Phil Bredesen, the Tennessee Democrat running to represent the state in the US Senate, said Tuesday that he would not vote for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer if he wins his bid in November.
The new position, which Bredesen outlined at the outset of his first debate against Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, was an attempt to separate himself from Democrats in Washington as Republicans look to tie him to people like Schumer.
“You’ve heard a lot recently of this campaign about me, about these crazy ideas about if somehow I’m elected and go to Washington, suddenly I’m going to turn my back on a whole lifetime of thinking for myself and being independent and suddenly become some kind of a political lackey,” said Bredesen, who previously served as a two-term governor of Tennessee.
“That’s not going to happen for a bunch of reasons. One of them is that I think a lot of the problem in Washington is with the leadership that we have there now. Whether it be (House Speaker Paul) Ryan or (Democratic Leader Nancy) Pelosi or (Senate Majority Leader) McConnell or Schumer, they’re not doing the job.”
He added: “We need to get new leadership. I can tell you right now that if I’m elected, and when I’m elected and go to Washington, I am not going to be voting for Chuck Schumer.”
Breaking from Democrats in Washington has become a political reality for Bredesen, who is running to represent a state that backed President Donald Trump by 26 percentage points in 2016. The former governor is looking to convince Trump voters, many of whom backed him during his final gubernatorial run in 2006, that having a senator in Washington to keep Trump in check is more prudent than Blackburn, who is closely tied to the President.
Bredesen is not the first Democratic Senate hopeful to reject Schumer. Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told Politico earlier this year that she wasn’t going to back the New York leader.
The strategy is reminiscent of a host of House candidates who are pledging to vote against Pelosi for Democratic leader, looking to distance themselves from the Californian, who remains unpopular with Republicans.
Blackburn, who will get a bump from Trump on October 1 when the President travels to the state to rally for her, dismissed Bredesen’s comment, arguing that Schumer has already “bought and paid for” his campaign.
Despite Trump’s win two years ago, a CNN poll released earlier this month found Bredesen had a 5-point edge over Blackburn. CNN rates the race as a toss up.