Trailing by ten points in two recent polls and freshly taken off the funding list of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Roy Herron, the Democrats’ 8th District congressional nominee, soldiered on in Memphis on Friday, attacking the credibility and bona fides of Republican opponent Stephen Fincher.
If Fincher should be elected, “His first official act might be to defend himself before the House Ethics Committee,” Herron, a longtime state Senator from Dresden, declared at a news conference held at Blockers Soul Food Restaurant in Raleigh.
The choice of venue seemed to be a statement in itself, in that Fincher, a gospel singer and mega-farmer from Crockett County, had indicated in a recent interview with the Commercial Appeal’s Richard Locker that he wasn’t sure portions of Memphis — specifically Frayser and Raleigh — were in the 8th District.
Herron’s case against Fincher, documented in a thick packet which he passed out to reporters, had three prongs — that Fincher had not been candid in his financial disclosures, that he had avoided debates and scrutiny by the media and the public, and that he was beholden to special interests in Washington and elsewhere.
For each of these categories, Herron offered a descriptive phrase: “The Fibber from Frog Jump,” “The Hider from Halls,” and “The Dependent from D.C.” (The use of both Frog Jump and Halls was Herron’s way of suggesting that even his opponent’s official home address was in doubt.)
Much of Herron’s case rested on a controversial loan of $250,000 made by Fincher to his own campaign. The loan, listed by Ficher in his disclosures as being from “personal funds,” has since been identified by various media as stemming from a prior loan made to Fincher by Gates Banking and Trust. Neither the bank nor Fincher has revealed the collaterial for the loan, and a Herron supporter has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, seeking fuller disclosure.
“He’s hiding assets,” including the existence of checking or savings accounts, none of which are listed on Fincher's disclosure forms, said Herron, who charged further that Fincher's listed annual income of $59,000 could not possibly account for his owning a "lavish" domicile and numerous motor vehicles.
"Two-thirds of his financing comes from Washington special interests, politicians, and groups about which nothing is known," said Herron. He also took Fincher to task for dodging debates, declining reporters' questions, and not making his campaign itineraries public.
"No congressional candidate in Tennessee history has hidden more and disclosed less," said Herron. "Let him man up, stand up, meet me in a public place, and prove me wrong."
Herron was asked about his own decision last week to announce that his vote for House Speaker would go to neither current Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California nor Republican leader John Boehner of California, both of whom he characterized as "extreme." On the same day at this announcement, the DCCC revealed it was including Herron's race on a list of Democratic contests, apparently regarded as unwinnable, that it would not continue funding.
"If the price of independence is that they pull whatever they were going to do with ads, that’s a price I’m willing to pay. I'm beholden to the people of the 8th District and represent their values and views," Herron said.
Discounting adverse polls, Herron insisted there was "no doubt" the race was tightening up.