Politics

Former Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher Running for Senate

Fincher will face former House colleague Marsha Blackburn in primary

Former Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher, who did not seek re-election in 2016, is running for Senate.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Rep. Stephen Fincher is entering the GOP primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Corker in 2018. 

Fincher joins his former colleague, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, in the primary. Both Republicans come to the race with hefty war chests. 

“From what people are telling us, they’re just tired of the status quo career politician, and it’s time we — to take an old saying from the farm — plow and turn over Congress and put some new growth up there,” Fincher told the USA Today Network Tennessee, which first reported Fincher’s entrance into the race Sunday. 

The former congressman told the newspaper he wants to help President Donald Trump enact his agenda. First elected to represent the 8th District in 2010, Fincher did not seek re-election in 2016. 

“I never intended to become a career politician,” Fincher said in February 2016, when announcing his intentions to depart Congress at the end of the 114th term. In talking about his 2018 Senate bid, he once again said he does not want to be a “career politician,” casting himself, instead, as a “citizen legislator.”

Fincher said the brother whose illness prompted his retirement is doing better. “He made a 100 percent recovery, or I could not even think about doing this,” he told the USA Today Network Tennessee. 

Fincher is a seventh-generation cotton farmer from Frog Jump. He was an outspoken defender of the Export-Import Bank, which pitted him against some more conservative members of his party. As a member of the Financial Services Committee, he led the effort to reauthorize the agency through a discharge petition in the fall of 2015. 

The Blackburn campaign will likely try to use Fincher’s support for the bank against him in a GOP primary. 

“Now we have a clear contrast between a supporter of President Trump who will drain the swamp in Washington, versus Nancy Pelosi’s favorite Republican who champions corporate welfare,” Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the Blackburn campaign, said in an email. 

Fincher voted with his party 97 percent time during the six years he was in Congress, compared to 94 percent for the average member of the GOP conference, according to CQ Vote Watch. Blackburn, who’s been endorsed by the Club for Growth, voted with her party 98 percent of the time during the same six years. The pro-Trump Great America Alliance has also backed Blackburn

During his recent 10-day listening tour across the state, Fincher took a swipe at Blackburn when responding to the Washington Post/“60 Minutes” report about members of Congress, including Blackburn, pushing legislation that weakened regulation of opioids.

“This is an issue that shows Tennesseans want someone to stand up against special interests,” Fincher said, according to the USA Today Network Tennessee. “We’re losing lives. Our jails, little towns and communities are broken. People, they go to Washington, and have stayed up there too long and are out of touch with what’s really happening all over this great state.”

As the newspaper points out, Fincher voted for the legislation too.  

Blackburn ended the third quarter with $3.2 million. Fincher has $2.3 million in the bank. 

Former Americans for Prosperity state director Andy Ogles is also in the primary. He’s been running since before Corker announced his retirement. 

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