One of the problems I have as a pastor is that walking the line if IRS regulations regarding non-profit support of candidates is tricky. Although David Shelley is willing to challenge the status quo regarding the separation of endorsements from the pulpit and non-profits status, I personally believe that the tax status is a privilege for churches, not a right, and with that privilege (some would say, with getting into bed with the government for preferred status) comes responsibilities. Our society has decided that churches maintain an important civil function that should be supported, and that churches can have voice regarding political issues (such as abortion or the lottery), but that influence in the politics of personalities is harmful and as such is not allowed. Of course any church could make the decision to endorse individual candidates, provided that they are willing to give up the tax privilege they enjoy. While I hold personal opinions, the churches I have served prefer to maintain that privilege, and I do not want to put that at risk.
All of this is to say that the following thoughts are completely my own, that they have no connection to the church I serve, and represent no official position by the members of that church. In fact, I know that there are members of my congregation that will disagree vehemently with my opinions (sorry guys). And, these opinions have no connection to church teaching, nor have any connection to the state of one’s salvation. Can I make any stronger disclaimer than this?
The non-endorsement endorsements I make represent persons that I have had personal contact with allowing me to vouch for their effectiveness and character. These are not partisan opinions, with me following a party line, in fact some of my Democratic friends won’t be especially happy with me, even though 90 percent of the time I end up taking the more left of center approach to politics. I am happy to call these public servants both colleagues and friends, with relationships that developed through years of working together to better our community. These are guys that have given and sacrificed much to the pursuit of public service, and are, I believe, worthy of your consideration.
Sam Coleman is running for State Representative in District 60, which encompasses parts of Antioch and Hermitage. Sam began his tenure as the Metro Council person for District 32 about the same time that I arrived in Antioch to begin my work at the church there. We met early on to discuss how work could partner together to address community issues, and during the next seven years worked together to try and make Antioch and the Hickory Hollow area a more vibrant place. Sam worked tirelessly toward that goal, and created a presence that was widely admired throughout the district. More important than anything else, Sam made every effort he could to listen to his constituents, scheduling more community meetings than most any other councilperson I know. Many in city government didn’t know what to do with this, for the value of transparency when possible became rooted in the soil of Antioch, and because of Sam’s influence the people of Antioch became invested in the well being of their community, and sometimes even a thorn in the side of the power brokers who weren’t comfortable with the voices of everyday people. What Sam brings to the table is his willingness to serve, a willingness to listen to the needs of his constituents, and an ability to transcend political partisanship to broker lasting change.
Duane Dominy is running for State Representative in District 59, the seat currently held by incumbent Sherry Jones. Duane and I first crossed paths in common work around the Antioch schools cluster, and then in community work after his election as the councilperson of District 28, which bordered the community where the church I served was located. Duane and I worked together on the Southeast Community Easter Event (along with other councilpersons in the area) and found ourselves in agreement regarding the Convention Center proposal and portions of the Fairgrounds issue. However where Duane absolutely secured my support was in his response to the May floods. While I have received some credit for creating the organization that responded to the floods in Southeast Nashville, Duane deserves as much credit as I. I have never seen any politician put the hours and sweat into ensuring that the needs of his constituents were met, wading into muddy trailers and keeping communication lines open to a city infrastructure that was at loss for how to respond in those early days. Most important was that Duane was present . . . he was there when he was needed, and unfortunately the person currently holding that seat was not. At a time when neighbors needed to know that their elected representatives were holding their hands and watching their back, the current office hold was conspicuously absent — event when Senators and Representatives from other parts of town were showing up. As I told a friend of mine, I recognize that Duane and I differ on some of our political positions, but I know his heart and have full confidence that the needs of the people in the 59th District will be well served by the work of this man.
Yes, I consider Sam and Duane friends, but those friendships developed out of working closely together to try and help Antioch and the entire city of Nashville to embrace the vibrant and exciting place it is. They have been excellent colleagues in transforming the self-image and the perception of a community, and those skills will serve them well in the state house.
One last little non-endorsement. As someone who generally leans left of center, I would be inclined anyway to support Jim Cooper for the Fifth District of the U.S. House of Representatives, although I have been frustrated at times with his fiscal conservatism which fails to address the social needs of our state. However two events solidified my support of Congressman Cooper. The first was in the early days of the floods when we were engaged in the dirty work of cleanup. Congressman Cooper showed up one day in our volunteer center unannounced. There were no cameras and no media presence — not even a press representative from his office. He showed up with a staff member with gloves in hand asking where he could help, and went to a local trailer park, crawling under a flooded trailer to remove soaked insulation from underneath, a messy dirty job in which there is no glamor. He wasn’t doing it for publicity (unlike other politicians in the city) he just wanted to help. The second event was this week when I attended the Old Hickory Chamber of Commerce meeting at which he spoke. At the end of his remarks (asking for the “renewal of his contract for another two years”) he proceeded to say that if we had any concerns or needs that he could address, we could call at anytime, and then gave his cell phone number to everyone present. It was clear it was no joke nor a setup, for he challenged folks to call the number before he left to prove that it was his actual cell phone number. This is a guy who understands what it means to serve, and I’m for renewing his contract for another couple of years.
Again, these are not “official” endorsements, but rather just the opinions of a guy living in Old Hickory. Do with them what you will, but if they help you in your decision making process, then great.