Gordon Ouster Pile-on: Republicans Crowd Sixth District
Just a couple of months ago, it looked like the general election ballot for’s sixth Congressional district race already was a lock-in, the primary ballot mostly considered a foregone conclusion. County Party chair and local Tea Party activist Lou Ann Zelenik, (although not officially announced but expected by many to be entering the race) the only Republican with political chops and the gumption to challenge the incumbent Gordon, looked like a shoo-in for her Party’s nomination, despite opposition from a couple little-known political newcomers to the race. Incumbent Democrat Bart Gordon, although weakened by the recent surge in libertarian-conservative activism associated with the Tea Party movement, was the presumptive nominee of his Party and was still expected by many to win the general election and retain his seat in the Congress. By the end of the first full week of December, however, all of this was to change, and for the Republican ticket, especially, things were about to get crowded.
Just weeks after Zelenik started running radio ads against him, Gordon’s abrupt retirement announcement threw the entire district into political upheaval. Within hours of Gordon’s announcement, RepublicanState Senator Jim Tracy announced his candidacy for Gordon’s seat (leading some to wonder if perhaps he had prior knowledge of Gordon’s announcement and if so, how much). Only three days later, fellow Republican State Senator Diane Black, who many had understood to be supporting Zelenik, also announced her candidacy for the job. These announcements left the Republican Party with an interesting mix of persons and personalities, leaving many to wonder who’s running, and even who’s who. Let’s take a look at the candidates.
Having announced his candidacy even before March of 2009, U.S. Army Reserve Major General Dave Evans was the first to enter the race, stepping in even before most people had finished digesting the outcome of the previous election. Evans spent months traveling from county to county across the district, taking speaking engagements and even holding fundraisers much earlier than most political strategists would say it’s wise to do. The first to hire a campaign manager, Evans was the first to lose a staffer, after the campaign manager took a leave to work on a local race but has since returned. Evans’ platform consists mainly of supporting the Constitution, small government, capitalism, and “Judeo-Christian principles.”
Although he announced his candidacy relatively early, issues getting his campaign website online as-announced, along with a lack of publicity led many to believe that Gary Mann’s candidacy had come to an end before it even began. However weeks behind schedule, Mann’s website finally did go public, and he has been politicking across the district ever since. Born in Daytona Beach,in 1967, Mann moved to in the early ’90s, and has been here ever since. He worked in the racing industry full-time until 2006, when he moved into real estate, and now owns a motorbike sales and service business in downtown . Mann lists on his website his four “hot button issues,” essentially the core of his political platform. Three of these so-called “hot buttons” are anti-abortion, pro-regulated-marriage, and anti-illegal-immigration. His fourth “hot button” is “religion in ;” while Mann makes clear that he is running as much as a Christian candidate as a Republican, he promises to represent his constituents’ views and not his own, except for “a few core issues.”
Lou Ann Zelenik officially announced her candidacy in the first week of October, swinging at Gordon with both proverbial fists, right out of the proverbial gate. The first to start serious fundraising, Lou Ann (who is advertising using her first name instead of her last) self-funded $300,000 at the outset of her campaign, and still leads her competition in fundraising, even though a couple of them are established, sitting politicians. Born in, Lou Ann moved to Tennessee where graduated from Vanderbilt university and later co-founded a construction business that was in operation for a quarter-century before she retired. Lou Ann used her new-found free time to enter local , running in 2008 against fellow Republican Joe Carr to represent Tennessee’s 48th State House district, losing by a vote of 1,317 to 1,197. Lou Ann went on to become a local Tea Party activist and county Republican Party chairman, stepping aside to enter the race against Gordon. Lou Ann is running as a pro-local, pro-free-market, pro-freedom and anti-big-government candidate.
Next to enter the race was Kerry Roberts, CPA and small businessman. A Lipscomb University graduate, Roberts opened a bicycle store in 1990, and now also does political and charitable volunteerism, and he farms on the weekends. Roberts entered the race in the sixth district following Bart Gordon’s town hall meeting in Sumner County. Like Mann, Roberts is open about his Christian faith, touting on his website the Bible classes he teaches and the church he attends. Roberts is running on a socially- and fiscally conservative platform including pro- Constitution, pro-jobs, pro-life, and pro “traditional family values” planks.
Entering the race within hours of Gordon’s retirement announcement, Tennessee State Senator Jim Tracy announced his candidacy in early December. Born and raised in Tennessee, Tracy went from sports coach to pro basketball referee to State Senator in 2005. He also has a dense history of involvement with organizations such as the Rotary Club, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, and the YMCA. Tracy is running on an anti-Obama, small-government, pro-capitalism, pro-”conservative Tennessee values,” pro-national-defense platform.
The other sitting State Senator in the race, Diane Black announced her candidacy three days after Gordon’s retirement announcement. A member of the Tennessee General Assembly since 1998, Black graduated from Belmont University in 1992 with a Baccalaureate in nursing. Her website contains a litany of awards and “community involvement” associations. Black is running on a “Constitution & culture,” anti-debt, pro-“changing Congress,” low-tax platform.
Also in the race, according to the Tennessee Department of State, is Republican Bruce McLellan of Overton County, however a Google search of terms related to Bruce McLellan, Congress, and Tennessee’s 6th legislative district revealed no official campaign website and no other evidence of his actually being an active participant in the race, besides mere citations in some recent The Tennessean articles and financial disclosures related to a 2008 campaign.
Diane Black’s website: http://VoteDianeBlack.com
Dave Evans’ website: http://DaveEvansForCongress.com
Gary Mann’s website: http://Mann4TN.com
Kerry Roberts’ website: http://KerryRoberts.com
Jim Tracy’s campaign website: http://JimTracyForCongress.com
Lou Ann Zelenik’s website: http://VoteLouAnn.com
Article By: Russ Johnson
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