In the 4th Congressional District, it’s one Hale of a race

On May 7th, 2018 in Murfreesboro, I was a victim of a hate crime while walking home, targeted due to my sexual orientation. The media coverage prompted Congressional candidate Christopher Hale to reach out to me. 

He, just as any politician would, promised that if elected he would ensure that this type of situation wouldn’t happen again. Beyond merely stating his noble intentions, Hale also asked that I advise him on other concerns. 

In addition to providing the opportunity to educate Hale, this sparked an interest in the stances of other candidates for office in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district in relation to our community. 

Most of the candidates understand the needs of this mixed urban-rural community along similar lines. 

Democratic candidate Mariah Phillips described our needs accordingly, “This district is full of hard working people who just need someone to stand up for them in Washington.” 

Steven Reynolds (D) echoed the sentiment, saying, “I hope to be the bridge between both the rural and suburbs.” As a self-proclaimed radical moderate he emphasized, “We have to bring the people in the middle together.”   

Furthermore, he added that he wants to, “Bring equality and fair treatment to all citizens,” as he believes that current members of congress seem to lack the ability to make sound and impartial decisions that encourage the diversity that was the founding objective of our government. 

His comment, “As long as you’re not causing harm to anyone, you should be able to live as you choose, and that’s the true meaning of liberty,” spoke to his dedication to those ideals he’d serve without reservation if elected. 

PHOTO AT TOP: district 4 candidates (L to R) Christopher Hale, Jack Maddux, Mariah Phillips, Stephen Reynolds, Michael Shupe.

Independent candidate Michael Shupe focused on the many small communities within this Congressional district. Shupe is a resident of Columbia in Maury County which is primarily rural areas. His main concerns was, “With the 4th district having so many rural areas, tax dollars are not allocated in a way to ensure a separate county, but equal (if you will), education system.” 

He continues, “There could be any number of Einstein’s out there that no one will know about because of lack of funding,” adding that many schools are without broadband internet, placing the generations in these parts of the district at a great disadvantage.   

Additionally, he is concerned about the college-focused organization of our educational system. “There’s a push for … gaining collegiate degrees, causing substantial debt for constituents… There needs to be more of a focus on vocational training.” 

Shupe seeks to bridge the gap between the underserved communities he is all too familiar with, the counties with larger populations, and overlooked citizens, for example those within the LGBT community. “My commitment is that every man, woman, and child will be represented equally. We may not always agree on all the issues within the district, but I will always keep an open line of communication to ensure that everyone is heard.” 

In respect to hate crimes and the LGBT community, he felt that, “The best thing here would be better education and communication, especially, with the younger generations, to establish a proactive mutual respect and understanding for the LGBT demographic,” in hopes that this education will completely eliminate hate crimes against it, as well as other marginalized groups. 

In general, his attitude towards LGBT rights was that, “It’s up to the individual how they identify, the relationships they want to be in, and to marry whomever they love. I don’t think we should be getting involved in anyone’s life in this regard.” Instead, the ‘judge not’ rule is the credo he follows. 

Of these candidates, Phillips has the most immediate and involved relationship with the district’s LGBT constituents. This exceptional candidate majored in political science, and, as a teacher, understands the educational and other needs of the 4th’s rural communities. 

Likewise, she is a true champion on the LGBT community. She was the only candidate for her district to have an official presence at the 2nd Annual Murfreesboro Pride event (Karl Dean, Democratic candidate for governor, was also present). Beyond this, she also had a hand in establishing the organization Murfreesboro Loves, of which she was a founding member and with which she continued to volunteer after its inception. 

Phillips felt that hate crimes are a continuing issue within our country in general, and argued groups are perpetuating the problem by being grounded by hate (for example, White Lives Matter). For her, politicians play a role in establishing this climate. 

“My concern is that politicians both local and federal are using the LGBT community as a way to divide Americans in forms of discrimination,” she stated. “We all deserve equal rights. That’s what our country was founded on… That’s who we are as America.” 

Phillips conveyed a strong belief that, “It’s our responsibility as citizens of the USA to take care of each other.”  

Republican candidate Jack Maddux truly surprised me with his overall stance and opinion on policies affecting our demographic, although, he does hold to some of his party’s dogmatic statements on the issues. For example, he believes that gay marriage should be a state, not federal issue. 

Additionally, his strong southern Baptist religious views motivate and reinforce his belief that marriage is strictly a right afforded a couple comprised of a man and a woman. 

He defends his views emphatically, explaining that it’s not a matter of hate or discrimination stating, “I believe a lot of times today Christians are more associated with the Republican Party; however, there’s a misconception that Christians don’t believe in that [LGBT] community and that they hate them. That’s the stereotype, but a true Christian should be about loving everyone. We all don’t necessarily need to agree, but we all need to love.” 

In fact, Maddux has an openly gay son Wesley Maddux. Though Wesley was hesitant to be interviewed, he wanted voters know that his father stood for all people. 

Wesley’s experience lent credence to his father’s willingness to provide that love. “My dad always loved and supported me my whole life, not just certain portions of it,” Wesley said. 

When he came out, it wasn’t the atypical horror story you would expect from a conservative, southern Baptist, republican, congressional candidate from small town Tennessee. “He’s a great dad and a great person… I’ve always known my dad to be a very caring and compassionate individual. He’s quick to listen, but slow to judge. He wants what’s best for everyone…” 

This is in stark contrast to the incumbent, Dr. Scott DesJarlais, with whom attempts to set up an interview via his campaign manager and congressional communications director were unsuccessful. 

DesJarlais’ contempt for the LGBT community and liberal values are well documented, however, and his record stands for itself (though his record on liberal values is slightly mixed, since he seems to support limited abortion rights—for his ex-wives and mistresses). 

So, in the 4th District, there are relatively good choices for voters across the political spectrum, but some are stronger than others. Christopher Hale (D) only filed his paperwork to join the race on the filing deadline. 

This to his detriment, as Phillips commented, “He missed out on the relationship building all over the district.  There are 16 counties and that’s a lot of people’s trust to gain.” 

Hale, however, feels that 6 months is going to be plenty of time to win the primary, and he’s got great ambition to win the general election. Currently, he indicates he has volunteer staff campaigning in all 16 counties. 

Additionally, he is utilizing campaign strategies that are generally considered very costly. At the time of this interview, he was not willing to disclose information regarding campaign funding or usage. 

This could raise the concern, especially with his late entry, that he believes money is enough to win the election, and that he many be pandering to certain voting blocks, showing disingenuous interest in certain segments, such as the LGBT community. 

Unfortunately, he’s got a snowball’s chance in Hale of winning the race, at least with current public opinion, and the LGBT community has a much stronger supporter in Phillips. 

Please remember to vote in the 4th District (or your own) primary on August 2. It’s a civic responsibility, which has been defended by a great many, and our communities across the state depend on it. 






Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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