published Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Mayfield, reluctant candidate

A first-time candidate for office should grab every chance to promote his candidacy. Not Scottie Mayfield, the Athens businessman who is seeking the Republican nomination in Tennessee's 3rd District primary election. He's hiding from the public. First, he turned down the chance to appear at a Chattanooga Tea Party forum. Now, he's refused an invitation to face incumbent Chuck Fleischmann and challengers Weston Wamp and Ron Bhalla in a May 21 debate sponsored by The Chattanooga Times Free Press and WRCB-TV.

Primary season is still in its infancy, but a disconcerting pattern is emerging from Mayfield's camp. The candidate avoids public debate and speaks only to friendly groups. That is the only explanation for the candidate's refusals -- and for an email to this paper from Joe Hendrix, Mayfield's campaign spokesman, regarding the May 21 event.

"Scottie believes the majority of those who attend debates have already made up their mind who they are going to vote for," Hendrix wrote. "The issues are not where the candidates differ, it's experience." Hendrix did write that Mayfield has several public appearances scheduled but declined to name them, adding that the candidate plans to "connect with undecided voters, one on one." Huh?

How are voters supposed to "connect" with the candidate or, more importantly, measure the man, his "experience" or his views on vital district and national issues if they don't know where or when he will appear? Mayfield, it seems, prefers to distance himself from voters rather than engage them.

No wonder. Some of his public appearances have turned into disasters. One captured on a widely circulated YouTube video shows the candidate inarticulately answering a simple query about his goals if elected. Mayfield tells assembled students that district residents will have to wait until he gets to Congress to find out. Voters deserve a better answer than that.

Indeed, Mayfield's response suggests an arrogance and an entitlement that ill serves any candidate, as does his refusal to appear with his opponents. It's as if Mayfield expects voters to rubber-stamp his candidacy because he is wealthy, because TV ads for the dairy that bears his name have given him name recognition, and because he's deigned to offer his services to the public. Nonsense. Voters should know better than to accept that sort of reasoning.

Sadly, avoidance of the public and the media is an increasingly popular political strategy. Fleischmann, in fact, successfully used it after winning the 2010 GOP primary. He avoided public appearances when he could, refused to engage in real debate when he couldn't -- limiting statements to platitudes -- and clearly expected the heavy GOP majority in the district to propel him to victory regardless.

Mayfield is using the same tactic. That might suit Mayfield, but it is a disaster for those who rightly want to know a candidate and his platform, and to measure his worth in a debate before voting. A candidate worth his or her salt -- or a vote -- ought to engage willingly in public conversation. Mayfield won't. Voters should hold him accountable for that failing on Aug. 2.

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dbedit said...

Sounds to me Scottie is telling it like it is......

Appears Scottie is hitting a nerve with the other candidates and their supporters by not participating in the debates. So how are Fleishmann, Bhalla, and Wamp so different in their views? Exactly very vanilla in their views. It is very refreshing to see a successful businessman running for office and according to the poll on this site leading at this point in time.

May 9, 2012 at 11:31 p.m.

I still want a None-of-the-above option.

May 10, 2012 at 12:21 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Mayfield will get elected regardless of his public policy ideas. He will get into office solely on name recognition and preconceived notions voters have stereotyping a businessman and dairy farmer.

It is not to his advantage to say or do anything other than advertise his position on the ballot. Look at your own WEHCO Media convenience sampling poll from yesterday: 36% for Mayfield, about twice what his closest competitor was getting.

With numbers twice as successful as his nearest competitor, why would he bother to mess that up with a televised PR failure? His goal is to get elected; he doesn't need to be right or strong, or appear smart or smooth, while doing it.

We're going to get stuck with Mayfield. We should be prepared to be stunned into silence when we see what happens as we throw him into the snake pit of Washington politics. His son won't be able to try some flea market redneck toughguy tactics out there.

Mayfield will have to face corruption and payoff schemes face-first. Maybe he'll have a chance to do that. Unfortunately, by not showing up to the debates, it looks like he'll duck and cover his way through a term. That's what Fleischmann has been doing, and it results in no gains for the voters when it happens.

We're about to get another stomping on the national level because we don't have people smart enough to hold the job well who will be elected by the voters locally. So, it's send the bow-tied milkman to Washington, and then we'll watch the massacre unfold.

As a farmer, he could stand to answer some political questions like: what is his position on seed licensing?

Monsanto-like corporations are genetically engineering products and asserting patent rights over food: what's Mayfield's position on that?

Commercial taxation on interstate trade, manufacturing and production employment plans for large areas (like the whole state), interfacing of states with radically different taxation schemes (TN and NC or GA, for instance) against federal taxation plans: Mayfield, as a businessman could have to explain a lot to the public when it comes to drawing conclusions about existing practical issues in the day to day grind of legislative government.

Real estate and pollution: farmers deal with those issues every day. How does Mayfield view the EPA, land acquisitions by governments from the people or each other (like the Utah road and highway nonsense)?

Science: is this farmer going to tell people that he doesn't believe in the third rail of Tennessee politics: evolution?

Mayfield has a lot to answer for; and, he will only stand to lose in a televised debate or on the House floor in Washington unless he has some very good answers.

May 10, 2012 at 6:27 a.m.
ldurham said...

Wow, you TFP editorial guys are coming down pretty hard on Mayfield. You may want to check your tires before you leave the parking lot today.

May 10, 2012 at 8:50 a.m.
ibshame said...

If the voters in the Third District go to the polls and once again elect someone who refuses to debate or show up to answer voters' concerns then it says more about the voters than it does the candidate. Chuckie already played this hand the last time around and he won so it's not coincidental that Mayfield thinks he can do the same thing. The voters should be prepared to prove to Mayfield the old adage "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me Twice, shame on me" (or as G.W. Bush mauled it "You can't fool me again") is true.

May 10, 2012 at 1:54 p.m.
hamiltonvoter said...

I am not sure how this discussion has turned toward Chuck. He debated numerous times in the primary. The only debate he refused was with John Wolfe, which makes complete sense: the 3rd District doesn't vote Democrat.

May 10, 2012 at 3:28 p.m.

Nope, sorry, Chuck Fleischmann is still a vague and formless ghost to the rest of us.

May 10, 2012 at 8:40 p.m.
adolphochs said...

Scottie - nice guy but hardly a successful businessman. His uncle built the company and sold it. Scottie was the face of the organization and just got "retired" by Dean Foods which owns the Mayfields brand. Does Hamilton County and Chattanooga really want a representative who will be cummuting out of Knoxville's airport? Without earmarks there's not a lot a freshman congressman can do, in fact there's little a congressman can do without seniority. The election of Mayfield would be the first time since 1885 that a representative from other than Hamilton County would represent the 3rd District.

May 11, 2012 at 6:10 p.m.

Well, personally, I'd rather have a more contiguous and well-formed district that has a greater chance to have common interests.

May 11, 2012 at 6:11 p.m.
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