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Chapter SIX. Don’t Do the Debate. 

Updated: 2 days ago

(The Chamber of Commerce is not your friend).


Extract of "Things I wish I knew before running for office. A true story of small-town-dirty-politics. A real experience of running a city council campaign in Gallatin Tennessee" written by Michelle Landry Jouvence during the 2020 Gallatin Alderman At Large Campaign.


Jimmy Overton (city councilman, and on the executive committee of the chamber), is a big bully. He and Shawn Fennell are attached at the hip. They go everywhere together. JO tried to start a fight twice with Pascal during early voting. Got in his face and kept asking him why he didn’t attend the debate? IN HIS FACE. Without a mask on.


The fact that JO was so bent out of shape over Pascal not doing the debate is 100% proof to me that Pascal made the right decision to not do the debate. Our advice to future potential candidates is: Do NOT participate in candidate forums or debates organized by the Chamber of Commerce. These are rigged. Even if they claim, and in fact do not give the “questions” to candidates ahead of time, it seemed and looked like they gave certain candidates the topics of what would be asked. They stated clearly that the candidates did not bring notes with them. But in watching the debate on FB, I could clearly see SF glancing down at something on his table, as he speaks, giving statistics. I thought, what is he looking at?  I thought, he didn’t write anything on his notepad during the question or during Lea’s response. Well, he had his phone with him. You can see him clearly interacting with it during the debate. I wonder who was feeding him info during the forum? If you want to see this specific and obvious example, watch at approximately 52 minutes in, you can see him looking down at it as he gives specific statistics about the crime rate being down, how many police officers per capita, etc.


I think the Chamber of Commerce is a good organization. I like their CEO Kim Baker, she is a nice lady and I think she does a good job at the chamber. The Chamber of Commerce is a quasi-governmental agency that receives $40K/year of our city tax dollars. In my opinion, they should not be organizing a candidate forum and should not be crafting questions for local political candidates. Talk about two people attached at the hip, Mayor Paige Brown (who is a former Gallatin Chamber of Commerce director), and current Chamber CEO, Kim Baker are, and everyone knows it. Mayor Brown is friends with Shawn Fennell and was supporting his campaign.  Shawn is the one who even introduced Paige to her boyfriend. Jimmy Overton is friends with Shawn Fennell and was supporting his campaign. Councilman Overton has a lot of involvement and influence with the chamber, (he is even on the committee who grants our tax money to them). The chamber has no business sponsoring a political debate.


Another interesting fact is that Meta (formerly known as Facebook) is the Gallatin Chamber of Commerce’s largest sponsor. The 2020 candidate forum had several questions about Facebook’s Data center coming to Gallatin, and a lot of time was spent painting Facebook in a positive light during the forum. The Chamber is bought and paid for and has no business sponsoring a political debate.


When Pascal was initially invited to participate, he was not sure if he should participate or not in the candidate forum. He thought No. He originally asked Kim Baker if they would change the format to a town hall, where citizens would ask the questions. She said no. He was wary of participating. He did not trust the chamber of commerce. They had been very partial to Shawn Fennell and Eileen George. Pascal asked a person who had previously run for office what the debate was like, this person told Pascal, “I was not offered a debate.” Looking into this further, it seems that there was no Chamber sponsored city council candidate forum in 2014 or 2016. There was one in 2012, and then 2018. Why? There were two outsider candidates that “they” were trying to take down in 2018. Maybe that’s why they started up again.


When the chamber contacted Pascal in September about the candidate forum, the date for it was less than a week away. Pascal was not available. They changed the date for October. He said he was available. He asked if Robert E. Lea (the third candidate, besides Shawn and Pascal who was running for the At Large seat) was participating? There was no confirmation. The forum was scheduled for Oct 15, a Thursday. On Monday, Oct 13 at 2pm, and again on Wednesday, Oct 14 at 4:30pm, Pascal received an email from Kim Baker with the forum instructions. The interesting part was where it said the MC would make an announcement that Robert Lea was not attending because he was on a family vacation. Hmmm...that was odd.  A debate between only two of the three candidates? And no questions asked of Lynda Love or Eileen George? They were running unopposed and would simply give a two-minute statement at the forum. Pascal then called three different people who intimately know politics in this town to ask their advice. All three advised Pascal not to do the debate. They told him that the Chamber of Commerce was not on his side.


Pascal decided not to do the debate. He wrote a statement as to why he was not doing it and sent it to the chamber on Thursday AM. He posted his statement on his FB page. He sent a copy to the Gallatin News. He told Kim she could read his statement at the forum. Kim Baker responded by writing a long statement on her FB page about how she is neutral. She wrote Pascal an email about how she is neutral. At the forum that evening, they did not read Pascal’s statement. They read a statement that was prepared by the Chamber, which stated that he had decided not to attend because he didn’t like the format of the debate. The way it was written, purposely painted Pascal in a negative light. They lied to make themselves look good and make Pascal look bad. The Gallatin News article did not make a statement as to why Pascal did not attend the forum, they just stated that he did not attend.


That day, Pascal and Shawn Fennell were at early voting, campaigning. At about 3pm Pascal texted me – “guess what? Lea is attending the forum now (laughing emoji)” my response – “What! LOL I thought he was on vacation.”


The information that Lea was attending was in Kim Baker’s “I’m neutral” email to Pascal.


Pascal told me that when Shawn left the polling place to head to the forum, he said to Pascal, “you’re not doing the debate – are you scared to debate me?”


Yeah, so this thing was not rigged at all? The “debate” was nothing if there was no one to debate. Two unopposed seats and the At large seat with three candidates and only one guy shows up – BORING! So “they” got Lea to do the debate because he wasn’t really on vacation? The whole thing was fishy, fishy, fishy!


Besides them getting caught with the Robert E Lea flip flop; there was also the stark hypocrisy of the social distancing and mask wearing required for the debate, but then Kim Baker, Josh Cross (newspaper), and the candidates all stood shoulder to shoulder, unmasked, for the newspaper photo. And, why didn’t they just have the candidates in the photo? Why was Kim Baker featured in the center of the photo of the City Council candidates? That photo was the embodiment of the 2020 local election. The chamber of commerce is centrally embedded in local politics.


What this town needs, is a true town hall style forum with questions from citizens.

 



 



The next day, the 16th, at early voting at Freedom Church, Jimmy Overton was in Pascal’s face trying to pick a fight. I was there, and saw JO get in P’s face. They were about 20 feet away on the other side of the car. I walked over. JO was saying “why didn’t you do the debate?” In Pascal’s face, trying to start a fight in front of a bunch of people in line to vote. Pascal kept telling him “Get away from me.” I walked up, put my sign in front of me, got between them and walked JO backwards away from us, all the time holding my sign in front of me to keep him away. He kept saying to me “Why didn’t Pascal do the debate? He can’t tell the truth, that’s why didn’t do the debate.” I kept walking, pushing him away, keeping eye contact with him, sign in front of me. He finally walked away back to Shawn.


Then, on Monday, the 19th, Pascal texted me that JO was there at Freedom Church, trying to pick a fight AGAIN. Pascal said lines were short. I should come vote. I got there, JO said to me – “What, Pascal call you to come defend him?” I just rolled my eyes, walked past him, and went and got in line to vote.


Several people, including Jimmy Overton and the FB attack dogs used social media to accuse Pascal of not doing the debate “because he was a liar”. “Because he can’t tell the truth”. KCT’s comment was “Pascal’s not showing was sad, pathetic, and petty.”

Sad. Pathetic. Petty.


In hindsight, quite the opposite is true. Pascal’s not showing was decisive, insightful, and noteworthy. He made a choice to not participate in the debate and revealed that the debate is rigged. He made the right decision. The fact that Pascal’s viciously antagonistic opponents were SO angry about him not doing the debate, is proof. It’s significant. They cared TOO MUCH that he did not do the debate. Why?




 



 



 

 

 

 

 

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