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Nashville lawyer announces board for new political venture to back moderate candidates

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Nashville lawyer announces board for new political venture to back moderate candidates

Jun 06, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By J. Holly McCall
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Nashville lawyer announces board for new political venture to back moderate candidates
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(Photo illustration: Getty Images)

The Best of Tennessee, a recently formed nonpartisan group based in Nashville, has named its board of directors, which includes a former Republican state senator and former Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

In a press release, founder Chloe Akers said the group’s mission is to shift Tennessee’s politics from “domination by the fringes,” and that the new board was an example of “how Republicans and Democrats can come together to prioritize what’s best for Tennessee as a whole instead of all-or-nothing partisan politics”

The Best of Tennessee is the latest incarnation of an organization Akers founded in 2023 called The Liminal Plan, created to fight extremism and support candidates supporting reproductive rights, Medicaid expansion and gun safety legislation. 

After The Best of Tennessee launched in April, Akers was criticized by some Liminal Plan donors for spending most of the roughly $440,000 she raised for the earlier effort on consulting services, including $134,307, or about 30% with a firm she owns.

Board members include Mike McWherter, the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor and son of two-term Gov. Ned McWherter, as well as Jim Tracy, a Senior Advisor to the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Tracy was elected to the state senate from Shelbyville’s 14th District in 2008; he resigned when he was appointed to a position in the administration of President Donald Trump in 2017. 

The initiative is comprised of three parts: The Best of Tennessee, Inc., a 501(c)4 nonprofit aimed at increasing voter turnout; The Best of Tennessee Action Fund, a Super PAC that plans to use independent expenditures to support candidates; and The Best of Tennessee Victory Fund, a PAC that proposes to recruit and support candidates who will make “pragmatic and effective leaders.”

The group’s structure as a 501(c)4 allows it to raise money without disclosing its donors and spend money without detailed expense reports. Campaign finance experts refer to these organizations as dark money political groups. 

The setup is similar to that of the state’s education reform groups, such as the Tennessee Federation for Children and TennesseeCan, which have advocated for school vouchers and backed more extreme candidates in Republican primaries to achieve this goal. 

Other board members for the Best of Tennessee

  • Susan Miller Bush, Knoxville. Bush has worked for Bush Brothers & Company, a family owned-company best known for its canned baked beans.
  • Gerald Coggin, Murfreesboro. Coggin retired from Murfreesboro-based National Healthcare Corporation 
  • Jim Coppinger, Chattanooga, former Hamilton County Mayor.
  • Kim Kaegi, Nashville, founder of Kaegi Resources, a Republican fundraising firm.
  • Jeff McGruder, Brentwood. McGruder serves as chief relationship officer for Citizens National Bank.
  • Elliott Moore, Bristol, government relations consultant in the healthcare industry.
  • Jim Seabury, Nashville, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Electric.
  • Susan Simons, Nashville, philanthropist.