The August 7 Republican Primary Race for U.S. Congressional District 7 is drawing more and more attention in the media. Shelby County Registrar Tom Leatherwood hopes to best incumbent Marsha Blackburn in the primary which will likely determine the outcome of the General Election in November.
This quote from today's Commercial Appeal article gets my blood boiling:
Leatherwood is taking an aggressive approach, swinging at Blackburn for her effectiveness, questioning the accuracy of her campaign financial disclosures and jabbing criticism at her tactics of characterizing him as tied to Memphis rather than Shelby County and his hometown of Arlington.
When I first started working in state government in 2000, it did not take long to notice the hostile attitudes toward Memphis and Shelby County held by people in the central and eastern parts of Tennessee. Whenever I attended statewide meetings and discussed the special needs and issues of Memphis and Shelby County, I could hear eyes roll within my fellow Tennesseans from other parts of the state. With Shelby County's large African American population, the culture of my part of Tennessee differs significantly from the rest of Tennessee.
I am not naive. Memphis and Shelby County has suffered many unethical fools in public and elected service that has led to mistrust of anything coming out of my home city and county.
But this hostility grew to contempt when I recently participated in a statewide ethics training via satellite link. The trainer from the Ethics Commission in Nashville ridiculed Memphis and Shelby County during the training as if we weren't even there. It was insulting.
The efforts of the Blackburn campaign to demonize Tom Leatherwood with references to associations with Memphis and the contempt expressed by the ethics trainer plays into the worst kind of stereotyping. When politicians use Memphis to divide and conquer the electorate, it smacks of racism.