New PAC targets Lee’s re-election bid

    Gov. Bill Lee has stood by an experimental health care block grant approved by the Trump Administration. (Photo: John Partipilo)
    Gov. Bill Lee at the 2021 State of the State. (Photo: John Partipilo)

    Gov. Bill Lee’s reelection bid is more than a year away but a PAC aimed at unseating him launched Thursday mornings and backers say they’ve already got $100,000 in committed funds.

    A press release from “Beat Bill Lee,” which is led by former Tennessee Democratic Party communications director Emily Cupples, said the goal is to “organize hard working families across Tennessee and America to mobilize against the power grab from Bill Lee and other fringe conservatives.”

    “Since Bill Lee took office seven rural hospitals closed, four during the COVID19 pandemic, unemployment reached an all time high, gun violence increased by 50%, and our student proficiency dropped,” said Cupples. “Spending $7 million taxpayer dollars on lawsuits, it’s evident Lee is serving dark interest groups and not Tennessee families.”

    The press release says the PAC will spend money on both traditional and unconventional tactics to defeat Lee.

    State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat who is often mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 2022, was quoted in the PAC’s announcement.

    “Tennesseans desperately need doctors and hospitals that don’t bankrupt their families, but Gov. Lee does nothing, though it wouldn’t cost our state one penny. One million students need public schools with resources and highly trained teachers, Gov. Lee does nothing. Too many families can’t afford food and rent, and Gov. Lee is bragging about fast low-pay food jobs and cuts to unemployment,” said Johnson in her statement. “It’s time for a change, Tennessee families need a governor who understands the kitchen table issues they face each day — not an out of touch multimillionaire.”

    Also quoted in the announcement were Wade Munday, a member of the Democratic National Committee and former candidate for state senate, and Civil Miller-Watkins, a member of the Fayette County Board of Education and former candidate for state house and senate.

    The only Democratic candidate to announce a candidacy for governor so far is Carnita Atwater of Memphis. Atwater is executive director of the New Chicago Community Development Corporation. In December 2020, she filed a $20 billion lawsuit against government officials including Lee, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland charging them with genocide for lack of investment in the New Chicago neighborhood and she’s been the subject of both newspaper and TV stories in Memphis.

    Other names mentioned as potential Democratic gubernatorial contenders include State Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. John Ray Clemmons, both of Nashville.

    Curtis Carney, who runs a tractor-drawn “party barge” in Nashville, has filed to run in the GOP primary against Lee.