Marsha Blackburn

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Marsha Blackburn
Marsha blackburn congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Preceded by Ed Bryant
Personal details
Born Marsha Wedgeworth
(1952-06-06) June 6, 1952 (age 65)
Laurel, Mississippi, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Chuck Blackburn
Children 2
Education Mississippi State University (BS)

Marsha Blackburn[1] (née Wedgeworth; born June 6, 1952) is an American politician[2][3] and former businesswoman.[4] A member of the Republican Party,[2][3] she represents southwest Tennessee's 7th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. She has served as chair on Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet from 2017.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Born Marsha Wedgeworth in Laurel, Mississippi, she attended Mississippi State University, earning a B.S. in home economics in 1973.[5][6]

In college, she joined Chi Omega[2][3] and worked as a student manager for the Southwestern Company, selling books door-to-door.[5] She is a former beauty-pageant winner.[7]


Blackburn's professional career began in 1973 when she was hired as a sales manager for Times Mirror, Inc. In 1975 she was named Director of Retail Fashion and Special Events of the Castner Knott Division of Mercantile Stores, Inc. She held this position until 1978, when she became the owner of Marketing Strategies, a promotion-event management and image consulting firm. She continues to run this business.[6]

Blackburn was a founding member of the Williamson County Young Republicans.[3] She became chair of the Williamson County Republican Party[3] in 1989. In 1992, she was a candidate for Congress and a delegate to the 1992 Republican National Convention. She lost the congressional race,[3] but remained active in politics.[5]

In 1995, Blackburn was appointed executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission by Tennessee governor Don Sundquist,[3] and held that post through 1997. In 1998, she was elected to the Tennessee Senate, where she served for six years and rose to be minority whip.[5]

In 2000, she took part in the effort to prevent the passage of a state income tax championed by Sundquist[3] and to ask for accountability for spending increases related to TennCare.[citation needed]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Rep. Marsha Blackburn offical photo in 2005.

In 2002, Republican Ed Bryant gave up his seat as representative from Tennessee's 7th District so that he could run for the Senate. Blackburn ran against Democrat Tim Barron for the seat and was overwhelmingly elected. In 2004, she ran unopposed and was re-elected.[citation needed]

In 2006, she successfully ran for a third term in the House of Representatives.[2] In November 2007, she ran for the position of Republican conference chair, but lost.[8][9][10]

She joined Mitt Romney's presidential campaign as a senior advisor. In May 2007, she resigned her position in the Romney campaign and endorsed former U.S. senator Fred Thompson for president.[11][12] She was re-elected in 2008, 2010 and 2012; garnering no Democratic Party challenger in 2012.[citation needed]

Blackburn has been a member of the following committees:

She was also a member of the following caucuses:

Blackburn served as an assistant whip in congress from 2003 to 2005, and serves as a deputy whip for the congress from 2005.[14][15][4][16]

During the 110th Congress she was the communications chair for the Republican Study Committee. She served as a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee for a third consecutive term.[citation needed] In 2008, she won her primary race by gaining 62 percent of the vote against Shelby County registrar of deeds, and fellow former state senator Tom Leatherwood.[17][18]

In October 2015, Blackburn was selected to lead the Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood.[19]

Political campaigns[edit]

Redistricting after the 2000 Census moved Blackburn's home from the 6th district into the 7th district. The 6th District's Democratic incumbent congressman, Bart Gordon, had faced three tough races in the 1990s, including a near-defeat in 1994, in part due to the growing Republican trend in Nashville's suburbs. This was especially pronounced in Williamson County, the richest county in the state and the most Republican county in Middle Tennessee. It appeared that the Democratic-controlled Tennessee General Assembly wanted to protect Gordon by moving Williamson County into the already heavily Republican 7th District.[20]

To maintain approximately equal district sizes (as required by Wesberry v. Sanders) and to compensate for the substantial increase in the 7th's population by the addition of Williamson County, the legislature shifted some of the more Democratic parts of Clarksville to the nearby 8th district. This created a district that, in the words of Memphis Magazine, stretched "in reptilian fashion" for 200 miles from eastern Memphis to southwest Nashville.[3] Some parts of the Middle Tennessee portion of the district were only two miles wide.[citation needed]

In 2002, 7th District incumbent Republican congressman Ed Bryant decided to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Fred Thompson. Blackburn entered the primary to replace Bryant—the real contest in this Republican stronghold. Of the four main candidates, she was the only one from the Nashville suburbs. The other three, future state senate majority leader Mark Norris, conservative activist and future U. S. Attorney David Kustoff, and city councilman Brent Taylor, were all from Memphis and its suburbs. She garnered the endorsement of the conservative Club for Growth.[21] The three Memphians split the vote in that area, allowing her to win the primary by nearly 20 percentage points.[22]

In the general election, she easily defeated Democratic nominee Tim Barron, winning more than 70% of the vote. She was the fourth woman elected to Congress from Tennessee, but the first not to serve as a stand-in for her husband.[23] (Irene Bailey Baker and Louise Reece had served as caretakers after their husbands died in office, and Marilyn Lloyd replaced her husband on the ballot when he died after the primary election.)[citation needed]

She ran unopposed for reelection in 2004, which is somewhat unusual for a freshman member of Congress, even from a district as heavily Republican as the 7th. A 2004 survey of congressional aides by the Washingtonian identified her as one of the three "best newcomers" in the House of Representatives.[24]

Redistricting after the 2010 census made the 7th district more compact; it lost its shares of Nashville and Memphis while regaining all of Clarksville. However, it is no less Republican than its predecessor; with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+18, it is one of the most Republican districts in the South.[25]

Political positions[edit]

Marsha Blackburn speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 26, 2015

Blackburn opposed the Affordable Care Act, stating that with the passage of the bill, "freedom dies a little bit today."[26] She subsequently supported efforts to repeal the legislation, arguing that it "means well" but fails to live up to its promise.[27]

When pressed by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on the claim that the legislation included "death panels" for the elderly, she would not reject this assertion,[28] despite the fact that, according to the Christian Science Monitor, it had been "... widely debunked by fact-checking journalism organizations".[29]

In April 2009, she questioned former Vice President Al Gore during an energy-related congressional hearing: "The legislation that we are discussing here today, is that something that you are going to personally benefit from?".[30] The Independent, a London-based periodical, has credited her for "famously put[ting Gore] on the spot about his business interests in the [energy] industry" during this confrontation.[31] Gore vociferously refuted the implied accusation, claiming every penny he makes from renewable technology investment goes to non-profits.[32]

In 2013, she was chosen to manage debate on a bill promoted by House Republicans which would criminalize all abortions after 22 weeks' gestation, with limited exceptions for rape or incest.[33] She replaced the bill's sponsor, congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), after Franks made controversial claims that the chances of pregnancy resulting from rape were "very low".[34][35]

At October 2013 congressional hearings on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare", Blackburn charged the website violated HIPAA and health information privacy rights. The next day, when a CNN interviewer pointed out that the only health-related question that the web site asks is "do you smoke?", Blackburn repeated her criticism of the site for violating privacy rights.[36]

She scored 100% on American Conservative Union's 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 Ratings of Congress.[37][38][39]

According to her campaign website, National Journal described her as a "freshman to watch" and a "top House conservative" in 2003 and 2004, Americans for Tax Reform called her a "taxpayer hero" in 2003, and the National Right to Life praised her for supporting the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act.[citation needed] In 2008, she was labeled one of the "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" by the progressive activist group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW),[40] although the Federal Election Commission later unanimously rejected a campaign finance complaint that CREW had brought against Blackburn.[41]

In November, 2016, Blackburn joined Donald Trump's presidential transition team.[42] She supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order imposing a travel and immigration ban barring the nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.[43]


Blackburn has been closely associated with the telecommunications industry over the course of her career, as of 2017, Blackburn had accepted at least $693,000 in campaign contributions from telecom companies over her 14-year career in Congress.[44][45]

Blackburn is an opponent of net neutrality in the United States, referring to it as "socialistic".[46]

Blackburn opposes municipal broadband initiatives that aim to compete with Internet service providers.[47][48] She supported bills that restrict municipalities from creating their own broadband networks, and wrote a bill to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from preempting state laws that blocked municipal broadband.[49][50]

In early 2017, Blackburn introduced to the House a measure to dismantle an Obama-administration online privacy rule that had been adopted by the FCC in October 2016.[51] Blackburn's measure, which was supported by broadband providers but criticized by privacy advocates, repeals the rule and allows companies to track and sell Americans' online data without their permission, including browsing histories.[51][52] The measure passed the House in a party-line vote in March 2017, after a similar measure had been passed by the Senate the same week.[51]

On November 2, 2016, Blackburn, as vice chair of Donald Trump's presidential transition team, advised the team to be "very judicious" with their words.[53]

Positions on scientific issues[edit]

On February 16, 2014, Blackburn appeared on NBC's Meet The Press as a guest in a climate change segment alongside Bill Nye. She reiterated a belief that scientists do not sufficiently understand the climate to make long term predictions, and argued that a cost/benefit analysis did not support taking any action against further carbon emission increases.[54]

In 2015, Blackburn shared her belief that the world has been cooling instead of warming. She stated, "I think we've cooled almost 1 degree (F)."[55] Blackburn also rejects the theory of evolution.[55]

Blackburn issued a "Statement on Stem Cell Research" in 2008.[56] In this statement, Blackburn claimed there was an "absence of evidence that could justify the continued research into embryonic stem cells." She added that "no journals have published successful embryonic studies" (many such studies had been published in the preceding years) and "research tells us adult stem cells are equivalent or superior to embryonic stem cells", a claim stem cell biologists reject (see stem cell controversy).

In March 2016, Blackburn chaired the Republican-led Select Investigative Panel, a committee convened ostensibly to "explore the ethical implications of using fetal tissue in biomedical research".[57] Before expert testimony was heard, however, Democratic opposition objected to subpoenas demanding "names of researchers, technicians and medical personnel involved in fetal tissue handling".[57]

Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky called the demand an "abuse of her [Blackburn's] position".[57] Subpoenaed biotechnology executives Eugene Gu of the Ganogen Research Institute and Cate Dyer of StemExpress published an article in Nature further criticizing the intimidation of researchers and patients.[58] Gu went on Science Friday on NPR and detailed his experiences living in close proximity to Blackburn's Congressional district and having armed United States Marshals deliver the subpoena to his home.[59]

Electoral history[edit]

Tennessee's 6th congressional district: 1992 results[60]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1992 Bart Gordon 120,177 57% Marsha Blackburn 86,289 41% H. Scott Benson Independent 5,952 3% *

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1992, write-ins received 10 votes.

Tennessee's 7th congressional district: Results 2002–2016[60][61][62]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2002 Tim Barron 51,790 26% Marsha Blackburn 138,314 71% Rick Patterson Independent 5,423 3% *
2004 (no candidate) Marsha Blackburn 232,404 100%
2006 Bill Morrison 73,369 32% Marsha Blackburn 152,288 66% Kathleen A. Culver Independent 1,806 1% *
2008 Randy Morris 98,207 31% Marsha Blackburn 214,214 69%
2010 Greg Rabidoux 54,341 25% Marsha Blackburn 158,892 72% J.W. Stone Independent 6,319 3% *
2012 Credo Amouzouvik 61,050 24% Marsha Blackburn 180,775 71% Howard Switzer Green 4,584 2% *
2014 Daniel Cramer 42,280 26.8% Marsha Blackburn 110,534 69.9% Leonard Ladner Independent 5,093 3.2%
2016 Tharon Chandler 65,226 23.5% Marsha Blackburn 200,407 72.2% Leonard Ladner Independent 11,880 4.3%
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 2002, write-ins received 31 votes. In 2006, James B. "Mickey" White received 898 votes; William J. Smith received 848 votes; John L. Rimer received 710 votes; and Gayl G. Pratt received 663 votes.

Personal life[edit]

Blackburn is married to Chuck Blackburn,[3] and they live in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville in Williamson County.[4] The couple have two children.[3] Her husband is the founder of the International Bow Tie Society (IBTS). She is a Presbyterian.[2]

She is a member of The C Street Family, a prayer group that includes members of Congress.[63] She is a former member of the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Representative Marsha Wedgeworth Blackburn (R-Tennessee, 7th) - Biography from". LegiStorm. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Barnette, Amy, Marsha Blackburn – 7th Congressional District, The Commercial Appeal, June 30, 2010; retrieved December 5, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Baker, Jackson, Marsha Blackburn – Beacon of the Right, Memphis Magazine, July 2011; retrieved December 6, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Marsha Blackburn Congress". Marsha Blackburn Biography. Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  5. ^ a b c d The Marsha Blackburn Collection web page, Mississippi State University Congressional and Political Research Center; retrieved December 5, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Mississippi State University Libraries: Congressional and Political Research Center: Collections: The Marsha Blackburn Collection". Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  7. ^ Perks, Ashley (15 September 2008). "Understanding the beauty-queen politician". 
  8. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (June 13, 2013). "Meet the Three House Women Who Go by "Congressman"". Smart Politics. 
  9. ^ Andrews, Helena (April 15, 2008). "The lady prefers 'congressman'". Politico. 
  10. ^ "Marsha Blackburn Has Not Yet Decided On A Run For Guv". January 7, 2009. 
  11. ^ Elizabeth Bewley (March 6, 2012). "Blackburn says Romney victory in TN wouldn't surprise her". The Tennessean. 
  12. ^ David Lightman and Chris Echegaray (November 16, 2010). "TN senators back freeze on special spending". The Tennessean. p. 2. 
  13. ^ Paul Kane (October 23, 2015). "Boehner's next select committee, focusing on Planned Parenthood, to be led by Marsha Blackburn". Washington Post. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Blackburn to speak at GOP dinner". Shelbyville Times-Gazette. April 1, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Biography". official U.S. House website. 2010-03-30. 
  16. ^ "Marsha Blackburn". Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  17. ^ Beadle, Nicholas (August 8, 2008). "Blackburn beats Leatherwood". The Jackson Sun. 
  18. ^ L., James (August 8, 2008). "8/7 Primary Results Round-up". Swing Stage Project. 
  19. ^ Paul Kane. "Boehner's next select committee, focusing on Planned Parenthood, to be led by Marsha Blackburn". Washington Post. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  20. ^ Davis, Kent (2010-01-12). "2011 Redistricting TN". TN Precinct Project. Retrieved June 3, 2017. 
  21. ^ Bianca Phillips, Final Report on Tennessee Elections, Memphis Flyer, August 1, 2002; retrieved March 7, 2016.
  22. ^ 2002 Tennessee Congressional and Statewide Primary Results, D.C.'s Political Report; retrieved March 7, 2016.
  23. ^ "Marsha Blackburn Named 2016 'Woman of the Year'", Williamson Herald, March 4, 2016.
  24. ^ "Best and Worst of Congress",, September 1, 2004; retrieved March 7, 2016.
  25. ^ "Partisan Voting Index: Districts of the 113th Congress, The Cook Political Report; accessed June 3, 2017.
  26. ^ Nagourney, Adam (March 22, 2010). "Republicans Face Drawbacks of United Stand on Health Bill". The New York Times. 
  27. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (January 19, 2011). "Approaching Civility (if Perhaps Falling Short of Eloquence) in Debate". The New York Times. 
  28. ^ "Blackburn wont deny reform will create death panels". MSNBC. 2009-08-25. 
  29. ^ Grier, Peter (August 21, 2009). "'Death panel' controversy remains very much alive". Christian Science Monitor. It [the "death panel" charge] has been widely debunked by fact-checking journalism organizations. 
  30. ^ Allen, Nick (November 3, 2009). "Al Gore 'profiting' from climate change agenda". The Daily Telegraph. 
  31. ^ Usborne, David (November 4, 2009). "Al Gore denies he is 'carbon billionaire'". The Independent. 
  32. ^ Ensha, Azadeh (April 27, 2009). "Gore to Blackburn: 'You Don’t Know Me'". The New York Times. 
  33. ^ Peters, Jeremy (June 17, 2013). "G.O.P. Pushes New Abortion Limits to Appease Vocal Base". The New York Times. 
  34. ^ Tiron, Roxana; James Rowley (June 13, 2013). "Republicans Pick Female Lawmaker to Manage Abortion Bill". Bloomberg News. 
  35. ^ Parkinson, John (June 12, 2013). "Rep. Trent Franks Claims 'Very Low' Pregnancy Rate From Rape". ABC News. 
  36. ^ Cavendish, Steve This Is What Happens When Marsha Blackburn Can't Answer A Simple Question, Nashville Scene, October 25, 2013; retrieved December 5, 2013.
  37. ^ "2005 Votes by State Delegation". ACU Ratings. Archived from the original on July 6, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  38. ^ "2007 Votes by State Delegation". ACU Ratings. Archived from the original on January 15, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  39. ^ "2009 Votes by State Delegation". ACU Ratings. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  40. ^ Sullivan, Bartholomew (September 11, 2008). "Blackburn added to 'most corrupt' in Congress list". The Commercial Appeal. 
  41. ^ "FEC Dismisses Complaint Against Blackburn", Associated Press, February 16, 2009.
  42. ^ Halper, Daniel (2016-11-11). "Mike Pence takes over Trump transition from Chris Christie". Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  43. ^ Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump’s travel ban; here’s where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved January 30, 2017. 
  44. ^ "House Rep. Pushing To Set Back Online Privacy Rakes In Industry Funds". 2017-03-28. Retrieved 2017-03-28. 
  45. ^ Sam Gustin. "Meet Marsha Blackburn, Big Telecom's Best Friend in Congress". Motherboard. Vice Media. Blackburn has also been a major recipient of financial support from the nation's largest telecom and cable companies. 
  46. ^ Sam Gustin. "Why Marsha Blackburn’s Rise Is Bad News for Net Neutrality and Science". Motherboard. Vice Media. Blackburn has waged a relentless campaign against the FCC's policy safeguarding net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible, which she has disparaged as "socialistic." 
  47. ^ Brodkin, Jon. "Republicans' "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out net neutrality". Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  48. ^ Brodkin, Jon. "Congresswoman defends "states’ rights" to protect ISPs from muni competition". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  49. ^ Eggerton, John (July 16, 2014) "Blackburn Bill Would Block FCC Preemption" Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  50. ^ Sirota, David (July 16, 2014) "Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): Why One Congresswoman Wants To Block Fast, Cheap Internet In Her District", International Business Times; retrieved December 30, 2015.
  51. ^ a b c Cecilia Kang, Congress Moves to Overturn Obama-Era Online Privacy Rules, New York Times (March 28, 2017).
  52. ^ "House Votes To Let Internet Providers Sell Your Browsing History". 2017-03-28. Retrieved 2017-03-28. 
  53. ^ STEVE CHAGGARIS (May 19, 2017). "Marsha Blackburn's advice for Trump team: "Be very judicious" with your words". CBS NEWS. 
  54. ^ Gregory, David (February 16, 2014). "MEET THE PRESS TRANSCRIPT". 
  55. ^ a b Harrabin, Roger (September 23, 2015). "Ignore Pope on climate, says Republican Marsha Blackburn". 
  56. ^ "Blackburn Statement On Stem Cell Research". Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  57. ^ a b c DeBonis, Mike (March 2, 2016). "In first hearing, GOP panel casts doubt on fetal tissue research". 
  58. ^ Gu, E.; Dyer, C. "Fetal tissue: US panel risks infant and researcher lives". Nature. 535: 37. PMID 27383974. doi:10.1038/535037c. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  59. ^ "Science in the Crosshairs". Science Friday. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  60. ^ a b "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  61. ^ "2014 Midterm Election Results | Congressional, Senate, House & Gubernatorial". Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  62. ^ "State of Tennessee: State General: November 4, 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  63. ^ Inside The C Street House Archived 2009-07-24 at the Wayback Machine.,, July 21, 2009.

External links[edit]

Tennessee Senate
Preceded by
Keith Jordan
Member of the Tennessee Senate
from the 23rd district

Succeeded by
Jim Bryson
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ed Bryant
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th congressional district

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Rob Bishop
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Michael Burgess