If you read the news the morning after the Aug. 2 primary elections for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, you might have never known a Democrat was running for that office. But Mary Headrick emerged victorious against competitor Bill Taylor—and she’s serious about her candidacy in a district that hasn’t been served by a Democrat in 18 years.
First of all, congratulations! Let’s start with the primary elections on Aug. 2. We were somewhat surprised that not only did you win the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, but you won by a commanding 2-1 margin over competitor Bill Taylor. Neither one of you appeared to have much money to spend on advertising, but Taylor seemed to have been more visible. On a ballot that included a fringe candidate for Senate (the disavowed Democratic candidate Mark Clayton), was it surprising to you and to what do you attribute that support?
I entered election night happy because I liked Bill Taylor, his positions, intellect and integrity, and knew I would help him if he won. I expected our vote totals to be very close and was surprised by my margin of victory. I think I won because I made more voter contacts than Bill, and “H” comes before “T’ for those who voted alphabetically and didn’t know us. Some voted for me because I am a woman, but I distinguished myself as a Progressive Democrat rather than Bill’s Yellow Dog or Moderate Southern Democrat. I think that gained me some votes.
What was also surprising to us was the lack of coverage of your win in the daily paper. On the day after the election, one would have thought there were no Democratic candidates for Congress. We saw your name only in the last sentence of the front-page story heralding Chuck Fleischmann’s victory over the other Republican candidates. Were you insulted?
I was not insulted, but I am very frustrated by media bias in favor of the Republicans. Media bias cheats the public. My uphill challenge is to engage the voter with factual information, to synthesize complex issues for voters in a way that gets past the anger and sound bites. Too many voters are polarized by wedge issues.
On the plus side, the TFP’s left-leaning Times-side editorial ranked Democrats above the Republican candidates. They wrote: “The irony of the lopsided focus is lamentable. Headrick and Taylor both stand head and shoulders above the GOP contenders in the range, quality and insight of their thinking on the issues that most affect the overwhelming majority of Tennessee voters and families.” Does the local media matter in the sense that their endorsements affect voters one way or the other?
I did not have much print nor TV media coverage. I think everyone should listen carefully to Harry Austin. Bill, not me, was endorsed by the Knoxville News Sentinel, so the weight of print media endorsements in the primaries seems minimal. I suspect it will be the same in the general election.
In your view, what is the biggest issue facing the 3rd District and what do you intend to do about it?
Money currently buys laws, regulations, budgets and enforcement via campaign donations, lobbyists and large public relations firms. This benefits the pocket books of large, often multi-national corporations, and wealthy individuals. Therefore, the middle class, the underrepresented, is disappearing, falling into the low-income class. Jobs are going overseas. Water, air and soil are threatened. Public education is under attack. “Labor” is being crushed by “Capital.” I will help voters understand when their interests are being attacked. I’ll work hard with all officials who hold the interest of the people at heart. Our economic system is rigged to help the rich get richer and destroy the security and happiness of the average American.