Rep. Bart Gordon (D)
Tennessee 6th District
The rolling countryside of Middle Tennessee, west of the Cumberland Plateau and the last of the Appalachian Mountain chain, has been called “the dimple of the universe.” This is hilly and fertile land, cut by deep, curvy rivers. The terrain here was never much suited for plantation crops. It has long been a land of small farmers and small county-seat towns, nestled amid what people here regard as some of the loveliest scenery on earth. Middle Tennessee has also been one of the heartlands of the Democratic Party. It was the political home base of President Andrew Jackson and supported him nearly unanimously during the Civil War, and though it had very few slaves, it resisted the invading Union armies. For 140 years after Jackson, it voted solidly Democratic and elected as its representatives in Congress some of the luminaries of the national Democratic Party: James K. Polk (1825-39), speaker of the House and later president; Cordell Hull (1907-21, 1923-31), later senator and secretary of state; Albert Gore Sr. (1939-53), later senator; and Albert Gore Jr., (1977-85), later senator and vice president.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District includes 14 Middle Tennessee counties surrounding Nashville, plus the eastern half of Wilson County. The heritage here is old and rural, but economic growth has fanned out into the farmland from Nashville, evident in thousands of jobs created by Japanese companies and American startups, firms fleeing the North and entrepreneurs fleeing taxes. Nearby is Smyrna and its Nissan plant, which has the largest automobile production capacity in the nation and is the home of the Altima, the seventh best-selling car in the United States in 2008. Nissan plans to build and sell its first all-electric car there in 2010. In Rutherford County, Murfreesboro, which is the district’s largest city, has grown from a crumbling town in the 1980s to a thriving community and the home of Middle Tennessee State University, the second-largest in the state. In 2008, Business Week magazine named Murfreesboro the fifth most affordable city in the nation for families. In the 1990s, its population grew 51%, and since 2000, it has grown 26%, an average rate of 5,000 new residents a year.
This is one of two fast-growing Tennessee congressional districts; the other is the neighboring 7th District. The new voters here are Republican, but Democrats in control of redistricting in 2002 removed rapidly growing Republican suburbs in Wilson and Williamson counties from the district. They added Robertson County north of Nashville, which is significantly less Republican. But that was not enough to halt Republican advances. Without the district’s former House representative, Al Gore, on the Democratic ticket, Bush carried the 6th by 60%-40% in 2004. Republican presidential nominee John McCain won it 62%-37%, carrying every county except Jackson.
Rep. Bart Gordon (D)
Elected: 1984, 13th term.
Born: Jan. 24, 1949, Murfreesboro .
Education: Middle TN St. U., B.S. 1971, U. of TN, J.D. 1973.
Religion: United Methodist.
Family: Married (Leslie); 1 child.
Military career: Army Reserves, 1971-72.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1974–84; Chmn., TN Dem. Party, 1981–83.
The congressman from the 6th District is Bart Gordon, a Democrat first elected in 1984 when Democrat Al Gore gave up his House seat to run for the Senate. Gordon rose to become chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, but plans to retire from Congress. Gordon announced in late December 2009 that he will leave at the end of his current term. “When I was elected, I was the youngest member of the Tennessee congressional delegation. Now, I’m one of the oldest. In fact, I have members of my staff who weren’t even born when I took office. That tells me it’s time for a new chapter,” the 60-year-old said in a statement. Politics may also have influenced his decision; Gordon was facing a potentially tough re-election battle in 2010 after Republicans targeted him for defeat in a district that GOP nominee John McCain won easily in the 2008 presidential contest.
|Bart Gordon (D)||194,264||(74%)||($1,123,083)|
|Chris Baker (I)||66,764||(26%)|
|Bart Gordon (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (67%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (62%), 1998 (55%), 1996 (54%), 1994 (51%), 1992 (57%), 1990 (67%), 1988 (76%), 1986 (77%), 1984 (63%)
Gordon grew up in Murfreesboro, and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee law school. He practiced law and became Tennessee Democratic Party chairman in 1981. He’s been in politics most of his life. In 1984, he ran a computerized fundraising operation and voter contact system, then a novelty in a district where a personal handshake from a candidate was the norm. He won a multi-candidate primary with 28% of the vote (Democrat Lincoln Davis, now the 4th District’s congressman, was second with 22%) and won the general election 63%-37%.
In the House, Gordon has built a moderate record and used his insider skills to pass legislation and to build a close relationship with Democratic leaders. In 2007, he became chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, Tennessee’s first full committee chairman in 30 years. As chairman, he wants to get more federal funding for science education, and in his first year, he successfully pushed through legislation to strengthen math and science curricula. He has pushed for more technology to be incorporated into the health care industry. Earlier, as a member of the committee, he convened an advisory panel that urged broad efforts to strengthen the nation’s scientific competitiveness. In 2008, Gordon won passage of his bill to modernize the nation’s 911 emergency system to include Internet phone services and vehicle-based phones.
In the past, he voted for some Bush-era tax policies. Gordon supported making permanent the repeal of the marriage penalty and the estate tax, and was one of nine Democrats to support President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2005. He opposed the 2005 Central American Trade Agreement, and sought to repeal tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. Gordon supported the use of force in Iraq in 2002. On other issues, he won enactment of his proposal for Federal Trade Commission oversight of the practices of sports agents representing student athletes. Gordon is also a Civil War buff who is interested in proposals to preserve the nation’s military history.
With the population surge in metro Nashville and the unpopularity of the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s, Gordon struggled through a couple of re-election campaigns. In 1994, he was challenged by Steve Gill, a lawyer from heavily Republican Williamson County. Gordon spent $1.4 million, more than twice what Gill spent, and won just a slim victory, 51%-49%. In a 1996 rematch, Gordon won 54%-42%. Then, as the Democrats’ point man in the 2002 redistricting, he drew new district lines that made the seat safe for him. In the four elections since, he won with at least 64% of the vote.
A notable accomplishment in the increasingly fit House: Gordon has been the fastest government official in the annual three-mile race for members of Congress, the media and the executive branch 19 consecutive times. At age 59 in 2008, his time was 18 minutes and 40 seconds.