Tennessee GOP Primary "Endorsements"

On Thursday, Tennessee will hold their primary elections.  There is a gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional elections this year in the Volunteer State.

For Governor, incumbent Republican Bill Haslam will face three opponents in his primary.  Upon analysis, Haslam may not be the most conservative Republican governor in office.  But, he is the most likely Republican in Tennessee to keep the office in Republican hands.  For example, one opponent’s website- Mark “Coonrippy” Brown- takes you to “where it all began- Hannah Montana coon repellent.”  Another, that of Basil Marceaux, talks about JFK’s plan for world disarmament.  This sounds as if all the strangest possible Republican candidates for any office anywhere convened in Tennessee and decided to take on Bill Haslam.  Therefore, by default, the endorsement must go to Bill Haslam.

Lamar Alexander seeks another term in the Senate.  Alexander is not exactly the most conservative Republican Senator in that chamber.  That is reflected in the fact that he has drawn seven primary opponents this year, two of whom may represent somewhat of a challenge.  Truth be known, this writer does not have a major problem with Alexander per se.  He may actually be slightly to the right of Tennessee’s other Senator, Bob Corker.

If a serious challenge comes, it will be from one of two opponents- state representative Joe Carr or Brenda Lenard.  Most polling, however, shows an easy Alexander victory.  If so, then Tennessee is none the worse for wear.  Could they improve?  I believe so and that would be through the person of Brenda Lenard.  The optics alone remove two talking points from the Democrats- Lenard is a woman and she is African-American.  But more than anything else, the views on her website very closely align with my personal views in key areas.  Most interesting is the fact that she has left the social issues off the table here.  I am going with Brenda Lenard not because of a dislike or distrust of Lamar Alexander, but because of a like and trusting of Brenda Lenard.

Seven of Tennessee’s nine Representatives are Republican and all are seeking reelection.  They all will face primary opponents of varying degrees of electability.  Some may view this as the alleged intra-party strife within the GOP, but the fact is Tennessee has developed into a fairly reliable red state- more so than its neighbor, Kentucky- and the Republican bench is deep in this state.

Incumbent Phil Roe will face two opponents in the 1st District.  This is the very conservative and very Republican northeast district of the state.  Roe will face activist and pastor Dan Hartley for the right to go to Washington.  The Democrats have yet to field a candidate.  It was 1881 when a Democrat last represented this area so whoever wins is almost an automatic general election winner.  Considering that Roe first won in 2008, he is not “entrenched” as many would believe.  There is no need to shift course and reelecting Phil Roe is the way to go.

Comprising the east central portion of Tennessee, the 2nd District is represented by incumbent Republican John Duncan.  Personally, I would place Duncan as more conservative than Roe in a district less conservative or Republican as Roe’s.  He will be opposed by businessman Jason Zachary.  Other than Zachary’s views on education and abortion, there are enough question marks to eliminate his candidacy.  I support John Duncan.

The Chattanooga-based 3rd District is represented by Chuck Fleischmann who was first elected in 2010.  Thus, he, like Duncan, is not “entrenched.”  He is also solidly conservative.  He will be opposed in the primary by Weston Wamp, the son of former Congressman Zach Wamp who retired seeking the 2010 gubernatorial nomination which he lost to Haslam.  Ideologically, there is little light between Wamp and Fleischmann so the question remains why Wamp would seek the seat other than political advancement.  I am sure Weston Wamp will make a fine congressman one day, but not this year and the endorsement goes to Chuck Fleischmann.

The 4th District is solidly Republican (+18 by Cook).  Incumbent Scott DesJarlais won in 2010 defeating 4-term Democrat Lincoln Davis in a GOP wave year.  No matter who emerges from this primary, they will win the general election.  The problem for DesJarlais is ethical.  There was some pressure along the way- especially in 2012 and 2013- for him to step aside.  If true, the allegations that he had sexual relationships with patients while practicing medicine are just creepy.

He has drawn two six primary opponents smelling blood.  I have no doubts about DesJarlais’ conservative bona fides.  The problem is perception and possible hypocrisy.  The fact remains that he is a stain on the GOP brand.  Because there are six opponents and no runoff in Tennessee, DesJarlais could possibly skate by with a plurality of the vote. He is also not a particularly good fund raiser.  Most pundits believe state senator Jim Tracy has the best chance of winning here.  However, I am going to go outside the box and endorse a non-politician and go with John Anderson.  But should Tracy prevail, it is just as well.

The Nashville-based 5th is represented by Democrat Jim Cooper.  This district can be taken with the right Republican.  Only because he has the experience, albeit in losing causes, this writer is going with businessman Bob Ries.  This is likely not a targeted district by the GOP, but just making it close would be interesting (that is, keeping Cooper under 55%).

Diane Black represents the 6th District for the GOP.  This district has oscillated between Democrats and Republicans in the recent past and also gave us Al Gore at one time.  In fact, before Black’s election in 2010, except for a 10-year period from 1972-1982, this area was reliably Democratic since Reconstruction.  Amos Powers will represent the Democrats this time out while Black faces Jerry Lowery in the GOP primary.  This is a close one for the GOP ideologically.  However, in the final analysis it may be best to leave well enough alone and this writer endorses the candidacy of Diane Black (although Lowery would be an acceptable alternative).

In the 7th, GOP incumbent Marsha Blackburn faces token primary opposition in Jacob Brimm.  The question is, “WHY?”  Blackburn is one of the more conservative members of the Republican caucus and there is no reason to replace her in the House.

The final GOP primary will occur in the 8th District and is represented by Republican Stephen Fincher.  First elected in 2010, this district had been reliably Democratic since the end of Reconstruction.  Before Fincher, Democrats held the seat (except for one term) since 1920.  He will be opposed by Dana Metheny and Ralph Mills.  Although no Marsha Blackburn ideologically, Fincher is still solidly conservative and there is no good reason to go against him.  Therefore, the endorsement goes to Stephen Fincher.

Charlotte Bergmann, an African-American woman, will go up against Steve Cohen in the 9th.  This is Tennessee’s only minority-majority district and is based in Memphis.  Although reliably Democratic, this race in November needs to be watched and will be discussed in detail later in the year.

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