Thursday, August 06, 2009


"Blue Dog" Bart, part two

U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon is gettin' a lot of attention these days, and ain't none of it favorable. National Review Online's Jim Geraghty has up a great piece about Gordon's future electoral prospects. A sample:

It’s hard to overstate how incongruous Gordon seems compared to other lawmakers in his neck of the woods. His district’s state senators and state representatives have gone from nearly all Democrats to nearly all Republicans in the past 20 years; the change represents the heart of the Republican state-legislative takeover, particularly in the last decade. Gordon survived the Republican tsunami of 1994 because his challenger, then-lawyer Steve Gill, was underfunded in a year with two Senate races and a governor’s race — even with that against him, Gill came within 2 percentage points. After that, Gordon voted a much more conservative line, including for much of the Contract with America. Al Gore’s presence on the national ticket helped Gordon in 1992, 1996, and 2000.

"This is a district that really wants to vote Republican; they already vote Republican for everything else," said the Tennessee strategist. "This isn’t like a senator who can vote liberal for four years and then veer right in the last two years. I don’t see how Gordon can hide from these things when people are already talking about them."

In April, a Tea Party descended on his district office in Murfreesboro, with chants of "Bye Bye Bart." His vote to pass the House version of cap-and-trade legislation brought another round of protests. Gordon voted for cap-and-trade, while fellow Tennessee Blue Dogs Lincoln Davis and John Tanner voted against it.

In the past, Gordon has "won the race on filing day," as the strategist puts it, amassing enough popularity and resources to deter top-tier, well-funded challengers. But now Republicans are looking hard at various options for challengers; Army Reservist Maj. Gen. Dave Evans is already in the race, touting the support of former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson.

"A Republican with resources will make Gordon spend a lot of time talking about issues he doesn’t want to talk about, and there’s been a lot more interest in this race in the past two weeks," concludes the Tennessee strategist. "All you have to do to get on the ballot is get 25 signatures."

In explaining how Bart Gordon's managed to stay in office despite Tennessee's turning decidedly more Republican, Geraghty misses two important points:

Following the 2000 census, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly allowed Gordon to draw his district to his specification earlier this decade. Gordon's allies in the state legislature not only removed uber-Republican Williamson County from his district, they packed as many majority-Democrat voting precincts into it as possible. If Gordon survives what could turn out to be 1994 redux next year, and if Republicans are able to maintain their majority in the General Assembly, look for Gordon't district to be radically altered in 2011. That might be just the inducement Bart needs to call it a 28-year career.

That said, Bart Gordon is a master of constituent-service. While his legislative record is very, very thin, ol' Bart can locate a missing Social Security check faster'n a good hound dog can tree a 'coon. This explains why his mostly rural, conservative constituents give him a pass at election time: a lot of 'em have turned to Gordon for help on a whole host of piddlin' matters, and they all get bombarded with PAC-financed direct-mail and radio ads every two years telling 'em that Bart Gordon works harder than any other soul on Capitol Hill -- nay, in the whole of Washington, DC.

I certainly hope Bart Gordon is returned to private life following next year's election (I've already fired off a $100 check to Dave Evans hoping to do my part to make it so), but I'm not going to hold my breath in anticipation. I'm banking on Gordon waking up one day in 2011 to find that his district don't look nothing like it used to. That's when the real fun will begin.

[Note: One of these days I'm going to tell you about two confrontations I had with one Bart Gordon. Both of 'em are pretty funny, and you'll just have to keep comin' back to The Nigh Seen Creeder to read all about 'em. Stay tuned.]

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