House Speaker Beth Harwell, who is due in Memphis Friday, has so far avoided getting entangled in the dueling television ads. Harwell’s campaign got off to a late start due to her duties as leader of the House.
“They try to call me a career politician, but what I really am is a career nurse. I’ve been a nurse for more than 45 years. I still have my license today,” Black said earlier Monday at her campaign headquarters near the University of Memphis. “I know health care inside and out. Health care is extremely important to this state. Beyond that I’m a businesswoman. I’ve started small businesses. I’m an educator and I’ve now been in the public policy arena.”
American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp said his group’s endorsement of Black is based on her voting record in Congress and the Tennessee Legislature.
“There’s always this conversation about who’s a true conservative,” he said. “The way we look at it is that when you are a member of Congress or a state legislative chamber the votes really tell over time what your philosophy is.”
Black touts the passage of tax reform in 2017 that she played a role in as chairwoman of the House Budget Committee. She stepped down as chair to run for governor.
She calls it “once-in-a-generation tax reform”
“We’re seeing people with more money in their pockets,” Black added.
Meanwhile, outgoing Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Democratic Senate contender Phil Bredesen have been critical of the tax cut’s impact on the federal deficit.
Black says President Donald Trump’s stand on tariffs on products from the European Union, Canada and Mexico is bargaining that she concedes has raised concerns with Tennessee business leaders.
“We want targeted tariffs in those areas where there are bad actors like China. Don’t do that in areas where we have good relationships. The president is very good about that,” she said. “I have not had from the industries, especially the car industry and agriculture – direct impacts at this point in time. They have shared with me what they could look like. And they could be quite difficult for them if we don’t make sure this is done in a fair way.”
Bredesen, in a visit to Memphis last week, said he initially thought the tariffs were a bargaining ploy but since has come to believe they are “more political theater and less calculation.”
Black said she is not surprised by a recent Vanderbilt University poll that shows her name recognition is considerable along with her unfavorable rankings with some of those polled statewide.
“I’m proud to be unfavorable with people that are far left. We just don’t agree with each other on those issues,” she said. “We can still talk and we can still get along. There are other things we can agree on. I’m someone who has worked with people that I don’t agree with 100 percent.”
The winner of the August Republican primary for governor will face the winner of the Democratic primary between former Nashville mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley in the Nov. 6 general election.
Schlapp said once the primary here and primaries in other key midterm states are decided, Republicans have a decision to make.
“We have to decide whether we want to win,” he said. “I’m just one of these people that if I’m involved in politics, I want to actually win the election so we can get the public policy we want. I don’t want to just be right. Being right alone isn’t sufficient.”
A campaign aide to Black showed Schlapp a map of Shelby County at one end of the room with suburban areas of the county shaded and pinned, calling it “the number one Republican area in the shade. Unshaded was the city of Memphis – home of the largest base of Democratic voters in the state.
Schlapp said that is common across the country – a major city that is Democratic and suburbs or rural areas just outside it that are Republican.
The suburbs in Shelby County have been a part of the foundation of the modern Republican Party in Tennessee since Howard Baker’s election to the U.S. Senate in the 1960s and Memphian Winfield Dunn’s election as governor in 1970.
“You punch out of some of those cities and you talk to people out there and you can really see that America’s bifurcated,” Schlapp said. “(The year) 2000 obviously was a demonstration of how closely divided we are. I think we are there again and we are too acrimonious.”
Schlapp doesn’t believe the midterm elections of 2018 will bridge that division.
“2018’s not going to solve much. What 2018 is going to solve is it’s finally going to put a lid on the right for these people who believed that Trump was going to destroy the party immediately,” he said. “It will be harder for them to make that argument. On the left, it think they are going to realize Trump is strong politically but it’s not just about Trump – that there is a movement in this country to really change how politics works.”
Schlapp says the change is a movement on the left as well.
“There are people who want new voices, new people and a new way of doing things. Some people hate it in the swamp,” he said. “I think it’s really good for the Republican Party. Rethink the way you are doing things because we were slowly losing people – even our own people. And it was time to change course.”