- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Tenn. lawmaker calls Haslam ‘traitor’ to GOP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Republican state lawmaker on Tuesday called Gov. Bill Haslam a “traitor to the party” over what he called efforts by a political action committee run by supporters to defeat opponents of Common Core education standards.

State Rep. Rick Womick of Murfreesboro said in a phone interview that he stands by a letter sent to the governor’s office last week taking issue with what he perceived as Haslam trying to do away with opponents in the Legislature and on the state Republican Party’s executive committee.

“You had the head of our party targeting individual members because we don’t agree with him 100 percent of the time, that’s treason,” Womick said. “That’s a traitor to the party.”

The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported that the Advance Tennessee PAC, which poured thousands into GOP primary races, involved key supporters of Haslam and state House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. The PAC opposed lawmakers like Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who lost his race after calling it a “fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.”

One of the principals for the direct mail firm used by the PAC is Bryan Kaegi, a fundraiser for both Haslam and Harwell. Top contributors like Orrin Ingram and Scott Niswonger are also board members on the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, which is closely allied with Haslam on education matters.

Haslam shrugged off Womick’s letter when asked about it after an economic development announcement in Cookeville on Monday.


2 ex-mining towns try to change their fortunes

ROCKY TOP, Tenn. (AP) - In the Appalachian foothills of eastern Tennessee, Rocky Top and Briceville share a common heritage and a common problem: How to revive communities that once boasted bustling main streets and jobs for nearly anyone willing to mine the coal once plentiful in the deep shafts underground.

Briceville has embraced the long-range vision of a nonprofit group offering college scholarships to people who are often first in their families to go beyond high school.

About five miles away, the town recently known as Lake City decided to change its name to Rocky Top. It is banking on the quick-strike dreams of developers promising a multimillion-dollar tourist complex built around the popular bluegrass song, that declares, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be home, sweet home, to me. Good ol’ Rocky Top. Rocky Top, Tennessee.”

The contrasting paths reflect more than divergent ideas. They dig deep into the increasing desperation of places across Appalachia mired in poverty and decline and receptive to any kind of help to reinvent themselves.

“Like most, or all, Appalachian coal mining towns, there are a whole lot of people out of work and uneducated,” said Stephanie Bohon, co-director of the Center for the Study of Social Justice at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Rocky Top and Briceville lie along Coal Creek, about 20 miles north of the nuclear engineers and supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but a world away. The creek carves out a narrow valley in the hills, trickling past forests that have swallowed up abandoned coal mines.


Miss. ballot set with Cochran as Senate nominee

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi elections commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a November ballot that lists Republican Thad Cochran, Democrat Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara as nominees for U.S. Senate.

Approval of the ballot came, as expected, while Chris McDaniel’s challenge of his Republican primary loss to Cochran is still awaiting trial. The judge overseeing McDaniel’s challenge said last week that he would not block preparations for the general election, including the setting of the ballot.

State law says the ballot must be given to counties by Sept. 10, which is 55 days before the Nov. 4 general election. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Mississippi must make absentee ballots available to overseas military voters starting Sept. 20.

“Unless we’re ordered to the contrary, we’re going to follow the process,” Hosemann said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Certified results show Cochran, a six-term incumbent, defeated the tea party-backed state senator by 7,667 votes in the June 24 Republican primary runoff. McDaniel says the runoff was shoddily run and is asking the judge to declare him the winner over Cochran or order a new runoff.

Judge Hollis McGehee has set a Sept. 16 starting date for the trial, and has said it must be finished by Oct. 6. McGehee is scheduled to hear pretrial arguments Thursday in Jones County.


Mother’s boyfriend charged in death of infant

HOLLADAY, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has charged a Benton County man with murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of his girlfriend’s baby.

Police arrested 25-year-old Westlee Waylon Yates on Monday in the death of 7-month-old Joseph Hilliard.

The boy’s mother called authorities on Friday after finding her son unresponsive at their home in Holladay. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police said Yates was taken to the Benton County jail where he is being held without bond. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

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