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VOL. 133 | NO. 117 | Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Line Between ‘Get Out the Vote,’ ‘Crossover’ Melts In Campaign Heat

By Bill Dries

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Get Out The Vote – the plan known among politicos by the shorthand GOTV – has slipped across the line that separates it from “crossover” – the sometimes-controversial act of pushing to get those on the other side of the partisan divide to cross political lines and vote for the other party’s nominee.

Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini didn’t use the word “crossover” at the Friday, June 8, opening of the Cooper-Young campaign headquarters for Lee Harris, the Democratic nominee for Shelby County mayor.

“All over the state of Tennessee, Democrats are becoming more active than ever. … People are mad,” she told the crowd of 60. “They are mad at what’s happening in Washington. They are mad at what’s happening in the state Capitol.”

But having addressed Democratic rage and resistance in Midtown, Mancini then said it isn’t enough to win the election, even in a majority Democratic county like Shelby County.

“However, we’re not going to win unless we do one thing – and that one thing is to build a relationship with voters,” she said. “Voters, they will not vote for candidates unless they know the candidates in the first place. … Knocking on doors is the No. 1 way to earn somebody’s vote.”

In the Collierville Town Square the next day, Republican contender for Tennessee governor Randy Boyd said he is aware of “blue wave” and “red tide” rhetoric.

Republican contender for governor Randy Boyd campaigns in the Collierville Town Square Saturday, June 9, in a day that included stops at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and the Germantown Charity Horse Show. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

“I can’t predict, but what I can say is I will be working hard to have a red wall around the state of Tennessee,” he said.

All along the path to the Aug. 2 statewide gubernatorial primary, Boyd’s campaign and U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s campaign have been sniping at each other about who is the most authentic conservative.

It’s played out in third-party attack ads that began airing this past weekend on Memphis television. It has also turned up in jockeying for position and time at the podium at the Shelby County Lincoln Day Dinner and Saturday’s Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville. The Nashville event avoided the dust-up that unfolded at the February Memphis event between the two camps when Black introduced keynote speaker and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Shelby County commissioner David Reaves delivered the intraparty message for Boyd at the Collierville rally Saturday.

“People in Congress spend money we don’t have and fritter away our rights in the Constitution,” he told the 40 people gathered in the square.

Boyd stayed away from any references to Black or primary rivals House Speaker Beth Harwell and Franklin businessman Bill Lee. He declared himself a Christian, a conservative but not a politician. Boyd also said he is the only one of the major contenders with “executive experience” he says is necessary to govern a state with real differences and distinctions.

“People talk about the three grand divisions. As governor, one of my amendments will be to redact the entire (state) constitution and change it from divisions to grand alliance because we are stronger together,” he said. “But every county is different. North Gibson County versus south Gibson County is different. Collierville is very different than Downtown Memphis. … The art of being governor is to bring all of those communities together.”

Boyd’s other Shelby County stops Saturday included the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind and the Germantown Charity Horse Show – decidedly unpolitical settings in the decidedly Republican suburbs that draw crowds from all over the city and county.

Meanwhile, in a storefront Saturday by the University of Memphis, some of the new college-age political energy was bundling push cards for Democratic U.S. Senate contender Phil Bredesen.

Bredesen Senate campaign deputy manager Alfred DeGraffenried rallies volunteers and other at the opening of one of several Bredesen Memphis headquarters prior to a Saturday of door-to-door campaigning. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

After a rally of around 60 at one of several campaign headquarters that will include outposts in Germantown and the heart of the local Republican base, campaign volunteers and interns put them to use campaigning door to door in the weekend heat.

They drew not only from the rubber-banded stacks of campaign literature but a stock of fresh campaign T-shirts and supplies that included “beach defense” sunscreen.

“In addition to knocking doors, we need people to come and hop on phones,” Bredesen deputy campaign manager Alfred DeGraffenried told the group in Bredesen’s absence. “Anything you can do to help, we greatly appreciate it.”

Both Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor, and Republican rival U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn already are conducting a general election campaign, with the August statewide Senate primary considered a formality on the way to the Nov. 6 Election Day.

A list of important dates in the campaign headquarters starts with the Aug. 2 primary, making no reference to the early voting period in the two weeks before that election day.

Bredesen has been open about the need to court voters no matter which party, if any, they identify with.

The push cards being bundled Saturday tout Bredesen’s “actual track record of working across party lines to fix the mess in Washington.”

And Bredesen’s now long-running television ads begin with him saying he’s not running against President Donald Trump and is willing to work with Trump if he agrees with the president’s position.

Lee Harris, Democratic nominee for Shelby County mayor, says he will take his campaign to all parts of the county in the drive to the Aug. 2 county general election matchup with Republican nominee David Lenoir. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

In the county mayor’s race between Harris and Republican nominee David Lenoir, Harris has moved from a primary campaign in which he argued local Republicans should have to declare whether they back or oppose Trump to a post-primary appeal.

Although he still touts what he takes to be at least an indication of a blue wave in the 34,000 votes he got in the May Democratic mayoral primary.

“It is more votes than all of the Republican candidates got,” he said Friday. “It goes to show you there is an energy on our side of the aisle.”

But like Bredesen, Harris says his campaign will take Democrats deep into Republican turf with a message he believes will draw crossover votes.

“A message of uniting and bringing people together, a message of bipartisanship, a message around investments in education, a message about access to health care works no matter where you are in this county.”

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