Tennessee: Smith douses heat over party points

Tennessee: Smith douses heat over party points

July 3rd, 2009 by Matt Wilson in Politics State


* Read the Vanity Fair blog post on Robin Smith at vanityfair.com/online/politics.

* Robin Smith's congressional campaign Web site, which launched Thursday, is robinfortennessee.com.

A national writer and state political officials are taking aim at congressional candidate and former Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman Robin Smith, one calling her "Poisonous Partisan Robin Smith."

The shots at Mrs. Smith are aimed at a news release about President Barack Obama that the state GOP released last year.

"(Mrs. Smith) approved the distribution of some of the most underhanded and insidious anti-Obama propaganda to appear during the election," blogger Christopher Bateman wrote in a post on Vanity Fair magazine's Web site.

The post was titled "Now Running for Congress: Poisonous Partisan Robin Smith."

Mrs. Smith, of Hixson, announced Wednesday she was running for the 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. Rep. Wamp is running for governor.

Mark Winslow, a spokesman for Mrs. Smith's congressional campaign, said that they are "not terribly concerned with what national liberal authors have to say."

Mr. Winslow pointed out that Mr. Bateman also has written posts criticizing former GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"We appear to be in good company," he said.

Mr. Bateman chiefly criticized a state GOP news release from February 2008 titled "Anti-Semites for Obama," which included a picture of the then-senator, a Democrat, dressed in Kenyan robes and a turban. It also included Mr. Obama's middle name, Hussein.

The Tennessee Republican Party pulled the news release from its Web site following a request from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., but not before Mrs. Smith defended it, saying "the party stands by that press release." She said the release was a response to "anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment."

According to a report by The Associated Press, Mrs. Smith on Wednesday called a reporter's question about that release "unprofessional" and said it was a "liberal media" tactic to embarrass her.

Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, one of Mrs. Smith's GOP primary opponents, took Mrs. Smith to task for those comments.

"A reporter asking a question does not constitute 'unprofessional' conduct," Sheriff Gobble wrote in a post on Twitter.com. "It constitutes his or her job."

Chip Forrester, chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, also criticized Mrs. Smith in a Thursday news release.

"Many voters are appalled at the disgusting antics the Republican Party used in last year's election," Mr. Forrester said.

But Bruce Oppenheimer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, said the Obama attacks could help Mrs. Smith with conservative fundraisers and Republican primary voters.

Where it could hurt her, Dr. Oppenheimer said, is if an opponent could make an argument that she doesn't have the temperament for the office.

Running against Mrs. Smith in the GOP race for the congressional seat are Sheriff Gobble; Chattanooga attorney Chuck Fleischmann; Chattanooga engineer Tommy Crangle; Mark Devol, of Andersonville; Knoxville-area engineer Greg Goodwin; and Cleveland businessman Art Rhodes.

On the Democratic side, former state Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Paula Flowers and Chattanooga systems analyst Brent Benedict are seeking the seat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.