By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
NASHVILLE — Some of the primary people hired to help three Tennessee Supreme Court justices win retention this summer appear to have blatantly partisan ties to the Democratic Party, despite justices insisting they themselves are apolitical.
One operative has a notorious past for causing trouble that might shock you — especially given that justices Gary Wade, Connie Clark and Sharon Lee have previously said politics has no place in the judiciary.
Assuming they handpicked these operatives themselves, is it proper to call the justices’ own judgment into question?
One operative, Carol Andrews, communications director for “Keep Tennessee Courts Fair,” said to represent the three justices, worked for Democrat Harold Ford during his unsuccessful U.S. Senate race in 2006, according to her LinkedIn page.
She also worked for another Democrat, former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.
But it was during the 2006 race that she was reported to have knocked down a cameraman who was trying to film Ford in public.
A YouTube video documents the incident, although it ends when Andrews placed the palm of her hand over the camera lens, effectively blocking filming. The video does not document what happened afterward.
Of Andrews, the Nashville Post said this:
“Combative and heavy-handed, Andrews was a liability to Ford, who was more accessible to national media than statewide media during his failed Senate run.”
According to RedState.com, Andrews helped run “one of the most hard-core negative campaign firms in the country, Fletcher Rowley Chao.”
According to the article, the firm teaches classes on the best ways and times to be negative during a campaign.
Another class offered instructions on “how to find good dirt on the opposition and how to best use it to boost your candidate’s campaign.”
Andrews later ran communications in Maine for Democrat Tom Allen’s campaign, according to RedState.
FLANKED: TN Supreme Court Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee stand by Nashville attorney Lew Conner at a fundraiser last month.
“Andrews plays hardball, and word has it that several members of the Maine political press have already been on the receiving-end of screaming, angry phone calls from her.”
Andrews did not immediately return an emailed request seeking comment Wednesday, and neither did anyone who maintains the “Keep Tennessee Courts Fair” Facebook page.
Tennessee Watchdog wanted to ask the campaign if it had any Republican operatives or even any political independents.
Organizing for Action?
Also not responding to a request for comment was Brenda Gadd, listed as the campaign manager for the justices.
As is the case with Andrews, Gadd also has strong Democratic Party ties, having worked for former state Sen. Tommy Kilby and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Gadd also worked for the Tennessee Federation of Democratic Women’s Committee on Youth, according to a joint resolution state senators issued in her honor.
Tennessee Watchdog was also unable to reach the third operative, Victoria McCullough, identified by the Chattanooga Times Free Press as a spokeswoman for all three justices.
Tennessee Watchdog found a Victoria McCullough on Facebook who likes the campaign’s Facebook page, and the same woman has a Twitter page that follows several Tennessee politicians and pages advocating the justices’ retention.
The same Victoria McCullough also follows Nashville attorneys Margaret Behm and Elizabeth Sitgreaves, previously identified as active supporters of the justices’ retention.
According to her LinkedIn profile, McCullough is currently the development chief of staff for Organizing for Action.
As Tennessee Watchdog previously reported, Organizing for Action is a progressive nonprofit devoted solely to advancing President Obama’s agenda and received $21 million last year from 19 wealthy businessmen and women.
Tennessee Watchdog contacted McCullough through her Facebook and Twitter pages Wednesday, but received no immediate response.
McCullough has also worked for Obama’s White House doing public engagement from 2011-2013 and was a regional field director for Obama for America from 2007-2008, according to LinkedIn.
As Tennessee Watchdog previously reported, lawyers in Tennessee are blasting Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s attempts to unseat the three justices. They say politics and money have no business tainting the judiciary.
Some lawyers have called it an act of big business and the Koch brothers trying to buy the election — even though one of the most outspoken lawyers, Lew Conner, told Tennessee Watchdog he had no proof.
Ironically, Conner and other lawyers have hosted huge fundraisers on the justices’ behalf.
Bredesen appointed the three justices. If voters remove even one, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam will replace that person, likely giving Republicans a majority on the court.