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VOL. 38 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 08, 2014

State Sen. Stacey Campfield loses seat in primary

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NASHVILLE (AP) — After losing his seat in Thursday's election primary, Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield posted a blog that simply said "that was fun" and featured a YouTube video of Frank Sinatra singing "My Way."

It was characteristic of the Knoxville Republican, who did things his own way no matter how controversial his actions.

Campfield, who lost to cardiac surgeon and U.S. Army veteran Richard Briggs, was among five Republican incumbents who were defeated in the primary. One incumbent Democrat in the House, and one in the Senate, also lost.

But the most notable race probably involved Campfield, who often drew attention and sometimes ridicule for his polarizing comments, as well as sponsoring contentious bills on social issues.

They included one ridiculed as the "Don't Say Gay" bill and another that would have cut welfare benefits to parents whose children aren't doing well in school.

Most recently, Campfield made national news when he compared the federal health care law to the forced transportation of Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust in a blog post. "Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign-ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of mandatory sign-ups for 'train rides' for Jews in the '40s," he wrote.

Campfield's remark drew swift condemnation and demands for apology from both Democratic and Republican leaders in the state â?? including the governor.

"Words matter, and to make the comparison to the Holocaust is wrong, inappropriate and insensitive," said Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor.

However, University of Tennessee, Knoxville political analyst Anthony Nownes said Campfield was simply representing the views of his constituents.

"One of the things that has always surprised me is that people act like Stacey Campfield is the only person who believes these things," Nownes said.

With all precincts reporting, Richard Briggs had 13,977 votes, or 66 percent, compared with Campfield's 5,824 votes, or 28 percent.

Briggs was elected to the Knox County Commission in 2008. After graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in 1978, Briggs joined the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of colonel. He served in combat during Operation Desert Storm and was awarded the Bronze Star.

"This exceeded expectations," Briggs said of his victory. "We thought we were in a good position to win, but we're absolutely elated we did much better than we thought."

Another controversial Republican senator who lost Thursday was Sen. Jim Summerville.

With all precincts reporting in District 25, former Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield had 9,805 votes, or 42 percent, compared with Summerville's 3,650 votes, or 16 percent. Roberts had lost his seat after district maps were redrawn.

Last year, Summerville proposed a measure to eliminate affirmative action initiatives from higher education institutions in Tennessee. After the legislation failed in the Senate Education Committee, the Dickson Republican threatened GOP lawmakers who voted against it, saying they would face repercussions in this year's election.

"Every Republican with a primary opponent will have to answer for the vote on this bill, and why they believe some Americans aren't ready for equal treatment," he said.

Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer said Republicans â?? as well as business leaders â?? believe such legislation and polarizing comments like the one concerning the Holocaust actually hurt the state.

"There are business interests and sort of economic conservatives who are saying, these are not the people we need," Oppenheimer said. "It's problematic."

On the Democratic side, Sen. Ophelia Ford lost her District 29 seat to a Memphis City councilman.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Lee Harris had 10,420 votes, or 42 percent, compared with Ford's 6,656 votes, or 27 percent. Challenger Ricky Dixon had 6,834 votes, or 28 percent.

In 2005, Ford took over the seat of her brother John Ford, who resigned shortly after he was indicted and later convicted of taking $55,000 in bribes.

While in office, Ophelia Ford made headlines several times with her rants in legislative committees and on the Senate floor. She's also been in poor health during most of her tenure.

During the most recent session, Ford was reportedly listed as absent for 25 of the session's 53 days, more than any other lawmaker. The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported that she submitted letters to the Senate speaker for most of her absences, saying she was too ill to attend.

Voter Sylvia Daniel of Memphis said she voted for Harris, despite Ophelia Ford's experience and recognizable name.

She said the negative publicity, such as missing days of work in the General Assembly, worked against Ford. "I know it's from illness, but if you're sickly, then you might need to kind of take care of your health," Daniel said.

Harris was elected to the City Council in 2011 and has been an advocate for public safety and youth intervention. He is a tenured professor at the University of Memphis Law School and has a law degree from Yale.

Other Republican incumbents who lost include:

â?? Rep. Tony Shipley in District 2. With all precincts reporting, retired policeman Bud Hulsey had 5,046 votes, or 60 percent, compared with Shipley's 3,391 votes, or 40 percent.

â?? Rep. Steve Hall in District 18. Will all precincts reporting, Martin Daniel had 3,921 votes, or 51 percent, compared to Hall's 3,756 votes, or 49 percent.

â?? Rep. Vance Dennis in District 71. With all precincts reporting, principal and coach David Byrd had 5,786 votes, or 53 percent, compared with Dennis' 5,074 votes, or 47 percent.

â?? Rep. Dennis Roach in District 35. With all 91 percent of precincts reporting, Jerry Sexton had 4,236 votes, or 54 percent, compared with Roach's 3,532 votes, or 45 percent.

â?? Rep. Gary Odom in District 55. With all precincts reporting, attorney John Clemmons had 2,399 votes, or 54 percent, compared to Odom's 2,070 votes, or 46 percent.

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