On Coleman vs. Dickerson in Senate District 20

Excerpt from Nashville Public Radio’s review of the state Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson and Democratic nominee Erin Coleman:

Democrats have high hopes for Coleman. She’s a young mother and a business owner, a lawyer and an Army veteran — the sort of person who might appeal to voters in a Nashville district that’s generally suburban and right-of-center.

“We really feel like we’re headed in the right direction,” she tells one young man, “and people are starting to listen and recognize that there’s an election happening.”

“I also feel like a lot of Republicans are going to stay home,” he says.

“From your lips to God’s ears,” Coleman replies.

He means that Republicans are going to stay home because of Donald Trump.

At least that’s what Coleman is praying for. Democrats believe the Republican presidential nominee gives them a golden chance to win over moderate voters. Or, at the very least, depress Republican turnout.

Either could tilt the balance in the Tennessee Senate’s 20th District, says Anthony Davis, a Metro Councilman and the host for this night’s event.

“Erin has just such a good chance to win,” he says. “That’s a seat we can pick off.”

…The seat is about as close to even as there is in the Tennessee Senate. When it was last up for grabs in 2012, the Republican won with 54 percent of the vote, a decisive win but not quite a landslide.

… The Republican who holds the seat now is an anesthesiologist named Steve Dickerson. Like Coleman, he’s also relatively young and a parent. Dickerson’s also an amateur musician. Ads for his campaign often feature him riffing on his guitar.

Dickerson won the seat four years ago, when Republicans in the state legislature rearranged district lines to make it possible for a GOP candidate to win in Davidson County. Since then, he’s stood out as one of the most moderate members of the Senate.

“As far as public policy solutions go, I try to pick issues, try to pick topics, try to make votes and take stands that span the parties,” he says. “They’re, a lot of times, seen as nonpartisan or bipartisan.”

Dickerson has proposed legalizing medical marijuana and letting women buy birth control pills without prescriptions. He was the only Republican to join with Democrats in trying to defeat a law that protects Confederate monuments. And he opposed efforts to stop Syrian refugee resettlement.

That vote against suing the federal government over refugees put him at odds with other Republicans in the legislature, and it drew attacks in the primary. It also put him at odds with Donald Trump, who has called for halting immigration from countries with large Muslim populations.

…”I’m running my race based on local issues, family, opportunity and prosperity,” he says of Trump. “And I think the voters of Davidson County will realize that there’s a wide variety of Republicans, and that he and I have limited areas of overlap.”

Still, tying Dickerson to the man at the top of the GOP ballot is a big part of Democrats’ strategy. They’ve urged Dickerson to repudiate Trump — something the senator hasn’t quite done.