Marsha Blackburn (née Wedgeworth; born June 6, 1952) is an American politician and businesswoman serving as the junior United States Senator from Tennessee. A member of the Republican Party, Blackburn previously served the U.S. House for Tennessee's 7th congressional district from 2003 to 2019. She was also a State Senator from 1999 to 2003. On November 6, 2018, she became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee, defeating Democratic former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.
|United States Senator|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2019
Serving with Lamar Alexander
|Preceded by||Bob Corker|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Tennessee's 7th district
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Ed Bryant|
|Succeeded by||Mark E. Green|
|Member of the Tennessee Senate|
from the 23rd district
January 12, 1999 – January 3, 2003
|Preceded by||Keith Jordan|
|Succeeded by||Jim Bryson|
|Executive Director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission|
February 1995 – June 1997
|Preceded by||Dancy Jones|
|Succeeded by||Anne Pope|
|Chair of the Williamson County Republican Party|
|Preceded by||George Miller|
|Succeeded by||Al Nations|
June 6, 1952
Laurel, Mississippi, U.S.
Chuck Blackburn (m. 1975)
|Education||Mississippi State University (BS)|
Early life and education
Marsha Wedgeworth Blackburn was born in Laurel, Mississippi, to Mary Jo (Morgan) and Hilman Wedgeworth, who worked in sales and management. She attended Mississippi State University, earning a B.S. in home economics in 1974.
In college, she joined Chi Omega and worked as a student manager for Southwestern Advantage, a multi-level marketing company, selling educational products door-to-door. She is a former beauty-pageant winner.
Early political career
Blackburn's professional career began in 1973 when she was hired as a sales manager for the Times Mirror Company. In 1975 she was named Director of Retail Fashion and Special Events of the Castner Knott Division of Mercantile Stores, Inc. She held this position until 1978, when she became the owner of Marketing Strategies, a promotion-event management and image consulting firm. She continues to run this business.
Blackburn was a founding member of the Williamson County Young Republicans. She became chair of the Williamson County Republican Party in 1989 and served until 1991. In 1992, she was a candidate for Congress and a delegate to the 1992 Republican National Convention. She lost the congressional race, but remained active in social and political venues.
In 1998, she was elected to the Tennessee Senate, where she served until 2003 and rose to be minority whip. In 2000, she took part in the effort to prevent the passage of a state income tax bill.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 2002, Republican Ed Bryant gave up his seat as U.S. Representative from Tennessee's 7th District so that he could run for the Senate. Blackburn ran against Democrat Tim Barron for the seat and was elected with 70% of the vote. In 2004, she ran unopposed and was re-elected.
Blackburn joined Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign as a senior advisor. In May 2007, she resigned her position in the Romney campaign and endorsed former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson for president. She was re-elected in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.
In April 2018, she signed onto a letter formally nominating President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize "in recognition of his work to end the Korean War, denuclearize the Korean peninsula and bring peace to the region."
- Committee on the Budget
- Committee on Education and the Workforce
- Committee on Energy and Commerce
- Committee on Judiciary
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood, chair
Redistricting after the 2000 Census moved Blackburn's home from the 6th district into the 7th district. The 6th District's Democratic incumbent congressman, Bart Gordon, had faced three tough races in the 1990s, including a near-defeat in 1994, in part due to the growing Republican trend in Nashville's suburbs. This was especially pronounced in Williamson County, the richest county in the state and the most Republican county in Middle Tennessee. It appeared that the Democratic-controlled Tennessee General Assembly wanted to protect Gordon by moving Williamson County into the already heavily Republican 7th District. To maintain approximately equal district sizes (as required by Wesberry v. Sanders) and to compensate for the substantial increase in the 7th's population by the addition of Williamson County, the legislature shifted some of the more Democratic parts of Clarksville to the nearby 8th district. This created a district that, in the words of Memphis Magazine, stretched "in reptilian fashion" for 200 miles from eastern Memphis to southwest Nashville.
In 2002, 7th District incumbent Republican congressman Ed Bryant decided to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Fred Thompson. Blackburn entered the primary to replace Bryant—the real contest in this Republican stronghold. Of the four main candidates, she was the only one from the Nashville suburbs. The other three, future state senate majority leader Mark Norris, conservative activist and future U.S. Attorney and Representative David Kustoff, and city councilman Brent Taylor, were all from Memphis and its suburbs. She garnered the endorsement of the conservative Club for Growth. The three Memphians split the vote in that area, allowing her to win the primary by nearly 20 percentage points.
In the general election, she defeated Democratic nominee Tim Barron, with 70% of the vote. She was the fourth woman elected to Congress from Tennessee, but the first not to serve as a stand-in for her husband.
She ran unopposed for reelection in 2004, which is somewhat unusual for a freshman member of Congress, even from a district as heavily Republican as the 7th. A 2004 survey of congressional aides by the Washingtonian identified her as one of the three "best newcomers" in the House of Representatives.
Redistricting after the 2010 census made the 7th district more compact; it lost its shares of Nashville and Memphis while regaining all of Clarksville. However, it is no less Republican than its predecessor; with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+18, it is one of the most Republican districts in the South.
In October 2017, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam declined to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker. Shortly after, Blackburn announced her campaign for the seat. In her announcement, she said that House Republicans were frustrated with Senate Republicans who they believe act like Democrats on important issues, including Obamacare. In the announcement of her candidacy, Blackburn described herself as a "hard-core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative", said she was "politically incorrect", and noted with pride that liberals have characterized her as a "wing nut". Blackburn dismissed compromise and bipartisanship, saying "No compromise, no apologies." She also said that she carried a gun in her purse. On August 2, Blackburn received 610,302 votes (84.48%) in the Republican primary, winning her party's nomination.
Early on in the campaign, retiring Republican incumbent Bob Corker said that Blackburn's opponent, Democrat Phil Bredesen, was "a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person," that he had "real appeal" and "crossover appeal," and that the two of them had cooperated well over the years. However, Corker said he would vote for Blackburn and donate to her campaign, and questioned whether Bredesen would be able to win a Senate seat in a red state like Tennessee. Following Corker's praise for Bredesen, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Corker that such comments could cost the Republican Party its Senate majority. Shortly after Corker's comments, President Trump tweeted an endorsement of Blackburn. Blackburn largely backed President Donald Trump's policies, including a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and shares his opinion regarding National Football League national anthem protests. Vice President Mike Pence also endorsed Blackburn a few days later on April 23, 2018. During the campaign, Blackburn pledged to support President Trump's agenda and suggested that her opponent, Bredesen, would not, asking, "Do you think Phil Bredesen would vote with crying Chuck Schumer or would he vote with our president when it comes to support our troops and supporting our veterans?"
Blackburn and Bredesen disclosed in mid-April 2018 that they had each raised close to $2 million during the first quarter of the year.
In October 2018, pop star Taylor Swift endorsed Bredesen. The endorsement was notable given that Swift had been publicly apolitical, but spoke out because Blackburn's "voting record in Congress appall[ed] and terrifie[d]" her. Swift shared a link to non-partisan voter registration website Vote.org which saw a significant spike in page views and new registrations. Swift's endorsement was criticized by Donald Trump as well as Mike Huckabee, who said, "[She] has every right to be political but it won't impact [the] election unless we allow 13 yr old girls to vote".
For most of the campaign, polls showed the two candidates nearly tied. However, following the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Blackburn pulled ahead of Bredesen; the hearings are believed to have mobilized Republican voters. Blackburn won the election on November 6, 2018, taking 54.7 percent of the vote to Bredesen's 43.9 percent. She carried all but three counties in the state (Davidson, Shelby and Haywood).
Blackburn assumed office and was sworn in on January 3, 2019.
|1992||Bart Gordon||120,177||57%||Marsha Blackburn||86,289||41%||H. Scott Benson||Independent||5,952||3%||*|
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1992, write-ins received 10 votes.
|2002||Tim Barron||51,790||26%||Marsha Blackburn||138,314||71%||Rick Patterson||Independent||5,423||3%||*|
|2004||(no candidate)||Marsha Blackburn||232,404||100%|
|2006||Bill Morrison||73,369||32%||Marsha Blackburn||152,288||66%||Kathleen A. Culver||Independent||1,806||1%||*|
|2008||Randy Morris||98,207||31%||Marsha Blackburn||214,214||69%|
|2010||Greg Rabidoux||54,341||25%||Marsha Blackburn||158,892||72%||J.W. Stone||Independent||6,319||3%||*|
|2012||Credo Amouzouvik||61,050||24%||Marsha Blackburn||180,775||71%||Howard Switzer||Green||4,584||2%||*|
|2014||Daniel Cramer||42,280||26.8%||Marsha Blackburn||110,534||69.9%||Leonard Ladner||Independent||5,093||3.2%|
|2016||Tharon Chandler||65,226||23.5%||Marsha Blackburn||200,407||72.2%||Leonard Ladner||Independent||11,880||4.3%|
|2018||Marsha Blackburn||1,227,483||54.71%||Phil Bredesen||985,450||43.92%||Other candidates||Independent||30,807||1.37%|
Blackburn is a Tea Party Republican. She has been described as staunchly conservative, and describes herself as "a hard-core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative." She scored 100% on American Conservative Union's 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 Ratings of Congress.
Abortion and stem cell research
Blackburn opposes abortion. In 2013, Blackburn was chosen to manage debate on a bill promoted by House Republicans that would have prohibited abortions after 22 weeks' gestation, with limited exceptions for rape or incest. She replaced the bill's prior sponsor, U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), after Franks made controversial and dubious statements. In 2015, Blackburn led a panel that investigated the Planned Parenthood undercover video controversy - where anti-abortion activists published a video which purported to show that Planned Parenthood illicitly sold fetal tissue. Subsequent investigations into Planned Parenthood found no evidence of fetal tissue sales or of wrongdoing. Later, in 2017, when Blackburn announced that she was running in the 2018 Tennessee senatorial race, she ran an advertisement saying that she "fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts". Twitter banned the advertisement on its platform because of her assertion about the sale of baby body parts. In 2015, Blackburn claimed that 94% of Planned Parenthood's business revolves around abortion services; FactCheck.Org noted that abortions account for 3% of the total services provided by Planned Parenthood in 2013 and that most of Planned Parenthood's work is dedicated to treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, pregnancy tests, prenatal services and cancer screenings.
In March 2016, Blackburn chaired the Republican-led Select Investigative Panel, a committee convened to "explore the ethical implications of using fetal tissue in biomedical research". Democrats on the panel characterized the probe as a politically motivated witch hunt, and objected to subpoenas demanding "names of researchers, technicians and medical personnel involved in fetal tissue handling". Subpoenaed biotechnology executives Eugene Gu of the Ganogen Research Institute and Cate Dyer of StemExpress argued in an article in Nature that the panel was intimidating researchers and patients. Gu went on Science Friday on NPR and detailed his experiences living in close proximity to Blackburn's Congressional district and having United States Marshals deliver the subpoena to his home. The Republican majority on the panel released a report concluding that fetal tissue "makes a vanishingly small contribution to clinical and research efforts, if it contributes at all"; scientists on the other hand widely hold that fetal tissue research is valuable for science and medicine. A fact-check by Science magazine identified a number of falsehoods in the panel's report.
In 2009, Blackburn sponsored legislation requiring presidential candidates to show their birth certificates. The bill was in response to so-called Birther conspiracy theories that falsely alleged that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Asked why she supported such a bill, Blackburn's spokesperson said that Blackburn did not doubt that Obama was an American citizen. The spokesperson inaccurately suggested that Obama had not provided any documents to prove he was a natural-born citizen.
Health care and pharmaceuticals
Blackburn opposed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), stating, with the passage of the bill, "freedom dies a little bit today." She subsequently supported efforts to repeal the legislation, arguing that it "means well" but fails to live up to its promise. In 2017, while arguing for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Blackburn falsely stated that two popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act (protections for individual with preexisting conditions and the provision allowing adult children to be on their parents' health plans until they're 26) "were two Republican provisions which made it into the [Obamacare] bill." In her declaration that she would run for the Senate in 2018, she said that the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act was "a disgrace".
At October 2013 congressional hearings on the Affordable Care Act, Blackburn charged the health.gov website violated HIPAA and health information privacy rights. The next day, when a CNN interviewer pointed out that the only health-related question that the web site asks is "do you smoke?," Blackburn repeated her criticism of the site for violating privacy rights.
According to The New York Times, Blackburn's most notable legislative achievement was co-sponsorship of legislation that revised the legal standard Drug Enforcement Agency to establish "a significant and present risk of death or serious bodily harm that is more likely than not to occur," rather than the previous standard of "imminent danger," before suspending opioid drug shipments. The legislation passed the House and the Senate unanimously, but was criticized in internal agency documents, Justice Department documents, and by the DEA's chief administrative law judge, as hampering DEA enforcement actions against drug distribution companies engaging in black-market sales.
Blackburn rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. In a February 16, 2014 televised debate on NBC's Meet the Press with science-educator Bill Nye, Blackburn disputed the science and urgency of the issue, asserting that there is "not consensus" in the scientific community, and that climate change remains "unproven". In the debate she also incorrectly cited the works of Richard Lindzen and Judith Curry as denial of the science of climate change. She said in 2015 "The jury is still out saying man is the cause for global warming, after the earth started to cool 13 years ago."
In April 2009, an exchange between Blackburn and former Vice President Al Gore received significant publicity. During a congressional hearing on energy policy, Blackburn asked Gore, "The legislation that we are discussing here today, is that something that you are going to personally benefit from?" Gore indicated in response that all income he earned from renewable technology investment went to non-profits.
Blackburn appears in Koch Brothers Exposed, a 2012 documentary about the political activities of the Koch brothers, major fossil fuel interests, and is listed as a top recipient of campaign contributions.
Blackburn opposes net neutrality in the United States, referring to it as "socialistic". Blackburn opposes municipal broadband initiatives that aim to compete with Internet service providers. She supported bills that restrict municipalities from creating their own broadband networks, and wrote a bill to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from preempting state laws that blocked municipal broadband.
In early 2017, Blackburn introduced to the House a measure to dismantle an Obama-administration online privacy rule that had been adopted by the FCC in October 2016. Blackburn's measure, which was supported by broadband providers but criticized by privacy advocates, repealed the rule which required broadband providers to obtain consumers' permission before sharing their online data, including browsing histories. The measure passed the House in a party-line vote in March 2017, after a similar measure had been passed by the Senate the same week. She subsequently proposed legislation which expanded the requirement to include internet companies as well as broadband providers.
In 2013, Blackburn voted in favor of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in the House, but voted against the Senate's version of the Act, which expanded VAWA to apply to people regardless of sexual orientation. Blackburn argued that increasing the number of targets for VAWA funding would "dilute the money that needs to go into the sexual assault centers, domestic abuse centers, [and] child advocacy centers," and said VAWA ought to remain focused on supporting women's shelters and facilitating law enforcement against crimes against women, rather than addressing other groups or issues.
Blackburn opposes same-sex marriage. Blackburn said that the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was "a disappointment. I have always supported traditional marriage. Despite this decision, no one can overrule the truth about what marriage actually is -- a sacred institution between a man and a woman."
Blackburn voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to ban discrimination against LGBT employees, has a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign (a PAC which supports gay rights and same-sex marriage) and voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
In November 2016, Blackburn joined Donald Trump's presidential transition team as vice chair. Blackburn is a staunch supporter of President Trump, and has backed most of his policies and proposals. She nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations with North Korea. Vox speculated that Blackburn's ties to Trump, who won Tennessee in the 2016 election by 26 points, helped boost her 2018 U.S. Senate candidacy.
Following the 2018 Thousand Oaks shooting on the evening of November 7, 2018, which resulted in 12 deaths, Blackburn responded to a question about the shooting in a Fox News interview with Sandra Smith by saying "how do we make certain that we protect the Second Amendment and protect our citizens? We've always done that in this country. Mental health issues need to be addressed."
Blackburn is married to Chuck Blackburn, and they live in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville in Williamson County. The couple have two children. Her husband is the founder of the International Bow Tie Society (IBTS). She is a Presbyterian.
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Blackburn has waged a relentless campaign against the FCC's policy safeguarding net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible, which she has disparaged as "socialistic."
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Blackburn has also been a major recipient of financial support from the nation's largest telecom and cable companies.
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I didn't like the way it was expanded to include other different groups...What you need is something that is focused specifically to help the shelters and to help out law enforcement who is trying to work with the crimes that have been committed against women and helping them to stand up
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- Halper, Daniel (2016-11-11). "Mike Pence takes over Trump transition from Chris Christie". Nypost.com. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
- Lhou, Li (November 7, 2018). "Marsha Blackburn is Tennessee's first woman senator". VOX. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
- Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
- Stockard, Sam (October 12, 2018). "Blackburn would spend $70B on border wall; Bredesen says he'd put money into technology". The Daily Memphian. Memphis, Tennessee. Retrieved 2018-12-26.
- "Marsha Blackburn is an NRA favorite. Her comments about the Thousand Oaks shooting show why". Vox. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
- Dickson, Caitlin (2013-06-09). "The Fringe Factor: Women Don't Want Equal Pay Laws". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
- Inside The C Street House Archived 2009-07-24 at the Wayback Machine, Salon.com, July 21, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marsha Blackburn.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Marsha Blackburn|
- official U.S. Senate site
- Campaign website
- Marsha Blackburn at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- MSNBC transcript, Meet the Press (February 16, 2014).
| Member of the Tennessee Senate
from the 23rd district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th congressional district
Mark E. Green
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Tennessee
| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Tennessee
Served alongside: Lamar Alexander
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority