Early voting begins Wednesday, and though Tennessee isn't considered a battleground state in the presidential election, there are four contested congressional races that will determine our region's representatives in Washington.
The race for Tennessee' junior Senate seat might be one of the strangest statewide campaigns in recent years. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga faces a challenge from a Democratic candidate who has been disavowed by the party establishment and seven minor party or Independent candidates.
Corker is the obvious choice for Tennessee voters.
Corker won a tight race against former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in 2006 to replace the retiring Bill Frist. Since then, he has carved out a niche for himself as a key minority-party leader on budgetary matters and foreign affairs. His re-election would put him in a position to expand his influence — as well as the state's — in the Senate, especially if the GOP gains a majority.
Corker has been working with members of both parties to forge a deal that would keep the nation from careening over the "fiscal cliff," a self-imposed round of mandatory budget cuts to take place in January if a long-term agreement to reduce the national debt is not reached. He also has visited hot spots in the Middle East as part of his duties on the Foreign Relations Committee, adding to his expertise in international affairs.
Closer to home, he recently called for appointees to the Tennessee Valley Authority to have more corporate boardroom experience.
Corker has been a strong representative for Tennessee and would be a solid choice even if he faced strong opposition.
In the three House races in East Tennessee, we urge the re-election of incumbents.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. continues to serve his constituents well as the 2nd District representative.
Duncan, who has held the seat for nearly a quarter-century, is a fiscal conservative who sometimes strikes out on his own, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs. His hallmark, however, is his willingness to help constituents navigate through the federal bureaucracy, regardless of their party affiliation.
Duncan has made the 2nd District seat one of the safest for Republicans in the House of Representatives, and this year should be no different.
In the 3rd District, which stretches from Chattanooga to the Kentucky border, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann should be given a second term.
Fleischmann, an attorney from Ooltewah, was elected in the GOP's conservative tsunami of 2010 and survived a tough primary battle this year. Though he generally espouses cutting government spending, he understands the importance of federal investment in his district, particularly regarding the refurbishing of the decrepit Chickamauga Lock and investment in the Department of Energy facilities in Oak Ridge.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, a physician and former Johnson City mayor, is seeking his third term representing upper East Tennessee and has earned another two years on the Hill.
Roe's medical background has been one his strong suits. He is chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, which is in the thick of the debate over health care reform, job creation and the epidemic of underfunded pensions. He also serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Early voting runs from Wednesday through Nov. 1. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. We urge all who are registered to exercise their right to vote.