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VOL. 132 | NO. 201 | Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fincher Launches Tennessee Listening Tour About Senate Bid

By ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Former Rep. Stephen Fincher, a gospel singing farmer from the rural western Tennessee community of Frog Jump, is launching a statewide tour to weigh whether to join the race to succeed Republican Bob Corker in the Senate.

Fincher said he plans start his tour in the northeastern corner of the state and work his way west to Memphis over the coming weeks. His deliberate approach stands in contrast to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who released a professionally produced video announcing her bid Thursday within an hour of Gov. Bill Haslam's announcement that he wouldn't run.

"I don't really identify myself as a former congressman," said Fincher, who chose not to run for a fourth House term in 2016. "I'm a farmer, a small businessman, and a part of a gospel singing ministry started by my grandmother over sixty years ago."

Fincher, 44, was elected to Congress in 2010, but fell out of favor among some tea party Republicans for his support for farm subsidies and for the renewal of the charter of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Many business-minded Republican groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support the Ex-Im Bank, a credit agency that helps overseas buyers get financing to purchase U.S. exports. But vocal opponents liken its practices to crony capitalism that awards most of its financing to well-connected corporations.

Donald Trump was one high-profile opponent of the bank when he was a presidential candidate, though he changed his mind after he was elected.

"You would say it's a ridiculous thing but actually it's a very good thing and it actually makes money," Trump said in April. "You know, it actually could make a lot of money."

Fincher said that if he decides to run and is elected, he will carry on his personal policy of not accepting congressional insurance or its pension plan.

"It's a small way of acknowledging how out of step Washington and the professional politicians are, and I'm just not being part of that," he said. "Should I run, I will bring Tennessee values and common sense – balanced budgets, conservative spending, and conservative solutions – to Washington."

While Blackburn in her announcement took aim at fellow Republicans in the Senate for the "disgrace" of failing to repeal the Obama health care law. In issuing a call for a "conservative revolution," Blackburn said "too many Senate Republicans acting like Democrats or worse."

Fincher struck a more conciliatory tone in announcing his listening tour, describing himself as a "Tennessee conservative who will work with others to do what's right for Tennessee."

"I would be totally committed to the people of Tennessee, to listen to them, to serve them with humility and integrity," he said. "Working together to find conservative solutions, I know that America's best days lie ahead."

Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor and state finance commissioner who has known for his political independence, announced Sept. 26 that we wouldn't run for Senate again.

Despite expressing doubts about another bid, Corker had a $6.5 million balance in his campaign account at the end of the last reporting period, the most among GOP senators facing re-elections next year. But Fincher and Blackburn aren't exactly hurting for campaign funds: Blackburn had $3.1 million on hand, while Fincher had $2.4 million.

Fincher's retirement from the House came a surprise to political observers in Washington and in Tennessee, where a slew of Republicans jumped into the race to succeed him – a contest ultimately won by freshman Republican Rep. David Kustoff, a former U.S. attorney in Memphis.

"I never intended to become a career politician," Fincher said when he announced his retirement from the House. "The last six years have been the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am honored to have been given the chance to serve.

"I will be returning to Frog Jump and my family and business."

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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