- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Senate candidates court GOP women
Dec 10, 2005 12:00 am
December 5, 2005
All three Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Bill Frist, R-Tenn., played up their conservative credentials and experience to a group of influential Republican women in West Wilson County on Saturday.
The brunch event at the home of State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, was primarily a ceremony to install the newest leaders of the Wilson County Republican Women. But more importantly, it was a chance for Van Hilleary, Bob Corker and Ed Bryant — the three Republican candidates in the race — to court the leaders of an important conservative stronghold before next year's primary election.
The candidates acknowledged the importance of potential endorsements from this group, and each said Wilson County, with its growing conservative base, plays a strategic part in his campaign.
"I think all the counties around Davidson County are important in a Republican primary," Hilleary said, noting he has been here three times in the last 10 days. "There's an awful lot of good conservative votes in counties like Wilson County."
Hilleary said the last time he ran statewide — when he lost a race for the Governor's Mansion to Phil Bredesen in 2002 — he did well among conservatives in this part of the state.
"I was kind of the standard bearer against the income tax," which played very well here, he said.
Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, agreed. "You go where these groups are," he said, noting he has campaigned in 57 Tennessee counties so far. "This is an important county and we'll be back many times."
Bryant said what makes Wilson County so vital is not just the amount of Republican voters, but just how politically astute those Republicans are.
Conservatives here tend to have been converted into conservatism, Bryant said, which makes them more knowledgeable on the issues and more active.
That fact bodes well for him, he said.
"These are typically my voters."
But, in a preview of what may become a hotly contested primary race, all three candidates claimed to hold the conservative ideological high ground.
All my life I've used conservative principles to create positive change," Corker told the group.
"It's important that we elect a conservative Republican," said Hilleary, who spoke next. "Not just someone who calls themselves a conservative Republican, but a true, solid, sincere conservative Republican."
Bryant touted his conservative credentials by recalling his work in the House of Representatives as one of the Clinton Impeachment trial managers.
Each candidate opened his remarks by bringing up one of the hottest topics for social conservatives — immigration.
"We're hearing continuously about the issue of immigration and how we need to secure our borders," Bryant said.
"People can't understand how a country like ours can't secure our borders," Corker said.
Bryant, Hilleary and Corker also spoke about judicial appointments, saying the president needs support in his efforts to put conservative judges on the bench.
All three pledged to fight for that ideal.
"Northeastern Republicans in the Senate are more liberal than most Democrats I know in Tennessee," said Hilleary, who stressed his ability to swing the Senate even further to the right.
So too did Bryant, who said his work on the House Judiciary Committee would put him in a good position to get a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Bryant said after his remarks that he had nothing in the form of a commitment regarding committee assignments, but did say he felt "comfortable in getting a position on the Senate Judiciary Committee."
About the only thing the candidates differed on was what type of experience is best suited to being an influential Senate conservative.
While Hilleary and Bryant stressed their House experience, Corker talked extensively about his work as a business leader and mayor.
Looking ahead to what may be a bitter primary, Shirley Ward, the president of the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women, told her members; "Whoever wins this race, we've got to come together to get behind him. We've got to mend fences."
Lynn agreed, saying the ultimate goal needs to be retaining the Republican seat.
"I don't want to go to sleep at night worrying about how my senator is going to vote."
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at email@example.com.