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We Have LIFTOFF: Blue Tennessee!

David Pepper knows that we can begin to bring some accountability to Tennessee extremism through the Blue Tennessee program - because it's already been successful in other states.
Published:March 14, 2024

*Read all of David's writing and watch his fantastic videos at Pepperspectives!

By David Pepper

Over the past year, no state has displayed a more offensive level of extremism than Tennessee.

From kicking out their own colleagues of color to passing endless extremist bills, Tennessee’s statehouse has become a perfect case study of the deep damage done in a world where state-level politicians hold power with no accountability—a broader phenomenon I tried to explain the other day on MSNBC (of course, as I often do, mentioning Tennessee):


And why is Tennessee careening so far into the extremist right?

A major driver is what I mentioned in the video—gerrymandering, followed by no competition whatsoever. 50% of the Tennessee Republicans who voted out their two colleagues were uncontested in November ‘22.

Moreover, of those Democratic candidates who did run, 24 were woefully underfunded (averaging $5,000 per candidate)
Let’s add that up:

About half the GOP legislators uncontested


24 more who were opposed only saw an average of $5,000 spent against them


No accountability —> out of control extremism

Which is exactly why Tennessee GOP incumbents keep acting as crazy and extreme as they do. They know they can.

Worse, in a world of no accountability, being that extreme is how you get ahead.

Ahh….A Solution

But there’s a way to fix it.

And we’ve begun to build that solution here in Ohio, where I live.

In the past 18 months, we’ve built an organization called Blue Ohio. It’s a community of people who care enough about running everywhere that we gather monthly to focus on the goal (and the statehouse), but more than that—we each give a small monthly amount, which accumulates into a large amount, which supports the candidates who step up in run in the TOUGH legislative districts across Ohio.

Because we know that until we start showing candidates in the tough races (rural, previously uncontested, etc) that we value their candidacies, they simply won’t run. And when they don’t run, we almost inevitably get extremists on the other side.

But when we DO show that we value people running everywhere, something happens.

They step up. They do run.

In North Carolina, there were dozens of uncontested races in 2022. That number fell to TWO uncontested races this year thanks to Chairwoman Anderson Clayton making clear that she valued running everywhere. Similar things are happening in other states—Texas, Arkansas, Arizona.

And in Ohio, the same trend.

And what Blue Ohio does is…we proactively support the candidates who are running, focusing especially on those tougher districts that often get no support. Our now-1,000 members are giving monthly (averaging $14 per month), and their collective generosity and passion mean that candidates across Ohio—in those tough districts—are getting seed support from Blue Ohio they hardly ever get otherwise.

How much does our “little model that could” matter?

Overall, Blue Ohio will likely rise to become the third largest donor to Democratic statehouse candidates this year after less than two years in existence.

And here’s what a difference that support makes:

In 2020, beyond the uncontested races, there were 13 Ohio races where the Democratic candidate had (like those 24 in Tennessee) less than $5,000.

In 2022, thanks to Blue Ohio, the number of candidates with less than $5,000 was….0!

Because Blue Ohio supporters filled the gap.

And the more people who join, the more gaps we can fill and the the more support we can give to these patriotic candidates—and the more value we show, over time, the more people will run.

Over the long run, our goal is to create an ever growing army of activists who support an army of candidates running everywhere.
By the way, if you’re in Ohio, and/or care about Ohio, and want to join us, please go HERE to check it out.

One other thing: compared to the multi-million statewide races that get most of our collective support (most of the money of which goes to television ads), just a small portion of those dollars we are generating through Blue Ohio go so much further in those legislative races:

So…it’s a model that lifts democracy, and as we’re seeing in Ohio—with energy and vigilance—it works.Tennessee’s Turn!

Which is why today we are formalizing the launch of the same model in Tennessee.

A group of folks, tired of seeing uncontested races and extremism in Tennessee, has been working for months to launch Blue Tennessee this year. The goal is to provide the same support to candidates stepping up across Tennessee that Blue Ohio members are providing to candidates in Ohio.

And the timing is perfect, because the Tennessee Democratic Party has just announced its goal to recruit candidates in ALL Tennessee districts. Which is great news!

Blue Tennessee’s goal, long-term, is to help support the candidates who respond to this call to action by the Party—this year (again, deadline is April 4), and in the future. It’s to, over time, create an infrastructure in Tennessee that values running everywhere just like we’ve begun to build in Ohio. And to hold those extremists accountable.