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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Giant Step Forward Nationwide, But Two Steps Back in Upper East Tennessee

Shipley upsets Vaughn

Challenger Tony Shipley received 12,858 votes to incumbent Nathan Vaughn’s 12,532 votes — a margin of about 1 percent.



A bitter political campaign in Tennessee’s 2nd House District ended Tuesday with GOP challenger Tony Shipley of Colonial Heights narrowly upsetting Democratic incumbent state Rep. Nathan Vaughn of Kingsport.

Unofficial Sullivan County Election Commission results showed Shipley receiving 12,858 votes to Vaughn’s 12,532 votes — a margin of about 1 percent.
Shipley said his win was one of four Republican pickups for House GOP Leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol — who apparently has achieved his goal of winning a narrow Republican majority in the state House.
“This is tremendously historic,” Shipley said.
Mumpower said late Tuesday night that Republicans had won 50 of 99 seats in the state House.
“We’re waiting for confirmation, but we’re very excited and ready to lead,” Mumpower said. “We have always known that House Republicans and Tennessee voters are in the same place.”
Shipley credited his volunteers with the win.
“We worked so hard to identify the differences between the two of us,” Shipley said. “But my volunteers were tremendously energetic. They ranged from 18 years old to 82 years old. They worked their hind ends off. The grassroots organization was the difference.”
Vaughn, a former Kingsport alderman and insurance agent, became the first African-American state lawmaker from Northeast Tennessee when he was elected in 2002. He was unopposed in 2006 and rode GOP votes to victory when he defeated Republican challenger Neal Kerney in 2004.
Vaughn was not available for comment after the results were tallied.
Shipley, a retired Air Force veteran, stayed on offense for much of the campaign by attacking Vaughn’s voting record on everything from illegal immigration to raising taxes on cigarettes to fund education reform.
Shipley was also the beneficiary of thousands of robocalls made to district residents — with some paid for by Mumpower’s political action committee.
In one robocall paid for by Mumpower’s PAC, a voice asked voters to reject Vaughn as well as Barack Obama.
The Tennessee Republican Party also sent district residents a direct mail piece that electronically pasted a picture of Vaughn’s head onto a blackbird. The heads of Democratic presidential candidate Obama and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were also electronically pasted in similar fashion to show that Vaughn was “part of the liberal, big government flock.”
Vaughn, who debated Shipley three times during the campaign, tried to convince voters they needed a steady presence in Nashville. Vaughn sent out direct mail pieces indicating he was “getting things done for Sullivan County families,” including upgrading deadly State Route 126.
Vaughn, as an incumbent, received scores of political action committee campaign contributions in the waning days of the race, according to the Registry of Election Finance. Other contributions included $10,000 from Democratic House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh’s leadership PAC.
But Vaughn’s pre-election filing with the registry showed him with having cash on hand of more than $95,000 — unspent money in his campaign account.
The 2nd House District includes parts of Kingsport, Colonial Heights, Sullivan Gardens and Indian Springs.
Tuesday’s election is scheduled to be certified by the Sullivan County Election Commission on Nov. 14.