OFF THE RECORD: Source Says Gov. Haslam Is Using His Position as Chairman of Republican Governors Association to ‘Rig’ Primary Election for Randy Boyd

Paul Bennecke, Diane Black. Bill Haslam

A high ranking source who serves on the Republican Governors Association’s (RGA) select national finance committee told The Tennessee Star that current and former RGA staff appear to be actively trying to damage the gubernatorial campaigns of Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) and possibly Bill Lee, while promoting close Haslam ally Randy Boyd in the Republican primary.

Specifically, the source said, Haslam and the RGA Executive Director Paul Bennecke (who Haslam personally hired to the RGA during his previous stint as chairman) were coordinating with at least one White House staff member in an attempt to disparage and downplay Black’s close working relationship with President Trump and with Vice President Mike Pence.

Haslam was a vociferous “Never-Trumper” who just three  weeks before Trump won the 2016 election demanded Trump resign as the nominee and in so doing became the only Republican governor who said he would not be voting for Trump. The governor was particularly incensed when during his recent rally for Marsha Blackburn in Nashville, Trump took time to give Black special attention. During that rally, Trump did not mention any candidates other than Blackburn and Black, singling her out and saying “I want to recognize Diane Black, who is running for Governor. Good luck, Diane.” This followed his mention of Bob Corker, who received loud boos when Trump mentioned his name.

Sources who attended that rally also reported Boyd campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, appeared to be furious at Trump’s praise for Black as well as the fact that Boyd was not invited to appear on stage, nor did Trump mention Boyd’s name.

The RGA official said that word has recently spread to several other governors regarding Haslam’s activity and that seemed to focus on Bernicke as well as Bennecke’s longtime business partner and political ally, Nick Ayres. Ayres preceded Bennecke as RGA executive director (also under Haslam’s previous term as chairman) and is now the chief of staff to Mike Pence. The blog Rocky Top Politics exposed these relationships back in 2016-2017. During the 2014 election Haslam secretly tried to defeat incumbent Republican members of the state legislature whom he considered too conservative or who opposed his attempts to pass Common Core and the expansion of Obamacare. It was revealed after the election that Haslam raised and spent several hundred thousand dollars in the legislative primaries. The political attack firm he paid to go after conservative Republicans was owned and run by Bennecke and Ayres.

Ayres came in for criticism by another long-time Washington insider who said the recent story touting Ayres as a possible replacement for White House chief-of-staff Gen. John Kelly was suspected of having been leaked by Ayres himself to elevate his chances for the post. “Nick Ayres has the reputation of being a shameless self-promoter and this seems right in line with his history,” said the insider.





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10 Thoughts to “OFF THE RECORD: Source Says Gov. Haslam Is Using His Position as Chairman of Republican Governors Association to ‘Rig’ Primary Election for Randy Boyd”

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  4. Rosine Ghawji

    Donal Trump did not endorse Diane. it is etiquette for a president visiting a state to mention all elected officials.

  5. Robert

    Bill Haslam has long conspired (my opinion) with other “heavy hitters” in the Tennessee GOP to make sure only certain allies won certain seats. Randy Boyd is promoted as “Haslam’s Boy” and his win is supposed to be guaranteed. We should remind ourselves that Boyd has been in campaign mode for much more than a year now – kind of like (dare I say!) Hillary Klinton. This Gubernatorial race was supposed to be a slam-dunk for Haslam II, aka Boyd.

    The foul Black (as expected) emerged as a candidate many months ago with plenty of spending money. Haslam had even been friendly towards her until it seemed that she was causing Boyd to slip – what we are seeing now – Haslam is placing soft support behind another candidate – one who has no chance to win. Why? My thoughts are that he is doing so to reach a constituency of mainly women who think a woman as Governor is the “right” thing regardless of history.

    There is a final credible and possible winner – Bill Lee. A win by Lee will make Haslam and his camp look like fools – much as did the national Democrat Party when they allowed Klinton to purchase them and call all the shots – and she still lost a “guaranteed” election. Personally I settled on my choice of Bill Lee some time ago since in my opinion he has the least baggage and is the most trustworthy. He’s also not in the “elite club” (I have other names for it” that has established itself as the sole “rightful” rulers of our State.

    WE have a chance to break/damage the oligarchy that rules, not governs, Tennessee. Let’s make this happen.

    1. 83ragtop50

      Just curious, what makes Bill Lee such a good candidate other than the fact that he has never served in an elected office? To me that is not a good enough reason to vote for someone. I have nothing specifically against Mr. Lee, but he has yet to convince me that not another rich guy like Haslam – supposedly a conservative but only proved to be in the back pocket of big business and the swamp creatures.

  6. Stuart I. Anderson

    Another example of why it is so important for conservatives not to give any money to the incorporated pockets of the Republican Party because that money, or very little of it, finds its way to help the campaigns of conservative candidates. Conservatives should simply remember the modern version of that patriotic American call “Millions for conservative candidates, not a penny for the Republican Party!”

    1. Right on Stuart! I stopped giving to the RrNC and all Republicans a few years ago. If anyone wants to see how horrible life can get under Democrats just go visit California where we came from a couple years ago. California is like living in the third world. You can’t even recognize California as an American state! I refuse to even go back for a visit!

  7. Erik

    Chip Saltzman was furious, babahahaha. From Don Sundquist’s driver to not being able to defend himself when accused of sending racist Christmas gifts. He’s the luckiest person in Tennessee.