Bredesen's challenge: convincing people he won't be Schumer's 'lapdog'

Hank Hayes • Aug 22, 2018 at 8:30 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Tennessee U.S. Senate Democratic candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday the key to defeating GOP opponent Marsha Blackburn is convincing people he won’t be a “lapdog” for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Bredesen met with members of the editorial boards of the Kingsport Times News and Johnson City Press and took questions on multiple topics.

Blackburn, a Middle Tennessee congresswoman and former state senator, has been endorsed by President Trump in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Republican Bob Corker.

When asked if he would vote for Schumer to lead the Senate Democratic Caucus, Bredesen said:

“I guess I will decide what to do when I get there. … I have no commitments or promises to vote for anybody. This issue of independence, this election is going to turn on that issue. If this were just a nonpartisan thing between me and Marsha Blackburn, I could win that election just fine. … Anybody who looks at my record as governor would find I was an equal opportunity offender. … Let’s look at the problem in front of us and work to solve that problem. … The stuff I had to do with TennCare drove the national Democrats crazy … (but) all the stuff I did with pre-K made them very happy.”

Bredesen also gave responses to these questions:

Is there anything you would like to say about Marsha Blackburn’s record on opioids?

“One of the things that clearly distinguishes us is the fact that two years ago, she was pushing a piece of legislation that was kind of a stealth piece of legislation that defanged the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), an important tool they had been using making it much more difficult from getting those (opioid) shipments. When confronted on it, she said it was ‘unintended consequences.’ … Opioids is a really complicated problem. People who become addicted, it’s a total range of different experiences. But I do think law enforcement has a role to play in keeping people from getting addicted … in getting rid of the availability of pills. These pill mills really need to be shut down. … They’re kind of like pornography — you can’t define it, but you know what it is when you see it.”

What’s your take on the daily email attacks against you by the Republican National Committee and Tennessee Republican Party?

“I think it’s the swamp at work. I’m trying hard to talk about different kinds of issues in the campaign, shake people’s hands and so on, and still be subjected to this continuous barrage of these things, half of them seem to backfire. We had a concert Monday night that got national publicity. … It’s not my style of trying to do things. That kind of politicking … is a piece of politics, but it ought to be 20 percent, not 95 percent of the game. … I just hate what’s going on (in Washington, D.C.). … I’m for fixing this stuff. I learned a lot as governor and (Nashville’s) mayor that you can build coalitions and get things done. … I’d love to think the clouds will part and the sun will shine on the Capitol when I arrive, but it’s obviously a lot harder than that.”

Tennessee is a deep red state. What kind of reception are you getting as you move around the state?

“I get very good reception. I think this is a very close election, and there’s going to be people who really like me. … I’ve always had a lot of supporters among what I call the ‘economic Republicans’ — the business and professional Republicans.”

Would you vote for Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee?

“What I’ve said is this is a perfect example of the way you ought to do things. … What I think a senator does is look at the evidence. … I think the president has the right to appoint justices in the mold they want. The job of a senator is to evaluate whether they have the capacity and the knowledge they would like to be a Supreme Court justice. … I would listen to the stuff that’s published. I’ve asked the campaign to give me a tape of the hearings. … I think I owe it to people to say how I would vote on that, but I want to do it after I understand what he stands for.”