Photo by Andrew Wigdor / MTSU Sidelines
2018 U.S. Senate candidate and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen traveled to Murfreesboro Tuesday and explained to Sidelines the ways that he hopes to improve the nation and Tennessee.
The former governor also served as the mayor of Nashville in the late ’90s and announced in December 2017 that he would run for the seat that Sen. Bob Corker is leaving. Bredesen’s rival in the race is Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has been officially endorsed by Corker. While Bredesen is a Democrat, many have labeled him as more of a moderate in comparison to his opponent. The Tennessean recently referred to Bredesen’s politics as “middle-of-the-road” (and) “fiscally conservative.”
“I’m a Democrat,” Bredesen said. “I have been all my life. But this is an organization I belong to, not a religion. If I agree with the Democratic party more on something, that’s fine. But if I don’t, I’ve never been the least bit afraid to say something different. While I was governor, there were issues such as the Affordable Care Act where I didn’t agree with what was going on, and I felt free to say so … We need to move the country away from everybody standing in separate corners of the room and shouting at each other.”
This middle-of-the-road approach has seemingly given Bredesen more of an edge over candidates such as Blackburn. According to an MTSU poll, which was published in early April, Bredesen held a 10-percentage-point lead over Blackburn.
“I’m grateful for that,” Bredesan said. “I’d rather be there than 20 points behind, but there’s still lots of campaign between now and November. So, I don’t keep any great comfort out of that. I just need to keep working.”
Unsurprisingly, the poll results also displayed that Bredesen held more cross-party appeal than his opponent.
“I do think the idea of moving beyond this hyper-partisanship is what has produced (the lead),” Bredesen said. “From the time I was governor, I’ve always done well with independents (and) with, what I call, economic Republicans, people who are worried about responsible spending. My hope is to put together a coalition of Democrats, independents and, yes, some Republicans that will elect me and that I can serve well in Washington.”
As mentioned above, one of Bredesen’s more moderate stances relates to the Affordable Care Act. In one of Bredesen’s campaign ads for the 2018 election, he said, “The Affordable Care Act needs fixing.” And Bredesen said he still stands by that statement.
“I said when it was passed that I had problems with it, but it’s now the law of the land,” Bredesen said. “Like most major projects like that, you don’t always get it all right the first time, and they certainly didn’t. I think that there are things that need fixing, and until there is some idea for something better, what we do is fix what we have. There’s a lot of people in this country who are depending on health care, and we have an obligation to make sure that it works.”
Bredesen said that, in addition to issues with the Affordable Care Act, there are other health care problems that he would like to address if elected.
“The cost of health care at various levels has gotten really out of control,” Bredesen said. “It’s so much more expensive in this country than anywhere else in the world … I do think that issue needs to be dealt with … I’d like to see (health care) expanded to more people, and I think the best way to do that is to cut down the cost of what we already have.”
Bredesen also told Sidelines that he has a particular interest in economic development.
“I think having a good job with good benefits solves a lot of other problems, and I think there are things that you do in the federal government in terms of what Congress does and tax policy that create the environment where companies can prosper and can be a part of the state,” Bredesen said.
During Bredesen’s first term as governor, he took part in enacting several measures that were aimed toward the improvement of education, such as increasing funding for state education by over $300 million and the establishment of the Tennessee Lottery to fund college scholarships. Bredesen said that he hopes to continue the advancement of education in Corker’s seat.
“Education is more of a state issue than a federal issue,” Bredesen said. “That being said, there is a Department of Education, and I think it’s important to make sure that it is properly funded to give the support that it gives to so many school systems around the country.”
In 1989, Bredesen founded Nashville’s Table, a nonprofit organization that collects food to distribute to Nashville’s homeless individuals and is now merged with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. He said that, almost 30 years later, the issue is still one that needs to be addressed.
“A great many people who are homeless also have serious metal health issues,” Bredesen said. “Either they have been substance abusers or they have mental health issues, and making sure that there is insurance coverage and people to help take care of those issues is the most effective way by far that we could help to reduce the homeless population and move these individuals back into the mainstream of our economic life.”
Bredesen’s name has popped up in several national headlines within the past few days because, about a week ago, Corker called Bredesen “a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person” at a meeting in Washington. Many news outlets displayed the comments as a win for Bredesen, but the former governor said that he doesn’t see the remarks in the same light.
“I was gratified, but Bob Corker and I have been friends for a long time,” Bredesen said. “(The situation) is kind of a mark of the dysfunction of this country. Two people who happen to be from different parties but who have been friends for a long time can’t say something nice about each other, and it becomes national news if they do … I really appreciate the kind things he had to say, and I feel the same way about him.”
To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more news, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.