New Senate Candidate Sets Up Race To The Right In Tennessee GOP Primary

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Former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) has jumped into the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), setting up a likely race to the right against Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that could benefit Democrats.

“We’re going to get in this race, and we’re going to get in it to win it, and go up there and try to get something done,” Fincher told The Tennesseean. “Let’s stand up with the president on his policies.”

The race has the potential to get nasty — and potentially give Democrats an opening in a solidly Republican state, especially if former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) decides to run, which he’s considering. Attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler is Democrats’ current front-runner for the nomination.

In his opening interview as a candidate, Fincher hit Blackburn for helping push through a bill that hamstrung the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to crack down on bad actor pharmaceutical companies in a state where the opioid crisis has been especially severe.

“This is an issue that shows Tennesseans want someone to stand up against special interests,” he said. “We’re losing lives. Our jails, little towns and communities are broken. People, they go to Washington, and have stayed up there too long and are out of touch with what’s really happening all over this great state.”

Fincher, a gospel singer and seventh-generation farmer, was a political neophyte when he won his House seat in the 2010 GOP wave. He served three terms before retiring from the House at the end of last term.

It’s unclear whether Fincher will be able to raise the money to compete against the deep-pocketed Blackburn, who already has locked in an endorsement from former White House chief adviser Steve Bannon. But the race has a chance to become a hard-fought one — a result that could crack the door for Democrats.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.
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