State Republicans advance attorney general initiative

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 4:05pm

State Senate Republicans advanced their resolution Tuesday to amend the state constitution to require the popular election of the Tennessee attorney general.

The measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 5-4 vote, with Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville the only Republican joining Democrats in opposition. If it passes by majority votes in this General Assembly and by two-thirds majority in the next, it would go on the ballot for voter approval in the 2014 elections. 

The resolution is brought by conservatives, who say Attorney General Bob Cooper is out of touch with the public. They cite his refusal to join the states’ lawsuit challenging the national health care overhaul. They want to place the job on the ballot every four years for voters to decide. The state Supreme Court now appoints the attorney general. 

“I think there needs to be more accountability there,” Senate Judiciary Committee chair Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, said. “He practices in front of the very court that appoints him. I just think the nature of that relationship gives a negative public perception about the validity of those proceedings.”

The resolution’s opponents said electing the attorney general could lead to public corruption.

“It would be very difficult for someone who was campaigning statewide and raising a lot of money not to be somehow influenced by that,” Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, said. “We have less corruption than so many other states that have popularly elected attorney generals.”

Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Clarksville, predicted it would cost $5 million to run for attorney general. “The kind of people who contribute to those campaigns are exactly the kind of people, corporations, who are going to be investigated potentially by the attorney general,” he said.

16 Comments on this post:

By: Nitzche on 2/22/11 at 6:53

It is about time the republicans grew a set!

By: govskeptic on 2/22/11 at 8:00

Nice move! It is sad the State has waited this long to bring
this to the people for a vote and hope change. We are the
only state that allows the Judicary to pick the State's
Attorney General. If changing the Constitution to have a
lottery is important, this proposal is worth 3 times more
to the citizens.

By: pswindle on 2/23/11 at 10:19

The GOP is acting like a bunch of spoiled brats. I am ashamed of the behavior of the lawmakers. Power is the downfall of uncaring and uneducated individuals. This will put the AG in the hands of the one in power that help pay for their election.

By: madridia on 2/23/11 at 10:28

They may claim Cooper is "out of touch with the public," but he is very much in touch with the U.S. Constitution.

By: revo-lou on 2/23/11 at 12:37

Well lets see, do we want a person in the AG spot that is a better lawyer, or a better politician? Do we want the AG picked by people that KNOW the laws, and the actions of the AG within the boundary of those laws, or selected by a group of mouth breathers that have interaction with the law, on the side of the road, or on a domestic call?

Yeah, we should replace the AG because he doesn't GO ALONG with what we want, never mind what the LAW says! Repubs will be the downfall of this state, and, most likely, this country.

By: LFCRed on 2/23/11 at 12:50

Still wondering how this or, frankly, ANYTHING the tighty whitey righties have done since coming into power can/will improve employment/education levels, etc for the citizens of the State?!?!

It's been all show & ZERO substance from the Fools on the Hill...

"Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy." Benjamin Franklin

By: Antisocialite on 2/23/11 at 1:14

revo-lou said:
Well lets see, do we want a person in the AG spot that is a better lawyer, or a better politician? Do we want the AG picked by people that KNOW the laws, and the actions of the AG within the boundary of those laws, or selected by a group of mouth breathers that have interaction with the law, on the side of the road, or on a domestic call?

This is really the crux of the issue. I'll admit that, in a utopian Tennessee, the idea of an educated populace democratically electing an Attorney General seems obvious, but when it comes to the actual day-to-day business of the state I believe that the most qualified person is usually the best. The vast majority of Tennessee residents have absolutely no clue what makes a good Attorney General, and lets not fool ourselves into thinking that this fact will change... ever.

If this bill passes the AG race will become just another campaign decided largely on who has amassed the largest 'war chest,' rather than who is best suited to the job. Decisions that were once made by judges familiar with the demands of an AG position, and what type of person is best suited for it, will instead be made by people whose only impression of the candidates will have been from 30 second campaign commercials and the letter next to their name. The recent relaxation of corporate donation laws at the federal level only complicates matters further by ensuring that corporations are the prime donors in all subsequent AG races, making the eventual winner beholden to these same donors'... it doesn't take much to see the potential conflicts of interest there.

In other words, what seems like a common sense reform is actually a much more nuanced issue. Unfortunately the folks that will be deliberating this legislation probably cannot even spell the word 'nuance.'

By: GUARDIAN on 2/23/11 at 1:24

GUARDIAN-Run Cooper off because he is a leftist moron.

By: Antisocialite on 2/23/11 at 2:58

Wow GUARDIAN, what insightful commentary!

By: CrimesDown on 2/23/11 at 5:10

Well, Let's see....Antisocialite seems to be upset that GUARDIAN thinks Cooper, is a leftist moron. Even though this seems to offend Antisocialite, he/she thinks that Tennesseans are stupid. GUARDIAN may be wrong, but it seems there are several elected officials that agree with him and are attempting to do something about it. At this point there is only one option for Antisocialite, to correct the problem of living around stupid Tennesseans, and that is to move to a state with less stupid people.

I've lived and been to many states, and I would say that regardless of most Tennesseans formal education, they have more sense than any other state population I have come in contact with.

By: revo-lou on 2/23/11 at 5:27

{I've lived and been to many states, and I would say that regardless of most Tennesseans formal education, they have more sense than any other state population I have come in contact with.}

Doesn't say much for you then, does it?

By: CrimesDown on 2/23/11 at 5:43

revo-lou, I'm not sure what your saying. Please explain. I've read your quote, and I'm not sure how that says anything about me.

By: revo-lou on 2/23/11 at 6:00

Well, there is nothing that I could add to YOUR post that would explain it any better.

By: CrimesDown on 2/23/11 at 7:12

After thinking about it, it appears you were trying to be funny. Don't quit your day job.

By: revo-lou on 2/23/11 at 7:14

Hmm, no, I was being serious. And that is my day job.

By: Antisocialite on 2/24/11 at 9:09

Well CrimesDown it didn't take you long to regurgitate the usual 'love it or leave it' conservative motto. Too bad nothing in your response actually dealt with the issue at hand or tried to refute any of my points with logic or fact.

Where do I call anyone stupid?

What I said was:
The vast majority of Tennessee residents have absolutely no clue what makes a good Attorney General, and lets not fool ourselves into thinking that this fact will change... ever.

Is that factually inaccurate? What percentage of the population do you think could tell me what the AG even does, much less what makes a good one?

Oh, and no CrimesDown I wasn't upset at GUARDIAN's comment, I just like to make fun of people that have nothing to contribute to a discussion, and GUARDIAN's ad hominem attack on Cooper clearly qualifies.