Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Lee is pushing back against GOP primary opponents' criticisms of him in a new television ad in which he scolds them as "politicians" frightened by "the only true conservative outsider."
"Well, I've got three politicians running attack ads against me right now," the Franklin businessman says in the 30-second spot that began airing Friday. "So I figured I better tell you why. We're winning. And they're scared."
Lee's poll standings have started rising in the past few weeks as Republicans U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin and Knoxville entrepreneur and former state economic development commissioner Randy Boyd began bashing each other in their ads.
But now, Black and Boyd have turned their focus on Lee, criticizing him and questioning his support of President Donald Trump as well as political contributions he made in the past to former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat running for governor, as well as former governor and former Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen, the presumptive Democratic U.S. Senate nominee.
Speaking directly into the camera, Lee seeks to counter the latest charges against him, saying "Just so you know the truth, I fully support Donald Trump, voted for him, went to his inauguration. Of course I oppose amnesty and sanctuary cities. As for my political contributions, 99 percent have gone to Republicans. I'm the only conservative outsider in a field of politicians."
Boyd has never held elective office but served as a special education adviser to incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Haslam before becoming Haslam's commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, which he left in January 2017.
The fourth Republican primary hopeful, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville, hasn't overtly attacked anyone, but in a much-noticed recent ad did portray Lee, Black and Boyd as squabbling children in a playroom as a wailing clarinet and a pogo stick provided cartoon-like mayhem to the visuals.
Early voting in the Aug. 2 GOP and Democratic state primaries began last week and continues through July 28.
Dean faces state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley in Democrats' primary. Their final televised debate is on Sunday at 8 p.m. (EDT) in Knoxville. It's sponsored by Tennessee-based station affiliates of Nexstar Media Group
Black praised by ICE union chief in radio ad
Speaking of Black, her campaign on Friday released a new radio ad in which National Immigration and Customs Enforcement President Chris Crane praises the congresswoman as being "as tough on immigration enforcement as they come."
The ad begins with an announcer saying "Who can you trust to tell the truth about our immigration crisis? Chris Crane, President of the National ICE Council – the organization made up of over 6,000 men and women on the front lines for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, ICE."
Next comes Crane who says "I represent the law enforcement officers who enforce our nation's immigration laws and keep our communities safe. And they have no greater friend than Diane Black.
"Diane Black stood tough on immigration enforcement and border security, even when it was hard," Crane says. "When the Obama Administration undermined ICE officers, Diane Black stepped up. She backed law enforcement when others were afraid. Now, Diane Black stands with President Trump to enforce our immigration laws to the letter."
Noting that "political campaigns are full of misrepresentations and lies," Crane concludes, saying "make your decisions on the facts. And the fact is, Diane Black is as tough on immigration enforcement as they come."
Meanwhile, neither Black nor U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Brentwood Republican now running for U.S. Senate, voted on a Republican resolution praising ICE in the wake of some liberal Democrats' calls to abolish the agency.
It was not immediately clear as to why.
WAPO's Fact Checker gives Bredesen Three Pinocchios on meth claim
The Washington Post's Fact Check last week gave Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen three out of four "Pinocchios" for his assertion that Tennessee's meth problem was "cut in half" when he was governor following passage of a 2005 law he signed restricting sales of certain cold medications used to manufacture the illegal drug.
Bredesen made the claim in response to questions posed by The Oak Ridger about the state's current opioid problem.
The Post, citing a Bredesen spokeswoman, said Bredesen's "cut in half" assertion was referring to the number of meth lab incidents or seizures reported to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after the law took effect.
"Without diminishing Bredesen's efforts in 2005 or questioning his credibility on the opioid crisis, the fact is that Tennessee's meth problem was not 'cut in half' under his watch," The Post said. "Measuring the number of meth lab incidents or seizures from 2005 to 2007 is very convenient but rather misleading, especially since these figures began to climb in 2008 and continued to rise through the end of Bredesen's term as governor."
The Post also noted DEA's figures on meth lab incidents or seizures "may not be as reliable a gauge of the 'meth problem' as they once were. One-pot meth makers don't need a meth lab to ply their trade. Mexican drug cartels aren't making their meth in the United States.
"For his selective memory," The Post said, "Bredesen earns Three Pinocchios."
Compiled by Andy Sher.