Thursday, February 16, 2006


Once Again At A Crossroads

It's quite amazing how the Lord works. Just yesterday, I remarked to the VOLConWife that everything seemed to have settled down, that our progress over the past few months was noticeable. Through my experiences, though, that is when God likes to put something before you that shocks your system from its routine, that tests you. That was the case when my good friend, Congressman Bill Jenkins, announced his retirement from the House of Representatives yesterday. He has served those of us from the First District admirably in the tradition of Jimmy Quillen, and he will be missed.

For those who truly know me or have pegged me down on the issue, it is no secret that I consider being elected as the Congressman from the First District of Tennessee the highest honor an East Tennessean can be paid. I have gone on record as saying that if God led me to that particular office that it would be the highest political office I would ever seek. And now, in 2006, an opportunity presents itself.

It is time for some disclosure. I first began hearing rumblings that Bill was interested in retiring in early Spring of 2004 when I was working for the National Rifle Association. I contacted several members of his staff and spoke to them to gauge how serious the rumors were, and I concluded that they were quite real regarding his retirement in 2006. Those feelings were confirmed that Fall during the 2004 election cycle. Speaking with Bill himself and talking with others who were campaigning with him, I felt fairly sure that this was Bill's last rodeo.

Then something changed. I was able to speak candidly with Bill at the Kingsport Wild Game Feast in February of 2005. Our 30 minute conversation led me to believe that Bill had been rejuvenated and would stay in Congress until 2008 or 2010. Those beliefs were reinforced at the Washington County Lincoln Day Dinner, the Tennessee Statesmen's Dinner last summer, and various events in Greene County and Hawkins County. Then the blogger known as "Conservatore Pensieri" - who outed himself as Vance Cheek right before he quite wrongfully pulled the plug on the blog - reported that Jenkins was acting as if he would stay in Congress for one or two more terms. This was somewhat settling to me, because that was the same read that Bill had given me and it enabled me to work for other political campaigns instead of focusing on a possible run of my own. Then, the shocking news on Wednesday changed everything.

The field will certainly be crowded. Vance Cheek (referenced above) spoke to me in mid-2004 and stated that he would in fact be running whenever Jenkins decided to retire. Vance is the former mayor of Johnson City and one of the few Republican holdovers from the Sundquist Administration that were retained by Bredesen as a Claims Commissioner. I am disappointed in Vance for erasing his digital paper trail by deleting his blog. That's something I would expect from those across the aisle, to be quite honest. Many people are talking about Anne Pope, who ran a good campaign when the seat last became open in 1996, but everyone who I have talked to in the past year has said that she is comfortable at the Appalachian Regional Commission and would prefer to stay out of this race. Ron Ramsey will not run, and neither will Jim Holcomb, who told me such in 2004 and again in 2005. Tennessee Rep. David Davis will run and will be one of the conservative candidates that will receive significant backing. I like David - always have - but I'm not sure if he has the gravitas to fill the seat of Bill Jenkins and Jimmy Quillen. Richard Venable will not run, as he lost the last major election he ran in his home area in 2004. I've heard that Al Schmutzer, the retiring District Attorney for several 1st District counties including Sevier and Cocke, will run. Zane Whitson may run (I haven't spoken with anyone near him as of this time), but his recent work as a lobbyist might make this a poorly-timed endeavor. In addition, I have heard the names of Jackson Cox and Jeff Anderson mentioned, as well, both of whom have experience working in Washington (Anderson was Jenkins' first Chief of Staff). It wouldn't surprise me if one of those men put announced in the next few days. It isn't worth discussing the Democratic challengers, with the notable exception of Rep. Nathan Vaughn, who has always struck me as being in the wrong party.

I haven't spoken with too many people outside of family members regarding this decision. I last spoke to Ed Bryant about it in 2004 (when it looked as if the seat would come open) and have not revisited that subject with him since that time. As I stated above, an opportunity presents itself. Now I need to take the time to decide if this is what I should do. I ask for your indulgence while I put this matter to prayer.

Thank you.

How does the fact that you don't even live in the 1st district play into your decision?
Rob, My thoughts are with you as you consider this race. It is a matter of the heart and if the fires in the belly, then you will do well.

Where is Jason Mumpower on this? I thought Ron Ramsey may run and then Jason would run for the senate seat. Ramsey has announced he is staying in the senate, which means Jason will sit tight in the state house or amke a run for Congress.

I was involved in 1996, helping my friend Jim Holcomb. It was fun running in the first. I have never lived in the first, but travel through it alot on business.

Good Luck, My friend
The reality is that the federal Constitution does not require Congressman to reside in the district they are elected in for a reason: Districts shift. I can speak to this. I formerly lived in Ohio, and I saw the town where I lived represented by the same member of Congress for years, then cut in two by redistricting.

Our nation has a long history of electing Congressmen not native to a particular district but who did live nearby. I don't think that disqualifies Rob in the least, so long as his heart is with the interests of the people of the 1st District.

I wonder if people who stew over such things would make it such a big deal if it were some celebrity-type.

As someone who hopes to seek public office in the State of Tennessee myself one of these days (I hope sooner rather than later) I would hope folks would know I wouldn't run for an office that my heart wasn't invested in, or choose to represent people I don't care about.

I know Rob's heart is in it and he does care about the people of the 1st. I believe they would embrace him.
Dear Rob:

Firstly, I look forward to getting to know you on the campaign trail. Secondly, I plan to continue Pensieri on my campaign website. Thirdly, I respect your perception of why I closed Pensieri; however, I assure you I am not running from anything I said. My posts are floating around cyberspace as we speak thank to folks like Jeff Ward.

I closed the website because we live in a "cut and paste" blogsphere. I'm not afraid of why I said, I didn't want to spend time defending something someone may have THOUGHT I said. I didn't want to give anyone the chance to say I said something that I didn't. Since I just started Pensieri in July, I didn't have the time to build the reputation that you, Jeff, and many many others have acheived. I didn't have a long enough record upon which to stand.

You may still disagree with my decision but I wanted you to know from where I was coming. I hope to see you soon.

I think David Davis is the clear choice. I am conservative (not necessarily reublican or Democrat). When David recieved the Tennessee Right to Life endorsement for Congress...that was it for me. David Davis in '06.
I too think it's going to be David Davis. He seems to have the best campaign up here so far (I live in the first district). I also heard him speak last week and his goals seem right in line with 1st district voters.
I too think it's going to be David Davis. He seems to have the best campaign up here so far (I live in the first district). I also heard him speak last week and his goals seem right in line with 1st district voters.
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