Local delegation loses clout, experience

Local delegation loses clout, experience

November 4th, 2010 in News

Voters elected five new Republican members of Congress in Tennessee and Northwest Georgia this year to replace retiring and defeated members who collectively have nearly a century of experience.

The freshman lawmakers may lack some of the seniority and clout of their predecessors, but many voters said they want new faces in Washington, D.C.

"Republicans may not be the answer, but we definitely need a change and a new direction," said Mark Lott, a Republican voter in East Brainerd. "A fresh face never hurt, and we need some new ideas compared with those from politicians who have been in Washington too long."

Chattanooga attorney Chuck Fleischmann, a political newcomer elected Tuesday in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, said "people want a change in direction from what they've seen coming out of Washington."

"The past two years have been a disaster for the American people, and they want to put the brakes on the Obama administration and change things," Fleischmann said.

Dr. Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper physician who ousted U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., said voters want a congressman "who will always listen to their concerns."

"History was made across the nation as Americans spoke with one voice against a federal government that has grown too large and too intrusive in our lives," he said.

The local freshmen replace three Democrats who either retired or were defeated, and two Republicans who left Congress to run for governor.

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who after 16 years in the House ran unsuccessfully for Tennessee governor, and Davis, who was defeated in his bid for a fifth term, were both members of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which shapes federal spending.

U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., a 26-year incumbent who is retiring this year, is chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, and U.S. Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., a 22-year incumbent who is also retiring, is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which helps determine tax policy.

"Tennessee is losing a lot of experience and clout from those members leaving the delegation," said John Geer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. "That could make it harder, in some instances, to get funding for some projects in Tennessee, although Tennessee will still have some other strong members in the House and Senate."

After losing his seat to DesJarlais Tuesday night, Davis listed some of the projects in Tennessee's 4th Congressional District for which he had helped secure federal funding.

"They just lost a person who sits on the Appropriations Committee that can help with their roads, their water, their sewer lines, their needed facilities," Davis said. "Martin Methodist University will tell you that they have a nursing school now because I helped get special appropriations and earmarks for them. We have five [Veterans Administration] clinics in this congressional district that we didn't have when I became a congressman.

"So you ask me have we lost anything?" Davis added. "The voters don't think they have."

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both R-Tenn., were not up for re-election this year. Corker said other members of the congressional delegation will work to make sure Tennessee is treated fairly.

"But in all candor, we have to recognize that, for us to get serious about the deficit and our debt, we're going to have to take a hard look at our spending and not pursue so many discretionary federal projects," he said.

Some voters also said they want a different type of experience in Washington than simply years in Congress.

"I want a candidate who has some life and work experience that most people have, not a career politician," said Patty Walker, a Fleischmann supporter.

In Northwest Georgia, U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., gave up his congressional seat in April to run for Georgia governor. Deal, a Democrat-turned-Republican, served in Congress for nearly 18 years.

On Tuesday, Deal was elected to the governor's seat over Democrat Roy Barnes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.