When Tennessee's 10th state Senatorial District was gerrymandered in a way that made it all but impossible for a Democrat to win the seat, incumbent Democratic State Sen. Andy Berke wisely bailed out of the race in favor of a bid for Chattanooga mayor.
Berke's decision left an open seat in a newly Republican district, drawing a who's who of potential candidates interested in the post.
When the dust settled, two candidates threw their hats into the ring - financial consultant and Republican activist Todd Gardenhire and Greg Vital, the founder and president of Morning Point Assisted Living, a collection of senior care facilities.
Now, just days before the election, we're so disgusted with both of them, we'd love to have a do-over.
This campaign is filled with more fabrications, innuendo, name-calling and mudslinging than most Bravo reality shows.
First, Vital - accidentally, he claims - misrepresented himself as a college graduate when, in fact, he dropped out of Southern Adventist University a fistful of credit hours short of graduating.
Then, a mailer was sent to 10th District voters featuring a copy of a 1997 protective order against Gardenhire written by his then-wife. (She soon requested the petition be withdrawn.) When Vital claimed to have no knowledge of, or involvement with, the mail piece - a claim that remains unsettled - Gardenhire called Vital "Pinocchio" and accused him of spreading misleading information.
Since neither man has acted like a principled candidate in recent days, this page sought to determine which candidate would be a more principled voice for conservative and free market policies in Nashville.
After speaking with both men, the answer to that question is clear: Greg Vital.
Todd Gardenhire has received endorsements from some very weighty conservative organizations including Tennessee Right to Life and the Tennessee Conservative Union. He has been active in Republican politics for 42 years and was involved in the Reagan administration. Still, despite all of those conservative credentials, it's hard to find any evidence that he has any concern for the Republican values of limited government and individual responsibility.
For example, Gardenhire claims the role of the government is to "protect citizens." When protecting citizens is the government's chief concern, however, there is no limit to how large government can grow.
In fact, that is the most fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals believe the proper role of government is to protect people from themselves. Conservatives believe the proper role of government is to protect people, and their liberties, from government.
Gardenhire further affirmed his progressive economic viewpoint by implying that changes to public pensions that allowed government employees to have a more hands-on role in managing their money was dangerous because teachers aren't capable of managing their own money. Driving the point home, he claimed "if you give them the chance, people will take out their retirement to buy a bass boat."
This distrust in the ability of individuals to make good, thoughtful decisions about what is best for themselves and their families is exactly why liberals claim more government is needed. It is certainly not something you would expect to hear from a GOP stalwart.
Additionally, Gardenhire also expressed a desire for more state spending on schools and more corporate welfare programs.
While Vital's win-at-all-cost mentality has disgusted some voters, he is committed to reducing burdensome regulations on small businesses, expanding school choice options and fighting for more competition - not more government - in state healthcare policies.
This page endorses Greg Vital for the 10th District state senate seat. We believe that when it comes time to vote in Nashville, Vital will be a voice for fiscal restraint and less onerous government.