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An Election Update – Pro-Choice Candidates *Can* (Almost) Win in Tennessee

August 29, 2010

In July, I wrote about why I planned to vote for Tennessee state senate candidate Jeff Yarbro – because of his explicitly pro-choice position, a rarity around here – over long-time incumbent Doug Henry in the Democratic primary. I did, and others did too, as Yarbro very nearly won.

On election night, Yarbo was behind by two(!) votes. And there were two provisional ballots left to count. Those two votes went to Yarbo, but then absentee ballots were recounted, putting Henry back up by 13 votes. And then there was a recount, and Henry was declared the winner by 17 votes. The point is, it was close. It wasn’t a blow-out in which the incumbent who is more Republican-y on choice easily walked away with it.

I know, I know – it’s a small sample in one district and it’s complicated by other factors – this was not a statewide referendum on pro-choice or even explicitly progressive candidates in general. Other people likely make their votes based on issues aside from Yarbro’s explicit pro-choice position, and there are demographics of the district to consider. This is a weak thesis buoyed by optimism, people. But I’d like to believe it has implications with regards to the conventional wisdom that liberal (or progressive, or pro-choice, or not Republican-lite) candidates can’t win in Tennessee. One almost did, at least locally.

Meanwhile, the only Democrat running for Governor is not exactly inspiring liberal voters, but rather is inspiring commentary like this:

There are a lot of people in this state who need the Democrats to stand up (and I would hope stand up proudly) for them and the Democrats, McWherter especially, has signaled that our problems are not his problem.


Then his problems aren’t mine.

Read the last four paragraphs of this Nashville Scene piece to see why. I usually get excited about elections and have made a point to vote ever since I first registered at 18, but since none of the extremists won the Republican primary, I’m not sure I even care about whether McWherter wins enough to bother voting. I’m waiting for someone to convince me otherwise, and the McWherter campaign certainly hasn’t done it.

[For more on TN elections and politics and Democrats, see Sean and B and ‘Coma’s people.]

Added 9/5/10: There was some business about this post here and here, when a Knoxville News-Sentinel columnist included this bit in his piece:

Remarkably, one can find, for example, a blogger who emphasizes being pro-choice on abortion declaring she sees no difference between McWherter, who is pro-choice, and Haslam, who is pro-life – although neither candidate is zealous about espousing his position. She was upset that McWherter had shown some sympathy for people opposing construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro.

My response, originally posted in the comments at B’s:

As B noted above, women are not single-issue voters. Yes, I’m pro-choice, and McWherter may be nominally pro-choice. However, I’ve not been properly convinced of how this would play out were he elected, nor am I convinced that someone who would not stand up for justice wrt religious freedom would stand up for what I consider to be justice wrt reproductive freedom, nor do I think a nominally pro-choice stance can necessarily erase the problems of other positions and statements. “Disillusioned Democrat” is an apt descriptor, however, because I remain unconvinced that McWherter is Democratic/progressive/liberal/whatever enough to suit my tastes.

Pro-choice is important, but it cannot outweigh all other injustices.

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