There are many exciting races in Tennessee this year, and many worthy candidates. An unprecedented, at least in recent years, number of Democrats are running in 2018. While we have held off on endorsing any candidates this year, in the race for governor, we are making an exception. We Are Watching Tennessee is endorsing House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh for governor. There are many reasons for this decision, but it really comes down to this: Fitz is one of us.
When We Are Watching formed in early January of 2017, one of our primary goals was to educate and inform members of our movement about legislation being considered by the Tennessee Legislature, and to encourage members to hold legislators accountable for their votes. For the entire 2017 legislative session, We Are Watching members showed up at the Capitol every single Monday to greet state representatives and state senators as they went into session. One of our most popular chants was “You work for us!”
While all the Democratic legislators appreciated our presence, the lawmaker who seemed to appreciate it the most was Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. He’d exit the elevator and walk through the crowd with a beaming, contagious smile, shaking hands, thanking people for showing up. He’d take selfies and hand out his business card and his personal cell phone number.
One Monday, Leader Fitzhugh actually brought a “soap box” to the Capitol and he and other members of the House Democratic Caucus took turns climbing onto the soap box to address the crowd. Fitz and the other Democrats proudly proclaimed “WE WORK FOR YOU!”
Many We Are Watching members developed a relationship with Fitz. His door was always open and he’d make time to talk to anyone about a bill or a vote. He welcomed the opportunity to hear from us and never missed an opportunity to thank us for showing up. If he saw you in the hall, he’d take a minute to stop, and say “Hey there! How are you? Glad to see you here today! Thanks for being here!” even if he was in a hurry.
Fitz is one of us.
There are other compelling reasons to vote for Fitz. For example, many feel that he as the best chance to win over moderate Republicans and Independents, especially those in rural areas.
Mark Braden, a Republican political operative in Nashville, says the Dean campaign is hoping to woo crossover voters, as former Gov. Phil Bredesen is attempting to do in the Senate race — but he doesn’t see that strategy working.
Braden, who is a senior vice president at Mercury Public Affairs, says that as a Republican, he doesn’t feel threatened by Karl Dean’s candidacy. “But Craig Fitzhugh scares me,” he adds. “I don’t think Dean can coalesce the modern Democratic party and the rural Democrats — I don’t see him connecting with those Reagan Democratic voters that have now left the party.”
Fitz is the only rural Democrat in the entire Tennessee Legislature. For year, he’s been re-elected in a ruby red district, a feat that’s virtually unheard of. As a banker in a small west Tennessee town, he sits across the table from farmers worried about making ends meet and setting aside enough money to send their kids to college. He talks to them about their concerns about affordable healthcare.
They trust him because he listens to them. And they vote for him because they know he means what he says.
Fitz has received many important endorsements from groups that We Are Watching supports. He was one of only 44 national candidates to be endorsed by the National Indivisible Project – one of only four governors endorsed by the group.
Prior to the national endorsement, Indivisible of East Tennessee unanimously endorsed Fitz. They gave each Democratic candidate an opportunity to answer a questionnaire in their own words. Their answers were very telling and offered tremendous insight into their positions. You should read them both for yourself. Here’s Fitz’s and here’s Karl Dean’s.
Our friends at The Women’s March – Power Together Tennessee also endorsed Fitz. You can read about their endorsement here.
Fitz was the only candidate to even acknowledge the national #FamiliesBelongTogether marches taking place earlier this month. And he didn’t just acknowledge them, he delayed the grand opening of his Nashville headquarters that day to attend and stand with members of The Women’s March – Power Together team.
Fitz is the only Democratic candidate that opposes the growth of charter schools, an issue very important to many public school advocates. His dedication to education earned him an endorsement from the Tennessee Education Association and led to over 70 middle Tennessee educators pooling their money to take out this advertisement in all the local neighborhood papers.
The only newspaper in the state endorsing gubernatorial candidates is the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Their endorsement? Craig Fitzhugh.
We’ll stick with the very real Craig Fitzhugh, who is solidly living and demonstrating Tennessee values, even as he is running slightly to the left of Dean, who seems to be trying to outrun his reputation as an urban Democrat.
Other very important endorsements include:
Through his years serving in the legislature, Fitz has built relationships across the political aisle. Even the Republicans who may differ with him ideologically still respect him and like him because of his reputation for honesty and transparency. He is a straight shooter known for honoring his word. As minority leader, he’s spent plenty of time in the governor’s office and could “hit the ground running.” And, more importantly, he is best suited for finding common ground with moderate GOP legislators who share Fitz’s positions on issues like expanding Medicaid, providing in-state tuition to Dreamers, and legalizing medical marijuana.
His campaign video does a great job of summing up his values – OUR values – the simple concept that we all do better when we all do better.
Let us be very clear: in November, we will support and endorse whichever Democratic candidate is on the ballot. We must all unite and support the Democratic slate of candidates across the board. However, in this primary, we are #TeamFitz because he best represents our values.
And because he’s one of us.
Election Day is August 2nd.
-The We Are Watching Team