Democrat Phil Bredesen speaks with Sylvia W. Phillips, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Bill Honeycutt, a member of the board of directors for the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, following an ideas forum Monday, October 1, 2018 at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Bredesen held the event to talk about his platform and field audience questions.

Updated at 8 p.m. on Fridaym Oct. 5, 2018, with more information.

some text
Democrat Phil Bredesen speaks about his platform during an ideas forum moderated by Garry Mac Monday, October 1, 2018 at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Bredesen, who is running against Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn for the U.S. Senate seat, held the event to talk about his platform and field audience questions.

NASHVILLE — U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen is drawing fire from some fellow Democrats in both Tennessee and Washington after announcing Friday that despite reservations over the process, he would nonetheless vote to confirm controversial U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh if he were a sitting senator.

The progressive activist group quickly announced it was canceling a planned six-figure digital ad buy for the Senate hopeful.

The former governor said in a statement that his prior decision became a "much closer call" after Kavanaugh was accused by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that a drunken teenaged Kavanaugh assaulted her during a high school party.

Bredesen's announcement came shortly before the Senate voted largely along party lines in a procedural vote to let President Donald Trump's nomination of Kavanaugh to the nation's highest court proceed to a floor vote as soon as Saturday.

Noting he was "disgusted" by Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans' treatment of Ford, Bredesen said he does think presidents have a "right to appoint justices who share their values — elections have consequences. I believe a Senator's responsibility to 'advise and consent' is not a license to indulge in partisanship, but should focus on the qualifications of the nominee, their ethics and their temperament."

The former governor said he believed Kavanaugh "initially met this test, and I was prepared to say 'yes' to his nomination prior to Dr. Ford's coming forward.

"While the subsequent events make it a much closer call, and I am missing key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has, I'm still a 'yes,'" said Bredesen, who also called Ford a "heroine" as he decried Republicans' treatment of her.

In his race with Republican Marsha Blackburn to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga, Bredesen has sought to appeal to the moderate Republicans and conservative independents he needs to carry a red state.

Bredesen points to his tenure as governor from 2003 to 2011, when he sometimes upset Democrats as well as Republicans depending on the issue, and says he would remain a moderate, pragmatic and independent voice in Washington.

But that's become more difficult for Bredesen in a more polarized 2018 as he catches flak from both sides.

Chattanoogan Randy Price, who is running in Tennessee's state Senate District 11 contest in Hamilton County, called Bredesen's announcement "disappointing" in a tweet and soon followed up with a far sharper jab:

"So you are saying lying to the Senate and serious partisanship aren't disqualifying?" Price said of Bredesen's stance on Kavanaugh, who had angrily denied allegations of sexual improprieties while in high school and college from three women, including Ford. "You need to rethink your position or job application."

Price's "job application" dig was a reference to a frequent Bredesen video ad tagline in which he says "I'm applying for the job."

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini issued a statement, hours after being contacted by a Times Free Press reporter, in which she said: "Let me be clear: We stand with the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

"Today, Governor Bredesen released a disappointing statement based on imperfect and limited information as a result of a flawed and secretive process," Mancini added. "The fact remains, Phil Bredesen will be a far superior representative in the U.S. Senate than Marsha Blackburn.

She said "another fact remains that we have only 32 days to elect as many Democrats as possible up and down the ballot in Tennessee."

In a tweet, tweeted the group was "canceling a planned six-figure digital video ad expenditure for Phil Bredesen in Tennessee due to his Kavanaugh position."

Another top Democratic-aligned super PAC, Priorities USA, also said Friday it will no longer consider jumping in to help Bredesen given his support of Kavanaugh.

Also on Friday, a group of 60 to 70 critics of Kavanaugh, most of them women, rallied in front of a Nashville office building that houses both the offices of Corker and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

They denounced both Republicans for their yes votes Friday morning on the procedural motion to have a final floor vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation.

"Will they hear the cries or sweep their morals under the rugs?" one woman asked of Corker and Alexander as they also voiced concerns that Kavanaugh could become a deciding vote on issues ranging from abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the federal Affordable Care Act.

In response to later questions from reporters about Bredesen's statement, several voiced dismay.

"Who do we vote for now?" said Nettie Kraft of Nashville, a small business owner who described herself as a survivor of a sexual assault. "Bredesen is catering to the rural populations of this state and that's what he's doing. And I'm ashamed of Bredesen."

Still, she quickly added, "I'm going to have to swallow my pride and I'm still going to have to vote for him because I guess he's at least better than Blackburn."

Kavanaugh's confirmation battle has become one of the recent major campaign flash points in the tight Senate race between Bredesen and Blackburn.

A Brentwood congress member, Blackburn scoffed at Bredesen's statement and charged he will be under the thumb of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., if he is elected to the narrowly divided Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority.

"His campaign is bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer and national Democrats, including Michael Bloomberg," Blackburn said. "He put off an answer on Judge Kavanaugh for 88 days, under Chuck Schumer's direction to stay neutral as long as you can. The contrast on these issues could not be more clear."

A Schumer-aligned super PAC has already spent substantial sums in support of Bredesen and against Blackburn.

Soon after his announcement on Friday, Bredesen released a new digital spot in which he tells viewers "You know me. When I first ran for governor, they said I'd bring in an income tax. It was just a scare tactic. I proved them wrong, kept my word, worked across party lines, balanced eight straight budgets without an income tax, without raising the sales tax."

Pointing to how he went against fellow Democrats as he pushed cuts in TennCare, the state's then-expanded Medicaid program, Bredesen said Republicans' "scare tactic" is that "I will somehow become Chuck Schumer's lapdog. I don't even support him."

Bredesen announced last week during his first of two debates with Blackburn that he would not vote for Schumer as leader.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.