Rep. Lincoln Davis (D)
Tennessee 4th District
The invisible line between Civil War Republican and Civil War Democratic territory runs along the Cumberland Plateau, the westernmost swelling of the Appalachians, west of the valley where the Tennessee River runs south from Knoxville to Chattanooga. This is cave country. Under its green hills, Tennessee has 8,500 caves, more than any other state, with 15 species of bats and more than 100 species of rare insects. This invisible line separates the Tennessee Valley, which had few slaves and whose economic ties were with the North, from the rolling farmlands of middle Tennessee, first settled by Andrew Jackson in the 1790s and resolutely Democratic from 1829 when Jackson became the first president to call himself a Democrat. Sewanee is the pleasant home of the University of the South, and Bledsoe County, the pumpkin capital of the world. Columbia is the home of former President James K. Polk.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
General Motors launched its Saturn brand in Spring Hill in 1990, igniting growth in the region. But when the erstwhile auto giant went bankrupt in 2009, it shut down the factory and furloughed most of its 2,700 employees. Decherd in Franklin County has a large Nissan engine assembly plant. Lynchburg in dry Moore County produces Jack Daniel’s sour-mash whiskey, the nation’s No. 2 spirit in overseas sales that has been distilled in Lynchburg for generations. It is every bit the idealized small town that the distillery’s folksy, black-and-white advertisements make it out to be. Campbell County, where the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Norris Dam once forced massive resettlements and low living standards, has rebounded as a retirement and tourist haven. Cattle are the district’s No. 1 commodity.
The 4th Congressional District of Tennessee crosses the state for some 200 miles. It reaches almost to Virginia in the northeast and almost to Mississippi in the southwest, bordering both Kentucky and Alabama. It ranks as the fourth most rural district in the nation. Republican nominee John McCain won every county here in 2008, picking up 64% district-wide.
Rep. Lincoln Davis (D)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Sept. 13, 1943, Pall Mall .
Home: Pall Mall.
Education: TN Tech. U., B.S. 1966.
Family: Married (Lynda); 3 children.
Elected office: Byrdstown Mayor, 1978-82; TN House of Reps, 1980-84; TN Senate, 1996-2002.
Professional Career: Owner, Diversified Construction Co.
The congressman from the 4th District is Lincoln Davis, a Democrat elected in 2002. Davis grew up in Fentress County on his family farm, which was purchased from World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York, a 1920s and 1930s celebrity who was played by Gary Cooper in the 1941 movie Sergeant York. Davis started his own construction company, which builds homes and businesses, and develops land. He also has been a soil scientist, and farms cattle and tobacco. He began his political career in 1978 as the mayor of Byrdstown near the Kentucky border and was elected to the state House in 1980. In 1984, when Al Gore left the U.S. House to run for the Senate, Davis ran unsuccessfully for his House seat. In 2002, when Republican Rep. Van Hilleary ran for governor, Davis was the early favorite to replace him. He won support in the Democratic primary from national and local party leaders, organized labor, anti-abortion groups, and the National Rifle Association. But he had a difficult time against Democratic newcomer Fran Marcum, a wealthy businesswoman with backing from the women’s fundraising group EMILY’s List. She also spent $1.6 million of her own money. Her ads depicted Davis as a political retread, and tied him to the Legislature’s unpopular handling of budget problems. But Davis won, 57%-43%.
|Lincoln Davis (D)||146,776||(59%)||($1,074,524)|
|Monty Lankford (R)||94,447||(38%)||($528,945)|
|Lincoln Davis (D)||30,487||(90%)|
|Bert Mason (D)||3,233||(10%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (55%), 2002 (52%)
In the general election, Janice Bowling, a Tullahoma alderwoman and self-described “pistol-packing Mama,” attempted to seize on Gore’s endorsement of Davis in the primary by asking voters to vote against Gore one more time. She campaigned in a white chenille dress, red boots and an American flag scarf. She was significantly outspent by Davis, who vowed not to let any opponent “out-gun me, out-pray me, or out-family me.” In the words of The Tennessean newspaper, Davis combined a “folksy, slap-on-the-back attitude with the oratorical punch of a revival preacher.” He won 52%-46%.
In the House, Davis fits near the center of the Democratic Caucus. He is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats and keeps his distance from most national Democrats, especially on cultural issues. He worked with other Democrats to promote their interest in “faith-based” issues when President Bush popularized the notion of religious organizations getting government support in his first term. When Republicans forced a vote on a gay-marriage ban, he sarcastically suggested that they also include bans on divorce and adultery to highlight the partisan debate.
After the 2008 election, he secured a coveted seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee. Before that, he focused on his work on the Financial Services Committee, where in 2007 he sponsored a bill to protect low-income renters whose homes had been sold or redeveloped. On energy issues in recent years, he has favored offshore drilling but says he doesn’t believe it will solve all of the nation’s energy problems. On foreign policy, Davis initially supported President George W. Bush on the war in Iraq but later supported withdrawing troops from the region and transitioning to a support mission.
In 2004, Bowling ran again but again received little party support. Davis emphasized his independence, and with endorsements from the Chamber of Commerce, National Right to Life and the NRA, he increased his victory margin to 55%-44%. In 2008, Davis was challenged by medical equipment company owner Monty Lankford. Lankford raised $529,000, though Davis passed him with $1 million, and tried unsuccessfully to tie Davis to national Democrats and their presidential nominee, Barack Obama. Even as McCain carried every county in the district, Lincoln won 59%-38%.