VOL. 131 | NO. 74 | Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Kustoff Opens Congressional Bid With 15 Stops
By Bill Dries
Former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff began his campaign for Congress Monday, April 11, with stops in Tipton County and Fayette County as well as East Memphis.
It was the first part of Kustoff’s three-day journey to all 15 counties in the 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of East Memphis and Cordova.
That’s only two more counties than there are candidates in the Aug. 4 Republican congressional primary skirmish.
“I think we all are very concerned about where this country is going,” Kustoff told a group of supporters at the campaign headquarters in East Memphis. “I’m a conservative and I’m going to vote conservative. But we need to get things done and we need to make sure this country gets back on the right track.”
Kustoff is a former Shelby County Republican Party chairman who headed the Tennessee presidential campaign of George W. Bush in 2000. Bush carried the state against Democratic nominee Al Gore, whose home state is Tennessee.
Tennessee has gone Republican in every presidential general election since 2000, with Republicans holding both U.S. Senate seats, seven of the nine congressional seats, supermajorities in the state House and state Senate, and the governor’s office.
Kustoff was one of several Shelby County Republicans who ran in the party’s 7th Congressional District primary in 2002, the year Republican incumbent Ed Bryant gave up the seat to run for U.S. Senate. Kustoff and the other Shelby County contenders lost the primary race to Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, who went on to win the general election.
The congressional district lines shifted following the 2010 U.S. Census, with part of the 7th District becoming part of the 8th District.
Kustoff said the result is a race in an area that’s big compared to the old 7th District, which was narrow and long – stretching from Frayser to the Kentucky state line.
“There’s so much more of Shelby County in the 8th Congressional District. I believe that I’ll win Shelby County. I will win a lot of the other counties,” Kustoff said later. “It’s important for me to run strong in those counties. That’s why announcing in all 15 counties over the next several days is important.”
Fourteen years after his last congressional race, Kustoff is one of 13 candidates in the primary as of last week’s filing deadline. The withdrawal deadline for any candidate who wishes to withdraw is Thursday, April 14, at noon.
Seven of the 13 primary contenders, counting Kustoff, are from Shelby County, including Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, state Sen. Brian Kelsey, County Register Tom Leatherwood and former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn.
Another four are from Jackson, Tenn., thus avoiding the stratagem of one candidate from outside Shelby County against a pack of Shelby County contenders, which was a factor in Blackburn’s 2002 victory.
Kustoff says his organization should be the best-financed of any of the contenders in what is considered a majority Republican district and able to campaign in all 15 counties.
“You go through the district, you hear a lot about jobs and the fact that development of those jobs, growth of those jobs hasn’t come back since the 2008 recession,” he said. “Folks in the 8th District want someone that they can connect to and someone they recognize has a proven track record of public service.”
He described the national issues in the race as “anti-terrorism, jobs and economic opportunity and trying to get a hold on our national debt and our deficit.”
Kustoff is touting his record as the top federal prosecutor in the federal Western District of Tennessee prosecuting public corruption, violent crime and drugs – “but also operating in the private world, and the majority of my time has not been in public service.”
“It’s been in the private sector,” he added. “I’ve got the best of both worlds.”