The Competition

Yesterday was the filing deadline for my Congressional race, so I drove to Nashville to drop off my papers in person.

Driving to Nashville with a sleepy unpaid intern.

Driving to Nashville with a sleepy unpaid intern.

I have lived all around the country: Missouri, Wisconsin, California, Florida, and Tennessee. I have experienced government agencies that are, well, inefficient to put it mildly. The people I have encountered so far in the process of running for election have been incredibly friendly and helpful. Sherri Sivley in Hamilton County and Laura Bond in Nashville both made the process of filing for candidacy easy and painless, and I am grateful that we have such competent and nice people working for us. Thanks!

I am the only independent candidate running for the Tennessee 3rd District seat. My opponents are the incumbent, Chuck Fleischmann, his primary opponent Geoffery Suhmer Smith, and three Democrats, Michael Friedman, George Ryan Love, and Melody Shekari.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I hesitate to call any of my opponents enemies, as I believe that it is unlikely that any of them wish to harm me or anyone else. I may not agree with their beliefs and approaches, but I think they all are running for Congress because they want to do what is best for our country. I am, however, competing against them, so I need to educate myself as much as possible about them.

Chuck Fleischmann

Obviously, finding information on an incumbent Congressman is trivial.

House Website

Campaign Website

Fleischmann was elected to Congress in 2010. He graduated from the University of Illinois and got his law degree from the University of Tennessee. According to his campaign website he worked his way up, from living alone at 16 through college and law school, then starting his own firm.

I have dealt with his office a few times, and each time they were helpful and answered all of my questions–even when I disagreed with the answers. I have no doubt that Fleischmann is a good man.

He isn’t very active in sponsoring or cosponsoring legislation. Of Tennessee’s nine Representatives, he sponsored and cosponsored fewer bills than any of them. None of his legislation had cosponsors that were committee chairs or Senators, so he’s not getting powerful members of Congress to work with him. Having said that, he missed fewer votes than almost all of them. So, while he isn’t involved in promoting much legislation himself, he does vote on almost everything.

The problem is that he’s a party man. He has a 100% voting record for pro-life and 2nd Amendment issues. He was rated 100% by the Family Research Council and 0% by the ACLU. 96% of the bills he cosponsored were introduced by Republicans. He’s repeatedly joined Republicans in banging their collective heads against the wall by trying to repeal Obamacare. He’s a loyal Republican, but if we want anything to get done in Congress we need members willing to work with the other party, and we need members who will focus on issues that aren’t so incredibly divisive. If you know a piece of legislation has zero chance of being signed into law–or gaining enough support to override a veto–why waste time on it? Move on and do something that will actually pass and will help the American people.

Geoffery Suhmer Smith

Geoffery Suhmer Smith is a member of the McMinn County Tea Party. I went to a Tea Party meeting four years ago and, from what I have read, little has changed since then. Smith will likely be running to the right of Fleischmann, which I don’t see as a good thing.

So, what else could I learn about Smith? He’s an Army infantry veteran and a Mason. He graduated from American Military University. He’s married–he has a wedding picture on his Facebook page. He’s made posts about being anti-abortion and anti-Obama. I can’t see

Other than that, I can’t find too much about him. He’s served his country and he gets my praise for that. I’ve contacted him directly to try to learn more about him.

Michael Friedman

Michael Friedman is a public relations assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. He got his Ph.D. from Michigan State, with a master’s in journalism from NYU and a bachelor’s from Boston College. He has divisive ratings on Rate My Professors, but that’s not unusual. A couple of commenters remark on his ego, but that’s the norm for people interested in politics–as it probably needs to be–in my experience. I am a bit surprised that a PR professor is so inactive on his Twitter and that his consultancy website is broken, but life can be pretty busy sometimes. (A bit pot-calling-kettle here, as I haven’t updated http://www.kersting.com since the day after Zari was born, but I’ve always mostly used that for a file and email server.)

I learned that he has a son from a tweet on a Chattanooga Lookouts game. Other than that, I don’t know much about him. Like Mr. Smith, I’ve also reached out to Dr. Friedman.

George Ryan Love

George Ryan Love is a disabled American working part-time at Wal-Mart.

Campaign Website

Mr. Love’s focus seems to be on reducing income inequality by increasing the minimum wage. He also comments on wanting to help Hispanic immigrants. It does look like his campaign site is still in the very early stages, so there isn’t too much about him. According to his Twitter feed he’s a Bernie Sanders supporter. I’ve reached out to Mr. Love to see if he can elaborate on some of his views.

Melody Shekari

Melody Shekari was Graduate Student Body President at my alma mater, the University of Southern California, where she got her law degree. She has a master’s in public administration from the University of Washington and got her bachelor’s from Bentley University. She is the daughter of Iranian immigrants and grew up in Chattanooga, attending Bright and GPS. She is currently a Policy Fellow for Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

Campaign website

Her campaign website is obviously a work in progress. I can’t find much on her specific policy views on her Twitter or Facebook pages. As with the other candidates, I’ve reached out.

And Me

I have a bachelor’s in international relations from USC. I went to grad school there for a semester, but quit when I realized I wasn’t learning anything, just reading and paying a lot more. I’ve lived in Chattanooga from 1996-2000 and since 2003. I was elected to several offices in high school and served on USC’s Engineering Student Council as Secretary. Learning about my views is pretty easy–you’re already here. I’m really easy to contact through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and if you spend thirty seconds searching, you can probably find my personal cell number.

Thanks for reading. I’ll let you know what I learn from my opponents.

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Tennessee 3rd District

One response to “The Competition

  1. Pingback: Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the Right | Topher for Congress

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