KINGSPORT -- Democrat Bruce Dotson wants Tennessee 2nd House District voters to know he is an honest, Christian gun owner who has worked hard all his life.
But despite those assets, Dotson knows he's a long shot to defeat GOP incumbent state Rep. Tony Shipley in the November general election in a Kingsport area district that leans heavily Republican.
Dotson, a retired mechanic and president of the AFL-CIO's Upper East Central Labor Council, said he's not getting monetary support from the Tennessee Democratic Party even though he is a member of the party's executive committee.
"My race is not targeted (by TDP), which is not unusual for this end of the state," Dotson noted. "In order to get help from the state party or even the state AFL-CIO, you have to prove you can win before they are willing to put a lot of money into it. The state AFL-CIO is going to put out some mailers, but those will go to union members."
Dotson's campaign reported having $1,782 cash on hand before the Aug. 2 primary election, when he won the Democratic nomination with about 500 votes. In contrast, Shipley reported having $18,256 cash on hand, including a number of political action committee contributions, before recording a 10-vote win in the GOP primary over former Kingsport Alderman Ben Mallicote out of about 6,800 votes cast.
Dotson agreed with Shipley's recent assertion that numerous Democrats voted in the Republican primary and almost propelled Mallicote to victory.
"What I've heard people say down through the years is 'I'll vote in the Republican primary, and I'll vote for the weakest or worst candidate. That way we'll have a better chance as Democrats,'" Dotson explained. "But I discourage that. What that does is you end up with ... the worst candidate, and I don't like to see that. I did have people tell me they did have people vote in the Republican primary -- people I've got on a list as being Democrats. I'm sure that was a factor. And Mallicote was the best candidate."
Dotson said he is expecting a negative campaign from Shipley.
"I talked to him on the phone, and he wanted to limit the number of forums or debates to two," Dotson said of Shipley. "I think we need to do any and all (forums/debates) to be honest with you. He just does not want to be confronted."
Dotson pointed out he's experienced in negotiating with unfriendly people.
"If I am elected, I will work to build good relationships with all parties involved, employers, city, county and federal governments," Dotson said in a prepared statement. "I unlike my opponent have and can work with people with different opinions. I have and can negotiate, and this is the area that my union training and years of experience can be greatly utilized. Unlike my opponent, I do not operate with intimidation, threats and fear of physical harm, nor will I yield to such ridiculous actions. His actions are an embarrassment to the voters and his supporters in the 2nd District for ever electing him.
"The question in the voters' minds now should be has he alienated the key leaders in Nashville to the point that no one is willing to work with him. How long will he get away with being the playground bully?"
In response, Shipley said he'll continue to build upon the successful relationships he has established over the last four years.
"(Dotson's) suggestion that I do not work well with others is laughable and clearly proven to be false by major policy successes such as the ignition interlock (legislation), and the unanimous votes in support of my successful bath salts legislation in both the House and Senate," Shipley said in an e-mail. "I, unlike my pro union opponent, will not support a movement of our pro growth right-to-work state into the hands of unions who only want to line their pockets with your hard earned money. I will always side with the taxpayer to grow jobs and the creation of an environment in which all business can succeed, not just union shops.
"Intimidation is not part of my style in Nashville or Kingsport, as I shall assume being untruthful is not part of my opponent's style. However, if he continues to misrepresent my successes in Nashville, and suggest that I in any way do not conduct myself as a gentleman and in a manner that my constituents would be proud of, then I will have to change my assumption concerning his character, and his ability to tell the truth. ... I look forward to debating Mr. Dotson and properly exposing him for exactly what he is -- a Chicago-styled union politician who will say anything he can to get elected, including distorting the truth."