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February 16th, 2024        Len’s Political Note #622 Tennessee US Senate

2024                                      General Election

I am breaking my rule.  The goal of these Political Notes is to urge you to give money or provide other support to candidates who are close enough to victory so that the money or the support could make a difference between winning and losing.  I urge support for candidates at the state level – candidates for governor, for attorney general, for secretary of state.  I urge support for candidates for federal office – lots of House candidates and US Senate candidate.

US Senate candidates have included vulnerable incumbents like Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana plus, unfortunately, several others.  US Senate candidates have included Representatives seeking open Democratic seats – Elissa Slotkin of Michigan where the Democratic incumbent is retiring, Ruben Gallego of Arizona where the Democratic incumbent has become an independent and may or may not run, and Andy Kim of New Jersey where the Democratic incumbent has been indicted and has no chance of returning to the Senate.

I have urged people to support three candidates trying to flip Republican seats.  All three Republicans are vulnerable, in part, because they are such unpleasant people.

  • Ted Cruz of Texas could lose to Representative Colin Allred, in part, because he is so difficult to deal with he is often called the most disliked man in the Senate.
  • Rick Scott of Florida could lose to former Representatives Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, in part because he has proposed that social security and Medicare be subject to a vote every five years, in the hope that Republicans would get lucky and abolish one or both of those programs.
  • Josh Hawley of Missouri could lose to former national security adviser Lucas Kunce, in part because his fantastical view of masculinity is strange enough to appear false.

Gloria Johnson is another Democratic candidate for the US Senate who you could spend money on or volunteer time for.  This is not because she is someone for whom the extra money or volunteer effort is likely to make a difference between winning and losing.  Gloria Johnson is likely to be elected to the US Senate from Tennessee only if there is an enormous Democratic wave in the 2024 election.  The people of Tennessee do know who she is.  You will know who she is when I remind you of the two young Black men who were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives because they joined a gallery demonstration in favor of gun safety legislation.  The third person the Tennessee House sought to expel was Gloria Johnson.  That attempt failed by a single vote.

Gloria Johnson is running against Marsha Blackburn.  Blackburn is a former president of the Associated Women Students of Mississippi State University where she got her BA.  After graduation, she worked in sales, owned a marketing company, founded a Republican Club, ran for Congress unsuccessfully, and was appointed by a Republican Governor as Executive Director of Tennessee’s Film, Entertainment, and Music Commissioner.  She ran for the state Senate, served two terms, and became minority whip back when Republicans were the minority in Tennessee.

Gerrymandering after the 2000 census created a district that ran from Memphis to Nashville. She won the 2002 Republican nomination defeating three candidates who split the Memphis-oriented vote and then walloped the Democratic candidate.  She served eight terms in the House, was rated among the House’s most conservative members, and then ran for an open Republican seat in the US Senate in 2018.  She defeated the Democratic candidate, former governor Phil Bredesen.  During the campaign Blackburn reveled in her conservatism.  She explained she carried a gun in her purse, told people she would never compromise and never apologize.  She told the voters she was “hardcore” and “politically incorrect.”  All that appealed to an audience that loved her brashness.  In 2019, after being elected, she was identified as the Senate’s most conservative member.

As a US Senator, Blackburn can be pretty unpleasant.  Let me list the ways:

  • She led the debate for Republicans in support of a national abortion ban
  • She attacked Planned Parenthood, claiming that it was selling babies’ body parts and that 94% of its work had to do with abortion. Planned Parenthood says 3%.
  • She insisted that there was no sound basis for constitutional protection of contraception for married couples.
  • She sponsored legislation to require presidential candidates to display their birth certificate – joining those who claimed that Barack Obama was not American.
  • She claimed China had a 5,000-year history of cheating and stealing [and that] some things will never change.”
  • On a Congressional trip to Taiwan, she called the island an “independent nation.”
  • She debated the science guy Bill Nye and insisted there was no scientific consensus about the existence of climate change
  • She was visibly contemptuous of the Trump impeachment trial proceedings in the Senate and of witnesses such as Alexander Vindman.
  • She refused to recognize that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president, though she did vote to certify the election results.
  • She described Joe Biden’s proposal for universally available education for three and four year-olds as communist.
  • She called net neutrality (a requirement that internet service providers treat all data providers according to the same rules) socialist.
  • Her legislation made it harder to suspend manufacturer’s opioid shipments. She may have been responsible for the removal of a DEA official who complained of the effect of her legislation.
  • She was clearly responsible for attempting to remove a gay man from the Department of Education who she claimed was promoting homosexuality.
  • She opposes any ban on discrimination against LGBTQ people.
  • She is sufficiently opposed to same sex marriage to propose a constitutional amendment banning it.
  • She voted against provisions for equal pay for women such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
  • She commented after the Affordable Care Act passed that “freedom dies a little bit today.”
  • She claimed that protection for preexisting conditions and allowing children to remain part of their parents’ plans until they were 26 were Republican proposals that remained in the ACA.
  • She accused President Biden of encouraging a surge of illegal immigrants.

Like Marsha Blackburn, Gloria Johnson grew up in Mississippi. Her dad was an FBI Special Agent.  Here is how she remembered her childhood on X (formerly known as Twitter): “My father was FBI, 50+ yrs ago he arrested part of a group who blew up a synagogue, KKK terrorists threatened to kill our family and we had to move out of our house until the whole group of terrorists were arrested.” Before they moved, she explained, the family slept in interior hallways to avoid KKK gunshots.

Gloria Johnson had no interest in following her dad into law enforcement.  She became a school teacher.  She spent 27 years teaching special needs children and emphasizes, when she talks about it, that she gave her all in her commitment to those children.  The world intruded on her life in 2008.  She was teaching at Central High School in Knoxville when there was a shooting.  It wasn’t the kind of mass shooting we too often see; it was one kid shooting another one kid.  That was it.  And it was horrifying.

The Knox News. reported: “The school resource officer was doing paperwork nearby and rushed to the scene, as did a school security officer…The shooter was charged with first-degree murder, and in 2011 was sentenced to 30 years for second-degree murder….”

Kelsea Ballerini, now a country pop singer, was a student a Central High School.  In 2021, she wrote a book of poems which included a reference to the shooting.

“I think I saw him Take his last breath

We went from strangers to lifelong friends

I think about him often, who he could have been.”

Gloria Johnson left Central High school to teach elsewhere – in Knoxville and away.  In 2012, she tried politics and was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives.  She lost in 2014, was elected again in 2018 and reelected in 2020.  Because of redistricting, she ran in District 90 instead of District 13, was elected again, and has remained in the House.

Gloria Johnson joined a demonstration in the State House, along with people in the gallery, in favor of gun safety legislation.  The FBI man’s daughter had become a progressive Democrat, an outspoken one at that.  She will not apologize for her actions in the House.  “I felt compelled in my heart because I was a teacher who lived through a school shooting in Knoxville who went to Colorado to work with kids that had been at Columbine and were too traumatized to go back. If they don’t allow us to speak on the floor, if they cut our mics and refuse to call on us on an issue so important, that’s why we went to the well. And I’m not going to apologize for that.”

Gloria Johnson has other issues, too.  She advocates for “full funding of public education”. She calls for “better jobs and better wages for the working class.”  She urges Tennessee to expand Medicaid so that all Tennesseans will be able to access health insurance. And she has begun to focus on abortion – including a recollection of her own:

She writes: “I was married when I found out I was pregnant. I wanted to start a family. One devastating diagnosis from my doctor later, and all my plans had to change. I had an aortic aneurysm that was at risk of rupturing. If it did, I would die. I also couldn’t have [the aneurysm] treated without first having an abortion…..My choice to have an abortion was protected by Roe v. Wade. Since it was overturned and Tennessee’s disastrous abortion ban took effect, the decision my doctors and I made is one that a woman in Tennessee can’t make today. The radical GOP won’t allow it …. Abortion care is a matter of life and death.”

There is one possibility that could affect the race.  Taylor Swift might endorse.  Six years ago, Swift endorsed Blackburn’s opponent, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to no avail, but that was a different time.  These days, Taylor Swift’s comments are more likely to be noticed.

Marsha Blackburn seems worried. Asked about Swift, she praised her, said: “She is talented, and I think that it is really a good thing for our entertainment community that so much of her crew, her entertainment group is run out of Nashville.” As for Swift’s political influence, Blackburn said: [Taylor Swift] is considered to be an influencer.  I think when it comes to elections, people look at the issues that are important to them and they make their decisions.”

Give this race some thought. Look at the issues that are important to you.  DONATE TO GLORIA JOHNSON. Make Marsha Blackburn work to remain in her seat.  Maybe, the people of Tennessee will notice just how unpleasant Blackburn can be. And how wrong she is on issues like gun safety and abortion.



Democratic Seats in order of vulnerability (my opinion).  Unless Democrats flip a Republican seat, to retain the Senate, Democrats will have to keep each of these seats Democratic. And they will have to re-elect Joe Biden.  Democrats can do that.  Notice the extent to which the Republican favorites are extremely wealthy corporate leaders –some with only loose ties to the state they are running in.

  1. Arizona – Congressman Ruben Gallego. Ruben Gallego grew up poor in Chicago and went to Harvard. He is an ex-marine who has been an advocate for veterans and for his fellow Hispanics. He had $6.5 million to start the year.  Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who has not yet decided whether to run for reelection has $10.6 million available.  Former television journalist in Arizona, former governor candidate (She still claims she won the election), and Trump acolyte Kari Lake is the probable Republican nominee. She reported $1.1 million while County Sheriff Mark Lamb reported $250 thousand. The primary to resolve who the Republican candidate is will be on August 6.  Sinema may be winning the money race, but there is nothing she can spend the money on that will move the race toward her.  A Republican funded poll on February 1 reported Lake leading Gallego 40-39, Sinema trailing at 13.  A Democratic funded poll on January 6 reported Gallego leading Lake 36-35 with Sinema trailing at 17.  Even though I think (others do not) this is the Democratic seat we should worry most about, Lake’s modest amount of cash on hand is a good sign for Ruben Gallego.  DONATE TO RUBEN GALLEGO. See Len’s Political Note #544

  1. Montana – Incumbent Jon Tester has established himself as a moderate Democrat and as a farmer, not a politician. He began the year with $11.2 million. Tim Sheehy, a Minnesotan, former Navy Seal, and founder and CEO of Montana based Bridger Aerospace is the millionaire the national Republicans wanted to run.  Although he reported $1.3 million to start the year, outside funding makes up the difference. For instance, The Last Best Place Pac confirmed they funded a multi-million dollar ad blitz for Sheehy.  Still, Sheehy and his supporters are haunted by the probability that Congressman Matt Rosendale will announce and try again against Jon The primary would be June 4. The last poll that 538 can report is from October 4.  It showed Jon Tester up on Sheehy by 4 points. DONATE TO JON TESTER.  See Len’s Political Note #550

  1. Nevada – Incumbent Jacky Rosen was president of Nevada’s largest Jewish congregation when she was tapped to run for Congress by Harry Reid, partly, because she was such a good listener. Two years later, he urged her to run for the Senate. She listened to him that time, too. She began this year with $10.6 million.  Former Army Captain and former House candidate Sam Brown began the year with $1.3 million. He was born in Arkansas, educated at West Point and SMU, and ten years ago, ran for Congress in Texas. In Afghanistan, he was severely burned, his face disfigured by a road side bomb. Although his campaign funds are modest, two Nevada billionaires have provided him with considerable support through a PAC.  As for polls, a Democratic funded poll reported on December 7 showed her up by a point, a Republican funded poll from October 26 showed her up by 5.  DONATE TO JACKY ROSEN. See Len’s Political Note #564

  1. Michigan – Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin’s family owned Hygrade Meat which included Ball Park Franks. Moved by 9/11, she finished her education and joined the CIA.  She began 2024 with $6 million.  Former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers and Florida resident after he retired returned to Michigan to run for the Senate.  He started this year with $950 thousand. Other Republicans have enough to compete in the August 6 primary.  Michigan is a large, expensive state.  Republicans will focus on each other not just on Elissa Slotkin.  Her $6 million is insufficient for a Michigan race. She will need to raise much more.  As for polls, one reported on January 6 showed her leading Rogers by 2 points, even with Libertarian former Congressman Peter Meijer, and behind former police chief James Craig by 2.  Neither of the latter two is likely win the primary. DONATE TO ELISSA SLOTKIN. See Len’s Political Note #589

  1. Ohio – Incumbent Sherrod Brown, through a combination of his support for workers and his gravelly voice, has continued to be reelected state wide while Ohio has otherwise elected Republicans. He began the year with $14.6 million – the kind of money you need in Ohio.  Three Republicans are competing to win the March 19 primary.  State Senator Matt Dolan, whose father bought the Cleveland Indians with funds from a family trust, began the year with $4.9 million in campaign funds. Bernie Moreno, a prosperous car dealer accused of destroying evidence of wage theft is the Trump favorite. He began the year with $2 million in campaign funds.  Secretary of State Frank La Rose, who staked his campaign on opposing abortion began with $770 thousand. In a poll reported on January 25, Sherrod Brown was leading Dolan by a point, Moreno and LaRose by 2 points. DONATE TO SHERROD BROWN.  See Len’s Political Note #556


  1. Wisconsin – Tammy Baldwin, a Lesbian who is on the leftish side of the Democratic party and is a particular advocate for the availability of health care, continues to be elected by Wisconsin voters. She began the year with $13.1 million. Despite persistent rumors that Eric Hovde, chairman and CEO of the West Coast bank Sunwest and the owner of other banks as well as a Wisconsin real estate business founded by his grandfather, would oppose her, his actual candidacy has not yet materialized. There are no polls of a Wisconsin Senate race that could be considered useful. DONATE TO TAMMY BALDWIN.  See  Len’s Political Note #570

  1. Pennsylvania – Bob Casey Jr.’s father was governor of Pennsylvania for 8 years and a national leader of anti-abortion Democrats. Bob Casey Jr has been a moderate Democrat who was elected state auditor general and state treasurer before being elected senator. He entered 2024 with $9.4 million to be used to oppose David McCormick, son of a Pennsylvania state university president and former head of a national software services company and, later, a hedge fund.  McCormick lost the Senate primary in 2022, in part, because he was accused of actually living in Connecticut. He has since purchased a house in Pennsylvania.  He reported that he had $4.2 million available to begin 2024 in this campaign. It is possible that McCormick’s brand was damaged in 2022 – or Bob Casey Jr is very popular.  Three different polls reported in January found Bob Casey Jr leading —  by 4, 10, and 12 points.  And those leads are smaller than one poll was reported in mid-December.   DONATE TO BOB CASEY.  See Len’s Political Note #581


West Virginia also has a Democratic Senate seat that is in jeopardy.  But this is a different story.


  1. West Virginia – Incumbent Joe Manchin announced he would not run. When he had not yet made that announcement, an Emerson College poll showed him leading Congressman Alex Mooney by 8 points and trailing Governor Jim Justice by 12.  Neither of the two possible Democratic candidates to replace Joe Manchin – Farmer and former coal miner Cecil Silva nor Huntington Mayor Steve Williams – is likely to do as well as Manchin would have done if he stayed in the race.

Democrats could flip a Republican Senate Seat. Here are six races to keep an eye on – ranked in order of the likelihood of defeating a Republican incumbent.


  1. Texas – Congressman Colin Allred could defeat Incumbent Ted Cruz. A former NFL linebacker and civil rights lawyer, he was born and grew up in Texas, played his college football at Baylor, practiced law in Texas, and, has been a moderate Member of Congress. He flipped a Republican seat in 2018. Now he is attempting to defeat the far right, most disliked member of the Senate, Ted Cruz.  Colin Allred entered 2024 with $10.1 million dollars to spend.  Cruz reported $6.2 million.  In the polls, the race is close – or not.  One January poll showed Cruz leading by 9 points.  Another showed him leading by 2. DONATE TO COLIN ALLRED.  See Len’s Political Note #560

  1. Nebraska – Union head Dan Osborn is a surprise. The leader of the Baker….and Grain Millers (BCTGM) local in Omaha, he was among the organizers of a multi-state strike against Kellogg in 2021. He is running as an independent and has some proposals (the right to repair, for instance) that would be unusual for a conventional candidate. He begins the year with $75,000.  He’ll need the unions to help and a lot of grass roots support. Maybe help from the Democrats, too. There is no Democratic candidate right now. The incumbent is Deb Fischer, whose career has been sufficiently nondescript that she was behind in a poll against an unknown – Dan Osborn. A mid-November union-funded poll showed her behind Osborn by 2 points.  DONATE TO DAN OSBORN.  See Len’s Political Note #614

  1. Missouri – Lucas Kunce is running again. He lost in the primary in 2022. A marine veteran and national security expert, he accuses Incumbent Senator Josh Hawley of cowardice.  Hawley advocates and wrote a book about masculinity, but has been mocked for both supporting the January 6 insurrection and running away from the insurrectionists.  Kunce entered the year with $2.2 million; Hawley began the year with $4.9 million available for campaigning.  A late January poll showed Hawley leading by 12 points.  Do not quit on this race. DONATE TO LUCAS KUNCE. See Len’s Political Note #538

  1. Florida – Former Member of Congress Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, came to the US when her mother brought her four daughters from Ecuador. Debbie Mucarsel became a professional fund raiser for non-profits and was elected to a term in Congress. She is running against billionaire incumbent and former governor Rick Scott. She began the year with $1.5 million available; he began the year with $3.2 million. Her candidacy could be difficult because she has a primary opponent.  There are no useful polls, but a poll on behalf of now Congressional candidate Phil Ehr who withdrew from the Senate race in favor of Debbie Mucarsel-Powell found him behind Scott 45-41. DONATE TO DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL.  See Len’s Political Note #598


  1. Tennessee – State Rep Gloria Johnson is known nationally as one of the three state reps who protested against the Tennessee House for refusing to debate a gun safety proposal. Two young Black reps were expelled from the legislature; she was not, by a single vote.  She is running against Senator Marsha Blackburn – whose attacks on Democrats put her in a league with Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Rick Scott.  Gloria Johnson started the year with $1.4 million.  Blackburn began the year with $7.4 million.  Polls are not encouraging.  The most recent poll – in December – had Blackburn up by 17 points. DONATE TO GLORIA JOHNSON


  1. Indiana – Psychologist Valerie McCray is on this list because she did not poll badly. She began the year with $25 in her campaign pocket.  She is one of three Democrats running.  Though none of them had much money for the campaign, she had the least.  A clinical psychologist in Indianapolis, she says she has just the right skills for the current climate of “gut-wrenching controversy, hostility, fear, distrust, and extreme intolerance.”  The likely Republican nominee, Congressman Jim Banks, has claimed that Trump won the 2020 election, has co-sponsored the proposal to impeach the Secretary of Homeland Security, and has mocked a transgendered appointee.  He began the year with $3 million.  In October of 2023, he led McCray in an Emerson College poll by 9 points. DONATE TO VALERIE MCCRAY.



Support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

As we look toward November, 2024, Help sustain the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign.  Put things in perspective.  In a February poll, Biden led by a point.  In five other February polls, Trump has led Biden by as little as 2 points, as much as 8.   Every donation, large or small, does make a difference.  Larger donations mean more money for the campaign.  But many in the media count the number of small donations as a measure of enthusiasm for the candidate.  Make a small donation if you cannot afford a large one.  DONATE TO JOE BIDEN AND KAMALA HARRIS.

#6 in the Stephenson County, IL list of Biden accomplishment:  Provided $10,000 to $20,000 in college debt relief to Americans with loans who make under $125,000 a year. This was struck down but the Supreme Court, however, the administration has announced a new plan to forgive billions in loans that were qualified under special programs but not done due to DOE mismanagement in previous years. Read the article above)