Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Win for Lynn

It’s been three weeks since the August 2nd primaries in Tennessee. I’ve been working on the following article on and off ever since. It is my account of Susan Lynn’s 2012 primary campaign for the Republican Nomination to the Tennessee House of Representatives in District 57, along with some of the history leading up to it. I wrote it based upon my experiences during the 2012 campaign, my own personal knowledge of the events of the last five years, and credible, verifiable witness accounts of events going back farther than the last five years. Sharing the history is necessary in order to properly set the stage for the article.

Susan would be the first to tell you her 2012 campaign was a team effort. She and her dedicated, all- volunteer campaign team worked hard and prayed hard over the course of about three months. Therefore, within the article, I have used the word “We” many times. Over the last two months, I have talked a lot about the campaign on this blog and on Facebook. It may have seemed excessive to some, but I believe by the end of this article my reason(s) for doing so will be apparent. In addition, readers will understand exactly how big Susan’s win was, and why, in my opinion, she pulled off the political comeback and upset of the year.

Throughout the 2012 campaign, Susan was the target of dirty politics, gimmicks, and distortions of her record. She had to compete against more than just Linda Elam as Elam was backed by what, in my opinion, amounts to a political gang thriving on money, power, and intimidation. Chicago-style bully politics is their M.O. In hindsight, I believe these tactics backfired on "the gang" as Susan’s support increased after they started. I guess you could call those attacks a “tactical error” on their part.

History and Background

Susan got her start in public service back in the early 2000s during the anti-income tax movement in Tennessee before ever running for office. She was tea party before tea party was cool. She also worked as a campaign volunteer for then State Representative Mae Beavers. When Beavers decided to run for the Tennessee State Senate District 17 seat in 2002, Susan felt the Lord leading her to run for the House 57 seat Beavers was vacating. Initially, Beavers picked Susan to replace her in the District 57 House seat, reportedly after much prayer and thought, but for some reason she changed her mind and ultimately supported one of Susan’s opponents. Beavers went on to win the Senate seat, and Susan won the House 57 seat anyway without Beavers’ support.

Sen. Beavers
Unfortunately, soon after the 2002 win, Beavers turned on Susan, her former volunteer, and along with some associates have since waged a 10-year war upon Susan. Beavers’ associates have spent thousands of dollars and dozens of man hours helping wage it. Some have referred to the situation between Susan and Beavers as a feud incorrectly. Susan would prefer just to be left alone, but Beavers’ and associates can’t let it go. Many have asked, “What did Susan do that made Beavers hate her so much ?” It is very simple. Susan made the “mistake” of saying “no.” When Beavers "requested" Susan to apologize to the one Susan defeated in 2002, who was backed by Beavers, Susan refused. She felt she had won fair and square and had nothing to apologize for **. Beavers took offense to that. Ever since, Beavers and company have put Susan through “hades.” They’ve gone after not only Susan, but her family, too. All because Susan said no. Ludicrous, right ? Hard to fathom ? Yes, it is, but Beavers’ vendetta has raged on for 10 long years due to a “no.” Welcome to Chicago. Someone cue Uncle Tony and Cousin Vinny. Capische ?

** In the interest of full disclosure and fairness, I e-mailed Sen. Beavers on August 9th after realizing that I have never heard her side of the story regarding this chain of events. I felt she should have an opportunity to tell her side of the story. Plus, over the last few years, I have often been critical of her record because, in my opinion, it is often less than “conservative-like.” However, at other times, I have complimented her, too. 

She responded to my 8/9 e-mail quickly accusing me of spreading lies about her. So, on August 10th, I replied asking her specifically what I had said about her that was a lie. I even told her that if she would point out specific examples where I had erred, I would be happy to issue a retraction and public apology to her. I felt it was the "gentlemanly" thing to do. One reason I am just now running this article is because I wanted to give Sen. Beavers plenty of time to respond. As of this date (nearly two weeks later), she has not responded with any evidence as to how I have lied about her thereby adding more credibility to the version of events laid out in this article. Additionally, I would like to take the time to lay out the history of the Beavers’ vendetta from 2002 to 2009 here. It would blow your mind. However, doing so would exponentially increase the length of this article. Therefore, I will refrain from doing so, but it might be something I’ll do at a later date. There is so much to tell that I could actually write a book about it. Instead, I will focus on more recent events starting in 2009 to set the stage for 2012.

2010 Republican Primary -
 Tennessee State Senate District 17

In early 2009, Beavers announced that she would not seek re-election to the State Senate but would instead run for Wilson Co. Mayor. Therefore, Susan began pondering a run for the District 17 seat Beavers would be vacating. It’s a logical move for her, right ? So, in the summer of 2009 Susan announces her intention to run for the District 17 State Senate seat. Later, in the spring of 2010, Beavers changes her mind deciding to run for re-election to the State Senate and abandon her run for county mayor. Susan is now between a rock and a hard place. She never intended to run against Beavers, but she’s already started campaigning. Plus, three people have thrown their hats into the ring for the House 57 seat Susan is giving up for the State Senate run. What should she do ? She does the ethical thing and stays in the State Senate race, because she does not want to do to those three candidates what Beavers has done to her. Beavers’ says her reason for changing course and deciding to run for re-election is due to much prayer, thought, and with the encouragement of her constituents and family. Those reasons may all be true, but my personal opinion is that there is another contributing factor to Beavers changing her mind - she just can’t stand the thought of Susan holding “her seat.” Therefore, there is a three-way race in the Republican Primary for Tennessee State Senate District 17 including :
  1. the incumbent Sen. Beavers, 
  2. Susan, and
  3. a newcomer by the name of Gordon Borck.
Beavers and friends come out swinging. They hit Susan with negative attacks claiming Susan voted for “bloated budgets,” driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, toll roads, tax increases, and other things. All untrue. Now, who makes up this “gang,” you may be asking ? It includes : 
  • Beavers herself.
  • Wilson Co. Tea Party (WCTP) Chairperson Sherrie Orange (a longtime associate of Beavers) - the WCTP sent its members e-mail "newsletters" bashing Susan posting them also on their website.
  • Steve Gill, who in addition to receiving $12,000 from Beavers for airtime on his radio show, spends a great deal of on-air time ranting against Susan.
  • McCall PAC which invests thousands of dollars into Beavers campaign. It's point man, A.J. McCall, was gonna run against Susan in this primary but changed his mind, reportedly to focus on his business interests (including D.T. McCall and Sons).
The above attacks continue throughout the primary and also include negative mailers and photocopied literature being dropped in the yards and driveways of Susan’s sign holders and others. What was the motivation for it all ? As I mentioned earlier - the word "no." Crazy, ain't it ?

Election day came, and Beavers won by only about 5 percentage points. However, Susan beat her handily in the 57th House District getting nearly 60% of the vote within it. Beavers won the election by winning the counties outside Wilson. Borck receiving approximately 10% of the vote likely affected the outcome, too. If he’s not in the race, the outcome may have been different. For two years, I've heard people speculate as to whether Beavers recruited Borck into the race to take just enough votes from Susan to allow her to win. Regardless, the fact is Susan finds herself out of office at the end of 2010, and former Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam elected to the House 57 seat.

After the election, the 2010 census resulted in districts being re-drawn. During the redistricting process, "the gang” was thinking ahead to 2012 concerned Susan might try to regain the 57th seat. So, "the powers that be" take a page out of the Democrats playbook and intentionally gerrymander Susan out of the district effective after the general election in November 2012. It’s obvious it was intentional, because Susan could literally move just down the street from her current residence and reside in the new, re-drawn district again after it takes effect. Apparently, though, they fail to realize that Susan can still legally run for the 57th seat only being required to move into the newly drawn district lines, which remember are just down the street, by the general election in November 2012 if she wins the primary. Again – a “tactical” error on their part.

2012 Republican Primary -
 Tennessee House of Representatives District 57

In 2012, Susan has been out of office for two years working a full time job, reading, studying, relaxing, spending time with her family, and being blessed with her first grandchild. She is encouraged to run for the House 57 seat, because the people aren’t being represented adequately. Rep. Elam reportedly doesn’t answer e-mails nor return constituents phone calls regularly, if at all. Plus, Susan loves to serve. She decides to run for the 57th seat getting on the ballot just before the filing deadline in April.

Susan and team begin campaigning in late spring putting together a simple game plan – hard work and prayer. We wanted to bathe Susan, the team, and everything involved with the campaign in prayer continuously. We felt that if we didn’t, our work would be in vain. We knew God’s blessing would be imperative, too, because we had a hunch that the same "gang" that beat and battered on Susan in 2010, would be up to their old tricks. Their hatred for Susan hadn’t waned. Our hunch proved correct and as I watched all these entities line up to back Susan’s opponent, Elam, in 2012, I can remember thinking on numerous occasions, “If Susan wins, it will be really SWEET !!” 

We didn’t have to wait long for "the gang's" attacks to start in 2012, either. McCall PAC pumped several thousand dollars into Elam’s re-election campaign and spent at least $11,000 (total amount may increase when next campaign finance report is filed) on negative, attack mailers which distorted Susan’s record. Interestingly, "the gang" attacked Susan on the exact same issues they used just two years earlier - “bloated budgets”, illegal alien driver’s licenses, tax increases, and toll roads. Sound familiar ? All still untrue. Due to the similarities, some people likely wondered who was actually running Elam’s campaign – her or Beavers.

The negative attack mailers used by "the gang" contained distortions, an outright lie, and to an accountant, such as myself, a mind-boggling inaccuracy. The lie accused Susan of voting for the hated traffic cameras in Mt. Juliet. The problem with that accusation is that she was NEVER Mt. Juliet Mayor or a city commissioner, so, voting for the traffic cameras was impossible. The inaccuracy I mentioned is the fact that they included federal dollars in state budget numbers which artificially inflated them, and then, based upon those numbers claimed that Susan voted for “bloated state budgets.” Now, I’ll admit that I'm just a measly accountant, but I do have considerable experience in governmental accounting and preparing multi-million dollar budgets for government agencies. You don’t include Federal dollars in any analysis of the operating budget, because those funds are more like grants. They are temporary - here today, gone tomorrow. It is an error in include them in your analysis, but "the gang" didn't care. It was just another day of Chicago style politics for them – they were stopping at nothing to win.

Susan knocking on doors to get out the vote.
The attack mailers did not discourage us. The opposition force likely thought they would, but they had the opposite effect – driving us to work and pray even harder. Susan and the team continued knocking on doors, installing signs, and doing the other things a normal campaign does. We just did them with even more determination. Did I mention that we did it all with volunteers ? The opponent actually had paid staff.

I was along for much of the work, but my muscular dystrophy limited much of what I could do. Door knocking was out of the question. My legs and hips won’t do the steps and hill climbing leading to most residences. So, I helped in other ways. Sometimes it was helping with paperwork and planning. However, my more frequent role was driving Susan from house to house to keep her rested, cool, and hydrated while door-knocking during the record-breaking, brutal heat in July. With NFL training camps starting, it reminded me of an NFL trainer's job during training camp, and Susan was the All-Pro quarterback. It was my job to keep her supplied with water, cold Gatorade, and whatever else she needed to keep going in the heat. Heck, we had a game to win. Plus, I like to drive, so it was a win-win for me.

Another role of mine was re-supplying other volunteers during canvassing. Sometimes it was with water. Other times with more handout materials. The heat was excessive, but they kept pushing. We were not gonna be denied by this gang again, and we trusted the Lord to bless our hard work and trusted the voters to see the untruths they were being fed. We also decided that if we were not successful, it would not be because we did not do everything we could, or that we didn’t use our resources to the fullest. We were “not gonna leave anything on the field.” If we lost the race, we were gonna be able to walk away with our heads held high knowing we gave it our all and did it the right way – Susan’s way – with hard work, integrity, and staying positive. 

August 2nd, Election Day, arrived. I got up and sent a text to several team members and Susan before the polls opened stating, “I’ve got a feeling in my gut that the Lord is gonna do something great today !!” We had worked honorably and hard. Susan had run a clean, positive race, in spite of the opponent’s nastiness, and I couldn’t wait for the polls to close at 7 PM CDT. We had stayed on the game plan – praying and working hard. It was now in the hands of the voters.

When the polls closed, the results began to trickle in precinct by precinct. The first precinct to come in was Elam’s backyard. Susan won it 2-1, and I knew then she was on her way to a win, as that feeling in my gut intensified ..... BIG TIME. A few tears flowed, too. Couldn’t help myself. The only question was – what would the margin be ? We would know soon.

The Victor and The Sheepdog
Myself and another team member monitored the results. I also had the honor of personally keeping Susan updated on them every few minutes. Each time I updated her, I saw her face light up like a little girl on Christmas morning looking under the tree. I will never forget the smiles and glitters of excitement in her eyes. They made all the work worthwhile. The only thing that would have made it any better would have been if my wife had been the candidate, and I was sharing the results with her. When it was over, Susan had received 68% of the vote !! I got to tell her the news, and the party was on. Since there is no Democrat or Independent on the ballot in November, winning the primary made Susan Representative Elect.

Susan overcame much to pull the win off. For instance, consider the fact that the opponent had the backing of "the gang." Plus, “The Money” had backed Elam with nearly all of her financial contributions coming from either PACs or businesses. The NRA had, in error in my opinion, even endorsed Elam. Susan, on the other hand, was backed by a loyal and dedicated team of volunteers, and her financial contributions were nearly exclusively provided by private individuals. Susan’s campaign was as grass roots as it gets. It was as Tea Party as it gets, too. Looking for a poster girl for the Tea Party ? Sarah Palin may be a good place to start, but it's no contest - Susan’s your gal.

Susan’s victory boiled down to this – her grassroots, Tea Party-like campaign executed by her and an all-volunteer team had just beaten the same people, money, power, and influence that Susan had barely lost to just two short years before. In fact, Susan had not only beaten them, but she had won in a rout – a landslide. We had prayed and prayed some more. We had worked hard, and the Lord blessed it all. To a sports fan like me, it was like the N.Y. Jets beating the superior Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. It also reminded me of David vs. Goliath, and once again, the Lord had delivered David. 

Party time !!
Conclusion

Like most, I don’t like to lose, especially when I put a lot of time and effort into whatever goal I’m trying to reach. Since the election, I’ve reflected back on the  times in the last five years when I’ve put a lot of time into something only to see a loss result. For instance, there were the 2008 and 2010 U.S. Transplant Games. I worked my tail off preparing, only to go bowl and not win or even medal. I remember getting in the car to return home from the 2010 Games, the day before the 2010 primary, thinking how I just wanted to get home, help get Susan a win, and forget about The Games - only to see Susan lose. I think those three disappointments are a big part of the reason that when the results came in August 2nd, and Susan had won big, it felt so, so good. Words cannot describe it, and I was very thankful for it. It was sweet not just because it was a “win,” but because I had been part of helping a friend win, made a difference doing so, and seen the Lord work in some great ways. All that was better than winning any medal, and friends help friends – period. 

In summary, now that I have laid out the story from my eyes and shared some of the history behind it, I hope my exuberance is more understandable. After the negative attacks upon Susan began, the race ceased to be about politics to me. It became about helping a friend, about good vs. evil, and it was awesome to witness what the Lord did. The thing is, not only did Susan and her team win on August 2nd, but the people of the 57th District did, too. They won by saying no to negative campaigning and Chicago-style politics, and saying yes to proven, caring, Christian, positive representation in the Tennessee House.

Many, including me, have been soured on politics in the last few years. Hopefully, the story of Susan’s victory within this article has restored at least a little of your faith in the American political system. Even though it seems that money and power control much of it, a hard working, grass roots campaign can still be successful. However, there is still much work that needs to be done to restore what the country’s founders envisioned.

It’s now time for The Sheepdog to take a blog break for a few weeks. I will be enjoying Susan’s win for quite a while, and I’ll be back in early September.

Philippians 4:13 (King James Version)“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
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