Rep. John Duncan (R)
Tennessee 2nd District
Knoxville, the largest city in East Tennessee, is nestled between mountain ridges where the Holston and French Broad rivers join to form the Tennessee River. It was established not long after the first wave of pioneers came through the gaps and down the mountains of the Appalachian chain. During the Civil War, it was Union territory, and it has remained Republican in allegiance and progressive on civil rights ever since. But its Republican heritage is tempered by another tradition, that of the Tennessee Valley Authority. A venturesome program when created in the 1930s, it is now part of the fabric of life in East Tennessee, sometimes criticized as it has reached capacity to produce cheap hydroelectric power and began to rely more on expensive and sometimes poorly functioning nuclear power plants. The area’s largest cash crop remains tobacco.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Both TVA and the region have undergone turbulent changes in recent years. In a competitive electricity market, and laboring under billions of dollars in debt mostly incurred in building its nuclear plants, TVA has cut its payroll sharply and held down rates. Heavy ozone pollution in Knoxville led the Environmental Protection Agency to impose growth limits. TVA spent several billion dollars to reduce pollution at its coal-fired power plants and the result has been marked improvement in recent years in local air quality due, in part, to TVA emission controls. Delay in construction of a national nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has forced TVA to spend tens of millions of dollars for new storage pools.
Yet Knoxville has overcome setbacks and grown robustly without much notice in the national press. In 2006, it ranked ninth on Expansion Management magazine’s list of the best cities for business expansion and relocation, with growth in construction and services. It was the headquarters of Goody’s Family Clothing, the chain of primarily Southern and Midwestern stores that went bankrupt in 2009. And the University of Tennessee’s football complex, Neyland Stadium, on fall Saturdays contains one of the nation’s largest crowds—it qualifies as the state’s 5th largest city during games—cheering on the Vols. The 1982 World’s Fair site is the home of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Women’s basketball is nearly as popular as football here, and in 2009, Lady Vols’ coach Pat Summitt became the only Division I coach, men’s or women’s, to win 1,000 career games. The city is also the home base of Instapundit.com, the popular blog of University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds.
The 2d Congressional District of Tennessee includes Knoxville and Knox County, plus four mountainous counties and part of another to the south. Most of its people live within the Knoxville metro area. Its less populated areas span the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The district is heavily Republican; it has not elected a Democratic congressman since the Civil War. Knox County surprised many by giving a narrow plurality to Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2002, but Republican Van Hilleary carried the rest of the district by a wider margin. In 2006, Bredesen swept the county 71%-27%, as well as the district. In the 2008 presidential election, the area swung back to its Republican roots. GOP nominee John McCain won Knox County comfortably and the rest of the district with 64%.
Rep. John Duncan (R)
Elected: 1988, 11th full term.
Born: July 21, 1947, Lebanon .
Education: U. of TN, B.S. 1969, George Washington U., J.D. 1973.
Family: Married (Lynn); 4 children.
Military career: Army Natl. Guard & Army Reserves, 1970–87.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1973–81; Knox Cnty. judge, 1981–88.
The congressman from the 2d District is John (Jimmy) Duncan, a Republican first elected in 1988. His father, who was the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, represented the 2nd District from 1964 until his death in May 1988. Jimmy Duncan got a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Tennessee and a law degree from George Washington University. He practiced law and was a trial judge in the 1980s. When his father died, he won the seat despite a spirited challenge from Democrat Dudley Taylor, a scion of another prominent East Tennessee political family. Taylor attacked Duncan for his ties to scandal-tarred banker and Democratic politician Jake Butcher. But Duncan won with 57% in November. He has not been seriously challenged since then.
|John Duncan (R)||227,120||(78%)||($511,959)|
|Bob Scott (D)||63,639||(22%)|
|John Duncan (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (78%), 2004 (79%), 2002 (79%), 2000 (89%), 1998 (89%), 1996 (71%), 1994 (90%), 1992 (72%), 1990 (81%), 1988 (57%), 1988 (56%)
Duncan has been a frequent maverick on economic and foreign policy issues. He opposed normal trade relations with China and the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind education law that imposed mandatory testing on schools. In October 2002, he was one of six Republicans—and the only Tennessean—who voted against the use of force in Iraq. He argued that there was not sufficient proof that Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. A year later, he opposed the $87 billion spending bill for the war. “There is just no enthusiasm for this war,” he said in August 2005. “It certainly is not going to help Republican candidates.” In February 2007, he was one of 17 who voted to express disapproval of President Bush’s troop “surge” strategy, and in May of that year, he was one of two House Republicans to vote against funding for Iraq military operations.
But his independence had its price. He was a candidate for the chairmanship of the Resources Committee in 2003, but Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert passed over him and five other senior Republicans to give the post to the more loyal Richard Pombo of California. Perhaps mindful of that setback, Duncan voted for Hastert’s Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003. Then in 2006, he made a big push for the top Republican position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. But he lost to John Mica of Florida, who was more junior but, once again, more of a party regular. In 2009, Duncan was named the ranking Republican on the committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. In response to skyrocketing gas prices in summer 2008, Duncan became a supporter of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and of offshore drilling.
Duncan hasn’t been shy about seeking funding for local projects, from resurfacing the Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to a rail and trolley system for downtown Knoxville. Another of his legislative interests has been a bill to require the disclosure of contributions to presidential libraries, which the House passed in early 2009 by 388-31.
In Knoxville, Duncan’s annual barbecue dinner draws as many as 5,000 people and reinforces his local popularity. Although he shows no signs of retiring, when Duncan does decide to leave Congress, his son, John Duncan III, is said to be interested in the seat.