Todd McKinley was a 2018 Republican Candidate for Congress in TN-01, he's a retired Army Paratrooper, Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and Presidential Service Badge recipient. He’s served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as well 6 ½ years at the White House Communications Agency & White House Military Office. He’s served as an Advance Representative for the Trump Administration, and as an Advance Representative for the 2020 Trump Campaign. Follow Todd: ; ; ; ;

On March 24th, I published an article entitled “Clean Bill of Health?” wherein I discussed several points, namely that Washington is a “swamp” due primarily because Congress is broken. In 2016, Donald Trump ran on a broad promise to do something about it, using the slogan “Drain the Swamp.” This, along with the fact he wasn’t your traditional candidate for President, instead, he was a sledgehammer to the business as usual process. A process that in the past was utilized to thin the number of Candidates and often used to push the individual who’s decidedly “next-in-line” onward to the nomination. Since President Trump was elected, his popularity has proven to be the golden ticket for most who run in Congressional districts that are safe Republican seats. In fact, and I’m speaking from experience, in 2018 one of the most common questions was “do you support President Trump” or some variation thereof and in 2020, it’s no different.

However, a Congressional campaign must have more substance to it, and mustn’t be allowed to rely solely or primarily on riding the President’s coattails. In fact, we voters must insist on more from these Candidates, especially the ones who are considered top-tier Candidates. Certainly, we want these Candidates to support the President, but they should have ideas of their own.

Note: This article isn’t an endorsement as iVoteTennessee and iVoteAmerica have a process they follow before endorsing a Candidate, this article is merely an observation. As the 1st District’s Congressional race in Tennessee takes shape, I’ll likely write more articles that touch on various Candidates as things strike me. This article’s cover photo was taken in 2018 at Freedom Hall in Johnson City, Tennessee which is in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District. I served on the President’s advance team and was the rally site lead.

Safe Republican District

There are many safe Congressional Districts across the country, mostly by design due to gerrymandering, some are safe Democrat, and some are Republican. This usually means, if you’re fortunate to be elected, then you can usually enjoy longevity in Washington. Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District is one of the safest Republican districts in the nation, but many voters by in large are tired of electing the same people election after election, especially in the “Drain the Swamp” era of President Trump. Oddly, we’ve seen many career politicians across the country who are partly to blame for the problems created in “the Swamp” jump on the President’s coattails.

However, the upcoming 2020 election in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District will not feature an incumbent, and many voters aren’t looking to elect someone to go to Washington for the long haul. Instead, a growing number of voters are looking for someone to go to Washington and go full speed ahead for about 3-4 terms, instead of camping out for decades. One of the first questions to ask every Candidate should be “do you support term limits” and if not, then the next question should be “how long do you intend to stay in Washington” or something similar.

Mind you, a Candidate doesn’t necessarily have to support Constitutional Term Limits but should give the voters a definitive answer as to how long they see themselves in Congress. Out of all the top-tier Candidates in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District, Senator Rusty Crowe is the only one who’s given a definitive answer. Everyone should note the Candidates that refuse to give an answer or those who speak in parables or hypotheticals but never give a definite answer on any topic.

2020 Coattail Riders

In the opening paragraph, I mentioned my article “Clean Bill of Health?”, in this article I touched on how some Candidates are trying to ride the coattails of President Trump and run polished ads that only touch on what I called “low hanging fruit.” Low hanging fruit in this context is when a Candidate takes an easy swipe at Democrats and tosses in a few choice names or only discusses the things every Republican should stand for and be against. As an example, every Republican should be Pro-2nd Amendment, Pro-Life, Pro-America and most definitely be against Big Government and Socialism, etc.

I also touched on the fact we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get sucked in and blinded by the Candidates who only run polished impersonal ads created by a professional out of town strategy or communications firm that leans heavily on President Trump’s coattails and low hanging fruit ads. These ads certainly look good, but they all to often contain simple talking points and have no substance. These types of ads may fool some people, but they’re being used to cover for the fact that many of these Candidates have little to nothing of their own to offer. Voters should demand substance on a wide range of topics, we should want to know what else a Candidate stands for, what else do they have to offer. Many times, these types of ads are meant to keep you from seeing the skeletons hiding in their closet.

2020 in Tennessee’s 1st District

For those who know me, know that I enjoy National and Homeland Security, Defense & Foreign Policy, especially those I served with in Iraq who would regularly see me reading Foreign Policy or other journals. Also, those I served with in Hawaii and at the White House (while in the Army and as a Staff Associate), know that I’m a policy wonk. I love details, I don’t care for fake talking points or catchy slogans, I want the details. In fact, we should all demand details, especially if it’s a topic we have little knowledge of or one that’s likely not to be brought up during the normal course of a campaign, rest assured they’ll be voted on in Congress.

These details can come from short videos between 2-4 minutes that hit a few points and gives the voter a bit of insight into the Candidate’s stance. For more in-depth details, Candidates should use a blog post on a campaign website or social media page such as Facebook. Yesterday, I saw a great example of the type of video we should look for posted on Senator Rusty Crowe’s Facebook page, you could tell the video was unscripted, unrehearsed and recorded in the moment. This video hit on a few key points that would otherwise go untouched anytime else. When a voter can view videos like this, it gives them the ability to review a lot of information that normally wouldn’t be included in a stump speech.

Given that the 2020 campaign is likely going to be less personal and done more so through ads and on social media, these types of videos are what’s needed. While a polished ad produced from some out of town group may look better, it’s the substance that we should look for and demand. As things progress, we should also look for the Candidates, especially the top-tier Candidates to hold social media town-halls where everyone can ask questions. In the meantime, these are the types of videos we should be looking for, not the polished shiny impersonal sponsored ads.

Personal Interaction

I’ve spoken to several of the Congressional Candidates in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District who are vying to replace the retiring 6-term Republican Congressman Phil Roe. To my knowledge of all the top tier Candidates, State Senator Rusty Crowe is the only Veteran. He volunteered for the Army and served in Vietnam and he sincerely cares for our fellow Veterans and Service Members of all generations, as I’m sure all the Candidates running do.

When I served as the 1st District Commander for the American Legion, I assisted several Veterans in getting the assistance and benefits they deserve. In this capacity, I interacted with a number of elected officials, and I can say that Senator Crowe was impressive and always personally took the time to work a Veterans issue(s), even ones who lived outside of his district, many times getting resolution the same day. I observed him on numerous occasions call multiple State and Federal Officials to solve problems. These professional interactions and all subsequent personal interactions have all been very positive as have my personal interactions with other Candidates.

Again, as I said, this isn’t an endorsement as iVoteTennessee and iVoteAmerica have a process they follow before endorsing a Candidate, this article is merely an observation. As this Congressional race, which is modified by the Coronavirus pandemic takes shape, I urge voters across the country to keep an eye on social media as traditional campaigning is out of the question for the time being.

Given Senator Crowe was discussing Iran, here’s an article I wrote a few months back on the topic.

No Toleration for Iranian Aggression

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