phil bredesen

Phil Bredesen spoke in July during a healthcare round table held at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Tipton in Covington. He stopped by The Leader office last week to talk about his campaign.

Phil Bredesen, a Tennessee Democrat running for U.S. senator, stopped by The Leader office on Oct. 3 to talk about his campaign.

Here are five things Bredesen, who was Tenneesee's governor from 2003 to 2011, had to say:

1. A contentious campaign

This has not been a friendly race between Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn, who has been a congresswoman in Tennessee's seventh district since 2002.

Blackburn's supporters, through television and Internet commercials and the mail, have framed Bredesen as part of the Democrat Washington D.C. elite and fighting against everything President Donald Trump supports. One advertisement has linked Bredesen's time as governor to the opioid crisis.

Bredesen's supporters have thrown some stones as well.

"I wish it weren't that way," Bredesen said. "It's sort of had my eyebrows raised. There's some stuff in there you roll your eyes at. In campaigns you expect to be criticized for some decisions you make as governor ... Yesterday a new ad had me personally responsible for the entire opioid crisis. It's part of what depresses (voter) turnout, it's part of what makes people cynical about politics."

2. This is Republican country

It's no secret that Tipton County and the overwhelming majority of rural West Tennessee is Republican territory.

Bredesen has made multiple trips through this area while knowing most people he encounters support the Republican agenda.

How does he try and convince them to vote for a Democrat?

"The first thing I do is remind them when I was governor and that lots and lots of those people voted for me," Bredesen said. "I was certainly never the the particularly ideaological governor in terms of Democrat politics. I talk to them about the need to start knocking back some of this hard partisan stuff and try and get some stuff done. I find that people across the board respond to that. There are a lot of people, for example, who support Donald Trump but they're perfectly happy to send me up there as long as I'm not going up there to be the permanent opposition to him."

3. The Megasite

Before swinging through Tipton County, Bredesen made a stop in Haywood County, home of the Memphis Regional Megasite, a 4,100-acre site trying to land a major industry. When it's developed it will have a huge impact on Tipton County.

Bredesen said when he was governor he was instrumental in the purchase of the land and helped appropriate money for its infrastructure.

He said he has a lot of experience recruiting major industries and plans to use those skills if elected.

"It's a great site," he said. "That's a site, if it has the infrastructure in place, it's going to get an auto assembly plant or something like that. It's just too good of a site."

4. The wall, gun control and medical marijuana

Bredesen called himself "conservative" with second amendment issues and said he is a life-long gun owner.

"I'm not with the Dems on that stuff."

As for Trump's wall, he's against it.

"Certainly I don't think we ought to be building a wall with Mexico and throwing out every undocumented alien that's here unless you want to shut the entire farming economy down."

He's not beating the drum for marijuana legalization, though does acknowledge that in certain cases he understands why some people with cancer or other illnesses would turn to medical marijuana.

Bredesen is for reclassifying marijuana from schedule I to II, which would allow for medical research, but is not ready for medical legalization in Tennessee.

"I'd argue for let's hold back a little bit here and see how that works (in other states)."

5. Fiscally conservative, socially moderate

Bredesen said he believes this a fair assessment of him as a politician.

"You can't get much more fiscally conservative than I am," he said, pointing out that he was against an income tax in Tennessee when he was governor and that one was never implemented on his watch.

He thinks his financial philosophies and desire to work with people on both sides of the aisle are things people are in favor of.

"This is an interesting election because it's not Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. It's two very different people with different backgrounds. I just tell people, 'Look, if you like the style of everything is partisan, what we do is right and what they do is wrong, lines in the sand, stuff like that, don't vote for me.' She's (Blackburn) been there 16 years and shes' really good at that kind of stuff. I'm much more cut from the mold where I just want to get stuff done, make some compromises and try to find a way to satisfy enough people to actually pass the legislation."

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​

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