The race for Tennessee’s 13th District House Seat features incumbent Democrat Gloria Johnson versus an army of out-of-state special interest groups who have teamed up with Governor Bill Haslam to unseat one of the most outspoken defenders of public education in the General Assembly.
Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity has sent mailer after mailer comparing Johnson to such horrible figures as Lane Kiffin and Barack Obama (it is difficult to tell which of the two is viewed less favorably in Knoxville).
The Tennessee Federation for Children has spent $100,000 against Johnson. The outfit is curiously named, since it is based in Washington, DC, and doesn’t have a Tennessee presence until it is time to push for risky and expensive voucher schemes at the General Assembly. Thanks in part to Johnson’s leadership, the TFC’s voucher plans have failed in two consecutive General Assemblies. Now, they’re coming after Johnson.
Joining (leading?) the parade of attacks against Johnson is Governor Bill Haslam. His Advance Tennessee PAC is spending $50,000 on a new TV attack ad against Johnson.
What’s Haslam’s beef against the Knoxville teacher-legislator? Gloria Johnson has routinely criticized Haslam for his lack of leadership and general failure to communicate, especially when it comes to education issues.
Johnson correctly warned that Common Core would die in Tennessee unless Haslam did a better job of talking with teachers and parents about the merits of the program.
The good news for Johnson is that Haslam and the Koch Brothers teamed up with TFC in the primary in August to challenge Republicans who weren’t sufficiently in support of privatizing public schools, and they lost many of those races.
Of course, a teacher and defender of public schools can’t compete dollar-for-dollar with such intense spending. But the focus on House District 13 when the GOP already holds a big majority in the General Assembly makes one wonder what exactly these groups want for their money.
I wrote a piece about the GOP 2013 legislative agenda on education that I think is exactly what these groups want to see pass in 2015. If only they can get Gloria Johnson out of the way.
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