Former state senator and current Shelby County Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood declared this morning he will challenge Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the Republican primary for the Seventh Congressional District.
Leatherwood was elected Register of Deeds in November 2000, when he won a special election to serve the remainder of the late Guy Bates' term. Leatherwood was born and raised in Shelby County and served two terms in the State Senate starting in 1992. He was vice chairman of both the education and general welfare committees.
What will make this race interesting is that a significant number of the district's voters are on the Western end of the district as opposed to Blackburn's base of support in Williamson County. When first elected, Blackburn was the beneficiary of a split vote coming out of the GOP primary in Shelby County.
While Blackburn holds a significant advantage in fund-raising, over $1 million in the bank, she cannot take this primary challenge lightly. The congresswoman has long ruffled the feathers of prominent Republicans across the state with what has been perceived as political grandstanding or self-promotion on her part, be it regarding income tax fights in Tennessee or the claim of being a vice-presidential contender.
Among the issues that Leatherwood is expected to bring up in this primary challenge is Blackburn's legislative record and the employment of family members paid through campaign contributions.
Blackburn will likely campaign that she is a "rising star" in the GOP and shouldn't be turned out of office. She also has a signficiant advantage in name identification, meaning a large part of her district knows who she is as opposed to Leatherwood.