Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen promised voters he would not vote for Chuck Schumer as majority leader if he’s elected and Democrats take control of the Senate.
“We need to get new leadership,” Bredesen, Tennessee’s former governor, said during a debate Tuesday night. “I can tell you right now, that if I’m elected, and when I’m elected and go to Washington, I am not going to be voting for Chuck Schumer.”
A Democrat from New York, Schumer is currently the minority leader in the Senate.
Still, throughout the debate, GOP nominee Marsha Blackburn attempted to align the Democratic candidate to Schumer and reiterated multiple times his campaign is “bought and paid for” by the minority leader.
Later, she doubled down with reporters, claiming Schumer recruited Bredesen to run for the open seat and pointed out he’s praised former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats.
After the debate, held at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Bredesen told reporters “leadership in both parties is part of the problem,” The Tennessean reported.
“I think it’s time to kind of sweep through and get some new people that have got a lot more commitment to trying to solve problems and working in a bipartisan way,” he said.
Bredesen isn’t the only Democratic Senate hopeful who disavowed Schumer. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who is locked in a tough battle for Senate in Arizona, told Politico in July she would not vote for Schumer.
Bredesen faces Blackburn, a congresswoman, for the seat left open with the retirement of Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican. It is ranked a tossup by Fox News and is among several midterm races deemed crucial for Republicans hoping to hold onto its narrow two-seat majority.
Bredesen, 74, is vying to become the first Democrat to win a Senate campaign in The Volunteer State since Al Gore in 1990. Not hyper-partisan, Bredesen served as Nashville’s mayor before he led the entire state from 2003 to 2011 – and he’s using that nostalgia in his current campaign.
He told The Associated Press he wants to “make clear to everybody my independence from all of the national Democratic stuff.” He said the party is becoming “elitist” and bemoaned efforts to win elections through “demographic partitioning.”
He says Democrats wouldn't be able to reliably count on his vote in the Senate, and he foresees playing a role like that of Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who has broken with the GOP on several high-profile issues.
“I think you can be influential being in that swing position,” Bredesen said
If elected, Bredesen, who graduated from Harvard University with a physics degree, would be one of the richest members in Congress, The Tennessean reported. Recent financial disclosures showed he has between $88.9 million and $358 million in total investment assets from January 2017 to February 2018.
Blackburn and Bredesen are scheduled to debate again on Oct. 10 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.