New Bredesen ad features Corker, Fleischmann speaking favorably of him; Fleischmann pushes back

Former Tennessee governor and U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen meets with the editorial board at the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee U.S. Senate Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen and Republican nominee Marsha Blackburn are up online with dueling digital spots as they make their respective cases to voters in the Nov. 6 general election.

The spot from Bredesen, a former governor and Nashville mayor, was posted Monday on his website. It features video of favorable statements about him made by Republicans, including incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, both of Chattanooga.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Blackburn of Franklin is highlighting her role as a state senator who successfully fought a proposed state income tax proposed in the early 2000s by some Republicans and championed by then-Gov. Don Sundquist.

In her 15-second digital ad, Blackburn says, "here in Tennessee I fought my own party to stop a massive, job-killing state income tax. And we stopped it. We won."

While the comment was included in Blackburn's 2017 Senate announcement video, it is now its own stand-alone spot. In her tweet showing the ad, Blackburn said, "I promised the people I represented I would never support a state income tax because people here didn't want it. Together, we stopped it."

It makes no mention of Sundquist, who is now backing Blackburn's bid.

Bredesen's spot has a banner stating "What Republicans Are Saying About Phil Bredesen." It shows footage of a series of favorable comments made not just by Corker and Fleischmann but other Republicans.

The list is comprised of Republican pundit Scottie Nell Hughes, former state House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart and Bill Phillips, a state lobbyist and consultant who worked for the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations as well as as an assistant manager for operations in the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign.

"Phil Bredesen is a friend of mine, OK," Corker is shown saying in previously reported comments made at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. "I have worked with him for 23 years. We worked together to bring the Titans to our state. When I became a senator, and he was governor, we brought Volkswagen to our state."

Bredesen, Corker said, "was a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person."

Much later, Corker said that he is backing Blackburn in her bid to succeed him but that he won't campaign against his friend Bredesen. On Saturday, he stood beside both Blackburn and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee at a Republican unity event in Nashville.

Corker's office did not respond to a Times Free Press reporter's request for comment about Bredesen's inclusion of his remarks for the video.

But Fleischmann is taking aim at the ad's use of comments he made to the Washington bureau of Nexstar, which owns television stations across much of Tennessee including WKRN-TV in Nashville.

The ad features footage of Fleischmann saying that as governor Bredesen "had a very strong fiscal relationship with a lot of the business people in this state, and he did a good job as governor."

It doesn't, however, include footage from the same interview in which Fleischmann, who has endorsed Blackburn, said Congressman Blackburn's values are in line with Tennesseeans, adding "we need to elect someone like Marsha Blackburn who will stand with the president and with the Republican agenda."

In a statement Monday, Fleischmann called Bredesen "wrong for Tennessee," saying the former governor was "personally recruited" by and now indebted to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Bredesen "won't represent the best interests of Tennesseans," said Fleischmann, adding, "I wholeheartedly support Marsha Blackburn for Senate. She is the only candidate Tennesseans can count on to stand up for our values. She is the only one who will work with President Trump to implement his agenda and confirm his good constitutionalist nominees to the Supreme Court. She should be and will be our next Senator."

Meanwhile, Maggart, the former state House GOP Caucus chairman, also took issue with the ad focusing on her statement about Bredesen on a weekly WKRN political discussion program that Bredesen "did a lot of good things in our state like fix TennCare."

"He did a lot of good things in our state, but he had a lot of Republican support," Maggart said in an email to the Times Free Press. "I was there, we helped him do the things the Democrats absolutely refused to do like fix TennCare."

Saying she staunchly backs Blackburn, Maggart charged the Bredesen's campaign "chopped and spliced my sentence together and my entire point was changed. So much for 'really working across the aisle' when he had to manipulate my point to serve his purpose."

Bredesen spokeswoman Alyssa Hansen said in a statement it's "been clear from the beginning that the opposition wants to turn this into a hyper-partisan race to the bottom while Gov. Bredesen is focused on reaching out to Tennesseans of all political stripes."

The video, Hansen said, "summarizes what Tennesseans - Democrats, Republicans and independents - know to be true about Phil Bredesen- he's a proven leader with a track-record of getting things done for our state."

Bredesen campaign chief Bob Corney is warning in a new campaign memo that out-of-state "dark money" groups will soon be attacking the Democratic nominee, saying they've "pledged to spend more than $8 million to beat us with negativity.

"The Washington status-quo is panicking because our positive message is resonating with voters," Corney asserted in the Monday memo. "While our opponent and her backers aim to divide and scare Tennesseans with half-truths and misinformation, Governor Bredesen is committed to bringing people together and putting Tennessee first."

Meanwhile, the pro-President Donald Trump Super PAC, the Committee to Defend the President that supports Blackburn, says it intends to be more engaged now that the Aug. 2 primary contests are over.

Congratulating Blackburn on her win, the group says it's already spent $150,000 on direct and bundled contributions, polls, opposition research and a "hard-hitting grassroots program" for the Tennessee contest.

It now plans to spend up to $1 million with plans to expand grassroots operations both in support of Blackburn and to warn voters about what it calls "Bredesen's support for the liberal Democratic policies that failed them during his governorship."

"The Committee to Defend the President is willing to do whatever it takes to propel Marsha to the Senate," spokeswoman Amanda Head said in a statement. "Whereas Phil Bredesen is a poster child for the failed Obama policies of the past, Marsha is a champion for the conservative reforms that Tennesseans overwhelmingly supported in 2016."

Head said Blackburn "will be a valuable partner for President Trump on his quest to make America great again."

Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.