NASHVILLE — Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced Monday that he has opened 12 “victory offices” across the Volunteer State as his campaign for the U.S. Senate heats up.
Bredesen announced the opening of offices in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Johnson City, Cookeville and elsewhere, which he said will allow voters to get involved with his campaign and pick up yard signs and bumper stickers.
The offices are open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Bredesen is battling as a Democrat in a deeply conservative state as he attempts to succeed Republican Bob Corker, who is not seeking re-election. That has been a tall order in recent years. While Democrats traditionally controlled Tennessee’s two Senate seats, the pendulum has swung in recent years.
While Huntsville’s Howard H. Baker Jr. was the first Republican since Reconstruction to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee in 1967, he was quickly followed by Bill Brock, and there hasn’t been a Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee since Jim Sasser lost his re-election bid to Bill First in 1994. Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, was elected when Frist retired in 2006.
Bredesen has a leg up, however, in that he served two successful stints as governor in Tennessee, defeating Van Hilleary in 2002 and later winning re-election in 2006. Although Democrats are anxiously eyeing the Tennessee race as an opportunity to bolster their efforts to take back the Senate, Bredesen has sought to purposely strike a moderate tone with his campaign. Last week, after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, Bredesen said he would vote on a Supreme Court nominee on an individual basis rather than partisan politics.
“Justices Scalia and Ginsberg, from opposite ends of the spectrum, each got over 90 votes,” he said. “I’m going to vote for or against a nominee based solely on whether I believe them to be highly qualified and ethical, not based on partisan politics.”
Bredesen’s chief Republican challenger, Marsha Blackburn, charged that Bredesen would be a stumbling block to a Trump nominee.
“This is an important difference between Phil Bredesen and me — he will be with Chuck Schumer who will attempt to block the president’s pick and weaken the court,” Blackburn said.
Polls have found Bredesen leading Blackburn, though the data is aged and has not been updated since April.
While Bredesen has sought to distance himself from most liberal positions, he has hardly campaigned as a conservative. In response to last month’s controversy over the practice of separating immigrant families at the U.S. border, Bredesen charged that America has “placed ourselves on a morally bankrupt path. Today, the real test of our strength as a nation is not whether we’ve made a mistake, it’s whether we recognize where we’ve failed and fix it.”
However, that position is hardly a liberal one; both Corker and Senator Lamar Alexander are on record as opposing the separation of children from their immigrant families. Trump later signed an executive order stopping the policy.
Bredesen has also attacked the Trump administration’s new tariffs, calling them a “new tax on Tennessee” that will impact the state’s economy.
“They will drive up prices, hurt our economy and will cost jobs, especially in our important automotive sector,” Bredesen said. “The retaliatory tariffs that are promised to follow will hurt our exports, damaging farmers and even hitting iconic Tennessee businesses like Jack Daniels.”
Despite coming from opposite parties, Corker and Bredesen have struck a genial tone during the campaign.
Corker, who was once rumored to be a candidate for a position within the Trump cabinet before emerging as one of the president’s fiercest critics from the Republican side, tweeted last month that he was “working with like-minded Republican Senators on ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies.” When he asked whether Democrats would join the effort, Bredesen responded: “I respect Senator Corker for putting Tennessee ahead of Washington politics. These tariffs do a lot of damage to Tennessee businesses. For my part, I call on every Democrat and Republican who cares about our state to stand with him on this.”
While the Blackburn campaign has been notably quieter than the Bredesen campaign, the congresswoman has not shied away from attacking the former governor.
At a GOP fundraiser last month, Blackburn said Bredesen would bring back the policies of former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, also linking him to Nancy Pelosi and Schumer.
"I think Tennesseans have about had enough of that," Blackburn told her audience.
Blackburn has closely aligned herself with the Trump administration, and Vice President Mike Pence will be in Chattanooga later this month to headline a fundraiser for her campaign.