Tom Leatherwood is running against incumbent congressman Marsha Blackburn for Tennessee district 7. Tonight he addressed the Shelby County chapter of the Tennessee Firearms Association.

Leatherwood entered politics when he ran for Tennessee Senate in 1992, taking on and beating a 27-year incumbent. He served eight years, after which he voluntarily stepped aside, fulfilling a campaign promise to serve no more than two terms.

Leatherwood is currently the Shelby County Register of Deeds, funding the entire department from fees so that no taxpayer dollars are required. At the same time he has modernized services, taking the office from microfiche-based information available only downtown to a web presence with GIS maps where a wealth of information can be obtained for free, yet he has decreased the cost of using the services to access additional information.

The following is the result of hastily typed notes during a long and sometimes spirited conversation between Tom Leatherwood and the members of the TFA.

Leatherwood began his talk by applauding the TFA for their work protecting Second Amendment rights and in education in firearm safety. He then noted that there hasn’t been an incumbent congressman defeated in Tennessee since the early 70s when Harold Ford, Sr. pulled it off.

He then turned to why he is running: a specific disappointment with Marsha Blackburn and with Republicans in general. He said that we (the conservative base) had worked hard to get Republicans in Congress and the White House and they squandered the opportunity. He said that Blackburn had gotten a big case of "Potomac Fever".

Leatherwood pointed out that Republicans are losing special elections. He said that Republican politicians need to hear the message that they need to keep to their conservative principles. They were swept out in 2006 because they abandoned those principles. Leatherwood said that we need to reform our party, renew our promises, and then we will have the opportunity to recapture the majority.

Leatherwood has a degree in geology and worked in the field exploring for oil for several years. He said that we could be energy independent. We can drill in ANWR and off the coast of Florida (instead of letting China do so), we can develop the recently found deposits of shale oil in Montana, we can drill our way out of our oil supply problem in a matter of months. In addition, we need to pursue hydroelectric, nuclear, and so on. Leatherwood spoke knowledgeably about types of oil (sweet, heavy, shale, etc.) and the problems and methods of drilling and refining them.

Further, Leatherwood said, we must remove the congressional prohibitions that lead to EPA regulations that keep us from building and expanding refineries. That will keep us from paying for both sides of this war we are in.

Leatherwood then turned to Marsha Blackburn, saying that she is self serving, funneling over $100,000 of PAC money to her family. Last March, Leatherwood brought up the fact that she failed to report over $100,000 in campaign donations, over $280,000 in campaign expenditures and there were $50,000 in accounting errors. He then asked what would happen to you and I if we mismanaged our funds like this? Leatherwood noted that he has been filing financial disclosures for 16 years without any warnings or fines, and that Blackburn was fined $1,500 for inappropriately moving money between accounts.

Leatherwood said that Blackburn is insulated from what Tennesseans are struggling with, such as paying for gas and groceries. She has taken over $100,000 from special interests for 20-some-odd trips to places like California, a symptom of "Potomac Fever".

Leatherwood noted that in 1992 he ran against a 27-year incumbent that everyone said couldn’t be beat (Leonard Donovan). He stayed in the race and won. He said he would only serve two terms, and he did.

And he said that he helped balance the Tennessee budget, which can also be done at the federal level. He said that you have to tell people "no". It’s tough, but he said that he’s been there and done it, and that we need to send that kind of stewardship to Washington.

Leatherwood claimed that every budget he has submitted as Register has not only balanced, it has provided a surplus. He eliminated two positions through attrition, an example of how he was cutting the budget before other offices were told that they will have to make cuts. Leatherwood said that you can run government efficiently, if you have the will and the backbone to do so.

He said that this race is very winnable. Polling early on showed this, even before Marsha’s money issues were exposed. For Leatherwood, it is just a matter of getting the resources [AlphaPatriot: though it will be tough to fight against Blackburn’s $800,000 war chest].

Leatherwood noted that Marsha has done many of the things that Tom Delay did, and Delay’s district flipped from Republican to Democrat.

Q&A Session:

One member noted that Marsha has only introduced a few bills. Leatherwood said that she had introduced 36 bills in six years, 32 of which hasn’t made it out of committee. He said that while we don’t need people being prolific bills, the only way to create an energy policy is to pass legislation. He said that Blackburn has major issues from energy to the economy to immigration.

Best quote of the night was about Blackburn’s record: "You judge a tree by the fruit it bears, not the sound of the wind going through its branches." Leatherwood said that we need to have someone who is effective and doesn’t have the ethical baggage that Blackburn does.

Leatherwood said that he does not want to be up there fighting with Nancy Peloci, but rather wants to be the majority party solving problems like they should have done when they had the opportunity. He mentioned the video available on YouTube where Blackburn is seen "questioning" Big Oil executives, in which she does little more than go down the list of Big Oil talking points.

Questioner asked if any debates with Blackburn have been scheduled. Leatherwood said that Mike Flemming and Main Street Journal have offered venues where both Blackburn and Leatherwood would participate. Leatherwood has accepted, Blackburn has not. He stressed that incumbents rarely participate in these events because it does not benefit them as much as the challenger (it would basically be free publicity for him).

Questioner asked how he would support the Second Amendment. Leatherwood said that he would sponsor legislation to stop the infringement of our rights. While in the Tennessee Senate, he was an active supporter of the legislation for the right to carry in Tennessee. He believes that the constitution is clear as to the individual right to bear arms. Leatherwood said that he agreed with the bumper sticker, "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns."

Questioner cited NAFTA, CAFTA, the UN, and asked if Leatherwood was familiar with the North American Union concept. Leatherwood responded that this is a legitimate concern. He cited the example of boiling a frog one degree at a time, which is what he said is happening to our sovereignty and our liberty, "one ill-advised law and bad treaty at a time". He said that the people have to get involved, and they have been quiet too long. He believes that we are just a few short years away from going from the greatest country in the world to just another has-been country. On the other hand, Leatherwood feels the same energy that was present in 1992 when he beat a 27-year incumbent and again in 1994 when Republicans took Congress.

Leatherwood said that we need strict constitutionalists on the Supreme Court to strip away freedom-eroding laws and return us to the concepts on which this country was founded.

Additional notes:

Most candidates pass out a pamphlet. Leatherwood passed out a packet of materials, which included a business card-sized card that has his email address as well as his home and cell phone number. Impressive.

Tom Owen from Blackburn’s staff was in attendance. After the meeting it was discussed among members that this is the first time that anyone from Blackburn’s staff has ever come to a TFA meeting, although other politicians are often represented [Alexander is particularly good about this].

Bryan Edmiston, a local high school teacher, is Leatherwood’s is campaign manager. Edmiston is the brother-in-law of Anne Edmiston, Shelby County Board of Education member for District 3.

After spending several years in oil exploration, Leatherwood backpacked for 14 months through 25 countries.

AlphaPatriot Reaction:

Tom Leatherwood conducted himself well. He was animated and well spoken, knowledgeable on every issue that was brought up, respectful of his audience, and an attentive listener.

His record speaks well of him, and I’ve been a fan of Leatherwood for some time. If I get the opportunity to ask a few more questions, I may even become a supporter.