By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville attorney Terry Adams is touting his status as a political outsider in his bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Adams, who was a quartermaster in the Navy before going to college and law school, told reporters in Nashville on Friday that he wants to champion veterans issues and to keep what he calls a career politician from holding the seat for another six years.
“Tennesseans like Washington outsiders, and right now you’re looking at one,” he said.
The incumbent is Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former two-term governor, who is being challenged for the GOP nomination by state Rep. Joe Carr of Murfreesboro.
Adams runs a seven-attorney law firm and owns a title company in Knoxville. He said he was motivated to run in part to avoid a repeat of the 2012 primary won by an anti-gay candidate, Mark Clayton, who was quickly disavowed by the Democratic Party.
“We never, ever can allow that to happen again,” said Adams, who added that he did not remember whom he voted for in the 2012 Senate election won by incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Corker.
Adams, who said he served as president of the college Democrats while attending the University of Tennessee, also said he couldn’t recall for whom he voted when he cast a ballot in the Republican primary in 2010.
“I wish I could say it showed my bipartisan nature, and that I can reach across the aisle and all that,” he said. “But I just don’t know. There might have been somebody that I knew in Knoxville who asked me to vote for them.
“To be completely honest with you, the Democratic Party’s not real strong in Knoxville,” he said.
The top race that year was the GOP nomination contest between then-Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. Haslam went on to win the primary and the general election, and is running for re-election this year.
State Republicans were quick to criticize Adams’ failure to remember whom he voted for in 2012 and 2010.
“These lapses are actually predictive of what will happen in November: Voters won’t remember Terry Adams,” spokesman Brent Leatherwood said in an email.
Adams said he considers his lack of political experience a plus, noting that neither former Democratic Sen. Jim Sasser or Republican Sen. Bill Frist had held office before winning their first election.
Adams grew up in Nashville, where his songwriter mother wrote “Cry, Cry, Cry” for Connie Smith.