published Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Gerber: Mayfield’s mum and voters are cheated

On the side of a box of Mayfield’s peanut butter fudge ice cream, you can learn that a serving contains 170 calories, 11 fat grams and 75 milligrams of sodium.

The federal government requires the nutritional information on the ice cream. But there’s no law requiring a candidate for Congress to say where he stands on the issues, and one of Mayfield Dairy’s namesakes, Scottie, apparently doesn’t think he has to.

Mayfield is trying to unseat freshman Congressman Chuck Fleischmann in the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District. He also faces Weston Wamp, the 25-year-old son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, and businessman Ron Bhalla.

Yet last week, Mayfield once again refused a chance to answer questions about what he believes.

The dairy executive and congressional candidate declined an invitation to participate in a 3rd Congressional District Republican primary debate sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press and WRCB-TV Channel 3.

At this point, all voters really know about Mayfield is that he wears a bow tie, sells popular ice cream and milk and has raised a boatload of money. They know his 33-year-old son was charged with vandalism after he confessed to slashing the tire of a Fleischmann aide’s car. And they know many residents of this region are intensely loyal to Mayfield’s milk, even though it’s far more expensive than other brands.

That’s not enough.

Voters deserve to know the specifics of where he stands on the federal deficit, abortion, gay marriage, the No Child Left Behind overhaul and a litany of other issues that affect our country’s future and the lives of the constituents in the 3rd District. Not to mention local issues such as whether there will be enough money to keep the Chickamauga Lock — critical to this region’s economic well-being — open. Or whether Oak Ridge National Laboratory will continue to be at the forefront of research and technology development and a source of well-paying jobs.

Mayfield’s website does briefly outline some views about cutting spending, ending bans on oil drilling and ending federal oversight of health insurance. But he has been short on specifics and appears averse to answering questions.

In April, he declined an invitation to take part in a candidates’ debate hosted by the Chattanooga Tea Party in June.

And a video posted online last month shows the candidate saying he must get elected to Congress before he elaborates on what he wants to do there.

Addressing the University of Tennessee’s College Republicans club, Mayfield said: “I’ve got a file in my file cabinet that’s ‘When I Get There.’ I haven’t really focused on that because I’ve got to get there first.”

His statements and actions are baffling. They’re also insulting to voters who are making a critical decision in August.

Mayfield’s reluctance to let voters know where he stands on many issues is one of the reasons the newspaper feels it’s important to hold a debate. Mayfield has so far failed to distinguish himself from Fleischmann. Mayfield answered “not really” when Times Free Press reporter Chris Carroll asked him whether he disagreed with any of Fleischmann’s votes or legislative proposals.

At a debate, he’d get the chance to make his case.

Instead, campaign manager Bo Patten said in an email that the campaign is “focusing our time meeting with large groups of undecided voters and getting Scottie’s message out to as many people as possible.”

But what message is that? Is he telling these “large groups of undecided voters” something that he’s not telling everyone else? Does he think his fundraising prowess trumps the public’s right to know where he stands?

Or is he counting on voters to make a blind and uninformed decision in the voting booth based on his name recognition and the family brand? (Even his campaign posters and stickers are yellow and brown like Mayfield Dairy milk jugs).

Does he really think he should get away with going to Washington without telling citizens his goals and vision?

Mayfield’s unwillingness to answer questions isn’t the only problem. Responsibility also lies with the donors backing this vanilla candidate. They should demand that he articulate his views, unless they’re simply more interested in defeating Fleischmann than knowing — or caring — where Mayfield stands.

Perhaps Mayfield is shy. Or intimidated by crowds. Or simply not well versed enough on policy to answer tough questions from journalists and constituents.

Whatever the reason, if he cannot handle the pressure to speak publicly here in Chattanooga, good luck facing the army of reporters, bloggers, photographers and videographers that make up the Washington, D.C., press corps.

Of course, if he doesn’t start speaking, he may never get there.

Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at Send suggestions to

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jesse said...

certainly the strangest campaign i've ever seen!!

May 13, 2012 at 7:56 a.m.
pNc said...

Actually, I've seen stranger.

May 13, 2012 at 5:46 p.m.

"But there’s no law requiring a candidate for Congress to say where he stands on the issues"

Why would Congress pass a law that would explicitly bind them to anything resembling an honest commitment?

They can't even bring themselves to implement real ethics rules or hold themselves to it.

But heck, I think Congress should be directly answerable to the people, through recalls and questioning.

That, or proportional representation instead of WTA.

May 13, 2012 at 8:56 p.m.
timbo said...

Debates are meaningless. They are just posturing and serve little purpose at the congressional level. They won't be seen or covered enough to matter.

Mayfield has every right to not debate. I think you liberals are upset that you won't be able to "gotcha" him.

Also, Chris Carroll is in the tank for little Wamp. He might as well sign on as his press secretary. I can't believe the editors at the paper let him get away with it.

May 14, 2012 at 11:47 a.m.
timbo said...

By the way, Mayfield was a big time supporter of Zach Wamp. This whole thing smells to high heaven.


This whole thing is to take votes away from Fleishman. It's the oldest trick in the book.

May 14, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.

He's just using the Pelosi rule. You have to elect him to find out what he stands for. It worked for Obamacare....

May 14, 2012 at 12:07 p.m.
jesse said...

i have NO prob.w /his dicision not to debate! debates are not debates,they ARE slapdown rants! what i would like to hear from mayfiels is! WHAT THE HE## is on your mind AND WHY are you runnin for office!! THAT would be a good start on gittin a grip on just who the he## mayfield is!

May 14, 2012 at 2:25 p.m.

Fpse, keep repeating that tired old saw. The reality is that she was saying the reports of the law had become so distorted and exaggerated that only actual experience would defeat the entrenched misunderstandings.

And when asked on specific provisions of it, support for them is still high across the board.

Go figure. Nobody's found the death panels yet.

May 17, 2012 at 1:06 a.m.

hwnb, Right... Were you in her head? What sort of foreknowledge did you need to translate what she actually said into the fantasy you posted above? Most people understood it exactly as she said it. Stretching reality to turn plainly spoken words into some nuanced statement that was full of deep meaning just makes you look foolish.

May 17, 2012 at 10:24 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Debates are not meaningless. Granted, the zillion Republican debates came to be nothing but posturing and a carnival of clowns (because of the many clowns on stage), but that was because of overkill and loony-toon candidates more than the fact that debates in and and of themselves are meaningless. At the very least they force a candidate to think on his/her feet, or fall on their face (like Perry), and to enunciate their stances clearly as opposed to their opponents. Based on everything that Mayfield has said so far, which is nothing really, one would have to be nuts to take him seriously.

May 18, 2012 at 2:02 p.m.
timbo said...

Rickaroo.. you are an expert on loony tunes because your a liberal. Nobody is more unqualified, extreme, and has crazy ideas than Barack (the Kenyan) Obama and Joe (Foot in mouth) Biden. Except maybe you and some of these other pinkos that write on this page.

May 18, 2012 at 2:06 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

FPSE, anyone with a lick of common sense knows what Pelosi meant by her statement. One need not be "in her head" to decipher the straightforward, obvious meaning of it. The bill was getting so much bald-faced misrepresentation by the Repubs that the public would have to see personally how the bill was going to affect them before they could judge for themselves as to the merits of it. That's all it was. Period. There are real issues worth debating. Stop wasting time making mountains out of mole hills. Good grief, what she said wasn't EVEN a mole hill. Let it go already. No one looks more "foolish" than you.

May 18, 2012 at 2:19 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

I take that back. Timbo is a close rival for the distinction of wearing the crown of fools.

May 18, 2012 at 2:22 p.m.
timbo said...

Rickaroo...Oh, my gosh, your answer was so impressive and pithy. I stand awed by your over-whelming....stupidity. If we conservatives are "fools" why do we have most of the money and you liberals do most of the whining about it.

May 18, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.
andyrich79 said...

Very few positive things come out of debates. They are just times for slick politicians to stand up, spin their stories and tear other candidates down. We saw how effectively debates divided people during the Republican presidential primary this year. Mr. Mayfield doesn't need to get on stage to tell a divided crowd how he stands on the issues. If you check out his website, you will see he has more specific things posted there than any of the other candidates.

May 18, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.

Here! here! andyrich79. Mayfield is a saavy customer to avoid the stupid debates. They used to be fair and useful, but have now become just another stage to throw mud from.

May 18, 2012 at 4:30 p.m.

hmmm. Mountains out of mole hills... Kind of like that whole Buffett rule thing.

May 18, 2012 at 4:32 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Andyrich, voters deserve to see a candidate in public, in front of a mixed crowd. How a person handles himself/herself in public, among those who disagree with them, helps to show their mettle. And a person needs to have some pretty tough mettle to be a politician, to be strong in fighting for their views. You say, "We saw how effectively debates divided people during the Republican presidential primary." Well, guess what...that "dividing" of people is what debates are intended to do - to narrow down the choices in order to decide who to ultimately vote for. It's one thing to put a list of where one stands on the issues on a website; that's not nearly enough. One needs to know how to articulate and defend those stances in a public forum. That has always been one of the tenets of our democracy and it should remain so.

May 18, 2012 at 6 p.m.

Rickaroo, What evidence did you base your conclusions on? The fine examples we have at the federal level? I believe we can all see how well publicly vetting THEM worked out. They all lie on camera just as well as they do face to face.

May 21, 2012 at 9:35 a.m.
ldurham said...

I saw Scottie at a fast-food drive-thru the other day. He couldn't decide what to order, and was afraid that by making any public declarations, he would be divisive. After all, most folks in line had already had their minds made up. So he just drove away. Yes, this man could represent us in Congress.

May 23, 2012 at 7:27 a.m.
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