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Blackburn campaigns on experience, not her gender

Robert Houk • Aug 6, 2018 at 5:34 PM

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who became the first woman from the Republican Party in Tennessee nominated as a candidate for a statewide office on Thursday, said it is her experience, not her gender, that interest voters in the race for U.S. Senate.

“We are going across the state and asking Tennesseans for their vote,” Blackburn, who faces former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in the Nov. 6 general election for the Senate seat now held by Republican Bob Corker, said Monday. “We’ve got 93 days to gain their support.”

Jane Eskind, a Democrat, was the first woman in Tennessee to win her party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1978. Eskind, who died in 2016, lost that race to Republican incumbent Howard Baker.

Two years later, however, she became the first woman elected to a statewide office in Tennessee when she won a seat on the now-defunct Public Service Commission.

Blackburn said she won’t be asking for votes merely “as a woman,” but rather as an experienced former state senator and as an effective member of Congress.

“I don’t want to make gender the center of this race,” she said. “I will center on my experience and service.”

Specifically, Blackburn points to her opposition to a state income tax while serving in the state Senate in the 1990s, and her of work in Washington to extend federal tax credits for the state sales taxes paid by Tennesseans.

“I’m a problem solver,” Blackburn said.

She also said it is important for Tennesseans to elect a U.S. senator who will confirm conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

“We need Constitutionalist judges who will abide by the rule of law,” she said.

Blackburn won the GOP primary last week by defeating a little-known challenger, Aaron Pettigrew, with 84 percent of the vote. The congresswoman attended a unity rally in Nashville on Saturday with her party’s top leaders, including Corker and Sen. Lamar Alexander, as well as Bill Lee, the GOP nominee for governor, and three of the candidates he defeated in the primary last week.

“I think everybody has come together,” she said. “The Republican Party has a deep bench.”

Bredesen, who was the last Democrat to hold a statewide office when he was re-elected governor in 2016, finished ahead of two opponents Thursday with 91.5 percent of the total vote to win his party’s nomination.

“I believe in the notion of a deliberative process in Washington where you talk about things and argue about things, but then you decide and move forward and somehow over the last 10, 15 years, we’ve lost that,” Bredesen said in his victory speech.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini said last week Bredesen and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is facing Lee for governor, are among her party’s “fantastic slate of strong candidates” on the ballot in November.

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