|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th district
January 3, 2003
|Preceded by||Ed Bryant|
June 6, 1952
Laurel, Mississippi, U.S.
|Education||Mississippi State University (BS)|
Marsha Blackburn (née Wedgeworth; born June 6, 1952) is an American politician and former businesswoman. A member of the Republican Party, 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.
Early life and education
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.
Blackburn was a founding member of the Williamson County Young Republicans. She became chair of the Williamson County Republican Party in 1989. In 1992, she was a candidate for Congress and a delegate to the 1992 Republican National Convention. She lost the congressional race, but remained active in politics.
In 1995, Blackburn was appointed executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission by Tennessee governor Don Sundquist, 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.
U.S. House of Representatives
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.
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. She was re-elected in 2008, 2010 and 2012; garnering no Democratic Party challenger in 2012.
Blackburn has been a member of the following committees:
- Committee on Energy and Commerce
- Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, vice chair
- Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet, chair
- Subcommittee on Health Care
- Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, vice chair – Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade
- Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood, chair
- Republican Study Committee, former communications chair
- National Republican Congressional Committee, communications chair
She was also a member of the following caucuses:
- Privacy and Data Security Working Group, chair.
- Congressional Songwriters Caucus, co-founder, co-chair
- Reliable Energy Caucus
- International Conservation Caucus.
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. 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.
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.
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. Some parts of the Middle Tennessee portion of the district were only two miles wide.
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. The three Memphians split the vote in that area, allowing her to win the primary by nearly 20 percentage points.
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. (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.)
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.
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.
Blackburn opposed the Affordable Care Act, stating that with the passage of the bill, "freedom dies a little bit today." She subsequently supported efforts to repeal the legislation, arguing that it "means well" but fails to live up to its promise.
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, despite the fact that, according to the Christian Science Monitor, it had been "... widely debunked by fact-checking journalism organizations".
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?". 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. Gore vociferously refuted the implied accusation, claiming every penny he makes from renewable technology investment goes to non-profits.
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. 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".
At October 2013 congressional hearings on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare", Blackburn charged the health.gov 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.
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. 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), although the Federal Election Commission later unanimously rejected a campaign finance complaint that CREW had brought against Blackburn.
In November, 2016, Blackburn joined Donald Trump's presidential transition team. 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.
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.
Blackburn opposes municipal broadband initiatives that aim to compete with Internet service providers. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
Positions on scientific issues
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.
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)." Blackburn also rejects the theory of evolution.
Blackburn issued a "Statement on Stem Cell Research" in 2008. 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". Before expert testimony was heard, however, Democratic opposition objected to subpoenas demanding "names of researchers, technicians and medical personnel involved in fetal tissue handling".
Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky called the demand an "abuse of her [Blackburn's] position". 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. 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.
|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.
|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%|
Blackburn is married to Chuck Blackburn, and they live in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville in Williamson County. The couple have two children. Her husband is the founder of the International Bow Tie Society (IBTS). She is a Presbyterian.
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It [the "death panel" charge] has been widely debunked by fact-checking journalism organizations.
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Blackburn has also been a major recipient of financial support from the nation's largest telecom and cable companies.
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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."
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marsha Blackburn.|
- Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn official U.S. House site
- Marsha Blackburn at DMOZ
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- MSNBC transcript, Meet the Press (February 16, 2014.
|Member of the Tennessee Senate
from the 23rd district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th congressional district
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Representatives by seniority