Photo by Caleb Revill / MTSU Sidelines
Former first lady of Tennessee Andrea Conte met with supporters and volunteers involved with her husband Phil Bredesen’s Senate race at the campaign’s Murfreesboro office on Thursday evening.
Bredesen served two consecutive terms as the governor of Tennessee from 2003 to 2011. He is currently running for U.S. Senate as a democratic candidate but says that he is willing to work across party lines to “advance sound policies.”
Bredesen supporters and their family members gathered with Conte at a larger room in the office, where she went around the room and shook each one’s hand. She asked for their thoughts and opinions on the current state of politics.
“You know Phil’s message, and you know why he’s in the race,” Conte said. “He really is one of these people who’s so experienced in the public and the private sector. He brings so much to the table in terms of understanding policy, business, finance and working with others. And mostly, he’s just concerned about the country.”
Supporters spoke with Conte about issues primarily concerning the current division in government and hopes for more bipartisanship. One audience member said that Bredesen was a “rare chance” for less polarization in politics.
This was a sentiment expressed by most of the supporters gathered. One by one, each of them explained their reasons for supporting Bredesen. Others in attendance who were either unsure of whom to vote for or had family members volunteering also asked questions.
A family member of one of the volunteers asked why Bredesen had decided to re-enter politics or if he had already planned on doing so after serving as governor.
“We truly thought we were done with politics,” Conte said in response. “We were still interested in everything that was going on, but there was no secret plan (to return to politics).”
Conte explained that Bredesen’s decision to run for Senate was not a spontaneous one. It was a decision that he made based on the support and encouragement from many friends and people around him.
“We kind of were enjoying our retirement,” Conte said with a laugh. “I said (to Bredesen), ‘If you don’t (run for Senate), are you going to regret it?’”
The answer was yes, and Bredesen ultimately made the decision to run.
After meeting and talking with the supporters and volunteers, Conte spoke with Sidelines about the evening. Conte said that it was especially inspiring for her to hear from younger audience members.
“It’s just so energizing to be around all of this enthusiasm,” Conte said. “But it’s also inspiring to hear some of these stories. Engaging young people in elections, I don’t know if it’s difficult or not, (but) this crowd would lead me in the opposite direction. They were so articulate (and) so self-aware of why they were here and what they wanted to see happen.”
Conte explained that the most rewarding part of the Senate race experience for her thus far was to see all of the hard work and support by volunteers for Bredesen.
“It’s been very deliberative,” Conte said. “It certainly was something that Phil looked into very deeply … But to see so many of the team that was around him when he was mayor (and) governor (and to see) so many friends just stepping up (and) volunteering to be part of this, it’s pretty overwhelming.”
She also wanted to stress the importance of youth participation in politics and voting.
“We look to young people,” Conte said. “They’re our volunteers for tomorrow and today. When I see what young people are doing across the country, I’m just so touched by the depth of their commitment … Voting is one of those things that’s one slice of equality that we know we’ve got here. Every vote counts the same, as long as you get there to vote.”
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