by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
August 16, 2004
Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Tennessee Right to Life successfully focused its resources to topple pro-abortion Republicans in the state’s primaries earlier this month.
Two incumbents, Sen. Bill Clabough (R-Maryville) and state Rep. Bob Paten (R-Johnson City), lost to their primary challengers who were supported by the state’s pro-life group.
Dr. Raymond Finney, president of the Blount County Chapter of Tennessee Right to Life, successfully defeated Clabough in the polls.
Clabough was a target for the pro-life group since he cast the only Republican vote against a measure that would have amended the state constitution to exclude abortion from the right to privacy. Tennessee Right to Life backed Finney with $2,000 in contributions.
"In effect, Dr. Finney’s defeat of pro-abortion incumbent Bill Clabough was a textbook example of effective pro-life grassroots work," Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life told LifeNews.com.
"We had a pro-abortion Republican who voted wrong on a critical, high profile pro-life measure. Consequently, we went to work to replace him," Harris explained. "I hope this campaign will encourage every pro-life supporter to know we can accomplish together if we’re focused and work hard."
Patterson lost his chance to fight for his state House seat in November to Matthew Hill, who also received support from Tennessee Right to Life.
"Matthew Hill was a demonstrated pro-life leader in his community and was extremely helpful to Right to Life over the years," said Harris. "When he announced his intention to challenge the pro-abortion candidate, we immediately got on board and supported his campaign."
Volunteers from Tennessee Right to Life participated in mailings, door-to-door canvassing, and running telephones for the campaigns.
"Many gave up every Saturday morning in June and July to walk door to door in blistering heat to share the positive message of our pro-life candidate," said Harris. "If we’re serious about restoring protections for life, it’s going to require some hard work and discomfort. But in the end, the reward of electing one of our own makes it all more than worth it."
So far the only reported contribution Tennessee Right to Life has made toward the November races is a $250 contribution to Jesse Cannon, who is challenging House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington).
Harris told LifeNews.com that Tennessee Right to Life’s campaign efforts stem from the defeat of SJR 127, the pro-life constitutional amendment.
After passing the Senate 23 to 6 with five abstentions in March, the measure was voted down in a House subcommittee by a Democrat-led vote of 5-4. Towards the end of the session, House Republicans tried to revive the measure by pulling the measure out of committee with a two-thirds vote, but they fell short by 13 votes. According to Harris, Naifeh is a target as he openly opposed the attempt to circumvent the committee.
Tennessee Right to Life financed mailings to challenge state Rep. Janis Sontany, one of the five subcommittee members who voted against SJR 127, but Sontany won her primary race.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Randy Rinks (D-Savannah) told the City Paper that Tennessee Right to Life’s efforts could be harmful to some Democrats in November.
"It will hurt us some," Rinks said. "I don’t know if it will mean any losses, but it’s a shame. You’ve got a lot of people like me that are pro-life."
Rinks defended his and Naifah’s votes against the floor vote to bring SJR 127 out of committee, saying that the issue was the committee system, not abortion.
"That’s the way I [voted]," Rinks said. "You’ve got to keep that committee system in place."