Philip Blumel: We mean it, man.
Philip Blumel: Hi, my name is Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of August 15th, 2022.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: How many times must voters be asked the same question before politicians get the message? In Memphis, it takes three so far. On August 4th, voters once again shot down a proposal, put on the ballot by the Memphis City Council in Tennessee, to change the two-term limit on the mayor and council to a three-term limit and allow the mayor and council to run again. But get this: The last time the voters were asked this exact same question by the council was just four years ago. Back in 2018, 60% of the voters said no. Earlier this month, 66% of the voters said, “No, no, no, no. Hell no. Read my lips. No means no.” It wasn’t that long ago that voters first put term limits on the ballot and passed it in Memphis. The popular voter-approved eight-year term limits were first enacted only in 2008. But grasping Memphis politicians are only playing catch-up with the breathlessly arrogant politicians of Nashville’s Metro Council, who have asked voters six times to repeal or weaken their voter-approved eight-year term limits. No, no, no, no, no, no. Is that six? I lost count. Anyway, the first time was in 1996, just two years after the term limits were originally voted in in 1994, then again in 1998, two years later, then 2002, 2008, 2015, 2018. “No way, Jose,” the voters clearly say.
Philip Blumel: Alright, back to Memphis. This hubris is hard to imagine. Obviously, it is only the politicians who are clamouring for weaker term limits. Well, them and a shadowy group who funded the effort. A political action committee known as Memphis for Growth and Progress purchased more than 100,000 in advertising to try to convince Memphis voters to put the interests of the politicians and special interests above their own. But where did this money come from? We could only guess. As the PAC’s campaign finance filing suggests, the money came from another PAC called Re-envision Memphis, and that PAC doesn’t specify the source of the funds. But having been involved in dozens of these campaigns, maybe it’s hundreds now, I’m quite confident all the money came from special interests who routinely do business with the council. Don’t doubt it. But I do have to give the Memphis politicians a little credit, and I’m not joking here. At least the Memphis politicians asked the voters a straightforward question. They asked simply if Memphis term limits on the council and mayor should be changed from two terms to three. This is a simple question, and voters gave them a simple answer.
Philip Blumel: When US Term Limits was first informed about this new ballot measure, of course we were concerned at first. But then we read the ballot language, and we relaxed. I mean voters would never go for that. It clearly weakens term limits. We know voters everywhere want term limits. I also should give a little bit more of an enthusiastic shout-out to Van Turner. Now, he’s a former Chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners and current President of the Memphis NAACP. As he told the press prior to the election, “The only reason I was able to be elected to office was because of term limits. And now that I am term-limited on the County Commission, other leaders coming behind me will have the opportunity to serve. That’s why I’m urging voters to vote no on the current referendum,” which they did. Now, politicians elsewhere in the country look at cities like Memphis and they know that if they wanna keep their positions of power, they have to be more clever than to just ask a simple, straightforward question.
Philip Blumel: In previous podcasts, we have been telling the story of Michigan, where state legislators put a measure on the statewide ballot for November that they claim will, “Reduce overall time in the legislature by replacing Michigan six-year House term limits and eight-year Senate term limits with an overall 12-year limit.” Get it? Right now, it’s allegedly 14, six in the House, eight in the Senate. But they’re gonna make it an overall 12. Well, that makes it look like you are reducing the overall time in the legislature, making the term limit tougher. But that’s not true. [chuckle] In other words, instead of asking an honest question like they did in Memphis, the Michigan legislators are creating a cloud of obfuscation because the Michigan State House has 110 members and the Senate has only 38. So it’s pretty clear you don’t get done with six and then spend the rest of your time in the Senate. Very few members of the House ever make it to the Senate. I mean you have to win a competitive election as a non-incumbent. Well, that’s really where the voters get to weigh in and make decisions of who represent them. It’s very easy to run for your own seat, where most politicians win re-election whether it’s a term-limited legislature or not. So in other words, you have to win a competitive election, not just cruise back to victory, right?
Philip Blumel: So when you look at the fact of the matter, the Michigan proposal actually doubles the term limits from six to 12 years in the House and weakens the term limit by 50%, that is to say eight-year limit to 12-year limit in the Senate. So the politicians of Michigan want the exact same thing as the Memphis council members, weaker term limits, but they’re willing to lie to get it. They know they can’t ask a straightforward question. They already tried that in Michigan, and the voters said, “No can do.” Well, after the break, US Term Limits Executive Director Nick Tomboulides will share with us how term limits fared in the August 2nd elections in Arizona.
Speaker 3: This is a public service announcement.
Speaker 2: In this short clip, Michigan’s term limits activist Jeff Tillman, of US Term Limits, stands up at a July political event and asks the candidate, in this case former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley, to sign a pledge to defend existing term limits in the state. In front of a crowd, the candidate is happy to do so and gets a warm reception as he does. As it turns out, Ryan Kelley lost in the August 2 GOP primary. But he was defeated by Tudor Dixon, another signer of the USTL term limits defender pledge. Pledges work, and Jeff shows how it’s done.
Ryan Kelley: Anybody got any questions that they’d like to ask? Yes, sir. You wanna bring him a microphone so everybody can hear? Give us just a quick second, if you would. Or here, I’ll bring this microphone to you. We’ll do this. That way, we can get moving on. We can begin. Here you go, sir.
Jeff Tillman: Governor Kelley, I wanted to be the first to say it.[laughter]
Ryan Kelley: Speak it into existence.[laughter]
Jeff Tillman: Jeff Tillman with US Term Limits. I understand that you really appreciate and value and are willing to defend Michigan’s term limits that were hijacked. They’re attempting to change those. US Term Limits has a pledge. Would you be willing to pledge and support?[applause]
Speaker 6: Yeah.
Speaker 7: Tell him to read it.
Ryan Kelley: I’m gonna read this to you guys. Can I bring your thing up here for a second?
Jeff Tillman: Absolutely.
Ryan Kelley: Okay. This says here…
Speaker 7: Come on up with us, Jeff.
Ryan Kelley: Yeah, come on up, Jeff. Come here. US Term Limits State Pledge. I, fill in the blank… That’s probably gonna be me, right?[laughter]
Ryan Kelley: Pledge to take no action that would aid or abet the abolition or lengthening of term limits to which elected officials in Michigan are subject. So we’re saying that where it stays now, I wouldn’t sign anything to change it ’cause I know they’re trying to change it. We’re gonna sign this right now, guys.[applause]
Nick Tomboulides: Alright, I’ve got some breaking news from one of the biggest term limits battlefields, and that is the State of Arizona. On our last podcast, I told you there were some very important primary elections coming up in Arizona that would determine whether the votes will be there to pass the term limits convention in the next session. And there were a few very vulnerable incumbents who were facing challenges from term limits pledge signers. We only talked about two of them last week, but there were actually five Arizona incumbents who had killed the term limits convention bill in the last session. There were two senators, Wendy Rogers and Tyler Pace, and then there were three House members, Judy Burges, John Fillmore, and Joel John. Five incumbents in total who were anti-term limits and had done everything in their power to defeat our bill. And in every single one of those races before Tuesday, US Term Limits did a substantial amount of voter education mailers. In some of those districts, another term limits group did door-to-door activism. And I’m happy to report that four of those five anti-term-limit incumbents have been defeated. They have been wiped out by the voters in a political earthquake, the likes of which I don’t think people have seen before in Arizona.
Nick Tomboulides: Think about it. Incumbents around the country, regardless of what level of government, have a 95% re-election rate. But last Tuesday, 80% of the incumbents who blocked congressional term limits lost their seats. So the voters in Arizona stepped up, and they held these career politicians accountable for their actions. It’s something you almost never see. It’s so unusual to see politicians held accountable, but this was the black swan, this was the unicorn. This was the moment when people finally said, “Enough is enough. We’re gonna vote for a term limits candidate, not for these crusty incumbents who keep stopping us from fixing our United States Congress. So the breakdown of the vote of these races, of the results, Judy Burges, in House District 1, lost. She had voted against term limits. John Fillmore, House District 7, lost. He had voted against term limits. District 25, incumbent Joel John lost. He had been against term limits, helped kill the bill. District 9, Arizona State Senate, Tyler Pace got drubbed. Tyler Pace voted against the term limits convention on the floor of the Arizona State Senate. He lost 65 to 35. Term limit pledge signer Robert Scantlebury mopped the floor with Tyler Pace.
Nick Tomboulides: The one race where the anti-term-limit incumbent did prevail was Senate District 7. In that race, Wendy Rogers won. She defeated Kelly Townsend by about 60 to 40, but Rogers had out-spent Townsend something like 17 to one. Rogers had spent, I think, $1.75 million on her re-election campaign. And considering those circumstances, she didn’t win by all that much. I kinda wish they kept statistics in politics like they do for baseball because I can’t remember a campaign with a worse dollars to votes ratio, maybe Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. That’s the only one I can remember that’s even close, but it’s a photo finish between Wendy Rogers and Jeb Bush on who can waste more donor dollars on a re-election campaign. It’s a true race to the bottom. So Wendy will be sticking around. But overall, this was a big, big night for term limits supporters in Arizona, a great result. US Term Limits was also active in open-seat races. And of the eight open-seat races where we were involved, the pro-term-limits candidate, the pledge-signing candidate, won seven out of eight times.
Nick Tomboulides: So again, if the numbers weren’t there before, in Arizona, to move the term limit convention over the finish line, the numbers are most definitely there now. And we’re not taking our foot off the pedal. We’re gonna be informing voters all the way through November. We’re gonna be informing voters after November and into the next session of the legislature because this is do or die time in Arizona. We know the leadership is good. They have always been solid on term limits. The one majority leader in the Senate, Rick Gray, who was a bad guy, was against it, he’s gone. He retired, so we’re getting a new person in his seat who is gonna be voting with us. There’s some solid Democrats in the Arizona legislature like Jesus Lugo and Alma Hernandez. It’s a bipartisan effort. And we’re gonna be putting every resource we have in Arizona into this campaign to get the term limits convention passed through both chambers this spring.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The term limits convention bills are moving through the state legislatures. This could be a breakthrough year for the term limits movement. To check on the status of the term limits convention resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. There, you will see if it has been introduced and where it stands in the committee process on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a Take Action button by your state. Click it. This will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s termlimits.com/takeaction. If your state has already passed the term limits convention resolution, or the bill has not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US Term Limits. It is our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress, and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate. Termlimits.com/donate. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: Contact your state lawmakers before they vote on term limits for Congress. Go to termlimits.com/takeaction.
Speaker 9: USTL.