The Daily Memphian: Mackler bides time, plans for Senate Democratic primary

The Daily Memphian: Mackler bides time, plans for Senate Democratic primary

By Bill Dries

The Daily Memphian

July 28, 2020

In the statewide Democratic U.S. Senate primary with four rivals, Nashville attorney James Mackler is emphasizing his military credentials as an Iraq war veteran who enlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and is rigidly sticking to his talking points.

His message is pointed at a general election campaign against either Bill Hagerty or Manny Sethi in the companion Republican primary.

“They are in an expensive, white hot race to the bottom spreading messages of hate and division – each one planning to be a rubber stamp for an agenda that’s hurting this state,” Mackler told The Daily Memphian of his Republican opponents. “The election is going to be a clear choice between me – an Iraq war vet who stepped forward to serve again in a time of crisis – and someone who has pledged to never disagree with the president.”

Mackler considered a bid in 2018 for the Democratic Senate nomination but dropped out in favor of former governor Phil Bredesen.

He has also worked in the past two years to promote Democratic prospects in a state where Bredesen was the last Democrat to win a statewide general election race with his 2006 re-election as governor.

But when asked about whether Democrats can win a statewide election in Tennessee, Mackler kept his focus on the current race.

“My campaign has been laser-focused on learning what Tennesseans need and aren’t getting from Washington,” he said. “Sharing my values with them and letting them know I’m someone who’s going to stand up to party leadership and represent them in the Senate. It’s really about the contrast in this upcoming race.”

Specifically, he says his top priority as a candidate is “fixing our health care system because our health care system in Tennessee is broken.”

His ads have focused on closing rural hospitals with the failure of multiple attempts first by then-Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and then by the Democratic minorities in the Tennessee Legislature to expand Medicaid in the state.

“We can protect our rural hospitals. That means expanding Medicaid,” he said. “And if the state is gerrymandered, a (Republican) super majority won’t do that. It needs to be done at the federal level. The bottom line is people want change.”