Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., whose district includes Millington, easily edged out his two challengers. Republican James L. Hart was on the ballot, but had his candidacy repudiated by party officials when his views on “favored races” became known. Dennis K. Bertrand ran as a GOP write-in candidate.
Tanner said he plans to work on two issues in a ninth term: the deficit, which he says is creating a financial vulnerability with national security implications, and strengthening military alliances, especially in terms of intelligence.
“In this new age when no longer is military might a deterrent, if you will, then our best defense, if not our only defense, is accurate and timely intelligence,” Tanner said.
Hart said the results didn’t surprise him since he had effectively lost his right to advertise his positions and after the state Republican Party “did the same thing to me as they did to Trent Lott,” a reference to the Mississippi senator who lost of his majority leader status after comment about the 1948 election that many found racially insensitive. Hart said he is already planning to run against Tanner again in 2006.
With 292 of 309 precincts reporting:
Hart 56,376 (25%)
Tanner 164,956 (75%)
Woody Baird, AP, Nov. 1
MEMPHIS—James Hart, a Republican candidate for Congress, decided not to pack his pistol. After all, he said, he was campaigning in a white neighborhood.
“I did carry it the other day when I was in a neighborhood that was real mixed . . . a racially mixed neighborhood,” said Hart, who wants to end welfare and immigration to limit reproduction by “less favored races.”
Hart is running in the largely rural 8th District, which includes most of northwest Tennessee and extends down to just north of Memphis.
He has little chance of unseating eight-term Democrat John Tanner, but Hart’s political ideas have drawn attention to what otherwise would be a ho-hum election.
Hart is a champion of eugenics, the phony science that led to a movement in the early 20th century to sterilize the “unfit.” About 65,000 people were sterilized nationwide.
He often campaigns with a .40-caliber pistol in a shoulder holster, along with a protective vest. He said he carries the gun in case someone gets upset with his standard opening line: “White children deserve the same rights as everybody else. Vote for me if you believe that.”
“I haven’t had any problems yet,” he said by phone while handing out flyers in a Jackson neighborhood Thursday. “I’m wearing my bulletproof vest, but it’s awful hot.”
Hart said he left the firepower behind because he was in a “super good” white neighborhood where he felt safe.
Tanner said he hears little about Hart.
“I’ve never met the guy or seen him,” said Tanner, who has broad support across his heavily Democratic district.
Hart, who ran as an independent in 2000, won the Republican nomination because he had no opposition in the primary. The state GOP says it knew little about Hart until the ballot deadline had passed for the primary, and he became the party’s standard bearer.
Now he’s an embarrassment.
Republican Dennis Bertrand, a financial analyst and former military officer, conducted a write-in campaign in the primary, but Hart ended up with more than 80 percent of the vote.
Bertrand also is a write-in candidate for the general election, and the party is urging Republicans to vote for him. In a statement, the GOP said Hart’s views “are not reflective of those of the Republican Party.”
Tanner made no mention of Hart at a recent campaign stop at the Old Timers restaurant in Millington, a small town near Memphis.
As usual, Tanner pledged to work toward balancing the federal budget and played up his membership in the Blue Dogs, a group of Democrats who label themselves as moderates.
Several members of his audience of three-dozen supporters said they had never heard of Hart. But Carolyn Murphy, 77, said she knew a little about him and was not impressed.
“I think his attitude is non-Christian,” she said.
Hart, a former real estate salesman, said he lost his job during the primary when his employer realized the depth of his political ideas.
With no expectation of victory, Hart said he was using the campaign to spread those beliefs.
“It could take 400 years or 500 years or whatever before I can get my ideas recognized,” he said. “But eugenics and evolution ethics are inevitable and predictable.”