Tennessee House District 45: A Primary Race that Should Matter to all Tennessee Republicans

One of the biggest takeaways from the recent unsuccessful recall effort in Wisconsin was that the politicians making tough decisions for the good of the people they serve can and do get rewarded for their courage. In 2011, Republicans in Wisconsin made bold decisions in the face of protests and threats to pass legislation that turned the state’s deficit into a surplus. Unfortunately a few republican did lose their seats for their courage, but most including the Governor survived. While Tennessee leans more to the right for national elections, democrats have historically controlled the legislature. Republicans first gained control of the General Assembly in 2010. The 2011 session was a disappointment for many activists. The Tennessee Alliance for Tea Party and Liberty Groups reports that none of their priority list bills were passed in the 2011 session. Unfortunately, top Republicans are more focused on “rewarding” incumbents with re-election then responding to the concerns of the voters (http://tnreport.com/blog/2012/06/01/house-republicans-running-rally-round-the-incumbents-campaign/). According to House Majority Caucus Leader Debra Maggart (R, TN-45), “My job is to bring the incumbents back.”

One of biggest challenges facing the nation and Tennessee is how to deal with Obamacare. Obama’s signature achievement dodged a bullet in Tennessee when a health care bill designed to get around Obamacare was defeated on the last day of the session when repubicans would not vote, despite previously expressing support for the legislation. How can we deal with Obamacare in 2012? With challenge comes opportunity, and citizens across the state are responding. The recent redistricting brings the opportunity to offer new challenges to entrenched incumbents and 20 of 64 House Republicans are in contested primaries. Debra Maggart, herself, faces a primary challenge in Retired Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers of Goodlettsville. Rogers is retired from a 28 year career in the armed forces including boots on the ground experience in Operation Just Cause (US invasion of Panama to oust Noriega). Rogers is passionate about liberty and the duty that each citizen has to take their liberty. As someone who has served around that world and studied Cold War Soviets in college, Rogers understands and articulates the dangers of totalitarianism and the toll it takes on the human spirit. She speaks light-heartedly about the administration’s numerous watch lists, but she credits these and other Obama policies with urging her to share her views in the public square.

Already Republicans are starting to take sides on this race. Governor Haslam is supporting Debra Maggart and is participating in fundraising for her, while former State Senator Kerry Roberts is showing his support for Rogers. The Tennessee Firearms Association is targeting Maggart for blocking an up or down voter on the House floor for a gun rights bill. As majority caucus chair, Maggart has influence on how Tennessee state house is run and by blocking the gun rights law she has shown her willingness to use that power. For this reason, the primary in TN district 45 should be of interest for all Tennessee Republicans. For tea party activists, defeating Maggart could be vital to getting key legislation passed in the 2012 session. This district did change since the last redistricting, and this will be the first time Maggart has faced primary opposition since winning office in 2004. Maggart has easily won in general election races as this is a predominately republican district.

At first glance, this appears to be a battle of an entrenched establishment Republican against a conservative opposition candidate, but there is more at stake than that. It is about what kind of message the 45th district want to send to repubicans in Nashville. The republican establishment does seem to be lining up behind Maggart, and that should not be a surprise. Rogers however is a top notch candidate and her voice and experience would be a refreshing change and an opportunity to see more conservative legislation in the 2013 session. Rogers understands the big picture. She gets it. The challenge will be getting her to Nashville to share that vision. The first obstacle is the Tennessee primary August 2nd.

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