published Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Chuck Fleischmann reshuffles staff


by Chris Carroll
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga speaks at the Doubletree Hotel in Chattanooga.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga speaks at the Doubletree Hotel in Chattanooga.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chip Saltsman's upcoming departure sets off a reshuffle in U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's office.

Filling legislative director Jim Hippe's shoes will be Alek Vey, now Fleischmann's press secretary and legislative assistant. Last week Fleischmann announced Hippe will replace Saltsman as chief of staff and top aide beginning Jan. 1.

With Vey's promotion, someone must communicate with the media. That will be Tyler Threadgill, a former Fleischmann campaign operative known for his role in one of the juiciest stories to emerge from last summer's 3rd District Republican primary race.

During Fleischmann's nomination battle with Scottie Mayfield, Threadgill filmed a Mayfield speech in Kingston, Tenn. Afterward, Threadgill hopped into his 2005 Audi and was headed toward the interstate when a motorist told him he had a flat tire. Threadgill noticed someone had cut his tire stem, and he filed a police report.

One of Mayfield's sons soon confessed. The incident attracted national publicity, and Michael Mayfield, 33, later pleaded guilty to vandalism under $500 for slashing the tire.

MCCORMICK EMBRACES 'WORST LEGISLATURE' RATING

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, didn't flinch when a magazine named the Tennessee Legislature the nation's worst in 2012.

"I take it as an honor that Mother Jones would name us the worst legislature because they're a wacky left-wing organization," McCormick said in an interview earlier this month. "That's why the voters of Tennessee kicked the Democrats out, because they're too closely associated with wacky left-wing people."

Mother Jones made a presidential-campaign splash this year when it obtained video of Republican nominee Mitt Romney saying 47 percent of the population is dependent on the federal government and "believe that they are victims."

Writing about Capitol Hill in Nashville, the magazine criticized a Democrat-led bill that cracked down on saggy pants, but focused mostly on Republican initiatives.

Among other measures, the write-up slammed a bill that bans discussion of so-called "gateway" sexual activity, such as genital touching, in sex education courses; a bill that protects teachers critical of evolution and global warming; and legislation -- known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill -- meant to restrict public school discussion of homosexuality.

Asked for a response, McCormick didn't defend any of the controversial measures, but said Volunteer State Republicans don't care what outsiders think.

"That's why we regularly win elections 2-to-1 in Tennessee," McCormick said. "Because of people like the Mother Jones crowd."

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