EDITORIAL: Bill Morrison and Public Financing 

One of the most intriguing candidates this election season is a first-timer named Bill Morrison. An ex-serviceman and educator from Bartlett, he knows something, too, about disabilities, having lost a leg to a horrendous accident involving some wayward machinery. Morrison is the Democratic nominee against the redoubtable Marsha Blackburn, a Republican whose hold on the 7th congressional district has been regarded as unassailable — partly because of Blackburn’s abilities (she’s a dynamite campaigner and serves as an assistant whip in the House of Representatives) and partly because the 7th was gerrymandered long ago to be safely Republican.

Indeed, no Democrat has held the seat since 1972. So Bill Morrison is entitled to some admiration merely for trying. But what is most interesting about his candidacy was revealed last week during a fund-raiser/house party in his honor in Bartlett. Following a speech, he subjected himself to questions about health care, No Child Left Behind, Iraq. About anything and everything.

Remarkably, he answered all of these questions not just by stating his positions on the issues. Morrison went a step further and explained what he would do logistically to get his ideas converted into law or established policy — what agencies he would need to interact with, whom he would have to deal with on the other political side, what the relevant time-frames were. The final question he got indicated both an irony in his situation and a flaw in our current election system.

He was asked: “Are you getting any money from the DCCC” (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee)? No, he answered, and there was no logistical plan to deal with that other than to keep on using the bare-bones budget he’s using to do what campaigning he can, worked around the requirements of his job as a classroom teacher.

For all the handicaps he’s suffering from, Morrison has attracted some attention. He got the endorsement of the venerable Nashville Tennessean two weeks ago and cites a home-grown poll that shows him within striking distance of Blackburn.

Maybe so, maybe no. The point is, he’s doing well under the circumstances, maybe exceeding expectations.

This is not a brief for Bill Morrison. We are not in the habit of endorsing candidates, and, for that matter, Blackburn has much to be said for her. What we regret is that residents of the 7th District won’t get the chance to make a fair comparison between the two candidates because they aren’t equally matched financially. Not even close.

The only thing that could fix such situations as these — and Bill Morrison’s case is not unique — is a simple reform that hasn’t yet been enacted and may never be: public financing of elections.

The Congress that is elected this year, whether Republican or Democratic, is sure to be organized differently and to have some new faces. Before its members settle down to the same-old same-old routine, we wish they’d give this perfectly sensible idea a fair shake.

See also Viewpoint, "Color and Politics" and Politics, "Et YouTube, Brute?".

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