How to Evaluate Republican Candidates for the State Legislature

Jun 24, 2022 by David Fowler

How to Evaluate Republican Candidates for the State Legislature
With campaign mailers now flooding my mailbox, I couldn’t help but think back twenty-eight years to my first political race. I was running for the Tennessee Senate in a Republican primary against a 26-year incumbent. I learned then that endorsements, whether by organizations or persons, are important in primaries. However, they are increasingly unhelpful. I hope what follows will help you evaluate the state legislative candidates in the upcoming Republican primary.
There are two basic ways to evaluate a candidate. One is relative and the other absolute.

Evaluating Republican Candidates in a Relative Sense 

By evaluating candidates in a relative sense, I mean deciding whether one candidate is better or, as is often the case, less bad than the other. Drawing that kind of distinction in a primary can be hard. No serious Republican will say he or she is pro-choice, against the Second Amendment, for higher taxes, for more government, and against parental rights and better public schools. The one issue Republican voter is deprived of any supposed litmus test.
The soundbite policy fluff you get in the mail, hear on the radio, or see on television does not help much in gauging the relative merits of Republican candidates.  

Personal and Organizational Endorsements

Endorsements by individuals may be helpful, but too often those endorsements are made without thoroughly examining the other candidates; they are often based on having a relationship with a particular candidate. I have seen friendship cloud a person’s political perspective.
Organizational endorsements can be helpful as most will have looked at all the primary candidates at some level. However, I have learned that being “right” on one issue doesn’t mean the candidate really understands the issue. This is particularly true regarding incumbents; they may be endorsed because they have voted the “right” way, but that may be because they are only politically savvy. Substantively, they may be as smart as the person looking for a left-handed screwdriver.  

Evaluating Candidates in an Absolute Sense

If the former means of evaluation are not particularly helpful, evaluating a candidate in an absolute sense is harder. By absolute, I mean this: Does the candidate understand at a fundamental level the true nature of civil government and what is happening in our society. That must then be joined with a true understanding of what legislation and arguments for it go to the root of the problem such that it would begin to change the direction of things.
Many bills attack symptoms, but do not get at the root of the problem. Thus, they will likely not change things directionally because the root will still put out its native sprouts. If you would like to understand this better, email us for a free pdf copy of a monograph I’ve written, Toward Christian Nihilism—A Short Study in Contrasting Policy Approaches.
Worse yet, some bills, like those banning CRT, depend for their enforcement on the very people pushing the ill the bill seeks to stop. I’ve seen my own successful legislative efforts on different issues achieve nothing.

The Kind of Legislator We Need

In my view, we need legislators who understand (1) the fundamental cosmological mistake  driving virtually every issue in our society[i], (2) the fundamental nature of law, (3) the limits that law places on civil government, and (4) our constitution. 
Without more of those kinds of legislators, it really doesn’t matter much who you vote for; nothing will change directionally, though things may go in the wrong direction more slowly.

A Barometer You Can Use for an Absolute Evaluation

I suspect there is no Republican running who I would consider solid on all four of those fundamentals. I would love to be wrong, and a few are much closer to the mark than others,
However, there is one piece of legislation you can use to help you evaluate a candidate in this absolute sense: the Marital Contract Recording Act.
It was the only piece of legislation before the General Assembly in the last two-year legislative cycle (and it will be back next year!) that rested on a solid understanding of all four of those fundamental elements. In my view, a legislator or candidate hesitant or unwilling to support the MCRA is lacking in at least one of those four areas. 

Where Do Candidates Stand on This Issue?

If you would like to know who among the incumbent Republicans were informed of the bill or had an opportunity to vote for it and what position they took publicly, you can find that information at this link.  If you don’t see an incumbent’s name as a sponsor or co-sponsor or as having voted for it, ask him or her why.
With respect to a non-incumbent, send him or her an email with information on the MCRA found at this link and ask if he or she will publicly announce support for its enactment.
I can’t tell you who to vote for or what criteria you think should have a higher value than another, but if you are looking for and are serious about a candidate having a substantive understanding of what is wrong in civil government and our society, a candidate’s position on the MCRA is a good place to start.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006.

[1]  If you want to understand this mistake, listen to today’s God, Law & Liberty podcast, “Was Francis Schaeffer Wrong?”

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