Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer in studio to describe how candidates can win Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District and explained the mindset of voters.
Leahy: We are joined in studio by our longtime friend, good friend Clint Brewer. Recovering journalist and public affairs expert. Clint now, as somebody who’s seen lots of congressional races in Tennessee, what is a candidate going to have to do to win that primary?
Remember, there’s a primary and a general. We haven’t talked and we won’t talk until later about the Democratic primary. But it looks like the Justice Democrats are going to back AOC. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, that crowd.
They’re going to back Odessa Kelly. I think she’s still going to run. By the way, one just as an aside, a very sad, sad note, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leaving Twitter. And the reason is because it’s causing her too much anxiety. I’m so sorry about that.
Brewer: Causing her anxiety?
Leahy: Because when she’s seen without a mask at a party, people make fun of her and she just can’t take it anymore. (Chuckles)
Brewer: I don’t know what to do about that one.
Leahy: Now, but you do know what to do about what these candidates need to do to win in the August 2022 Republican primary in the Fifth Congressional District.
Why don’t you lay out what the old district was, what the new district is, and why this is a good thing for Republican candidates.
Brewer: The old district was Davidson County and a little spillover into some other satellite counties to the north. It was primarily a blue county, blue district, a little bit of purple in there. It’s why you had Jim Cooper in it for so long.
Blue Dog Democrat to the left enough to keep the progressives at bay, to the center enough, where he wasn’t super objectionable to the right. He kind of flew below the radar screen. This new district is interesting.
You’re going to pick up aspects of Davidson County. There’s sort of older parts of Davidson County. Hermitage, Old Hickory, Donelson, sort of that little curve below at the bottom.
And then you pick up Western Wilson County, which is very conservative, but it’s got a lot of new people moving into it. And you’re getting a slice of Williamson County where you’re going to see a similar aspect with maybe a little bit more wealth.
And then you get into Maury County and there’s all of Maury County and it is very much a county in transition. It’s booming, absolutely booming. Again, more new folks. And then you pick up a couple of smaller rural counties.
Leahy: Marshall County and Lewis County.
Brewer: Marshall and Lewis. You’ve got to think about it. The slice of Davidson County that’s left is very much a sort of old-school yellow Dog Democrat from back in the day kind of piece.
You got a lot of older folks there who maybe were affected by NAFTA. You’ve got some plants that shut down there over time. I’m thinking about the Dupont plant in particular, which was downsized. You see a lot of that, but they’re still Democrats.
You also have a ton of new people. You have parts of it that are very much in transition. If you look at the census, you have a real influx of immigrants. You have an influx of first-time homeowners and people who are first-time college graduates.
It’s an incredibly interesting mix. Not necessarily bad for the Republican candidate if you look at how Trump overperformed in some of those categories last time. Davidson County still has to be a focus.
You still have to run on the ground in Davidson County. Wilson County has been a rock-ribbed Republican county for a long time, but a lot of people aren’t going to know where they live. Williamson County, the same way.
And then you get out into Maury County in these rural counties, and you’re going to have to act like an adult, I guess is the best way to say it. Some of the bomb-throwing we’ve seen, some of the silliness that we’ve seen early on, some of the sorts of lack of process, I guess I would say with jumping out there with a presidential endorsement and then jumping out there with, I voted in the primaries.
No, I didn’t vote in the primaries. Kind of from these two transplants, it’s not behavior that’s going to be particularly well-received.
Leahy: No it won’t be. And by the way, before we get into that, and we’ll kind of look at the strengths and weaknesses of the various candidates. One announced, one endorsed, three or four likely.
I think there’s a hurdle for the transplanted carpetbaggers to clear. And that hurdle will be discovered probably next week or the week after they pick up their papers to petition, papers to get the signatures to get on the ballot Monday, and then sometime shortly after Monday.
If Morgan Ortagus announces, then she will be almost certainly challenged. Her bona fides. And Robby Starbuck’s bona fides will absolutely be challenged. Robby will not meet the standard of three out of four of the most recent statewide primaries. Morgan might not.
We haven’t seen her voting record. You have the president endorse you and nobody knows what her voting record is. And then even if she’s voted wherever she’s lived for the past four years or however long, even if she’s voted in three out of four primaries there, it’s unclear right now. There’s some dispute as to whether or not they’d be accepted as a state.
Brewer: Well, let me say this. Let’s just set Mr. Starbuck aside. I would like to see Ms. Ortagus in the race, and I’ll tell you why. She’s a very qualified person, and I’m not expressing a preference here, but I would like to see her compete for the seat.
And I would like to see it because I would like to see the transplant audience, if you will, the new folks represented in a way in this, because it’s going to be a marriage of old and new in this seat.
I think there is room in the debate about who should lead the Fifth District and who should represent it in Congress. I think there’s room. As someone who’s lived there for a very long time.
I think there’s room for that voice in the race. She’s a serious person. These folks want, serious representation. They care about the issues.
They are very hard-working people. It’s a very diverse district. It does trend plus-11 Trump based on the last election. These are folks who care and I think that they deserve serious representation and somebody who speaks with an adult voice.
Leahy: My view would be a little different on that because in that particular case, first, if we talked about this before and I’m still trying to get the data on it, 750,000 people in the district. Let’s say 90 percent of them have lived here for more than two years.
Brewer: That’s a stretch.
Leahy: 85 percent have lived here more than two years.
Brewer: Of likely Republican voters of the 750,000.
Leahy: Probably plus or minus around there. Ninety-nine percent of them have lived here more than have been registered voters for more than two months. So my argument would be I don’t think that one percent that’s just arrived here lately, I don’t think they need a voice.
Brewer: Here’s the thing. If they don’t have a voting record in the state, I don’t mean the candidates, the new voters, it’s hard to track them.
Leahy: Good point.
Brewer: It’s hard as a campaign to go back and look and say they’ve got a voting record that trends this way or that way. There’s a lot of unknowns.
Leahy: I think the point on this is both of them will face challenges.
Brewer: You’re talking procedural.
Leahy: Procedural challenges to getting on the ballot. And I think somebody will have to vouch for Robby. For sure, possibly for Morgan.
And then there’s a special committee, 13 members of the executive committee. The majority will go up or down. I don’t think it’s looking very good for Robby.
Brewer: I want to hear the debate, though. I want to hear what she would bring to the table. And I think that former Speaker Harwell I think Mayor Ogles are being very respectful right now of the process. They’re waiting for the governor to sign the redistricting bill.
Brewer: They’re doing what you do when you understand how politics work in Tennessee. They’re not running out into traffic and saying follow me. I think the complexion of the race will change a lot when we start to hear from folks like that.
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “People Voting” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.